Tag Archives: Perfect Justice

New version up

justice_scaleI’ve posted the preview for Perfect Justice. You can read the first half of the story here or request a copy of the full manuscript here.

Perfect Justice

justice_scaleThe new version’s done. It will be made available on the website tomorrow.

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.

PROGRESS!

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:

www.101reasonstostopwriting.com

Woah…what?

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.

And now, Viceroy, we will discuss a new treaty!

justice_scaleThree votes rolled in later than the rest, with two surprising developments:

1. Perfect Justice now beats The Dragon Thief by a 2:1 margin. Ouch. So much for a new project; I should finish the one I’ve got. Fair enough. I still intend to work on both because only rewriting a story would drive me batty. (Yes, I realize I’m already batty.)

2. Echoes of Prophecy received a vote. What poor unfortunate soul wants more cliche fantasy? Nah, I’m kidding. I still have hopes to make Echoes considerably more entertaining than Shadows was. To be honest, if I were just competing with David Eddings and George R. R. Martin and even Robert Jordan, I really would think I could make significant contributions as a fantasy writer. It’s Brandon Sanderson who intimidates me, having simultaneously shattered the typical cliches of fantasy and yet kept the pacing and intrigue of some of the greatest action movies of our time.

I find the results intriguing

statisticsI don’t think I’m likely to get many more votes, although if you want, you can still vote here for my next project. Let’s tally the current results, though:

2 votes to rewrite Perfect Justice.
2 votes to write The Dragon Thief.

::blink:: Okay, I’ll come back to that.

1 vote apiece for Manifest Destniy and Second Chances.

The coolest thing about these results is that each story appeals to at least one person, even among a small group of people. Had one story monumentally dominated the poll, I’d fear that the other ideas were stale.

I honestly had expected Second Chances to win, for no other reason than that’s the story I’m the most excited about at the moment, but only for two reasons: 1. It’s the freshest idea, and 2. I’ve recently begun work on it. The others have either been sitting idle awhile or else not yet begun. You can see how circumstances colors a writer’s perception; just because a story is freshest in my mind doesn’t make it the most appealing to audiences in general.

So of the two which pulled ahead, both surprised me. The Dragon Thief, unlike some of the other titles, has no overt philosophical, religious, or political implications. You can see how the other stories play with themes like justice, fairness, religion, good & evil, memory, experimentation, and so forth. The Dragon Thief is nothing more than a straight-up fantasy story.

But that’s what appeals to some people, which is a Really Good Thing. Excitement begets excitement, and seeing that two people wanted to read that story first has made me much more excited about writing it than I was before.

What about Perfect Justice? That story fills an odd place in my heart; that girl you almost dated in college, still love deeply but no longer romantically and aren’t in touch with anymore — something like that. There’s a lot of baggage associated with rewriting it, yet it had so much potential I can’t ignore it. For one thing, it’s the only submission so far to win me a “send more” reply. For another, many of the problems with it were obvious to me shortly after writing it.

I’m dragging my feet on rewriting it because — flawed or not — I already wrote it. And it’s easier (to me) to write a story from scratch than to rewrite one that’s already on paper. It’s like completely remodelling a house vs. building a new one; changing where the walls are placed is actually a bit more complex than just building brand new ones on a new foundation. (Or so I imagine.)

There are a lot of decisions to make, too. Do I begin with the text I already have and just mass edit, cutting whole portions to make room for new scenes? Or do I begin like a brand new story, starting from the first page, referencing the other version only for the best ideas, lines, and descriptions? A mix of both?

Either way, I’ll be constantly checking for continuity and cohision, and it’s likely I will still miss some things. Just imagining doing this begins to make my head spin as from a complex chess problem.

So which of the two winners shall I write first?

The Dragon Thief. Mostly because I want to see how it turns out. When I need a break from it, I’ll plug away at a new version of Perfect Justice, and vice versa. You’ve gotta give the people what they want.

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.

It’s already helping.

upwardgraphSome writers dread the blank page; not I.

I love the blank page. A whole world of possibilities awaits, and not one clumsy phrase yet clutters the concepts. Drafting the opening line of a story may well take me several hours, but it’s a process I enjoy.

For me, the challenge is the middle of a project. I find myself awash in a sea of words. The opening glow has been lost, and no fruits of my labor are in sight. Minor changes to the first paragraph can send ripples through the rest of the work causing untold grammatical or continuity errors until each is painstakingly fixed. I recently found a sentence in Perfect Justice that lacked gender agreement from the first half of the sentence to the next. That’s a pretty basic mistake, and I’m pretty sure one I’ve NEVER made in stream-of-consciousness writing. It occurred only because at some point, I changed the gender of a minor character, and failed to correct all the related pronouns.

Last night I wrote for about two hours, working on Woman’s Best Friend. Afterwards, I logged into the site and updated my wordcount.

Now when I look at it today, that progress bar has leaped forward. Before when I worked on a story, particularly the first draft, I got no sense of progress or accomplishment. Even now, I still don’t know how many drafts it will take before I submit for publication, and afterwards it’s anybody’s guess how many rejection slips it takes before publication. (And some stories may never see print.)

But the progress bar is something and it’s giving me a sense of achievement and more motivation to go back tonight. It’s made my progress quantifiable at a glance (if not qualifiable).

Quite likely 3,000 words will be too short for that story, but I wanted a very attainable goal for the first project undertaken along with the website. And it will make a good benchmark to try and stay within before going longer to make sure I’m no wordier than necessary.