Writing My first Cozy Mystery: Winter isn't Over and Neither is the Editing

A few days ago, the temperature outside flirted with seventy, yesterday it snowed again. It's been a bizarre winter, impacted, I'm sure, by the warming of our planet, and it's not over.

A few weeks ago, I flirted with the idea of submitting my manuscript to agents and publishers. I actually sent a few queries. Half of them were rejected. I took a step back to see what I could do to increase the chance of success.

I need a stronger social media presence, I told myself. I should buff up the pitch and the bio.

So I turned to Twitter, I joined the platform years ago to promote my music, but hardly used it and hadn't visited the site in quite a while. Like a baby bird, I sent out a few tentative tweets, then started posting a link to this blog. A little research led me to the hashtags authors are using. I began to follow other writers, agents, publishers, and editors.

I try to spend a little time each day now scrolling through the feed for anything relevant or interesting. Two days ago I read a post from an agent about ridding your manuscript of the dreaded exclamation point. I hadn't realized it was such a pariah. No worries, though, I told myself, I don't use it that much anyway.

Just in case, I did as the agent suggested and used the find and replace function to check. She suggested no more than ten instances of the highly emotional punctuation mark in a full book manuscript. I won't tell you how many I found - I didn't count them - but there were multiples of ten, many multiples. Oh my.

I rooted them out and got down to eight. Whew. Then I wondered what else was still wrong with my manuscript that I wasn't seeing. Replying to a comment on her post, the agent posted a list of tragically (my word, not hers) overused words and phrases. Again, I told myself there was no need to worry. I don't believe I over use any of those. I am aware of the cardinal rule of writing fiction - show, don't tell.

But, I went back to find and replace, just in case. Of course I found I really do overuse many of the words she listed - without even realizing it - and without seeing that I had done it, despite reading my manuscript maybe a hundred times and edited it relentlessly in response to concerns expressed by members of my writer's group, best practice advice and my own understanding of what constitutes bad writing. Yet, every search I did found many places where I could clearly do better.

Discouraging? A little. I want to be a better writer though, and I want to sell this book. I recently had a milestone birthday - let's just say I'll be shopping at the Acme on Tuesdays from now on - but I know for sure you are never too old to learn new things. I'm fairly confident act my plot is solid, my mystery is mysterious, my villain is evil and my sleuth is likable (also a little worried that further exploration could prove me wrong there too). But, at least until Spring arrives for real, I'll be diving into the details. Winter's not over, and neither is my quest to make this book the best it can be.


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