I’m sitting here in my attic, mulling over ideas for my first entry – some clever, pithy piece I had hoped – but I’m coming up dry. Instead, I’ll tell how we got here, and we can be clever later.
I’ve spent the last fifteen years writing science fiction and trying to get published. This site, this blog, and the novels are the result of thousands of hours of brainstorming, story mapping, writing, editing, revising ad nauseum, then formatting for e-publishing and finally, the release.
The Togahan series started from a very simple, somewhat nerdy premise: Why, in thousands of years of fantasy history, do most stories remain locked in medieval technology? What would happen instead if their technology progressed along their racial lines, i.e. if your stereotypical elves developed spaceships, how would they work? What if magic were explained as a science? I sat down for a year and filled a notebook with ideas and (very bad) sketches before a story began to emerge. I mapped out most of the story, and then got to hammering away at the computer. Sometime later I had a first draft, which honestly stank. I revised it. I revamped it. I had it edited by a good friend, and then revised it again.
I thought it was pretty decent then, so I started shopping around for an agent. I sent out twenty queries. I got seventeen rejections, one closed shop, one very shady deal that wanted a $2,000 reading fee, and one legitimate offer for representation, which I accepted.
After two years and no bites, my agent and I parted amicably and I convinced my wife’s uncle (R.A. Salvatore, aka “Bob”) to take a look. He read fifty pages and had to put it down (it still stank). He offered me the two single bits of advice that would change the course of my novels:
“You’re writing about elves in space. Don’t do that. Publishers won’t touch it. Generally, readers who like elves don’t like space, and vice versa. Pick one, and redo it. Secondly, you take seven sentences to say something that should take only two. Tighten it up; the story drags.”
For a project which had already absorbed years of my time, this feedback was initially shattering. But I realized that he was right, and decided to apply that advice instead to a newer manuscript. (One of the characters in the original story, a brash gunfighter named Dante Nissomo, had intrigued me so much that I decided to write his origin.) While I wasn’t thrilled at the amount of rewriting this would require, I came to see it as an opportunity. Instead of constricting myself to readers’ preconceptions of elves, ogres, etc., I had the freedom to explain the races and cultures as I saw fit. I tweaked the descriptions. I added backstory and history. I wrote an entire worldbook with new descriptions, technology, and religions. It was a fresh start. Then I went back to Dante’s origin, and retooled it.
The result was A Togahan’s Tale.
Bob liked this manuscript more, saw that I had listened, and he agreed to talk to a couple of his industry contacts. That’s a whole other story, but essentially they said that it was a decent read, but they had no idea how to market it. “Sci-fi/Mafioso” was too difficult to predict, sales-wise, especially for an unknown author.
The industry was evolving with the dawn of print-on-demand and electronic publishing, so while that risk aversion might have initially hurt new authors like me, it was also another opportunity. I researched e-publishing, and decided to jump on the Kindle bandwagon.
One big piece of that is producing a polished e-manuscript and the other is marketing it, which I’m still figuring out. This website is the marketing nexus for the Togahan stories. Stay tuned to learn more about the novels and their releases, and watch this blog for regular updates on those and my thoughts on writing in general. I’m by no means an expert, but I’m happy to share what I’ve learned.
It’s been a long, great journey, and the best part is that we’re just getting started.