Been so long I don't know how this works anymore! Seriously, I've not posted for two reasons. First, I've been flat out so much at work that I've devoted more time to writing than blogging; and more importantly, I didn't feel like I had anything substantial to add beyond my book and what I've posted thus far, though if people disagree, I'm open to suggestions. Besides writing myself, I've just ended a two-year stint as president of the Sisters in Crime Internet Chapter, which ate up more time than I had anticipated just riding herd on the conflicts, especially between self-published, POD, electronic publishing, mainstream publishing, etc.
However, one person kindly posted a question, which was if there was any more, and I thought I'd take the opportunity to post on what's up with my novel. It is now at another agent, from whom I expect to hear next week. (This agent is a friend's agent who expressed interest earlier, which is why I am confident about dates.) I have rewritten it from first to last, emphasizing a couple of elements that I think are distinctive but which I didn't see previously, also leveraging a fair amount of commentary, including people here. It's now much bigger, too -- 75K to nearly 89,000 -- which fits the emphasis, which is thrilleresque. I have continued to work on the second book, too, and have ideas for the next two or three!
I swore not to get too personal on this list, but I had a catastrophic problem with my operating system and have had to reinstall -- after several hours of false starts, followed by a careful backup of everything (I already had documents backed up, but not all applications).
Unfortunately the reinstall didn't work right and I lost all my settings. Anyone familiar enough with Mac OS X (Tiger) to tell me how to move over my Library (which I did copy) to restore?
Up to Chapter 19, page 225 of first manuscript, meaning almost precisely 75% of the way through. Hit a big and slow chapter, and had a two-day trip to Germany, so it may be slow going for a while!
My wife and I were discussing different types of fiction, and she commented that she never really wanted to write (as she had seen in a blurb) "mind-blowing" works. She had nothing against them, but she didn't even see how to begin writing something like that.
Knowing Toni, I returned that that was because she's always loved adventures rather than mind-blowing fiction. I realized that "mind-blowing" is often associated with far-out science fiction -- things that are so bizarre and strange that it makes you shake your head and wonder how they could ever come about. (Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next novels are one example.) But it is also about being inventive, sometimes at the cost of humanity. Thus, I suspect that "mind-blowing" is often (not always) appealing to the Achievement motive, aiming at the intellectually new and different, whereas "adventures" are about Power/Influence motive, where you are having a dramatic impact on others. Arthur Clarke's Rendezvous with Rama was mind-blowing, as was Niven's Ringworld, primarily because of idea and scope. Some people have referred to these as "travelogue" books because the plot consists of: (1) find strange object, (2) explore strange object, seeing many strange things, (3) go home. Characters and plots sometimes fall by the wayside, but in SF, that doesn't always matter if the idea is big or strange enough.
Adventures, on the other hand, are normally about someone coming into conflict with society, enemies, etc. Swashbuckling stories, be they pirates, Robin Hood, Musketeers, or space opera are usually on a big human scale: taking on the king, the emperor, the Boskonians, whatever, preferably in a dramatic way. Note they are also often about class issues. All about the influence.
Really good writers, of course, can sometimes combine the two, and this is really awe-inspiring. One writer who seems to do this consistently is John Varley. His Titan trilogy, recently reprinted in paperback over here, is both mind-blowing and rip-roaring, swashbuckling adventure -- and sometimes ironic satire of swashbuckling at the same time. I know it sounds impossible, but he does it, and he manages to have characters you care about, who change in reasonable but substantial ways from book to book, based on what has happened between books.
I'm telling you, these motives are everywhere...
Up to Chapter Seventeen, 69.8% of the way through the manuscript. Still liking it, which is good, but getting itchy to work on the second book already!
Which brings me to the subject of transitions. Truman Capote once said that, "Finishing a book is just like you took a child out in the yard and shot it." This kind of feeling can stop you from finishing, because you don't want it to end. Or you have to wait while your book is going through the slow process of agenting, publishing, etc., and you are essentially helpless to affect it, which is a bad feeling in general, but worse for someone high in the power motive (as most published writers are). One way some writers get past that is to start the second book.
Series writers have an advantage here, because you can lay groundwork for the next book. I chuckled when my wife asked me about points of detail in my first book ("how does this vampire get to the store to get bottles of blood if he lives out in the country?") which I had already answered in the second, which is about 20,000 words long. As I mentioned, in this case I worked on the second while I waited for Toni to finish editing the first, but there's no reason why you couldn't pause between drafts, for example. For the record, I deliberately did not choose to explain everything in the first book, or it sounds too much like a "first book." Things I didn't need to explain, I didn't. I wouldn't have been able to do this fifteen years ago -- there are some advantages to age...
When you don't write series, it might be trickier. If you are the kind of writer who likes exploring a certain issue or type of conflict, you could use a second book to help focus the first -- answering the question both ways.
In brief, linearity is overrated!