Welcome back to the Latest News section, aka the monthly roundup of the things I think anyone motivated enough to find their way here would want to know. 2019 is already a twelfth gone - this month feels like was gone in a finger-snap. A bunch of stuff happened, though… let’s talk about it!
NOVEL TWO UPDATE
I am thrilled to be able to say that my second novel was accepted by my editor at HarperCollins, which means that’s that. Barring some fiddling in the copy-editing stage, the book is done. I spiraled a bit for a few days after that happened - just a bit, but it hit - because it means I’ve done the work I can do. The book is the book. I have to let it go now, send it out into the machinery of publishing and start thinking not so much about how to write it, but how to convince people to read it. A very different task, but one I know. Working in comics means selling your audience on your stuff over and over again, week by week, basically.
(Speaking of which, I have really neglected the Weekly Release posts… the tricky thing about weeks and releases is that they KEEP COMING. I’ve been zeroed in on finishing this novel and let a bunch of nonessentials fall to the wayside, but I want to get back to it soon.)
I’ve seen a cover mockup for Novel 2, and it looks very cool. As I’ve mentioned before, the first chapter of the new book will be in the back of the paperback for THE ORACLE YEAR, which lands April 30. You can pre-order that here, if you’re so inclined, and desperate for your first look. It’s a little funny to have that first chapter out there, too, because I made plenty of tweaks to it for the final draft of the book. The version in THE ORACLE YEAR is from, I want to say the book’s third draft. The version I just turned in is the sixth, and it incorporates notes from many readers, including sensitivity readers, specialists in various fields (neuroscience, medicine, etc.) and people whose opinions I trust. It’s not night and day - you’ll still get the idea - but it’s interesting to give you guys a look at what I would sort of consider a work-in-progress.
At this point, as I mentioned, it’s about copy-editing, a meticulous and challenging process, and design - which is something I love but which can also be very specific. Font choices, headers, jacket copy… it all matters. The PR cycle will kick off soon too, which means trying to get great blurbs, coverage, reviews, etc. It never really stops, up to and well after publication. I’ve done it before, though, and hopefully I learned how to do it better the second time.
Really, though, the fact that Novel 2 is all but complete means it’s time to think about…
As an aside, man, it’ll be nice when I can stop calling it “Novel Two” and start talking about the actual title of the thing. Anyway, Novel Three. The basic plan I’m trying to execute here is to have a book out every 12-18 months. That requires a lot of planning, and steady, focused work. I’m a firm believer in the idea that novels in particular get better with time. Sure, there’s a point where you can overwork them, but it takes a LONG time to get there. If I give myself 12-18 months to write a novel, then I think it’s pretty fair to say that the more time I can commit to the novel within that period, the better it will be.
With that principle in mind, and a December release date for Novel Two… it means I need to get cracking if I don’t want my third novel to slip into 2021. (That’s likely to happen in any case, but hey, shoot for the stars.) So, I have to decide what to write for that third novel. As of right now, I’m not planning to do a sequel to either THE ORACLE YEAR or Novel Two (although both could generate one at some point.) This is mostly about wanting to establish myself as a particular sort of voice or writer - to convey that if you read one of my books you’ll get the same kind of experience from me even if the characters and setting vary.
Choosing the subject of your next novel is a big decision. I tweeted about this yesterday a bit, and wanted to elaborate a little here. I realize this might be a low-percentage topic (at least if Twitter is any indication), because most folks don’t write one novel, let alone have the opportunity to choose to write a second or more. It’s a very specific subset of folks who have to go through this thought-process, but hopefully it’ll be interesting to some of you.
Whatever topic I choose, I’ll be working on this book for at least a year. I’ll have to do immense levels of research, create new characters, plot the hell out of it, think of interesting twists and turns and then do the work. Day in and day out, I’ll have to live with this story, let other people read it, take their notes into account, revise, revise, revise. It’s a massive commitment on just a personal level. It’s like choosing a roommate to live with for the next year, and you both work from home. And sometimes it gets romantic, and sometimes you hate either other from the deepest depths of your soul.
Aside from that side of things, there are all the external considerations. Does the topic you’ve chosen reflect the writerly brand you’re trying to (or have) established? If not, why, and does it matter? You’ll need to sell this book to yourself first, but then your agent, your editor, publisher and ultimately the public. Have you chosen something that can achieve those goals (which are not always entirely aligned?) If not, why, and does it matter? The caveats are important - you can always choose to write a book that’s outside commercial goal sets - but you should be aware of the consequences.
Then there’s process - is your idea just a sexy premise that has you hooked for now but will ultimately peter out once you’re in the throes of creating the book? That can totally happen, and it’s why I do a lot of stress-testing, outlining and pre-work to make sure everything feels right before I really dig in. The last thing you want is to be halfway through and realize you’ve made a terrible mistake. The pre-vis, the storyboarding, so to speak - it also lets you start to see the characters more clearly and decide if they’ll be people you want to spend all that time with.
With all of that in mind, how the hell do you actually do it? Well… you just do it. You set your mind as free as you can and then just let it spin. See what pops. I have one idea I’ve assumed would be my third novel for a while, but now that I might actually begin writing it, I need to break it apart and be absolutely certain. I don’t have a great second candidate, but someday very soon I’m going to head out to a nice bar or coffee shop with my project planning notebook and just spin out ideas. Story prompts. You can usually tell when an idea might have legs. It has a weight to it, a feeling. Some feel like short stories, or comics, and some feel like novels.
Mostly, for me, it’s about theme. What’s the underlying idea I can explore in depth? With THE ORACLE YEAR, it was the future and all our hopes and fears related to it. With Novel Two, it’s identity. With Novel Three… I don’t know yet. We’ll find out together. But speaking of new books…
NEW CREATOR-OWNED COMIC WITH SCOTT SNYDER
One of my closest friends is a guy named Scott Snyder. He’s a writer too, very well-known for a long, signature run on Batman for DC Comics (primarily with artist superstar Greg Capullo), as well as wonderful stories of his own like American Vampire with Rafael Alburquerque, Wytches with Jock and more. Scott and I talk about each others’ stories with each other constantly, and for ages, we’ve thought about doing a book together.
Two years or so, we were sitting by a fire at either his place or mine, and we came up with this idea. A big, special idea - we could both tell we had something great. From there, it was really just about finding the time to do it, and figuring out how to tell the story. That took a while, mostly because he and I are always, constantly swamped with everything, but also because we wanted to do it right, with the best possible artist. We found said artist last fall, and then, because that artist has a specific window of time within which to work, it really kicked us into gear. We’re almost done with the script for the first issue, and we believe and hope the series should debut this fall.
So, what is it? Well, right now we’re obviously still in tease mode, because we don’t want you to be sick of it before it begins, and we want you to have some amazing art when we do the full announcement - but it’s a book about America. It’s huge in scope, and tries to really dig in to everything we are right now, everything we’ve been and everything we might be. All of those things are expressed through a big, metaphorical lens that allows us to do massive, crazy, comic-book-y stuff. Scott loves going bonkers in his story ideas (so do I, but he really loves it - one of his favorite words when talking about this story is “bombastic”) and the premise we’re working with lets us go as big as we want. It also lets us dig hard into underlying systems and concepts about America, the story beneath the story (my bread and butter - again, Scott’s too, but we both bring our strengths.)
We announced that we were working together on Twitter January 1, 2019, which seemed like the right day. More announcements should roll out soon, and I know we can’t wait to tell you and show you more, reveal the title, premise and team. This one will be great.
THE OTHER STUFF…
I sold a TV pilot last fall - or, rather, I sold an idea and was hired to write a TV pilot based on it. I did this alongside another longtime friend of mine, and we’re co-creators, co-exec producers and co-writers. It’s a very exciting time, because this is a space I’ve wanted to move into for years, and getting to do it (a) with a close friend and (b) not as a spec, but something being developed with a fantastic producer and hopefully moving forward… it’s a wonderful thing. We should hopefully be able to do a big press release thing about it soon, but for the moment I’ll just say that it sort of has a superhero component, but in a super, super grounded way. It’s cool. Challenging (both to us on the creative side and you on the audience side), but super cool.
Beyond that, it’s about wrapping up Curse Words with Ryan Browne - and we should have some big news about that soon too. We want the last arc of the series to land very strongly - it’s issues 21-25, and it’ll be the biggest, weirdest, most epic, tragic and funny part of the entire tale. There are beats we’ve been planning since #1… and it’s finally time. Brace yourselves. I will miss this book so much when it’s gone, but it ain’t gone yet, and it’s been an incredible ride. If you’ve never tried it, Curse Words is an epic fantasy story about an evil wizard from a hellish Lord of the Rings-type dimension (but scary, like Sauron won) who comes to our world, decides he likes it better and pretends to be a good, heroic wizard - which he surely ain’t. It’s very funny, but also very dark. I say it’s like Rick and Morty or Archer, but with sorcerors. You can pick up the first volume for under $10 here, as well as the rest of the series so far (up to Volume 3, with Volume 4 out next month.) It’s so good. My favorite comic. And… maybe you’ll feel cool if someday you can say you were in on the ground floor. Just saying. Here’s the cover by my Curse Words co-creator Ryan Browne for the Spring Has Sprung Special, out in March, with art from guest artist Mike Norton. Man, this book is a blast.
Other stuff… well, there’s a lot, including the midterm voting comic (haven’t forgotten), and the huge crazy thing about which the curtain will be pulled back in April, but I think this is enough for an update. I really hope the next time I do this I won’t have to be so coy, and I can start discussing these things more concretely, but this is how it goes in this biz. Just rest assured, there’s a lot happening.
Thanks, and see you next month! If you want more regular updates, you can follow me on Twitter - I use it daily, and it’s where I tend to break the big stuff, or at least tease it.