Seeing With 2020

I’m terrible at blogging. It’s a terribly-kept secret, but then anyone who follows this website and my blog already knows this.

As the kids sometimes say, “Whatevs.”

So, what’s been happening with me?

Glad you asked!

Not a lot.

Well, that’s not entirely true…

Over the summer, I contracted with a wonderful independent editor named Liz Heijkoop from ARC Editing (@ARC_Editing). We connected on Twitter, discovered we both grew up in the same region of Massachusetts (ye ole Tri-Valley League), then Liz offered to take a look at the completed version of BLOODLINES to see if she could make it better.

Call it whimsy, call it fate, call it karma (thanks Venkman), I went with it.

Boy, was she right.

Don’t get me wrong. BLOODLINES in its current format at the time was still a pretty solid (or so I thought) read. Grammar and syntax errors were minimal (which was later confirmed by Liz), the story and characters flowed, and I had received wonderfully positive feedback as a result.

Then Liz got her hands on the manuscript.

Once she’d torn it to pieces, she wrote me a six-page memo on the various developmental errors she discovered. Her overall comments were that the book was commercially viable (meaning she could see it being picked up by a big publisher), but it needed help to make it that much better. Sure, that sounded like a sales pitch, but I appreciated many of the other comments Liz had made as we corresponded, including several insights (pun intended, for those in the know) about the publishing industry that helped me understand the herculean challenges to become traditionally published.

So, I swallowed my ego (because no one likes hearing how their baby is ugly, fat, loud, obnoxious, short-sighted, or has a bad singing voice…which, by the way, describes both of my boys…I keeeeeeeeeeed!), re-read the memo a bajillion times, then got to work.

I’m not going to go into the specifics of what Liz pointed out (trade secrets, and all), but needless to say, she uncovered a bunch of my tendencies that I share with every newbie author out there. Sure, I thought my story was the shizzle, the cat’s meow of multi-genre tale-spinning, but the truth of the matter is, I had (and still have) a shit-ton to learn about writing prose, style, character development, plot pacing, timing, you know name it.

What’s really cool is I got to add a whole new chapter to the manuscript. I’ve uploaded it to both the Kindle and paperback versions, and they are now available!

Where can you find them, you ask?

Right here: amazon.com/peterhartog/author

That’s right, anyone who already read BLOODLINES can pick up the latest and greatest, new-car smelling version and discover a whole new chapter! The story hasn’t changed. A lot of the changes I made are subtle (e.g. a male side character is now female, references to certain characters are consistent with their counterparts, etc).

I’ve answered this question before, but it bears repeating (if only to stroke my own voluminous ego): Do I have talent?

Yes. Yes I do.

How do I know this, empirically? Because one of the most venerated review sites in the WORLD (Kirkus) described BLOODLINES as a “Riveting multi genre tale with sharply drawn characters in a striking futuristic world.” They don’t say that about every book that comes across their collective desks.

But talent isn’t enough. You need structure. You need discipline. And you need someone to go behind you, study everything from a 1,000-foot precipice, and sound their barbaric YAWP over the rooftop of the world to teach you where the wild things are in your beloved manuscript.

Liz did that. BLOODLINES is so much better as a result. More importantly, I’m so much better as a result.

I’m still querying. That hasn’t changed. But I feel stronger as a writer in a way that should I never be represented, I’m satisfied with the product I’ve foisted (and will continue to peddle) to the world. As I finish with the first draft to the sequel, I hope all of the things Liz showed me are now represented in my writing. Will there be holes? Mistakes? Dumb errors? Of course. No first draft is ever perfect…and if someone says theirs is, they’re selling you something.

I have many goals for 2020 – be a better and more communicative father and husband to my family (always a work-in-progress for me), manage our finances, focus on my personal health, and help my eldest prepare for his bar mitzvah in 2021. After the advice I’ve received from my editor, I’m hopeful I’m already on my way to becoming a better writer, as well.

Stay tuned in the coming weeks for a new sample chapter from PIECES OF EIGHT, the sequel to BLOODLINES!

Thanks for reading, and I wish you all and your families to have a very happy and healthy 2020!

 

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