Progress Report

I’m sorry to have gone dark the whole summer but I was busy. We’re building a house, my dad had heart surgery, we even had a vacation — but mostly, I’ve been working.
With the huge help of star editor Kathryn Johnson I finished the third draft of my novel, retitled it (another post to come on that alone), and got some marketing pitches ready for the amazing grueling AgentFest, a speed-date of three-minute pitches hosted by ThrillerFest in New York City.
ThrillerFest was somewhere between a game change and a Hail Mary for me. I wrote a literary fantasy about globalization, not the most natural fit for a thriller convention, but it worked.
As a science-fiction fan, I know and respect genre writing, for the devotion of its fans and for the energy of its writers. It makes for a powerful combination. Genre is the farm-team of literature, where what the literary-minded will read in a decade is going on right-right-now. See Cormac McCarthy for Westerns, Neil Gaiman for fantasy, William Gibson for increasingly less fictional fiction, just to name three. (We already live in Philip K Dick’s world, of course.)
I also engaged the publishing world on its own tough terms and not in some fantasy of gilt-edged pages and brandy. You get that later but only if you get yourself out now. Agents have narrow specializations but they are not capillaries; if they can work a paranormal thriller, they can sometimes work a meta-paranormal-thriller — if it’s worth the reading.
And, I learned my book was still too long. I had already trimmed a lot of fat and rearranging the chapters got rid of some scaffolding. But the writers who generously shared their time, both at and away from the lectern — big thanks especially to Steven James — made it clear that publishing can be as brutal about size, as modeling. There’s no one piece of writing in my novel I valued more than getting published.
For the last six weeks of summer I cut a minimum of thirty words a page. It added up to 19,000 words.
Sometimes it was easy, albeit humbling. A robot needs to know that opening the door requires turning the knob first, but a person doesn’t. The This of the That became the That’s This more than I care to admit. Sometimes there was just some fine metaphor that alas wouldn’t get a character to the next moment worth tweeting. Once in a lucky while, I found some bits that were still confused or plot-holed, and the work was no longer shaving but sculpting.
It’s done now, and another post will detail the surprising post-partum depression behind those three words. Of course it won’t be “done” til it’s on a shelf or an e-reader following a transfer of funds, but I’m now finally at the point where the only reason agents won’t like it is because they don’t think they can sell it.
For the next month I am finally making this blog into a thing of substance, and sending out a whole lot of queries. Wish me luck and come back tomorrow!

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