Dark scribblings

John's Ramblings and News

Where no writer has gone before (None that I know about, anyway)

Posted by johnpeters2 on July 31, 2009 at 10:29 PM

Many of you know that I’m a writer. My fulltime paying job is a daily newspaper editor’s post. I also work as a slush reader for a well-known horror anthology and, if you’ve read my News page here on the old Website, you’ll know I recently took on the duties as nonfiction editor for Dark Recesses.

But the thing I really enjoy, the one thing I would select above all others if you offered me my dream job, would be writing fiction. I’ve been published in a handful of semi-pro and smaller magazines, anthologies and Websites, and in recent years I’ve taken to putting together some novel drafts. I’m even at a point where I’m trying to land an agent for a children’s novel and I’m close to being ready to search for an agent for an adult-length novel.

For those of you in the writing business, you’ll understand how close to impossible landing an agent is. For those of you not in the writing business, take it from me, it’s … well, nearly impossible to get an agent. Even harder to get a book deal.

Still, I try.

And that brings me to my next challenge. The biggest one. The step into the great unknown. Facing the giants. Taking on …well, let’s just say this next project will be roughly akin to taking on a swarm of angry hornets, armed with nothing more than a flyswatter.

I’m now involved in a collaborative effort to write a novel.

With my daughter.

My 17-year-old daughter.

That’s right, a teenager.

I’ve already learned that family relations, when it comes to writing and artistic endeavors, can be a funny thing. I’m a member of several online writers’ groups, and by and large I can give good, honest, insightful critiques when asked. Most writers appreciate it when I offer constructive criticism, and it’s easy to be forthright and sometimes pointed in my comments, without any thought of offending.

Doing this with a relative changes the dynamics completely. In the past I’ve tried to offer some critiques to her writing, but I find it difficult to do, and Erica (that’s her name) sometimes finds it even harder to take from me – her father.

Erica’s at the age when she’s stretching her wings, testing out her independence, looking to what she will be doing – all on her own – with her life in a year or two.  She’s well past developing her own personality, her way of doing things. At a time when you’d think she would be pulling further and further away, she and I have decided to try this little project.

Then again, maybe the eventual book will mirror this stage in our lives. The story is a young adult novel. Without giving away too many details, let me just say it’s primarily about the main character, growing into young adulthood, with some significant and unwelcome changes thrust upon her, her family, and her friends. The story also deals with her father, and their relationship through these changes.

And, of course, it’s a horror story. Though the horror, I hope, will be the backdrop for the main story of the people and their relationships.

We started the work this past weekend, and let me tell you those first two days were a blur. We put out about 8,000 words this past Saturday and Sunday. It’s slowed a bit since, and as of Tuesday night we were at 10,000 words, and Wednesday we were at 11,500. I have to confess, those last 2,500 are hers. All hers.

As you can imagine, we’ve already butted heads over some issues. A few of you reading this know Erica, more of you know me. I’m pretty easy-going, though when it comes to my writing I can be less so, and overly critical. I often tell people a story I’m working on is turning into pure horse dung because, quite frankly, that’s how I feel about it. The first time I called this novel crap — even though I was only talking about the part I was writing — Erica let me have it.

And she’s good at that. Erica is a strong-minded young lady, and she has no problem in letting folks know what she thinks. She told me if I think it’s crap, to quit writing it, otherwise keep my critical mouth shut and simply write.

At least for this particular piece, that’s advice I’m going to take. Otherwise, we’ll never get it done.

We’re also coming to loggerheads over a couple of key character points. I want to make one of the characters gay, she is adamant against it. I’ve already told her a couple of the people I want to kill off, she’s okay with some, not so much so with others.

And she’s impatient. When I write, I tend to agonize over words, go back and rewrite sentences, mess around with characters. I do this a lot with short stories, though in writing novels over the past two years I’ve gotten out of this habit. It’s okay to mess around with the same sentence twenty times when you’re finished product is 3,000 words long. Try that when the final product is 70,000 words, and it’ll take a century to finish a first draft. So I’m better about this than before.

Still, Erica has no patience for this. When she writes — and she does, a lot, even before we began this project — she plows ahead, churning out words. I’ve written the first draft of two adult-length novels in the past 18 months, did a significant rewrite and several revisions to another adult-length, and did a rewrite to a child’s novel.

Erica has probably written three times that much in the same time span. At this stage in her writing career she’s not really concerned with publication. She has had a few short stories appear in some small non-paying newsletters, but she primarily writes simply because she wants to. She plows through a 40,000-word novella in about a month. She churns out a 4,000-word short story in a couple of days.

She doesn’t do any revisions, no major editing. For her, it’s simply write the story, then move on.

Hopefully, through this process, I can help teach her the value of revising and editing, of building multiple plot lines and divergent characters. And maybe she can inspire in me the drive to write more, and faster, and help reawaken my drive to write solely for the joy of writing, without regard to publication.

Most of all, I hope we’re still speaking to one another by the time this little project is done.




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6 Comments

Reply Erik Smetana
11:25 PM on July 31, 2009 
Hey, you never know, this might be the book that lands that agent. And don't worry you're not the first writer to go down this path, PC Cast and her daughter Kristin have a VERY successful YA series and I want to say that Kristin wasn't much older than your own daughter when they started the collaboration. Their site is: http://www.houseofnightseries.com

Erik
www.eriksmetana.com
Reply leslie
11:24 AM on August 1, 2009 
Wow. It sounds like a very exciting project... break a leg to both of you! (is that appropriate in the book world? or is it just good luck?)
Reply john
1:07 AM on August 3, 2009 
Erik Smetana says...
Hey, you never know, this might be the book that lands that agent. And don't worry you're not the first writer to go down this path, PC Cast and her daughter Kristin have a VERY successful YA series and I want to say that Kristin wasn't much older than your own daughter when they started the collaboration. Their site is: http://www.houseofnightseries.com

Erik
www.eriksmetana.com
Reply john
1:08 AM on August 3, 2009 
leslie says...
Wow. It sounds like a very exciting project... break a leg to both of you! (is that appropriate in the book world? or is it just good luck?)



Hey Leslie, thanks for stopping by. Break a leg? Hmmm....maybe with writing it's break a finger?
Reply Mitzi McMahon
10:50 AM on August 8, 2009 
Wow, what an impressive endeavor! And the word count is equally impressive, especially in such a short time. I'm with you on the nitpicking of sentences, word choice, etc. I tend to get hung up on that and sometimes have trouble moving forward until just the right word comes. But I only write short stories, 5000 word range, not the 70k words of novels!

Good luck!
Reply johnpeters2
9:11 AM on August 12, 2009 
Mitzi McMahon says...
Wow, what an impressive endeavor! And the word count is equally impressive, especially in such a short time. I'm with you on the nitpicking of sentences, word choice, etc. I tend to get hung up on that and sometimes have trouble moving forward until just the right word comes. But I only write short stories, 5000 word range, not the 70k words of novels!

Good luck!


Hey Mitzi, thanks for stopping by and commenting. Yeah, it's been a bit of an adventure, although lately the pace of writing has cooled, mainly because my daughter's been away. She returns this Saturday, and she's already asking me...gulp...how much I've written in her absence....