Checking the Tally: Announcement and Lessons Learned

Morning, one and all. It’s time to chase the rabbit down the rest of the rabbit hole and get this book finished for release next week. I’ve incorporated the edits from my editor and have a few minor issues that I want to polish one more time; I think this thing may be finished by the end of the day tomorrow. In the meantime, I’m working my marketing plan. I’ve banded together with a few other writers next week to make one last push on the Kayson Cycle, between Monday and Tuesday. Promotion details should be forthcoming, and you writers can expect a follow-up once the dust has settled – I know we’re all trying to figure out what works best.

I’m also happy to announce the Corridors of the Dead promotional launch and giveaway. I’m still working out the details – it will be a system where you can earn a certain number of entries by performing certain tasks, but I have to figure out how many entries to each task. Tasks will include items such as writing about the book on your blog or tweeting about the book – also still under review. The prizes, however? Those I’ve figured out:

  1. First Place will be a $50 Amazon Gift Card (one winner).
  2. Second Place will be a $20 Amazon Gift Card (two winners).
  3. Third Place will be a signed copy of The Corridors of the Dead (three winners).
I’m expecting to have all this figured out tomorrow, so keep your eyes open. In the meantime, I think now is the perfect time to examine the lessons I’ve learned from writing The Corridors of the Dead, from inception to today. There are still a lot more to come from the promotional push, but today I really want to dig into things with a timeline of what has happened and the lessons I’ve learned.

September 2010 – Started plotting a concept that occurred to me as a series of images. These images were heavily influenced by the television show Carnivale, in which an unknowing protagonist finds himself embroiled in an ancient war between spiritual forces. My concept depicted a young man named Matt who is thrust into the war between the angels as depicted in the Apocrypha and the Enochian system of magick. I quickly came up with a structure and mythology for these characters, which became my bible for the angelic hierarchy. The term Aetelia, which stood in for angel, was a corruption of the term Aethyr. Aethyrs are prominent in the story itself. Lesson Learned: Get to know the character before fleshing out the concept. Coming up with a strong character and then adding the scenario seems to work better. My plotting was also overkill at the time. My finished outline was close to 50 pages.

October 2010 – In the middle of the outlining process, I got into a discussion with a friend who owns a publishing company. She talked about why her company focuses on strong women in literature, and I was toying with the idea of submitting the novel to them. I toyed with what the story would look like with a female protagonist. The idea intrigued me. It may seem that Matty was a swap for a man, being a lesbian, but that’s not entirely the case, as Matt was gay. The more direct approach was to make Matty a lesbian. Having known quite a few lesbians and lived close to the culture for quite some time, I figured why not? It was a good opportunity to present a lesbian character for something more than titillation – someone who just happened to be attracted to the same sex. With that in mind, I promised myself to avoid sex scenes. Lesson Learned: It’s always good to think about what you could do to stretch the character.

November 2010 – Outline finished, I begin writing the draft. I needed a quick in the butt to get the outline finished, but once that was done, it was smooth sailing from then on out. What I was working on, of course, was very different from today’s novel. Sure, there were superficial differences, like Matty working at a Ramada versus a Circle K in the current novel, but there were much larger differences. For instance, the half-angel, half-human character named Grabbe was effectively a second protagonist, and their stories were supposed to intertwine. Grabbe as presented in the original book was very different, as well. He was an arrogant, angry man trying to atone for his sins but not quite understanding how to do it. There are echoes of that in the current version, but most of the Corridors Grabbe is an entirely different character. As a sidenote, Grabbe was an actual nephilim (half-angel half-human); he was the son of the demon Azazel. Lesson Learned: Listen to your gut. Upfront, it felt flat, but I figured it was a matter of cold feet. I thought that powering on would show me that it didn’t matter if it was flat. I would learn just what a poor decision it was much later on.

February 2011 – Finished the first draft. Submitted it to a contest for first novels. I had decided to get serious by this point. It was time to put myself out there. I was no longer going to wait for this to happen; I would make it happen. I polished the first 50 pages (as that’s what they wanted) to a bright shine, and submitted it.

March 2011 – Completed the editing process. Sent the first half of the novel to the Angry Robot Publishing Open Door month.

April 2011 – Started soliciting agents. I received a few good emails in response, several of which were more personal in nature. One response in particular identified a problem with the story: he was having trouble emotionally connecting with the book. Despondent with the overall response, I debated the next step, and realized I needed to connect with the reader in a more emotional fashion. But how? It didn’t help that I was plotting my next book, a novel called Lily, which I hope to have out sometime in 2013. Lesson Learned: Listen to criticism. Find beta readers.

May 2011 – A voice began popping into my head: an angry young woman from Brooklyn. An artist. This was the Matty that I’d been searching for all along. I wrote the first chapter as an experiment, telling it from Matty’s point of view rather than third person. Everything clicked. It confirmed one of my sneaking suspicions: one some level, what I do is really about acting. The more readily I am able to act as the character, the more readily I can write the story. Lesson Learned: Try to act as the character. If there’s no response or I don’t feel it, it’s not ready yet.

July 2011 – I decided that self-publishing was the right choice, and so I hired a friend who had done a great job with the logo for what was once the Grumpy Bears podcast. He produced a good cover, which will serve as the cover on Barnes and Noble and Smashwords.

August 2011 – Completed the first draft. By this point, I had learned the lessons about drafting that I mentioned in the self-editing post; as a result, the first draft felt nothing like any other first draft that I had ever written. It wasn’t complete, but it was pretty strong. Lesson Learned: I can write a book in three months.

September 2011 – Completed the self-editing process and handed the book off to beta readers, who made some great suggestions. I gathered these suggestions and sat on the book for a few weeks, diving into the creation of the next book. Lesson Learned: Beta reader input is not just helpful – it’s essential. The book literally would not be what it is today without that input.

October 2011 – Incorporated the changes from the beta readers and made one more quick sweep of the novel in the process. I finished up the rest of this second round of self-edits and handed it off to my editor. Lesson Learned: There are always a few rough edges that can be rounded off – another pass can’t hurt.

November 2011 – And here we are today. Received changes from my editor and finished incorporating them. One more pass, formatting checks, and we’ll be ready to go. Now comes the promotional lessons….

Every book is a learning process, a new experience. There’s a reason that a writer progressively gets better with each new work, because you pick up new tricks and add new tools. I’m always sure to take stock of what I learn at the end of a project and what can be applied to an upcoming project. This time I have the advantage of documenting my process in a blog and sharing it with other writers and readers. I hope that maybe it’s provided some other folks with tips, or at least entertainment.

Enhanced by Zemanta
Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Hi Jonathon–I loved Carnival and was very disappointed when it ended leaving everything up in the air–I could see how it would be an inspiration…

  2. I am so proud of my hard-working bear!

Leave a Reply