Air Pirates Postmortem: What Went Right

On Wednesday, I talked about how I could improve my process. If you read only that post, you might think I get down on myself a lot. I do, but not in that post. The truth is I like my process a lot, and there were a lot of things that went right with Air Pirates. Here are some that stuck out to me.

Air Pirates was originally a story about Sam (big surprise there), and Hagai was just the reader's guide into the world. I always knew Sam's voice, but writing from Hagai's POV was more difficult for me. Until one day Cindy finished reading chapter 4 and said, "I like Hagai. He's really funny."

Funny? I wrote something funny? I had no idea. I didn't even know that was possible. Humor was one of those things I figured I'd never be able to write. Like romance or contemporary fiction. After Cindy told me, suddenly I could see it for myself. Hagai really was funny.

Then I screwed it all up in chapter 6 by trying too hard, but that's beside the point. The point is, when Cindy said that, I realized I had a voice. I mean, I always had a voice, but now I knew what it was. I could see it, refine it, and most of all take pride in it.

Somewhere around chapter 8, I realized I was unclear on the focus of the story. So I spent some time writing and refining my query letter. This was the best decision I could have made for three reasons:

  1. It gave me months to refine the query in small doses, rather than trying to perfect it all at once while fighting the urge to "Send it right now and see what happens!"
  2. It forced me to figure out what the story was really about and consequently kept me from getting off-track while I was drafting.
  3. Because I'd written less than half the novel at that point, writing the query was easier; I didn't try to force superfluous details into the query because I didn't know any details!

So, my wife is awesome. One of the myriad ways in which she is awesome is that she gives me 2 hours a day, most days, to disappear and write. Not only does it help keep me free from distraction, but it motivates me. It feels like I'm leaving for my job, and I know if I waste my two hours, I can't make it up later.

All my beta readers were awesome. I used at least 95% of everyone's comments, and Air Pirates is much better for it.

But a few of my beta readers had that extra level of skill and experience I didn't. They were harsher critics than I even knew how to be. They not only stretched this novel, but they stretched me as a writer.

Until a year and a half ago, I knew hardly any writers. The best thing that has come out of this blog has been my relationship with many of you: writers on the same path, many of whom know more than I do. I'd still be doing this without you guys, but I couldn't do it nearly as well or as well-encouraged. Beta or not, you are all awesome.


Rhys Milner said...

Right there with you on the writing the query early thing, forces a little clarity in, gets you goal focused so to speak.

How efficient is your two hours of writing these days? My advice help any? :P

Adam Heine said...

I admit I haven't been very disciplined in following your advice ;-)

Seriously though, while I haven't yet tried planning next time at the end of This Time, I have determined better (when I sit down) what I want to get done this time. It's a definite help.

But also I haven't written many new words for a while. I've been editing for about 2 months straight (which involves some new words, but it's not the same as the difficulties in a first draft). I'll probably start in on The Cunning after the baby comes.

Myrna Foster said...

I'll have to try your query idea. I bet it would help me see what needs to go in my ms.

Your voice even comes out in your comments sometimes; that's why I started reading your blog. I can believe Hagai is funny.

Adam Heine said...

Thanks, Myrna! That's so nice!

Hepius said...

My first draft of Eternal Knight was 230,000 words. I joined a critique group (face to face, not online) and they tore it to pieces. I am so thankful to them!

Good critique partners and beta readers are vital to a new writer. Eternal Knight is now down to 105,000 words and is a far superior novel to the bloated beast it once was.

Critique launch in 2-3 weeks.

Adam Heine said...

Cool, Matt! It takes a lot of guts to cut that much from your novel. The most I've been able to cut was 14,000, and that was after many rounds of edits. Good luck with your launch!