So, as I approached the end of 2009, I had a “polished” 70K draft of Thorn of Dentonhill that I was querying. I had a rough draft of Holver Alley Crew. I still had a delusion that any given project I was working on, I would be able to finish “next month”. I had now gone to the ArmadilloCon Writers’ Workshop two more times, using the opening chapters of those two projects.
In 2008, the opening chapter of Thorn prompted the pro writer I worked with to tell me, “You’re really close with this.”
In 2009, the opening chapter of Holver Alley prompted an editor from Tor to tell me, “You have a lot of real talent.” Yeah, I floated on that for a while.
Queries for Thorn were getting some hits, but nothing sticking.
And I sold a short story. A REALLY short story. Specifically, to the Norton Anthology of Hint Fiction, and my story was only 21 words long. But it was a sale, in a real book that was going to be in bookstores.
And then I got an email from the man who would, eventually, become my agent. He had read Thorn, and loved it, BUT at 70K, it was too short to sell. I needed to beef it up to the 90-100K zone. You know, novel length. Something I had missed in my process.
I wonder how many agents quickly dismissed my query letter because of the word count.
So, I dove back into Thorn.
IF I HAD SELF-PUBLISHED AT THIS POINT: It would have been a welter-weight version of Thorn, which might have gotten some attention on the Amazon self-pubbed Kindle market. But it wouldn’t be the stronger, better book that sold now. And it certainly wouldn’t have benefited from the editorial insight that it’s getting before being released. That is a priceless benefit.
BUT DID I LEARN ANYTHING BY NOW?: You mean, besides the “novels really should be closer to 100K?” But that was crucial to learn, because I had gotten the idea in my head that 70K was good enough. Also, it taught me something crucial about editing, that it’s possible to add depth without sacrificing pacing. Adding more story, muscle and bone, rather than just padding.