Book Two Is Off to the Editor!

Photo Courtesy of Kate Gardiner via Creative Commons
[Children’s Mariachi]Alert the media—I’m calling this thing done! In my last post I explained what I learned writing the sequel to Tell Me When I’m Dead. Well, since then I’ve received the feedback from my beta readers and have made some final changes to the novel based on their notes. Overall, the comments were positive, which is very encouraging. (There is nothing more fragile than a writer’s ego.) And I can’t wait to share the story with you. But first things first. Now the book must go through a proper edit. The cover design still needs to be completed and the eBook formatting remains to be done.

Speaking of covers, recently I had dinner in Boston with Kevin Asmus, the artist who provided that brilliant image for the first book’s cover. Discovering his work was pure serendipity and fit in perfectly with the book’s theme. This time, I commissioned Kevin to create a new cover for Book Two and I’m confident it’s going to be awesome.

Originally when I wrote Tell Me When I’m Dead, I thought of it as a standalone book. But as I got to the end, it became clear to me that there was a bigger story to tell. The protagonist, Dave Pulaski, was just coming into his own by the end of the story. I needed to allow Dave to find out how and why the plague was unleashed in Tres Marias. And I had to find a way to test him beyond his own limits.

I believe I’ve done that, but as I suspected I am still not done with this guy. So I’m going to write Book Three to finish the story. Yep, what started as a one-off zombie novel is now a trilogy. Who knew? I wonder how often that happens. I mean, when Suzanne Collins began writing The Hunger Games, did she already know it was going to be a trilogy? I have no idea. In my case, I was surprised.

For those of you who read the first book, thank you. I hope Book Two won’t disappoint. As I said, early feedback has been good, so I think you’re in for another roller coaster ride. Stay tuned. Next up, the cover reveal!

What I Learned Finishing My Latest Book

Photo Courtesy of kr3st0 via Creative Commons
[Bilbao Cyberpunk]So where have I been the past few months? Off-world? In a way, yes. I’ve been holed up in my basement finishing the sequel to my zombie novel, Tell Me When I’m Dead. And let me tell you, there is no better feeling than typing that final word and calling it done. Much better than the funk I found myself in last November after NaNoWriMo when I only managed to bang out 25,000 words. Whew! So yesterday I sent a draft to my beta readers—whoo-hoo! After one more revision, I will send the book to my editor. By the time the cover, the editing and the formatting are complete, the book will be published in late summer—just like the last one. Cannot wait, my friends. I think I’ll celebrate by tearing into that Milky Way I’ve been saving.

So here’s the thing. Not only did I finish but I learned some lessons along the way. And I wanted to share those with you. Take them or leave them. I hope they help other writers out there.

Lesson 1—The Book Doesn’t Write Itself
Believe me, I’ve tested that theory. I have gone days without writing. When I get back to my computer, I am still at the same spot. No Microsoft Word fairy is clickety-clacking away while I watch old ‘Fringe’ episodes. This lesson is obvious to most people, but it wasn’t to me. Often, I think I fool myself. “Plenty of time,” I say. Well, guess what, there isn’t plenty of time. Time is finite, and we need to write. Also, I find that when I haven’t been writing for a while, I become irritable. Not good when you have a family.

So here’s a confession. I’ve been writing a long time and, for me, cranking out the words is hard. It’s not writer’s block, mind you. I have more ideas for books than I could ever execute on. No, it’s the actual sitting down and getting the words on paper. It takes me a long time to work things out. In reality, I am writing in my brain. I’ve covered this before—I don’t really outline. I have a general idea of where I need to go. I typically have a beginning, a middle and an end. But the twists and turns that make the story fun are what take me the longest to work out. And that takes time.

Lesson 2—Burst of Creativity Is a Myth
At least for me. It’s not the sprint to the finish line that gets the book written. It’s the slow and steady thing. Sitting down every day and writing something. Even if I haven’t worked it all out, I’ve found that if I just get on with it, sooner or later it comes together. Now, I can hear some of you chortling out there. “Well, if you had written an outline, you wouldn’t have this problem.” Guess what. I tried outlining years ago and here is what I found—I don’t stick to it. The thing seems so rote to me. When I get to actually writing scenes based on it, I find I hate it and I veer off in completely different directions. So, I might as well do that to begin with. Why waste weeks—or months—writing an outline when I could just write the damned novel?

There is a downside. Sometimes when I write forward to get to the next part of the story, I find that things have indeed taken a different turn—or have become more clear in my mind, necessitating a visit to earlier chapters where I must revise in order to match what happens later. But that’s okay. I’ll take that small inconvenience any day. Unless I’ve gone completely off the rails later in the book, I’ve found that the revisions are usually very minor and only require rewriting a paragraph or two, or adding a scene.

Lesson 3—Social Media Is a Sinkhole
There, I said it. If I had kept up with my normal schedule of blog posts and tweets, I would still be sitting here staring at my unfinished book, instead of writing this happy post. And I really felt guilty about it—at first. But somewhere along the way I came to the conclusion that I must finish the book. Nothing stood in my way. Okay, let me amend that. For me, there is nothing more important than family. There are lots of stories about famous writers who had horrible home lives because of their devotion to “the craft.” I don’t roll that way. Yes, I need to write but not at the expense of my family. My girls are growing up fast, and I don’t want to be lying in some retirement home someday with a bagful of regrets.

So, there you go. I’ll leave you with one small data point. Although I was virtually absent from the social media scene, the number of people following me has grown. Go figure. This makes me wonder if people even noticed I was gone! Actually, I don’t want to think too much about that, or I will start getting self-conscious. Then I’ll bring on a monster case of writer’s block for reals.

Now, check out Jerry Seinfeld. This, folks, is the writing process.

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