On being the last one to know

So, yeah, I’ve been playing with a little bit of a new look to the site.


It is cliché to say that a writer is often the last person to know what it is that they’ve actually written. Sometimes you hear this when a writer says they don’t know if what they’ve done is any good or not, or sometimes it’s said in the vein of “write it first and figure out your genre when it’s done.” And there are other variants.

Like mine.

You see, many years back, I wrote a stand-alone novel. It was (is) a genetic engineering/SF thriller. I’ve always liked the story, but I only very lightly marketed it—looking back on this, my lack of pushing it is almost certainly because I knew it could have been better. I’ve pulled it out and re-written it twice since then, though the first time doesn’t count because my “rewrite” was really just a tweak of a few words here and there. I didn’t know better at the time (probably because I didn’t actually know HOW to rewrite things). But the second re-write got the story to where I thought I wanted it. I sent it to some markets, and it sat on a single editor’s desk for way too long, and then a second editor never responded either, and I grew weary of dealing with the manuscript, so I did the worst thing ever with it.

I got busy doing other things and just left it to sit there among the virtual dust bunnies of my hard drive.

But, when I went full-time, I made this production plan. And in this production plan I slotted a chunk of time dedicated to pulling it out of said moth balls and making something of it. As you might guess from the fact that I’m writing about this story today, I’ve hit that moment of the plan where I am giving it the once-over once again.

I’ve discovered two things.

First, I really do like this book. It’s been long enough ago since the last time I read it that the story is “fresh.” And it makes me all giddy to see that the book moves along pretty well. It’s been oddly fun to read my own work.

Second, I’ve discovered that not only is this book NOT a stand-alone, but it’s actually the ORIGIN STORY for what could be a nearly endless series of intrigues and adventures.

This is really cool, yes, but it’s also really annoying.

I have always (and I mean ALWAYS) seen this story as a one-shot thing, a quick 65K word novel that you can have fun reading in a day or three and that’s it. But it’s not that at all. How could I miss this? And the amazing this in that even though I started work on this pass over a week ago, I didn’t even see the truth of it until this Tuesday. Sheeesh.

Yes, it’s true. Sometimes the writer is the last person to be able to actually see what it is they are writing.


Anyway, once I figured out what I was writing, a lot of things got clearer.

I decided to stop where I was on the rewrite (which was about a third of the way through), and go back to the beginning again. Today I caught up to where I had left off. I’ve added about 4K words to the bulk of the work, heightening the characterization that has suddenly started to jump out at me now that I actually know what I’m doing. It’s like the character is working through me, and I can hear him poking fun at me as we go.

This is how he wanted me to write him in the first place. I can feel that. It’s a great sensation. Really, this sensation is one of the main reasons that being a writer is so remarkably fun.

I don’t know what’s going to happen in the future with this story, of course. I have no idea who will read it or where it will go when I’m done, only that this time it will go somewhere other than the virtual moth balls.

But I feel in some strange way like I’ve saved this character’s life, though I’m willing to bet that he’s the one who’s feeling like he’s saved mine.

He’s like that.

Or, at least he’s going to be like that pretty soon.

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  1. I hear you, Ron. Two years ago, while preparing for major surgery (spinal) and while detoxing from a severe Fentanyl addiction, I wrote my first novel since high school (we won’t talk about those). I wrote the essential 90k words of the eventual 110k word novel in three weeks. Revisions, especially to clean up stiff dialogue, took another five or six months. It’s an Urban Fantasy (no vampires, were anything, or zombies), but my primary interests have always been SF, police procedurals, and any combination thereof. As a result, I considered the book (_Gifts_) a one-shot, standalone idea. The book describes the effect of a forced and irreversible gender change on four very different men, and I was quite pleased with how well the characters grew and changed. All done. Having received a few requests for a print version, I finally put out a Print-on-Demand version (through CreateSpace) last month. I’m lucky to have a brilliant designer for a wife. She handled the interior design and did a bang up job.

    Task done, right?

    Well, uh–not really. See, for the last several months I’ve been thinking about the magic in the book. In order to cause the necessary changes without providing any real option for turning them back. I devised a system of magic that obeys the laws of thermodynamics. Well, partly. I also had to create a politics of the mages to explain their silence in the modern world. So, essentially, I found that I’d told the story of the main characters,but the magic left a lot of open range for turther story-telling.

    So, now, after that whole magic system nagging at me for several months, I’ve set aside the SF hooks I was working on. And I’m working the sequel to _Gifts_, _Talents_. And I already have a third book planned.

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