Now What?

Finished book 2! Turned it into the publisher! Am waiting to hear if they liked it! Will probably carve out my intestines if they don’t!

The excitement of the looming deadline had me on a high. Granted, it was a high of nervousness and anxiety, but a high none the less. Somewhere around four or five days out, when I realized I was going to  make the deadline, the world turned golden and sunny, the birds sang in four-part harmony, and the Golden State Warriors became invincible.

OK, obviously not, but it felt great knowing that I was…. what? The Golden State Warriors are currently 20-0? Huh.

Anyway.

Sending the book off on December 1 made the day the greatest day in the history of days since the last greatest day.

And it made December 2 suck.

A wise man or woman once said “A writer writes.” So I, being a writer, need to write. Only one problem. Write what?

After living with book 2 for so long, while also preparing for Doctor Fell and the Playground of Doom to come out this coming August 9 (pre-order your copy on Amazon today!), the idea of starting something new is daunting. Well no, daunting is not the correct word. I am not daunted. I am merely… finicky.

See, I don’t know what to write. I currently have three concepts kicking around in my head and on the computer that have all had pages written. I am not in love with any of them at this moment in time. But then, I was not in love with book 2 for a long time until I pushed myself to get on it (had a deadline and all) and then suddenly everything snapped into place and I fell in love and it came churning out. So any of those three ideas could catch that spark at any time. I also have other, less-formed, less-written ideas dancing in front of my eyeballs. But nothing that is daring me to write it down and bring it to life. There’s also the question of sequels. Will there be a call for a second Dr. Fell? For a second book 2? Should I put my energy into one of them?

And what about my first novel? The one that got me an agent but has yet to sell? Should I go back to it and refine it and get it ready to go?

Or do I spend some time writing some adult horror short stories for a change of pace? I’ve had a bunch published in anthologies over the past couple of years, but they took a backseat when the novels heated up. That being said, I still have a couple that will be published in 2016 and a few others I’m waiting to hear back from. So maybe diving into that world for a bit just to flex my horror muscles would be a good idea?

So many directions I could go, so little magnetic pull toward a final destination. It’s not Writer’s Block, it’s Writer’s Chamber of 32 Doors (bonus points if you get the reference).

And then, of course, there’s the fact that with book 2, I’ve come to the end of my vaunted 2-book deal. Which means if I want to be a professional writer beyond August 2017 (when book 2 is due out), I need to write something new and then SELL it. Or else I’m just a footnote in the annals of history.

I know, I know. Neurotic much?

I’m so glad we’ve had this conversation. I feel much better.

 

If it Weren’t For the Last Minute…

I have four days to deliver my next book to the publisher.

Four days to perfect the final draft of the first draft. Four days before I release my next creation into the harsh wilds of my Excellent Editor and Awesome Agent. Four days to make sure I don’t turn something in that will be a major let down.

No pressure.

Now, I’ve had this deadline (December 1) for about 6 months or so. So it’s not as if this has snuck up on me or anything. Bit now that it is almost here, I find myself gasping for air and trying not to claw my eyes out of my skull in terror.

I have sent this book to my readers and heard back from many (though not all) of them. I have gone through their notes and seen what issues are mentioned repeatedly (a couple), what issues come up once but need to be addressed (a few), what issues come up once but can be ignored (a couple), and what issues come up that are then contradicted by other readers (a couple).

From all of this I have made a list and have begun going through the book, page by page, word by word, chapter by chapter. To make it better. More awesome. Totally sweet.

I’m about 1/3 of the way through, but that was the easy part. Not a lot of notes on the first third because a) none of the really complicated stuff has happened yet and b) I’ve probably written and rewritten that section twice as much as any other section, so it’s pretty tight. But now I’m in the second section, and things start to get complicated and difficult and I need to take my time and make sure everything fits and that it still works and that it doesn’t suck.

There’s a lot to do (so much that I wonder why I’m taking the time to write this blog entry), and it will get done and it will be better and it will kick ass and so on. But the next four days are gonna be one massive tension sandwich.

Yummy!

Should anyone find me wandering alone by the side of the road muttering softly to myself, please be kind and toss me a strip of bacon or perhaps a handful of pudding. You will be doing humanity a favor.

How Long Should It Be?

I’m overly-anxious about my length.

Having finished the rougher-than-rough first draft of Untitled Novel, I am now in the process of editing it into an actual first draft. My ‘so rough it’s an insult to rough drafts’ draft clocked in at a hair over 70,000 words. To anyone who is not a writer, that means nothing. To me, not that long ago, it meant nothing. Who cares about words? Books are measured in pages, aren’t they?

No, they’re not.

See, the size and style of your font effects a page count as much as anything else. Same with margins and spacing and all sorts of seemingly-unimportant things. I can tell you that my initial ‘you’re not actually calling this a finished draft, are you?’ draft ran 221 pages. But that tells you nothing about how long it is. I could be using size-48 font. I could be double spacing the manuscript. My margins could be three inches on either side. So we writers live by the word count.

How long is 70,000 words? Well, the only comparison I can do is with the Percy Jackson novels. Someone once showed me this fantastic site that listed the page counts of gazillions of books, but I lost the URL and can’t find it. And I only remember looking up the Percy Jackson novels. (If you know the site I’m talking about, please leave the URL in a comment!)

The first Percy Jackson novel (The Lightning Thief) was about 87,000 words. His second series, starting with The Lost Hero, are all around 140,000 words or more. Most publishers will not publish a middle grade or YA novel above 100,000 words, unless you are Rick Riordan (the author of the Percy Jackson series) or J.K. Rowling.

My book, Doctor Fell and the Playground of Doom (coming to a bookstore near you in August, 2016!) clocks in at around 45,000 words. Excellent Editor has requested I bring this current book in at no more than 55,000 words. As I noted earlier, the ‘rougher than sandpaper’ draft started life at just over 70,000.

So I’ve a ways to go.

The first step, which I’m doing now, is to just go through and nip and tuck, like I’m a plastic surgeon constructing the perfect whatever you want your plastic surgeon to construct. Right now, the book’s dropped 2,000 words and I’ve more than half of it to go. But what do I do if I complete this edit and find the book glaring at me with an overweight 65,000 words? I can’t just say the book is big boned and leave it at that. It needs to go on a crash diet.

That’s when you start negotiating with yourself.

“Alright, I’ll lose this cute little bit here but I get to keep the funny thing in the next chapter. Deal?”

Excellent Editor tells me not to worry. If it’s long, let it be long. But, do try to cut it down to 55,000. Or less. Less is good. It is aimed (I hope) at kids ages 8-12. How many words will they endure before they get bored and refuse to even give the book a try? That’s the delicate balance I’m striving for.

God help me.

My First Big-Time Marketing Lunch

On Friday, I had a meeting I’d been looking forward to for weeks–my first totally-professional, big-time, check-me-out marketing lunch with Awesome Agent and Excellent Editor. But in truth, I’ve been looking forward to it all my life.

I’ve probably imagined having The Lunch with The People in The Business hundreds of times. The details change, but the gist is always the same. I walk in, am quickly ushered to the best table by fawning waiters who are throwing rose petals in my path, and sit down to a gold-plated table topped with fine china and crystal goblets–one of which I’m asked to quickly toss to the ground and shatter in order to honor the wait staff. Rather than menus, a series of small boys take turns reciting item by item the food I am to be offered. I indicate anything I dislike by cracking an egg over the head of the small boy who offered it to me.

The People with whom I am dining all grovel for my attention, sometimes devolving into mini-sword fights with the utensils for the right to speak to me. Anyone inadvertently killed via fork or spoon is dragged away, so that I am not inconvenienced by the sight of blood. The food arrives on the backs of Tibetan Sherpas, and we get down to business–The People reveal their marketing plan for my book. It involves a world-wide tour incorporating paparazzi, lavish meals, and a guest spot on Game of Thrones. I approve their ideas and head home, satisfied that I have finally been taken seriously as an author.

Turns out, I got a few details wrong.

I met up with Awesome Agent and Excellent Editor at a nice restaurant, we ordered food from printed menus rather than the vocal stylings of small boys, and I got the basic low-down of what the publisher handles (contacting reviewers, media, booksellers, and so on) and what the author handles (everything else). So I have a to-do list.

  • Build a new website
  • Start using Twitter
  • Post on Facebook more often
  • Develop a School Visit plan
  • Make connections with anyone and everyone you can
  • Be ready to cold-call hundreds of libraries and schools and book stores
  • Do whatever it takes to have, like, 100,000 followers before the book is published in August

So I’ve got some work to do. But having that first meeting was really cool.

And I’m on Twitter! Follow me! @MrDavidNeilsen

I promise to Tweet.

Writing is Re-writing

With the rough draft of Untitled Second Middle-Grade Novel complete, I now turn my attention to the monumental task of editing.

The thing with this particular book is that it has been a far more difficult project than the first book. Because it far more complicated. Because I’m a glutton for punishment. And besides, I’m already losing my hair, so my tearing it out in frustration won’t do much more than speed me along the path I’m already on.

Somebody smart somewhere once said writing is re-writing. And if they didn’t, then I’m saying it and want full credit. My completed rough draft began life at just over 70,000 words, with multiple narrators and shifting motives and things I’d added at the end that I hadn’t thought to set up in the beginning and character arcs that switched gears somewhere in the midst of Act 2.

So there’s some work to be done.

On top of all that is the need to go and make it ‘more goofy’ since this is for Middle Grade (generally ages 8-12) and some of what goes on in the story is a little dark. But when things are goofy, you can be a dark as you like!

I also need to add that ‘David Neilsen’ flair that I’m told I’m going to have to have if I want to build a brand.

So there’s a lot to add. And then I have to also cut around 15,000 words. So… add stuff, but cut words.

I’ll be bald in no time.

***

The war against the walleye continues, and I’m sorry to say that casualties are growing in both number and ferocity. Just last week, Igor Schmidington was lost to us when a pack of aquatic evil devoured him until there was nothing left but his artificial leg. You will be missed, Igor.

NEVER SURRENDER!

(the scourge of the seas)

On the Writing Road Again

Not that I’m travelling, just can’t get the song out of my head.

I’m burning the candles to get through my second book (well, third, but second that will be published). This has been harder than any of the others, but I can see light at the end of the tunnel. I’m finally in the third act.

Finishing the second act felt great, but then the third act punched me in the face and I was on the ground in tears (manly tears!). But today I am all smiles. Yesterday, I sat down with my third act and outlined the living $#%& out of it. Chapter by chapter. No more mister nice guy. It was some serious tough love, but when the day was over, I stood standing over a fully-outlined third act that didn’t suck.

Today I took that outline for a test drive, writing the first of eight final chapters. Imagine my surprise when I completed the chapter exactly where I had hoped, and it was neither way too short nor a billion pages long. It was just fight. The Goldilocks of chapters. And now I feel the juices flowing. Departed on the next chapter, and it felt good, too. Real good. Like ‘dang! I’m a writer!’ good.

So consider this an official countdown. Seven chapters to go until the first rough draft is complete.

Then the rewrites begin…

My First Official Celebrity Blurb!

I’m writing a book.

Actually, I’ve written a book. A couple of books, in fact. But one’s being published. I’m very excited, it’s kind of a big deal for me. See, back in April, I sold my Middle Grade Horror novel, Dr. Fell and the Playground of Doom, to Crown Books for Young Readers, a division of Random House. I did a few flips on the bed in celebration and only hurt myself a little bit.

The book comes out this coming August–10 months from now. I have gone through the whole editing process, dealt with getting an illustrator, written an acknowledgment and a dedication, the whole nine yards. Not long ago, I received a box of Advanced Reader Copies (ARCs to those of us ‘in the industry’) and did a double-take when I saw a quote by a genuine, New York Times Best-Selling Author on the cover of my book, meaning a book that was written by me, saying my book was awesome.

The kind, kind, wonderful author who bothered to read my book and then tell my publisher it was great is Chris Grabenstein. You may recognize his name from his bestsellers Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library or The Island of Dr. Libris. Or from his best-selling middle grade collaborations with James Patterson such as I, Funny, Treasure Hunters, or House of Robots.

He’s da bomb in Middle Grade fiction. And he said, “Such deliciously creepy fun! I fell in love with Dr. Fell! So will urchins and whippersnappers everywhere.”

I haven’t figured out why the third sentence is only a period and not an exclamation point, but I’m trying not to sweat it.