Hello all! I have exciting news. After years of talking about it, I’m publishing my first book and it will be available soon in paperback and Kindle edition.
To celebrate, I’m going to give away a free copy of the Kindle edition to ten lucky readers of my blog. The drawing will be on Monday, January 16, and entering for the drawing is easy.
Just send an email to email@example.com with the subject line “Nathan’s Book Giveaway” and you’ll be entered into the drawing.
That’s it. No purchase is necessary and your email address won’t be sold or shared. (I hate spam as much you do!) If you’re selected, I will email you back on January 16 with the Kindle edition attached and you can read it on your Kindle device or the Kindle app on your phone, computer, or tablet.
Thanks to everyone who has supported my passion for writing through the years! I’m excited to share this milestone with you.
Over the years I’ve written several short books. Usually it’s to get an idea out of my head, or work through a scenario on paper. Once I write it, I tend to put it away without letting anyone else read it. Perhaps writing is more therapy than anything for me, and once it’s been dealt with, it’s laid to rest.
But this past summer, I really got the writing bug. I wrote a 20,000 word draft and felt it was something I shouldn’t keep to myself. So over the past 6 weeks, I’ve gathered up a group of people from reading groups and asked them to read it for feedback.
Sending out my work was terrifying. As soon as I’d hit the Send button on my email, I nervously obsessed over every word in my story as I imagined these people reading my work. God, what was I doing? Who was I fooling? Could I really pull off being a writer?
The first response rolled in. Then the second. Then the third. The people who read it loved it. Some were more critical than others, and that’s okay. I needed the criticism to grow. They were constructive and detailed without being hurtful or mean-spirited.
Variations of the phrase “strong narrative voice” kept coming up. Apparently that’s one of my better qualities, at least with the draft. “Sexy” and “emotional” were others.
I felt invigorated. Maybe I really could build something from this. I was excited by the prospect.
The story is about a cancer survivor who has a chance encounter with a merman in the icy waters of San Francisco. As he delves into a dark and mysterious world he never knew existed, he discovers danger is lurking behind every corner.
Using cancer in the storyline was a risk for me because I used inspiration from my own life. If the story tanked or was ripped to shreds, the impact could have felt deeply personal, even if it wasn’t. But it seems to be paying off, and perhaps my experience offered an authenticity to the story because it was written by someone who lived it. (Thanks cancer.)
So what’s next? I’m working with an editor to help me develop it into a full-length novel. Then I would like to self-publish it next year. I can already tell you there’s no way a traditional publisher would touch this. Graphic gay sex scenes are a tough sell for a traditional publisher, and they’d probably want to make the merman a mermaid instead. I would rather publish it myself and market it to a smaller audience, and I’d still be able to sleep at night feeling like I’d kept my voice.
My terrifying tale wasn’t so terrifying at all. I’m glad I put myself out there, letting readers give their honest feedback on something I’d written. Stay tuned for more developments!
It was on this day in 2014 that I completed the first draft of my first book. I was so relieved to have accomplished it, yet I never looked at it again, nor did I ever share it with anyone, not even my husband.
Yeah. Lame, right?
But I wrote it for myself to prove that I could. It was something I’d always wanted to do, but always wimped out when my inner critic’s voice overpowered my own narrative. So I finally did it and was proud of what it was.
Then a lot of things happened! Soon after I finished the book, we found out we had been matched with a child for adoption. That fell apart a few months later, and then a few months after that, we did end up adopting a child… A different child, who’s now our son. (Sunshine of my life, I might add.)
That brought us to August 2015, when I had surgery to remove the cancer in my testicle, and then three days later, got on a plane to move to California. (Because one life changing event at a time wasn’t enough, and we were on a schedule.)
And finally, we find ourselves at August 20, 2016. I set a goal to write 20,000 words in 20 days, starting at the first of the month. I’m happy to reveal that I met that goal and have my first draft of a second book.
So what’s next? 20,000 words is typically classified as a novella. That seems to be my comfort zone for now. The previous book was in that range too. It’s enough to put some real meat on the bones of the story, establish characters, plot, and settings, but it’s a quick read too. Those are the books I tend to enjoy reading as well. And this one is something I’d like to seriously consider moving forward with.
I’m going to let it rest for awhile, take a break and come back to it with a fresh set of eyes. Then I need to round up some trusted people to read it and give input. After that, I think it would be wise to find an editor. Writers need editors. Most of us are too sensitive, too emotionally tied to what we’ve created, and an objective third party can take something from good to great.
I fell in love with the story. It’s very personal for me. I used elements of my cancer surgery and recovery to give a unique perspective to the protagonist. The story’s set in the outskirts of San Francisco, so that was endlessly fun to write about.
That’s where I’m at today. I’ll post an update when I have one.
Twenty years ago, I wrote my first short story. Even then, at the age of twelve, I had a thirst for bringing stories to life on a page.
The story was about a teenager possessed by the murderous spirit of his dead uncle. I’m pretty sure the plot was influenced by several dozen horror films coming out in the early 1990s, but hey, it was a kid’s first effort at building suspense. I can’t say it was the most original, but I gave it a go. I wrote two sequels over the next year, and as I matured into a teenager, my judgmental inner critic took over and I never wrote a story again.
Five years ago, I got the writing bug again and started drafting a book. I didn’t know the first thing about writing a book, but I had a new story I was compelled to tell, so I started anyway. The words poured out of me at first, but eventually that same inner critic chipped away at me until I surrendered.
Our inner critic is a terrible monster, far crueler than any bad review could ever be. The inner critic knows your weaknesses, your insecurities, and he goes for the jugular every time. Suffice it to say, I never finished that book, and the story has become so diluted over time, I don’t know if I ever will finish it.
Last month I learned about a book called No Plot? No Problem! by Chris Baty. It’s a mind-boggling test of your sanity that pushes you to write your first draft of a novel in 50,000 words and 30 days. I have trouble with 30 day programs and usually either give up or lose interest in the first week. I knew it was really going to be a test of my will power and creativity.
On day one, I started with a blank slate, as the book recommends. I had no concept of the characters, plot, or locations. I just took an idea that popped into my head and ran with it, diligently writing each day and letting the fictitious characters hold my hand and lead me into their world. These characters told me how they feel, how they react in certain situations, and they told me their story as I listened to them. It felt like an out-of-body experience.
It’s been 20 days and I reached 25,000 words, which is only half of the goal I was supposed to meet. But the story is complete and I won’t be writing during the remaining 10 days (unless I get a sudden burst of inspiration).
By the standards of the No Plot? No Problem! book, I didn’t complete the assignment. But I feel that the story was successfully told in 25,000 words and I’m satisfied with the results. It has a clear beginning, middle, and end with multiple conflicts and resolutions.
Could the story be extended to 50k or 100k words? Absolutely. I think there is a lot of room to grow with this story, but it will require a visit from my inner critic in order to work out all the little details with character development and extended plot points. Now is not the time for the inner critic. It’s not the point of the first draft. My goal was to get a cohesive book written at break-neck speed, and I’ve succeeded.
The current status is novella, which 25k words is acceptable for. I’ve written my first novella and now I can go confidently into the future, knowing a lot more about the process of writing a book.
If you’ve ever wanted to write a book, I highly, HIGHLY encourage you to test out the principles of No Plot? No Problem! sometime very soon, before you talk yourself out of the idea. It takes a lot of hard work and dedication, but the rewarding feeling is worth every sleepless night and it’s over in the blink of an eye. A month later, you’ll have your first draft of a story done.
Who’s up for the challenge? Leave a comment and let me know!
I have a new chapter to share from the book I’m writing on. The previous two chapters can be read here. To get you up to speed, we’re dealing with a mother named Mary Anne who’s discovered her 16-year-old son Justin is gay. She’s forced him to start counseling sessions with a priest, Father Robert.
Please provide your feedback in the comments. This is a draft and work in progress, so any thoughts you’d like to share on the storyline and character development are greatly appreciated. Thank you.
JUSTIN’S FIRST SESSION
Robert walked down the long hallway of the church corridors. The heels of his black leather loafers clicked against the floor. A cool breeze blew in from the open windows, causing the sheer white curtains to float in the air like ghosts as he passed them.
When he arrived at the rectory, Justin and Mary Anne were waiting in the sitting area. The mother stood when Robert entered the room, then elbowed her son to do the same.
“Good evening, Mary Anne.” He shook her hand firmly to convey his confidence.
“Father Robert, this is my son, Justin.”
The young man flashed a seething stare at the priest, then went back to playing on his phone.
“Now, Justin, remember what I said about putting your phone away when we got here.” She was demanding, not asking, in that high-pitched nagging tone mothers are so good at making.
Justin begrudgingly obliged, stuffing the phone in the tiny front pocket of his body-hugging black jeans. He wore a thin t-shirt with alternating charcoal and black stripes that framed his delicate outline. His hair was dark with a purple stripe that curved from the right side to the front and his purple canvas sneakers matched.
His parents really had no idea?, Robert thought to himself. He nodded his head toward the next room, where their session would be.
Justin glared one last time at his mother before walking away with the priest.
Below is another chapter from the book I’m working on. You can also read the previous chapter, Lead Us Not Into Temptation. Please provide any feedback or insights in the comments. I’d love to hear what you thought of the characters and storyline! Thanks.
Daylight was bursting through the windows of Brad’s bedroom, creating a slow rising heat. He tossed and turned as he dreamed. The mysterious vision of water and the breathless feeling of drowning was consuming him. He’d had this dream before but he didn’t know where he was.
Brad was intensely afraid of any water that was higher than his waist. It had been that way ever since he was a child, when he was pushed into the deep end of a pool. Now at age 27, he still grappled with paralyzing fear.
“Help me, please! Can’t anybody hear me?” He choked on his words, trying to break free of the nightmare. At some point he always realized he was asleep, but it was a struggle to shout the words out loud to wake himself up. Finally he succeeded in a slurred call for help.
Thank you for the feedback on the opening chapter of my book. I’ve talked with a group of people about it and also done some editing over the past few days. I believe this new version of the chapter is an improvement.
I was surprised to learn that everyone who read the chapter kind of liked Father Robert. (I wanted you to hate him.) They disagreed with his beliefs, but they still wanted to learn more about him.
Charismatic is a word that might describe him. But I’m happy with this feedback and have decided to run with it. Maybe if you like him, you’ll feel sad when he dies. The important thing is that you felt something. This tells me I’ve created a multi-dimensional character that you believe is real. Exciting!
Here’s the new version. Again, please tell me your thoughts on it. Thank you!
LEAD US NOT INTO TEMPTATION
The phone rang, breaking the quiet tranquility on a Thursday morning. Father Robert was planning the church readings for the month ahead.
“St. Anthony’s Church, how can I help you?”
“Do you believe in God?” asked the raspy voiced man on the other end.
“God. Do you believe in God?”
“Of course I do. What a ridiculous question.”
“I’m glad you believe in God, Father Robert. You’re gonna meet him when I gut you like a fish.” The caller started laughing. The sound was thick and rocky, like a heavy smoker. “In fact, I’m gonna stick a knife in your chest and rip out your heart like you ripped out mine.”