Where Valentine goes from here

One of the things keeping me from blogging has been a rewrite on my unsold novel Valentine’s Night.  I’m nearing the end of that revision, and the MS has gone from 75K to around 95K, and that’s with some cutting.  I’ve attempted to address the issue that I think has kept it from selling, the lack of any depth to my antagonist.  It was one of those problems that no one really flat out said, it was subtle enough that most readers couldn’t put a finger on why they were disappointed.  I have to thank fellow novelist Linda Robertson for helping me zoom in on the problem.

She also said my title sounded like soft-core porn, so I have to fix that too.

Two down, one to go.

Just wrapped up the draft of Heretics, YEA! Something over a hundred thousand words of epic destruction as I continue in my apocalyptic deconstruction of the Hostile Takeover universe. I’ll be doing some fixing up of the draft this week (a few retroconned scenes here, some backfill there, epigrams everywhere) and should get a copy off to DAW by Monday. Doesn’t mean I’m done with it, for good— I always have editorial revisions— but I’ll be done with it for now.

Continue reading “Two down, one to go.”

Good News and Bad News

The good news is that I got Valentine’s Night polished up, printed out, and sent off to Eleanor today. This is the second spec manuscript I’ve written in as many years, in addition to finishing off Prophets for DAW. Here’s hoping it does as well as Lilly’s Song. This means, now that I got the rewrites done on three novels, I get to start on the next book in the Apotheosis Trilogy sometime before the end of the month. This means the counters will finally start moving again.

Now, the reason I’m not starting the new book right now leads me to the bad news. . .

You see, my mother-in-law has dementia and has moved into assisted living. This is a good thing, as she is, to put it kindly, obstinate and difficult to deal with. As in there was no way we would ever get her to agree to move, we had to check her into the ER after she wandered off and have her shipped directly from the hospital to the assisted living facility the following Monday. She’s royally pissed at my wife, when she’s coherent, but she now gets three meals a day, social interaction, and the occasional shower.

The bad news is her house. I get to spend this weekend cleaning out a house that hasn’t been vacuumed, dusted, tidied or otherwise cleaned out in nearly a decade. Parts of it are near collapse. There’s mold, bugs, rats and things I don’t even want to think about. I’m afraid I’m about to run out of dumpster. I’m exhausted, and I’ve barely started on what promises to be a very long weekend.

The way I get through crap like this? I promise myself that it will make it into a story someday.

Done, really, I mean it this time

I turned in the editorial revisions for Prophets today, which means that I am officially done with it. It got a bit longer which is why all the counters moved around. Next task, is a second round of editorial edits on Lilly’s Song, which are relatively minor and should only take a couple of days. Then I need to do a revision of Valentine’s Night before I give it to Eleanor to shop around.

Then I’ll be writing new stuff. . .

Oh yeah, about those counters

No I didn’t forget about them, it’s just this little old thing called revision. See, when I finish a novel and turn it into an editor, it isn’t really finished. Since you all saw those counters grind to a halt I’ve been stuck revising Lilly’s Song for Bantam, and I’m currenly revising Prophets for DAW. I will also be spending the rest of this month revising Valentine’s Night before I finally hand it off to Eleanor. Then I’ll be doing new stuff, working on the second Apotheosis book.

Hitting the ground running

The first line is always a bitch. Every story needs a hook to draw the reader into it, and your primary tool is those first few words on the first page. Intimidating to think that the entire weight of thousands and thousands of words can be sitting on the shoulders of, at most, a few dozen. Now there are no rues about openings, and there are as many ways to begin as there are novels. My own personal impulse is to compress as many story elements as I can into the first couple of sentences. I want a character doing something, a setting, a sense of conflict or some problem the character is dealing with, some emotion, and a feeling of the tone of the piece. Yes, that’s asking a lot of a sentence or two, but it can be done. Here’s the first paragraph of Valentine’s Night:

“Happy birthday to me,” Toni muttered, toasting the empty chair across from her. She drained the remnants of her cosmopolitan and set the cocktail glass clinking next to a pair of its older, deceased siblings.

Two sentences, 35 words, and you are already in the story. In the first sentence we have a protagonist, a sense of her personality, her mood, and situation. We’re already starting to sympathize with her, we can all identify with being stood up. And her birthday? We already suspect that it’s a landmark birthday (18,21,30,40. . .) because we open with it and Toni obviously feels it’s important. The second sentence establishes the setting almost subliminally. Because there’s more than one glass, she’s as a restaurant or a bar being served drinks. Since the prior sentence had a chair across from her, she’s probably at a table at a restaurant— or at least a bar that serves food. She’s on her third Cosmo, so we know that she’s been waiting a while for someone to fill the seat across from her.

Other things we can infer from this micro-scene: It’s a contemporary story; cosmopolitans are a recent invention in the cocktail world, being invented in the mid-eighties and gaining popularity in the 1990s. Toni’s a relatively young adult; birthdays are important, she’s ordering trendy drinks, and we strongly suspect she’s waiting for a date. We also suspect that it’s a dinner date, since most people don’t down three Cosmos for lunch. If it turns out to be lunch, we’ll probably downgrade our estimate of Toni’s age and/or maturity level. (It turns out to be dinner, and Toni’s hitting the big 3-0.)

A lot of this condensed scene-setting/exposition comes from writing a lot of SF. It is the mundane equivalent to the famous Heinlien line, “the door dilated.” Just as every word in the English language has connotations beyond its literal meaning ( a “book” is not quite a “tome”) every detail included in a story (especially the opening) carries with it an implied back-story.

Unrepentant self-satisfaction

A couple of woo-hoos:

First off, Anne at Bantam has given the ok to the outline I submitted for Wolfbreed #2 (titles, I need titles.) which means that I can go ahead with it as soon as I get the next DAW book out of the way. Second off, we are retiring the Valentine’s Night counter, since I’ve just wrapped up the first draft.

This is shaping up to be my most productive year writing since 1992, when I started doing this professionally. About exactly a year ago, I started writing Wolfbreed #1. I’ve since finished the novel, landed one helluva agent, found a new publisher, finished the first volume of the Apotheosis Trilogy for DAW, and now I’ve wrapped up the first draft of a third novel outside of any contractual commitments.

Busy as I seem to be, my goal of finishing volume 2 for both Wolfbreed and the Apotheosis Trilogy in the next 12 months doesn’t seem particularly daunting. Yea me.

Here we go again

Like I mentioned with Wolfbreed #1 some time ago, there’s a point in every novel I’ve written where I feel like, “OMG what kind of garbage am I writing here?” It always happens in the last third of the book. I hit a wall where I feel everything I’ve written is total shit and I have to slog my way through the next few scenes no matter how excited I am about the project. However, I must still be growing as a writer, because I’ve just made two discoveries about this phenomenon.

First, this did not happen with Prophets, and I think it must be related to the fact that it is the first book in a trilogy, and really is only the first third of a narrative and not a stand-alone book.

Second, and more important, in today’s “slog,” I discovered a way to short-circuit the process. I skipped back into the first third of Valentine’s Night and added a new scene retroconning a plot point I realized I needed for the ending. Turns out that, while it wasn’t my intent, adding the scene (where my vampire RN heroine gets to set her own compound fracture in a wrecked police car) managed to re-ignite the enthusiasm that made me launch the project in the first place. Now I’m back to being excited about attacking it this weekend. Got to remember this for the next novel, it’d save me some angst.

On an unrelated note, I got notes back from Anne for Wolfbreed #1 (still need titles), and with them I have the first word on when it will see print. As of right now, we’re looking at Summer 2009. Mark your calender.

Moving the Goalposts

Blogging is taking a back seat to the new novel (30K+ yea me!) And yes, I bumped up the total wordage of Valentine’s Night, the spec novel I’m working on while waiting to hear back from Anne. Two reasons.

  1. I have trouble writing short, and I don’t feel I’m that close to the halfway point.
  2. I can.