Aiming High

Because of everything I’ve learned about writing in the year since I finished writing it, revising Glass Houses has been more interesting and less tedious than I expected. Leaving it alone for nearly a year helped, too. Hard to say whether the passage of time or my growth as a writer helped more. Both made a difference, but I feel like the experience gained from writing Addicted had the biggest impact.

I’m into my third round of revisions. For the first round, I incorporated changes the editor marked up directly on the manuscript. In places, because I needed to think more about her suggestions, I highlighted the section with a yellow marker then folded the corner of the page down so I could return to it later.  The second round addressed the editor’s notes–a separate document detailing recommendations and suggestions for rearranging, cutting, and/or expanding parts of the manuscript.

With most the editor’s suggestions addressed, I’m reading through a third time, looking for ways to combine more chapters, cut unneeded paragraphs, and otherwise streamline the story. As I go, I’m trying to deal with the highlighted sections I skipped the first time around. After the third round, because the manuscript reads differently on the computer screen than it does on the page, I plan to print a copy and read through the whole thing one more time.

Yesterday I got the overall critique for Addicted back from the freelance editor. She pointed out a few issues–mostly around Thad’s character and the need for more tension between Thad and Josh. She also thinks the book needs a new name. I agree. I picked Addicted for the title before I wrote the first word. The idea behind the title got watered down a lot before the book was finished. If you’ve read it, I’d love to hear your suggestions for a new title.

She asked if I saw Addicted as part of a series. The short answer is yes. In the back of my mind, I’ve thought about a prequel revolving around Uncle Philip’s earlier life. She thinks Ed would be a good main character for a sequel. Food for thought, but not now…I’ve got other things on my mind.

Because it’s a memoir, the challenge to writing Glass Houses was figuring out which incidents to include and then selecting the right words to relate them. Though some who have read it beg to differ, I didn’t have to make anything up. It’s all true. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Addicted started out as a fictionalized account of a part of my life that I glossed over in the memoir. Shortly after I started writing, the story took on a life of its own. It’s informed by my experiences, but is in no way autobiographical or otherwise based on reality.

Every book about how to write a novel says to start with a premise–a what if? statement that sets the stage for the story. Rather than a premise, I wrote Glass Houses because of a promise I made to Aunt Toodles and because I felt that telling my story about coming out and coming to terms with who I was might inspire others. I also started Addicted without any premise–a fact that caused problems before I got too far into the story.

My first book is entirely drawn from my life. The second book started out that way, and anyone who reads Glass Houses will be able to see the similarities. But in the end, it’s a work of fiction. Along the way, I weaned myself from reality and am now ready to create a work of fiction drawn entirely from my imagination.

For the last few weeks, I’ve been thinking about my next book. The working title is The Second Civil War. The story takes place sometime in the not too distant future. The premise: what if the current cultural divide in this country escalated to the point of armed conflict between the two sides?

I see the story revolving around a number of characters, each in different parts of the country and representing various positions within the current culture war.  They don’t know each other, but will eventually come together for the big conflict. The challenge is coming up with characters who are believable, likable, and sympathetic without being caricatures or overly stereotypical.

With my first two books, I sat down and started writing with no idea of where the stories were going. This time around, I want to have more of the story worked out before I start writing it. I’m going to write detailed character profiles and outline the general direction of the story before I write the first chapter. I’m aiming high–it’s going to be epic.

But first I need to finish revising Glass Houses and send it off for several publishers to consider. Then I’ll tackle revisions to Addicted and send it off. By then, I should be ready to start on The Second Civil War, which promises to be the best book I’ve ever written. I’ll keep you posted on my progress right here on…

My Glass House