I promised the publisher I would submit the new draft by the end of June and I’m glad to report I was able to beat that deadline by ten days. The latest draft is 82,000 words or 300 pages, which seems about right. (By comparison, this is longer than most works by Raymond Chandler or Agatha Christie, but on par with more contemporary works by Anthony Horowitz or Michael Connelly.)
While the core historical fiction murder mystery is the same, there are two major new sections in the book. The scientists at Blakely Labs have been working on something called a Z-Machine since before the war. The Z-Machine is one of those odd contraptions that, if successful, enables man to go beyond the normal realm into so-called higher dimensions. Jack Waters uses the Z-Machine to travel back to 1945 to the liberation of the Mittelwerk underground factory. And at a later point in the book, well, let’s just say he travels someplace else and leave it at that.
This draft proceeded at a rapid pace as a result of a detailed outline. I also had a bit of a secret weapon with my co-author Roxie. She’s not a great typist, but she has a way with dialogue. I’ll be taking a couple of weeks off writing as I wait for feedback from the publisher and do some more research. After that, no doubt another draft…
Thank you again for your support. If you have questions, comments or feedback feel free to send me email to ZUrlocker@gmail.com
As I alluded to in the last update, there was a bit more work required on the outline after reviewing it with the publisher. After a couple more weeks of staring at the screen, frowning and jotting down notes, I was able to break out of outline jail. Getting back to the writing has been a joy. Nonetheless, the time spent on the outline helped me to really get to know the characters.
It’s still the same 1950s noir murder mystery with detective Jack Waters investigating the death of a scientist at Blakely Labs. However, there’s a stronger historical component this time around. There’s a new character Jordan Waters, Jack’s twin brother and partner in the detective agency. There are also some important new scenes that show the brothers back in Germany, 1945 at the liberation of the underground Mittelwerk factory. This is a pivotal scene that explains much about the characters and Waters’ connection to the dead scientist.
The outline has 70 scenes, some of which are explained in a paragraph, some are a half page or longer. Although revising the outline was difficult, it has made the writing process quite a bit easier. So far, there has only been one minor deviation from the outline and that was to delay one scene until after a couple of others. Generally speaking, unless I’m waiting for feedback, I’m writing 7 days a week. Sometimes it’s on an airplane, sometimes it’s late at night, but there are no days off. On a good day I can clock between 2,000 and 3,000 words.
Currently, I’m about 42,000 words (roughly 150 pages double-spaced) into the new draft, or 42% of the way through the outline. At this rate, this draft should be complete by the end of June. The publisher asked me to do a check-in before getting too far, so I’ve submitted the completed portion of the manuscript. However the writing starts up again tomorrow morning. The next batch of scenes resume in 1950 at the site of the murder as Jack Waters learns more about what the scientists at Blakely Lab have been up to. As to be expected, it’s pretty dangerous stuff. And weird.
Meanwhile I’m passing along a book for other aspiring writers called “Into the Woods: A Five-Act Journey Into Story” which I heard of on the British Podcast “The Bestseller Experiment.” This is a very well written analysis of story structure by BBC TV producer and script editor John Yorke. Unlike a lot of books on screenwriting, this is not a how-to formula. Instead he explains why certain structures are used and their impact on the story.
Thank you everyone who has supported this project. I’ll keep you posted on progress in the coming months. Let me know if you have questions about the story or the process.
For anyone seeking a bit of inspiration in their own writing, BXP is the best podcast I’ve found on writing: informative, entertaining and motivational. What more could you ask for? It’s the ongoing story of two middle-aged blokes in their quest to write and and publish a bestselling novel called “Back To Reality.” They’ve done some great interviews with a number of authors I admire, including Ian Rankin, Joe Hill, Michael Connelly, Taylor Jenkin-Reid and more.
After four years, it is time to say goodbye to a member of the Inkshares family. At the end of this week, Angela Melamud will be departing as our Assistant Director of Marketing. Angela has been a valuable member of this team for more than four years and was actually our first hire outside of the founders. She has secured reviews not only in publishing trades like Publishers Weekly but also major media outlets like The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and Good Morning America. She has represented your novels with diligence and grace, so please join me in wishing her the best as she transitions toward freelance publicity work.
I would also like to introduce Sarah Nivala, who will be joining our team. I first met Sarah eighteen months ago, introduced to her by the CEO of Vroman’s, the largest bookselling chain west of the Mississippi and owner of Book Soup, where Sarah has worked. For those of you who don’t know Book Soup, it’s one of the most iconic independent bookstores in North America. Sarah is possessed by an infectious love for books, a keen understanding of the marketplace, and advocacy skills honed doing the hardest thing in the business—hand-selling books. Sarah will be supporting Avalon, who will retain overall responsibility on marketing. Over the next two weeks, please address the correspondence that would normally go to Angela to Avalon or myself.
Importantly, Sarah is the first of a few new faces who will be joining Inkshares and I look forward to introducing you to them over the next few months.
It’s been a while, so I thought I’d give everyone an update on how work is progressing on the novel. Some people have mentioned to me that they’ve been so busy they haven’t had a chance to read the book yet. That’s ok, I haven’t finished writing it.
In February, I received detailed feedback from the publisher on the draft manuscript that I had submitted. This is what’s known in publishing as an “editorial letter.” This was an extensive (20 page) and thoughtful critique with many good ideas. The good news is that almost all of the input is actionable. The bad news is there are many months of writing and re-writing required in order to incorporate these ideas and create a truly top-notch novel.
The publisher asked me to create a new outline which strengthens the characters and gives more of the historical context of some events during and following World War II. In particular, I have been researching the liberation of the Mittelwerk slave labor manufacturing facility by the 104th Infantry Division of the Army and Operation Paperclip, the US Government program to recruit German scientists to the US after the war. Both of these elements feature in the background of the novel.
So that’s been the focus for the past month. I’m glad to report that the new outline is complete. It’s quite a detailed document (approximately 35 pages) which describes all the characters and every scene. While it’s still the same noir detective murder mystery, there is a more ambitious middle section and an overall faster pace.
I’ll be reviewing this new outline with the publisher in the coming weeks, and no doubt there will be some back and forth as we try to determine the best way to tell what has become a more complex story.
In the meantime, it’s been a long winter in Northern Michigan. The snow is finally starting to melt, but I’ll keep the snow tires on for a few more weeks, just in case. Thank you everyone who supported this creative project. I’ll keep you posted on progress in the coming months.
PS. For those who are curious about Operation Paperclip, the US government program to recruit German scientists to the US after WWII, I highly recommend the book of that name by Annie Jacobsen. She provides a detailed account of many famous scientist and doctors who were recruited to the US, including Wernher von Braun, who was instrumental in developing the Saturn V rockets which powered the Apollo mission to the moon. He also ran the underground slave labor factory which made V-2 rockets at Mittelwerk and was both a Nazi party member and a Sturmbannfuhrer in the SS.
We’ve been a little quiet since the start of the year, largely because the ball was in our publisher’s court. We’d delivered the manuscript, and we’d delivered the preorders that Inkshares requires to move forward – in record time, thanks again to all of you – and we were waiting to hear from them.
We’re happy to report that we had our first telephone conference with Inkshares officials Friday, Feb. 15, who told us that our book will be one of the top five projects they’ll be working on in the next few months. The CEO told us he’d read 50 pages so far and planned to read the rest in the coming weeks. Inkshares’ editing team should be responding to us with an editorial letter by early March, laying out their reactions and next steps. The CEO told us that he’s very excited about this project and wants to shape it so that we can maximize our audience. (Which we are obviously in favor of).
This is a new world for both of us, as it’s the first book project either of us have ever worked on. Neither of us had any idea of what goes into publishing a book or how long that process takes. We learned a lot during Friday’s conversation. The company is already thinking about cover art and who will design it. We had done our own mock cover, just to get ideas started, but the company has professional designers it uses. We’re excited to see what they come up with.
We also discussed the importance of media coverage, particularly radio interviews, to promote the project. Company officials believe the editing process can be completed during the spring. But the earliest possible publication date would probably be in the fall. Inkshares will be doing market research to see if similar books are coming out and when, to determine a strategic release date. But we’re probably looking at fall at the earliest, maybe into the winter.
Clearly, we’re going to be learning a lot. Neither of us ever thought much about market research in terms of timing a release. But that’s why they’re publishers and they’ve got expertise that we don’t.
We do hear from many of you wondering when the book will be published. We plan to keep you updated throughout the year. A few people have asked when the book will be mailed to them. Unfortunately, it hasn’t been published yet, but it will be.
Doyle first approached Lou with a draft of the book in Oct. 2015. We’ve been working together ever since. And now we’re getting closer to reaching our dreams – this book, published by a real publisher, with our names on the cover – than ever before.
We wouldn’t be where we are without the support of all of you. Thanks again for your support, your faith in us, and your continued patience. If we could deliver a finished product to you tomorrow, we would. But this has been a multi-year effort for us, and we’re committed to making this the best product we can and offering the best experience possible to our readers. It may take a few more months, but we are going to get there.
Doyle and Lou