Author David Edison joins us today to talk about his debut The Waking Engine and his story of how he got published.
Hello SciFiChick readers, and thank you for hosting my very first guest post ever. You may have read me at GayGamer.net in the past, or at Tor.com and TorForgeBlog.com, but never have I been hosted! The Chick herself suggested I share the story of my path to publishing, since the tale of my tale is an unusual one–here’s hoping that it’s also an interesting yarn.
THE WAKING ENGINE began, like many books and stories, with an upfront admission of failure. I wrote three chapters, shoved them in a drawer because I could not bear to look at them, and went right back to working as a video game journalist—a job a million girls might kill for, but not this one. Selling someone else’s hard work only served to remind me that my hard work was sleeping its life away in a drawer, and as I tired of rehashing press releases with an increasingly cynical eye, I began to wonder about the book that might have been.
Sometime in 2008, I found myself sitting in front of a fabulously intimidating literary agent, hoping against hope that she would share with me some kind of magic recipe that would turn me into a novelist. And so she did: she told me to finish the damn book. If book publishing has any magical advice at all, it’s that gem—three chapters can be horrible or wonderful, but they’re not a finished manuscript. Turns out, a finished manuscript is the secret ingredient. Whodathunk?
I scampered off, aware that I’d just been given an opportunity for which many writers would kill. Maybe I was Anne Hathaway in Devil Wears Prada, after all? The opportunity was mine to squander, and suddenly I spent my mornings juggling too many coffees (all mine) and throwing coats (mine) onto desks (also mine) where a wide-eyed, terrified young(ish) writer spent his time working feverishly but, largely, without a clue. I lost weight and soon fit into clothes that I could not enjoy because: pressure. My friends complained, and missed me, and wondered if I wasn’t becoming a little bit obsessed. They missed the smart, fat kid in the cerulean sweater.
A year passed, and I finished the manuscript. Timidly, I brought it back to my agency. After a few months of waiting, I received the feedback: cut a hundred pages and change the ending.
I’ve since met many writers who don’t like feedback, but I find it comforting. Some mix of masochism and solipsism makes it okay for me: any change a writer makes is a change of her own design, and if someone suggests a change she disagrees with, she is free to ignore it. But you don’t ignore “Cut a hundred pages and change the ending.” Or, at least, I don’t.
Six months or so after that, I returned the edited manuscript to my agent, who went right out to sell it. We received rejections right and left. In fact, the manuscript was rejected by every editor who saw it, save one. Tor had always been my imprint of choice—I grew up judging books by the covers of Irene Gallo and her predecessor, and seeing my name above their logo on the spine of a book was, of course, my highest fantasy. My fantasy came true when Paul Stevens, my editor at Tor, bought the thing after warning us that it would need a lot more work than the average manuscript.
That was fine with me—I was still dissatisfied with the story, and felt as if I’d only really just begun to learn how to write a novel. Paul gave me incredibly detailed feedback, on paper, with a red pen, just like the good old days (which are mostly gone now). But the gist of it boiled down to a now-familiar phrase: cut a hundred pages and change the ending.
I killed so many darlings that I’m still recovering. The seasons blurred, and I wondered if there had ever been a time when I was not working on this damnable book. When my editor saw the new manuscript he pointed out that this, this was what a normally unedited manuscript looked like, so that I would have something to aim for next time around.
(It is now “next time around” and I’m still figuring out how to skip the part where I cut a hundred pages and change the ending. Twice.)
Irene commissioned cover art from the amazing Stephan Martiniere and when I saw it, I burst into tears. Now it’s release week, and I don’t feel like Anne Hathaway anymore at all. (Maybe a little bit in the cheekbones.) There’s a book on the shelf and while I’m going to make sure it’s only the first of many, I am enjoying the resolution to this decade-long adventure. Here’s hoping you do, too! Please, check out the first and second chapters (oh, those chapters, my old companions!) for free at Tor.com. If you enjoy reading them half as much as I’ve enjoyed writing them, all will be well.
Courtesy of Tor, I have a copy of The Waking Engine by David Edison for one (1) lucky winner!
Contest is open to US residents only. No PO Boxes, please. To enter, just fill out the form below. Contest ends March 6. I’ll draw a name on March 7, and notify winner via email.
ENTER DAILY TO INCREASE YOUR CHANCE OF WINNING!