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Running the Numbers #4

Running The Numbers

It’s that time again! I figured since this is a regular occurrence it deserved a super cheesy lead image. So let’s all give a big warm welcome to our stock photo Running The Numbers™ collage!

I’m going to start breaking my numbers post out by project – just for organization. Newest on the list: my latest manuscript Bell Caravan’s Book 2: Old Broken Road (yay!) Also a new interesting number in Coal Belly, publisher inquires, so far since listing my manuscripts on Publisher’s Marketplace ($20 bucks a month, totally worth it as an indie author.) I have had two indie publisher inquires. Ultimately I didn’t feel like either publisher were the right fit for the manuscript but it was still nice have someone seek my work out. Okay, enough jibber jabber, to the numbers:

Old Broken Road:

  • Word Count: 10,111 (Goal is 90-110k)

The Stars Were Right:

  • [Final] Word Count: 87,937

Coal Belly:

  • [Final] Word Count: 132,570
  • Publisher Inquiries: 2
  • Total Agents Queried: 85
  • Unanswered Queries: 46
  • Query Rejections: 33
  • Partials Requested: 5
  • Outstanding Partials: 1
  • Partials Rejected: 4
  • Fulls Requested: 0
  • Fulls Rejected: 0

It’s weird to think when I started these posts I only had one manuscript I was shopping, now I’m up to two with a third on the way. More updates next time.

The Purge

Launching Writing Career

The new year for me is a good time to reflect on the previous year and refocus, start on the right foot as it were. 2012 was great, I hit a few milestones, I began shopping Coal Belly and I finished The Stars Were Right. Not bad, but it’s time to take this a step further. I have decided that 2013 is going to be a very productive year for me and I have narrowed my focus down to two specific goals:

  1. Really focus on getting published (trying both traditional and self routes.)
  2. Try to finish not one but two manuscripts.

That’s a lot in a year, but I think I can do it. However there’s one distraction that constantly crops up, hence, the purge.

Yesterday I woke up and began to tackle my single greatest time-sink that would prevent me from achieving these two goals – video games. I love ’em, I have a whole blog about ’em (which will probably be going away soon.)

The thing is as much as I enjoy gaming I love writing more. Outside of my day job my time is limited. If I want to make a serious go at writing that’s where I need to put 100% my free time. It’s far to easy to put aside working on my next tale and spend hours upon hours playing games. I caught myself doing it a lot in past weeks and it’s time to stop. If I am going to achieve my goals then I need to redouble my efforts take steps to not distract myself. So sorry video games, you gotta go.

So… as I write this, I’m watching Steam slowly remove a bunch of games from my hard drive and I canceled a few preorders that were sitting out there like time-sink landmines waiting to come along and steal a weekend or two of productivity.

Sort of related: here’s a video Ze Frank posted when he restarted A Show it’s something I find incredible encouraging and anytime I begin a new manuscript or start down a new path I re-watch it. Keep in mind it’s NSFW (language.) Maybe you’ll find it encouraging as well:

How about you? Are you setting goals for yourself? You doing anything to help you achieve those goals? What’s 2013 hold for you?

I draw maps.

Map of Lovat
Detail of the City of Lovat from my manuscript “The Stars Were Right.”

I write speculative fiction, which is the fancy way to say I write books that fit somewhere between sci-fi and fantasy, both of my manuscripts Coal Belly and Stars exists in realities separate from ours. Coal Belly takes place during an industrial revolution on a river covered planet named Vale, Stars exists in a distant furutre where the surface of the earth has changed significantly and strange creatures interact with humanity on a day to day basis. They’re both very detailed settings and in both cases I found that drawing my own maps really helped me with my world building.

I write with Scrivener (an amazing tool, I’ll probably write a post on it at some point in the future) and it has some templates for locations that I find very helpful. However sometimes a document with descriptions isn’t enough. My love of maps and my reliance on them in my writing is probably born out of my career as a designer. I can write details, but visualizing them spatially is often difficult for me.

“City of Cardova,” a central location in my manuscript “Coal Belly”

More and more I tend to find myself breaking out the ol’ moleskine and starting to sketch. Maps help me see a city, or a nation in better context, I can write to that local when I have it drawn out before me. See the distance between point A and B. Other times I use a map to work out details in a scene or a chapter. Case in point: I wrote a scene towards the end of Coal Belly and after reading it I realized it was confusing, so I drew a map. I choreographed how the whole event played out, I mapped character movement, and made notes on the actions of the scene. It worked out well.

So I draw maps, and will probably continue to do so, how about you? Ever drawn a map to help you write? What tools do you use? How detailed do you get?

My Two Projects

So what am I working on? Since starting this blog I’ve been fairly vague. Talking about queries and partials and never anything about what I am actually writing. I feel it’s important to share a little info about my two projects:

Coal Belly

This is the finished manuscript I am currently shopping. (The one with three partials currently out in the ether) It sits at 133k words. Which is kinda in that new-writer danger zone. (Most publishers won’t accept over 120k words for a new writer.) Coal Belly is a speculative title set on the fictional, river covered, world of Vale. It’s probably easier to post my query letter since it’s a good synopsis of what is happening:

Rumors whisper from the corners of the city: the world is breaking. Mountains swallow distant towns. Strange creatures prowl the ridges.

Captain Erasmus Hale can’t be bothered with the rumors. Broke, cheated, and facing repossession of his riverboat, the Transcendent; Hale accepts the offer of a mysterious stranger for a dangerous late-season trip upriver… unaware of the danger he’ll place upon himself, his passengers, his crew, and his boat.

Torrenting is changing the world. Its practitioners bend reality: lighting lamps, heating steam engines, and smelting iron without the need for fuel. And yet student torrenter Lisette Wakefield struggles with even the most basic fundamentals. When an old professor offers to send her north to a distant campus she agrees, and embarking on a journey that will change her life forever.

Beset by enemies on all sides, and with rumors of revolution brewing, the mood among the rivermen in Commonwealth’s Flotilla is tense. Gunny Cooper Rueben is a loyal, yet his ironclad loyalties are shattered. After a drunken mistake, he is betrayed by his country, sold into slavery, and forced to serve as a groom for a brilliant young torrenter.

Coal Belly (133,000 words) is a swashbuckling adventure set during an age of industry that tells the story of a shattering world, and the passengers and crew of an old riverboat steaming headlong toward its breaking. It’s Joe Abercrombie’s The Blade Itself meets Mark Twain’s Life on the Mississippi: high adventure, a bit of romance, and a little magic.

And… that is why I’m always posting pictures of riverboats. I’ll keep you updated as I keep getting responses from agents.

The Stars Were Right

Stars is my new project while I shop Coal Belly – I’m about a third done with my rough draft. It currently hovers around 36k words and is always growing. It is weird fiction heavily influenced by my appreciation for the works of H.P. Lovecraft and China Miéville and movies from my childhood. With Stars I’m trying to avoid the fantasy tropes while keeping it chock full of the fantastical stuff that makes weird fiction so great: strange races, interesting locals, unique cultures, dusty tomes, gigantic monsters, and death cults. You know, the fun stuff.

It centered around this quote from H.P. Lovecraft’s “Call of Cuthulu:”

When the stars were right, They could plunge from world to world through the sky; but when the stars were wrong, They could not live.

The plot is told from the perspective of Waldo “Wal” Bell, a caravan master leading caravans between the frontier city of Syringa and the multilevel megalopolis of Lovat. Fresh from a finishing recent cargo delivery for the importer Wilem, Black & Bright, Wal is arrested and accused of murdering two close friends.

All signs seem to point to him, though Wal is adamant he didn’t commit the murders. When the cops refuse to listen Wal makes a daring escape from his holding cell. Running from the law, he seeks to unravel the mystery and find out who is really killing his friends and how it’s all connected to him.

Short description, it’s the Fugitive if it was directed by Guillermo del Toro and art directed by WETA.

So those are my two projects. The things that occupy my free evenings and weekends and keep me up at night. I figured covering them in at least a basic level will help make sense of this whole journey so as you follow this blog. Hopefully this will be of interest and if you are writing something you’ll be able to learn from both my mistakes and my victories as I continue this journey.