Home > Mike's Blog > March 10, 2011 - Status Updates

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Status Updates

I am constantly asked about the status of my writings, and I realized it's been a long time since I updated things out here. So, here we go, a project by project listing and the status of each:

The Seers:

My novel, which is complete and half revised for the umpteenth time. It's in limbo, and here's why.

I started this novel six years ago. Since then, it's been reviewed by five writing groups, a class, and a (sort-of) book doctor (more on that later). In all of the various eyes on the novel, everyone has weighed in with their opinions. Early on, I took them all, as I was such a novice, surely everyone knew more than me. After a while, I started to be a little more selective of feedback - trying to decide if it fit in with what I was trying to say. Some of the feedback was about changing minor stuff (an occupation of the secondary character) and some of it had major ripples (removing entire subplots).

Things were going great, and then an instructor of a class I had said my writing showed great promise. He had a contact with a major New York publisher, and if I was willing to do the hard revisions in a timely manner, he would be happy to personally walk my novel into the publisher himself. Was I up to the challenge? You bet! Was I willing to make the changes he suggested? Hell yeah!

So I made the changes and resubmitted it, and immediately, the feedback came back: he didn't like the changes I made. "Why did you do THIS?" he asked, as if I was way off. "Because you told me too," I would reply. "Yeah, change it again, but make this other change also."

The ends justified the means, I thought, and I made the changes. But I didn't really feel it. Then the kicker came: my novel was good, but not excellent. It would need to be excellent to go to New York. To be excellent, I'd need the instructor to work closely one-on-one, and for that, the bill was around $2,700.

So that was the end goal. String me along to get me to pay an exorbitant fee. The chance to go to a NY publisher was the carrot dangled in front of me.

The thing was, I learned very long ago the important rule about publishing: Never pay to play. They pay you, not the other way around. Paying for a class or a conference is one thing. But 1) I don't have $2,700 to blow on a book doctor and 2) there's no guarantee I'll get published. So I told him "Thanks but no thanks." I'd take my chances on my own.

But after all that feedback of changing this and changing that, I read the manuscript in its current state. So much of my story has been compromised or changed that it doesn't feel much like my story any more. I still believe in it, and I still am shooting for it to be published, but it feels so Herculean. Besides, I end up having to defend changes I never really agreed with in the first place.

So, hopefully soon, I'll dust it off and return my vision to the story. But for now, it's staying shelved for at least a few weeks.

Pilots of Convenience:

Scott Sigler once tried writing and publishing a story weekly. The story, for anyone who's interested, is "Nocturnal." One of his better stories, he said he'd never do it again, as it was too stressful. Why? Because you can't go back and correct major plot points. You can't rename the main character in Chapter 9 or say "Oh, and he's also got only one arm" in Chapter 20. You're stuck with the writing as it is.

I heard Vince Flynn speak about his writing, and he makes it all up as he goes with no outline. He said, "If it's new to you, it's new to the reader." If you yourself don't know which suspect killed the politician, well, you can't give anything away to the reader, can you?

But I'm a plotter; I have the entire story outlined and detailed prior to writing it. I have to know how it ends before I write it. This story was my attempt to do just the opposite; see if I could write by the seat of my pants with a hard and fast deadline. See if I could pull off what Sigler and Vince Flynn do.

And in that respect, I failed miserably.

What I ended up doing was writing up through about Chapter 8, at which point I realized with the help of some of my friends that I needed to make some changes back at Chapter 1. Most importantly, I realized I can't write by the seat of my pants; I have to go with the outline and stick to it.

Besides, what I have learned while writing "The Seers" is that I don't usually know who the main character really is until the end of the story. Which means I have to write the end, and then go back and rewrite the character the way they really are.

I didn't get a good feel for Dart or Foe until about Chapter 8. Now that I know who they are, I can better make them come alive at the start and pop off the page.

But not to be dismayed; "Pilots of Convenience" will be returning here, where you will be able to read it in its entirety. And when it does, I can promise that 1) it will be better than it is now and 2) the installments will be regular.

I'm going to be taking a cue from the awesome Mr. Sigler (have I already mentioned that you should go over to ScottSigler.com and sign up for his forums for the chance to be killed off in one of his books? And download his FREE audio books! Okay, enough plugs, back to my blog). Where was I? Oh, yeah, taking a cue from Sigler, I'm going to write the whole thing, and then release the chapters in regular intervals - for free.

And unlike "The Seers" where the characters, plot, and setting have changed about a dozen times, Foe and Dart are going to working for the CIA, just as they are now. The basic story will not change much. Some of the details might change, however, just like from the previous revision to the one we have today. Stay tuned; I think it will be fun and interesting to see how things change.

The Short Stories:

2010 was the year I was going to be published. And in way, if you count the St. Petersburg Times, in a way I did get published! Okay, so it was one line, but I'm proud of that one line, and it helped me achieve that goal.

In the mean time, throughout 2010, I had several stories floating around with prospective publishers. It's such a slow process that they spend months in the various stages before getting cut. They're still out there, in other markets, and with new short stories added to the queue to go out. So stay tuned; I'm confident that soon, one will finally get published. I figure if I keep adding more and more stories to the rotation, I'll have better odds, and eventually, one will come up a winner.

This Site:

So last year, I got a job. Then I got two jobs. Then, when you add my writing to the mix, I had three jobs. Add in my responsibilities as a father, and there's four jobs. Time was at a premium, and between the work, home, and novel writing, there wasn't a lot of time left to update the site.

But work has slowed down, and I've cut out a lot of my extracurricular activities (I'm looking at you Call of Duty and Angry Birds), and now I promise to try and update this site more regularly. Yeah, you've probably heard me say that before, but I feel reinvigorated now. Maybe it's spring, or maybe it's the fact that I can't wait for you to see the new version of Pilots of Convenience. But whatever it is, I'm excited and ready to start blogging and publishing stuff out here again.

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