Tag Archives: Fantasy

FRAGILE GODS: Part II rough draft complete.

FRAGILE GODS part II is now complete in rough draft form, and I am now going to work on the final section of the novel.

Part II will be available to my alpha readers after a cursory attempt to polish some of the rougher sections.

Some statistics and information so far:

The books three parts have finally been named as follows:

FRAGILE GODS now numbers 190 double-spaced pages at 30,509 words. It is divided into three parts and a total of 27 scenes:

PART I: Rumors of Death (12 scenes)
PART II: Salvation and Glory (15 scenes)
PART III: These Fragile Gods (TBD)

This is extremely short for modern (or traditional) fantasy, but I am aiming for a fast read rather than epic sweeping plots that require a whole trilogy or more to resolve. I’m bucking the trends of huge swathes of description and a cast of characters so large you need an index.

Only time will tell if this effort is worthwhile.

Playing to an empty auditorium

Busy?The single most energizing thing for me as a writer is having my work read. You can tell me it sucks or you can tell me it blew your mind; either way, I feel connected with you. Either way, I have motivation to sit down and fix the problems you presented (even if I’m cussing the day you were born), or try to deliver more of what you liked.

I don’t particularly mind not having my work read, except that it’s hard to stay focused and motivated for sustained periods. I am jealous of writers who blog about the latest fixes their editors discussed, whereas I’m finding my way mostly in the dark. But if I see a friend or coworker who hasn’t read my work, I don’t think, HEY! What a jerk, why haven’t you read my story yet?

I don’t get angry or frustrated about that; it really doesn’t affect me. Some people don’t read, some don’t read fantasy/sci fi, and some are just waiting for me to hit it big. That’s fine.

I do get frustrated when people ask for my work and then don’t read it, either for days, or weeks, or months at a time. I know intellectually it’s not personal. I’m told that it isn’t related to the quality of the writing.

But the most common excuse simply isn’t plausible: “I don’t have time.”

Unless you’re in a high pressure civil service field like firefighting or law enforcement, are getting married (or divorced) imminently, or have had some other life-altering change, I seriously doubt that you “don’t have time”.

I’m a bit of a workaholic myself…I’ll stay late and come in early. Even at home, I engage in any number of not-quite-play projects like learning guitar, making videos, designing websites, and of course writing. But I’ll be the first to admit I sat on my ass playing video games or watching tv a significant portion of the weekend.

I can recall just four times in my life I “didn’t have time”.

  1. In high school, there was a period I taught Sunday School, was in two choirs, held a part time job, was in band and in a play, attended chess club, and sundry other church and after-school activities. Even then, I still had time to read and write things between activities, even if I wasn’t home often.
  2. In Army Basic Training, we started with 15 minutes of free time (if we were well-behaved and lucky). Even then, you could stay up reading/writing after lights out, provided you used the red lens on your flashlight (the red glow would not wake people whereas the white would).
  3. Summers in college, there were a few conferences I worked round-the-clock, literally awakened by my pager, worked all day, and the last thing I did before bed was work-related, grabbing showers and meals whenever I could meanwhile. These usually lasted two or three days to a week.
  4. Certain parts of the shift rotation in law enforcement left very little time for doing much more than sleeping and going back to work. This happened every two weeks for three/four days each.

These were the times I was at my absolute busiest in my whole life, doing nothing but working, eating, and sleeping. Even then, I still had time to read scripture or fiction or letters, or any manuscripts a friend might hand me.

Even if I hand you fifty pages of text, it likely wouldn’t take you more than ten minutes to finish it all…less than a smoke break, or the time during commercials of a 30-minute sitcom, etc. Most of the portions I submit are significantly smaller.

Let’s be honest…it’s not that you ‘don’t have time’, which as you can see is one of the flimsiest excuses ever invented, it’s that you chose not to. What you do with your time is your own decision. But why offer to read my work if you aren’t going to? That just leaves me craving feedback that never materializes.

If you ask me to do something and I haven’t done it, it isn’t because I don’t have time. It’s because I goofed off instead.

Reply expected from the magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction on “Perfect Justice”.

The goal

woahOstensibly, my goal is publication. But publication is just the beginning.

A bigger goal is a full-time writing career. But the time/money relationship is very incidental; there are politics and processes involved which have nothing to do with raw talent or imagination.

The REAL goal, the one I don’t think I have met yet, is for my reader to finish a story I wrote, and say (very Neo-like):

“WOAH.”

The feedback since starting the blog is very helpful, but it’s also very dry. My readers acknowledge that I am professional, that I have skill, that a story works. What they don’t say is, “Damn, that story blew me away.”

And I’m not saying it should have…yet. It’s only been a few weeks since I began devoting this much time to my writing career.

But that’s the goal. And I want you, my friends, to understand that’s where I set the bar. Not on publication, not on wealth, not on accolades or awards or reviews.

If my science fiction doesn’t make you think, if my fantasy doesn’t awe you, if my horror doesn’t chill you to the bone, I’m not the writer I strive to be. And I need your help to get there. That’s what this blog is about.

A Gift to Readers?

giftI’m going to follow Brandon Sanderson’s example yet again, I think. That is, if you approve. Feedback is crucial.

Brandon wrote a free novel to his fans, for no other reason than…so they could read it. It isn’t published by a publisher, it’s available for download directly from his website.

My brother (whose name is also Brandon) suggested I do something akin to this early in the site’s development.

Of course, manuscripts of my work-for-publication are available to friends, family, agents, and editors for free, but they are deliberately kept private and unpublished as I endeavor to have them put into print. They’re stories for sale to magazine editors, not free to public.

I have no delusions that I can boast Sanderson’s readership; his free e-book novel was written only after he’d published a couple of critically acclaimed novels. (But he wrote 11 unpublished novels even before those.)

But I think a “free” project for readers would be an enjoyable project for me in several respects.

  1. It will be one project I can enjoy without the angst of submitting for publication.
  2. It will give me a consistent “writing for an audience” feel which is so much more motivating than just plugging along as though writing is busy-work.
  3. If you like it, and you tell your friends about it, it will give some measure of exposure through the web.

All in all, I like the concept and I’d love to go forward with it.

The remaining question is…what to write?

One of the story ideas already listed? Fantasy? Sci-fi? Horror? You decide. Feel free even to suggest plotlines and characters at this point. Throw something out there, and if I like it, I’ll pick it up and run with it. Just be aware that they will be no royalties for either of us with this one. And of course, if you’re self-conscious about posting your ideas publicly, you can always email them instead.

OUCH!

yousuckRemember the goal with submitting Woman’s Best Friend? I was going to have so many other balls in the air by March (when a reply was due) that I’d almost forgotten about this story, thus let the circle of new submissions continue unabated.

Well, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction got back to me early. REALLY early. Barely 30% into my next story, I got their reply in the mail.

It says:

Dear Mr. Peters:

Thank you for submitting “Woman’s Best Friend,” but I’m going to pass on it. This tale didn’t grab my interest, I’m afraid. Good luck to you with this one, and thanks again for sending it our way.”

Remember the stage fright I described when I painstakingly formatted this baby, addressed the envelope and so forth?

Smackdown! “You’re no good, kid!”

Megan (unintentially) added salt to this fresh wound by unwittingly and hopefully asking, “Pass it on to who?” (That should’ve been “to whom,” but nevermind.)  Not pass it on to someone, pass on it, I explained to her.

Past rejection letters have been phrased very generally, and my first one even encouraged me to send more work. They’re usually signed “the editors” and use the less blunt pronoun, “we”. This note (though perfectly professional by industry standards) came across to me as:

Why did you waste my time with this lousy story? I personally found it quite boring. I’d rather watch grass grow, or paint dry…or better yet, race the growth of grass against the drying of the paint and take bets on each. I can’t tell you it isn’t right for us at this time, or that I want to see more work. Maybe when you finally write something interesting, you’ll have a career as a novelist. Until then, I try to keep my desk full of compelling stories, and clearly you don’t have one.

That’s all very extreme, of course, and the editor said no such thing. But that’s the flavor rejection takes. It hurts mostly because — even if this IS just a form letter — it isn’t phrased generally enough for me to assume that I may have formatted wrong, have irreconcilable grammatical errors, or be too similar to four stories they just ran. It says quite clearly, “didn’t grab my interest.”

Well <foul expletive deleted>.

Here’s the problem being a writer, too:

I HAVE NO IDEA HOW THIS STORY READS.

I begin the story behind the curtain; I’ve never read ONE WORD of it without knowing how the scene and story would end. I have no idea how much suspense it creates — or doesn’t create. I have no idea how scary it is — or isn’t. I have no idea how interesting it is — or isn’t. (I’m sure the masters know, but I don’t yet have enough experience.)

This is where I must rely on friendly readers to be test subjects, and to be brutally honest. A co-worker said this story “started slow” — that’s the closest thing I have to a fix for this story being uninteresting so far.

What else could improve it? I realize having already finished it, some of you are already behind the curtain with this one, but you at least had one first impression I never got.

What can I do to make it more gripping?

Busted!

So Megan called me out for not updating the site more often, and Stephen commented no food til I finish another story.

Although I regret not having written more this weekend, I think fasting until I complete another project is a little on the extreme end.

Some points to ponder as I start the next week:

  • What makes a good fantasy? My father-in-law just finished Well of Ascension (Brandon Sanderson) and enjoyed it but for a few criticisms. Likewise I just finished Pawn of Prophecy by David Eddings and pretty much hated it. I can’t even put my finger on why. But until I discovered Sanderson, I was fed up with all fantasy. It seems that feeling remains except for Sanderson. But Bruce assures me there’s nothing very different about Sanderson as an author.
  • Pondering the above point makes me wonder what the heck I’ll do with Echoes of Prophecy.
  • For my current project, I’m debating a title change. Second Chances captures a central idea as well as Instant Replay, and has a more mystical ‘feel’ to it, as opposed to the latter title, which has a more gritty sci-fi sound to it.
  • Got some emailed feedback on Perfect Justice from a buddy in training before he deploys to Iraq. Like all who read it before him, he pointed out the repeated scenes are … well … too repetitive. That’s why when a writer argues with his/her feedback, it rarely helps — the next reader (or the next 50) may have the same reaction. Duh.
    • On the other hand, you can’t always please everyone. That’s why feedback from multiple sources is so valuable. It allows you to sift through comments which are a matter of personal taste, and which comments EVERYONE made because they refer to deeper problems with the story.
  • A co-worker also looked at Perfect Justice — surprisingly. He was thrilled by the title, but complained about the flow.
  • This kinda motivates me to go back and rework it.
  • Now I feel like I have too many balls in the air, but it’s a good problem to have. I’d much rather juggle too many projects than too few.
  • I should set a deadline for Instant Replay Second Chances. But what? I have an insanely busy week at work, so this weekend is unrealistic, but the following weekend feels way too far away.