"I wanna know how the hell you did it." she said.

She, being a best friend and fellow writer, and "how the hell I did it" meaning how the hell my first novel got accepted by a publisher.

The answer is straight up luck . . . don't let anyone tell you different. The right collection of words, in front of the right set of eyes on a particularly charitable day.

That . . . and I cheated.

No shame in that. None . . . like whatsoever.

I could probably go back to 1976 to how much I've been cheating, see, I wasn't born rich, but I was born loved and surounded by books, and got to spend most of my life having smart conversations with smart people.

That's where the words come in.

And probably the desire/ability to have something to say.

Much much much later, ten years into my marriage, my wife pledged to sacrifice her soul so that I could hack my way through Frost's less traveled road and still pay most of our bills.

I could've quit right then and there and called myself a success.

But let's put all that aside and just pretend that a novel (any novel) was inevitable.

Here's where the cheating gets intense.

See . . . I didn't want to just "write a novel" Sit down and begin typing on a word processor and just make it up as I went along.

I don't think I could've done that.  I'm a story teller for sure, but I'm not a yarn spinner, and after rereading my novel this weekend . . . I couldn't write a page of exposition to save my life.

I am no Stephen King.

But I was gonna write a novel anyway . . . cause . . . you know . . . inevitable. And having spent six months in the bowels of social media, I had this idea that I wanted to write about the current generation of teens and twenty somethings, their sense of pop-culture, information, identity, mental health, growing up digital, and discovering that truth is analogue.

I had ideas.

I had a character.

But I had no story, and probably couldn't write one if I did.

So before I put a single word on the page, I backed off the entire enterprise and looked at the process from each point of evolution.

First there's the writing. Then the rewriting, rewriting, rewriting. (Case in point: the novel is currently in draft seven and will be in draft eight by the end of the week, and I roughly calculated that it will be in draft fifteen by September 20th, the day I deliver the final)

I still didn't have a story . . . but I was already steeling my nerve that this was going to be a long arduous process and that I had the testicular fortitude to see it through to the end.

Cheat Number One: Feed the inner artist a handful a qualudes and get your inner technician ready for a long year.

The next piece of the whole shebang is to convince someone with money, to read, accept, edit, copyedit, finance, and market your book.

That's where it gets super tricky. The odds are totally super against you. The odds hate you, they hate your novel, they don't like your shoes, you really are a disgrace to humanity.

And that was thirty years ago.

Now publishers have ten times the submissions and a quarter of the liquid capital.

And self publishing is not an option. There's not enough chum in that bucket to attract even the most hungry sharks.

Thresholds of traditional publishing are as follows: Find an agent, convince the agent, let the agent do the work. You're odds have now gone from 1 in 1,000,000 to 1 in 1,000. And maybe you've made a new friend.

But agents are being marginalized even more than publishers. I'm not saying that an agent isn't worth her weight in uncut cocaine, but small to mid-sized publishers are taking submissions directly, and unless you've already got Jennifer Lawrence attached to the movie rights, there's a good chance the big boys aren't gonna return phone calls.

Threshold number one: The Pitch. This is your only chance to get anyone's attention. You've got one breath before your audience is bored and that really good essay in Chapter Three isn't gonna cut it. How can you describe your book in one or two sentences that conveys these three things?

FAMILIARITY: People don't like weird. They like what they know. You don't have name recognition as an author (yet). Cheese burgers, bro, no quiche.

You think Harry Potter was original? "An orphaned boy who learns he's a wizard and is whisked away to a world of magic and adventure."

That's the plot of Star Wars.

It took Van Gogh about a hundred years to be recognized. You don't have that kinda time.
NOVELTY: Doesn't that sound like the exact opposite of what I just said? Nope. A new spin on a classic tale. Repeat that ten times fast.

MARKETABILITY: Knowing how to sell it and who to sell it to.

Familiarity, novelty, marketability.

I've written that before, but it bears repeating.

And that's how I cheated. Instead of inventing a story, I stole one. I stole one from Shakespeare so I won't have to share royalties while stealing story, plot, character, pacing, dialogue, and whatever else there is to mine.

I didn't even need to hide it.

It's a selling point.

I just put the characters of Hamlet in the digital age. I could shamelessly ride on the back of The Bard, dumb down his words, elevate my own, meet in the middle, and now I have a fresh new novel the just happens to be "A new spin on a classic tale"

Say it with me again.

Is it cheating? Hell yes it is. Are there better more original novels by better writers? Yup . . . and they're all sitting on a shelf somewhere collecting dust.

But I'm counting chickens already . . . and I shouldn't be. I'm not officially a novelist until my first royalty check is cashed, and who knows how long that'll be.

Yet now that you know how I got in the door (luck and cheating), this next part is really where we get going.

See, there are significant flaws on just about every page. Not just editing errors, but language that is too passive, formats that change between chapters, I skip from verse to prose to free form poetry so fast sometimes it's hard to read. Not to mention the criminally bad exposition throughout, but especially at the beginning.

I solved many a problem by strip mining the genius work of another, but I've created several more in the wake of it all.

It's been six months since I'd read it, and now we wander with our bucket of chum into uncharted waters.

I know what I would like to fix. I have a sorta kinda sense of what I should let others fix. I have no idea which parts I'll just have to let be.

So that should answer my best friend's question. "How the hell did I do it?" . . . and sends us off into the land of "What the hell am I doing now?"

I'm back to blogging everyday, and if there's nothing new in the development of this, I'll go back to my earlier formated series.

I hope the story we journey over the next three months will be a good one.

Not EASY, but full of roadblocks, brickwalls, moments of indecision, a little heartbreak, some magic, a sorting hat, a lightsaber, and a rabbit with a watch to chase down a hole.

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