Mesh – Writing Young is Tougher Than You Think

Mesh – Writing Young is Tougher Than You Think

One of the most unique challenges of ‘Mesh’ for me is to go back and re-capture what it feels like to be a kid. No joke, when you’re in your forties, writing young is tougher than you think.

Early beta reader drafts included a lot of feedback on how ‘old’ the kids sounded. It didn’t take long for me to understand the truth: I’m not a kid anymore. My perspective has changed, my viewpoints have changed. I approach problems with a different outlook than I did when I was fourteen, and if you aren’t careful, this comes through in your writing.

I was reading this article about modern kids in the California Sun, and the pictures reminded me of me when I was in my teens. It also reminded me that no matter what, kids are still kids. Sure, they have new gadgets, new fashion, new problems and new opportunities compared to me. But, the bottom line is that they’re still smart people, strong people, demonstrating their potential while learning about the world around them.

Roman and Zeke – the main characters of Mesh – do too. When they come to life in Mesh, they will be somewhere in the future. Like these young people, they’ll find themselves deep into adult problems they never dreamed existed, they will also wrestle with challenges no kid should have to deal with. However, like these kids, Roman and Zeke are going to find their way through. They’re going to succeed, they will overcome, and we will be proud of them when that happens.

Capturing that voice, that unique moment in a young person’s life, is hard work for me. Yet, it’s fun work, and with the help of the Mesh community, I know that I will get it right.

Emotional Authenticity: Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Very Bad Day

Emotional Authenticity: Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Very Bad Day

I picked up a copy of one of my favorite children’s books at the second-hand book shop here in town. Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Very Bad Day was one of my favorite books as a kid. It’s like sunshine for the soul to come back to it now. One of the things that stands out with this book is its emotional authenticity. I didn’t notice it when I was eight, but it’s positively gripping to me now.

If you’ve never heard of the book, or if you’re only familiar with the movie, you owe it to yourself to check it out. The synopsis says it all: “From the moment Alexander wakes up, things just go wrong in his way. As he gets up, the chewing gum that was in his mouth the night before ends up in his hair. He trips on the skateboard and drops his sweater in the sink while the water is running. He finds out that it is going to be a terrible, horrible, no good very bad day.”

For a book that’s older than I am, the story holds up remarkably well. In 1972, there weren’t many stories that focused on the non-bucolic parts of a child’s life. In simple, pen-and-ink drawings, Alexander navigates the complex world of breakfast cereal, school, friendship, siblings, dentists and lima beans.

Although this sounds like it might be patronizing, the reality is that it isn’t. The book’s author, Judith Viorst, pulls together simple, powerful truths about the world from a kid’s perspective. Sometimes life sucks, and things go wrong, and it hurts when that happens. Even though the book ends on a quiet note, it hits the right tone: sometimes the best you can do is finish the day and try again tomorrow.

You leave AaTTHNGVBD feeling settled, happy, and understood. You can relate to Alexander, and you can feel like Alexander would understand what it feels like when you have a bad day, too. That level of connection is what makes this book so popular. That’s an important lesson for any author to know: we must relate to our readers if we want our readers to relate to our stories.

Emotional authenticity is one of the tools I need to wield correctly as I polish Mesh. As I noted elsewhere, the story has to capture the readers’ heart. If I don’t do that, then Mesh will die on the vine. This is too important to me, so I’m focused on making Mesh work and using different ideas and writing techniques to bring the story of Roman and his geeky pals to life.

So Alexander, I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to say it, but here’s what I want you to know: I’m sorry you had a bad day. You deserve to have a good day every day, but sometimes that doesn’t happen. But if it does, don’t worry! Things can get better tomorrow. In the meantime, we still love each other.

We would miss you if you went to Australia.

 

Mesh Update #8 – Inspirational Schools

Ran across this story about the Midland School in California, and fell in love. For over a thousand years, education has been the root of every civilization. But how do you teach young people to be good people? How do you teach them the skills necessary to be successful beyond business, in life itself?

Midlands seems to have found the answer. What makes a school like this stand out is the level of life skills they’re giving to each student. “The students more or less run Midland, which has no janitorial or maintenance staff. They plant and pick about half of the food they eat on a 10-acre farm. They clean the windows, maintain the landscape, and sweep the old chapel.’

“‘We know we’re different and we know we’re a little crazy,’ said Christopher Barnes, the head of school. ‘The question for each student and for each family is if we’re your kind of crazy.'”

How does this tie back to Mesh? Our protags, Roman and Zeke, are going to visit a school like Midland when the Mesh is discovered. A school full of tough nerdy kids, ready to do battle against the bad guys? I can see them having a lot of fun. My hope is that you will, too.

 

Grind It Out – Keep Going No Matter What

I’m in that low period of creation. Everything seems wrong. Nothing seems right. Every instinct I have about writing, storytelling is being put to the test as I edit Mesh.

Googling for inspiration, I ran across this quote by Guy Kawasaki. He was the original marketer for Mac back in the eighties and he’s been behind several monolithic Silicon Valley inspirations since then.

I respect his story because like him, my journey is a series of efforts in pursuit of a larger goal. Will Mesh be the book I want it to be? Will it find the readers I want it to find? I have no idea. I do know that I have to try and so until my destiny arrives, I have to keep grinding.

I hope you have found something worth grinding out, too.

“What’s Your Novel About?” – Intro to Mesh

Churning away on edits, I want to take this opportunity to talk about what my scifi novel ‘Mesh’ is all about.

So far I’ve only published short stories, but I want to do more. It’s great to pull off a 6-12K word tale, but what about an epic novel? Can I do it? Will people enjoy it? Writing a full-length novel has been on my bucket list since I was 12. Now, several decades later, I want to give it a shot. Here’s what Mesh is about and I hope it’s something you’ll enjoy:

“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 only wants two things out of life: out of this wheelchair and away from his dead-end school. A prestigious technical high school is offering a chance at both. How can Roman and his geeky best-friend Zeke say no?

Miramar High isn’t just a magnet school: it’s an incubator for the next Elon Musk and Albert Einstein. They give Roman cybernetic links and an exo-skeleton to get out of his wheelchair. Now Roman’s new mentor gives them a new project: The Mesh. Can kids create a new form of communication to save the world? That’s the challenge, and along with the Snow Foxes, Roman and Zeke are making it happen.

Suddenly, secrets get revealed. All is not as it seems. Friends become enemies. Truths become lies. Rockstar students are now criminals. With no other choice, Roman uses his robotic legs to start running. He must destroy the Mesh, before it destroys him.

Currently editing and improving with Beta readers, MESH is the first novel a science fiction YA series that will appeal to readers of Ernie Cline’s READY PLAYER ONE and binge-watchers of STRANGER THINGS.

Mesh is a celebration of many different stories, people and ideas that I’ve collected over the years. Parsing ideas down into a readable story is an interesting challenge, and I’m finding it to be personally rewarding.

I’m still in search of an agent – I want to publish Mesh through the traditional market, as opposed to self-publishing. I can always use more feedback from sci-fi readers on the material, and from writing professionals on how to get published. Please contact me via Reddit if you’d like to be a part of my team.

You can read more about Mesh’s journey in these blog posts

I Won’t Be Self-Publishing ‘Mesh’

Open up Twitter to get some more bad news for self-publishing authors. According to this article, Amazon no longer allows you to review books unless you can prove you’ve purchased them through Amazon:

To write a Customer Review, you must have used your account to purchase any item or service on Amazon (free digital content doesn’t qualify toward this requirement.)

Something tells me that this rule isn’t necessarily hard-and-fast. I doubt all the reviews for ‘Star Wars’ came *after* the users bought them on Amazon. Ditto for ‘Moby Dick,’ ‘To Kill a Mockingbird,’ or ‘The Fault in Our Stars.’ Continue reading

Mesh: Relax, It’s Only a Story

As I’m editing and re-writing Mesh, I’m also watching the news. Why? Pretty simple – I’m curious to see if the future I’m imagining has any chance of actually happening.

It occurs to me, also, that readers of Mesh may begin drawing unfair conclusions about my personal views after reading it. Do I advocate for an authoritarian society by writing about one? Do I advocate for anarchy by talking about what happens if it does? How do I really feel? I think I need to post a quick word at the start of the book about this. Here’s a quick draft – see what you think: Continue reading

Mesh Update #6 – Hack Inspirations

I love it when a random piece of information on the Internet gets your juices flowing, don’t you? One of the inspirations for Mesh is the time-honored practice of ‘hacks’ at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

First things first: a hack isn’t what you think it is. In fact, a hack has nothing to do with breaking into computer systems. Rather, they are creative pranks done by students. Hacks can be deviously clever, or ridiculously simple. Their worth is judged on a hack-by-hack basis.

Curious about hacks? Say no more. Wired has a great write-up of hacks that have taken place over the past sixy years, and MIT has their own archive of hacks both past and present. I’ve been a fan of these hacks for years for a very simple reason – they’re fun, they’re interesting, and they showcase an undersung aspect of geek culture.

What do I mean? Simple. Our social media-driven world is obsessed with attention. It’s not enough to do something interesting, you must also get as many likes / upvotes / retweets as possible. Hacks, by definition, are uncredited. You usually never know how the hack artists are. Their ingenuity is only matched by their anonymity. Hackers, in this context, are proud to give back to the culture that gave them so much. It’s fun, it’s geeky, and it’s admirable.

Mesh is going to celebrate hacks.

Mesh Update #5 – Get It Out of Your Head

As I’m building Mesh, I remembered that I promised to use the ‘Pixar Rules of Storytelling.‘ I went back and started filling these out as though I was doing an essay exam and the results have been surprising. I’ll post exercises from time to time to help you understand where I’m coming from as the novel finds its home in the publishing industry. Here’s the next one:

Rule 11: Get it out of your head and onto the paper.

Any project I work on has to be complete before I can see the parts that can be better. A cake isn’t a cake until you’ve mixed the ingredients and put them into a hot oven.

By the same token, all these little elements of a story sound cool in theory, but will they work in the book? There’s no way to tell, until you write it down. Keep writing, keep creating. Stand over that muse and shake the art out of her.

 

Write on!