Happy to say that I finished polishing Mesh a couple of days early. As a result, heart in mouth, I sent it to my best-selling author friend. I heard back from her a few hours ago:
Fun fact: You can type the phrase ‘beta readers’ only using your left hand. These are the things you learn, slamming to a stop after months of writing, fretting, honing, and polishing your very own novel. Last Friday, I turned Mesh over to my beta readers and stood back to let them read, review, comment, and suggest. I’m already learning some valuable points about Mesh that I would never have seen on my own.
So yes, Jackson uses beta readers when he writes. Not every writer does, but I do. Let’s take a moment to discuss beta readers, so that if you write, or if you want to be a Beta Reader, you’ll have a sense of what is involved.
A concise discussion on the topic is provided at the link above (Thank you, NYbookeditors.com). Books need beta readers like software needs beta testers. Nothing sucks worse than trying to get a book published only to hear crickets from agents, publishers and the general public. Beta readers will tell you if you suck, where you suck, why you suck, and how to suck less.
Remember, you will suck before you succeed.
Do you want to be a beta reader? I promise you, there’s some effort involved. Some readers are great at pointing out plot inconsistencies, while others focus on spelling and grammar. In any case, it’s almost like doing a book report. You won’t enjoy it, unless you like what you’re reading.
That’s why I’m profoundly grateful, having found some readers that are willing to help me. It’s not easy to do what they’re doing, but it’s absolutely necessary in the process of writing things people want to read.
Thanks folks! 😀
Posted this update on Instagram first, but I’m saying it here, too: Mesh is finished, the new draft is complete. After two years and 91K words, I’m happy to say that my YA scifi novel is finally done.
Eighteen months ago, I started out to tell a story with fun premise:
“My name is Roman Diaz. One day I was a nerdy kid. The next day I’m on the run. Everyone thinks I’m a terrorist. I just wanted an ‘A’ on my science project.”
Fourteen-year-old Roman is on the fast track to nowhere, as a wheelchair-bound nerd in a dead-end school. A prestigious technical academy offers him and his geeky best-friend Zeke a way out. How can they say no?
Miramar Technical High isn’t just another magnet school: it’s an incubator for the next Elon Musk and Albert Einstein. Their new principal, Doctor Gray, has created a strange community of geeks, gamers and geniuses. Roman and Zeke are addicted to the weird, techno-anarchy of a campus filled with tough, smart kids. Pranks, hacks, and androids are only the beginning.
The stakes for success are high: Roman and Zeke join the Snow Foxes, the top talent at Miramar, to build a tool that will not only win first prize at the Titan Conference, but will also change the world. Everything changes when they learn the truth about Project November, and their techno-god principal. Friends become enemies. Truths becomes lies. Rockstar students are criminals … that’s what it says on TV, anyway.
Roman is now the most hunted kid in America. What is he going to do? Miramar created a secret weapon that the bad guys didn’t count on: The Mesh. It’s a secret project, something nobody cared about. Is it really the only thing standing between the forces of good and evil?
MESH is the first novel in a science fiction YA series that will appeal to readers of Ernie Cline’s READY PLAYER ONE and binge-watchers of STRANGER THINGS.
I’m happy to say that I’ve been able to do what I started out to accomplish. Now Mesh, with a few bumps and thumps, will be in the hands of my Beta Readers. After that, I plan to send it off for sale to some professionals in the print business.
With the success of Mesh will come my contribution back to the scifi genre I’ve been living, loving, and learning since I was a child. Science fiction is truly growing and changing, and I want to be a part of that growth and change.
Taking a couple of hours to rest, and celebrate. One part of the job is over, now the next part (editing and polishing) is about to begin.
So without further ado, here’s a digital painting that I’ve been working on for a couple of weeks. Working on this while finishing Mesh, it’s teaching me that universal truth: Unlike the dictionary, ‘Suck’ Comes Before ‘Succeed’ in the process of creativity. Enjoy the painting and see below for some notes.
Even though I’m not super happy with the final product, I need to move on. Watching Bob Ross (because, Bob Ross) I realized that I wanted to paint, too. So I started working on something that I was interested in and if you’re one of my Beta Readers, you know that this is a scene from ‘Mesh.’
It took me around twenty hours to do this. Learned a lot about how to paint digitally using Photoshop and my digital drawing tablet along the way. I wish the project came out better, but I also remember that quote from Jake the Dog in Adventure Time: “Suckin’ at something is the first step to being sorta good at something.”
So here’s me and the painting I made. Yes, I know it sucks, but that’s how I get better. You can see some of the progress pics below in this Imgur gallery:
Re-reading a thread on Reddit about Iron Giant makes me realize how many lives that story touched. I’ll write a love letter to Brad Bird and The Iron Giant someday, but that isn’t what I want to talk about. Rather, I want to talk about formative scifi, because it’s the only scifi that matters. Therefore, Mesh must be formative scifi and that’s where my calories will really be burned.
Let me explain. “Formative experience is the everyday life we lived growing up and the know-how we develop as a result,” by this definition. “More often than not, the know-how develops beyond our awareness. We simply react or do the things we do, based on a familiarity, having seen or experienced something like it before.” As children, those formative moments become the pillars we stand on, or the rocks that crush us, for the rest of our lives. Further, for most of us, we’re trying to turn those rocks into pillars because, self-actualization and stuff.
Scifi always played a formative role in my life, and for many others. Iron Giant was clearly a formative experience for many, and it’s one of the reasons Brad Bird is such a talented storyteller. Contrast Iron Giant with a movie like Titan A.E.: one is a timeless story about love, loss, and acceptance … the other is, well, Titan A.E. You can enjoy both for what they are, but only one of them really worked to resonate on a human level. If I want readers to love Mesh as much as I do, I have to make sure the human connection is there.
But beyond Mesh, the only science fiction worth having in 2019 is formative scifi. Just as Tor points out, scifi books help us fight for a better world. That’s what we need right now. Regardless of where we come from, where we’re going is a dark and desperate place unless humanity can step back from the brink.
So, I want Mesh to be a part of that solution. I want my stories to be formative for someone, and therefore, Mesh has to resonate. If you believe in stories that matter, I want to know you. I want to tell a story that matters to you.
Writing a thriller is like cooking spaghetti. Your reader doesn’t really care which noodle goes where, they just want the noodles to taste good together. The sheer level of effort required to make this last chunk of Mesh, to make the rest of the story come together in a neat, elegant order, is much higher than I first expected. I’m discovering new respect for authors like Frederick Forsyth, John Le Carré, and Tom Clancy. As your story builds to a climax, you can’t have a voice in the back of your head going “Yeah, that doesn’t fit together.”
At first, I thought at first I could write through the voice. Keep grinding, the answers will come. Some plots can afford that level of flexibility, but not a thriller. No, a thriller plot – which is what Mesh is, a YA scifi thriller – has to come together in that last act with no loose ends. Not only that, the loose end you tie up in Act Three can’t unravel four loose ends in Act Two. It’s somewhere between creativity and craftiness, productivity and puzzleology. In short, yeah it’s a lot of work.
I thought diagramming the story would prevent this from happening. Turns out, it works for the major chunks but not for the nitty-gritty details. Those are the details, IMHO, that separate stories like ‘The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo’ from ‘The DaVinci Code.’ Fixing this, making Mesh the best story I can tell, is where I’m at right now.
Does this mean I should quit? Of course not. These are simply the problems I need to solve if I plan on being a good writer. Craft must be honed, you have to love the process of practice. I recall a Reddit post by a professional pianist that I think applies directly to my growth as a writer. “I think you have to have a growth mindset,” he says. “You have to enjoy the grind itself.”
So this is me, enjoying the grind. I’m not complaining. Yeah, I want to do this. Yeah, it’s going to take a lot of work. However, if it means a reader goes ‘Wow!’ at the end of Mesh, then it’ll all be worth it.
Back to the book!
Like all of you, I was horrified to read of the Christchurch shooting. Never been to New Zealand, have no dog in this fight. It’s just another heart-breaking reminder of the boring dystopia we’ve been sliding toward since Ike warned us of the ‘military-industrial complex’ back in 1961. You want another log on the ‘everything sucks’ fire? Not really my wheelhouse – Noam Choamsky has it covered, anyway. What I’d rather do is talk about why the world needs Mesh right now. Even if it doesn’t turn into the shot in the arm I think it is, I think we can all agree that a shot in the arm is needed.
Let me tell you first why *I* need Mesh. Me personally, I’m a mess. I know it. That isn’t changing anytime soon. Writing and social media seem to be the limit for my interaction with the universe. Doctors say my anxiety disorder isn’t getting any better, even with the meds or the therapy, so I should be ‘setting realistic expectations for myself’ when it comes to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
I need Mesh, because it’s a story that lets me touch the universe. It’s the film on the bubble separating me from the outside world. Solving problems for Roman and Zeke and the Snow Fox kids (You’ll meet them soon enough) is better than the problems I can’t solve at home. But that’s me, and that’s my trip. Let’s talk about something else. Science fiction needs Mesh, and here’s why: Continue reading
Happy to say that Mesh passed into the seventy-thousand range. Now at 74,000 words. That’s thing one.
Thing two, is that I got an email from my beta reader yesterday: ‘forgot to email you the other day, but I loved it. keep up the good work, man.‘ He doesn’t know it but messages like these rock author worlds. Too often, we’re hammering away at the keyboard and shouting into the hole. Will anyone respond to what we’re saying? It’s the biggest emotional gamble of our lives.
Encouragement means so much. That’s why I’m working on Mesh, that’s also why I’m working on SFFDI. Look for more updates soon.
Imagine waking up, coffee in hand, to read the news before you start your writing day. You click on Reddit and you see one of the central components of your scifi novel on the front page. Elon Musk is designing a computer / brain interface. Or he’s started a company to do that. He’s calling it ‘Neuralink,’ and all you can say is ‘Gee, I called it a ‘neurolink.’
That was me five minutes ago. To be clear, I didn’t plan this.
Let’s catch up: I’m writing a near-future scifi novel called ‘Mesh’ and within the story I cover a lot of cool toys and tricks … a YA scifi novel with a vibe somewhere between Back to the Future 2 and Blade Runner. With me so far?
One of the things I talk about are computer/brain interfaces, nothing new there. The kids of Miramar Techncial High (where Mesh takes place) get them installed as part of their work building secret tech projects. A neurolink has a low-level AI, interfaces to the Internet, and more.
So I’m sure you can understand how weird and cool it is to hear that Elon Musk is talking about doing the same thing. He wants to make a chip that gives you ‘the digital intelligence needed to progress beyond the limits of our biological intelligence. This would mean a full incorporation of artificial intelligence into our bodies and minds.’ I read the article going “check, check, and check.”
So this blog post is part ‘hey, that’s neat,’ and part ‘don’t call me a rip-off.’ I’ve been talking about this since the beginning, just ask my Beta Readers. Does that mean I think E.M. is ripping me off? Of course not. We’ve been discussing neural network interfaces as a species for decades now. I want to talk about what a neurolink might do to society in the future, but that’s definitely not a central core of Mesh’s plot.
Plus, it’s not like the Neuralink is coming next week. If the hive-mind of Reddit is any indication, neurolinks are a long way from reality. However, the fact that different components of Mesh are popping up on the radar of our existence is pretty cool. It also means I better finish this thing before any other parts of it appear. 🙂