“The first draft of anything is $&*#.” — Ernest Hemingway
“If you are willing to do something that might not work, you’re closer to being an artist.” — Seth Godin
You may remember the concept of a book report from grade school days: Read a book and deconstruct its message in a report. Sometimes, if the teacher was particularly cruel, you had to present your report to the class. I have some memory of doing a few reports, but for the life of me, I cannot remember a single specific book title I would have reported on.
What I do remember is that my favorite part of a book report was drawing a picture of a scene from the book or maybe creating (or re-creating) the book cover. Back in those days, drawing and coloring were my things, writing not so much. My most common drawing sessions were from about 11:30 am to noon on Sunday mornings at Taylors First Baptist Church while Pastor Carswell delivered his weekly sermon. Not sure if my early drawing talents were a gift from God, but me being occupied and sitting still for more than 10 minutes was a gift to my parents.
This particular book report is going to involve more writing than drawing. These days, drawing is not much of a thing for me anymore, but soon, I will need to work on designing a book cover. Alas, my design and visual art skills are quite rusty, so that will be outsourced. For now, though, here is a report on constructing a book, not deconstructing one.
“To become a proper writer, you have to forgive yourself the catastrophe of the first draft.” —Alain de Botton
For the past 50-plus days, I have been sitting still for much more than 10 minutes at a time, as I’ve put the hammer (or keyboard?) down on finishing my second fiction novel. After stalling out at 17,000 words for the past three years, I finally decided to commit to this next book. While my daily word count is not where I want it, yet, it’s not too shabby, either. And the results of consistent steady work are obvious – I now have a completed first draft of a novel I’m calling Out of Tune.
Here’s the current tag line: Out of Tune is the story of a late-twenties woman drifting through life when an unexpected discovery changes her perspective and puts her in conflict with the powerful local town sheriff who is running for governor.
At this point, I have completed about 50,000 words and my Alpha reader is starting to read it. And, like the lead-in quote by Ernest Hemingway says, my first draft is not the greatest. There’s still plenty of work to do, as I know there are a few holes in the story. Maybe not swiss cheese holey (yes, that’s a word) but one or two might be big enough to drive a Mini Cooper through. However, completing the first draft is at least 50% of the battle.
For my first fiction novel, Negative Split, I took almost a year between completing the first draft and having a finished product ready to sell on Amazon. Since most of that year was me just neglecting the process, I can do much better this time. Here’s my current target schedule for completing Out of Tune and having it available on Amazon:
August: Complete second draft based on feedback from Alpha reader (and some of the research I still need to do) and complete first pass at the cover art
Labor Day: Send out copies to Beta Readers
October: Third draft, based on input from Beta Readers (or scrap it, if everyone says it sucks)
Early November: Final edits
Launch/Available: Hopefully Black Friday
With a Little Help From My Friends
I used two terms here that may not be familiar to you, Alpha reader and Beta reader, but you were probably smart enough to figure them out. These are pre-release readers who help me make a better final story. The Alpha reader position is already taken, but I am looking for a few Beta-readers.
Here’s how that process will work:
- I’ll send you a physical pre-release copy of the book (unless you’re just dying to have it in digital format)
- You’ll read the book by the deadline (hopefully October 1st)
- You’ll give me feedback
- In return, I’ll send you a complimentary autographed copy of the final release
This is not a grammar or line edit exercise. I need you to point out problems and inconsistencies, things that I don’t see because I’m too close to the story. For example, was something left hanging or do you disagree with some plausibility of the story. If you happen to catch that I called a character Susan instead of Suzanne late in the book that is OK to point out, too. You are also free to say it is the greatest thing you’ve ever read from me or give me suggestions on how to improve its shortcomings. You are not free to complain that my main characters drive Jeeps and not Chevys.
If you’d like to be a Beta Reader, please reply to this email and let me know. If you’re only seeing this on the website through a Facebook post, then you need to subscribe to my mailing list. You can do that here: http://gregfowlerauthor.com/free/
I’m only looking for about five to seven Beta Readers. I think more than that might be tough for me to process the feedback. So, if I have more than that respond, I may hold a lottery. I’ll keep you posted.
Thanks for reading,
PS. This week’s Grumpy Greg section: I subscribed to Disney+ a while back for the same reason most people did at the Disney+ launch – to watch The Mandalorian, which did not disappoint. I believe it is better than any other Star Wars efforts outside of the original trilogy. This is not about Star Wars, though. Recently, Disney+ probably had another surge of subscribers due to their launch of the movie version of the Broadway sensation Hamilton. Since I still have Disney+, I finally watched Hamilton – the first half anyway. I plan to watch the second half, we just tend to split up long movies at our house. Anyway…it’s OK and very creative, but I don’t see why everyone lost/continue to lose their minds over it. Maybe the second half will make me a believer.
PPS – Current writing streak: 52 days
Fiction words this week: ~2600. Quality over quantity. Some decent stuff written this week.