It’s been a while as I’ve moved into home-ownership, waited for the internet to be set-up and started decorating…well, paying pro’s to decorate. This sudden break out of the void is sparked by a rejection but also a confirmation that I can research adequately enough for a dodgy old writer.

I came across this article in the i paper today – Scientists warn of sperm count crisis – which confirms a widely held belief that sperm counts are shrinking but no-one thought it was by this much, almost a third!

My novelette, ‘Branching Out’, the prequel to my second novel ‘Broken Branches’ is based on the number of fertile men falling so sharply that these men can carve out a living purely by selling their sperm…and not in test tubes but via a direct-to-client relationship, like thoroughbred horses.

That’s it really.

A novelists mental state is a delicate thing, especially after a rejection. So please congratulate me on using factually correct scientific data…if not compelling enough prose or characters.

You’ve probably heard of Trent Arsenault by now. The sperm donor who’s fathered 16 children but still remains a virgin.

You can read more at The Sun and The Daily Mail websites.

Now, your first question might be, ‘Why the hell are you reading The Sun and The Daily Mail?‘. Fair question. Visit Trent directly – http://trentdonor.org/.

In my short story, ‘Branching Out’ (the prequel to Broken Branches), the protagonist is a professional sperm donor, or ‘Donorsexual’ as Trent has now coined it (Although Trent does his donating for free). This is in a near future where sperm counts have deteriorated to a point where only a few men are able to procreate. They sell their services ‘directly’ not via cups, turkey basters, IVF or suchlike. The classic ‘Wham, Bam, Thank you Ma’am‘ method being the most guaranteed and cheapest way.

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That’s it! I’m all done with writing and have started the submission process.

Done a cover letter and a synopsis. Dark arts that bleed the very lifeblood and momentum you’ve generating through writing your novel, but necessary evils nonetheless.

Researched the agents I want to contact. A couple take emails which is handy. Got a couple of rejections back already from two American based agents who took email submissions (They’re obviously highly organised and efficient, nothing to do with the novel itself).

How do you know when you’re ready to submit? I’m not sure. I wait until I can flog it no longer and the time spent on it achieves the ‘laws of diminishing returns’, eg. if you spend an hour on it, was that an hour well spent or were you just rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic?

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Article from Jet Magazine, July 1978 - Image probably false.

The first post this year means I’m lazy so it had to be a real beauty to break me out of this slumber.

Well, slumber is not quite true. I’ve been editing my novel ‘Broken Branches’ and the accompanying novelette ‘Branching Out’ so whilst that’s happening there’s not much to blog about. It’s pretty unexciting.

So, out of the blue, my mate forwards one of those work viral emails which is the image above. One man who shots blanks pays a friend to shag his missus to get her pregnant – which turns out to be the basis of my two stories, set in a world when all men are made sterile by a drug called ‘Blanx’.

The protagonist in the novelette is immune to Blanx and gets paid to impregnate women, then in the novel the UK monitors newborns by only allowing existing parents to approve or deny potential new parents from having access to fertility drugs to try for a baby.

This kind of thing happened with ideas I had for my first novel, ‘Railroaded’ where little situations and ideas became realised. I don’t think they highlight any kind of originality but merely confirm your ideas aren’t so leftfield they’d never have a hope of happening in the real world. Which means you’re skating close enough to reality to be believable.

Reading the story above also shows that fact can be stranger than fiction. Wish I’d thought of this to put in my novel!

In a shameless act of self-promotion, I wrote an article and submitted to Joanna Penn who runs ‘The Creative Penn‘.

Joanna’s published it here today, ‘Writing Tip: Creating a Visual Character Map‘.

If you’ve come here from there, hello!

Follow me on Twitter!

A printers opened up near me, infact, it’s technically the nearest retail establishment to my flat.  This maybe a coincidence but I like to think of it as fate.

So it would be rude not to go to them to get my 3rd draft printed to dish out to some local beta readers.  Pictured is the result.  6 manuscripts printed; 1 for me, 4 for others and 1 spare incase someone else nearby wants to give it the once-over.

Living during these heady first days of the ebook revolution, it’s always nice to see your novel in the flesh of printed paper.

I’m going to give it a month or two before I read through it again, just to have a rest and try to approach it again with some semblance of freshness.

I broke a few manuscript formatting rules because I’m giving it to beta readers and not submitting it to agents/publishers.

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That’s it!  3rd draft done and dusted.

The next stage for me is to get feedback.  I’m blind to the multitude of errors, faulty plot points, grammatical mistakes, lack of character development, personal writerly foibles and general shoddiness.

I can’t see the wood for the trees.

So here’s where YOU can fit in.  You can be one of my beta readers!

Sarah LaPolla wrote a good piece recently concerning recruiting beta readers in her blog post – The Beta & the Omega:

…the advent of online forums and blogs and Twitter have made finding beta readers that much easier and that much more common. And most times you never even meet them in person.

So I’m putting her words to the test. This is a call out to the internet to get some beta readers.

Show the dog the rabbit!

OK, so I finished my novel, ‘Broken Branches’.  It’s 60,000 words long. I suppose it would be filed in the science fiction section but it’s more of a dystopian story.  There’s no aliens, spaceships, ray-guns or airships with steam powered bazookas. Sorry.

Here’s some blurb;

The UK prides itself on a population connected by heritage, improving every generation via meticulous compatibility testing based on the potential child created, not love. A ‘parental democracy’ drives this development, approving or denying applicants wanting a child. Men are made sterile to avoid sullying thoroughbred lines.

Down in Wigthorn, on the South Coast, this suits Charlie down to the ground. After a hard day window cleaning, there’s nothing he likes more than harmlessly pursuing the girls. Charlie’s good looks and easy charm means the pursuing doesn’t take long but a one-night stand may have consequences that last a lot longer.

Grace’s husband wants children and has applied for the sterility antidote so they can conceive, Grace isn’t too sure though. Like Charlie, her twin brother, she’s not a thoroughbred and fears what she may pass on.

Grace and Charlie are genetic islands; orphaned by their parents, cast adrift by their ancestors, branches broken from the National Family Tree.

What’s inside may seem worthless now but soon the government, terror organisations and foreign agencies will pay any cost to sequence and replicate their genomes, but to what end? Build supermen? Breed GM soldiers? Create perfect citizens? Who knows.

But it all begins when you start the first chapter.

(Feel free to crit the blurb in the comments!)

Click here to download a PDF and read the first 2 chapters.  If you want to continue and not only read the whole thing but also provide feedback, then contact me here.

I’m no-one, so who am I to determine the expertise of a potential beta reader?  If you like what you’ve read so far, then you’re good enough for me! If you haven’t liked it and really want to tell me…then even better!

I very much doubt I’ll have to confront this option but if so, I’ll limit it to 10 beta readers.

I’m also up for ‘swapping’ reads.  So if you have a novel (now or in the future) we can swaps crits.

O’yeah, if you’re not going to participate but like the idea then retweet this or stick up a link to this post.

Thanks!

June 6, 2011

This is the final push! I’m giving myself until the end of the week to finish this 3rd draft which will then get printed and given to some specially selected victims for feedback…

…if you’d like to be a specially volunteered victim, let me know.  There’ll be more on that later.

This 3rd draft has taken longer than I thought, mainly because real life gets in the way. I have a handful of changes left to make so all running, golf, swimming, blogging and other distractions have been cancelled until I’m done.

The image is a small snap-shot of the changes I’ve had listed in my notebook for this novel. It’s a bit small but believe me, you don’t want to actually read it. It’s entitled ‘Notes for Second Draft Additions & Changes’ but the 2nd draft actually turned into a read through and a general clean up. The 3rd draft is adding specific things to help make the whole novel make more sense and run smoothly…hopefully.

I’m fast becoming sick of redrafting. It’s as good as I can make it without external feedback.  I need a sense of perspective to help polish off the edges. I like it and I think it’s good, but like a teenage child, you want it to leave the house and make it’s own way. It’s keeping me up at night, getting on my nerves and questioning everything I do, undermining every decision.

If I don’t post that ‘Broken Branches’ is completed in a week’s time then I’ve either let distractions get the better of me or we’ve come to serious blows.

Yesterday I completed the 2nd draft of ‘Broken Branches’ which I had hoped would involve plenty of artistic styling and subtle moulding…but turned out to be fixing a ton of inconsistencies, deleting gobbledegook and generally reacquainting myself with the whole story.

The inconsistencies stemmed from facts changing from one chapter to another because editing 2 chapters might only take a week but writing them could’ve taken a couple of months. There was a lot of changing the weather, seasons, clothing, directions, race of a few characters plus a few names.

The gobbledegook originated from mixed metaphors, convolution and writing myself into cul-de-sacs of meaningless. It sounded good at the time but rereading it months later, the cold light of day did not do it any justice.

Took me about 3 months in total which is a month longer than I expected.

Anyway, the positives to come out of it are;

a) I can see the areas needing to be fleshed out and specific events/actions that need to be sprinkled around in certain places to give more meaning and context.

b) I like the story (I’ve read articles saying you should hate it but I think they’re referring to the first draft…but I still liked it after the first draft so don’t believe everything you read).

The second draft only added 2,000 words making the total about 56,500, so I need to add more, at least 10,000.  There’s a bunch of things I need to add so this isn’t a problem where I’ll end up seriously padding it with crap.

The third draft isn’t going to be a full read through, just going directly into places and adding stuff. Hopefully this will just take a month, so by the end of May I should be done.

The 4th draft will be a full read through with a special eye towards technical errors as per – Ten Mistakes Writers Don’t See (But Can Easily Fix When They Do). I’ll give that another month and then dish it out to a few beta readers, probably in July.  If you’re interested in being a beta reader then go here!

 

Haven’t blogged for a while cause I’ve been getting stuck into the 2nd draft of ‘Broken Branches’.  A little later than I originally planned because various other things kept getting in the way plus not being in the right frame of mind, but here I am, better late than never.

Just finished Chapter 5 (of 23) and everything has been pretty much hunky dory so far…eerily so.

I say that but I do plan pretty well so I’m confident in the plots and motivations, my main worries are the craft of writing quality prose and creating interesting, believable characters.

With the novels I’ve read recently I find myself analysing exactly how the author is progressing the characters and the story, what they’re including and what they’re leaving out which is just as important.  I’m not writing a police report or a NASA instruction manual detailing every iota of information, readers contribute their own imaginations to a story so a writer has to leave room for that to happen.

This 2nd draft is going to consist of reading through the whole thing in about a month; fixing obvious writing errors, adding description and characterisation, fixing names, researching real-world aspects I glossed over in the 1st draft, ensure the plots and motivations are good, making sure every scene/paragraph/line of dialogue deserves its place, trashing the fluff and the flim-flam, trim exposition to the bare bones and clarify the timings of the whole novel.

No major headaches so far, just lots of little things needing improvement.  It’s amazing how often simply deleting a phrase or sentence actually fixes the whole problem.

Here are a few blog posts I’ve stumbled on that’ll help me tighten things even more;

  1. Novel Doctor – The Editor’s Hat: 11 Tips for Your Second Draft
  2. Holt Uncensored – Ten Mistakes Writers Don’t See (But Can Easily Fix When They Do)
  3. WordPlay – Most Common Mistakes Series
  4. The Creative Penn – On editing and rewriting
  5. Hey, There’s  A Dead Guy – 8 Fiddly Things You Can Do To Your Manuscript To Make Your Editor’s Day

The hardest thing to do is read this 1st draft like I’ve never read it before.  I don’t remember everything, and it’s great to read a catchy line I’d forgotton, but I still know the basics of how the whole novel will unfold.  It’s difficult to imagine how the reader will feel at a particular point and assess if you’re doing things in the right order, in the most interesting order, or if they’re following as enthusiastically as you’re leading…

…like a blog post…hello?

In doing a 2nd draft, there’s one unavoidable consequence.

You’ll have to do a 3rd draft.