Thoughts on 31

Today is my birthday and I think it’s a good chance for me to look back at what I’ve done in the past year.  My efforts have been to reach my true goal, getting my novels published on a steady schedule, one where I can write full-time.

The first major thing was that I finished the first full draft of Mind & Machine.  I’d written a very similar novel in 1997-1998 with very similar characters, but Mind & Machine has a greater strength of substance, one that my current edit should improve greatly.  Having studied the Christopher Nolan film Inception to a great extent since then (it came out days after my birthday last year), I have emotional cues I plan on hitting harder while I edit, especially the last scene of the novel.

In early September, I took a trip to Dragon*Con, hoping to make contact with some agents.  It was a good trip and I learned a great deal about publishing.  I met several contacts, two of whom, Clare and Mike, I’m still in frequent contact with.  During this same trip, I spoke with Brandon Sanderson for a few moments.  I asked him how long it took to get from working on novels to actually having one published.  Since, as writers, we are creative far longer than we professionally pursue our goals, we had to define my question a little more, going from the moment when Sanderson said to himself that he could really try to write professionally.  From there, it took him five years (and twelve novels written) before Elantris was published.

Not long after that, I was contacted by my best friend, Dan, who wanted to start a podcast discussing things we enjoy, such as comic books and movies.  From that discussion formed Reality Check Fail, which, I think, had done quite well.  I have fun with it and it’s something else that’s shown me the way of media using internet resources.

In November, I used NaNoWriMo to blast through most of the second Golden Hollow book, Dual Identities.  Since I’d finished Mind & Machine a few months before and tried making a regular critique group with Mike and Clare, I wanted to get a lot of progress on the new project.  In fact, because of this, around 6PM on December 31, 2010, I was able to make the claim that I’d started the year with one book finished and ended it saying I had a trio of books with at least one draft.  That, I think, was a major accomplishment.

Even though we didn’t form a true critique group, getting some feedback from Mike and Clare helped me discover two important things I needed to work on with my writing.  One was my tendency to use passive voice.  It’s a big issue, but I found a nice resource to help me locate uses of passive voice, which strengthens my writing considerably.  The second element I found was that I need more distinctive description, which is to say I just need to describe a few things better than I currently do.  With those tools in my writing arsenal, I’m not much better equipped to take on the world of publishing.

My confidence rose even higher when I heard that Kerlak Publishing was going to release a sequel to their steampunk anthology, Dreams of Steam.  Having read the original book, I felt confident I could write a story to include in the anthology and did so.  In fact, on July 3, I learned that my story for Dreams of Steam II: Of Brass and Bolts would include my story “Dreams of Freedom.”  This is my first published credit.

In April, I attended the Missouri Writers Conference.  Last year, I was able to get two agent contacts and submitted Vitamin F to both.  One rejected it right away, even with two agent referrals; a true act of same-day service.  The other, Kristin Nelson, responded to me saying, “the writing isn’t quite ready.”  This year, I met Ms. Nelson again, offering her Mind & Machine.  She responded once more with a rejection, this time saying she didn’t fall in love with the story the way she wanted to.  If nothing else, this proves that my new editing method works.  As Nelson said at the Conference, “you will not be at the same level of writing a year from now or six months from now.”  Even though she’s a tough agent to appeal to, she’s actually good at positive reinforcement and I’m grateful for my encounters with her.

In short, I’m still working my way through many things.  I’m working on Tesseract a lot these days and trying to get Mind & Machine out there so it can be seen by more people.  I’m making new contacts all the time through twitter and discussions with Mike and Clare.  Reality Check Fail continues to improve and I think we’re discovering more of what we can do with it.  And I’m getting published.  It’s a short story, but it’s a start.


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