Things have been pretty heavy here on Storyfix lately. A 10-part series on Story Structure that lasted 13 parts. Three ways to do this, five ways to do that. A new ebook. Me learning what HTML means.
If you’re new here, don’t be confused or discouraged. This is a serious writing site, big time. It’s just that today isn’t the day for serious. It’s a day to celebrate the writing life.
Because I just sold a novel. Emailed the publisher my agreement to the last of the contract revisions this morning. I’m pretty excited, this novel was built on an idea hatched in 1979, and it waited until a couple of years ago until I thought I was writer enough for the story.
But a good story waits for no writer. Part of the process is taking on a story that scares the hell out of you.
It was a hard sell. My agent at the time said it was the best thing I’d ever done — this after four critically-acclaimed published novels — but they couldn’t make it happen. Too rich, too scary, too controversial for New York, they said. Try a smaller publisher, they said.
And so I did. I found a guy with a vision and the courage to rock the boat. And so, Whisper of the Seventh Thunder, an apocalyptic thriller that explores the proximity of the goings-on in the Book of Revelation in context to today’s harrowing times, will be released soon, hopefully by year end.
New York doesn’t like thrillers with the word “God” in them. Even if you swear it’s not a religious story, which it isn’t. It’s about people who main and kill and plot to overthrow because of what they believe to be religious. Publishers can’t get past their first impression, both of me and of the market. Dan Brown has been there, done that. Besides, they wanted me to write more stories with hog-tied women on the cover. Which I will someday soon, but for now I have Whisper. And I have Storyfix.
A guy named Kyle Mills, whose father knew Tom Clancy personally and got a blurb out of him for his son’s first novel, the fact of which propelled Kyle to the front of the class, wrote a book in which a serial killer attaches a victim to an I.V. line to prolong the sexual torture he was into. Exquisite detail ensued.
Meanwhile, during that same timeframe, someone in New York decided to put a woman with her hands bound by a scarf on the front of my first novel — not my idea, by the way — and the book ended up being classified as erotica in all the major bookclubs and a few stores. One lady who owned an independent bookstore in Tucson practically threw me bodily out of her store.
Prolonged sadistic torture — yes, she carried Kyle Mills’s book — hey, let’s do it. A little kink, though, and its off to the back room for you.
This may be hard to believe, but the suits who hatch the market strategies for our books don’t always read them.
I just cut the price of my new ebook in half. Sales quadrupled immediately. If my math serves me correctly, I believe we’ve just witnessed the end of the recession. I knew I took Econ 101 for reason.
A few years ago I saw that Royal Caribbean was running a contest: best 150 words on why you like to cruise wins an all-expense paid luxury cruise for four. Being the ex-copy jock that I am, and an avid lover of cruising, I dove in. Cut to a few months later, I get an email. Guess who won? Moi. First place out of 15,000 entries.
Take that, those of you at my old agency who still don’t think I can write ad copy.
Then I read the fine print: “no professionals allowed to enter.” This was just after my fourth novel got a starred review from Publishers Weekly, so I had to fess up. Here’s what’s interesting, though: people came out of the woodwork to suggest ways I could beat the system. To lie. To cheat. Tell them my wife wrote it. Withhold the truth about my profession and hope they didn’t go near a bookstore any time soon.
Many of these well-intended people, I fear, are in politics today.
I fessed up, and of course they took the trip away. As consolation they sent me two bathrobes, two hats and a backpack.
Recently on another website I commented that learning to write a novel or a screenplay by simply starting to write one, without understanding story archecture, was like a pilot trying to learn to fly without ground school, by hopping into the cockpit solo. The wonderful lady who authors that site took issue, claiming that she had documented evidence, supposedly from an aviation expert, that the best way to learn to fly is, in fact, by getting into the cockpit and taking off.
Three words: crash and burn.
My wish for you is that you never buy a ticket on that airline. Or, that you won’t have to read the book that particular pilot writes. No problem there… nobody will.
Another website owner just asked me if I could “dumb down” my stuff. Don’t worry… I won’t. At least not here.
The author photo used in my first book, published in 2000, was taken in 1991. At a booksigning a woman picked up a copy, looked at the picture, looked back up at me, and said, “Holy shit, what the hell happened to you?”
Getting published has been one of the most humbling experiences of my life.
Favorite opening line I’ve written thus far: She was scalding hot heroin dripped slowly into an open wound. Never touched the stuff, to be honest, but I’ll tell you honestly that it was inspired by my wife, who hasn’t either.
Photo credit: xddorox