Stayed tuned to this page to follow developments involving Whelan, Larsen, Stensen, Kirkland, Thomas, Almeida…and Christie, Levell, McCoy, Maksym, Federov and others in the Sleeping Dogs trilogy.
I took a break from writing/editing/revising last week. It was time for a break. Writing is a profession, like practicing medicine or law. It requires your full attention. The myth that writers sleep till noon then tickle the computer keyboard for a couple of hours in their pajamas before enjoying cocktail hour is just that. A myth. Physicians and attorneys, like everyone else, take a break from the daily grind too.
I had just finished several editing and revising efforts on Sleeping Dogs over several weeks. So, last week was a good time to tune out the Muse and do something else. I was engaged by ULI-The Urban Land Institute to teach a one-day program on land development with my business partner, Dave Farmer. The site of the course was Washington, D.C. That gave me a great opportunity to have dinner with my old friend Jeris White. Yes, the same Jeris White that struck fear in the hearts of QBs all over the NFL. He was an outstanding cover corner and won Super Bowl XVII with the Redskins.
We always have dinner when I'm in D.C. We would meet either at Kinkead's or Acadiana. Unfortunately, Kinkead's has closed. Hard to figure - it was always packed (with notables) and the food was incomparable. But having to meet at Acadiana is equally as enjoyable.
Now the week is over and I'm back at the word processor pounding my way through the next revision. I believe I'm close to having the product I want, and looking forward to publishing it soon.
The late John Lennon noted that life is what happens to us while we're busy doing other things. One of the truisms of the writing life is that writing is something that has to be squeezed in around the other demands in the writer's life. At least until the writer becomes successful enough to quit the proverbial day job and focus primarily on his or her craft. Most of us, if not all, have commitments and responsibilities in addition to our consuming desire to write. Things like paying bills and earning the funds to pay those bills, or spending meaningful time with our main squeeze, kids, other family members and friends, or maintaining our homes, shopping for groceries and other necessities, and participating in our communities as responsible citizens. For most of us, these things pretty much fill up our days - including weekends - and much of our evenings too.
The challenge for those who have yet to reach the level where our literary efforts are financially viable, is how and where to find time to write on a consistent basis. There is no universal, or one-size-fits-all, solution. Many writers choose to rise early in the morning before the demands of the day are imposed upon them. This might mean 5a.m. or earlier. Many successful writers occupy their morning hours with their writing efforts. But this is not an absolute. Some writers don't hear their Muse until later in the day or evening when they've cleared everything else out of the way. This, for example, seems to work best for me. The point is it's your schedule, your menu of daily demands, and your Muse.
Another question is how often should you write. Should you compose parts of your current novel very single day? Some writers probably do, but that seems unrealistic. There will be days when the juices just aren't flowing or something else presents a greater demand for your time or you don't want to write because you're on vacation or otherwise taking a break from the grind. But the biggest challenging to working on your next novel is the endless editing and rewriting required of the novel you've completed but which isn't ready yet for publishing. Granted, rewriting is a form of creative writing, but it isn't the same as creating a story out of whole cloth. And if you don't go through this process of tightening and improving your manuscript, your chances of finding a market for it are slim at best. Why waste your time writing novels if you're not going to try to earn a return on those efforts?
The bottom line is: it's tough to find time to work consistently on creating a new manuscript - even for financially successful writers. But don't get discouraged. Things always seem to take longer than you originally thought they would. But stick with it. Ultimately it's personally satisfying. And, besides, that Muse won't shut up anyway.
I just completed the second full run through of Caitlin's edits. Along the way I made pages of notes plus margin comments. While I rewrote the manuscript several times before Caitlin's edits, I realize I'm facing the most substantial rewriting of the document since the first draft. It'll be a tighter, faster paced thriller, but the question I can't answer is: how much time will this require? There are so many things on my plate right now that I'm itching to get to, but will have to take a back seat to the rewrite.
In order to broaden the market, I want to explore creating an audio book of the novel. And look into having it translated into other languages such as German and Spanish. Then there's the whole social media thing. I'm using Twitter and FaceBook, but not as effectively as I'd like. And not to be overlooked, there are two more books to be written in this trilogy. Plus, The Quixotics needs a solid edit/rewrite effort. And somewhere along the line, when I'm satisfied with The Awakening, I want to approach literary agents. But that should be preceded by research to determine which agents specialize in the techno-political thriller genre.
Oh yeah, then there's all the work the Falbey Institute for Real Estate Development website needs along with the products offered there (via Amazon).
And last, but certainly not least, there's the real source of income, the "Day Job". My business partner and I have more than a half dozen real estate deals we're working full bore. They're all major transactions and each is as important as the others. It's kind of like the Chinese juggler with 6 or 7 plates spinning simultaneously on top of those skinny sticks.
I think this is what the American economy has become in the past decade. People are involved in any number of endeavors trying to gross up their incomes. I don't see that changing anytime soon.
My freelance editor, Caitlin Alexander, sent me the complete edited manuscript on September 14. I've been buried in my review of it since then - except for the usual distractions, like my day job, family medical issues, paying bills, training routines, etc.
The edits are staggering in both volume and complexity. I've been working on the edited manuscript for a couple of weeks now, and am not quite 70% of the way through it. And that's just the first run; more about that below.
Caitlin did both a line edit and a development edit. Her line edits are prolific and for the most part make good sense and enhance the book. In this regard, she also pared the manuscript down. I knew it needed to be tightened up and am glad to see it. The line edits have prompted me to change some words (use more powerful verbs for example) in numerous places, but also led to a lot of rewriting and shifting around of some passages.
And that was the easy part. The developmental edit plunges into the guts of the novel. This is where the serious rewriting comes into play. Any inconsistencies, lapses in credibility, didacticism, shallow characterizations, clichéd scenes or characters, and more, are called into play. I'm in agreement with many of her comments, but disagree strongly in some instances because I believe they either exemplify my "voice", or I suspect she may not have had a good handle on who the target audience is. (For the record, it's solid citizens in red states, not sippers of skinny caramel lattes in Manhattan's Financial District. Sorry Starbucks.) The point is that this part of the editing is so comprehensive and requires so much reworking, that I'm not going to attempt it until I've finished reviewing her edits throughout the manuscript. To do otherwise is an invitation to build in inconsistencies or muddle the plot line.
Anyway, there's a lot of work to do ahead. After finishing the run through Caitlin's edits, I must go back over the areas where revisions - major and minor are necessary, then discuss those revisions with her. The goal is to craft a tight and taut action thriller that literary agents and publishers in the genre will find attractive. In that regard, I believe Caitlin's efforts are crucial.
On a different topic: I've ramped up my training routine. I'm biking and swimming four days a week - two of the rides are on the road and two on the trainer. I run and lift on the other three days. I'm also riding with faster people now and it's helping me get my average back to 20 mph and above. The prospect of getting back into triathlon competition has crossed my mind.
So where the heck have I been since July 18? It's true I've been busy with some interesting and complicated real estate deals. Plus, my youngest son, Ryan, had brain surgery (he seems to be recovering nicely) and that trumped everything. Then there was there was the annual Tour of Sebring, one of my favorite multi-day bicycle events. But the real problem was my screwing up the posting procedure. There were posts since July 12, but they never made it to the website. Mea Culpa.
In the meantime, I received some of the edited manuscript from Caitlin Alexander - chapters 1 through 8. She's working on the balance, but I think getting just a few chapters at first was a good event. There is so much to review, think about, and act on; plus, some of it I haven't figured out yet. I've waded through one chapter so far. It's a mass of deletions, changes, suggestions and…lessons. It's interesting to see what an experienced editor likes and doesn't like in another writer's efforts. There clearly are some changes or suggestions I don't agree with. It could be that it's Caitlin's female perspective versus my hard-ass male view of life. I hope to get through the remaining seven chapters today and tomorrow. Depends on the real estate deals, Ryan's situation, prepping for a ULI class I'm co-teaching with my business partner, and all of life's other vicissitudes including a writing class that's scheduled to start tonight. Yes, published writers should continue to study and polish their craft.
Good thing I don't have an ego tied up in my writing. I think I'm a good wordsmith and have a creative mind and can hold my own with the thriller writers who dominate sales today. But when a professional, experienced editor takes the red pencil to it, it does open your eyes. I can't help wondering if all of the best-selling thriller writers go through the same thing. Or does their volume of sales and popularity among readers intimidate editors? Supposedly, Lee Child - one of my favorite thriller writers, does a single draft. Hmmm?
UPDATE: I mentioned in previous postings that I was thinking about hiring a professional editor to work on Sleeping Dogs: The Awakening. I came to the conclusion that it would be a good move if I wanted to have a better chance to get the attention of the publishing industry and/or a literary agent. I also mentioned that I'd researched and found the person I believe is the right editor, Caitlin Alexander. We signed an agreement, and she will be working on the manuscript over the next week or two. She expects to get it back to me during the week of August 26. Yikes! That's just around the corner.
I wouldn't describe my feelings as nervous or apprehensive about the changes she may suggest. I fully expect a lot of input. It's the amount of time that will be involved in the rewrite. At the moment, there are two major real estate transactions underway, a new ULI course to develop and present in November, home renovations in progress, and the second book in the Sleeping Dogs trilogy in the first draft stage. But it seems a better idea to pause in the writing of that sequel until I've had an opportunity to see what suggestions Caitlin has. To one extent or another, the changes in the first book will affect the content of the second.
Progress! I've been looking for the "right" person to edit my novel Sleeping Dogs: The Awakening. It's the first book in a trilogy of techno-political thrillers that explore and exploit the deep polarization afflicting the U.S. After considerable research, I've found that person, Caitlin Alexander. Caitlin was an editor with Random House for 11 years. During that time, she acquired and edited a number of best sellers. Her focus is on works of fiction, including thrillers. And an interesting factoid is that she shares the same name as the wife of my chief protagonist. An omen?
Caitlin sent me her letter of agreement yesterday. Now, I'm busy preparing the manuscript in order to send it to her. She's going to do both a developmental edit as well as a line edit. For those who aren't sure, developmental editing is described at bookeditor.tripod.com as: In fiction, characters and plot are the two main areas where developmental editing will have the most impact. With regard to characters, developmental editing looks at their integrity ("would this character do this?"), their dialog (incredibly important!), and their actions and reactions, to name just a few aspects. With regard to plot, developmental editing takes a look at the flow, the essential story (what the plot is really about), plot twists, pace, suspense, and other aspects. Line editing, as described by Michelle Seaton, is challenging every word in every sentence; looking at each sentence as a unit and checking it for logic, clarity and efficiency. This is done to tighten the work and make it more vivid, to wedge more story into fewer words.
Caitlin will be sending me her edits and suggestions sometime during the week of August 26. Then the real work begins - a total rewrite. So, why am I spending money and enduring the inevitable bruising of my literary ego? Because I believe, have always believed, that I am capable of writing fiction successfully. The reviews received to date on Amazon have been great, but, in order to stimulater interest in agents and publishers, almost all writers need the services of a skilled and experienced editor.
There are at least two schools of thought about writing a novel. One is that anyone can write a book. All you have to do is start typing words. The other theory is that writing (successfully, anyway) requires a talent not everyone has - wordsmithing, parsing, creativity, and a grasp of the components of good novels, and more. I lean toward the second school of thought, but I'm confident that the majority of the population subscribes to the first one.
Regardless, there's more to writing fiction than a fertile imagination, a grasp of how to properly structure sentences, paragraphs, and chapters, and a certain degree of literacy in a specific language. Like every other discipline, it's an endless learning process. In my case, I'm learning new things about the craft of writing every day.
Fortunately, in this very wired world, there are limitless sources available, and I've only scratched the surface. There are writers' groups that meet regularly to discuss developments in the industry and review and edit each other's works. If you can't find one that focuses on your chosen genre, form one.You can start by asking the Community Relations Manager at the nearest Barnes & Noble to put you in contact with local writers. Also, most communities offer adult education courses - online as well as on the ground. Depending on where you are in you development as a professional writer, you may want to participate in more advanced classes, rather than beginning creative writing courses. These are great places to obtain constructive criticism of your efforts. Just don't go in with thin skin or a firm belief in your own literary omniscience.
The 'Net is a great place to find all sorts of information, advice, and leads. There are some very helpful blogs, as well as websites for editors, agents, and publishers, and sites that offer reviews of the editors, agents, and publishers. There are sites that will plug your book to large audiences of readers.
I'm going to try to add a page or two to this site that will provide links to some of the sites that I've found to be helpful.
Writing is tough and tricky. I'm not aware of any commercially or critically successful authors today who simply write a first draft and the agent and publisher accept it as is. The reality is that most writers, myself included, struggle over seemingly countless drafts: editing and rewriting ad nauseam. After this monumental challenge, the story probably still requires additional work from tweaking to major surgery. This is necessary before submitting the novel to an agent or publisher.
This is the domain of the freelance editor. The most challenging issue for the writer is choosing the "right" editor. I won't go into all the do's and don'ts involved in the process along with the myriad scams and pitfalls. There are innumerable blogs and other materials available on the Web - just Google "Freelance Editors". This challenge is compounded by the considerable cost for the services of the editor. Charges are based on the word, the page, or the hour.
Plus, there are different types of editing services from simple grammatical checks to developmental and content editing. Writers who are seeking representation by literary agents or publishers absolutely have to submit first class work; not that that's any guarantee of acceptance. That, of course, makes the (roughly) $5,000 to $15,000 editor's fee even more daunting - after spending the money, there's still no assurance your manuscript will find a representative or publisher.
I've been doing a lot of research on this topic lately. My goal is to vet prospective editors to find one who has a strong and lengthy background in the business, a track record with successful authors, and contacts currently in the industry. Stay tuned; I'll keep you posted on my progress. I'll also try to expand this Website to include information on editors, and later, agents.
I've reached the end of Part 3 in my editing efforts. Only 212 pages to go. I haven't really found much material to cut so far. It still runs about 144,000 words. I did shift some materials from one place to another, and rewrote some parts. At this length, it will be an expensive proposition to engage the services of a freelance editor. One thought I had was to divide the book into two separate books. The first one would still be titled Sleeping Dogs: The Awakening. It would consist of Parts 1 through 3. The second book might be titled Sleeping Dogs: On The Prowl. The materials in Parts 4 and 5 lend themselves to that storyline. The smaller books would be cheaper to print, thus enabling me to lower the purchase prices. It also would be less expensive to engage an editor for Book one. The problem is that Parts 1 through 5 already have been published as one book. It would confuse fans, who might buy the second book only to find out they'd already read it. Sounds like a good way to lose fans. Problems, problems.
Now, some more tips on training for long bike rides. When it comes to training in cycling, there is outdoor training and indoor training, riding alone and riding with others. You should engage in all of them. Outdoor training means riding on the roads. This can be dangerous and the weather can be a factor, especially this time of year for folks in rainy summer climates. NEVER ride outdoors without your helmet. Ride in the countryside if possible, and avoid city traffic. Particularly if you ride alone, ride in the daytime with plenty of light and wear bright colors so the old farts can see you. This won’t prevent them from running over you, but it helps. When you come up to a side street or intersection and traffic is entering, make absolutely certain that you make eye contact with the driver; otherwise, I can almost guarantee they will pull out in front of you - or over you. There are no happy endings for cyclists when that happens. Always carry a spare tube or two; you will flat sooner or later. Also carry a pump or CO2 cartridges and tire tools in your saddlebag so you can fix the flat rather than walk back from 10 miles out. You can get all this stuff at your local bike shop.
Always carry water. You can buy a camelback (and look like a long distance cycling pro) or do what most of us do – carry water bottles in your cages attached to the down tube or behind your seat. You might want to start experimenting with mixtures of water and sports drinks so you have the formula figured out by the time the long ride rolls around. I use a mixture of powdered branch chai amino acids, powdered vitamin C, and powdered whey. Also, try a few of the energy bars to find one you like, and carry 2 of them with you on long rides.