I have a very busy week ahead of me. With phase two of The Pioneer complete and the Pitch Wars submission deadline fast approaching, I’m going to have a lot on my plate. That and a bit of traveling will make this a hectic week for me, but I feel up to the challenge, and I’ve found in the past that sometimes a change of scenery can do wonders for my writing. Without further ado, here’s what I have planned for the week ahead:
It’s been a very long time since my debut novel has received first billing in one of these posts, but with the Pitch Wars deadline looming, here it is.
While I’d originally planned to make a few changes to the manuscript (some of them major), at this point I don’t have time to completely write out the new passages with time to revise. While I may still decided to write the new passages, most likely they will not be included in the copy of the manuscript I’ll be sending off to Pitch Wars. That is regrettable, but the process of seeking publication will likely be a lengthy one, so there will be time to make further changes further down the road.
The important thing here, I keep reminding myself, is that this is the first step. While obviously I would be thrilled to be picked up by a mentor, and further elated if I managed to land an agent, I believe the chances of either of those outcomes to be remote. More than anything, I’m viewing this as a learning experience: a chance to receive feedback from individuals with publishing experience, which I can use to refine my query and manuscript for the long road ahead. This is a starting point, not the end. And it’s the first chance I’ll have to put my work out there for people I’m not personally acquainted with.
Given the time constraints, I plan to devote most of my efforts to writing my query letter and synopsis. If I get those done quickly, I may attempt to write out the new passages, and if I can proofread them in time, I may incorporate them into the manuscript prior to submission. But the query and synopsis must be my first priority. If all goes well, by this time next week I’ll have everything ready, and be sitting at my computer preparing to submit. Again, wish me luck.
Owing partly to my focus on Pitch Wars, I plan to alter my usual routine for my WIP slightly. As with the hiatus between phases one and two, I plan to take two weeks, rather than one, before moving on to phase three.
I’ll admit, since completing phase two I’ve found myself increasingly self-conscious regarding the ease with which I’ve progressed thus far. Writing Wide Horizon was fun, but it was a slog at times; after all, I took the better part of two years to write the first draft. At this point, barring any unforeseen roadblocks, I’m on pace to wrap up The Pioneer early next year, perhaps even sooner. This has left me worrying about the quality of what I’m putting to paper.
As such, I’ve begun an initial read-through of the story so far, and I have to say my concerns have been largely alleviated. I’ve already noted several areas that could use work (extensive work in some cases), but overall I’m pleased with what I have. The more I reflect, the more I’ve come to feel that, perhaps, I’ve got it backwards: I had assumed writing this story would be harder than writing Wide Horizon due to the research and acceptable science. Instead, I find myself enjoying this story because of the science. Among other things…
As I’ve said (many, many times), Wide Horizon was a very different story. While I’d generally viewed the differences superficially, the fact is that most good modern novels are built not around the science, but the characters. Wide Horizon wasn’t just a work of soft sci-fi; it was a space opera, with characters and dialogue made to be intentionally dramatic. It had a lot of long-winded speeches by characters, not to mention the exaggerated villainy of the antagonists and heroism of the main characters.
The fact of the matter is, most people who know me would note I’m not generally an overly dramatic person (I’m an engineer, for God’s sake). As such, looking back I hadn’t realized just how much effort it took to write something so over-the-top. Upon reflection, I’ve come to realize that part of what makes The Pioneer both easier and more enjoyable is its simplicity. It’s believable. The characters aren’t gods or devils, they’re simply human. And though they live in a world we could only imagine, because everything’s rooted in accepted science, and takes place within a conceivable framework, it’s relatable. There are many competing agendas in The Pioneer, but no ostentatious villains twirling their proverbial mustaches. There is romance, but rather than a zany sci-fi melodrama the romantic subplot is simply a relationship between two ordinary people, built not on intrigue but the simple ups and downs we all experience when in love.
This story isn’t about a fairytale; it’s about life. And I like to think that its value, ultimately, lies in the implication that even as we march off into the stars, we will still have the same daily struggles. In the end, we will take our humanity with us, for better or for worse.
And that revelation has only deepened my love for this new novel.
A few minor things going on here. First, Going Dark was rejected by Fantasy & Science Fiction. This was mildly disheartening, but only mildly the more I’ve thought about it. I’ve submitted to F&SF before, and it’s one of my favorite submission targets because generally the editor, C.C. Findlay, replies personally, and offers a bit of feedback. In this case, he noted that while he liked the hook, he passed on the overall narrative. This, however, made sense the more I thought about it: I’ve submitted several stories to him since I began writing, and I’ve found that he tends to respond more positively to stories heavy on action with rich character development. Going Dark, on the other hand, is a sci-fi horror story, very much a psychological thriller. While there is action, the strength of the story comes from the persistent, nagging implication that everything that’s happening may just be in the main character’s head, and character development is intentionally kept to a minimum so as to further instill a sense of terror.
I’ve heard enough good things about this story to know that it’s a quality piece. In retrospect, I should have assumed it would be a poor fit for F&SF, but you miss all the shots not taken. The editor at Pseudopod gave me the best feedback I’ve received on the story so far, and had urged me to submit to their sister publication, Escape Pod. Escape Pod is currently closed to submissions. When they reopen on September 16, I plan to submit immediately. Here we go again.
Beyond that, with my efforts regarding my novels mostly limited to non-active writing pursuits, I hope to work on a few promising short fiction projects of long standing. And I believe I’ve chosen a good story to post here next month. On a side note, thanks to Z Publishing picking up Presence for publication in an upcoming anthology, I was able to add a publication note to my short story cover letter.
That should do it for now, dreamers. Busy week ahead, but I’m looking forward to taking this important first step toward publishing my novel. Keep reading, and as always, dare to dream.