Tuesday, February 20, 2007

WRITING: some thoughts on "partials"

When Penguin signed my contemporary novel, Double Dare, for the new Heat line, it was a complete MS. Up until that point I hadn’t really done a “partial” submission. Even with Red Sage my first two Secrets novellas were more than partials when my partial went in, as was my e-book, Along for the Ride.

After I had my first novel signed, I started to work on proposals, writing partials as a natural progression. What has been a complete surprise to me is the discovery of how much layering I do over the course of writing a complete MS. Not only that, but I looked at my partials and it struck me that they would only ever be finished when the MS was, because of the way I write! This was a complete revelation to me. :) Oh, I knew that I went back and added things as I worked through a story, but I didn’t realise quite the extent that I revised my work, layering it in, in stages. I knew then that I had to keep working on the partials I wrote, layering in, a microcosm of what would happen if it was the whole novel. This was hard at first, when my natural instinct would be to write on and come back later.

When I was an aspiring author, I used to see authors talking about leaving their work for a couple of days to “gel,” before revising, but this wasn’t something I could imagine myself ever doing. I’m learning. :) Always learning! Yesterday the lesson was hammered home again, when I reopened the novella I am scheduled to be working on, (after a gap wherein various tedious real-life things had interjected on my working time.) I could see immediately what the partial needed to make it a complete first ten pages, instead of a…well, less complete first ten pages. The story worked, but it wasn’t as good as it could be – or as “full” as it would be if the MS was complete.

If you’re like me, try to take the time away before subbing. It’s hard. It takes patience and the ability to step back, but we must factor the time in. It’s important, not only for us to present our work to the best of our ability, so that it shines, but if you do make that sale the publisher may well write the blurb from the partial, so if we make a whole load of new changes to the book it might not quite match up to the back cover. Okay, you get the chance to look at the back cover blurb, but who wants to go to the editor and say “Oh, I’ve changed that part, could we tweak it?” The best piece of advice I can give you about working with editors is to try to give them as little to do as possible, that way they will enjoy working with you. :)

Here’s hoping this week brings lots of good things your way!


Portia Da Costa said...

Bravo! Fabulous post!

I'm going back over my paranormal novella right now, and boy is the first bit of it awful! It's a total clunkersaurus... If getting the sale had depended on these initial chapters, as they were, it would have been dismissed out of hand, I'm sure of it...

You're so right. It's always worth taking at least one more pass at a partial before sending it in!



Saskia Walker said...

Thanks, Wendy! I don't really feel qualified to tell people how to do things, but I figure they can learn how NOT to do them from my trials. ;)

Jordan Summers said...

Saskia, I'm the same way. I cannot believe how much I change the work that I've done after I have finished the book.

Saskia Walker said...

Jordan, I felt like i'd had an epiphany about my own working process when I realised LOL

I seem to recall Stephen King says leave an MS for 6 weeks before revising -- yikes! I'm learning to leave things for days.. a week, maybe two... Baby steps. :)

Anonymous said...


I think your advice is wondeful. It can benefit those that enjoy writing and wish to further their growth in writing...Kudos!