To read part one of Tim’s essay on his writing itch, scroll on down to yesterday’s post.
My Writing Itch (Part Two) by Tim Northburg
Cortisone cream didn’t do anything for my itch. I wrote three times a week for two to three hours as I pounded out my middle grade crossover novel until I had a complete manuscript. I thought that when I was done writing my itch would be satisfied for a while—but it wasn’t.
I had to keep scratching as my itch persisted. At that point I had several people beta read my manuscript as I did some of my own self editing. I had them look for spelling and grammar mistakes as well as pick out any plot holes or character flaws they saw. After a year of doing this and making improvements I prepared myself to submit to agents.
I did a lot of research online and read many books on how to submit to agents. I joined Northern Colorado Writers in Fort Collins, Colorado and immersed myself in the world of professional writing to learn all I could.
I picked out 5-10 agents in Writers Market, and gathered more information about their submission requirements on Agentquery and their own websites. I drafted a query letter and made a one, three, and ten page synopsis. I also wrote a nonfiction like book proposal for my fiction novel. (I realized later that the information in my book proposal was great material for my website.)
A year went by and 80 agents later I was starting to become numb. I was doubting if I was on the right path to satisfying my itch. Then, I met an agent at a NCW Conference. He was interested in my story and wanted me to send him a partial. (The first four chapters.) He later requested the whole manuscript, which I promptly sent him. After a month, I heard back. He liked it but felt it needed some changes. He suggested changing the name of my main character, changing his age from 13 to 15 and re-working the beginning of the story. He also wanted me to pay $1000 to his editor to polish the story, and then he would take another look at it. I tried to come up with the money, then the economy hit hard in 2009 and it didn’t work out.
I thought about his suggestions for a while. I changed the name of my character and kept submitting to other agents while I re-worked the beginning of my book. Then the itch intensified. I wasn’t getting any better results and the name change didn’t feel right, so I changed the name back to Bacon. I created a website, and began building my platform on social media sites. I was on Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Google+, and had created a blog as well as made short introduction videos for my book and placed them on YouTube. I wanted to have everything in place for when my book was finally published.
Then, after three years and at total of 126 agents queried, I believed that my rash was beginning to turn into leprosy and no agent was going to be interested in signing me. I made the decision to self publish. I had done it with my non-fiction books and was selling a few copies, why not do it with my fiction?
First I used some of the chapters I cut out to make a short novella, The Decnalab Codex, that set up my novel and published it through CreateSpace, a division of Amazon. My itching and scratching intensified over the next eight months. I found a writing buddy and we read through, critiqued, and edited each other’s manuscripts chapter by chapter. I had employed the help of a retired English teacher to go through and copy edit my manuscript. I finally felt like I had polished my story to the point of publishing.
I drew the picture for my book and I designed my cover and uploaded my interior files. On March 1, 2013 I published my novel titled, Bacon Finnegan: The Sword of Fire which is book one of The Artifacts of Merlin Saga. Two weeks later I uploaded my book on to Kindle.
Today, the itch continues. I am writing seven more books to complete out my saga, and have started giving talks about the writing process and the elements of a story to local elementary school kids. I am having so much fun scratching!
When did your itch start? How did it start for you?
Note: Tim will be giving away a copy of one Bacon Finnegan book to a visitor who leaves a comment on yesterday’s or today’s post before midnight (Mountain Time) Friday, May 31st.
Tim, thanks so much for telling your story here. It discourages so many young writers to work so hard on their novels and then have no luck finding an agent. You show us a new path, one that lets us keep the joy of writing alive.
Learn much more about the Bacon Finnegan stories at Tim’s website. He can also be found on Facebook and Twitter.