One Third into Book #3

Book #3 is officially over 100 pages now. Finished chapter 8 yesterday. Word count is just under 23,500. That puts me one-third of the way to the finish line. More or less.

I don’t want anyone to think that I’m basing my book’s progress strictly on word count or page count, because that would be ludicrous and arbitrary. I’m only ludicrous and arbitrary in my normal day-to-day dealings (such as parenting, or driving, or mowing the lawn). Writing is much more serious to me.

No, I know I’m a third of the way through because chapter 8 was the last “set-up” chapter. I’ve established the setting and my main characters. I’ve created an introductory conflict and some inner turmoil. I’ve dropped in some background info that puts some other characters’ motives into question. The next chapter begins phase two where everything ramps up.

I’ve been playing with a new structure (new to me, at least) on this project. See, I basically have two protagonists that, so far, have been following parallel paths with their own problems. My narrative voice has alternated between the guy on odd chapters and the girl on even chapters. The narration is third person and doesn’t skew specifically to one character or another, but the story follows either the guy or the girl. It’s been an interesting experiment. I’ve noticed that the guy chapters move faster for me and have a lot more going on. The girl chapters are slower and more emotional. This has nothing to do with my ability to write female characters (which I think I’m rather capable of doing), but more about what’s going on in their lives.

With chapter 9 (or 10 at the latest), I merge the two storylines. From there, I’ll be able to focus on either (or both) of the protagonists as well as turning the narrative onto two of the supporting characters. I’d turn the narrative onto the protagonist too, but aside from a minor character who acts as a conflict catalyst, the book’s protagonist is really the setting itself and the circumstances that setting has caused for the characters. There’s also a Macguffin thrown in there that swirls everything up for the cast.

It’s all so meta, huh?

On a scheduling front, I’ve finally managed to make Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays my writing days…2-3 hours after work on each day. A bit of structure always helps and sometimes forces me to write when I don’t really want to. Poor me.

As for book #2: I’m waiting. My agents have the updated manuscript and are, hopefully, reading it now. Fingers crossed that it moves forward…

 

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It’s All Different a Few Days Later

Right off the bat, I have to admit that being rejected sucks.

You don’t even realize how much it sucks until a day or two after it finally happens. And it’s such an odd phenomenon, because when your book gets sent out, it’s not to one person at a time. There’s no receiving line where an editor shakes your hand, reads your book, and hands it back to you with a snort or a disapproving head shake. No, your baby goes out to a dozen or more editors at once…the “Big 6” publishers, smaller imprints, some indie houses…and the rejections trickle in over weeks or months. If you’re anything like me, you do a quick Google search on the editors your agent has submitted to in order to determine if you recognize any of their back catalog, if any of the books they worked on are staring at you from the shelves across the family room. You may ultimately have a favorite or two that you’re waiting to hear from and the others don’t matter as much.

The range of rejections is understandably odd too. Some editors just say “Sorry, it wasn’t for me” while others praise your strong voice and solid writing and go in-depth about what they liked and how much they liked it but there’s that one thing they didn’t like (that’s probably easily fixable) that made them pass. Some rejections you shrug off and others you go back to and re-read over the course of a couple days, trying to parse some hidden meaning from them.

When that closing day hits though, and you know you’re not getting any more rejections or offers, it’s a dismal feeling. I had held out hope for a month that the one editor would come through. He seemed to really champion the book over the phone. He was as excited about it as I was when I wrote it. When it didn’t happen it was like getting punched in the gut on the school playground and being left gasping for air while the other kids went off to play dodgeball without you. Not that that ever happened to me…

Basically, I was in a funk for the past week or so. Couple that with the fact that I hadn’t written anything substantial on Book #3 in a month, and you may be able to understand why I’ve been feeling like a failure, like nothing will every change, like I’m not even spinning my wheels but rather sitting on the curb staring at the parked car instead. My first two books went nowhere. My third book isn’t moving forward. Things look bleak.

My shiny little ace-in-the-hole is the fact that the agency’s LA office still likes the book. There’s still a window to sell it to some producer somewhere. The setting is gritty. The characters are complex. The plot is unique.

Well, I just got off the phone with the LA office and I can tell you they REALLY like the book. We had a great conversation…up to the point where we started talking about rewrites and I hemmed and hawed a bit too long for their comfort (I think). Last night, I had re-read a chapter of Book #3 and I had discovered an angle I didn’t see before. My interest in writing Book #3 was back on track and now this phone call happened.

My mind flashed back to writing Book #2 when I was doing rewrites on Book #1 and how odd and disjointed it all felt. My last blog post talked about how Book #2 was in the past now and I was moving forward.

Well, like any good writer, I lied.

Rewrites for Book #2 are happening NOW. I’m going to fix the ending, to satisfy the LA office. I’m also going to implement some of the changes that the one editor and I had talked about. I sent an email to the LA office telling them to give me two weeks. It may not be a full, comprehensive rewrite, but it should be adequate to fix some issues and reposition some characters. If I do enough, my agent may even send it back out to a few editors who gave us rejections along the lines of “I may have liked it more IF…”

Bottom line is: I’m rejuvenated.

Let’s see where all of this stands in another two weeks…

What’s the Next Step?

Project #1 was pitched last year. There seemed to be one editor interested in it. I went away on vacation in August, hoping to get a call from my agent that never came. That project has now been tossed in the archive…maybe some day, if I ever get published, someone will want to trot out a collection of my early work. If not, it’ll just rot.

Project #2 has now run its course. At least at the “Big 6” level. And at least through its first round of submissions. The question now is what to do with it next. Like I mentioned yesterday, there’s talk of trying to sell the film rights. I’m waiting to hear from the LA office about what that might entail. I’ve heard they want a “happy ending” for Hollywood, instead of the realistic ending I slapped on it. My question is, why rewrite it at all? Aren’t the film people going to just do whatever they want with it once they secure the rights? Maybe they’ll like my current ending. Maybe they’ll like everything. Hell, maybe they’ll go in and change all the characters names and ethnicities and have it take place on a cruise ship in the middle of the Arctic Ocean. At that point, check in hand, what do I care?

On some level, my agent is thinking about asking me to do a more substantial rewrite and try to re-submit it to the two or three editors who said “I might be interested IF…”, but I’m not sure I have it in me. There’s an old saying that’s been attributed to William Faulkner (or Twain or Fitzgerald or King or Christie or Nabakov) that says “Kill your darlings.” It’s meant as a warning to writers to not hold on to some bit of plot or character or dialogue just because you may like it. Don’t try to wedge it into your story because you think it’s so clever. If it doesn’t work, scrap it.

After having an idea in your head for more than 10 years and finally getting it out on paper, there’s a finite amount of additional time you’re willing to spend with it before it bores you, angers you, or disappoints you. I’m approaching that limit faster than a greased seal going through a bobsled course. When I conference called that one editor, and he was feeding me ideas for making the book stronger, I was all on board. When that editor ultimately failed to come through with an offer, I was deflated. Not sure I see the point of going through it all again on the slim chance it may succeed.

That brings me to Project #3. I just finished writing chapter 7 and I’m at 22,000 words and 98 pages. By the time chapter 8 is finished, I’ll be a third of the way through the book, which feels perfect for where the plot is headed. The second third gets into the meat of things. And then the final third brings it all snowballing downhill gracefully. I’ve been a bit lax with reading chapters out loud and marking them up. I still need to do so with 5, 6, and now 7. And, in a haze of rejection, disillusionment, and general laziness, I may have stepped on a few plot points that I wasn’t ready to accelerate yet. May need to go back and re-plot the next few chapters to cover it…or “kill my darlings” of dialogue and character interaction that I wrote. As long as I can keep busy, I’ll be able to slough off the frustration of having two novels fail to make it to print.

Oh, the fragile ego of the lonely writer.

At least I can look back at my past work and know that my writing is getting stronger. Maybe Project #3 will be the one. If not, I’ve already got numbers 4, 5, 6, and 7 germinating in my head (and in my notebook).

I hope to make these updates more often. And I hope to have some good news soon…

Offers, Rejections, and Other Distractions

Well, my agent put a “closing date” on reads for my second book. That closing date was today at high noon. I was slightly shocked to learn that no offers came in before the deadline, but I’m even more intrigued by what happens now.

Two or three quick rejections popped in today. Nothing out of the ordinary. It’s who we didn’t hear from that was intriguing. The editor I had spoken to last month never got back to us. Last I knew he was giving my book to other people in his office to read and give feedback on. My agent tells me that the last he knew, that editor had taken my book to his editorial director…so far neither of us knows the outcome of that endeavor.

So, my agent is trying to get back in touch with him to see what happened. He’s also inquiring about another editor who had shown interest earlier on and told us to come back to him if any revisions were in order. There’s still a small chance that either of those editors will bite on the book under the premise of revising and refreshing. And they’re both with “Big 6” publishers, so that’s something.

The other avenue that’s more interesting to me is kind of a shock. My literary agency has an LA office and they’re evidently keen on trying to sell the film rights to my book before it ever even becomes a book. It’s kind of the backwards way of doing this business thing and it means less money at the beginning, but it’s still pretty damn cool. Shopping the film rights would only require a tweak to the ending of the book, which is less involved than the rewrites I had jawed about with the other editor.

Possibilities still abound.

As far as the third book goes, I’m over 20,000 words now and nearing 100 pages. I sat down to write for the first time in three weeks (vacation, parenting, videogames, etc.) and was able to punch out another five pages. Scheduled to put pencil to paper again today.

Fingers crossed…

So Close Yet So Far Away

The big news is that I had a conference call last week with my agent and an editor who is showing interest in Sleep Suits Irish. I refuse to namedrop at this point, but the editor works at an imprint of one of the “Big Six” publishers. He handles a lot of dark fiction, thrillers, and licensed books (videogames & comics mostly).

He was very energetic and the first words out of his mouth were “I love your voice.” (Meaning my writing style, not my speaking voice…though my dulcet timbre is quite magical itself).

We discussed some possible changes to some characters and plot points which greatly improved the flow of the book. Lots of dual motive stuff. Everyone in the book is two-faced to a degree. Of course, if he did sign on, I’d have to employ the “red pen of death” to hack the book apart and rebuild it Six Million Dollar Man style.

The conversation ended with the editor saying he was having other staffers read the book as well and he’d be back in touch soon. Seemed positive. Still waiting to hear more.

To be honest, I’ve gotten three or four other rejections and they’ve all been quite pleasant. Folks seem to like my style and my characterization. I think some editors just don’t want to put in the work required to make the book not necessarily perfect but at least more sellable.

Aside from that brief excitement, everything else is same old-same old. I’m plugging away on Book #3 whose tentative title I’m now 80% sure has been scrapped. Still looking for better wording to explain the book. In my head at least, I’ve replaced Penny Black Spinner Rack with Dreams of Robber Days, which is just as ethereal and meaningless to the general public. I’m nearly 100 pages into it and the plot is just now unfolding. Lots of world and character building to make it all seem lifelike. Feels good though. I like it.

So what’s new with you?

Building a Brand

I accidentally logged into my LiveJournal page yesterday. Didn’t even know that place still existed. My last post over there was on May 15, 2009 and I was unemployed and entering screenplay competitions. Seems like a lifetime ago. Also: makes me feel not quite as bad about neglecting this blog for over two months.

So, quick update: rewrites to Irish were finished before Xmas. After my agent gave a thumbs-up, our first “advance” submissions went out nearly three weeks ago to two specific editors. Just got my first rejection today…nothing but nice things to say about my writing style (compared me to Chuck Palahniuk) and the theme of the book, it just wasn’t quite there for him. He expressed interest in reading whatever else I produce though. That’s something.

Still have fingers crossed for the other early reader…he works for my all-time favorite publisher.

In the meantime, I’ll be putting pen to paper in another week or two on the third book. Spent a day earlier this week “on location” in the tiny village I plan to spotlight, just taking notes and soaking up the vibe of the town. Characters are forming, plotlines are beginning to knot themselves together, it’s almost GO time.

Other than that…wife…3 kids…trying to refi the house…going to Disney World soon…two good friends were diagnosed with cancer…my school’s basketball team is poised to take over the world…I let my subscription to SAVEUR lapse…uh…tacos for dinner tonight?

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I mentioned it last time, though neither of the people reading this seemed to notice, that my Tumblr is now active. I try to update daily (except weekends and holidays) with photos and quotes and tidbits that influence me or inspire me in some way. Think of it as a subconscious personality index.

And my Twitter is still going, though I’m not as quippy as I used to be.

And there’s this blog.

And my Facebook page if you know me in somewhat real life.

Basically, you can find me on all the major platforms under the moniker of deadbeatJONES.

That’s what we used to call synergy in the ad biz.

I think.

It’s been a long time, and I used to drink A LOT, so…