Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Manuscript Biz

Okay, the doorstop-fantasy isn't done yet, but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, and I believe we are talking weeks now instead of months ...

Here's how it's supposed to work: I get the draft done and shoot it to my collaborator, Michael. He applies himself to it, cuts, adds, fiddles, fixes, and when he is done, sends it back to me. Whereupon I will make one more quick pass, mostly to be sure of continuity, to catch typos or other small glitches, and to revenge-kill some of his darlings as he did mine.

I then ship it to my agent, she casts our novel upon the waters, and in short order, a book company offers us big bucks, with a contract for the next two in the trilogy/dekology ...

That's the theory, anyhow.

Normally, when I finish a novel, either on my own or in collaboration, it's already contracted-for and on a tight deadline. Book is due on Friday, it gets done on Wednesday, and that's the name of that tune. No space to send it around for comments.

This go-round, however, we have a luxury we aren't used to having -- time. No deadline, nobody tapping their foot -- well, unless you count Michael -- and this will allow something that is now and again useful for writers: first readers.

My books never turn out as good as I envisioned them going in. Nature of the beast -- I'm a better writer in my own mind than I am on paper, alas. Even so, I am usually pleased enough to let them out of the house.

Sometimes, there arise questions, the two primary ones of which are these: 1) Did I tell the story I wanted to tell? and, 2) Did I tell it well? If I did those, I'm good.

Readers sometimes spot things that writers -- none of whom are objective about their own work, in my experience -- miss. Things that would bear some attention. I know what I think I said, but sometimes, I didn't say it as clearly as I thought. They are sorry things, words, when it comes to telling a story, but they are what we have.

To help, and because we have time, I am looking for a few first readers. No literary expertise is necessary -- I don't write for critics, but folks who are gonna plunk down their beer money for a book. I'm talking about my draft here, before Michael finishes his. Useful suggestions will be passed along to him, and I'll plug others in when I do the final draft.

Here's what usually determines useful: If half a dozen people all balk at the same sequence, probably it needs to be fixed. If all six of them have different gripes and there is no pattern, then those comments need to be taken on a case-by-case basis. Example: Billy Bob thinks the swordfight scene with the prince is the best sequence since Rob Roy's duel with the fop assassin in that movie. Mary Jane thinks that scene is unspeakably cruel and it made her want to throw up. Whichever one comes closer to what I think will probably get the nod.

There are a few caveats: You need to be somebody I know, either personally, or with some degree of interaction online. I don't want the manuscript going out into the void for general consumption, and that is part of the deal: You get to read it, but not pass it around, and since I'm trusting you on this, I need to know who you are.

You need to be somebody who dips into the science fiction/fantasy genre often enough to be familiar with the basic tropes of such tales. If you think magic and wizards and like that are all totally silly? No point in reading this -- I already know that and I write the stuff anyhow.

What I am looking for is simple: Did the story work for you or not? If so, you needn't expound on it at length, although if there are gems that sparkled, why, I'm always happy to hear about those.

If it doesn't work for you, say so, and why, as best you can. (I fancy that I don't need writing lessons per se, I'm not doing this for Mrs. Cowsar's English IV class, so you can skip the basic grammar and construction stuff -- that's what the copy editor gets paid to do.)

Address the book that is -- no point in telling me that instead of writing a fantasy novel with a steamship dreadnaught set on an alternate world, I should have written one about marines fighting alien invaders in New York City. Doesn't help because I didn't write that one, and I'm not going to toss this one out and do so, either.

Talk as you would about plot, character, setting, whatever strikes you. No holds barred.

Be timely. If you are a slow reader and can't get it read in a month or so, chances are we'll be done and late input won't help. What you'll get is a .RTF doc, which is readable by either Macs, or Wintel machines running MS Word. Read it onscreen or print it out, up to you.

For your efforts, you get our gratitude and a mention in the acknowledgments. Plus you can tell your friends when the book comes out, "Oh that? I read it a year ago. I helped them with it ... "

If you have any interest in this, drop me a note and an email box address, I'll put you on the list, and send the ms when it is done.

I'll warn you first ...


Steve Perry said...

Hey, Folks --

I'm collecting your email addresses in a file, so I won't post responses here. When I get the draft done, I'll stick up a notice and if you are still up for it, we can go from there.

Thanks. So far, the response has been most gratifying.

Steve Perry said...

Thanks again to all those of you who have sent notes offering to read the ms when it's done. I've got your address, and soon as I get close to the end, I'll send you a note regarding the read.

It doesn't take any more to cc somebody on a file than it does to send just one, so if I know you and you indicted interest, I'll ship something your way when I get the draft done.

Boy, a lot of folks seem to be hard up for something to read if they are willing to do this ...

I do appreciate it.