The Road To New Rome – Dan Hoyt
The Road to New Rome
A writer friend of mine who has penned multiple international bestsellers over his long career called me a bad writer the other day. And he was absolutely right. I am a bad writer.
Oh, I’m not talking about the craft; I am professionally published, after all, in the traditional world of publishing. It’s a reasonable assumption that I have at least a modicum of ability in the craft of writing. I studied Joseph Campbell and Dwight Swain and attended workshops. I studied and applied what I learned – which is how I managed to get published by the gatekeepers in the first place.
What I did not do was write every day. I am, in fact, a bad writer. Writers write. That’s what makes them writers.
So, what does all this have to do with anything?
My first novel, Ninth Euclid’s Prince, launched a few days ago. I wish that I could say that I finally got my act together and applied myself to novel-length fiction recently, and Euclid was the result, but that would be a lie. Of course, writers lie for a living (as I’m prone to mentioning when on panels at conventions), so the appeal is high, indeed, but I’m not going to lie in this post.
I wrote the original version of Euclid in 2001-2002. Yes, that’s over a decade ago. Yes, that’s actually before I published my first short story in Analog. Yes, that’s an unconscionable path to publishing a novel. [Oh, I don’t know. This is while I was re-writing the original Darkship Thieves, first written in 1998 into the version first published in 2010. I remember because it was the first time we both wrote in one office -SAH]
Of course, what I published a few days ago isn’t exactly the novel I wrote so long ago. I expanded it, revised it, rewrote it, remade it into what I thought it could be. I also backtracked some of those revisions, after I realized that I’m incredibly good at screwing up revisions. I over-polished my prose, destroyed its life, and destroyed my writer’s voice in the process.
I made several stabs at completing Euclid over the years. And every time, it wasn’t ready. Yet.
Ironically, it was writing short stories that showed me what I was doing wrong. I learned that I’m a first-draft writer. I plan things out first and then commit them to paper – well, I commit them to the word processor, at any rate – and those first drafts are what sold, ultimately. I do an editing pass, of course, to eliminate as many typos and plot problems I can find. I’m not bragging, mind you, just stating the facts. There are plenty of other writers out there who are better than I am, and I know that. There are plenty of other writers out there who are faster than I am, and I know that. There are plenty of other writers out there who write better first-draft copy than I do, and I know that. There are plenty of other writers out there who write better copy than I do, period, after however many drafts they need. Writers are all different, you know; there’s no writer factory producing us.
One of those writers who does it better and faster is my wife, Sarah. One of the best, in my opinion. Sarah is immensely talented, yet she also devotes an insane amount of work to the craft, as well. She is deservedly an inspiration to aspiring writers worldwide, especially to those like her for whom English is not their first language. But her career grew slowly, picking up fans one by one, like Juan Valdez picking coffee beans. And so I kept thinking, “If Sarah can’t make a living at this, what chance do I have?”
And so I kept shelving Euclid. Over and over. Fix it up, put it away.
It wasn’t that I didn’t like the novel. Euclid was a ball to write. I enjoyed every minute of it. Really. Ultimately, that’s why it took me so long to publish it. For a couple years, it was under consideration at one of the Big Five publishers, when they were still the Big Six. After a series of events I won’t go into here, I pulled it and shelved the project. Again. I liked my character, Ninth Euclid, and I thought he deserved better than I could provide on my own at the time. And definitely better than what I felt the traditional publisher would provide. I gave Euclid life, and I wanted him to live for a long time.
Last year, Sarah dipped her toe in the indie publishing novel world with Witchfinder. In the end, she made as much income as she would have if she’d published it traditionally, and that opened my eyes. For the first time I could see Ninth Euclid living a long and happy shelf life. [And I will typeset it into a print edition soon. Probably next week.- SAH]
So I got my act together. Sarah goaded me into doing a final fix-up and soliciting beta readers. A year ago. Yes, a year ago. What happened this time? Readers of this blog know. We decided to move about that time, and spent the next six months finding a place to rent where Sarah could write, and another six months moving and clearing out the old house. And every day of that year has been torturous for my writing. I wanted to write. I needed to write. I just didn’t have the time.
So I got my act together again, almost a year to the day later, and un-fixed my final fix-up screw-up, and got it published. With a lot of help from Sarah.
I finally gave Euclid the life he deserves. I hope it’s a long and adventurous one.