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New novel underway: Mortal Gods

In my last post, I introduced the Drim, elemental gods from my new novel.

Last night, I did about 90 minutes of research on ancient earth cultures, some of which have been underused in fantasy and science fiction. Genre fiction readers have seen many incarnations of Olympus or Odin. I want to move away from that.

I also brainstormed for about 20 minutes straight for a title.

This is after thinking for about week about this story, its ideas, and trying to come up with a title all day every day; in my car, at work, at home, while gaming, you name it.

Because of the mishmash of theological themes I’ll be toying with, and for reasons I can’t reveal until the end of the story, I eventually settled on “Mortal Gods”.

Today I started to google that phrase, and as always, there’s nothing new under the sun. Orson Scott Card wrote a short story called Mortal Gods. It’s been years since I’ve read it, and now I have no idea if the title bubbled to the surface from my subconscious, or actually was an original thought. (I’ve often had this problem reading philosophy, too, recognizing something which I’d thought of last year, but maybe I’d only thought of it because of a quote or movie or song or pop culture icon which already made use of the same themes or ideas.)

Mortal Gods is also the name of a novel by some guy named Jonathon Fast – also science fiction. Fortunately for me, it’s not very popular or very good.

Mortal God is also the name of a Death Metal band from Finland in 1992 which has now broken up.

It is frustrating to know the title that so thoroughly excited me as an immediate way to encapsulate grandiose ideas of this story (some of which I can’t even reveal to you yet) has already been repeatedly used, and in similar context. It is even more frustrating to know that if I rack my brains for another week to produce a different title, it will likely be no more original than this one.

1. A new challenge. 2. As if this weren’t hard enough?

editingdemotivatorfeb07_nIf you monitor the progress bars to the right (they were my primary reason for creating the whole website, if you’re wondering why I keep harping on them so), you might have already noticed I’ve got the first few scenes of Perfect Justice underway.


I was ambivalent whether to start from scratch and write the whole story over, or to simply go through and edit as I read, the way I do for drafts of completed works.

I chose something in-between.

I keep the original version up on my 2nd monitor, and write a new version based completely on the old one. Some words, lines, whole paragraphs get completely skipped. Others are reproduced word-for-word if I can’t think of a cleaner/better way to communicate the same thought.

This is a style of editing/revision I have never tried (or even considered) before, so it’s all very experimental. It has advantages, though, so I may try this again, even for projects I’m more-or-less satisfied with. It seems ruthlessly effective by freeing me emotionally from the original work in two ways:

1. The original version stays untouched, so it’s not as though I’m hacking away at an old friend.
2. The original version feels more like someone else’s work as the new version gradually takes shape, replacing the former in my heart and mind.

However, I don’t know if the new version is actually any better. The content is largely the same. But I can honestly say the new version is a lot crisper. Hopefully that means better chances of publication.


As if getting published weren’t hard enough

You may wonder where I get the images from; I just search images.google.com for the kind of image I’m looking for (hoping that they’re licensed for limited use and in cases where they are hosted by a site who creates images, I link back to them). You can tell I’m a big fan of demotivators, as they often capture the humorous or ironic angle of things.

I was surprised to find today’s demotivator so directly related to writing, so I checked to see where it was sourced:



Naturally I paid their front page a visit. I don’t have a handle on the whole site yet, but their most recent post caught my eye:

Agents and Publishers are reporting a sharp increase in unpublishable submissions.

Editors and agents interviewed for this story claim that their slushpiles have more than doubled since the 1st of December, a pattern that has been repeating and escalating for the last ten years, and no-one is sure what is causing the increase.

This strikes me two ways:

1. I haven’t been published yet. Could my work considered *gasp* among the unpublishable?

Obviously I hope not. But it seems they’re describing truly unpolished content:

An anonymous literary agent agreed: “Most of the submissions I’ve received this this week are too short to be contemporary novels. Some are only just over 50,000 words, and one I got via email was exactly 50,000, cutting off mid-sentence. Another one had ‘done for the day’ or something about going to bed every 1,600 to 1,700 words or so. It’s a lucky standout that even has an introductory paragraph before the opening.

If I left a note like that in a manuscript I would torture myself in unimaginable ways. This leads from hope to certainty that they’re not describing serious writers like myself. (Right?)

Which brings me to the conclusion:

2. All these other idiots are in my way of being published.

Editors, agents, publishers are overworked and underpaid already. With unemployment on the rise and National Novel Writer’s month last November, more and more people think writing a novel will be their ticket to stardome.

While I have no wish to rain on any else’s parade, I’ve been writing seriously for well over a decade, and from self-evaluation I do not believe my first novel is good enough to publish. I fully expect to earn my day in the sun, but writing is a career like any other, and I’m still lifting myself by proverbial bootstraps from the slums of the starving artist.

I’ll grant there may be some wild talents who score big on their first book attempt, but they’re few and far between.

Now the editor who reads my story is that much more tired, overworked, and annoyed by the time s/he even OPENS my story. Furthermore, there are increased chances that other writer of comparable or lesser talent may just have pitched a story similar enough to mine that the reader thinks, “This again? I just read a story about a dog and woman.” Even if mine was rigorous and well-written, and the other was interspersed with “I’ll finish this scene tomorrow” on the manuscript, chances are the reader will junk them both.

Rejection is hard. Particularly for those of us planning to make a lifetime career out of writing, for no other reason than this is what we are driven to do. Someone hoping to hit it big in one novel may get rejected repeatedly for that work. I’m guaranteed to get rejected for the same work repeatedly and for many different works.

If you’re serious about your writing, please do whatever it takes to get published. I applaud you and salute you on your way to success.

If you’re just filling the hours with a light hobby and hoping to win the “might get published” lottery without having spent years writing and rewriting, studying the work of others, formulating plotlines, asking advice from published writers, and so forth…it’s kind of cruel of you to clog the gears for the rest of us.

We’re all morons.


Including me.

I’ve got two basic examples for your consideration today. The first is one someone told me years ago, the second just occurred to me this week.

We’re a culture addicted to abbreviations. When someone online gives me a bunch of leetspeak, and I ask them to speak in complete english words, the usual reply is, “ur retrded”. What? An ancient city of Sumer is retarded?

lol afk brb fyi iirc afaik gtg faq fubar gf imho j/k omg rtfm snafu wysiwyg.

Two of those at least existed even before the advent of the internet, one of which I used my whole life.

Hell, even the word “blog” is an abbreviation for “weblog”. Interestingly enough, Firefox’s spellchecker flags “weblog” as an unknown/misspelled word, but recognizes “blog”. We’re so obsessed with abbreviations that the original word is wrong.

“Goodbye” is a shortened version of “God be with you.”

Despite my penchant for internet elitism, I’m not wholly opposed to abbreviations. (I’ve said “goodbye” millions of times. Haven’t you?) If you can communicate the same content faster, more efficiently, go for it.

But we’re so obsessed with abbreviations, we will EVEN abbreviate something to a form that is LONGER than the original word.

Don’t believe me?

Question: What does, “www” stand for?

Answer: World-wide web.

Three syllables. That’s it. When you tell someone about a website, you could say, “World-wide web, dot Google, dot com.” But you don’t, do you? NOPE. You say, “double-you, double-you, double-you, dot Google, dot com”. Three times as many syllables to communicate the same amount of content, just because the LONGER version is technically an abbreviation when typed.

I’ve got a better one for you; after all, if you say, “world-wide web” someone’s liable to get confused, right? Same for hyper-text transfer protocol. (We’re SUCH morons that most of us don’t even know what the things are that we use every day.)

Most microwaves now have an “add minute” button. When pressed, it adds 60 seconds to the current time, and if the microwave isn’t running, it starts.

Most of the things I microwave, I microwave for two minutes. All my life, I’ve been pressing: Two, Zero, Zero, Start; four keystrokes. I interviewed enough people to know that this is fairly common. However, you can simply press: Add minute, add minute; two keystrokes. You get the same functionality by spending half the time and energy.

Those are just two examples. How many others are there? How many millions of seconds, minutes, and hours have we wasted with such basic inefficiency?

TV Tropes 101

individualityIf you ever look at the sidebar on the right, among the various navigation options you’ll see I’ve included websites I use for research. Obviously dictionary.com, wikipedia. Google maps I use to see how streets connect in distant cities, so that in a novel if my characters make a left onto Pennsylvania Ave. in DC, I know where they’re going, even though I’ve never driven through DC myself.

The one I want to call your attention to is www.tvtropes.org.

It’s my new favorite website. OF ALL. Even more addictive to me than wikipedia (where I also spend significant time).

Tropes are common elements employed in the storytelling arts, similar to cliches but not identical; mostly because of the negative connotation that “cliche” has. Tropes are value-neutral, although SOME tropes are bad. It would be fair to say that cliches are a type of tropes.

The TV Tropes is a wiki site with less stringent standards than most wikis, resulting in a lot informality. This can make it hard to follow when a particular troper doesn’t phrase things clearly, especially when the “definition” of a trope is given in terms of additional tropes, which the reader may not know yet. (And if THOSE tropes are similarly poorly defined, it becomes an endless circle of confusion.)

But some are well-written enough, and the examples are the heart of the tropes. You can also look up your favorite tv shows, books, and movies, and see which tropes have been identified within them.

One of the most popular movies of all time was The Matrix. Just how original was this ‘groundbreaking’ film?

Let’s check its trope page to find out. There we find a list of several dozen tropes identified, commonly used in many other books, movies, and shows.

Here are just a few:


And of course my all-time favorite trope:

Now how many of the tropes above did you already identify as references to other movies? Or in Samus’ case, video games?

Knowing these elements is way of admitting that nothing is new under the sun, the admission of which frees one to use these elements deliberately if desired, or avoid them, or at least acknowledge them.

Tropes in Woman’s Best Friend

In addition to researching tropes used, averted, suberted, or lampshaded by others, I often search for tropes in my own work by plugging words or themes into the TV tropes search engine. I’m curious how many tropes I unwittingly used when simply writing a story, without keeping any particular tropes in mind. (This is how most tropes occur, rather than by intention.)

Woman’s Best Friend dodges a lot of typical dog tropes, which pleases me. However, Evil Detecting Dog makes an appearance (both played straight and subverted), and one scene could be interpreted as Kick The Dog (even though it wasn’t a strictly superfluous action).

Naomi is quite obviously a Distressed Damsel, which is a trope Older Than Dirt. It looks like I also lampshaded Not With the Safety On You Won’t. Mark is fairly obviously a Workaholic.

There are a couple others, but I won’t list them here as they are spoilers.