Problem: I have a team seven protagonists and this isn’t an origin story. Since they all know each other, they’re mobilized right away. Originally, the team leader spent two chapters traveling the country and activating his agents in a sequence not unlike Ocean’s Eleven.
However, that’s a lot easier to pull of in a visual medium. No one watching a movie is going to confuse Bernie Mac with Brad Pitt. In particular I had two women on the team that readers were confusing, Polly and Gabby.
Initial solution: Clearly, the spellings of Polly and Gabby are too close, so I replaced Polly with the full name Pollyanna. I also increased Pollyanna’s potty mouth and her a love of literature (dropping lit references in conversation) while cleaning up Gabby’s language and dumbing her down a bit.
Further solutions: 1) Cold Open: I’m going to extend the book with an action sequence at the beginning that’s loosely related to the rest of the novel, like in some James Bond movies. That’ll give me 2000-3000 words to introduce three of the four characters before jumping around the country for the other four.
2) Character Dossiers: Since this is an espionage story I can write up one page reports on the protagonists from the point of view of the spy master. They’ll come in after each character’s introductory scene and if the ink bleeds into the edge of the page readers can easily use them as reference. Like how fantasy novels used to have a reference appendix.
After this rewrite, I’ll try it on another series of beta readers. If they’re not confused then I’ll know if it worked.
This interview with China Mieville on the io9 podcast came at just the right time for me. The subject was criticism and how some of this novels are flawed, those flaws only apparent in the light of the public’s judgement. I admire China as a smart and prolific writer so it was good to hear that he faces criticism the way I try to. A review could say 99 good things about Picking Up the Ghost but I’d only hear the 1 bad thing and that would keep me up all night thinking, “How could I have made this better? How could have I avoided this mistake?”
The fact is, the book is written and there’s no more revisions. I gave it my all and it’s as good as I could make it. And I don’t need to apologize for that.
On to the next book.
Picking Up the Ghost has been picked up by ChiZine Publications!
The paperwork’s in the works. Oh man, it’s a relief to know that I didn’t waste all that time writing it.
ChiZine is Canadian but I prefer to think of them as outdoorsy. I discovered them on an IO9 post, Independent Publishers Who Are Reinventing The Future, and was impressed by their eclectic line up, diverse formats and cover designs. Most of their books push the boundaries of sub-genera conventions, which is a trait I aspire to. Publishing in trade paperback, limited edition hardcover and eBook formats with beautiful covers by Eric Mohr, people really do judge books by their covers and I judge publisher by their graphic design.
Currently, I’m working with the editor, Helen Marshall, to iron out the weak points. Being so visually minded when I was trying to break into comics has become a liability. Sometimes I write narrative as if an artist was coming along to fill in the gaps or work intricate, but trivial, references into the details.
I’ll be rewriting for the next few weeks then in Helen’s hands until the release in the Fall of 2011. Fortunately, World Fantasy 2011 will be in San Diego just as Picking Up the Ghost is about to hit the shelves. In the meantime I plan on writing some short stories for a variety of markets, flooding the world under a tsunami of Tone.
Get your snorkels.
I gave it all of Picking Up the Ghost to process. I’m not sure this will make me finally read The Blind Assassin or avoid it forever.
The inside poop that’s got me down: sub-genre saturation. Picking Up the Ghost started as a manifesto that started as a list of things I didn’t like about Harry Potter. But inverted or not it’s too close to it’s inspiration. “…it’s the misfit teenager who is secretly communicating with a ghost … I’ve seen it all and I’m seeing it often.” Ouch.
Well I’ll keep pushing it as long as I can but I’m also resigning that I might have to get my second novel published before I can get an agent to take a real look at my first. In the meantime I’m going to try writing short fiction pieces. Experiment with forms of speculative fiction. Maybe I’ll get lucky and grab the attention of an agent. I’ve been fleshing out some ideas I had for Alejandro’s Ocean, the time travel game of Lexicon that petered out. And I might try to convert the first issue of Seize Him! into prose.
When life gives you discouraging inside poop, make poop juice.
The Guild of Literary Intent liked the new first chapter of Picking Up the Ghost so I just have a little work to do on the novel itself, finish the summery (currently 15 pages, it should be 10) and write a query letter and I’ll be ready to send it off to publishers and agents.
I really shouldn’t kid myself, there will be at least one more rewrite for the publisher and maybe one for the agent but for now let me sit back and dream.
The 32 oz. of coffee I drank twelve hours ago are going to keep me up all night.
That’s some very tenacious coffee.
Well one night of insomnia is a small price to pay for finally finishing that new first chapter.
Picking Up the Ghost was subjected to its second workshop on Saturday and I’m happy to say that it came out stronger than it did last year. Happy because I really didn’t want to spend another year rewriting the thing.
Most of the suggestions this time around should be easy to implement and I’ll hopefully have the next (and final?) draft done in a few months.