Tag Archives: Novelist

Announcing New Project: MINDWRITERS

I am pleased to announce the inception of a new project for 2011, one that has absolute blockbuster potential. Part “epic movie”, part heist, part X-Files, and all mindblowing.

It has far too much depth for a short story, which means another novel-length project. And one that will pack a much harder punch than FRAGILE GODS — even in the outline, I am starting to really love and fear the characters.

In addition, some of the “negative” feedback for THE WHISPER KIDS was that people wanted to know more. This strikes me as less of a complaint, and more like evidence I should consider novelizing it. While I haven’t put that much depth into THE WHISPER KIDS, these comments have put me back in the novelist frame of mind.

MINDWRITERS follows a team of telepaths who perform heists. Able to manipulate the minds of their subjects, they have been virtually unstoppable. But when they discover that others know of their powers — and are capable of countering them — the game turns deadly. They will have to outwit opponents who are more powerful, better informed, and better funded. “Survival” takes on new meaning when you can no longer trust your own thoughts.

It might just blow your mind.

I haven’t forgotten you.

Dr. Mr. & Ms. Reader,

I haven’t forgotten you.

Illness has kept me mostly bedridden except for general house-puttering. I have missed a week of work due to illness: Both my day job and my night job (writing).

No Dream Job

Did you know that novelists don’t get any paid sick-time? Unless, that is, you make enough on royalties that you can live off of them entirely whether you sell another project. But that falls into “independently wealthy” territory, rather than “working as a novelist” to make ends meet.

Only 1% of novelists ever turn a profit.

So far, I’m part of the other 99%. This is unacceptable. Just being an A+ student won’t get the job done in this case; I must rise above those who themselves excel.

Daunting? I don’t care.

Dear readers, please accept my apology for the break in writing. Though still under the weather, I am back in the office.

The first 50% of FRAGILE GODS will be ready for my Alpha Readers soon.

Why “it was really, really good” isn’t good enough

Success or Failure?Last night I finished a huge scene. It’s pivotal to a plot thread, and required a great deal of unique dialog and a metric ton of description.

Both were challenging by themselves; together, they were a nightmare.

I wrote no less than 1500 words; 3x my daily quota. If you saw the progress meter jump 3% today, now you know why.

Nevertheless, I was satisfied with the result.

If you read “The Novelist’s Burden” below, you know why I was aching to share this material, in spite of the fact it’s still probably unpolished (I can never tell until a few days later). So it was that when my wife arrived home from class and lab, I gave her an appropriate number of hugs before begging her to read a total of 68 pages, half of them containing new content.

She loved it. Which is frustrating to me. You see, my wife loves everything I write, whether it’s legendary or total crap. It’s very sweet, but it makes it impossible for me to judge the quality of what I’ve written.

But let’s suppose for a moment she was more critical and never said my work was good unless it really impressed her. And last night she thought my new material was very, very good.

That’s still not good enough.

What I’m going for, folks, is that when you set down the manuscript, you say “wow”, just the slightest bit breathless. You might not say it aloud, but if you’re at least thinking it, I’ll have won.

Anything less is just me playing in the sandbox for my own amusement.

The Novelist’s Burden

novelistFeedback from my alpha readers is compiling for FRAGILE GODS, and the results are more positive than I could possibly have hoped.

Most (all?) believe that this is, hands down, my best work. Not only that, but I have been told by some already in the middle of best-selling fantasy novels by established authors that they would rather be reading FRAGILE GODS.

I cannot speak for the veracity of this claim; obviously my friends and family are prone to view my work more charitably than total strangers. But they are not flatterers, and more to the point, although I’ve been sharing my writing for years, I have never before heard this particular compliment.

This encouragement has served to fuel the flame and drive me to work even harder on this developing story — which is precisely why this website was created. I can’t tell you how refreshed I am.

The problem is that when I’m asked to share another chapter, I desperately want to. As a neurotic writer, I crave the approval of my readers, and to know that for once they are truly enjoying a story of mine with something like the same zeal and abandon with which I digest my favorite writers is like a drug. I want more. To get more, I have to hand out more prose.

But writing is tedious, particularly novel writing. It isn’t even just a matter of prose at the keyboard; there’s outlining that has to be done. There’s research to be conducted. Worst of all, there’s revisions. And revisions, and revisions.

This means that any scene I finish isn’t finished yet. Those of you who read the first preview for scenes 1 & 2 and then experienced the revised version know how much more polished it is. That revision, by the way, represents four or five different intermediate versions — not just a single edit.

About every three days, I finish a scene I’m dying to share. I want to print it out and hand it out immediately. But I know I’ll be doing myself and you a disservice, because in a few weeks I’ll have added so much more to the scene that the previous version might as well be in black and white.

More than that, I’m dying to tell you what happens, or drop hints as to what happens ahead in the story. But I can’t. I have to keep it all in.

Most frustrating of all, the completed work, the whole story, still only exists in my head. Even if I were impatient enough to print you everything I’d written to date, even if you gobbled it up, loved it, and begged for more, neither of us would be satisfied, because the story still isn’t complete.

I tell you, it’s a hard-knock life.

This seems doable, but arbitrary.

writing-towards-a-word-countSince my pseudo-New Year’s resolution to actually write this year, I have stayed tightly focused on only a few projects:

Short stories all.

Novel and non-fiction book ideas have floated into the window, settled on my desk and sneezed twice, at which point I squeezed them into my hard drive in some fashion or other.

They remain unstructured, unrefined, and most of all, incomplete.

I should finish one.

And it’s been said that without milestones and deadlines, a project will never be finished. What’s the deadline? What are the milestones?

I asked my grandboss (that’s “boss’ boss”) who used to work at the Times what he thought good deadlines for a novelist would be. As he began to answer, I had to cut him off:

No, no, not deadlines for a novelist whose job is being a novelist. Deadlines for someone with a completely unrelated day job. Someon like…and of course we’re just speaking hypothetically, because I love this company and would never leave…me.

He didn’t know. His wife didn’t know. Everything from “take your time even if you only write a page/year” to “spend every free waking moment writing” seems equally viable good advice on the subject.

I think a reasonable deadline in my case would be the end of 2009. I started off the year with the purpose to write more; this would fulfill that purpose. And it doesn’t give you the cramped-lack-of-quality produced by NaNoMo, where the goal is to finish the novel within a month. Yikes.

So today I did some rusty math. (Footnote: Any math performed by me is rusty; I’m a words man.) To finish a 100,000 word novel, which is a relatively short novel (but I’m aiming for a tighter style than my wordier compatriots anyway), I would have to write 500 words a day.

That’s not a lot. 500 words is about 2 pages double-spaced. I’ve written articles here which were three and four times that length without too much effort.

I immediately thought: HA! I can do this!

…or can I?

A novel is more than a loose collection of words. Writing stream-of-consciousness non-fiction (hereafter to be referred to as either “blogging” or “crap”) is far easier than serious fiction.

Before I know which scene to write next, I have to know the characters, the circumstances, the upcoming events, the past events. I have to reread what came before, I have to visualize what comes after. This means researching, outlining, brainstorming, and in general a lot of activities which are equally part of the writing process, but don’t add to the word count.

Nevertheless, 500 words/day seems like a reasonable goal. To help relieve pressure for all the outlining, I could try to write non-chronologically for me, which has always been a barrier I’d like to overcome. Whatever scene I want to write that day, that’s the scene I write.

Will it work? I have no idea. Will it produce quality fiction? I have no idea. Will it result in publication? I have no idea.

Will it put words on a page?

…yes.

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?