Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Crypts of Denver

The first manuscript I actually finished was "The Crypts of Denver". It was inspired by one of my many strange dreams; one that I remembered well enough to take some notes on.

Some of the elements that contributed towards the manuscript actually getting finished (in no particular order):

- a strong drive to finish it, from the moment I woke up after having the dream
- steady support from my wife to keep writing
- setting aside time to write regularly
- writing out the outline for what would happen very early on in the process, even though things changed dramatically as I went on
- being a very fast writer when I know where I'm going

It took me about a year and a half to finish the manuscript, though that was more due to the rest of my life than the writing. The great majority of it was finished in 3 months once I started making more time available for it. After that experience, I'm pretty confident that I could finish the first draft of a novel from start to finish within 3 months without stressing. I picked up a lot of lessons along the way.

I started sending the novel out for queries to agents - very slowly. Rejection letters are tough, but the first person I queried (Nathan Bransford) was extremely helpful and sent some quick notes as to why he rejected the partial. If nothing else, I was certainly pleased to have rated a partial on my very first query. It's been quite some time since then (I didn't query for it for about a year), and though I've rewritten the opening extensively I'm not sure if I want to requery on it to the same people I originally did or not. More likely, I'll wait until I finish my next novel before querying again.

What starts the writing?

I started writing snippets of novels when I was a teenager. For years I collected bits and bobs of ideas - many of them which would never get anywhere, a few which got to 15 or 20 pages - until the inevitable hard drive crash wiped a bunch out. I'm still bummed that some of those ideas got lost; sure, the writing was probably pretty bad, but it's the *idea* that I miss.

Since then, I've made sure to keep things regularly backed up in a safe(r) location, and years later I'm once again sitting on a folder full of story ideas. A surprising amount have 20 to 50 pages worth of text, though there's plenty with just a few pages, or even just a few sketchy ideas and no real writing done yet.

This has led me to realize just how hard it is to actually finish something. Not because I get stuck partway through (though that happens) or I lose interest in the initial idea (yep, that happens too) but more often because I get another new idea and zoom off on that one. This means that eventually I go look at my writing folder and realize that I don't recognize half of the things I wrote about until I reread them and remember "oh yeah, that's what I was writing about!"

Of course, the reason to keep these around is that sometimes I *do* go back and work on things again. Occasionally I'll go through my files, see which one pulls at me the most, and throw a few more pages at it to see what sticks. Sometimes I keep going on it, sometimes not.