Tuesday, October 23, 2007

My long, strange road to becoming a published novelist (Part VI)—By Mark Terence Chapman

My long, strange road to becoming a published novelist (Part VI)—Ron Berry
By Mark Terence Chapman

(This entry is a continuation of one on author Karina Fabian’s blog. Click here to return to Part V.)

Finishing the story was only the beginning. I edited and polished and fleshed out that manuscript through ten drafts, each one presumably better than the last, for the next four years, lengthening the story to as much as 109,000 words before eventually stripping out a few large chunks that I felt slowed the pace of the story too much. The final result, tentatively titled Tesserene, was 102,000 words long.

Between drafts, I decided to work on a second novel, a sort of prequel to the first. (“Sort of” in the sense that it was set in the same fictional universe, nine years earlier, but with different characters.) So, in 2004, I wrote Lichen or Not (working title), about a naïve youth, fresh out of college, going to Mars for his first job as a geologist. Because of my experience in writing Tesserene and the drafts that followed, the first draft of Lichen started out in much better shape (about equivalent in quality to the 4th or 5th draft of Tesserene).

For the rest of 2004 and into 2005, I continued to edit and polish both Tesserene and Lichen. Then I had an idea for a third book in the series that would tie together the characters and events of the first two, to make them a true trilogy, rather than stand-alone books. So I began work on Reunion (set five years after Tesserene). After nearly 50,000 words, it dawned on me that it probably didn’t make sense to write a third book in a series until I sold at least one of the first two. I stopped writing and continued editing/polishing the first two books. I also wrote a second children’s picture book, called Marvin the Marvelous Mole Man, about a boy who is self-conscious about the mole on the end of his nose.

(During this time, an editor who’d stumbled across my old OS/2 book contacted me about ghost-writing some chapters of a book he was compiling about IBM server technology. I agreed and ended up writing Chapters 2, 4, and 7 of Exploring IBM Server & Storage Technology, 6th Edition, from Maximum Press.)

In 2006, I started work on my next book. This book is a great example of how inspiration can strike at the oddest times, and in the strangest ways. To find out how one word inspired a novel, click here to read the next segment of the story, on author KS Augustin’s blog.

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