It's been quite a while since I posted an update on the book, so now it's time.
Let's get the bad news out of the way first: I'm not writing nearly as much as I'd like, partly because my main focus over the past four months has been getting the weight off. That's necessitated more time spent on what I'm eating and naturally more time spent on working out. (I haven't been blogging nearly as much as I'd like, but I do have a backlog of topics - and one of them is about distractions of my own making.) The plan is to get back into it here very soon. Like, now.
The good news is I finished the fourth draft of a 275-page novel. I am now letting someone read it, which is at the same time freakishly scary but also comforting. It's comforting because Wifey is my first beta reader of this revised version, and it's scary because I'm a little worried she may think I'm a deranged lunatic.
Maybe she already thinks that. Yeah. Probably.
See - no worries! If she's still here now, I'm probably okay.
This past round of editing really hammered home to me the slow part of the process. There were many days where I really didn't want to do any editing, but I almost always found that once I actually sat down, opened up my Word file, and started working I would get engrossed in my story.
I see the latter point as a good thing, because I figure if my own story couldn't hold my attention I would be screwed.
I follow a lot of writers on Twitter and had seen the general sentiment that the writing of the story is the easy part. Now, 18 months after I started this process, I can say that yes, absolutely, it's pure truth.
It's funny because when I wrote my first draft I was pretty proud of it. Not just because I'd never done it before, but because I thought it was pretty good. Then I started editing and there were parts where I was like, "What the hell were you thinking?" It's even funnier because those usually came out in scenes I thought were good, and in the scenes I didn't remember as being good I ended up pretty happy with. I have no idea if that means anything or not - just an observation.
I surprised myself with how many major changes the story underwent between drafts one and four. Some characters I planned disappeared. Some new ones came in. The roles and prominence of almost all of them changed. Their relationships changed dramatically. In the end the two versions follow similar arcs , but the details, the meat of a good novel, are very different. It's grittier, edgier than I expected to be, and while it wasn't what I intended that's okay. It's good. It's not perfect, but it's good.
This may be me telling myself what I want to hear, but I think my story stands up to many I read that have been professionally edited and published. Why not me too?
I try to read a decent amount, to get through at least a book a week. I read all sorts of stories, books that are like mine and books that are not. I read a surprising amount of YA fiction (surprising to me anyway), I read thrillers, spy novels, mysteries, dramas, even the occasional romance. They help me develop well-rounded characters and offer possible different spins on what one of my characters my do in a given situation.
It also gives me direction on what I think I want to write.
The world is full of writers who claim to be out to write the Great American Novel, something that will be regarded as a literary work of art. I am not one of those. For me, it's enough if someone picks up my book and is entertained, if it helps them step out of their daily life and makes them feel something, whether that something is fear, excitement, loss, or any other real emotion.
People who set out to write a literary masterpiece, in my opinion, will be disappointed. Why? Because you don't get to decide that. Readers do. Other writers do. The media. Any number of factors are involved, but almost none of them are in my control. All I can do is to the best of my abilities write a story that you can't put down and write characters for which you will feel empathy. But a masterpiece? That's for someone else (or many someones) to decide.
Frankly, those who decide that aren't my target audience.
I get asked every so often what kind of stories I write and I struggle with an answer. It's fiction, yes. But what kind? Thriller? Mystery? I think the best way to describe is action-packed with good character development, sort of like a good action movie. There should be an element of fear, though, times where you genuinely feel for the life of the characters. It's not horror, per se, because for me that implies the supernatural on some level, but I do want to freak the hell out of you. I want to make you uncomfortable (though not like Chuck Palahniuk - not out to make people throw up).
Horror novels rarely scare me. I don't believe in ghosts or vampires or those kinds of supernatural beings, so how can I be scared of them? That doesn't mean I don't enjoy those stories - they just aren't scary.
You know what's scary? The shit you can't make up. Serial killers are scary. The idea of getting wrongly arrested, framed for something you didn't do, and tossed in prison is scary. Buying a lottery ticket and getting stuck in the middle of a robbery with a drug-crazy thug - that's scary. Having a child dart out in front of your car is scary. The general fragility of the human body combined with any number of loose wires in the heads of the general population is scary. Losing the person you love in a freak accident is scary. Losing the person you love because they want to leave? Scarier.
How easy it is to sneak inside someone's house? Super effing scary.
This is my pledge to my readers. You won't get the supernatural in my stories, but I will make you stop and think about how fragile your perception of the world is, and about how life can change in an instant. One moment you could be putting dinner together. The next you could be having to save your life from a junkie with only the paring knife you were using to cut an apple.
Or maybe it's not just a junkie. What then?
My stories resolve around the idea of "What if?" That's my inspiration.
I want my readers, when they finish a story, to ask themselves this: "What would I have done?"
To me, if I can do that, I've accomplished my goals.
(Lest we ignore the elephant in the blog, I won't lie and say selling stories for six figures isn't a goal too. It is. Not likely, but you have to have goals, right?)