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Yesterday I popped down to Changing Hands Bookstore for a three-hour writer’s workshop. The topic? Website optimization and internet marketing for authors. This was just what I needed because I very much need to build a platform – the fan base dripping with anticipation of my book coming out. ”Getting published is pointless if there’s no one to buy the book,” said one of the workshop instructors. “It’s like the tree falling in the forest – if there’s no one to hear it, does it make a sound?” That point I understood without explanation. An agent already told me I needed a platform, and her words have been golden.
I felt charged up until the second workshop instructor asked our group, “How many of you are already published?” and about two-thirds raised their hand. “And how many of you have a book being published this year?” Almost all the rest of the hands went up. I felt a pang of intimidation – I’ve only finished my manuscript and don’t even have an agent. All these other folks are real authors.
Then it hit me – hey, these folks are in the same workshop as me. I have the advantage – I’m still at the manuscript stage and am working on building my platform of fans *BEFORE* the book is published. By the time my book does come out, I should be well positioned for success. And, suddenly, I felt all charged up again.
Now all I have to do is convince, oh I don’t know, a hundred thousand people they have to want my book. Yeah, that should be no problem at all.
Tell your friends! Tell your neighbors! Even tell your dog! Over the Hills and Far Away – ask for it today!
Matthew looks at me with his head cocked and dead serious and says, “How did you end up going to boarding school anyway, Dad?”
A chill runs through me. I can still remember my Dad lunging at my older brother, smashing him in the face with a clenched fist and the explosion of red from my brother’s mouth and nose, and Dad snarling, “You’re in enough goddamned trouble as it is!”, my brother immediately launching himself effing and cursing at Dad and chasing him retreating to the other room, and Mom screaming while I cowered in a corner.
Circumstances are very different now, I remind myself. “That,” I say, “is a long story.”
George Lucas said that when he was working on Star Wars he realized his original story was too big to fit in one movie, so he trimmed away what he could and sifted the story down to what became Star Wars (later renamed A New Hope). The rest he put into Empire and Jedi and those other three.
Back in 1996 I wrote a well-received space-based short story. From that came The Peacemakers which I could describe as a sponge of ideas that, in present form, are strung together into what could probably sell to the masses given some publicity. However, I want to do something better.
I returned to the story a couple of years ago and reworked the outline to replace the cardboard with real flesh and bones, resulting in a vastly improved story. Yet no matter how much I changed things around I couldn’t get past some serious contrivance problems. In order for the story to unfold I had to force certain events to happen, and that sucked. I much preferred the scenes where the characters started “doing their own thing” – they pulled the story as opposed to me pushing it.
To help me deal with the issue I began doing a lot of reading and, you know what? I discovered more often than not the story simply bull-dozed to the end leaving me a bit pissed off.
Now that I’ve finished another project, I’ve returned to The Peacemakers and have looked at it carefully to figure out what’s wrong. I kept coming to the same conclusion: too many things happening with too many people too quickly and conveniently; too many notes.
The solution? Cut it down to what I really need, something manageable. Save the rest for back-story or other books. Do what George did! Well, at least as far as breaking up the story into smaller parts. While I happen to like Jar Jar Binks to some degree, I cringe every time I hear “Roger, Roger”. The last thing I want anyone to say of my work is, “you can type this shit but you cannot say it.” I don’t care how much money’s involved. Well, that’s not true – I think if I got a pile of money for what was crap I’d try harder not to produce crap, at least that’s my hope.
Last night while watching “Feast III: The Happy Ending”, I pulled up The Peacemakers outline and started making changes. In just one evening I’ve ended up with three books not just defined but well defined. About a third of the current writing will be thrown out, while the other two thirds will be moved and augmented with new writing to complete the story I want to tell. Looking forward to it.
Reminds me of when my brother and I called in orders of pizza all over Anchorage back around ’75. I dunno how but the last guy we called called us back to confirm the order. Oh crap!
We were short about twenty bucks and ended up hiking from Spenard to downtown Anchorage through deep snowdrifts in freezing temperatures (uphill both ways, no doubt), loaded with a bunch of garage sale crap we hoped would be enough for the pizza guy. He laughed, told us to get lost and slammed the door in our face. So we threw the junk on the sidewalk in front of his restaurant – no way were we going to haul it back with us.
The other day I sat on the couch in the living room and read some notes I’d jotted down for my promotional video. I’d just put some presents under the tree when two of my kids came home, rushed past and dumped their back packs near the dining table. They went to the kitchen to get their snack when suddenly I heard the quick inhale of excitement. “Presents!” exclaimed my daughter soon followed by a gleeful squeal from my son. “Dad! Dad! Can we touch them?” he asked.
“Sure you can,” I replied. The sound of packages being rattled to oohs and ahs and what could this be and I bet I know what that is – gosh, I know what joy means now.