I know I’m supposed to blog more but it’s almost been two years since Picking Up the Ghost and it’ll probably be another two before The Faith Machine sees print. So building an audience doesn’t feel like a real priority. The more blogging I do, the less writing gets done. And between the day job, night classes, the PMP certification and working with Comic Fest, time for writing has gotten precious.
That said, writing is happening. I’m 56 pages into the current draft/redraft. Melissa and I were invited into a new writer’s workshop which means I have to produce ten or so pages every two weeks or I feel like a slouch.
Workshopping as I go has already been helpful. On Ghost I pounded out the whole novel without any input. Consequently, when it hit the workshop I had to rewrite the second half. On Faith I’ve already cut three scenes that failed to move the plot forward resulting in a faster moving story. The feedback has also made me take a closer look at some of the scenes that remain. Did I really need the Soviet clones, frozen brains of psychics, the Gnostic poem and the personality upload operation all in the first 6 pages? Nope.
On the horizon, a deadline looms. I plan to land an agent at SDSU’s Writers’ Conference in January. Having at least 40 polished pages ready to go is part of that plan.
So less blogging, more writing.
Picking Up the Ghost is now on Audible.com.
Beyond signing the contract I wasn’t involved in the process. I was worried that they’d get an English woman to do the reading but thankfully Audible is smarter than that. After listening to it I’ve some thoughts and feelings:
This is proof that someone has read the book, that is unless Brandon Massey is some kind of sophisticated AI.
Boy, I used the n-word a lot. Brandon Massey’s a black man so every time I think “I just made him say that.” This may not be a unique emotional experience but I’m guessing you can count the number of us who’ve felt this way on one hand.
A lot of the names were pulled from African folklore and I honestly had know idea how Akotun, Eshu Wara, Olamide and others were supposed to sound so now I have a pronunciation guide.
There were three sentences that made me cringe. “In the hallway the goatman was asleep at the end of the hallway.” was one of them. The other two were worse. I’m going to be more careful when I proof read next time.
Getting my story out there in another medium is a damn good feeling.
Breaking the Cycle Films has optioned Picking Up the Ghost for a screenplay. This means they’ve bought some time to get a movie rolling. There’s a list of acceptable criteria for this. Since I’m still new to contracts I’m not sure what I should make public and what’s a secret so I’ll just leave that vague.
What it really means is that a complete stranger read my book and liked it enough to want to make a movie out of it. And that feels pretty good.
Fifteen pages into The Faith Machine and it was clear that one of the plot threads was hopelessly convoluted. A kidnapping without an explanation, and the recovery of a lost cellphone from those same kidnappers while a car battery was being stolen for reasons that made sense in the outline but fell apart once words starting being put to paper. It was only one of three opening threads but unfortunately it was the core plot and the entangling had ramifications on all the others. Out of those fifteen pages I think I can keep one.
Nobody spins gold one the first draft. I can’t remember how many times I rewrote the opening to Picking Up the Ghost but it was more than four. If it was later in the book that plot might have been saved. But the first chapter should be about introductions, character, setting, style, genre rules. It’s not about plot twists, there isn’t a plot to twist yet.
It’s back to the outline and I more confident at this pass. Every pass makes it better. And it’s better to get the rewriting in now than after the polish.
First drafts suck, both the production and the product. That’s easy to forget after being in a state of having had written for over a year.
I’ve been plotting The Faith Machine for over a year and it’s time to start actually writing. Plotting is addictive. Not only does it take research, which is fun, but it’s easier than writing prose and, since no one will ever see it, immune to critique.
In this interview with Tim Powers he advised to pretend that the first draft was written be someone else and it’s now your job to fix it. I’m going to use that to get some distance when I go into editing and as reassurance that these words will get better after I can fix them.
I hope you get something out of this post but isn’t for you, it’s for me.
As of this posting it looks like Hurricane Sandy is taking a hard right up the coast to Maine so I should be in luck weather-wise. You never hear about planes getting knocked out of the air by a storm but there’s always a first time.
Exciting times ahead, I’ll be moderating the following panel:
THE CHANGING FACE OF YA FANTASY, 10:00 a.m. VAUGHAN WEST
Fantasy works for young adult readers have changed over the years, perhaps even more than their counterparts for adults. The themes tackled are more cutting-edge; a wider variety of cultures is explored; locations are often more realistic, more gritty and urban, than in the past; a more diverse cast of characters is brought into play; and the heroines and heroes are perhaps more realistic than their predecessors. Our panel will discuss the popularity of YA fantasy, its changing face, and its future.
With Laura Anne Gilman, Hiromi Goto, Morgan Keyes, Amanda Sun.
Here’s page one of The Faith Machine outline.
The first act is pretty solid and the second act is coming together. I figure the third act won’t take too long to outline since I’ve had most of it in my head since day one but I’ve said that before.
Last weekend was spent transcribing into Google Docs. I’ve been walking around with 40 scenes of outline and about 10 more pages of miscellaneous notes, putting far too much faith in my ability to hold onto things.
I thought I had a solid outline for Picking Up the Ghost but it broke down towards the middle and I didn’t get any feedback on it. I’ll be running this outline by some people before the actual writing starts and hopefully I won’t have to rewrite the second half of this book.
This has also helped juxtapose and manipulate ideas before they gel. Originally I had five golden rings as MacGuffins but not only are rings played out but they were supposed to be relics of the Soviet Union and small and shiny doesn’t evoke the USSR so I changed them to big clunky chairs. This demobilization had all kinds of implications for the cast and plot which I would have been reluctant to do if I was 40 pages into the prose. But in an outline it just took a few hours to adjust.
Outlining rules. \m/ \m/
I received a particular rejection email recently from a local company:
Thank you for your inquiry.
I typically don’t reply to a candidate if I feel it’s not a good fit, but in this case I’d like to offer a small piece of advice for your future job search. I definitely sensed a bit of pessimism in your email which was the main reason we disqualified you.
I’m not sure how wanting to leave my current job is pessimistic.
Also not sure how writing a novel on spec is pessimistic. A year of evenings hunched over the laptop against the odds of the final product being published or even publishable, is that pessimistic? Then another year rewriting after a peer review hated the second half of it, was that pessimistic? To keep submitting through 45 agent and 4 publisher rejections, maybe that was pessimistic? And after I beat the odds and had my first novel published, and a 6 months of lackluster sales, what did I do in a fit of pessimism? I started outlining my next novel. Maybe that was pessimistic.
She doesn’t want to hire me, that’s okay. I can take rejection. And after receiving this email I don’t want to work for her either. I definitely sensed that she’s a poor judge of character. Just a bit.
The San Diego Book Award for Published SciFi, Fantasy, & Horror went to the lovely and talented Lisa Kessler’s Night Walker. Congratulations to her!
The evening wasn’t a total loss for the Milazzo’s I met three more San Diegaen writers of speculative fiction, which is what they call networking. But more importantly, the A Year in Ink Vol. 4 by San Diego Writers, Ink won for Published – Anthology/Short Story Collection. Melissa has a piece in there but didn’t know it was in the running. So she came as my date and left as a winner. Go Mel!
I am pleased to announce that Picking Up the Ghost is a finalist in the 2012 San Diego Book Awards.
Night Walker (The Night Series) by Lisa Kessler
The Leap: Stepping on Your Other Toes by Blaine C. Readler
Fire Dance by Mike Sirota
sabotage research the competition.