It’s been a couple of weeks, well production wise it’s been a single week. My Severed Fic hit a bit of a SNAFU. This was the first time I dove into a story with nothing figured out, other than the main character.
It’s true that I’m a pantser for the most part, but I enter with a full understanding of the cast and crew and how they will interact with each other. The story tells itself, but I always have a handle on the characters. This is also my first long form fiction that doesn’t take place in Janus – well not technically. So I also did not have two years of world-building to support the characters.
Of course, I think it’s all good. I can just wing it and it’ll be fine. This is going to be an awesome story.
This is the power of having a first reader – who is NOT yourself.
Six chapters in and I am told my by fiancee that the story reads like it was something artificially constructed by someone trying to figure out what will sell. Of course, that is exactly what I’m doing.
The main character, Dedd, is the only part of the story I had fully conceived before production began, and that turns out to be the only aspect that was positive. His voice and character was enjoyable, everything else was rigid and artificial.
The complaints she made synced up beat for beat with the parts of the story I struggled to produce. – Yes, this story produced my first real example of writer’s block. Of course, hindsight is twenty twenty and I know now it was due to the story not working. It didn’t work for her, and somewhere in my mind I knew it wasn’t working for me either.
For example, the story has two false starts. It opens with the main character basically getting geared up to leave town and hit the road. This is false start number one.
On the road he encounters a side character in need of help – In helping this character Dedd brings the character back to the original town where the rest of his people are. They then invite Dedd to hang around… he does for the night.
The following night he is getting ready to go again.. this time the antagonists show up and he ends up basically impaled for the evening, it takes him till the following day to free himself. This is false start number two.
Once freed, THEN he gets to move along.
What was I thinking? I know technically plot things happened. You met allies and enemies blah blah, but psychologically that felt like the most counterproductive way to start a story. It’s like I wrote three different beginnings… one solo, one with friends, and one with enemies.
Anyway, It’s been tweaked and fixed. It reads better now, and after four days since the rewriting began I passed the 16k mark today.
I don’t have a lot more to say, and I still want to try and get more words down before calling it a day. So that’s it for now.
Like most unpublished, aspiring authors I struggle at times to find the will to continue. This path to publishing is such a long and arduous journey, every now and than one must ask themselves, “Is this really worth it?” Even if you find publication, there’s still so much more required before finding success. This is especially the case if you measure success of financial stability and independence.
That being said, I usually come to the same conclusion as most authors who successfully navigate these waves doubt. Even if I was to quit and do something else, I would still write. Sure, if this doesn’t work out I will need to seek, or regain my previous, full time employment.
I currently work minimum wage for the most part, so it’s not like it’ll be difficult to find something comparable if I crash and burn. Right?
Another flashing light shining in my head is days like these. It is 10am on a Sunday morning. I’ve been off work for three hours, and need to work again tonight before taking a week off. I decided Friday, when I finished the season finale of Kruger’s, I would take the weekend off and come back strong Monday.
Yesterday, it took sheer power of will to not take the drive to my go-to coffee shop and get cracking on this next project. Today, well the will power failed and I am about to begin chapter one on a brand new property.
I’m pumped for it, the prewriting adrenaline always run high when it comes to a new project.
For now I will refer to it as Dedd. This new novel is a dystopian zombie novel.
*pauses for the eye rolls*
Yeah, I know there’s been so much zombie fever in the mainstream this decade, but hear me out. The first point I want to make is, although you may be right, sales don’t lie. Zombies still sell damn well online, especially with easily consumed, pulpy, fun novels.
I think the over saturation of zombies in popular culture has raised the standard for what a zombie novel needs to be. I love Romero to death… heh get it?. *ahem*
I love Romero to death, but these days it isn’t enough to just put some survivors in a fixed location and have them survive for a while before the zombies overtake everything. I don’t mean to simplify the pioneer of the contemporary zombie, but everyone and their dog has written that story, filmed that movie, and developed that game.
Zombie novels need more spice, more substance. Successful zombie narratives these days consist of known properties being zombified. Case in point we have Pride & Prejudice & Zombies (Haven’t sen the movie, but loved the book.), and Warm Bodies (Romeo & Juliet just replace Montague with zombie, and Capulet with human.)
Or it has character. The only example I want to give is Jake Bible’s Z-Burbia series. Six books strong and voiced by a likable, and captivating protagonist. It’s strength is it has a very intricate plot that just so happens to happen while hordes of zombies shamble around Ashville, North Carolina.
Side moment to pimp this series a little more – If you haven’t read it, do it now. In fact, don’t read it, go to Audible right now and buy it there. Andrew Wehrland does an incredible narration. Jace (The protagonist) really comes alive. Do yourself a favor and check it out..
Back to the program.
The second point, and the detail I alluded to in the title of this post, is this. I am not someone who looks down on writers for “writing to the market.” It isn’t a violation of the art if you write something because you think it has a chance of selling.
Do I think work is more likely to shine if it comes from inspiration instead of chasing a buck? Well yeah, to an extent. I don’t think I would be able to write something purely because I think it’ll make money. It would be great to have that kind of talent, but frankly I’m sure it’ll fall flat more often then not.
Of course if you ignore the market in lieu of following the muse, then you have no one to blame but yourself when your fiction doesn’t sell and you have to get a day job else you can’t make rent.
Dedd is a novel that I am excited to write, it is a novel I intended to write the moment the main character started yelling at me while I was working on Krugers. This could fail immensely, or it could be a break, we’ll see when it’s done.
What separates Dedd from the other projects I’ve written is this is my first foyer into the world of publishing without intending to self publish it.
For so long I’ve been listening to Paul E Cooley talk about his relationship with Severed Press and how great they have been for him. There’s also Jake Bible who literally releases a new novel for them every month – cleary it’s an amicable relationship.
I’ve been leering about submitting to small press, which was compounded by listening to the tribulations Justin Macumber has with his Born of Fire trilogy and dealing with Crescent Moon Press. Thankfully they folded and Macumber’s work is part of the Gryphonwood family – which is another small press I respect.
Severed Press is a well respected small press in the genre, and they are open for submissions. Open for submissions is not something I commonly see on websites these days, especially for reputable places like them. They also have clear guidelines for the type of fiction they want to put out.
They don’t appear to be tired of Zombies.
Anyway the point is I have characters in my head, I know what they want to achieve, and I can’t wait to get to scrivener and follow their journey to where they’re going… When I look at Severed’s guidelines, I realize this is a story that fits solid with their call for submissions.
So, in essence, this novel is being written specifically to submit to Severed Press. It’s a great time for it because when this countdown on the side of the page is over, I will be looking at a consistently high word count.
It’s always about trying something new.
That does it. I’m about ready to get this show on the road.
Did I mention how pumped I am about getting to meet this character?
Today she would be turning twenty-nine years old. The date always sneaks up on me and catches me out of the blue. In the last four years I’ve developed a psychological routine that prepares me for May. She was admitted May 1st, and passed on May 31st, the entire month is a psychological battle of endurance I have struggled with for the last four years.
There were only a few cracks and relapses last year so I feel like I’m finally getting to a point where I’m ready to live twelve months of the year instead eleven. There’s news coming this May that should help me reach that milestone – news I can’t talk about yet. Though it will probably be the most trying period yet – aside from it being the fifth anniversary, I struggle with my own memories.
As per usual, the human mind is a great, yet unreliable machine. I remember the stories, and the times I spent with her but a lot of them have now become just a memory of facts. I’ve been telling the stories about her for so long I’ve become very good at the details, yet the more time passes, the more they become stories instead of memories.
I remember her crying after our first kiss, because I know it happened. But I’m losing sight of the look on her face as it happened. Today she would’ve turned twenty-nine, I’m sure there would be some low-key event with some of her friends.
I still feel guilty even talking about her sometimes, there are so many of you who will read this who were closer with her, in fact I’m willing to bet most of you were. I spent most of her battle with Cancer and the fallout from her treatments living on the west coast and talking to her off and on. As I said before I had to leave the city years ago to find my own sanity, and although she changed my world and shaped the person I became – It was mostly done from afar.
She was always one of the two people I MUST see when I came to St. John’s. #1. Elaine Mahon, #2. Chrystal Horwood.
Her death was the single most influential factor of my return to St. John’s. For that I can never express enough gratitude to her. If I didn’t come back when I did I fear my life may have taken a different track and there’s no telling where I would be with now and with whom.
I still owe everything I am to her, a lot of you may have been closer with her physically, but she was one of the most important people in my life I have ever and will ever know.
Just in the way she looked at me I know she saw a man lurking in there someone, one far better than the one in the room. She saw the person I have the potential to become, not the slack, unambitious, passive, waste of life that I was at the time. I will forever be indebted to her for that.
It breaks my heart that I had to lose her to learn my lesson, but at least I can say that when that fifth anniversary comes I may finally be able to visit her with my head held high. There won’t be anymore excuses, no more reasons why I haven’t hit the goals I wanted to hit – in her name.
I presently live in Paradise, I share a four bedroom home with my Fiancee, her father and our six year old daughter. (Before people scratch their heads about me having a six year old – I will clarify I met the little girl when she was two.)
I have two full length novels finished. I have a six novella series that I’ll be wrapping up its first arc today or tomorrow. By summer’s end I will be a self published author on Amazon.
There is other news I can’t mention yet, but I’ll fill you in later.
All of this I owe to a lot of people. My parents for one, and others who have helped me along the way. But with all due respect, I don’t think anyone deserves the credit more than Elaine Mahon.
Without her, I don’t know if I ever would’ve made it to Telelink where I met Jess, I doubt I ever would’ve got to the point where I FINALLY started taking my writing seriously. Whether I crash and burn or not, it doesn’t matter – I’m trying. I have a supportive family that are behind me and I’m giving it an honest to God shot.
I work as many hours writing as I do at my full time overnight job.
I believe nothing in my life is completely independent from Elaine’s influence in some way. I know she wouldn’t want me to still be upset, or depressed, or sad in any way about her situation – yet, days like this remind me of just how much I miss her.
Happy Birthday Elaine
If I Saw You In Heaven <- Still as true today as it was back then – Still the hardest entry I’ve ever had to write.