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Sunday, July 12, 2015

The Climb

Socket Greeny.

I can't remember why we named him that. I say we because he started in a joint effort with my son. At the time, he was about 13 years old and haaaaaated to read. Words were like fireants that crawled around his brain when he looked at them. So I started a project where we co-authored a story.

We started with Socket Greeny, a teenage outlier that discovered he was part of an evolved race of humans. We outlined his powers, his clothes and what he was going to do. Even did sketches. We outlined a chapter a week. We quit after a month. Turned out there was one thing my son hated more than reading, and that was writing.

But Socket got inside my head.

Picking up where I'd left off with fiction, I began outlining a story on a legal pad. It's all a bit fuzzy at this point, but I believe I had a vague sense of the entire three book story arc. By vague, I wanted the first book to be about discovering his true nature, the second one about training to be this special person, and third would have some epic betrayal and self-discovery. "You are the key," was a line I heard early on.

I have about a dozen novels now and they all progress a little differently. Sometimes I know the ending and just have to figure out how to get there. Socket Greeny was exactly that.

Once again, naivete can be a beautiful thing.

I entertained Harry Potter fame as I was writing. I knew this was absurd, but a part of my brain believed the world needed to hear the Socket Greeny story. In fact, the world needed to hear it so badly that publishers would start a bidding war when I was finished.

Delusions can be great motivators.

I spent late nights and weekends punching together The Discovery of Socket Greeny. Six months or so later, the rough draft was finished and I gave it to family and friends. And they loved it. Not only was I going to be famous, but rich. Maybe I should just go straight to a publisher, bypass an agent. It was that good.

The reality was this: I still had a lot to learn about fiction writing. I continued reading lots of books on the craft of fiction writing (Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, one my favorites). That was essential in learning the fundamentals of structure and storytelling, the granddaddy axiom of "show, don't tell". Once you have a grasp on storytelling, it'll ruin some of your previously favorite movies (and books).

I eventually spent the money on an editor for an evaluation. The Editorial Department offered several options, all a bit pricey. However, I learned two things. One, I still wasn't ready. And two, editorial input is invaluable. I went through several rounds and eventually came out with a manuscript that was tight and moving.

In the end, Socket Greeny took years to finish. Three or four... I can't remember. During that time, I wrote the entire trilogy six times from scratch. That's 210,000 words from the very beginning, starting completely over. Six times.



Still fueled by delusion Socket Greeny would land on a publishers lap and receive gushing enthusiasm, I forged ahead. In retrospect, that wasn't the primary source of inspiration. I loved this character. He was inside my head. The world needed to hear his story. Absurd? Absolutely. And I knew it was, but it was still there, still driving me toward a satisfying conclusion. So yeah, three, four, five, however many years I spent on it didn't matter. It was the process.

The journey. (Yes, cliche, once again. Whatever.)

Were there publishers waiting for me at the top of that climb? Agents with arms out? Nope. Nobody wanted Socket Greeny. Traditional publishing is a tough nut to crack. Even if Socket Greeny was good enough, it was science fiction and, in some ways, young adult. A very narrow genre. After hundreds of query letters to agents and publishers, I accepted Socket Greeny's fate. There would be no book signing tours, no advance royalty checks. It was over.

I was satisfied with the story. It was out. It was a long journey and I was grateful to go along for the ride. I had decided that I would have all three books printed and bound. I would put them on my shelf, a reminder that the journey was complete.

And then Kindle started.

To be continued...

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