Writing Life

Writing Life #16: Boxes of Books!

Still incredibly super-duper busy these days, trying to brain out some last minute revision issues before I go on vacation. Plus, I just agreed to moderate a panel at the Brooklyn Book Festival in two weeks, meaning I have some reading/re-reading/question-development to do!

But I just had to share this.

Last week, I showed you the first look at the finished Archvillain cover.

Well, today the UPS man dropped off a couple of boxes of the finished book! Sweet!

Check it out:

Of course, a contest will be imminent. As soon as I figure out how best to give some of these suckers away, I’ll do it.

See you next week!

Writing Life #15: Catching Up

I have been super-busy today, hence the lateness of this post.

I spent most of the day doing some final tweaks to I Hunt Killers before sending it off to my second round of betas. Now, usually I send a manuscript to all of my betas at once, but the way schedules worked out this time, I ended up doing two rounds. Which is actually good for me right now because it means that I got to implement some changes to fix that problem I mentioned before these new people could see it. Now I can get their reactions to the fix without them having been biased the earlier version. Score!

The fix for that problem, by the way, necessitated adding a few thousand words to the book. Can I just say that I hate adding text to a book? It feels somehow artificial to me. But I know that readers won’t be able to tell: “Hey, this part was missing originally! He added it in later!” If I do my job right, it will be seamless.

And I guess that’s the problem: It’ll be seamless to the reader, but it’ll never be seamless to me. Every time I look at a book I wrote, I can always tell what got added in, and it bugs me. I feel like everyone can tell.

Some good news to report: I’ve received my very first finished copy of Archvillain! This means that I finally got to see the cover treatment my editor has been trying to describe to me for months now. It’s really cool! He rattled off a list of processes that were involved, but I don’t remember any of them because I was distracted by shinypretty.

I took a picture:



And I shot some video, just to see the effects “in action.” Unfortunately, the picture and the video still don’t really do the cover justice. I think this is one of those things you just have to see in person. So, come October, everyone head to your local bookstore and check out the cover!

Should you feel compelled to buy the book, too, well, that’s OK. 🙂

See you next week!

Writing Life #14: Screwing Up; Moving On

Oh, man. The Writing Life is killing me right now!

I have self-imposed a deadline: By September 1, I have to finish new drafts of both I Hunt Killers and The Book That Will Kill Me. The reason for this is that as of September 1, I’ll be taking a vacation (my first in years) and I don’t want either book hanging over my head while I’m gone. I’m not trying to rush or anything — I fully plan on going through them again when I get back. I just want both books in a good place before I leave.

But this is proving more difficult that it might have seemed at first.

The Book That Will Kill Me is, of course, monstrous. You saw the picture last week. I’ve managed to read through it since then and the news is…mixed.

See, when I was writing the book, it felt very, very…complicated. Difficult. But when I read it this past week, it was a breeze. It wasn’t difficult to read at all.

Now, you may be thinking, “Isn’t that a good thing, Barry? Don’t you want people not to have to struggle to read your work?” And, yeah, that’s fine, but it’s just that… I’ve never been in this position before, where in the writing of something, it felt so firmly and assuredly X, only to discover that it’s really Y. It means I’m taking extra care in the revision process, trying to make sure my revisions fit in with what the book actually is, not what I think it is.

Does that make any sense? Probably not to anyone but me. 🙂

As to Killers. Well. Two beta readers had time to take a look at it last week and — horror of horrors — they both pointed out the same thing. The sort of thing where, as a writer, you think someone might notice it, but you figure 99% of readers aren’t going to, so you convince yourself to let it slide.

And my first two readers pointed it out.

That’s the sort of news that really makes me want to head to the liquor cabinet, folks. One person noticing? Hell, that’s just a perceptive and/or lucky reader. But two people?

That means one thing, and one thing only: Author error. In technical terms, I fucked up.

I know exactly what I did wrong. I know exactly how to fix it.

Well, that’s not precisely true. There are actually two ways to fix it. One is easy.

One is hard.

The easy one, sad to say, feels like a bit of a cheat. I could probably do it, but… I wouldn’t feel right about it.

So I think I’m going to take the hard way out. Which means re-thinking a chunk of the book, making room for some new material, and just generally opening up the guts of it and poking around to see what I can see. Not my idea of a fun time.

But you know what? It’s OK. Ultimately, this is going to make for a stronger book.

A while back, I blogged about how I don’t revise a lot, how what ends up being published is very close to my first drafts. And how I suspected that this year I would end up having to do a lot of revising. An oracle I’m not, but I nailed that particular prediction.

The reason, of course, is because I’m trying new things as a writer. New kinds of stories for new audiences (and, hopefully, for the old audience, too!). This means taking some chances, taking some risks. Tripping over my own feet. Falling down. Getting back up. Tending to the occasional skinned knee. I could keep extending this metaphor, but I’m afraid I’d strain something.

In short, while it’s a definite annoyance to see that I have a little more work cut out for myself than I’d intended or hoped, it’s a good thing in the long run. I have many, many kinds of stories I want to tell in this Writing Life. That means I’ll always be making mistakes, figuring out new things, and learning as I write.

I can think of a lot worse things.

See you next week!

Writing Life #13: Lucky Thirteen!

Hey, it’s the thirteenth post in Writing Life! Here’s a black cat for you…



And here’s a ladder…




And last but not least, here’s a black cat…walking under a ladder!



All right! That ought to take care of plenty of bad luck for us all. Let’s move on.

So, what’s going on in the Writing Life this week? Well, lemme tell ya…

I have officially shipped off the first draft of the first book of I Hunt Killers to a couple of my beta readers. The rest of them aren’t quite ready for it yet, so I’m not deluging them with paper until they give the go-sign. But in the meantime, I get that wonderful, stomach-churning feeling of knowing that People Are Reading My Words. Will they love Killers? Hate it? Worse yet, will they just shrug their shoulders and say, “Meh?”

This can be a tough time for me; Tom Petty was a wise, wise man when he said, “The waiting is the hardest part.” It’s not that I feel that if my betas don’t like the draft that it reflects poorly on me — hey, it’s an early draft, right? It’s more that my whoel reason for writing is so that other people will read — and enjoy reading — my work. If my betas don’t enjoy what I give them, then I feel bad. I mean, it’s great that I get some feedback and can think about my next step (Revise? Rewrite? Or maybe the betas are just wrong…) but in the meantime, there are some folks who read my work and didn’t have fun. Boo.

Fortunately, one of the benefits to writing a million books at once is that there’s always work to do, so I don’t have much time to stress about that! Right now, I’m getting back into The Book That Will Kill Me. I read the first hundred or so pages yesterday and was pleased with them. No mean trick when you realize I wrote those words more than a year ago and haven’t looked at them since. I was surprised at how well they seemed to integrate with what I wrote a month or so ago at the end of the book. So, that’s a bit of good news. I’ll be reading through the entire manuscript over the next week or so, making corrections and adding in bits and pieces that are missing. The whole thing clocked in at 803 pages when I printed it, and I don’t think it’s going to get any shorter. In fact, it may even get a little longer. (Sorry, future editor!)

If you’re curious, here’s what an 803-page manuscript looks like:




I’ve conveniently provided a ruler for scale. (The little stack of 20 or so pages next to the main stack is a set of notes for me to consult while working my way through the manuscript.)

So, between waiting for Killers feedback and working on The Monster (and, of course, noodling around with art for the graphic novel as Colleen sends it), I’m pretty busy right now. I guess I better get back to work…

See you next week!

Writing Life #12: Mutually Exclusive

As has been the case for the past while, my main focus right now is on I Hunt Killers, which currently lives at the intersection of “Ready?” and “Hmm.” I have a very solid draft finished and the ending is, in my opinion, dead-bang perfect. But I’m still not sure about the early parts of the story, so in the next few days, I’m going to go through the whole thing again and see how strongly I feel about it. And then it’s going to go to my beta readers.

Even though I wrote a long series of Writing Advice blogs, I don’t think I ever talked very much about beta readers. Which is a shame because they’re very important to me. I know that not every writer uses beta readers — some just type “The End” and send the manuscript off to the editor. I can’t do that.

You see, by this point in the process, I’ve lived with the book long enough that it inhabits a strangely dichotomous position in what I call my “brain.” The book simultaneously sucks and is brilliant. I know the two are mutually exclusive, but right now that’s how I feel about it, and I get to this point with every book I’ve written. (With the exception of the second Archvillain, which I felt completely confident about from beginning to end. God, I would kill to feel that way about every book I write!)

Anyway, since I’m so close to the book and keep shifting quantum states (hey, physics metaphor!), I can’t rely on my own sense of the story. So, my beta readers give me a fresh perspective, looking at the story and telling me if it falls in the “sucks” or “brilliant” category. Or if, as is more likely, it falls in the “Not bad, but maybe this stuff over here needs work” category.

Here’s another weird problem I’m having, and I’m sort of curious as to whether or not other authors have this problem: Chapter length. In I Hunt Killers, I’ve got some really short chapters and then a few that are really long. Now, I know that there aren’t any rules when it comes to chapter length (unless your last name is Patterson…), but it just feels strange to have such a difference in chapter length. At the end of the day, I’ll probably leave things as they are, but right now I’m unhealthily obsessed with it. And it doesn’t help that Scrivener easily lets you scan chapter length, right down to precise word count.

So, what else is on my plate these days? Well, in the next week or so, after Killers goes to the betas, I’ll be diving back into The Book That Will Kill Me. I’ll be printing it out — all 191,000 words — for the first time. And, yes, I have plenty of paper:


Lots of paper



In case you’re having trouble reading the box, that’s a case of 5,000 sheets of paper. Recycled, thankyouverymuch, because I care.

Between those two projects, that’s already a lot of work, but I have some more stuff going on. Of course, the graphic novel continues apace. My writing is done, but I still look at each page as Colleen produces it, and right now she is on fire, cranking out page after page. Almost every day brings me cool artwork, either a new page layout or a new, more complete version of a page. Right now, I’m sort of obsessed with the latest version of page 101. It’s a splash page and it looks really cool, and I can’t wait until you guys get to see it. (Hmmm… Now that I think of it, though, what I’m calling page 101 will probably be page 102 when the book is published — we’re adding a page somewhere earlier. So look for page 102!)

I’m really itching to show you guys some of the artwork from the graphic novel. I had planned to wait until September, when I’ll have all of the art and can pick from the entire book, but I may not be able to wait that long. Keep your eyes peeled.

Last but not least, there’s a special pet project that’s close to my heart: A movie. A few years ago, I came up with an idea for a movie and casually mentioned it to my brother, who immediately fell in love with it and insisted that we collaborate on it. Since then, we’ve each taken half-hearted stabs at a scene here or there, but since we never agreed on an overall structure, we were spinning our wheels. Real life intruded and while we always promised to work on it, we constantly found ourselves distracted by, y’know, our jobs and stuff.

Well, this past weekend, I sat down and forced myself to write an outline for the damn thing. So now we at least have some sort of overarching blueprint, and I really, truly hope that we can begin writing in earnest in the next month or so. I don’t necessarily think this thing will ever be made, but it’s a fun idea and I just want to have the experience of collaborating with my brother.

That’s all for now. See you again next week!