As I continue to work on the second draft of my manuscript I find that I am talking to people more and more about my book and there are two question that I have to deal with over and over again. The questions of what I am writing and why I am writing it. Both of these questions are amazingly complex and have been extremely difficult for me to wrap my head around. To sum up in a few sentences a book that I have worked on for most of the last decade, a book that will be between 50 and 80 thousand words. A book that I plan to become part of a five book series that will span more than a century and a half of time and be somewhere around 400 thousand words.
The question of why while vague has a distinct answer. I am a writer. It is a part of me and has been for more than two decades, it is the identity that I have chosen for myself, but what does that mean. I will admit, and this is the first time that I have ever admitted anywhere, that I often dream of giving interview having people listen to what I have to say about culture, politics and literature. The final scene of ‘The Commitments’ is one that I can relate to easily. But it has never been about getting famous, it has always been about changing lives, getting people to listen to what I have to say and contributing to the way the world is shaped into the future.
The question of what I am writing is even tougher to answer. On the large scale the entire series has to do with the weight of expectation, and the ability to choose your own destiny, even in the face of the wants and needs of others. It is about the sacrifices that we make to do the things that we need to do. It is also about the relationships of fathers (most surogate) with sons. How even the best of intentions are sometime not enough to shape the youths in our lives into the people that we want them to be, but sometimes it is more important that they become the people that they need to be. And while all of that plays a part in each of the book that I have written or plan to write for this series it still does not sum up any one of the books or place them in a category which will allow people to understand what I am writing. I tried to sum it up as a historical light fantasy for a long time because the fantasy elements are only minorly present, but that doesn’t seem to capture the feel of the entire thing. Mostly since the series becomes less historical and slightly more fantasy as it moves along. As I have thought about it more and more I have felt a better description would be Literary Fantasy. I’m trying not to sound pretentious but I feel like this story has more to do with ‘The Great Gatsby’ or ‘Bonfire of the Vanities’ than Piers Anthony or C.S. Lewis.
It has been a while since I have posted anything new, so I think it is time to update anybody who might be listening to what is going on. I have been back working on the edits of my novel ‘The Lost Prophet’. Unfortunately as with some writers editing for me is like a trip to the dentist for some people.
I have been working on my edits of this book for close to eight months now, I am now close to half way through the second draft and it has taken me almost as long to get this far as it did to write the entire first draft. This has caused me to ponder what it is about the editing process that makes it so difficult for me.
There is a beauty in writing, an adrenaline rush as you create and form a world at your fingertips. the power inherent in fiction writing, or any writing for that matter is a heady thing. It allows you to spread your wings and watch the landscape open up below you. I always envision the final scene from “The Neverending Story” where Falkor the Luck Dragon flies out over the world and the story is written all over again, or the end of ‘Starchild’ where the world is remade in the image of the stories.
By contrast editing does feel like a trip to the dentist. It is necessary and good for you, but you spend the entire time being lectured by someone about how you are doing everything wrong. If writing brings you to the highest peaks then editing has the potential to drop you into the lowest valleys. Having to take apart what you have already write and analyze it by the numbers
and structure. Anyone who knows me will tell you I am a numbers guy, I enjoy patterns and structure, but I have never been able to get behind the editing progress. I am striving to build my enjoyment of it, I want to see the patterns of the words and make them sing to the rafters. Sometimes great moments in writing happen with inspiration on a blank page, but waiting for the inspiration to come and it would take
seventeen years just to write one novel. So I study my word choice, the way each character speaks, the imagery that I use to describe the places and the people, symbolism and mirroring, all of the things that place depth and meaning into the written word. I have to embrace this thing that makes me cringe, because if this is what I want to do then this is the best way to do it.
Here is the interview that I did with AJ Race from the Cult of Racewood
So today I am going to discuss two of the hardest things about writing anything. The second, yes I like to do things out-of-order, is re-writes. You have worked on your story and have what you consider a brilliant piece of writing. So what to do next is take it apart and completely change it. This leads us, in my opinion, to the hardest thing about writing. Because in order to do re-writes you must have feedback. The dreaded constructive criticism.
Let me explain for anyone who has not had to provide me with criticism how my process works. You read something I wrote and give it the full weight or your attention. You carefully consider exactly what your reaction is and how you think I can make the writing better. You write-up clear and concise notes for me to work from. I receive your notes, avoid them for a day or two and once I get to reading them I refer to you in terms that would make a sailor blush. I call you names, I call your mother names, I scream about how stupid you are and everyone you have ever met in your entire life. I storm off in a huff vowing to never speak to you again.
The next day I sit down and look at your notes again, from experience about sixty to eighty percent will be good notes that help me refine what I have written. The other twenty to forty percent will be notes that show you didn’t understand what I was saying. I my opinion the twenty to forty percent are the more important notes. Everybody will have different like and dislike in the way a story is written. On this novel alone I have been told by two different first readers, both of whom I respect, that one I should include more descriptions of the places and people, setting the scene more. The other told me they loved the fact that I was focused on the relationships between the characters and not where they were. But the notes that show me you did not get what I was trying to convey with the writing are the ones that I want to focus on the most. I don’t care if all of my readers agree with me, but I am not doing my job if the majority of my readers do not understand what I am saying.
Bringing this back to my work. Last night my friend and fellow traveler Lauren who is one of my first readers gave me back the fully noted copy of my manuscript. At one hundred forty pages with an estimated five notes average per page. So I have about seven hundred notes to go through. At this point I am staring at the pages and trying to ignore it like an elephant in the room. Some time tomorrow I will go through the notes and get really pissed off. By middle of this week I will go back through them and figure out which category each note falls into, and then by this time next week I will be ready to sit back with Lauren and go over all the notes over a few drinks.
Last we left I was mourning over the crap of a novel that I had tried to write, most of it was forced. The characters development was minimal, the plot line was force and artificial. My dialogue was poor and most importantly it read like page after page of someone trying to pad their word count.
I still had a dream though and I wanted to be a writer. I knew that the work that I had produced was not of a quality that I could sell, but the only way to write better is to write.
So I order to try to hone my skills I decide shorter fiction was a better way to go. I kept a micro-recorder and started dictating ideas into it. I would keep a journal with Ideas for stories, and write about whatever would come into my head. But one story was my primary focus. With the help of my younger brother Brian, who at the time was all of Eleven year old I developed a character called the Mask. Picture a cross between Robert Langdon and The Shadow. Overall a pretty cool character and not a bad concept. I was going for a modern pulp feel to the stories having just gotten into characters like the Shadow and Doc Savage.
Brian would help me with the plot for each story and then I would sit and do the writing. In all we produced three full stories and outlines and ideas for several more after that. I had developed a ghost/love story and built up several supporting characters. Some of them from a more reluctant hero mold, but I was slowly putting together this psuedo-pulp universe for myself. A don’t remember if any of those stories were ever submitted to anyone but none of them have ever been published.
At the same time I was spending a lot of time on-line on AOL. It was the first time we had a computer in the house that had internet access. While browsing I came across a group that was making plans for the release of a line of independent comics. The guy who was starting it up wanted to release an anthology book with several stories from different creative teams and hopefully then release some of them as monthly books. The company was called Virtue Publishing.
Problem was I didn’t have a story
So last week I took you on a peek inside the journey I have taken to get to the point where I am at now, but what this blog is about more than anything else is where I am on the journey.
So for those of you just getting to know me let me bring you up to date. In July of 2011 I decided that the planning and the thinking it through were done. It was time to put pen to page, or fingers to keys in my case, and put together a first draft of my first novel ‘The Lost Prophet’. I spent as much time as I could on lunch hours and on weekends getting the work done on the first draft. My plan is for it to become the first of a five book story arc that I call Sceal Casia (loose Gaelic translation The Legend of Casia). Less than a month later I was hit by an inspiration, and decided that I would publish the books myself under the Monolith Books imprint. The plan as it stands right now is to work book one through several drafts and have it ready for publication as an e-book by February of 2013. With possible Hardcover publication with in six months to a year later. The first draft was completed on April 8th 2012 and sent out to friends and family whom I trust to give me honest and constructive feedback. Rule one: If you are not paying people to do something they get to take their time with getting it done. So as it stands out of the ten people I sent it to I have received solid feedback from one person on the first half of the book, and I am waiting for feedback on the entire book from someone else. This is one of the frustrations of being an independent author. I may hire a professional editor for feedback on the second or third draft of the book, mostly to get things moved along faster. So with what little feedback I have received, and all of it extremely helpful, I have started the second draft of Book One, and a first draft of Book Two