Novel Revision: Halfway

The third revision of Bleed American is going well. It’s definitely going faster. Maybe because it’s the third time through so I know my story better, or it could be that my story is clearer to me now. I think it’s the latter. The query letters that I sent out prior to the third revision, I struggled with the letter and synopsis. I knew what my story was about, but detailing it in a letter? In a one page synopsis? Sounded impossible then, but tangible now.

What’s different? I’ve cut out a lot. Not just words but extraneous information that I thought was important when I first wrote BA. I tried to force too many plot shifts that it seemed like luck had to do more to do with moving the story than cause and effect.  I actually had an agent make that comment that my synopsis relied to much on luck and not enough of the story driving the plot. That pissed me off! But, of course, I’m still an aspiring writer, and he’s the agent with a number of big time writers as clients. That criticism really got me thinking about a third revision. As I go on through revising, I have mental notes in my head that challenge me to move the story forward on its own. I believe in a natural path of storytelling. It needs to be organic, at least for me. This mind set is definitely led to much improved draft. 

The other aspect that forced this third revision was my writing style. The same agent that told me that my plot shifts were too lucky, also praised me for smooth, commercial writing. But also went onto say that I wasted my efforts to explanation and sluggish paragraphs. I agree.  As I’m revising, I’m finding a lot of instances where I’m “proving” I’m a writer. Long, wordy passages. Overkill of the thesaurus. I think being in writing groups can cause this mentality. There’s tendencies to push further and explore in writing. That’s fine as long as it adds value. I might have misinterpreted it and pushed to far and explored to much. Looking back, BA was a lot to read the first go around. I want edgy, sharp writing that allows the reader to pace and keep interest. That wasn’t happening after the second revision.

I see my novel much clearer now, and that’s building my momentum to finishing this revision.

I Am Legend

150px-LegendhbWhen I started this blog, I wanted to chart my progress, but I can’t help but think how I got to this point. I remember re-reading I AM LEGEND by Richard Matheson about three years ago. I got midway through the book when I realized I should give writing a real shot. I didn’t set out to write the next I AM LEGEND, but I did set out to create my own piece of fiction. I found this book a true inspiration and think about it often.

Somewhere between high school and college I read I AM LEGEND for the first time. However, it was actually the Vincent Price movie that I remember more than the book. “The Last Man on Earth” was true to the book, but was campy and didn’t really capture Robert Neville. This was the classic case where the book is way better than the movie. The book follows Neville’s life in a post-apocalyptic world after a virus either kills or mutates the living into vampire-like creatures. Matheson did an amazing job of blending hard science fiction with horror. Go to your local bookstore and see where you find I AM  LEGEND. I’ve found both in sci-fi and horror and sometimes in the literature section.

What Matheson did is what I’m setting out to do in my novel. Create a pseudo reality with a fantastic element. What fiction writer doesn’t strive to do that? But read I AM LEGEND and you’ll know what I mean. The book is gritty in emotion and action.

I AM LEGEND was published back in 1954, and is responsible for influencing the zombie and vampire genre we see today (both in films and books). I give it full credit for my interests today in reading and writing. It’s a gold standard that I like to hold myself to, and hope to one day have my work mentioned in the same breath as this novel.

Am I the Next Mark Twain?

I'm not the next Mark Twain but came pretty close.

I'm not the next Mark Twain but came pretty close.

No. I am not. However, I was named an honorable mention in a contest. Border’s Bookstores and Harper Studio held a writing contest to finish a Mark Twain short story that was recently found unfinished. In three hundred words or less I did my best, but lost to a man who is a Mark Twain expert. His bio details that he performs as Mark Twain in one-man shows and plays. If I’m going lose to anyone, I’m glad it was that guy.

I liked the contest. The three hundred word limit was a challenge but saved me from stressing if I wrote too much or not enough.

Most of my writing falls into the horror or science fiction genre so this contest was a challenge in that regard. Placing in the top ten just re-emphasized that I have the writing chops to get noticed. Once I’m fiinished with my second revision of BA, I’m goign to pursue ghost story contests and some mainstream ones. Part of building my base is not only writing within the horror genre but also outside of it. I think it allows to work on mainstream/ commercial appeal.

You can view my entry at http://theharperstudio.com/tag/chris-narbone/.

Building a Base

Like many unpublished authors today, I’m blogging about my path to becoming published. I’m looking to chart my progress in revising my novel, landing an agent, and submitting short stories.

Right now, I’m going through a second revision of my novel, BLEED AMERICAN. I revised it once, my wife read it once, and now I’m taking another crack at it. I let BLEED AMERICAN (BA) breath for about 9 months. I’m glad I did because I’m catching a bunch of stuff I missed: missing words, poor dialogue, grammar, weak plot points, soft character development, etc. Most importantly, focusing on making my writing tighter during this process. I want it sharp so every page, paragraph, word affects the reader. A few agents provided constructive criticism that I originally ignored. Originally ignored. I set my pride to the side and took an honest look at BA, and that’s why I think this second revision will help.

So during those nine months of letting BA breath, I’ve written a couple of short stories and participated in a couple of contests. My goal was to build my base. I wanted to show agents that my work has merit just like my novel. Much like this blog I want to showcase what I’ve done. I’m going to detail my writing accomplishments, as well as BA, in future posts.

So now you know my base, where I’m starting, and this blog will document my path to publication.