RAUM was not my first attempt at writing a novel. That honor goes to 400 WAYS TO KILL A VAMPIRE, which I still hope to publish, albeit in a very different form than the original attempt. Like RAUM, it was based on a screenplay, but the mistakes I made provide a good example of what to avoid if you are trying to get published.
400 WAYS TO KILL A VAMPIRE is a short film I wrote and acted in, directed by Christine Parker. Hey, you can watch it on YouTube!
Obviously I enjoyed the entire process of making that film (Michael Ray Williams probably has a different perspective, what with sitting in the woods covered with Hawthorne branches, wearing uncomfortable contact lens’ and smelling concentrated coyote piss at the location chosen for his demise.) During a ride from the ConNooga Convention with the lovely Katie Carpenter, I hatched an expansion of the story and got to working on it. This was…many years ago.
I came up with what seemed like a GREAT story… but it was too long for a single movie and cutting it down really hurt the story. So, plan B.
A webseries! Genius, right? All the cut stuff went right back in, complete with even MORE stuff. This was epic.
Reality Rears its Ugly Head
There comes a point where one must face facts. It takes us about a year to shoot an indie film. The screenplay I wrote was way too big to do right. A webseries takes a tremendous amount of dedication and time. I would be asking my friends to put everything else on hold to work on this.
I’ve lived my life by imagining the scenarios and calculating the likelihood of any of them happening. This seemed the longest of longshots.
Write a book! How hard could THAT be? I have the story and dialogue, all I have to do is add stuff like “He had a nose.” That’s ignorance and/or alcohol talking. It’s damn hard to turn a screenplay into a novel, though at least you’re working from an outline, so you have a pretty good idea where things are going.
This was already way too long a screenplay and now it became WAY too long a book. I think it topped out at around 130,000 words. Now here is the truth you should listen to:
Very few people want to read a 130,000 word novel from a first time author.
I’m not saying there are not 130,000 word novels from first time writers that would make amazing books, I’m saying that it’s going to be very hard to get anyone to read them. The ratio of useable to unusable submissions is not a very good one. Any time they put out a call, hundreds of submissions come in. That’s a lot of stuff to go through and your phonebook sized epic is going to stand out as ripe for the slaughter.
Look at it from the publisher’s point of view. Even if they read it and love it, at some point they have to sell it. Are readers chomping at the bit to pay more money for a big book from an unknown, when they could buy several books from writers that have proven themselves?
And why is the book so long, anyway? Find the right place, cut it in half, make sure the first half has a satisfying conclusion on its own, and now you have the sequel ready to go when they accept it.
Or is the problem a matter of world building? A lot of new writers have poured their sweat and blood into the world where their story takes place, but while there ARE those readers who live for that stuff, most are far more interested in the characters and their stories. Best to let the readers discover your world in a natural way, or you end up with a book that reads like Chapter 32 from Moby Dick.
As usual, John Hartness says all this in a far more amusing way with 10 THINGS I HATE ABOUT YOUR WRITING- World Building & Your Underwear
Once I woke up from the fever dream of having written this massive, unrealizable tome, I went back to square one and looked at it from a more unrealistic POV.
1- I am an unpublished author
2- The general public could not pick me out of a police lineup
3- Therefore, my book must have a solid, easy to explain premise, which promises some entertaining twists and turns.
4- It needs to tell a complete story. No cliffhanger ending.
5- If there is a bigger story to tell, that can come in subsequent books. This first novel needs to make sure that there ARE subsequent books, which is best achieved by doing #3 and #4.
As for 400 WAYS TO KILL A VAMPIRE… I have every intention of revamping that into a future 3 book series. It’s still my favorite story, and the books I plan to write before it will hopefully make me a better writer AND build up enough readers so that I can do it justice.