Tag Archives: manuscript

Coal Belly Draft Zero

So, Coal Belly is Done… Sorta

Last weekend, after a year and eight months, I finally hit print on the final chapter of my latest novel, Coal Belly. The first of what I hope to be a trilogy. Right now, it weighs in at 190k words, and I expect it to grow.

Long time readers know this isn’t the first time I’ve written Coal Belly. The original manuscript emerged in 2010/11—a few years after I moved to Seattle and around the time I started working at Google. In fact, this blog began right after I finished the manuscript as an attempt to document my journey. That first version was around 130k words, and in the end, nothing came of it. It languished on shelves and hard drives for years. Always nagging at me as I worked on and published other projects. I knew there a was a better story there, I just hadn’t found it yet. It wasn’t until early 2016 that I felt I was ready to give it another go.

Coal Belly, Draft Zero, along side pre-manuscript ritual islay scotch and a cigar.
Behold! Coal Belly, Draft Zero sitting alongside my post-manuscript ritual: Islay scotch (in this case Laphroaig 10 yr., often Lagavulin 16 yr.) and a Cuban cigar.

It’s the longest I’ve ever worked on a book. Some elements have remained the same, steamboats still feature prominently in a world covered with rivers, and its weird-west aesthetic persists. But the themes between books are very different. Characters have become something greater, plotlines are better defined and much more complex, and the stakes are personal. Looking back it’s obvious now, and I’m glad I put it aside. That first version was akin to raw ore, and this new manuscript is the refined mineral. It’s a better book in every way.

“That first version was akin to raw ore, and this new manuscript is the refined mineral.”

As always, I took some time over the weekend and commemorated the occasion. I spent most of this last week reflecting on the work, and I’m excited. Coal Belly draft zero is done. The editing lies before me. I go on vacation next week, but soon it’ll be time to delve back into the work while my steam is up.

More on Coal Belly later.


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It's done!

Another Finished Manuscript

Big news today! I just finished the rough draft for my new fantasy project: Our Dust Echoes! Whew. Finishing something like this is a weird mix of emotions. I’m glad to have reached this point, but it’s always hard to feel finished. But it is finished. The tale is told. As I mentioned on Instagram, Twitter, and pretty much everywhere else I had intended that this would be a series of small novellas… the, er… story grew in the telling.
Our Dust Echoes - Final Rough ManuscriptI’m going to let it rest for a bit, then I will be diving into my first pass of edits. Expect a lot more to come on this particular project, an official announcement will be really soon. Dust is very different from The Bell Forging Cycle in a lot of interesting ways. I think you’ll dig it.

Running the Numbers #3

Small update – not much new that I haven’t posted about before – anyway, here’s the numbers for Coal Belly. I keep plodding along – staying busy with other projects while I play the waiting game. I know things are going to get more complex as I start adding in the numbers for The Stars Were Right (which I just finished.)

  • Total Agents Queried: 84
  • Unanswered Queries: 46
  • Query Rejections: 33
  • Partials Requested: 5
  • Outstanding Partials: 1
  • Partials Rejected: 4
  • Fulls Requested: 0
  • Fulls Rejected: 0

Oh! Almost forgot, I also submitted my full Coal Belly manuscript to the Harper Voyager‘s open call for manuscripts, not something they do very often, obviously if something comes of that you’ll be the first to know.

Keep on keepin’ on.

Pardon me while I take a victory lap…

Boom.

Finished.

Seven months later The Stars Were Right is now a complete rough manuscript at just over 80k words. Right in the sweet spot as planned. Sorry I’ve been heads down, spending most of my time working on my manuscript and avoiding the internet.

It’s a great feeling, but now the hard work begins. First I need to do a secondary pass just to make sure everything is in it’s place plot-wise and along the way I’ll correct any mistakes I happen to stumble across. (I’m sure there are plenty.) Then I have a query to write and a few synopses (in various length, because some agents like short synopsis and some like longer ones.)

I’m pretty stoked, but man there’s a lot to do. I need to write the outline for my next manuscript on top of dealing with all the writing that comes after finishing a manuscript. So much to do, got to focus and stay busy!

Beta Readers

Handed partials of my latest manuscript (The Stars Were Right) to a few readers over the long weekend, and got some very excited feedback. I was told that there was apparent improvement in my writing something I have been seeing but it’s nice to have it validated. Most people took to my main character which is good, since it’s told a first person perspective. There was some dissatisfaction that came from the fact that there is no more to read. Which again is pretty great feedback. The pressures on I guess.

One thing to come out of this was a newfound excitement for my manuscript. At 60k words with the end in the distance it’s difficult to sometimes see the forest through the trees. Things slow down, a project becomes a slog. Seeing other people getting excited over my work gets me excited. Give me a reason to write. Even if I never sell it, if my beta readers enjoyed it I’ve done something right.