I’ve missed you! Instead of sending you my bi-weekly newsletter these past few weeks, I’ve spent all my writing time on the latest draft of The Devil Particle Vessel (book two of my young adult dystopian series).
I completed the draft — yahoo! — and sent it to my editor, Tim Storm, on July 19th. I think it’s some of the best writing I’ve done and am looking forward to receiving Tim’s comments.
What did I do to get the manuscript ready to submit? I revised the most recent draft based on his previous comments and the changes I’d made in the first book. Some revisions were quick and painless like making sure a character didn’t pull out a chair to sit in when he was already sitting in it. Others, like adding two minor characters who influence the main character, took hours.
And I discovered there was more research to do. This involved finding out if the government can record our phone conversations (it can and it can do this remotely without our knowing), how much weight an average 17-year-old boy can bench press (1.2 times his bodyweight), and what exactly do drones look like (see picture).
All of my research was conducted online, until I realized I needed to explore a cave.
The Devil Particle Series is set in a national capitol city, similar to Washington, D.C., and in a cave city 180 miles from the Capitol. With this in mind, I researched Virginia caves including the Shenandoah, Luray, and Grand Caverns, but I wasn’t getting the answers I needed. I considered taking a trip to Virginia. Of course, I wouldn’t be able to manage that before my July 19th deadline, but I could always add the information later. Then I remembered Cave of the Mounds in Blue Mounds, Wisconsin.
I immediately enlisted the help of my good friend and fellow writer Rich Brandt and the two of us set out to explore the Cave of the Mounds — only a twenty-five minute drive from my house! It’s incredible. If you haven’t been there, I highly recommend it.
Their knowledgeable guides answered all of my questions. More importantly, I walked around beautiful and sometimes creepy formations, listened to the constant drip of water, examined fossils in the limestone walls, and even discovered microscopic animal life in the still pools. And it was cold! All wonderful details to add to make my setting much more interesting.
In addition to revising and researching, I read some really good books. This included the horror novel 14 by Peter Cline about well-drawn, interesting characters trying to figure out their very unsettling Hollywood apartment building.
I also read the post-apocalyptic award-winning novel Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel which seamlessly weaves the past and the present. And I listened to the audio version of the perfectly crafted Project Hail Mary, a sci-fi thriller by Andy Weir (who wrote The Martian). It’s so good, I’m listening to it a second time.
I learned a lot about character development, dialogue, and pacing from these novels. My writing improved.
When I finished revising, I went through the whole manuscript again. I smoothed out the changes to make sure they were consistent throughout the book and added more substance to those chapters I’d glossed over.
It’s a lot of work, but for me, this is the fun part — getting the story to the point where even I can’t put it down.
Now on to revising Gaige Devlin — book three in the series — and sending it to Tim by September 15th. Oh, and did I mention, my daughter’s getting married in a month? Wish me luck!
Where you can find me:
LOL: Book Signing Garden Party – Saturday, July 31, 2021, 2-4 p.m., 322 Canary Drive, Caledonia, IL. I’m excited to be celebrating with my good friend and former In Printer Mary Kay Morrison at the release of her book Legacy of Laughter: A Grandparent Guide and Playbook.
Mary Kay is the founder and director of Humor Quest, is the past president and served on the AATH Board of Directors (Association of Applied and Therapeutic Humor), and is the recipient of the 2016 AATH Lifetime Achievement Award.
The Chicago Writers Association’ s Cocktails and Conversation with Samantha Hoffman and Tim Storm – Sunday, August 1, 2021, 4:00 p.m. Join us virtually for this free event as we discuss what an editor does, the best time to hire an editor, what it’s like working with an editor, and so much more.
Off Campus Writers’ Workshop Zoom Craft Talk – Thursday, October 7, 9:30 – 12:00 noon. I’ll be teaching my Creating Unforgettable Characters workshop. Be sure to keep posted for more information!