Sunday, March 4, 2012
Thriller Guy has gone on vacation. He says he'll be back when Appel is done using, or abusing, his blog.
For the long version of the story of the writing of my first published book, read the previous two blog entries.
So I wrote three chapters and an outline as a proposal for Time After Time, and Kent Carroll, of Carroll and Graf Publishers, using the chapters and outline, sold the paperback rights for the book to Dell for $20,000.00. He gave me half as an advance to write the book while he kept half to pay for the printing of the book, or to just go into the Carroll and Graf coffers in general. This was back in 1985 when such a deal was possible. Those were the good old days. Today, you'd never get that kind of money, which was considered paltry back then. Lots of folks I knew were getting $45,000 and $50,000 advances as a matter of course. In these recession times a fiction writer, much less a first time fiction writer, is lucky to get $5,000.00 for an advance. And unless you have an established track record as a decent selling novelist and you're dealing with a publisher who knows you and who has published your books before, you are never going to sell a piece of fiction on sample chapters and an outline. You have to write the whole book before you can even get an agent to look at it, much less a publisher. The writing business, particularly the novel writing business, has become much worse place for writers than it was 25 years ago.
But I was happy to write a book for $10,000. I really liked Kent and he was willing to help me along in the process. Sort of the way Thriller Guy works with writers. So I wrote the first of the Pastmaster series, Time After Time. The experience of writing my first book, Cross, taught me how to write dialogue and exposition at the same time and incorporate backstory and a sense of place. All part of what it takes to write a successful novel. I was writing like a regular writer. I wasn't particularly good, but I wasn't shooting for good. I was shooting for a term that I have always favored: workmanlike. As in several reviews I received in the early days, “Mr. Appel's writing never rises much above workmanlike, but he's given us an exciting read.” Really, what's wrong with that? Especially since I know from experience as a reviewer for the last decade or so, in at least 25% of bestselling books by household name writers the quality of the writing doesn't even rise to the level of workmanlike. So here's a tip: you don't have to be particularly good to write a bestselling book. (What do you have to be? Well, many things can make it happen. Luck is foremost, and appealing to popular taste is right up there as well. Having a great idea is your best bet. Keep reading Thriller Guy's blog, and you'll eventually learn all the secrets.)
I wrote the book, working from my outline which I diverged from as often as I stuck to. But the outline gave me a place to start every morning when I got up to write. In those days I wrote at a white heat. I could bang out ten even twenty pages a day. Were they good. Nope. They weren't even workmanlike. But at the end of the day they were done. Here's the big lesson: write. You can always rewrite.
After six months I had finished the book. I rewrote it a few times and sent it to Kent. He went over it line by line, wrote notes all over the pages, sent it back to me, I rewrote it according to his notes. He would call me and we would go over the rewrites. Then I rewrote it by myself a couple of more times. After all of this we had ourselves a book. It was done. It went into the production pipeline, and I began planning the next book in the series, Twice Upon a Time.
Next: The UPS guy tosses a box of the just-printed Time After Time onto my driveway.
Number Two in the series of erotica covers done for Carroll and Graph. (See previous entry)