Proofing The Proving, Hanging in the Salon

The proofing of The Proving is done! I know that it still qualifies as an unedited manuscript, and I cringe when I imagine just how many mistakes likely remain in the text, but for now I am considering the book complete. Not only did I rework hundreds of lazy passive voice instances, I also hunted down buckets of redundant words and descriptions and fixed typos found by some early readers. If anyone is interested in having the new, “cleaner” version, just send me an email and you shall have it.

I am still surprised at just how much I over-write. The original “finished” text was about 104k words. Then in my re-work immediately after I shaved it down to a respectable 97k words. Just this past week, while working the proofing described above, I cut another 2k words. That’s 9k words of fluff cut in the past six weeks. It’s not just that these cuts were completed without affecting the narrative… the cuts actively *improved* the book! Amazing how the whole “less is more” thing often really works. So now, for reference, The Proving has about the same word count as Tolkien’s “The Hobbit”.

As you may know, I am developing this book within the online writer’s workshop at http://www.AuthorSalon.com. If you are an aspiring author, do yourself a favor and check AS out! It was founded by the people who run the Algonkian Writer’s Conferences and the NYC Pitch Conferences, very well known annual events where writers convene with literary agents and publishers to present their work. AS is like your local writer’s group on steroids. Instead of meeting with a dozen or so writers in your town to discuss your work-in-progress, you meet with hundreds of writers from around the world in a 24x7x365 all-online environment.

To facilitate this, AS members organize themselves by genre for peer reviews (The Proving is in the Young Adult Fantasy genre). Instead of reading each other’s unedited manuscripts, AS has a very detailed peer review process based on novel profiles. Everyone builds a profile about their work-in-progress using a detailed and lengthy online tool, then peers (in groups of 3-5) review each other’s profiles using an extensive critique checklist. Everything is considered; a short synopsis of the story, character descriptions, hook lines, conflict descriptions, plot structure, and more, and several writing samples from the manuscript itself must be included. In this way, the profile review process focuses strongly on the story and plot as well as on creative writing craft. Lots of people can write well; not all of them can craft solid, engaging plotlines.

Everyone starts off at Level 1 in AS, called “In Production”. Final peer reviews at this first level are anonymously sent to the AS Administrators as “Star Reviews”. It’s just like reviewing a movie, from 1-5 stars. If a work-in-progress averages 3.75 stars or better within the peer group, the aspiring author graduates to Level 2, Editor’s Suite.

In Editor’s suite, even more detailed profile reviews take place in a new peer group along with a review of the first 50 pages of the manuscript. Another Star Review occurs, with graduation leading to the final level – Marquee. Here, an executive panel reviews profiles and manuscripts and offers feedback for final tweaks. Then the novel is presented to the collection of AS-partnered literary agents and publishers as a polished, ready-for-market product.

In case all of that isn’t thorough enough, then entire process from beginning to end features real-time communication with published, successful authors, professional editors, literary agents, and publishers (they comprise the Admin staff and Author Salon Mast). When I was an infant in the AS process, a well-known editor and agent contacted me out of the blue with questions and comments on my early draft – then titled “Emergence”. Since then I have received tons of useful feedback from the Admins as well as my peers, and even though I am just about to graduate to Editor’s Suite I have already received strong interest from two literary agents. Can’t beat that, my friends.

On top of that, AS offers a super-low-cost mini-MFA program that teaches the craft of commercial writing. I did not take these classes, but I have heard amazing things about them.

There’s my sales pitch. No, I am not paid by Author Salon, but I am a volunteer moderator in the peer review forums and I am a friend of the man who started the whole affair. If you’re a writer on the hunt to get published, I know of no better place to start.

Until next time,

~Kevin

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