Archive for the ‘Novel Number 2’ category

The Best Editor I’ve Had

September 25th, 2014

Let’s talk for just a moment about editors.

I know my way around editors. I was an editor, after all, in the copy-editing sense and the story assignment sense and… well, in the newspaper senses. I was an editor, and dealt with editors as a writer.

I’m saying this so you have perspective when I say I’ve never had an editor like Julie Hutchings.

You all — many of you, anyway — know Julie as a writer, and in fact she’ll have some words for this space later this week. She is an excellent editor as well, and if you reread my summed bona fides above you’ll maybe agree I’m qualified to set that benchmark. Yes, she knows the words and the grammar and the hey-hey-hey semicolon, but really her skill at editing made one overwhelming impression on me: It made what I wrote something I wanted to read.

Not that I’m an awful writer, he said, pointing to the years and years of supporting myself doing just that. But I hate reading my writing. Hate. The editorial phase of journalism was always been something I gritted my teeth and endured. No, I don’t believe my words were handed down from on high, like some writers. I just want to tear up and totally rewrite everything ever because it’s never good enough for me.

Step back a bit: For reasons, I have a few completed novels sitting on my hard drive. Just… sitting. I queried a couple of them, back in the day, but that never really went anywhere and it’s a good thing. This work was not query-ready. It was the product of a writer having left the profession but still needed an outlet.

I don’t remember how I learned Julie works as an editor alongside her writing; let’s pretend it was a meet-cute where I spilled my Twitter all over her feed or… or something that sounds less salacious. After much consideration, I chose what I thought to be the most saleable of my finished manuscripts and sent it her way.

For weeks, Julie said cryptic but encouraging things on Twitter. I was surprised.

I will tell you I initially resisted reading the edited copy. But I did, and boy am I glad: She *got it*. She really *read* the book. She saw things in the characters I hoped readers would, and in turn became their advocate to make sure I went back and rewrote them to be true to who they were. She was, in short, the best editor I’d had in my career.

Will the book ever sell? I don’t know. All the great editing in the world isn’t a guarantee in this market. But will the book be the best it could be? A thousand times yes.

Tomorrow, I’m turning over part of this blog to Julie to help promote her new novel. I hope you’ll check in, both here and then anywhere RUNNING AWAY is sold. It is — and Julie is — well worth your time.

Welcome to My New Life

November 22nd, 2010

I have grown to love my car. Wait, no, that’s not right. I’ve grown into my car. Or truck. Whichever I happen to be using that week.

Because, see, this is what I do now: Commute an hour to work, work, commute 90ish minutes to the hospital where Evan’s staying, hang out as long as I can, and commute an hour from the hospital to home. That leaves a teensy bit of time to do other things, though I’ve managed to keep writing fiction and, you know, eating and breathing. (Hygeine is iffy at best — we got home so late Sunday night that I didn’t have time to shave, leaving me nicely scruffy for work. Glad the office is dead for the holidays.)

I write all of that as an extended excuse for not posting lately. I’ve been throwing pics of Ev onto Facebook almost daily, so go there for the latest. I’ve also been writing letters. If I can, I’ll post another tonight. Be patient.

Great Minds Think Alike?

October 8th, 2010

How many stories are there in the world? When I was a young writer, conventional wisdom was twelve. Twelve basic plots for every work of fiction — film, literature, radio, theater — in the world. The highest estimate I’ve ever seen is 36.

In or around 2006, I began work on a piece of fiction to — what else? — impress a woman. Said woman was the friend of a friend; he introduced us, we sparked, there was drama, we parted. (Boy meets girl — one of the oldest stories, and surely among that 12 I learned as a boy.) To impress her, I began putting together a work of longform fiction. And because this woman used the name Sekhmet on message boards we frequented, I decided to incorporate Sekhmet into the story.

But in a modern way, you know? Even better, I thought, would be to use an Egyptian bad guy as the antagonist. Ancient gods in the modern word? Brilliant! (Yeah, I was reading “American Gods” a lot back then.) And hey, a bit of quick research turned up Apep, a sort of Egyptian god of darkness — in the bad sense — and just the sort of baddie I needed.

I did a little work, wrote a bit of an outline, fleshed out some characters and promptly forgot the project for four years. Once I finished Underneath It All, I saw a pattern in the rejection letters: Sorry, most of the agents said, we’re focusing away from that sort of fiction for supernatural-tinged thrillers or dark urban fantasy. “How about that,” I thought. “I have a supernatural-tinged thriller idea!”

For a couple of months now, with some breaks, I’ve been actively writing the idea, using those Sekhmet and Apep concepts from before. I’ve been getting close to the characters, sussing out ideas for how they’d collide, basically falling in love. And then came yesterday: Oct. 7, 2010, when by chance I stumbled on a random note on about, yes, a thriller series following the reincarnation of Sekhmet who basically becomes a superhero to fight Apep in modern times.


I know: There are only 12 stories in the world. Ancient Egypt is not my exclusive domain to mine. For all I know, the guy’s ideas are radically different. The thing is, I won’t let myself read them. I cannot be even accidentally influenced. My idea is sufficiently different that I can continue on my path and, knowing what little I do about his series, nobody could ever cry plagiarism.

I can worry, but I’ll press on. I already love some of these characters (even if a few will meet unhappy fates) and I believe in my own writing skill. I can’t help but think, though: Why couldn’t that other guy do zombies and vampires like everyone else?

Trying to Get Back into the Saddle

September 27th, 2010

I haven’t written in a couple of weeks now.

Okay, I suppose that’s not entirely true. I wrote a sympathy card to Doug’s parents, and a much lamer entry into the guestbook we passed around at his memorial. I’ve written thank-yous to a number of people who made it possible for me to get to said memorial.

Still, all of that meant a break from the writing I really want to do, the long-form fiction. So what if the first novel has so far rated next to no interest from agents? It’s in the bag, and I can resume sending queries whenever. It will happen, sooner or later.

Meanwhile, the new ideas are scrabbling their ways around my head. I’ve done some work, knocked out a few early chapters, found myself exploring at least three of the main characters. Now they want more of my attention. They want to know what happens next, whether they’ll make it to the end or be killed off. Yeah, there will be some killing. The first time around, I thought love might be interesting to explore. Now I’ve got an idea that lends itself to a bit darker subject matter.

I won’t lie, I’m a little relieved at that. For one thing, I love that stuff. Everything’s more interesting with ghosts. Hell, it was all I could do not to put ghosts into Underneath It All. (Instead, I let the main characters “appear” as ghostly figures in each others’ memories, to snark on what they found there. It’s a nice effect, if I do say so myself, so… more incentive to resume the agent search.)

For another (and more mercenary) thing, supernatural sells right now. Easily half of the agent rejection letters I’ve received mention their focus shifting to supernatural romance, supernatural action, supernatural mystery… you see the pattern. Just look at the forums. The folks often post cover captures of their published works, and if you can’t find a vampire or a scantily clad yet futuristic woman holding a sword, you’re not looking hard enough. I’m not knocking their efforts, but I am kicking myself for not going with my instincts and exploring the supernatural first.

Because, yes, selling a book is easier once you’ve sold a book. And selling a first novel is easier if it follows the current well-traveled path. And right now, that path involves, apparently, angst-ridden vampires who bed voluptuous librarians while solving crime. Something like that.

Rambling now. To those over the past few weeks who read the first chapter of Underneath It All and told me how much you liked it: Thank you! Here’s hoping we all see more of it soon. Heck, if it’s still unsold by Christmas, I’m inclined to post more online. In the meantime, I’ll be spending evenings and weekends on the new project.