A Novel Second Chance

I pulled Temptations of the Innocent today.

What that means is I have cancelled the sale of my second novel. My first, Forgiveness, was well received, enough to encourage me to write the follow up, actually a prequel. Forgiveness, in various forms, took more than twenty years from the initial keystrokes on my college 486 computer in 1993 to self-publishing the novel in 2014. Temptations took less than two years.Front Cover Build 7

In retrospect, three years later, Temptations is riddled with faults. I can attribute the missteps to  lack of experience. The missteps include:

  • A misinformed title. Not only does it not convey the link to Forgiveness, it, in retrospect, almost sounds creepy. The “innocent” part of the title deals with the purity of child souls whose lives ended at a young age but are given a second chance at life. Hence they are innocent as adults and prone to temptation. Did you get that from the title, or something else? Yes, I thought so.
  • A crappy cover. Temptations tells a complex story of a fallen then redeemed priest, a fallen and not redeemed bishop, evil in human form, the inability to deflect temptation when ill-prepared for the battle, a Soviet infiltration of the Catholic Church…and more.  I wanted the cover (image above) to convey some of those elements. I’m not a graphic designer, and the self-designed cover shows that. I remember thinking that I’m tired of designing the cover; I’m done, and I need to just finish the project. Awful decision.
  • Head-hopping. In reading the first three scenes of the novel, I introduce some subtle yet significant to me point-of-view violations, a sure sign of an amateur author.
  • Lack of professional editing. Both Forgiveness and Temptation were pure solo projects. I leveraged AutoCrit for copy editing, but I never involved a development editor. I learned my lesson when creating my third novel, Leaving Darkness, as the process of working with a development editor was well worth the cost.
  • Complexity. This is a complex story. I may have been able to tell it better.

I never promoted Temptations and rarely displayed it at book events. I was never happy these past three years with the finished product, and pondered pulling it for at least a year before doing so this afternoon (though it will take time to be reflected on Amazon, etc.).

But I’m not abandoning the story. I have begun the process of review and re-edit, focusing on point-of-view, complexity, and probably softening some dialogue. I plan to change the cover and the title. Within a few months, I will relaunch the tale with a new title, likely Before Forgiveness unless I change my mind.

The lesson? Don’t rush creativity, don’t be afraid to face errors, and don’t throw away what likely is a great work that just needs a bit more polishing.

Now, what to do with the remaining paper copies of  Temptation in my basement? Several decades from now, after I’ve passed, someone will find them in an abandoned storage locker. It will be the literary find of the decade, rarely seen early work from one of the most influential authors of the first half of the 21st century. To whomever finds this windfall, please use your newfound financial gain to help others.

 

 

First Base and Beyond

“If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. It’s the hard that makes it great.” – Tom Hanks as Jimmy Dugan in A League of their Own

Yesterday was the start of the 2019 major league baseball season, and it passed me by. I grew up a Yankees fan but after major league baseball cancelled the World Series in 1994, I lost most interest in big-league baseball. But I still find baseball closer to its roots to be a pleasure to watch in person, and enjoy attending a couple Nashville Sounds games per year.mark-duffel-352915-unsplash

Hank’s character was responding to one on his team complaining that playing baseball was hard, and the quote has become a favorite for encouragement memes (seriously, just Google it). Its popularity is rooted in its simple truth. Anything that is worth attaining is going to take much effort and sweat equity.

I think some of us enter the writing trade severely underestimating the difficulties ahead. I know I did. When I proudly self-published my first novel I thought that once available on Amazon people would find it, buy it, and I’d join the ranks of other successful novelists, because in my quite-biased opinion what I had produced was simply that good. But the truth is that you can have the next Old Man and the Sea ready to upload and no one may know, or care.

That’s not to diminish the huge accomplishment of getting to that point. I don’t know the statistics, but I’d guess that at least 30% of people in the United States have considered writing the great American novel, and of those maybe a quarter attempt to, and of those maybe 5% reach Amazon whether traditional or independent publishing. That’s 0.375% of the population or about one in 267 (and even that seems high).

I recently attended a writers conference where Bob Hostetler emphasized that there are nine ways to reach first base, not because he was teaching the attendees the rules of baseball but to illustrate that the same line of thought applies to writing success. I had only focused on one or two ways, and my lackluster (that’s being kind) sales reflected my tepid efforts. I realized I hadn’t tried most other venues (consistent blogging, email lists, conference attendance, and so on) because, well, they were all hard. Lesson learned.

My goal is not to stop at first base. I want to score runs and win the game, because I feel I have meaningful tales that can positively change lives inside of me. I have to embrace the hard. I just hope that when the work pays off and I reach the World Series, they don’t cancel it.

For a free download of my inspirational first novel Forgiveness sign up at https://bookhip.com/XFCCLN

Photo by Mark Duffel on Unsplash