5 Months, 3 Days, 1 Story

In late December 2017, a friend directed me to The Book Smugglers ‘Awakenings’ Writing Contest. The idea behind the contest – a speculative fiction short story/novella based on the theme of “awakening” – intrigued me, so I kicked around some possible ideas before one particular concept clicked. Here’s the very first original sentence I wrote for it:

original first line for the story

At first, I thought I could pull it off before the December 31 deadline: a short story about agent Seven and his handsome young charge, navigating the adventures of first lay and first love. But, as so often happens when a character grabs my imagination, Seven’s story became larger, more complex, and demanded more words. And more time. The deadline passed, and I had written only a fraction of the story Seven wanted me to tell. A new character entered the mix. An existing character wanted a bigger role. The main supporting character had a change of heart. And everyone’s conflicts came to a joined head that put all of them in danger from a common enemy.

The things we do for love (of a story).

So, what happened? Well, I wrote it all: every character, every subplot, every conflict. I put it all down in my main document and kept pressing toward that goal of writing The End. Far longer than I’d originally intended – five months and three days, to be exact – I finished this story. It went through changes, updates, even some 180-degree turns. But, I love it.

I’ve always thought that stories are better when they’re shared, even the flawed ones. This one, no doubt, has its flaws, but in my experience, flaws are easier to see when you open them up to other eyes. So, I’m opening this story up to you, my friends and fellows. It didn’t succeed in its original purpose (that is, for submission to that Book Smugglers writing contest), but it did succeed in fulfilling my hopes for a new story.

~More than “Just a Job”~

My original thematic catchphrase for this story was “Just a Job”, and, if you decide to read it, you’ll probably see why. As the words – and weeks – went on, though, I decided that wasn’t the most descriptive title. In its place, I’m calling this one “Number Seven and the Life Left Behind”. (My other idea was “More Than the Sum”…but that titles was already taken by somebody on Goodreads. And if I ever decide to post this story there, I want it to stand out.)

Over the coming month, I’ll be posting each section/chapter of “Number Seven and the Life Left Behind” here on this website. Starting June 7, you can read a new section every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. If you’re on my subscriber list, I’ll be turning off email update notifications for the individual story posts. But, I’ll be linking to them in my various social media feeds. At the end of the updates, I will collect all sections into a single document suitable for download or reading on your e-device. (psst! There’s even a chance I’ll put it into real book form, for both your and my shelf!) As for the story itself, you can “Like” or comment or not; that is always your choice. I’m just interested in sharing Seven’s story.

 

I'm sorry (but not really)

Writing this post has made me feel like a bad writer-friend, even though there should be no reason for it to do so. Everyone’s opinion is their own, and part of what makes living in a so-called first-world country so great is that I’m allowed to have that opinion: no one is forcing an agenda or way of thinking upon me. Yet, when it comes to books, I feel ashamed to admit: I prefer paperbacks. I like hardcovers, too, though more for uniformity if it’s part of a series, or a version of the book that I really want to keep in good condition. E-books, though? I just can’t do it.

Part of my trouble with e-books is that, whenever I sit down in front of my computer, laptop, or tablet, I don’t want to read a book. If I’m in front of any kind of input-enabled device, I feel I should be writing. I’ve got enough stories I need to be working on, after all. Reading for pleasure is a hobby of relaxation and subconscious learning, for me. I like to curl up on the sofa with a blanket around me and a cup of hot drink steaming between the open pages of a book as my eyes and brain travel down the paragraphs, soaking up the story. I don’t get the same comfy, relaxed feeling reading from a screen that I do from a collection of bonded pages in my hands. Plus, a computer offers too many distractions, mostly in the form of the Internet. Yes, I know I can turn that part off, but it’s so ingrained in me to be online if I have the option to be online, and, pretty soon, I’m more involved with the technology of my reading device than I am in the book itself.

A friend swears by her Kindle. She is a quick, avid reader, and she enjoys being able to take a dozen books on a trip to the beach with her, all in a device less than the weight of a standard paperback. That is admittedly impressive. And, there is a lot to be said for the saving of paper by not printing a book.

Printing, for those of you who don’t realize it, is expensive by its very consumable nature. When I printed From Hell (A Love Story), each copy cost about $14 to make, full-color cover, 300-some-odd pages, the whole nine yards of processing and publishing. On the other hand, making the e-pub version – using Scrivener – took just a few keystrokes, some online storage space (which I already had), and the time it took to upload. In no uncertain terms: way less than $14. So, I can understand how e-publishing appeals from a business perspective, as well.

Many of my author friends (the real ones, with real books, of whom I do not consider myself a part, let’s be perfectly clear) have produced e-books or e-pub versions of their books. And, I buy them. Because these are my friends, and I want to support them. But, I have to be completely, brutally honest: it takes me at least a dozen times longer to read an e-book than it does a paperback. Some e-books, I haven’t even gotten to. They’ve been sitting in my queue for months, and I feel horrible about it. But when I open them up, and the words appear on the screen, I just. Can’t. Do it. I can’t bring myself to read a book on a screen, no matter how glowy the Kobo, how booky the Nook, or how fiery the Kindle.

I’m not sorry to you, Amazon, because you already get enough of my money. But I’m sorry to my writer friends. I’m sorry to the e-pub-embracing generation of writers and readers out there. And, I’m sorry, trees. But I love my paperbacks, so I’m not really that sorry.

Well, maybe for the trees.

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Me and some of my favorite books
Photo by Celeste Giuliano, http://celestegiuliano.com/

What are your feelings about e-books? Do you have a preference for hard copies or e-pubs? Do you think I’m a bad person?

Friend Focus: 4amWriter's Writer…Uninterrupted Goes Indie

EDIT:
Writer…Uninterrupted: A Handbook for the Emerging Writer
available now from Amazon!

Hey, everybody! 4amwriter is going indie!

If you don’t know who 4amwriter – Kate Johnston – is, click the link above and head over to her blog to find out. You won’t even need to come back here, because she can speak for herself much better than I can do, but I’ll share my experience of Kate anyway, because I always like a personal touch when I read recommendations. And, if you know the kind of writer I was before Kate, you’ll get an understanding of how I’ve grown with her help.

I first “met” writer, editor, and activist Kate Johnston about three years ago, through a writing blog called LimebirdWriters (archives still available and worth it!). Over the course of reading her poetry and prose, and looking through her articles and commentary, I learned a lot about writing in general, as well as my own voice. I even took advantage of an editing offer Kate had a few years ago, for which I sent her the first 1000 words of my 2012 NaNoWriMo story, “Anywhere but Here.” Her feedback for that scene was awesome, so much it pains me that I’m still trying to sort out the best way to rewrite this story, to be worthy of those comments. Kate’s helped me with other scenes over the years, too. So, when I read that she was jumping into independent publishing with a series of books on helping writers be better writers, I knew I had to help spread the word.

My acquaintanceship with Kate doesn’t even begin to scratch this lady’s surface. Head over to her blog and read about her adventures in writing and life – of both the 2-legged and 4-legged variety! You will not be disappointed. And, while you’re there, click “Follow” so you’ll know when her “Writer…Uninterrupted” series hits the virtual shelves. You’ll be glad you did so.

 

A New Day for "From Hell"

A New Day for "From Hell"

As of 10:22pm ET, Thursday, March 12, 2015, I finished the content pass edit of my pseudo-novel, the homoerotic space opera western From Hell: A Love Story.

Closed chapter folders in Scrivener = Finished content edit!

Closed chapter folders in Scrivener = Finished content edit!

I started my Borderlands story of “How the Commando Got His Turret” in July 2013. It’s grown and changed quite a bit over the course of the last year-and-a-half, I think – I know – for the better. I took chapters out, I redesigned scenes, I added and deleted and deleted some more. The original version of this story ran about 112,000 words. This edited version? A little over 83,600 words, as Scrivener will tell you:

FromHell-StatsOver the course of the latest edit, I cut or reworked a tad less than 30,000 words. I’m sure a professional editor would have helped me work the story even tighter, but, since I can’t sell this story, I wanted to keep my costs down as much as possible. Still, I think that’s pretty good, for a first-timer.

Just because I’m so far happy with this content edit does not mean even my truncated version of the self-publishing process is over, though. I still have the interior line edit, the cover (front, spine, and back), the administrative logistics like ISBN details and credits, the dedication, the compile, and the submission process. But, right now, I’m riding too pleasant a wave from finishing that tough rewrite to think about all of that yet to hurdle.

I could spend a long time talking about why I chose to publish this particular story, how all the ups and downs of my life over the last two years pushed me to try and better myself as a writer, but the honest truth is that I just wanted to see if I could do it. I love this story, no doubt, and its flawed Byronic hero is one of the most fun I’ve written yet. But it is fanfiction, and for that reason alone I can’t get too attached to the men and women on its pages, at least not to the extent I might do for a cast of my own true creating.

I’m not finished-finished, yet. But, looking back on the last six months or so of editing this story, I’m glad I did it. It is a better story than it was, even if some people might disagree. I took to heart a lot of commentary I got from that earlier version, too. So, you know, it pays to tell a writer what you think of their story, because you never know how you might change a book. I’m happy with it, though. And, I’m still as in love with these characters and this world as when I’d started, something I’d feared would fade as I picked apart their conflicts and arguments and make-up moments.

Was it a difficult process? You bet. I can’t I don’t want to count how many times I thought about giving up and tossing the whole thing out the window. Because this is a fanfiction story for a niche fandom, and I’m on the edge of that niche. Because anyone who’d be interested in this story in the first place has probably already read the first draft and won’t want to read an edit. Because it’s a story loaded with bloody violence, graphic sex, drug use and abuse, and foul language that sometimes made me, as the writer, pause to consider if I really wanted to go there. But, the one piece of advice I’ve always believed in, and that I’ve always shared with other writers around me, is to finish whatever story they’re writing. Writing “The End” on a story – even if that end is a crap and totally seat-of-the-pants conclusion –  is a real accomplishment. Anybody – ANYBODY – can start a story. A writer finishes them. I viewed completing this edit as completing the story for a second time. Because, with all of those changes I’d made, it did feel a lot like a second story. And getting to write “The End” on this one made me feel so good.

Have you ever edited one of your own stories? Did you make a lot of changes? How did those changes make you feel? What would you recommend for others editing their work?

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