Sunday, October 16, 2016

1st Chapter remains unwritten tho I'm 56K words into the "Fires of Allah."

This is on purpose. I know what I'm shooting for. I want it to be one of the best things I've ever written.

A long time ago, I read excerpts of Norman Maclean's "Young Men and Fire." (Author of "A River Runs Through It.") I think it must have been in Life Magazine or something.

It was enormously affecting, so I decided that I would save the first chapter for last. I will sit down and read "Young Men and Fire" and soak it up and try to get what I'm feeling down on paper.

I'm still working at a 1000 word a day pace, which is the slowest I've written since coming back. But it seems fine. I'm spending more time with the characters, with the story. I'm almost 2/3rds of the way through, nevertheless.

I'll have this finished by the end of the year, research and rewrites and all.

I don't know if it will be my best book, but it is my most ambitious book.


Dave Cline said...

Saving the first chapter for last...

Hmm, I'm thinking that may make a ton of sense. By the time the last chapter is written, you will have developed the true voice of the piece. You'll know any foreshadowing bits you'd want to include. And as the first chapter is the only one that make a lick of difference in getting it sold -- even though the book might be wicked good -- it's got to be the best you can make it, otherwise the whole work is doomed. Sad really. And even more sad is that if the first 500 words fail to capture an agent's attention, but the next 84,500 are literary gold, it's doomed just as much.

Duncan McGeary said...

I think the agent thing is sheer happenstance. Which is only the beginning of that journey. First chapters are like a job interview--meaning the person can charm you and then never deliver, whereas the bad interviewee could be the best employee you ever had. It's a gauntlet the industry has thrown up to weed out the mass of writers, but what comes out the other side is almost arbitrary.

You said it better, Dave.

Duncan McGeary said...

A little agent story.

I sent the first chapter of Led to the Slaughter: The Donner Party Werewolves to a bunch of agents. 40% never answered, the other 60% gave me a form rejection.

A year later, I got a letter from the editor-in-chief of a major publisher. He actually tracked me down to tell me that he'd read Led to the Slaughter and thought it was "a brilliant premise, beautifully written" and that if he'd had a chance to buy it, he would have.

(I thought I had an "in" with that publisher, of course, but it turned out not to be. But that's a different story.)

Point being--the book was good enough, if you well, to have at least been considered. And I got the sense that none of the agents gave it more than a minute of thought. I've never written about it except obliquely because it just comes across as sour grapes.

But I don't have any faith whatsoever in the current system.

Dave Cline said...

I'm a programmer by trade. When I started on this agent seeking safari I quickly saw that the problem was considerable -- from both sides. Agents and publishers are inundated with pleas for representation. Thousands if not tens of thousands. I can see why they're so discerning and why sites like exist. That's not to say that I don't resent the process (big raspberry here).

But I figured it was just a data processing problem. Up until now the tools were inadequate for dealing with natural language parsing and comprehension. But then came Deepmind...

I'm certain this problem of haystack searching for golden novel needles is going to be solved by a Deepmind team. Really. It's a perfect setup for Deepmind. I'm trying to get the Google Deepming engineers on the subject. Contacting a Google engineer maybe harder than finding an agent though...

In conjunction, I wrote this a few weeks ago:

Duncan, thanks for the conversation. Facebook friending? Looks like you might have 2 fb personas. (I've a number of them myself, 1.5B members -- pfffft!)

Duncan McGeary said...

Publishers ought to be doing some of the vetting, instead of letting agents do it all. Agents are almost solely concerned with money. Publishers, I believe, still want to publish good books, well some of them. Agents can only take so many authors on. I believe it almost becomes an einie meanie minie moe situation.