100,000 Words

This is a personal victory post, plain and simple. I’m patting my own back, and it feels great. This past week, I reached the 100,000 word (400 page) mark on my manuscript.

In the grand scheme of the publishing game, it’s a small victory, but perhaps the most important one to me as a writer. 100,000 is a good looking number, I tell you what, and it represents a lot of hard work, and a lot of personal breakthroughs. The only personal achievement that will feel better is finishing the novel. Everything else that I hope will follow will be an effect of my personal accomplishment.

For years, I sat in the group of dreamers. I was fascinated by the idea of writing my own book. I can remember trying to draw my own “fantasy world map” as far back as my early teens. I soon gave up, cursing my lack of creative abilities and resigning myself to pursuing “normal” disciplines like math and science.

Many years later, after completing a mechanical engineering degree and constructing a nice “normal life” for myself and my amazing wife, I returned to my dream of creating something fantastical. I brainstormed and daydreamed and researched for months, years, but again seemed to come up short on Golden Ideas. I struggled to discover an interesting character cast. I labored to draw up a plot that followed the appropriate form according to writing experts. I toiled, studying writing books, trying to read novels in a new light, hoping to glean the secrets of writing a bestseller. I wanted to learn all of the secrets before I invested enormous effort into writing a book.

December 26th 2012 was the day I gave up. I threw all of my tedious outlines, maps and character bios on the table and put my pen to paper. Fingers to keyboard. Whatever.

And today, I can proudly proclaim that I’ve written my first 100,000 words of cohesive work. I couldn’t be happier.

What I’ve discovered over the course of these past seven months in which I’ve dedicated myself to writing is that for me, the creation process is almost entirely composed of hard work and is manifested in a very different form than I had anticipated.

I’ve found that I am capable of profound creativity. More creativity than I had ever dreamed. My novel has taken shape as I’ve freed myself from formulas and tables. I’m in love with my characters. My plot is exciting. The world is soooo cool. None of it is perfect, but I’m damn proud of what I’ve done.

And you know what? My back-story and outlines haven’t gone to the trash. In breaking out of the cage of being strictly an “outline” writer, I not only opened myself up to some exciting discovery writing, but my outlining ability improved. What I failed to recognize before is that novels are a living thing, and mine needed the freedom to grow. I have changed my story and my characters more times than I can count, but they are real, meaningful changes with purpose and direction.

The point of this post, if there is one, is that each of us might benefit from liberating ourselves from any arbitrary label, stereotype or method. Try new things. Create something. Find that thing you love to do most and get to work changing your world.

-Scott

Publishing Process for New Authors

I may have unintentionally deceived some of you with my previous blog entry. I do not currently have anything lined up as far as publishing goes. That process begins when you have not just a complete first draft, but a complete fourth or fifth draft, or however many drafts it takes to turn the manuscript into a polished, sellable book.

I’m currently on page 386 of my first draft, and I’m planning on wrapping things up around 450 pages…if the story wants to wrap up that soon, that is. My writing rarely turns out exactly as I think it will, but that’s the subject of another blog post.

It has taken me nearly seven months of writing evenings, weekends, and every spare minute I can to get to 386 pages. Yes, much of that time has been spent climbing the steep hill that was my learning curve at the outset of my writing career, but the point is that writing takes a lot of time. If I’m to be realistic, I probably won’t be done with my first draft for several weeks. My list of planned edits is rather large, so those will take at least another month or two, and will only be that fast because I’m a much better editor than writer.

All of this tedious information means that the process will begin here in a few months. I’m shooting for late September.

The first step in the process is querying a literary agent who represents your genre and is open to new clients. Many new authors don’t seem to care who their agent is as long as they are reportedly a real person. I, however, have my heart set on a select few agents (or agencies) who will remain nameless for now, because I want them all for myself. I’m probably setting myself up for disappointment since the statistical odds of securing a deal with any one agent sit around 3% (according to the blog of one of the agents I am stalking), but I’m going for them anyways.  I’ll update you when I submit my work to them.

When I’ve found a good agent to represent me, the second step in the publishing process will be to go through more rounds of editing based on my agent’s suggestions (a very important step, I feel). The agent then presents the book to publishers that she/he is familiar with, and hopefully before too long we will have signed a contract with a publisher that will be willing to not only print my book, but help me market it and get the word out that it’s awesome. Then the editor from the publishing house will help me through another few rounds of edits.

From what I have read/heard, that’s when the waiting happens. I’m not positive why there is such a long wait between finishing a final manuscript and the book hitting shelves, but “the Internet” says that there is, so it must be true. I plan to fill the interlude with awesome marketing to help my book sell, but most likely I’ll be writing the second book in my spare time, much like I wrote the first.

Oh and just to make sure you don’t get the wrong idea about what authors typically get paid, the interwebs also say that the average advance for a debut novel is somewhere around $5,000. If you do the math (and I did, I promise), I’ll be making about $1/hour if all I receive is the advance. I intend to sell WAY more than that, but selling the first book is far from having “made it” for most authors. I’ll be keeping my day job, for now.

And there you have it! That’s the summary of what I know about the publishing industry and my road to becoming a published author. I’m not sure why the prospect of doing all of this work just to receive $1/hr in compensation excites me, but it does. This is the first time that I’ve been one hundred percent invested and excited about something I’m producing, and I love it. I think you’re going to like it too. I can’t wait for you to read my books and tell me what you think.

Now back to the book. Work work.

-Scott

Initiation

I’m Scott. I write novels. Fantasy novels.

Soon, I’ll be finished with my first complete work, and I’ll put a sample up for everyone to (hopefully) enjoy.

I’ll also do my best to document the ups and downs that accompany the process of writing, becoming a better writer, seeking an agent, being published, and doing everything possible to build a permanent home in the coveted locale known as the “bestseller list”.

So. Why fantasy? I’ve been asked this question more than once, and gotten enough strange looks to feel that an explanation is warranted. I don’t see why people are so surprised, really. I’m a mechanical engineer by profession for Pete’s sake, you’d think that a little introversion would be expected (note: not as many engineers/scientists are main-stream “geeks” as you would think).

Anyways, people think I’m a whole new flavor of weird when they hear that I write fantasy novels. Unless I tell them that my book is like Harry Potter. It’s not, really, other than that it has people in it and is written in English, but it gets people to stop staring at me.

The real reason that I write fantasy, besides the fact that I have a several-decades long addiction to the genre, is that in fantasy, anything is possible.

“No kidding,” I hear you say. That’s the point of fantasy, to be able to make up whatever awesome gobbledygook you want, right? Sort of, but not for the reasons that might immediately come to mind.

Authors like David Eddings, Robert Jordan, L.E. Modesitt Jr., Brandon Sanderson, Patrick Rothfuss, Brad Thor (I know he writes thrillers, but I had to include him), and J.K. Rowling have achieved something incredible. They have helped enlighten and improve humankind in a way that I believe is truly unique to fantasy, and I want to contribute as well.

Yes, other genres, both fiction and non-fiction, can be wonderful. They discuss great themes, have great stories. We can be better people for reading (some of) them.

But fantasy doesn’t just preach or relate a life lesson. It lets you live it, breathe it, and adopt it as your own in a safe environment, removed from the pressures and norms of our own world. And herein lies the true power of fantasy fiction: I believe that works of fantasy come to be so powerful because it allows the author a safe place to bare their soul and truly express not only their ideas, but the core of their beings. Every little part of their novels comes from within.

And that, Ladies and Gentlemen, is why I write fantasy. I don’t deny that I write with entertainment in mind, but my novels are also my safe place where I can show you who I am, more intimately than through any other method (that I’m willing to engage in). I bare a piece of my soul on every page that I write and meticulously edit.

-Scott