Rewrites, Edits, and Beta-Readers – An Update

Most of you probably know that I recently finished the first draft of my New Adult Urban Fantasy Adventure Novel. As of right now, I’m also about 1/4 of the way through the rewrite for Draft 2. This project has taken a lot more time than I thought it was going to need, but I’ve learned so much from it, that I wouldn’t trade the last few months for anything. You see, I’ve written a book in the past. I’ve even tried to convince myself that I was editing it, when I was really just slapping it around and calling myself horrible names. This book, though, has been a very, very different experience.

It started as a wriggly thought-worm in the back of my head years and years ago. I kept telling myself, or anyone that cornered me about my writing, that this was the project I was working on. Up until about October of this year, though, working on it meant ignoring the thought that kept creeping into my brain space in favor of eating something cooked in a microwave and crying myself to sleep during a marathon viewing of Castle.

When October came around, and I saw NaNoWriMo on the horizon, I started to get a panicky feeling in the pit of my stomach. I didn’t know for sure what I was going to do. I knew I had to try to put something together. I failed in 2012, and it felt like shit after the victory of 2011. I didn’t want to get kicked in the balls by my own self-doubt again. I needed a game plan. The problem was, I was still transitioning into a new life, thousands of miles from my home town, friends, and the majority of my family. My brain was pretty much exhausted and unwilling to create something easy.

In my intense desperation, I turned to that old, stale, abused idea.

The Tale of Draft 1

I spent most of October fleshing out characters and putting together a rudimentary storyline. The storyline was ultimately the difference between a finished draft and hiding from society in a pile of my own shame. I know there are a metric dick-ton of writers out there that hate the idea of using an outline, preferring to just sit down and write at their computers until they have the finished draft.

This is what I learned about outlining from this book:

If the writer is telling you they don’t outline, they are a dirty, fucking liar.

I refuse to believe that even the truly great writers get everything exactly right on the first pass. I’ve read a lot of books that were pushed to me after draft one. The author thought they were complete. The author was wrong. First drafts are often called “Brain Vomit” or some other iteration of that idea for a reason. That said, I want to tell you a little about how my outlining process works.

I didn’t sit down and crate a document that said:

  1. Chapter 1
  1. Scene 1
  1. Blah, blah blah
  • Scene 2
  1. Blah Blah Blah
  • Chapter 2
  1. Scene 1…
  2. etc.

I started writing a really basic draft 0.5 of the book. What I wrote came out more along the lines of:

Chapter 1 —

Terry and Gabriel are at the broken bridge. Gabriel performs a cleansing ritual while Terry watches. Terry talks to the lake hag, then fights with Carrie. After Gabriel finishes the cleansing, they leave.

This is the actual Chapter 1 entry for my book. I was trying to make an outline that was just scene-by-scene. It didn’t end up being that, though.

Somewhere around chapter 12, the short descriptions became more like Wikipedia entries for each chapter. They were 300-500 words.

By Chapter 20, I was more or less writing really crappy half-chapters, which is to say that I was writing the chapters with no description and in the wrong tense, but they were in the 1000 word range.1

I suppose in a way, you could say that my outline became a half-draft that way. I think of it as an outline anyway. Very little of the actual wording from those early summaries made it into the first draft, and even less is left in draft 2.

My point is that it wasn’t a mechanical, dry process. Sure, there are writers that start with the point-by-point. There are writers that start with a forced first draft.

That first draft is still their outline for draft 2, draft 3, draft 4, and so on.

This system gave me a finished storyline following the cause and effect chain from top to bottom. If you wanted to read it it would read something like the world’s second shittiest 15,000 word novella. There is no writing as bad as Christian Humber Reloaded, a fact that I take enormous comfort and solace in.

I wrote the outline, and most of draft 1 on my Kindle Fire using xWriter Pro.  When it was, well, about 85% done, I imported those files into Scrivener and finished up. I hit my 50,000 words easily by the end of November, but I didn’t actually finish draft 1 of the book until earlier this month. I think there is an important lesson there, as well. 50,000 words took 4 weeks to write, the last 25,000 took six.

No wonder draft 2 is taking so much work.

Beta Readers

I exported draft 1 as rtf and pdf files and sent them to my beta readers. That would be my dad, brother, aunt and former RoomLord. My aunt was the first one to finish reading draft 1, bless her soul. My dad finished last night. My brother and RoomLord haven’t even started reading it to my knowledge. They’re probably the best off of the group. Since they hadn’t started reading yet, they ended up getting a copy of draft 1.5 (draft 1 with the draft 2 changes I’ve already done).

My dad finished reading draft 1, and his comments are spawning this blog post. Well, that and procrastination, of course. You didn’t think I’d become some sort of productive adult from one book, did you?

My dad had some really great points about the plot of my book. He really enjoyed the characters and the story, but I had made a classic “Gary Stew” mistake with the protagonist that left the ending feeling less satisfying than it should have been. Part of it was things I’d already noticed and had in my notes to correct. Part of it was completely new to me. Both were really good points, though.

That’s what beta-readers are for, ultimately. They’re not proof-readers. Well, unless they’re also proof-readers.

My dad gave me a total of four notes, but they were huge notes. My aunt gave me 2 small notes. It’s a lot easier to work her notes in draft 2, but those little changes will make the final project a lot better, I think. I hope. If not, screw it. I did my best there.

Draft 2 –

Some authors write a clean first draft. I have a suspicion that it is a learned skill. My first draft is dirty, dirty, dirty. This means that my draft 2 is basically a rewrite, and I’m okay with that. I have some good ideas on what to focus on in the actual writing, and my own voice is coming through much more clearly than it was in draft 1. I understand the tone of the story better now.

Those are all artistic flares that have less to do with the technical aspect of writing than most draft 2 gets. I don’t know if it means I’m going to need a draft 3 or not, yet. Last night I printed off draft 1.5 and listened to Kindle’s text-to-speech read it out loud while I followed along on my page. I had a lot of technical mistakes and polish, but not as much as I thought I would (in the sections that are fully draft 2). I might not need as big a rewrite for draft 3. That’s an exciting feeling.

Also, It gave me a sense that maybe, just maybe, I’m okay at this writing thing. It wasn’t as suck as I thought it was going to be. That’s a big win in my mind.

So, anyway, a huge THANK YOU to my beta-readers for their input so far. I hope that I’m not driving them insane just yet.

I better get back to work now. I’ve got 3/4 of a book to rewrite, you know. There are people waiting on it.

Would you like updates on the book’s progress? Want a chance to get your hands on a review copy? Maybe you’d just like to hear from me weekly? Then go here!


1 – Side Note: Something I learned about myself – I didn’t set out to do it by any means, but it turns out I tend to write chapters in at around 1850 words. Just a thing I noticed. It doesn’t mean anything. Carry on.

Slashing it All to Pieces – A Bit about Chris – Excerpts From the Cutting Room Floor

Okay, I might feel a little bad, because I’ve been exploiting my friendship with one Mr. Chris Brown (no, not that Chris Brown, the Yeti Detective Chris Brown) for going on, well, we’re into our second decade of friendship, and for people under 30, that’s a long time. You see, for as long as I’ve known the man, we’ve been simultaneously at odds and partners in crime.

The truth is, Chris is my best friend. I should probably honor him a little more than I do. I mean, not everyone has their own trained yeti laying around. That’s something a little special.

Unfortunately, in the rewrite of the book, I’m basically cutting out any of the sections that don’t fit directly into the story, and that pretty much means everything I’ve written about Chris, which honestly is a lot.

So, I thought I might share two quick excerpts, the first is how we met, and the second is about an argument that can still flare up from time to time… involving a ufo.


Shakespeare, Etc.

“Brown and Brotherton go next to each other on a seating chart. That is how we ended up meeting our senior year. The very first class we had that day was a class taught by my favorite teacher, Mr. Kornfeld entitled “Shakespeare, Etc.” Chris sat directly behind me in that class, which I believe had something to do with classic literature and poetry, but I only remember talking about Time Travel and Riboflavin.

Mr. Kornfeld had been my favorite teacher through most of high school, starting when I took his Mythology and Creative Writing classes my Sophomore year. I had been his T.A. several times, spent quite a bit of time talking to him, and had really only taken the class because he taught it. Then he got ill.

No body bothered to tell us what had sent Mr. Kornfeld to the hospital, only that he wouldn’t be back to school for a long time. Without my mentor, and beginning to fall into a serious depression anyway, I gave up on caring about school, or life in general. I moped a lot. I stopped doing homework. I became snarky and confrontational.

A few years later, when Chris was talking about how we became friends, he said, “I had to invite him to hang out, anyone could see this was a kid that was about to kill himself.”

I don’t know if he actually thought that or not at the time. I only heard him speak about it once. He was that type of person, though. He was intuitive and empathic, even more so back then. It could also have been the years of watching me cycle through wave after wave of depression though that had given a more retrospective Chris the ability to realize what it had been I was going though back then.

Either way, he had been right. I had been in trouble and needing a way out.”



“…Peeing in that phone booth was something every male friend I had from the time I got my car to when I moved to Springfield in 2002 had done. Humorously, I have never done so. I’m not sure if it is still there or not.

It was shortly after one of the stops at the telepiss booth that the most divisive moment in our friendship would occur. As we drove down Y-highway at roughly three in the morning, we saw the UFO. It was quick, the flash of aqua green light in the sky that burned above us. It flared quickly, and burned for a second in the shape of a check mark as though it had been left by something that had been hovering and suddenly burned it’s way across the sky. The exact nature of the sky-light was going to be debated for years to come. At the time, I remember saying, “Shit, that was a fucking UFO.”
Chris’s reply showed exactly how his mind works at all times, “Sweet, maybe we’ll get super powers.”
After we saw it, it was decided that we would head to IHOP and get breakfast where we could wait until time to head back to our respective homes well after our parents had left for work. As we sat at the IHOP in Grandview, which we referred to at the time as the IHOP of Destiny, we started talking about what it was that we saw.

I was convinced that it was in fact an alien scout ship searching for some sort of planetary weakness. “It makes sense for them to be here,” I would argue, “because of all the missile silos in the area. This is like the place to strike if you want to take out America’s nukes.”

Chris never offered an alternative explanation for the alien craft. He just adamantly refused to believe that it could be aliens. Sometimes he can have a stubborn refusal to budge on the most obvious of things, and will belittle you for seeing reality so clearly. Obviously the most likely and logical answer is aliens. There is no evidence to the contrary, thus we can assume they were in fact aliens.

Why can’t he just accept that already, clearly, he is the crazy one.”



I hope that gives you all a little more insight into the HalfDrunk Podcast. There is a lot of history there.

Slashing It All To Pieces – Excerpts from the Cutting Room Floor – Part 3: My Mother

Today’s excerpt is roughly 400 words from the middle of a section about my mom that pushes in on something like 2000 words by itself. I like this piece of it because it hi-lights what I, as a man without children, think is the essence of motherhood. It’s a bit tongue in cheek and I hope you enjoy it for what it is.

I take after my mom quite a bit, and not just because I look like her. My mother helps people, any way that she can, and though she’s tempered it with caution over the years, she is still more likely to say yes to someone in need than to turn them away. This is a trait that I have developed also. My mother instilled in me an empathy for the people around me, and I do what I can to take care of them because that is what she would do.

I was not raised in a particularly religious household. I didn’t need to be, because my both of my parents are kind, generous people with a strong sense of what is right and wrong. We didn’t need to have a religious figure to tell us to do good, because we had parents that just expected that of us. I can remember being young and being slightly afraid of making my father angry because he could be a strict disciplinarian, and his sharp tongue would cut deep into you in just the right way.

As hard as it was to bare his words, though, it was, and continues to be, so much harder to see the look of disappointment and hurt on my Mom’s face. That silent look of disapproval still shuts me down at my core. She gave me that look if she caught me drawing on walls or stealing candy, and it slides onto her face when I come inside from smoking a cigarette now. She doesn’t hold it on me, though. She has a way of knowing if I feel guilty, and she’ll say something subtle and almost conspiratorial, like, “Matt’s got to go on his cigarette break.” Knowing that she is aware that I do something she disapproves of takes all of the pleasure out of doing it.

When faced with a moral decision, I find myself asking, “How would my mom react to what I’m doing?” Generally, I do the right thing. When I talk to my friends about their moms, I can’t help but wonder how it is they’ve ever been able to do something right in their lives if their moms really hadn’t given them a sense of right and wrong the way mine did. How can you expect someone to do good, if they aren’t worried about disappointing their mom?

Slashing It All To Pieces – Excerpts from the Cutting Room Floor – Part 2: My Father, My Hero

Continuing my series of things that I have cut from my book but think you might like to read, here is the next part. I actually didn’t put the entire section up, because I think I’ve spent enough time on my blog fawning over my dad, but I wanted to share the second part of it with all of you. Basically, I wanted to put the emotion out there, and in my opinion that’s the real meat and potatoes of the entire thing. The raw, unfiltered emotions.

You can never go wrong with a strong emotional outburst.

Quote me on that.

My Father, My Hero

My father taught me other things as well, like how to get everything done quickly so that you can rock out later, and to analyze every story for its barest of components. He taught me that Babylon 5 was better than Star Trek because it was more realistic in it’s dystopian view of the future thanks to human nature, even if technology would side with Star Trek. He taught me that you can only cut so many corners before you end up with a round wall. He taught me that there is nothing you actually hide from the people who know you best, but good parents will let you think you’re getting away with it if it’s important.

My father taught me how to build closets, hang sheet rock and paint drywall. He taught me that with enough determination, you can teach yourself how to do anything from carpentry to physics. He taught me that knowing a skill is more important than knowing facts. He taught me that people who could think would be fine in this world, and would create their own opportunities.

Just a couple of years ago he taught me you can survive anything if you just keep putting one foot in front of the other.

From my father I learned how to play chess, appreciate a good story, recognize a tall tale, and tell one myself. My dad showed me how to tell the grade on a bolt, and the difference between a bolt and a screw. He also taught me how to swear, and that if I was going to have those kinds of magazines than I had better find a better hiding place or my mother or little brother might find them.

Late December, 2010, I found out that my father had woken up one morning blind in one eye. After several tests with several different doctors, they discovered that he had what is called a “mini-stroke.” They figured out that he had a genetic heart disease that caused the top half of his heart to pump faster than the bottom half. This caused a build up of blood in the lower half of his heart that could then send out potentially fatal clots. He had been lucky that it went to his eye and didn’t cause an aneurysm or hemorrhage somewhere more life threatening.

It was the first time in my life that I can ever remember thinking that my father was actually mortal. He had always been a superman in my mind, and I just knew that he would always be there, no matter what. The idea that he could have died really struck home inside me, and pushed me to examine my own life a little closer. There is a 50% chance that I also have this heart condition. I could also be a ticking time bomb. I don’t know for sure, I haven’t gotten the courage to go to the doctor and find out yet, and even then it is still very difficult to detect.

It wasn’t my own mortality that convinced me that I should really push myself to pursue my dreams, though. Even with the knowledge that I could be in just as bad shape, I still haven’t even started to consider that I might have something wrong with me.

No, it was the thought that my father might not be here when I finally got the gumption to push away from the stupidly easy, comfortable life of unfulfilled monotony and chase the stars that finally made up my mind for me. I needed to do it, do it soon, and do it big.

My father’s health is good, his heart is regulated with drugs, his blood kept thin so it won’t clot again, and he’s been loosing weight. He and my mom moved back to Missouri from Montana in September of 2011, and they say that the difference in the elevation will help improve his condition also. He should be around to annoy his kids, spoil his grandkids and be the life of any party for years to come, decades really.

The scare did it’s job, though. It made us all realize just how important life and family are, and it pushed all of us kids to try a little harder to reach those goals he always knew we would.

I know I work a little harder to get things done now. I want to make sure I can sign a copy of a book for my father, and let him know that I was able to write it because he pushed me to do so.

When I was young, I convinced myself that I wanted to do anything but be my father. Ironically, at age 23, I took over my father’s job when he retired, and took over the house from my parents when they moved to Montana. I pretty much had become my father. I look back over the last five years and think about how little I have managed to fill his shoes.

I once tried so hard to believe I never wanted to be my father, and now, I regret that I haven’t been able to be like him enough.

My father truly is my hero.

Slash It All to Pieces – Excerpt from the Cutting Room Floor – Part 1: Who Am I?

As I said on Monday, I am going to start sharing some of the things that I was cutting from the book. For the most part I think some of them make pretty good blog posts, or would make a pretty interesting read but don’t exactly fit into the scheme of the book with the direction I want to take it. I don’t plan on sharing anything that I believe just truly sucks, and in fact, I will probably print that off on paper and burn it in effigy just to free myself from the horror of having created it. No arguing, there are something that must be unmade!

Today’s excerpt actually used to be Part 1 of the book, and I thought I’d start with the top and work my way down. As I see it, of the roughly 50,000 words in my manuscript about 20,000 or so are usable for the book, but most of it is still something worth sharing.

I hope you are okay with that.

Who am I?

I am not particularly good at describing myself objectively. Physically I am a large man, slightly taller than average with broad shoulders and a heavy set build. I generally carry my extra fat in a way that causes surprise in people when they find out how much I weigh. I have been told several times that I am physically intimidating to new people the first time they meet me. I attribute this to my stature combined with me leonine features and apparent scowl. In reality my bulk is mostly fluff, my mane comes from apathy about shaving and I have developed a tendency to squint due to poor eyesight.

My personality runs a roulette of five basic moods, which are more aptly described as filters placed of a generally crude, philosophical mind often lost inside itself. I don’t consider myself to be a particularly deep person. My emotions run pretty close to the surface and are triggered by the simplest of joys or annoyances. I enjoy subdued colors and dramatic cartoons, and I am aggravated by bad drivers and blanket stupidity.

I spend a lot of time thinking about my own failures and trying to learn how to overcome my short comings. I envision a version of myself that is clever, calm, controlled and successful, but I am realistic in my knowledge that I am not that person. I am aware of what I am lacking.

I love learning new skills, or at least reading about how to learn new skills.

I doodle and write. I play on the Internet.
I get bored easily and amuse myself with distractions.
I am very good at Zuma Blitz.

When I sit down to think about who I am as a person, I get lost in a thousand tangents. I compare myself often to others, generally because I believe that we all fulfill each other by contributing to our greater whole. I am a small core of a person, wrapped an influenced by the people around me. I am a sum of the great parts from my father and mother, splashed with geekiness from my older brother, snarky wit from my sister, and a learned ability to be mellow from my younger brother. I have been challenged to think differently by my friends, taught to use words as powerfully as knives, and trained in what it means to have honor.

I believe that the best way to answer the question of who I am, is to examine who has helped forge me into it, realize what I have gained from them and what I haven’t. For me, knowing who I am is much harder than knowing who I am not. Knowing what you aren’t is just a part of the greater picture.
Part of writing this book is the hope that I can figure out the answer to that question.

The Product of My Environment

It is fairly obvious to me that I am some sort of fluke, a possible reject from an advanced government breeding program created in an attempt to produce the perfect super soldier. Obviously the genetic conditioning and brain surgeries I underwent as an infant were over ridden by the nurturing environment of the family I was chosen to be raised by.

Like all of the children that have been subjected to the program over the last few decades, I was a failure. It is apparent to me that the governments hardcore stance on nature over nurture his flawed. Clearly, you will have to raise future generations of project True Stripes in scientifically controlled environments designed to program them with exactly the kind of malleable will you are looking for. It has not passed by rather keen mind that it is possible that they were using us early generations as an experiment to determine exactly the right environment to create their toddler ubermensch, but I like to think that our government is inherently stupid.

It makes accepting their decisions much easier. Without the belief that everyone involved in the process has some sort of mental handicap, then the clearly bad ideas that get implemented carry with them an air of malignance that I’d rather not attribute to the people in power.
It is also possible that I just happen to be a dude that was raised by pretty good people. A guy that had parents that encouraged him, supported him, and did their best to cope with the plethora of problems his brain chemistry would create. A kid who’s siblings were all gifted kids themselves in different ways, and who was lucky enough to recognize at an early age that different people had different gifts.

Still, none of that explains why I know roughly thirty people within a year or two of my own age that all have a small scar on their heads in approximately the same place. Almost all of them also have parents with either military or government backgrounds of some sort.
Obviously that can’t be just a coincidence.

The Real Story

My parents are amazing, loving people who are both somewhat similar to one another, and yet extremely different. I love and appreciate my parents. They have supported and guided me my entire life, from the days when they did so literally as I learned to walk all the way through advising me how to overcome the hardships that arose after my marriage collapsed. Even now, as I write this book, I am being given encouragement from both of my parents, in their own special ways.

Once I had become old enough to realize how great my family was, I would often remark about how lucky I am to have them in my life. When my social circle began to change from a large group of loose acquaintances into a small, closely-knit family of friends, I began to learn about the parents and families of those around me. I learned that the loving, nurturing environment I had been raised in was actually something quite rare and very special.

I am adamant when I say that I won the “Parents Lottery.” I will never be convinced otherwise. I dare say I stand strongly enough behind my convictions on the matter that I would be willing to testify under oath that my parents are better than yours.

So stick it.

I hope that you have enjoyed this. If not, well, I promise I will have more interesting things to say again at some point.