While life may be a journey, writing has been a plodding trek for me of often three steps forward and then four steps back. I researched my first novel, a historical novel about Magellan’s circumnavigation of the world, for a year. Then I took a year writing the first draft of my novel, after which I attended the Pacific Northwest Writers Association summer conference to pitch it. There I sat in on a session on Point of View. POV? I’d never heard of point of view, but after the session I knew I had way too many of them.
My Magellan novel might have worked fifty years ago, when an omniscient POV was acceptable, but modern writing techniques are different from those of my youth. So I rewrote my novel, drastically reducing the POV’s in the process. Tim Joyner, the author of Magellan, which I consider the definitive book on Magellan, graciously agreed to read my novel. He said it was good as history, but since it was historical fiction, why didn’t I use that latitude to make my novel more engaging. He was right. I set my Magellan novel aside and moved on.
I wrote 2 and 20 in 2008. It was a fun novel to write. The protagonist’s marriage explodes, he compromises his principles to keep his job, but his job explodes anyway, he finds love, he almost loses love, but in the end, he regains his love and an honorable job. Problem? I didn’t think about what genre I was writing, which made it almost impossible to market to an agent. Maybe I’ll self-publish it someday.
They say to write what you know. I know finance. In 2008, I wrote Download, a techno financial thriller. It has a little of the attitude of Nelson DeMille, while giving the reader a peek into the world of mathematics and the odd cast of characters responsible for the theories that have made computers, cell phones, and most of modern life possible. A few agents showed interest, but none bit.
They say to write what you love to read. I love to read science fiction. 2010 gave birth to Truth-Teller Rebellion and 2011 to Truth-Teller Revenge, which Champagne Books published in 2014 and 2015.
Once Truth-Teller Revenge was off to my publisher this past summer, I circled back and rewrote and re-edited Download. Then, as an experiment, I self-pubbed it on Amazon this last November.
I wrote five books in five years from 2007 to 2011, and have since published three of the five. However, I haven’t written anything in the past three years. Sad. Sad, but not because I’ve been lazy. I’ve spent the last three years editing, rewriting, and editing, and then getting a blog and Facebook set up, etc. etc. All of this was necessary, but not nearly as fun as writing.
What lessons have I learned while I’ve been on this trek?
* Learn your craft. Read about writing, read modern novels, and then perfect your craft by writing.
* Craft is not enough. Your plot or your characters must be so engaging that the reader can’t put your book down. This is what I find most difficult. As a writer, I become so close to my characters that I find it difficult to imagine what the first time reader will think of them. Writing in the first person helps, I think, and I’m gravitating to that POV.
* Know what genre you’re writing. Yes, you can push the limits of a genre, but ignore the expectations of a genre at your own risk.
* Write, write, write. Even if you only average 250 words per day, that means a full size 80,000 plus word novel at year end.
* Editing is not fun. At least for me. Write books that require minimal editing before publishing.
Resolutions for 2015
* Write. Get back to writing.
First project. Rewrite the Magellan novel as a “memoir.” I started this a month ago, and it’s going well. It’s going faster than I expected because I’m recycling major portions of the original novel.
Second project, a new sci book?
* Write cleaner books the first time, which will then require less editing. I’ve learned a lot about writing from working with my Champagne editors. Combining that knowledge with a little more focus should result in books that require less editing. Less editing means more time for the fun stuff: creating stories, universes, and characters.
Here’s to the future and all the books in it.