December 30, 2010

Beginning Anew

I revised the wind sprint I wrote a few weeks ago into a MUCH better first chapter. There's a little too much there, but I'll pare that down during revision. The tone and the action are so much better. Less description of action and more action. I am incredibly pleased.

The thing is, today is the first day I've written in a week. Granted, it has been an incredibly stressful week at work, but not writing has exacerbated it. Once upon a time, I was able to go a few weeks without writing. Now it seems I can't go more than a day or two.

This is awesome in that I feel I've moved up a level in my abilities as a writer. But it's terrifying because it is having a genuine impact on my daily life. I wrote today over lunch and when I went back to the office, I was whistling a jaunty tune. I was in SUCH a great mood. A better mood than what was appropriate for having such a difficult work and eating lunch alone.

Writing is my heroine. And like a junkie, I think that's awesome.

Keeping Up Appearances

Having moved around a lot, I have a lot of friends online. And really, I was a quick adopter of the internet back in the '90s and have a tendency to express myself online much the same as I do in real life. Especially when it comes to blowing off steam. Since I work with computers all day, a quick tweet or status update resolves the need to rant without requiring that I leave my desk to go find someone to talk to (especially since the people that know me best live half-way across the country).

This has led to a number of awkward situations in the past, as you can imagine.

It's even more difficult now while I pursue publication. The people I have to blow off steam about the most are at work and I work in publishing! I can rant about how dumb editors are, and those who aren't paying attention might think I'm speaking as an author rather than a production worker at a publishing company. In order, the three most frustrating people to deal with are editors, marketers, and salespeople. Each comes chock full of excuses to get their way instead, all of which I have become quite versed in over the years. Knowing they're using a drab and overdone excuse not because it has any bearing on the product your making but only because they don't know what they're doing and they need things to go their way to maintain an appearance of competence can be--as you would imagine--extremely frustrating.

Now all these people actually do know things. ...well, most of them do. But publishing doesn't offer a lot of interdepartmental training and the production-side of publishing is generally ignored both internally and externally by any that don't have to deal with it directly. You'll never see an author acknowledge the hard work of his book's project manager even though it was that person who had the thing typeset and sent to press in 1/4 the time (s)he should have received after everyone else missed their deadlines.

You know how they say shit rolls downhill? Yeah, our cubes are at the bottom of the hill.

This time of year is busiest for the department I'm in right now and tensions are running high. While it might be best if I said nothing at all, if I did that, I'd hurt myself from hitting my head against my desk so hard. So, anything you see me saying, please keep in mind it's not reflective of any editors I might be working with as an author--and in fact, has nothing to do with trade publishing at all since I work on the education side.

Just tooting my whistle before the built up steam causes it to burst.

December 29, 2010

Afternoon Showers on the Frontal Lobe

I did some brainstorming with Elizabeth Poole today, which was incredibly helpful. I was wavering on 7Sac, as the scope was too large and the story too small. There wasn't enough steak and potatoes. It was mostly pre-dinner rolls. The story was at risk of falling into too many cliches, specifically the "build a team" story where the majority of the story is building the team and not actually dealing with the threat at hand. Plenty of good books have followed this route, but plenty bad books have too and frankly it's a trope I'm incredibly bored with.

So rather than assemble the team, I'm going to chase the team.

Here's the quick breakdown. The book begins with the main character, Cheshire. Cheshire meets Albrecht who offers the inciting action. Cheshire and Albrecht meet Ananta the Magician and his two slaves.

That was the mistake. Having Ananta and his slaves all appear at once put too much weight on forward action without explaining why these three people have shown up or why they become necessary for the group. I kept focusing on Ananta. The slaves were window dressing even though both of them are necessary for the plot's advancement.

So, the obvious track is to introduce them individually. But that's where the "build a team" thing comes in. Now Ananta doesn't have slaves. They've become Grant Black and Coeas, demon hunters in their own right. Saying something like "we need to find these men" when Cheshire has been hunting demons for 42 years is totally stupid. The man has killed more demons than the rest of them put together, so to suggest he needs to build a team to accomplish what he's been doing for decades rings incredibly false.

BUT! The same inciting action that applies to Cheshire applies to Grant and Coeas as well...IF they're not being recruited but being stopped. All the demons have to be killed within a 24 hour period, hence the demons Cheshire has killed reincarnating every seven years. If Grant and Coeas found and killed their demons as well, the cycle repeats itself and they'd have to wait another seven years (and Cheshire is already old as dirt).

Sure it's still a team in the end, but the task isn't to go find and recruit people, but to find them and stop them from screwing everything up. That pleases me.

I'm also juggling on POV chapters for people who are possessed by the demons. I have a few ideas for these, some of them safer than the others. I think I'll just have to give it a try and see what happens.

Regardless, in this case, I have enough where this is officially a novel to work on. I'm going to take my computer with me to work tomorrow. Huzzah!

Thanks Liz!

December 28, 2010

We have the tools! We have the talent!

My wife got me what could be the greatest stocking stuffer of all time.

Yes, that is the greatest utensil ever made, the spork. But it's not just any spork. It's a titanium spork.

That's right. Titanium.

Now you may ask yourself, why would anyone need a titanium spork? And I would say to you, don't be so short sighted! What happens if a madman initiates an armageddon clock right in the middle of a meal time. You need something to jam into the gears to stop them from turning. Will your pathetic stainless steel spoon/fork combination work? No. Plasticwear? Not at all! You need something strong enough to cause those gears to stop turning and collapse the entire diabolical machine.

And what would that be?

Titanium baby. Titanium1. My spork will save the world someday.

1 While I was not always on the titanium bandwagon, when I had trouble finding a wedding band, the jeweler suggested I try a titanium ring and it was perfect. I have since seen the majesty2 of titanium. I am prepared for our clockwork doom and will rise to the occasion when it occurs!

2 By majesty, I mean that should the ring ever be crushed in a horrible traffic accident, the EMTs will have to cut off my finger because they do not have the tools to cut through a titanium ring. If that isn't awesome, I don't know what is.

December 26, 2010


I love maps almost as much as I like titles. If only I had the artistic talent necessary to draw maps. But I knew what I wanted to use as a map (also why I changed the name of the acreages). So after a little tweaking in photofiltre, I have a rough map that I will use for THE 7TH SACRIFICE.

I present to you...the Kingdom!

Plontsing the Sac

I've been on holiday! It is becoming a tradition that each Christmas my wife and I go up into the White Mountains for a few days. Though New Hampshire is a small state, the North country and the South Country are pretty different (as we're often reminded by those that live in the North). You can cut the state in half and vary the temperature by 10 degrees. Life is different there, including living in the lower elevations of the northern Appalachian Mountains. It's a great time, though this year absent snow. We are expecting a blizzard to hit tonight, so that should make up for it. Of course, it was supposed to start snowing 2 1/2 hours ago, so who knows if that will actually materialize.

If you're ever in North Conway, consider staying at the Wyatt House Bed & Breakfast. They were great to us. The food was delicious. And it's ideally situated.

While I was there, Jen too copious amounts of naps, more than usual, which gave me the writing time I needed to wrap up JH and send it off to beta readers. That number is down to two, now, which is disappointing. But people have lives and it's the holidays, so I understand.

I had thought to maybe spend a few weeks reading. I'm going to put attention to finishing Tad Williams' SHADOWHEART. I finished MOCKINGJAY yesterday. It was good, but I don't think it was worth the hype that it got. The ending averted being a disaster and ended up being just okay. The whole trilogy almost seems like it was written just to show which boy the character will choose, which is interesting for all of five pages, not three books.

As for me, spending time reading is turning into prep work for writing THE 7TH SACRIFICE (I've officially changed its name to be 7TH instead of SEVENTH).

For starters, I'm no longer calling the counties the counties. I originally conceived this story between writing WANTED: CHOSEN ONE and THE TRIAD SOCIETY. The former puts a lot of focus on duchies and a king. The latter puts more focus on counties. For 7Sac, I had wanted to use counties as a regional boundary because so often people focus on duchies or kingdoms and I like that county is still a word we use today. When I abandoned my first attempt at 7Sac, that bled over to TTS. The problem is, now TTS is a finished novel and the possible first in a trilogy, so using counties again seems like beating a dead horse.

I went horseback riding on my vacation. The farm was 77 acres of an original 1000 acreage granted to the owner's family in 1771 by King George III. Yup, I went horseback riding on a 239-year-old farm. New England is awesome. This made me tweak things a bit.

Basic breakdown. "The Kingdom" is where this takes place. The Kingdom is broken into four areas, originally called counties. Each of these counts claimed the thrown after the king died under mysterious circumstances. That's getting modified. The counties are acreages. Acreage is a little cumbersome to say. I was watching "Valhalla Rising" yesterday (disembowelment on Christmas!) and they calls Mads a terror from the southerlands. Well isn't that nifty. You always hear highlands or lowlands or East and West or what have you. Hell, I even used Southerland in TTS as Soderland (German), but this feels different. The acreages are delineated by compass.

Cumberland Acreage, the Westerlands
Arostook Acreage, the Northerlands
Somerset Acreage, the Easterlands
Kennebec Acreage, the Southerlands

Now, instead of counts, each of the Acreages is rules by a prince or princess, with Cumberland being home to the Crown Prince and rightful heir. The rest claim he assassinated their father and thus forfeited the throne. Each of them now call himself/herself King/Queen, but most just refer to them as the Pretenders (a term I made the first time around that was used much less).

I also used Tinkers in JEHOVAH'S HITLIST, so it wouldn't do to include them again in 7Sac. But I love the tinkers I've created, so really I'm just changing the name since the two types of tinkers were completely different. Now they'll be called Peddlers.

One thing that's getting dropped all together is the varying naming structures. Each county represented a different European culture in terms of naming. I think I'll just stick with Brittany this time as I so often move into other areas of Europe for inspiration. Main character's name is Cheshire, after all, and don't want to change that. So it wouldn't make sense if everyone else had a Russian name.

The visuals in "Valhalla Rising" were pretty amazing, enough to make up for the fact the story (there was a story?) made no sense whatsoever. Quite inspirational. Gave me a lot of ideas on description for the Four Corners, where the four acreages meet and where the abandoned royal palace still stands. I had thought to write the description here, but I'm not in the mood any more, so I'll save that for next time.

Hope you all had an enjoyable week while I was away. Time to get back to work. :)

(Oooo, and I got a Rock, Paper, Scissors, Lizard, Spock t-shirt in my stocking! Woo hoo!)

(And a titanium spork!!!!)

December 20, 2010

The Easiest Way to Give

So you lost your job and you haven't had an interview in months but you still splurged on presents for the kids because you can't stand to think of them crying in front of the tree. You think to yourself, I don't have any money to give to a charity.

Well, Nathan Bransford is holding the easiest flipping charity known to man. Post on his blog and he'll donate a dollar for each post up to $1000.

Go say thank you, earn a dollar for Heifer International, a rocking charity that me and my wife also give to, and keep other kids from crying on Christmas too.

Go. Now.

December 18, 2010

Telegraphing the Play

Writing a novel is like writing a sports play, it may look familiar, but you don't want the reader to know the play that's coming. I know some people read for the experience, but some people (like me) read for the surprise. That's why I hate spoilers so much. If the surprise is ruined for me (like the end of CRYOBURN), it really lessens the experience.

So here I am editing my own work and I get to chapter 15. A lot has been happening. The pacing is pretty fast and yet another event happens. It's starting to feel like Jurassic Park 3 where one chase scene ends and another begins. They never overlap, mind you, but the characters never really stop running. You could see the plays coming. "Chase A is over, cue Chase B!"

I'm reading chapter 15 and it says to me "the author thinks things are moving too quickly. Let's slow this down."

A, it's bad that it reads that way. B, it's worse because it's EXACTLY what I was thinking at the time. The chapter has nothing to do with properly advancing the plot and everything to do with throwing a speedbump in the character's way so that he doesn't reach the first name on his list too quickly. (And reading the previous chapters in succession, it's not too quickly. It's just right given the other events.)

So chapter 15 is getting ripped apart. I don't even know if there will be enough left to warrant a chapter when I'm done. We'll see.

December 17, 2010

The Transition Story

Empire Strikes Back is my least favorite of the Star Wars trilogy1. This is heresy among accepted Star Wars fandom, but it is the way it is. You can rattle off the various elements of the movie that make it better than the others, a richer universe, more defined characters, a darker/grittier edge to it, and you'd be right. It has the basic fundamentals to be all the things the other movies aren't but is missing one thing: a story.

Oh, it has story. It has plot and adventure and action, but as an arc of introduction to conclusion goes, it's incredibly wanting. Now I had to suffer through a novel in college that showed how you can craft a story that doesn't have that kind of arc. But I don't participate in media to suffer. I want an inciting action. I want a climax. I want resolution. Empire Strikes Back is a bridge from Star Wars to Return of the Jedi. You couldn't reach the third story without the second movie, but they didn't offer any sense of accomplishment on its own.

The Two Towers? That's a movie that bridges Fellowship of the Ring to Return of the King but also stands as its own movie. Dislike the absence of the Rangers or the increase in self-depricating Gimli jokes or Legolas surfing down stairs on a shield, the movie begins, there is a big ass fight at Helm's Deep, and the movie resolves pointing to the third movie.

CATCHING FIRE is not a bad book. It's certainly not as good as THE HUNGER GAMES and by the end I'm more annoyed with Katniss as a character than the author probably wants me to be, but it's not a good book either. It's a bridge. Sure the climax and resolution exist. A climax and resolution technically exist in Empire Strikes Back as well. But they are of a degree that I don't think warrants a story of their own2.

I don't read a book just to get me to the next book. If a book exists only to propel me to the next book, it's not worth reading. It should have its own merit, it's own story, it's own essence. The entirety of CATCHING FIRE was a transition from the events of the first book to the events of the third book. The events of the second book only occur in two chapters. Really, at that point, you're looking at an epilogue of the first book and a prologue of the third book and bam, you have everything that's happened in the second.

Transition stories feel like the author has enough peanut butter for one sandwich but has four slices of bread, so (s)he just spreads it on as thinly has (s)he can. And when you pay full price for a book, you want all the peanut butter.

1 Yes, there is only a trilogy. That is all. Nothing else. Han shot first only.

2 The problem being, they were necessary to craft a trilogy, so the genuine failure is that they just weren't big enoug.

December 16, 2010

Silver Lining

I usually don't speak on my relationship with my mother except in the context of my upbringing and its impact on greater topics like racism or religion. This is for a few reasons: it implies I dwell on the matter, which I don't. When hearing we haven't seen each other in 7 years, someone inevitably makes the stupid comment that she's my mother and deserves another chance. And really, it's just a downer. It's one of those awkward moments where no one (other than the asshole above) knows what to say.

I am struck this morning, reading Jennifer Hillier's blog, doing a Nelson laugh (from the Simpsons if you don't get that reference). My father is dead and my mother could be for all the contact we have with one another. So when I write, when I kill, pillage, rape, murder, suck, fuck, and fondle characters of every age, gender, and religion, I never have to worry about explaining why I write what I write to my mother.

*points* Ha ha.

December 15, 2010

A Matter of Style

Mentioned previously, I'm reading CATCHING FIRE, by Suzanne Collins. It's the second book in the Hunger Games trilogy. With the exception of this morning's dumb decision on the part of the main character, the book maintains the style of the first book I enjoyed so much. There doesn't seem to be a lot going on, though. Well, there's enough, but nothing that says "THIS IS THE CHALLENGE THE PROTAGONIST MUST FACE!" It's just a continuation of a theme with no real plot point propelling the story forward. There is one, I guess (President Snow, I will say without spoilers), but it is treated in such a way that I don't find myself genuinely concerned with the main character.

And I think it's because of how THE HUNGER GAMES ended. It was a fair ending. I did not feel cheated. I did not roll my eyes or swear or throw my nook across the room. But if I had been writing the story, there would have been one significant change.


No One Likes a Dumb Protagonist

The subject line says it all. No one likes a dumb protagonist. We accept flawed characters and we accept that situations can be shrouded in mystery or so layered that a character cannot comprehend it on spec. They need time to peel back the layers or let the whole thing soak in before it finally clicks. This is all well and good. It's even better. No one wants a story so superficial that there's no depth or complexity to the challenges the main character faces. They need to unravel it all.

HOWEVER, as they unravel it, you have to be cautious about how you give them clues or what clues you give them. They need to figure out what's happening at one of two possible times. Near the end to propel them to the climax. Or near the beginning where they realize X is happening and thus need to begin the investigation that will lead them to the climax. If you are going for scenario A but give them a clue large enough that they should figured it out closer to the beginning, you have officially made your character stupid. Some clues are such a fish to the face that anyone with an IQ of 100 should be able to figure it out. So when your character doesn't... yeah, exactly.

I'm reading CATCHING FIRE (sequel to THE HUNGER GAMES) and Katniss just got slapped in the face. In a single paragraph, she said the fish was in fact a badger and continued on as if nothing happened. No, see dear, when you do that, I care for you less. When your obliviousness leads you to trouble later, I figure you deserved it because you were too stupid to realize someone just hit you in the face with a fucking fish. That kind of thing hurts. The scales scratch you all over. They used to use that as a punishment in biblical times. It's not a badger. They're furry and shit.

Decide when your character is going to figure things out, beginning or end, and measure out the progression accordingly. Do NOT switch the two because any later emotional conflict caused is completely deserved and then your reader is not engaged with your character. And if your reader is not engaged with your character, your reader is not engaged with your book. That's when they set it down and go read something else. You don't want that to happen. You want your book to be the one they read instead of finishing their own manuscript because it's that good. Use your fish appropriately.

December 13, 2010

Cover Cover Cover

I love me some covers. Until I have an actual published book to pimp in the Inkwell, I put up those books that I have finished a first draft on. But to be put up, they must have a cover. We will not have text about books that do not accompany covers!

It's not a rule. I just love covers.

So after wading through some severe Obama hate by googling guns and bibles, I managed to find a picture I could repurpose for my own design. I present to you, the placeholder cover for JEHOVAH'S HITLIST1.

1 That whole section will be rebuilt into something a marketing professional would approve of once I have something to market. For now that stuff is there to designate that area as a place to learn about the work I am finishing (unlike the Queue, which may have something with some or no word count for years on end--which it does).

Dystopia, Genre, and Finishing the First Draft

You may find yourself asking, where has Joe been? He hasn't been posting three times a day. That's night like you.

You may also find yourself living in a shotgun shack. You may find yourself in another part of the world.

If it's the former, December is when I have to work. And not just show up at the office, but actually work. If the latter, you have a beautiful wife, so congratulations!

So what's been going on with you? With me? On Friday I finished JEHOVAH'S HITLIST. On Sunday I began revising. I am into chapter 4 of 39 (technically 38 with an epilogue, but that's pretty much the same). I decided on voice (HUCKLEBERRY FINN is in first person, which is why its voice works when it bleeds over into the narration). I have to align later chapters with early chapters in that certain resources (like glass) were referenced early and then effectively removed due to their scarcity. At two chapters a day, I should be done in just over two weeks. Of course, Christmas is in there. But then, I hope I can manage more than two chapters a day. That might be difficult with the voice clean up, though. Lots of weres need to be changed to wases.

With all luck, by the time it's done, sent to beta readers, and revised again, I'll have an agent and won't need to query. But if I DO have to query (boooooo), I'll need to list the genre. And that's awesome because this work's genre is well timed.

Dystopian fiction is a thing right now. Because it's such a new subgenre1, there is still some debate over just what does and what doesn't qualify as distopian2. Here's the general breakdown

A dystopia is considered the opposite of a utopia, an oppressed existence usually caused by an overbearing state. Think 1984 or the United States in 20043. ;)

In JEHOVAH'S HITLIST, it began as a conceptualized post-apocalyptic world, but I reduced the scope because the main character had no reason or need to know what happened to the Asian coastal cities when the oceans rose, the ice age-like temperatures that killed Europe, the draught that killed the United States, or the middle east that killed itself. He knows the Nation, 53 avenues east to west. 53 states north to south. That is his world. It's a violent world with a lot of rules, none of them documented, all of them reinforced by the barrel of a gun.

Some might say that the absence of a government precludes the story from being dystopian, but I disagree. In fact, the utopia/dystopia comparison is overtly made by the existence of a platform city above the Nation. These are the people that drop a provisions box 10x20 once a week full of food, medicine, clothes, weapons, and ammunition. The urban jungle environment is propagated by the utopian society supposedly helping the refugees that live below it.

I enjoy this kind of dystopia more. There's some irony of the situation going on in that the character is oblivious to the larger menace of the regular insertion of firearms and ammunition in a limited-resource environment. His enemies are rival gangs, the Lawrence Park Jayhawks or the Manhattan Park Mongrels. Up Above doesn't really factor into it. The drop box has been the drop box his entire life. What cause does he have to question the positive or negative effects it has on his society?

If I spelled it all out, JH would be a dystopian, post-apocalyptic, alternate-history science fiction. Here's the trouble with that. Too many genres look like you don't know what you're writing. What is it? If you boiled it down to its essence, what is the genre of your book? With modern writing blending genres, it's easy to tell an agent you've written a young adult, dystopian, sci-fi thriller. But you look dumb when you do. Make a pie chart and pick the biggest piece of pie.

1 Sure dystopian stories have been around for a long time, but we've never segmented publishing into specific metadata for easy online searchability like we do now, so the subgenre is itself new.

2 Yeah right because age has anything to do with it. Epic fantasy is still being debated and it's been around for decades!

3 Yeah, I went there. I'm such a hippie4

4 Although in 2004, I was called a pinko commie because I didn't believe we should have invaded Iraq, so...yeah, I'm a contradiction.

December 9, 2010

Time Out

I have two thousands words left before I complete JEHOVAH'S HITLIST. I just bought SHADOWHEART, the fourth and final volume of the Shadowmarch Tetralogy written by my favorite author, Tad Williams. This is a time for writing and reading a big ass book.

...yet SHADOWHEART sits on my table (damn that thing is heavy to carry) and I haven't opened my computer since yesterday morning. Why?

A book came out earlier this year, MOCKINGJAY by Suzanne Collins. The tweet-o-sphere erupted in various expostulations of worship. No genre is more represented on Twitter (or the internet, really) than YA, and there was no one that didn't love this series. I'm not a big YA reader myself, limiting that to Rawling and Hardy and that's about it. So when I see such a one-sided outpouring, I tend to stay away. Especially since a lot of the outpouring began with agents. Popular online agents tend to have a trail of sycophants behind them, so I find their corroboration of the agent's opinion to mean little.

Then a few actors hired a production company to film them in an 8-minute trailer in hopes of landing parts in the forthcoming movie. This trailer spoke to me. I downloaded the book preview (a genuine previous and not some front matter plus two pages crap I so often find) and immediately bought the book.



Finishing a novel? That can wait. SHADOWHEART? That thing weighs a lot. Why wasn't there an ebook?

THE HUNGER GAMES by Suzanne Collins? Believe the hype. This thing is good.

December 7, 2010

He Makes the Turn! He Approaches the Finish Line! ...OH NO, HE'S TRIPPED!

So all other obligations were set aside for this evening. Yes, I'm supposed to be making left overs so my wife has something to eat for lunch tomorrow, but she'll understand. This is ART!

I'm flying along and get to the last chapter (now considering making it the second to last). I'm about to have the protagonist parachute from a platform city after killing a few people when I realize...

These two people can't be here at the same time. And those two items which I just described can't be there at the same time. In fact, none of these people can be here. Dammit! This entire scene isn't possible!

So, end of the book is postponed until tomorrow. Poop.

The Hardest Harder Part

You'll often hear that this or that is the hardest part of writing a book. Writing a good beginning. Writing a good first sentence. Writing the middle. Writing the end. Rewriting. Revising. Querying. Being rejected.

The thing is there is no hardest part, just harder parts in relation to other parts at that moment. In my opinion, the most challenging part of a novel is actually the middle. However, the hardest part for me right now isn't the writing at all. It's the fact that I have a regular job with obligations and paychecks and etc etc. I have 4000 words or less to write before this thing is done, and I have to stop so I can go into the office and work on someone else's book.

I don't want to work on someone else's book! I want to work on mine dammit!

It would be nice if you could write a good first sentence and think to yourself, well at least I'm past the hardest part. But you're not. You're past that part, and while it may be harder than the part you're on now, there's other hard parts still to come. And once you're done, the waiting is the hardest part.

December 6, 2010

Look at the Tree

I am 5' 7". I have been told since I stopped growing1 that I am short.

I am not short.

The tallest person in my family after me is 5' 1". I am six inches taller than anyone else in my family.

I am tall.

When someone tells me I am short, (s)he is not looking at the tree with the proper perspective.

1: Stopped growing up. I'm still growing out.

December 5, 2010

The Known Unknowns

Between my own experiences in the industry and the years I've spent participating in various industry blogs (pubrants, the Bransford, etc.), I am not too worried about what will come after I get an agent and sell a book. Or at least, I feel like I have a pretty solid understanding of most aspects.

Except one. The next book. Sure agents talk about the challenges of a sophomore offering and the effort people put into it and the mistakes people make because of the pressure and blah blah blah. All fine and good. I can't speak to pressure until I'm feeling it and I can't feel the pressure of a sophomore book until I've published the freshman one.

What I don't know about the next book is the next book to the agent. I've heard so many conflict things and agents seem to rarely speak on that part of the process. I've heard proposal used as the nonfiction alternative to a query, but then I've also heard it as what a represented author sends his/her agent for new story ideas. And pardon me, but a proposal sounds like a query and by god, I never want to query again once I get an agent.

I've also seen some authors that send the agent an outline. An outline? I don't outline. I never outline. I took half a page of notes yesterday and that's HUGE. I'm a pantser. I write by the seat of my pants. I write by the seat of my pants so much that there are holes in the seat of my pants from all the writing I do there. I can tell you the beginning (though it might change) and the ending (though it might change) and maybe a few ideas of the middle (though they might change). How the hell do you expect me to write an outline? That will destroy my process?!?!?!

So yeah, this is a known unknown. I get representation for, let's say, THE TRIAD SOCIETY. I already have two other novels that did not attract an agent. Given some blog posts, I think he or she might read them just as a matter of form and tell me if they can be revised to publishable quality or just need to be permanently shelved. But I'm also finishing a new wip right now and will have another one in a few months. What do I do with those?

And I even read once that an author would pitch a book to the agent before it's written and if the agent said no, the author might not even write the thing. I don't think I've ever written a book that was so much like my original proposal as it was when it was finished. Not writing it at all seems like a horrible presumption. And even if that's a good method, I write two novels a year. Can't I just write one of whatever I want and one that gets a thumbs up? I mean, some people take five years to write a book, so I can see why it might be important to figure out its saleability beforehand. I wrote THE TRIAD SOCIETY in three months (to the day1). I'll write ten novels in the time that other guy writes one, so can't I write the quirky thing that I love even if no one else will?

Some of this is probably exaggeration, but this really is the one topic I've never seen covered on any of the blogs I follow.

1 Actual writing time was less, as I started on May 25th and I took off most of June because I was working my ass off at my really real job. I finished the first draft on August 25th, though, and I think that's pretty awesome.

December 1, 2010

Let's Talk About Sex

Tiffany Reisz is one of Sara Megibow's erotica authors. She wrote a guest post for Fiction Groupie that just blew me away, so I thought I would bring it to your attention.

Now, as a liberal adult, I have been instructed to be open about sex, and I am. So is my wife. We're cool like that. But this post gave me pause because really, few people I know, liberal or otherwise, are comfortable talking about sex, certainly so if it involves a discussion with more than one person. Impossibly so if someone under 20 is in the room and we are doing anything but an instructional lecture of the dangers of sex.

Yeah, not so much.

The specific comment that Tiffany made that I found so profound was:

Really?  I’m the only adult who has ever told a super smart beautiful young woman that sex was good?  That’s troubling.  Sex IS good. Why is that a secret? Marriage is good too. Nobody hides that fact from kids. Nobody thinks that by telling a fourteen year old girl that marriage is good, that fourteen year old is going to run out and immediately get married. So why all the secrecy? Why all the shame? I want her to know sex is good so she’ll know it’s worth taking seriously, it’s worth thinking about, it’s worth doing right.

Dear lord yes! I've known this and have expressed this but never articulated it in such a simple but powerful manner. Anyone that says sex is bad or shameful is either a liar or doing it wrong. This right here is how you communicate the importance of sex, safe sex, self-respect, and respecting others. This is going to be an awesome part of your life, so pay attention.

Kudos to Tiffany.

The Drawl

I've mentioned before that I've been struggling on voice with JEHOVAH'S HITLIST. It's not so much struggling as I can't find it. It's struggling in that I keep changing my mind, so the narrative text is horribly inconsistent.

Here's where I've been flipping. Take a nice classic rural drawl. Change of to a, drop the Gs off of ING (remindin' me a somethin'), swap was/were (he were/they was), add 'n to the ends of certain words (if'n), and the like.

At first this was only dialogue, but a lot of narrative text focuses on Jehovah's thought process. We think the same way we speak. Someone's grammar doesn't magically improve just because they're speaking instead of thinking. But that's easier to choose to do than to actually do.

For one thing, a lot of us drop the G off of ING anyway, but seeing the apostrophe makes us slow down and identify what's missing. That can be a big distraction when reading narrative text, so that switched back to normal ING. The next was the was/were relationship. I've tried to maintain this, but no matter how actively you write your verbs, you'll still use WAS more than any other, sometimes multiple times in the same sentence. What was quaint and distinct to begin with became burdensome and distracting.

Jehovah were certain he'd a seen such a thing afore. The last'n had kill't Lil' Petey and ate off Rick Rick's right foot. That all made no nevermind here.

Quaint. Distinct. But for 90,000 words? I just don't know.

Speaking of 90,000 words: I'm usually one that says the book is as long as the book needs to be, but seeing just how depressed the sci-fi1 market is, this isn't something I want to thumb my nose at. The thing is, I thought I was coming in too short somewhere around 35k and kind of fleshed things out. I'll have to go back and chop some of that out because I'm actually at risk of going over 90k, which I'm using as a hard ceiling for this book.

Approaching the end, I reached the book's thesis statement. The exchange includes more than one racial epithet. And while both the character and the setting make it an appropriate word choice, as a writer, it is SO hard to include. A thousand and one times I started to just scrap the entire chapter, but forced myself to finish it. It still makes my skin crawl, though.

1 And in terms of genre, I wanted to bring up dystopian fiction, but will do so in a separate post later after I've gotten some work done. Interesting things. There will be questions, so all a you that have been quiet lately prepare yourselves to comment. :)