Sorry it’s been a few weeks since my last entry (I promise more frequent entries in the coming weeks and months until the October 11 release of my historical/urbran fantasy-SF novel The Apothecary’s Curse from Pyr). As promised, I’m fast-forwarding from my childhood ambition of being a novelist to the very beginnings of The Apothecary’s Curse.
I never had a problem starting a new novel. I have half a dozen or so on my hard drive as we speak in various states of “works in progress” (WIP). In 2012, I actually (more or less) finished a first draft for novel I called “Lake Effect.” It’s a novel about a washed up (but brilliant) physician who uncovers a bizarre (and never-before-seen) illness upon the autopsy of a Senator’s ten-year-old daughter. I was pretty pleased with it; so pleased that I entered it in Amazon’s Breakthrough Novel of the Year (ABNA) competition. I made it to the third round (yay!), but knew in my heart that novel was only a draft and had very little chance of making it. (Which I didn’t.)
I began the process of editing the 85,000 word manuscript when I got the daily GalleyCat newsletter from MediaBistro. It was a call to participate in reconstructing a terrible, purple-prose-laden Victorian horror novel called Varney the Vampire. Each participant would be assigned one page to rewrite in the style of choice. The result would be a Galley Cat/Smashwords mashup anthology of poor old Varney’s adventures.
I opted in, and got a page toward the beginning of the book. I completely forgot about the contest until the day before the entries were due (oops!). Being a generally responsible sort (and not wanting my page missing from the mashup, thereby creating a vacuous, albeit one page, hole in the anthology), I commenced writing (or rather rewriting) my page, and emailed it hours before the deadline for inclusion.
Several weeks later I received an email that said “Congratulations! You’ve won!” You know those emails; they’re the ones you usually flag as spam. Except. Upon closer examination, I realized that the email was from GalleyCat, and I made the connection. I’d had no idea that the mashup was a contest of any kind–just a fun exercise. I won second prize (which turns out was way nicer than first in my case).
First prize was free admittance to MediaBistro’s next conference (to which I was unlikely to go). Second prize? Your choice of any MediaBistro course in the catalog. Cool. I love MediaBistro‘s classes. I’d taken editing and copywriting classes through MB, and they are quite expensive. So I looked through the catalog and voila. I saw it right there in front of my novelist-wannabe’s eyes: “Twelve Weeks to Your First Novel” Woo-hoo! The perfect opportunity to perfect my already-in-first-draft novel. With a $750 price tag for the class, I thought I had just won the best writers’ prize ever.
I waited impatiently for the first class to commence. Taught by Erika Mailman, the class met via Skype weekly with assignments between. Our class had six members.
Fast forward to the first class. Ready to really dig into Lake Effect, I explained the novel and its status. And then came the bombshell. “Nope. We want you to start from scratch. New novel. From concept to outline to first draft. No discussion. Full stop.” (Okay, so she didn’t put it quite that harshly, but still!) F**k.
Undaunted, I went into my deep file of “novel ideas,” virtually flipping through page after page of one-paragraph concepts. Thrillers, romances, post-apocalyptic tragedies… Finally I cam across this:
Hero is a doctor from the Victorian era. Wife has cancer and he experiments with a series of chemicals that he theorizes (and had read) would give her months more of life, if not cure her. She dies, quicker than he expects, and in despair, he injects himself with the same potion to kill himself. He doesn’t die—in fact it doesn’t affect him at all—apparently. He lives on to see the new century and falls in love again, but he realizes that he’s not getting any older as his wife, and then children die. H e runs away to his family’s retreat in the country and lives as a hermit, terrified to expose himself to those who might know him. He lives alone, waiting and hoping to die. A female passerby has a car accident near his retreat and knocks on his door. It changes both their lives.
Hmm. Definite possibilities. Let’s go with that one. In the end, only a bit of that concept made it into the finished project, but significant bits. And so began the journey of writing The Apothecary’s Curse.
The next entry in the series will have me grappling with turning my concept into a viable “elevator pitch” (the bane of my novelist’s existence to this very day!!!!). Please feel free to ask me questions about the process of novel writing, and I will absolutely try to hit on it in future entries in the series.
In the meantime, we’re five months from release date, the cover art is done (and is gorgeous), and I promise to share it as soon as I’m able 🙂 So stay tuned!
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