Tag Archives: writing

Introducing Billy Goat Stats

On May 25, Dreamspinner Press will publish Billy Goat Stats, the second in my DIY Family series. I wrote the novel because I fell in love with the main character, Billy, in my previous novel, Music Box. Billy appeared when Jonah, one of the earlier novel’s protagonists, needed help coping with bullies in school. Billy befriended Jonah despite being a jock, a basketball player, and popular—that is to say, from as distant a social sphere as I could imagine. When their friendship blossomed, I couldn’t help wondering what would happen if their relationship moved beyond the platonic.

Exploring Jonah and Billy’s story presented some challenges for me as a writer. First, it required that I describe an intimate, but mostly long distance relationship. Billy starts the story by leaving Glen Falls to take up a basketball scholarship at Hoosier State University. Jonah is left behind to finish his senior year in high school. Jonah believes a relationship impossible. Fortunately for Jonah, Billy is not one to shy away from a challenge, and their telephone bills grown with the strain of hours of late-nite calls. Establishing intimacy with Jonah is only one of the challenges Billy faces in his freshman year. Helping to hold his team together as they make their way towards NCAA March Madness is another.

Billy Goat Stats Cover

Cover

Writing about basketball was a problem of my own creation. When I introduced Billy in Music Box, I had no idea I would write about him again, so I carelessly indulged my fantasy and made him a “long and tall” basketball jock. Unfortunately, I’ve been more a hiker and rollerblader than a team sports fan, and I’ve never followed basketball. Research skills to the rescue!

Studying basketball statistics with an eye towards describing a realistic season for Billy’s team led me into the larger world of sports statistics and the obsession with numbers energizes and occupies so many sports fans. From there, the leap to Billy’s interest in tracking his own life statistics was a short one. I hope you enjoy tracking Billy’s progress as much as I did!

Completed Draft of Billy Goat Stats

I can breathe again. Sometimes towards the end of a book it gets hard, like there’s a weight on my chest. I made myself cry writing the last scene. That’s usually a good sign—or I could be crazy. Six of one, half dozen of the other….

Plenty more work to do, but it gets easier now.

Billy Goat Stats tops 70,000 Words

Billy Goat Stats, my sequel to Music Box, has topped 70,000 words. I’ve got two scenes left to finish the draft. Next week maybe?

Hiatus

I’ve been on a bit of an unplanned hiatus due to work pressures and personal issues. But I’m writing and hope to rejuvenate this blog in the coming months.

This last week I’ve been reading The Door Behind Us out loud as part of a polishing edit. It’s amazing how well this technique works as a means of finding awkward constructions, missing words, and the like. I’m very pleased with the results!

Note to Self

When you get stuck, step out of the timeline and write a scene that inspires you.

Queries and Covers

Looking for a literary agent is a lot like looking for a job. In both cases, your task is to create a short, compelling document that will persuade your reader to look at a longer one. If you want an agent to represent your novel, you must write a single page letter in which you have about a paragraph to describe your novel and about a paragraph to describe yourself. Add a few sentences of introduction and a closing and you are done. Sounds easy? It’s not. The full synopsis of my novel, Fly Up into the Night Air, is three and one half pages, and covers only the essential points of plot and character development. In order to boil that down into a paragraph, a great deal must be left out. What are the most essential, most compelling parts of the story? For many writers it can take a little distance before the answer to that question is clear. Writers speak of the narrative hook: the action, idea, or description at the beginning of a story that grabs the reader’s interest and won’t allow him to put the book down. Your goal in a query letter is make the prospective agent want to read your novel. But since you must also convey some specific information about the novel (genre, length, etc.), you generally have only a few sentences to set the hook. Your fly must be very bright and shiny, indeed, to land the fish.

Similarly, when you are looking for a job, your task is to write a cover letter that will get your prospective employer to look at your résumé. Once again, you are likely to have only a very few words in which to describe what it is about you that is so compelling that the prospective employer should select your résumé from among the many she has received for a closer examination. Add to that the difficulty most of us have in speaking about ourselves without sounding either vain or dry to the point of barrenness, and you have another difficult writing job.

I’m supposed to be working on queries and covers, right now. The blog’s more fun.