My first published novel, A HUNDRED THOUSAND WORLDS, came out in 2016. I wrote the first draft in a month-long residency in 2013 and edited it through the end of that year and the first half of the next before sending it out to agents.
But it wasn’t the first novel I wrote.
In addition to a couple novels that failed, mostly succumbing to sprawl, there was a novel I first wrote in 2010 and worked on, in off hours, for about three years. Actually, at the residency where I wrote A HUNDRED THOUSAND WORLDS, I spent the first few days revising this book for what turned out to be the last time.
I think of it now as my DIY MFA program. I’m in the camp that maybe the only way to learn to write a book is to write a book. After abandoning other books, with this one I set myself a more straightforward task. I used the general shape of a detective/noir story, which lends itself to constant forward motion, to combat my tendency towards sprawl. I zeroed in on one protagonist—which maybe I should return to—because I didn’t have the skill to juggle multiple protagonists/POVs while still moving a plot. I outlined extensively, although those outlines shifted as the book started to live and breathe. And I pushed myself to finish a draft, rather than constantly revising and second guessing myself.
It also turned out to be how I learned to revise. I was lucky enough to have an amazing agent take an interest in the book and offer some notes. In conversation with him over email and through a couple meetups over the course of a year or two, I put the book through three more or less complete re-writes. In the end, he passed on the book, but it was undeniably a better book for the work we’d put in. It’s also how I learned to “hear” criticism, and how to take notes from a strong reader.
He ultimately passed on A HUNDRED THOUSAND WORLDS, too, by the way. But he was the first agent to read it, and the first to affirm that yes, it was ready to be out on submission.
The book has problems, fer shur. It’s about technology, social media in particular, and some of it feels like it’s falling into the gap between dated and quaintly retro. It is very much a novel written by a dude in his twenties (in my defense, I was a dude in my twenties) and to my ongoing horror, it fails a basic Bechdel test (for which I offer no defense).
But I think it’s fun. I would never push it as my next book, but I do have a certain fondness for it, and I think it shows the training wheels-aided attempts of fledgling novelist. So I’m going to start posting it on here, section by section. If you want to read it, cool. I’m sure we’re all loaded up with content heading into this long, dark tea time of the soul. It’s about 85,000 words. Some of the jokes hold up, and FBI Agents Strunk and White is a good concept I can only hope to repurpose some day. If you like it, share it. If you like it so much you think it is worthy of dollars because capitalism, take those dollars and donate them to mutual aid causes near you.
Anywhere, here’s DIS.