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March 1, 2018

Black Panther! Also Novel Stuff.

I know what the title says, but fair warning: this post will skew more toward novel stuff than Black Panther.  Gotta get people to click on my stuff somehow.  Don’t worry, though.  You’ll get a thicker post on Marvel’s latest soon -- and I’m sure I’ll find some way to spice up this post with the Wakandan king’s solo debut.

So before I get ahead of myself, let me say this to start: I’m bringing the blog out of hiatus mode in the next week or two.  I’m still debating whether or not I want to go full throttle from here on out; I know what I want/need to upload first, after all, but I haven’t committed to the scheduling of it.  So we’ll see.  Either way, it’s about time for me to put more focus on blogging instead of offline word-smithing.  And I’ll explain the reason for it soon.  As in, within the next few paragraphs soon.

But before I get ahead of myself (again), let me say this to start (again):

Go see Black Panther.  It’s the best one.

The best one.

He doesn’t use all of those moves in the movie, but boy this guy has some good buttons.  Somebody check his frame data.

Anyway.  For those of you who have been following this blog for a while (in which case…sorry), you may know that it’s basically my life’s ambition to become a novelist.  More than that -- a “writing hero” of sorts, someone whose stories put smiles on the people’s faces.  I mean, I can’t gripe about Final Fantasy forever.  Then again, that new Dissidia game is out, soooooooooooooooo…no, not even that is enough.  We’re essentially talking about the dream I’ve had since I was 11, after all.  And I’ve been working on that in some capacity pretty much every day of my life.

I’m not just one of those guys who blabs about writing a novel, only to never make it past the first chapter.  I’ve done it.  Multiple times.  I spent about four years off-and-on writing a seven-part series (and then effectively rewriting it by virtue of all the edits I had to make).  Even if it weighed in at about half a million words in total, word counts aren’t synonymous with quality. It wasn’t good enough to get published.  Well, maybe it was, but as time went on and the rejections came, I started to doubt both my output and myself.  So I trashed it, started over, and then wrote half a million more words in about a year.  Still wasn’t good enough.

Well, I say as much, but I suspect that worse writers than I have broken through the publishing barrier.  And beyond that?  It could just be a matter of me trying to jam a square peg into a Battleship board, I.e. I need to find an agent/publisher more suited for the genre and content.  And in my defense?  I actually did find one whose interest I piqued -- but she wasn’t available to work on it at the time, which left me back at square one.  (Maybe I should try resubmitting to her before anything else…)

Either way, I have to repeat myself again.  Even IF it just came down to me having sour luck with those agents and publishers, I can’t in good faith resubmit the old works.  I’m neither the same person nor the same writer that I was back then.  Even if I still have doubts every night when I go to bed, I can sense ways and instances in which I’ve improved, however marginally.  Between this blog and my experiences -- along with a not-insignificant amount of practice -- I know what needs to be done.  And the content in those earlier works are a far cry from what needs to be done.

At the tail end of 2016, I started coming up with ways not just to improve, but visions of what I would do differently if I took the time to sit down and write.  And far be it from me to say “pro tip”, but here’s a pro tip: if you haven’t gotten published yet you can already think of ways you could improve a story by starting over, you should probably start over.  That’s exactly what I did in January 2017.  I wanted, and had, to go back to basics.  Pare things down.  Tell a single, simple, one-shot story.  Now here I am, writing this in February 2018, and I can say that I started over, wrote, and finished that story.

…With an asterisk.  Or two.  Or eight.

The lion’s share of the work is done, which is part of the reason why I can say “Okay, time to come out of Hiatus Mode.”  But as you can guess, I can’t just snap my fingers and jump from zero to hero.  If I dropped everything and started the submission process right now, I can guarantee I’d just get slapped across the face.  While the work load has lightened, it doesn’t mean I can truly relax or celebrate.  The real fight starts now.

So here’s where things get complicated.  I’m finished, but I fully acknowledge that I’ve only technically finished the first draft.  And, more importantly, it’s the first draft of 324,000 words.  So much for being a one-shot -- though it’s technically more of a one-shot than the earlier works.  In that sense?  The good news is that I have a trilogy to toss out there instead of begging for someone to give seven (and eventually six) straight books their fair chance.  That’s a lot more manageable.  

And even if that word count is…distressing overall, what I’ve noticed with each subsequent restart is that my work gets denser and denser.  More “feature-complete”.  Book one of the first version couldn’t stand on its own; sure, it reached a stopping point, but it was that and nothing more.  A sampler -- insubstantial, and hardly guaranteed to win the hearts of men and women the world over.  Once I get through the editing (and cutting) process, I’ll have something much more satisfying on my hands.

There’s still a question of how, exactly, I’m going to make those splits; it’s worth admitting that this new project was supposed to be standard novel length, not a door stopper at the outset.  I didn’t intend for it to go this far, but I guess this will finally teach me about the importance of pattern recognition -- which I probably should have suspected when I smashed through the 80K word mark and still hadn’t gotten to the halfway point.  And was still working on it months after I thought I’d be finished.

In any case, I have a general idea of where I want to make the divisions and split the one book into three.  It’s feasible, in a sense.  The trick is that it’ll almost inevitably necessitate more new chapters -- one at the end of the first section, and possibly more in the middle to add a little “progression”, and show what the other core characters are up to while the main man is…occupied.  For obvious reasons I don’t want to think too hard about it; my top priority right now is to cut rather than add.

I’ve skimmed through some chapters before bed and/or whenever I’ve had a moment.  I can see the redundancies -- words, lines, and whole paragraphs that I can cut down if I just sit down and do it (as I have before, believe it or not).  I’m looking forward to the day when I can tackle a couple of choice chapters in particular, because even days after I wrote them I thought “Okay, that needs to get slashed down to its knees.”  On the plus side, I managed to get every chapter, event, and scene I planned/outlined beforehand written.  Time will tell if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.  

Beyond that?  The story changed in subtle yet important ways, so that -- even excluding character arcs -- the cast at the end isn’t the same as the cast at the start.  In order to better accentuate those arcs on a short- and long-term basis, I need to go back to the very beginning and fine tune.  Even a line of dialogue or two sprinkled in can have a huge effect.  At least, I assume so.  I’d imagine that the average reader is sharp enough to see through my tricks, and there’s no telling how much that effect gets multiplied when more people gather to discuss.

Maybe that’s what being a true writer is all about: being two steps ahead of an audience so they don’t sniff out your obvious bullshit.

Like I said, I still have a lot of work left ahead of me, but it’s not so crippling that I have no choice but to crumble into dust and blow away on the wind.  I’ve got 324K words to get through (for now), but it’s technically not as if I have to do all of that immediately.  Right now, my focus is on making that first book (such as it is) as good as it can be -- and thus, that 324, and the current work load, has been slashed down by a third.  Then, once I get the submissions out, I can start editing the next two parts while waiting for a response.  

That might be a dangerous proposition given that stuff can change between inception and completion.  On the other hand, I don’t think the changes will be so drastic that I’ll drive straight into a no-win situation.  For the first time in a while -- for longer than I care to admit -- it feels like I can finally reach, and feel, the light.  The end is in sight.

I could be wrong, though.  I could have to start over on something else.  But…I dunno, I’m feeling lucky this time around.

And that’s about where I stand.  You know what that means: as I said, it’s time to come out of my hiatus and start blogging for real -- which not only means more posts, but administrative and marketing efforts I’ve put on the backburner for too long.  Will it work out?  I don’t know.  But it’s worth a shot.  It’ll be a while yet before I truly earn the mantle of writing hero.  But I’m closer than I was six years ago, last year, last month, last week, or even today.  Best to strive while I’m still alive.

Not that I’m opposed to becoming a very literal ghostwriter.  Still, I’d prefer to avoid incurring the wrath of the Ghostbusters, if at all possible.

That’ll do it for now.  See you soon.

Now go watch Black Panther.  It’s the best one.


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