Sunday, April 29, 2012

Possible Change of Plans for "Battle"

My original plan for Battle for the Wastelands was to take it to my Kennesaw writing group's novel enthusiasts after my beta readers are through with it, probably sometime in early June or post-July 4.  I would revise according to their suggestions and then wait until January to submit to the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest.  After all, that's how my friend Alex Hughes got a book deal.

However, I am seriously considering a change of plans.  Right now, steampunk and young-adult dystopian fiction are really popular, and Battle can be credibly described as both.  To publish a book takes around a year or so after acceptance (getting the editing, marketing, etc. set up), so waiting an additional few months on top of however long it takes me to find a publisher (which is not guaranteed) risks "missing my moment" so to speak. 

However, Sean C.W. Korsgaard, the first beta reader to finish Battle (he gave it a very good review) warned the trend might last for years, so it's not "now or never."  He said paranormal romance has only started to slow down years after the success of Twilight and I should make the series as good as possible rather than try to cash in on The Hunger Games

One must remember the study showing how children who waited for two marshmallows when given the choice of one now or two later ended up doing better in life.  I've never participated in that sort of experiment, but I did take a job at The Griffin Daily News, even though it was in a small town far from my friends and I could have signed on for a DeKalb County weekly, because it was in the long run better for my career.

Either way, I won't change my short-term plan.  I'll still wait for comments from my remaining beta readers, revise Battle accordingly, and then submit to the Kennesaw group.  Things will only diverge once I revise based on the Kennesaw recommendations.  The original plan was to sit tight, work on Escape from the Wastelands (the second book) and Son of Grendel (a prequel e-novella), and wait for January.  The new plan would involve looking for agents soon afterward.

I still might end up entering ABNA anyway if I cannot find an agent by January.  Doing well at ABNA will make a manuscript more marketable, after all, and if I don't get an agent due to poor novel quality, ABNA critiques might help me improve the manuscript enough to get one.  Given how agents can get a writer a much better deal than working with a publisher on my own, I'd only try to market the book myself at utmost need.

The Great Purge Complete...

Just finished removing Free Blog Hit Counter from the prior posts on the blog.  Given how there were 328 total and I'd posted relatively few new entries since I started the purge, this took about a month to accomplish.

(To be fair, I had other priorities, like writing "Son of Grendel" and having a social life.  I could have done it last night if I hadn't had a karaoke outing.)

And per Blogger, the number of hits I have as of a few minutes ago is 46,787 since I started the blog in February 2010.  When I purged the last of Free Blog Hit Counter, it said my blog hits totaled 41,000.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Update on My Writing...

Since you're no doubt tired of all my writing posts being called "Productivity Updates," I think I'll come up with a different title for this one.


*Battle for the Wastelands

*Son of Grendel

*"The Past is Ashes"

*"Needs Must"

*Other Wastelands projects

I've had Battle complete for a bit now.  After spending a couple of weeks going over the manuscript, marking changes, and then marathon computer sessions revising it, I've sent it out to some of my friends who've expressed interest in it.  I suggested they have it back to me within a month to six weeks.  Then I'll revise it and get it to my Kennesaw writing group sometime in early July for a complete look-over.  That's why I haven't been blogging as much this month.

(Early comments are positive.  One of my readers, an Iraq vet who has read the first half, said I did a good job handling protagonist Andrew Sutter's transformation from a hunter into a killer of men and my tactics are good.  That's good to hear, considering how I've never served in the military.)

Though I've finished Battle, I've done very little with Escape.  I brainstormed a small scene at a recent work conference, but that's about it.  When I was in elementary school, I read a novel called Turn Homeward, Hannalee about a Georgia mill girl taken prisoner by Union soldiers in the Civil War and sent North.  One of the visuals I can remember close to 20 years later is the protagonist seeing a battle in the distance.  She cannot hear it, but she can see the distant light of the fires and the flashing of the guns.

I've been tinkering with the timeline and military strategies of Escape.  Protagonist Andrew Sutter and his unit won't be part of the initial assault on the old Merrill capital, but I will have them join the fun (if you consider a steampunk Stalingrad fun) later on.  The scene I wrote features the march to the Merrill capital and the first thing they see is the glow from the burning city.

I also wrote a little bit of text for a later Wastelands book featuring Falki Grendelsson brooding at one of his father's monuments.  Odd, writing text for the sixth or seventh book in the series before the second is finished or the first one is sold, but the Muse comes when it does.

Speaking of Falki, I completed the first two chapters of the novella Son of Grendel that I hope to sell alongside Battle.  I actually finished the second chapter first and was up so late completing the first chapter Sunday that I didn't even submit it to my writing group until Monday morning despite the deadline being Sunday.  Hopefully they won't be too upset with me.

Although the basic technology level of this world is Civil War plus or minus, the combat scenes have a tendency to resemble World War I in terms of the importance of defense and artillery and the massive bloodletting.  This isn't problematic--later Civil War battles like Cold Harbor resembled WWI, complete with trench warfare and horrifically bloody frontal assaults.  The "Old World" (read: modern) weapons deployed by Grendel's elite Obsidian Guard should tip the balance back in favor of attackers, especially if their enemies don't have them.  In the first chapter of Son of Grendel this does not happen, but that can be explained away by the number of guardsmen being relatively low and the terrain not being in their favor.  And they do a hell of a lot of damage anyway.

The third chapter of Son of Grendel looks like it'll be fairly short, unless I merge it with the fourth chapter.  Both of them have got a fair bit of material already written.  I  might be able to get this done more quickly than I planned.

Still haven't done much with "The Past Is Ashes," although I could probably finish that one fairly quickly.  I haven't submitted any short fiction anywhere in quite some time.  I've also got the two stories I sold in 2008 but were never published I can send out as well.  I did add the additional material about what exactly the home invaders in "Needs Must" want though.

Over the last few days, I've done a lot of general brainstorming but hadn't had a chance to add the results to my Word documents.  Basically a lot of geography and history for the Wastelands world, general military strategy, etc.  That's something I'll need to set some time aside for.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Productivity Update

Current Projects

-"The Past Is Ashes," which is my story inverting the "Doomed Home Town" trope.

-Battle for the Wastelands

-Son of Grendel

"TPIA" has been critiqued by both of my writing groups.  I'm going to make the last revisions to it and put it in the mail (or e-mail) sometime within the next couple of days.  It's just a matter of doing it and not being distracted by the Internet (I've just joined and on my alternate-history forum, there're a couple arguments brewing about the German Resistance in WWII and on gun control that I tend to get involved in) or chores like ironing.

About Battle, a couple of weekends ago I printed out all 537 pages of the novel.  Thus far I've gone over the first six or so chapters with my pen, mostly cutting surplus words.  I took Good Friday off in hopes of being able to get the whole thing done over the weekend, but that's looking unlikely.  Total word count is around 104,000 words.  If I get it down below 100,000 words, that might make it easier to sell to many genre publishers, but one of my writing friends said Baen, which is a very prestigious market, won't accept anything below 100K.

I guess I'll cross that bridge when I come to it--when this wave of revisions is done, I'll send it to a group of friends who've agreed to take a look at it.  After that, my Kennesaw writing group.  Then I'll let it sit (probably tinkering with it a fair bit) until January, when the 2013 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest opens up.  By the time it gets through all of that, the length and content might be very different.

On Good Friday, I took MARTA to the church I attend in Atlanta and spent a lot of time writing material for Son of Grendel in my notebook.  Most of the material will tie into the end of the story, like how the insurgents' camp is set up and some of Falki Grendelsson's thought processes.  This morning, I added some new material to the first chapter.  Total word-count is just over 6,000 words.

I also elaborated a fair bit on the timeline of the later "Wastelands" novels, in particular the ones that take place after the fall of Grendel.  One of Falki's half-brothers now has something to do, while another is going to end up dead.  The latter is an elaboration on a subplot involving Catalina Merrill that I worked into the third planned book after comments on the first from my writing group.  Sufficient to say, not all will be well in the House of Grendel after the old man dies.  I also tie in some earlier plots involving the woman Grendel wants Falki, his son and heir, to marry.  I also consolidated some planned chapters from Daughter of the Wastelands, an "interquel" starring Catalina Merrill, into the later books in the "main" series.

I've also put a little bit of thought into "Needs Must," my second villain-protagonist story featuring the half-Indian biomedical engineer who lives by the creed of Nietszche.  Some members of my writers' group weren't clear on just what some home invaders wanted to steal and I just had an idea on how to express myself more clearly.