The First Edit

So, Branwen was finished. All 460 glorious pages of her. Now, what was I supposed to do?

Well, it turns out the answer to that question is “Edit!”

I had hundreds of pages of notes and scribbles from my critique group about different things that needed to be fixed, from typos to scene changes and major edits. Over the summer of 2017, I set about compiling all those notes, plus my own, and going back through my story to sort everything out.

Let me tell you, it was a process. Page by page, line by line, word by word. My beginning–those fated few pages that had started this whole endeavor–no longer fit with the rest of the story. After the entire rest of the book had been edited, I was still writing and re-writing the first chapter. I needed something to draw the reader in while introducing the rest of Branwen’s family and explaining her motivation to explore the forbidden tomb. That’s how the shadow-wolf, the Cù Sìth, joined the fray.

Along with way, Branwen was re-titled Fearless. [For the sake of consistency I will continue to refer to my original submission as Branwen. Fearless is another book altogether, as you’ll see.]

Queries – Round One

Satisfied that my book was sufficiently edited, I set about sending out queries. At the advice of my critique partner Pam, I created a spreadsheet listing all the agents I intended to send to, what their requirements were, their agency name, expected turn around time, et cetera. I noted the date that I sent each query. When I started to get responses back, I wrote in the date and what response I got.

17 out of 17 rejections.

Most were very polite and very professional. Form letters with my name and/or book title filled in at the appropriate place. Usually they’d say something along the lines of “Thank your for sending us your precious manuscript. We know you worked really hard on it, but it’s not a fit for us at this time. We encourage you continue sending to other agencies and maybe you’ll find The One!”

Months passed like that.

After the first few rejections, I edited my query letter and first chapter again. Initially, the first action scene of Branwen didn’t start until nearly 10 pages in, which was well beyond the sample pages most literary agencies requested. Most agents I had been submitting to only wanted the first five pages, so I cut everything I could to force the shadow-wolf’s appearance within that limit, hoping the promise of magic and mystery was enough. It wasn’t. The rejections kept coming in.

On August 14, 2018, I opened my email to find yet another rejection letter, this time from Kelly Peterson at Corvisiero Literary Agency (she’s at Rees Literary Agency in 2024). Unlike the other letters I had received, this one had some actual feedback, which would ultimately change the entire plot and structure of Branwen and bring about the birth of Fearless. The fateful line was this: “Unfortunately, your word count is too high for me to consider representation for your age range and genre.”

At 144,000 words and 460 pages, the book was too long.

The Revision

After some intense discussions with my critique group, we decided splitting Branwen into a trilogy would do the story far more justice that trying to cut until it fell into a more reasonable YA fantasy word count of 90k. I’d have a chance to expand in areas that were lacking logic or explanation, and also delve even further into various backstories and histories to hopefully create more fully-dimensional characters and aspects of the world. Plus, as Bryan and Pam know, I like to use all the words. It’d be far easier for me to add to my story than to subtract.

So, back to revisions I went.

I chopped Branwen into three rough sections based on the arc of the story, saved each under different file names, then opened the first one and began working on Fearless. This time, instead of needing to cut 50k words, I needed to add them.

Nearly two and half years later, on April 8th, 2021, I finished the revised version of Fearless.

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