The Adventures of Abigail Storm: How Abby got an Agent

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A couple of months ago I gave manbirth to what I called the last draft of The Adventures of Abigail Storm. I was deluded, because like a screenplay, a novel is only ever complete once someone pulls the bastard kicking and screaming away from you. But it was finished (sorta). Well, it was ready to read (I hoped).

So I sent that bad boy out into the publishing world; the first step – a new agent. Now people always ask ‘how do I get an agent?’ Now there’s a hundred different ways to do that and stalking isn’t one of them. For me, the first thing I did was make a list of writers who write books that are similar to the books I write, and then found out who their agents were. Once I had a list of twenty agents that were awesome I spent a week crafting a query letter. Now I’m not kidding here, one solid working week writing and re-writing the one liner, one paragraph and one page synopsis. By the end of that week I was sick of every single word I had written, but every single word I had written also rocked and rolled off the page. When I absolutely, positively couldn’t make any sentence leaner and meaner, I started sending out emails – five a week for four weeks. And then I waited… And I waited… then I doubted everything I had ever written in my entire life… And then I waited some more. I even entertained the idea of a different career path… Could I really be a back-up singer for the Rolling Stones?

Then the replies started rolling in. After two months of self doubt and wondering if my email was working, here are the query stats:

9 Rejections
8 Non-Replies
3 Manuscript Requests + 3 Offers of representation

All three agents were awesome and after a few phone conversations I decided to go with Scott Miller from Trident Media. Funnily enough, the number 1 agent at the top of my list was the one who I ended up going with. I can’t wait to work with Scott on this project and the others in the future.

The Adventures of Abigail Storm is one step closer to being unleashed on the world. A huge thanks to everyone who had been involved in the project so far, especially Matthew Vaughan​, Tara Goedjen​ and Hugh Jenkins​

Things I Learnt Reading the First Draft of ‘The Adventures of Abigail Storm’

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A first draft is like good whiskey, it needs to age. You can’t just finish the thing, put a stamp of approval on it and send it out into the world. You need to barrel it, distil it and you forget about it. Yep, forget about it like a girlfriend that broke your heart, forget about it like you’ve forgotten about Phantom Menace, forget about it like… well, you get the idea. Once I finish writing a first draft I try my hardest to forget it even exists at all. I go to the bar, I play pool, I read more books but the single most important thing I do, I start another project.

After I finished the first draft of The Adventures of Abigail Storm, the very first thing I did was start a new project. Now that I’m trying to forget about that, it’s time to crack open the barrel and retrieve Abigail.

Here’s a couple of things I learnt while reading the first draft of The Adventures of Abigail Storm.

  1. Come armed with coffee.
  2. The first draft is always shit. No matter how much I hope that the novel has rewritten itself in my absence, it’s never happened. I expect the worst, from typos to clunky writing, to embarrassing dialogue and logic holes the size of that asteroid in Armageddon.
  3. Lock the door and turn off the phone. I’m only going to get the chance to read the novel from beginning to end for the first time once. For me, this has to be done in one day. It’s one very long day, but that way I can see the flow of the story in one hit.
  4. The first paragraph isn’t needed. This has been consistent for all my books. I spend hours crafting that first paragraph to perfection like a fine artist in the first draft, only to come by a couple of months later with a red pen and kick it out of the novel. First paragraphs in first drafts are almost always never needed.
  5. Cut ten thousand words, at least. If that sounds like a lot, it is. Ten thousand words is roughly forty to fifty pages and probably a week’s worth of work. Right now this novel is on the fat side and I want it lean and mean and precise. Every single word needs to earn its place, every cliff hanger, every joke and every single word needs to earn its place if I want the reader to turn the page. There’s no room for useless words.

What if what I read is bad? See point number 2. IT IS BAD! But don’t cry. Have a beer. Get up tomorrow and rewrite that bastard.

DAY ? of ‘THE ADVENTURES OF ABIGAIL STORM’

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After 10 weeks, 3 bags of coffee, 2 sets of guitar strings, 5 neighbourly complaints about noise, 4 bottles of Wild Turkey, 566 pages, and over one hundred thousand words, the first draft of The Adventures of Abigail Storm is finished.

There’s always a bit of tradition and ritual when finishing a book. Some people get out of town for a week, others don’t leave their room for a week. For me, it’s whiskey and Van Morrison. I wait until I’m typing the very last page, I pour myself a glass, put on the rare Van Morrison live in Japan, 1974 and hammer away at the typer.

Now the choice of whiskey is a very important one. You don’t just go and drink any run of the mill whiskey that you would drink any old day of the week, because what would be so special about that? You have to pull out the big guns for finishing a book, no Jamisons or Makers Mark. So for the past couple of months I’ve had an unopened bottle of Writer’s Tears sitting on my desk taunting me, begging to be opened and enjoyed. I have resisted the urge to crack it open and now the day has finally come.

2014-12-21 14.14.10With Van Morrison in the air, and those words ‘THE END’ not far from my fingertips, I poured myself a glass. And it was the best damn glass of whiskey I had ever tasted. I even dragged out writing the last page so I could knock off a third of the bottle.

So now what? Pop it in the mail and send it straight to the agent and publisher? Hell, no. This monster is full of typos and bad writing. I’m going to let it sit on it for a couple of weeks while I go and finish off that bottle of Writer’s Tears and forget about the entire thing. I’ve got a movie or two to write, some Playstation to play and guitars to annoy the neighbours with. Then, when I’ve just about forgotten about the entire thing, I’ll turn over page one and rewrite the entire thing.

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DAY 65 of ‘THE ADVENTURES OF ABIGAIL STORM’

Pink Abby

What happens when you realise that your 80,000 word science fiction novel is going to be more like a 150,000 word science fiction monster?

I can tell you exactly what happens. First comes the disbelief. Maybe I calculated the words incorrectly? Which in my case could be very likely considering I can’t even remember a phone number. Nope, I crunch them numbers again and it still rolls in at 150,000 words. In the next stage, comes the panic. And I’m not talking about a little internal flutter of panic. I’m talking about ‘the someone has just told you there’s a spider on your back and you run around the house yelling. “is it gone, is it gone”‘ type of panic.

So after I stopped running around the house yelling ‘is it gone, is it gone,’ I sat down at the typer pulled up my outline and poured myself a drink (and left the bottle on the desk). Now, the only really editing tool I possess, is being able to go through a story and working out exactly what is not needed. I try to work out how to tell as much story in as little words as possible.

Half a bottle of whiskey and three hours later, I managed to trim this behemoth of a story back from the 150,000 word nightmare to a more reasonable 100,000 words. That number is still not exactly a walk in the park, but it’s much easier to achieve. How did I pull off such a task you may ask, or you may not, but I’m going to tell you anyways. It was simple, I deleted all the nouns… I’m kidding, that would be crazy talk. I went back to basics and deleted absolutely every sequence, chapter, or scene that didn’t do one of two things:

1) Advance the plot or,

2) Reveal something new about character.

In other words, I trimmed all the fat. Now I still have another 30,000 words to write to reach that 100,000 word target (which is the most of anything I’ve ever written), and I’m sure there’s going to be other obstacles from now until then, but at least for the time being the crisis has been adverted and the spider my back type panic has subsided.

DAY 46 OF ‘THE ADVENTURES OF ABIGAIL STORM’

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Finally! Just broke 50,000 words on the first draft of ‘The Adventures of Abigail Storm’ *cheers*. But still have another 30,000 words to go *sighs*. Those 30,000 words need to be finished in the next fifteen days. There will be tears, booze, violence, me yelling obscenities in the office and hopefully I’ll try and get some writing in there as well.

Here are some highlights from the last week of writing:

1) I’ve finally managed to get the AI powered supercar, K.I.T.T. from Knight Rider into a novel (don’t ask).
2) Writing about the end of the world can be fun.
3) Some mornings I drink so much coffee that I think coffee should probably share credit with me on this book.
4) That the opposite of irony, is wrinkly.

Meanwhile… I’ll be in the office typing away like Angela Lansbury. If no one hears from me in fifteen days, send whiskey.

 

DAY 39 OF ‘THE ADVENTURES OF ABIGAIL STORM’

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After a very long search for Abigail’s hero weapon, I’ve finally found a bad boy that would be dangerous, ridiculous and baddass enough to save the world with. This here is the Remington 1740, double barrel pump shotgun. What it really is, is actually two Remington 870’s that some maniac has attached to each other. One ejects to the left of the barrel and the other to the right. I’m sure it’s loud as hell, kicks like Bruce Lee and does more damage than Gary Busey on a coke binge.

DAY 35 OF ‘THE ADVENTURES OF ABIGAIL STORM’

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The Writing Schedule

Time to put away the Playstation and hide the booze – this shit just got real. I have to write 50,000 words in five weeks to meet the deadline on the first draft of ‘The Adventures of Abigail Storm’. 

For the mathmactically challenged (me), that’s 10,000 words a week or more specficically, 2000 words a day.

Here’s how this God awful word count is going to be achieved:

8.00 am: Crawl out of bed,  brew a gallon of coffee and blast some rock ‘n roll.

8.30 am: Look up stuff on the internet. Others may refer to this as ‘procrastination’. A writer will always refer to it as ‘research.’

9.00 am: Write first sentence of the day.

9.10 am: Rewrite first sentence of the day.

9.30 am: Rewrite, the rewritten first sentence of the day.

9.40 am: Cry.

10.00 am: Make some more coffee.

12.00 pm: Head down to the local pub for some lunch.

1.00 pm: Back at the typer. Stare at the laptop.

2.00 pm: Play guitar.

2.30 pm: Stare at the laptop.

3.00 pm: Look at the clock and panic about all the words I haven’t written.

4.30 pm: Second guess every single word written to date.

5.00 pm: Make an Old Fashioned.

5.30 pm: Make another Old Fashioned.

6.00 pm: Put the ‘Closed’ sign up on the office door.

And somehow, if everything goes to plan I would have written 2000 words in-between all that.

This will be my schedule for the next 5 weeks. So nobody call or come around because I’ll be busy… (please call, please come around… please?)

DAY 25 OF ‘THE ADVENTURES OF ABIGAIL STORM’

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After almost two weeks of rewriting a screenplay and a few other such things, it’s time to get back to The Adventures of Abigail Storm and start pounding out those pages. I  had set myself a deadline of and 80,000 word, beast of a novel by November 9th… then I took two weeks off.

Now my daily word count went from 2000 words a day to 2683 (thanks to the wonderful world of mathematics for working that out). After much consideration I’ve come to the conclusion that is new word count is seriously going to impose on my Playstation time.

DAY 23 OF ‘THE ADVENTURES OF ABIGAIL STORM’

Here’s 5 things I’ve learnt after sitting at the typer for 5 days:

1. Sometimes there just isn’t enough coffee in the world.

2. Page 1 is never as scary as it sounds.

3. Never read what you’ve written until you’re done.

4. 2000 words a day is sometimes very easy, and at other times it’s harder than watching a Twilight marathon.

5. You never leave the office. You can close the laptop, go do something else but your mind will keep working on those next words.

Current word count is 10,081 of 80,000.

I’m thinking of making the wise investment of a Playstation 4. But I can’t see how that could possibly have an effect on my word count this week… no not at all.

DAY 21 OF ‘THE ADVENTURES OF ABIGAIL STORM’

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After all this research for ‘The Adventures of Abigail Storm’ I feel like I’ve read every sci-fi book and seen every sci-fi movie made. If you guys have any recommendations for some cool stories, send them them through, otherwise I’m going to have to re-watch ‘Short Circuit’ again and nobody wants that.

I’m looking for rare stuff that may have slipped under the radar.

DAY 17 OF ‘THE ADVENTURES OF ABIGAIL STORM’

abby holocostThere were tears, there was booze there were neighbours complaining about Tone Loc’s hit 1989 album, ‘Loc-Ed After Dark’,  blasting through their walls at two in the morning. And after all that, I now have a 10,000 word outline for ‘The Adventures of Abigail Storm’ in my mitts.

Monday will be the anxiety filled chapter one, page one, word one, but until then I’m going to do same thing I do before I start any major project… and that’s absolutely nothing. Three days of being Dude Lebowski before embarking on the mammoth task of the first draft.

The Plan: 80,000 words in 8 weeks. That’s 2,000 words a day, 10,000 words a week and in 8 weeks, the whole bloody, mess of a first draft will sit like a phone book on my desk.

This will take discipline, sobriety and a recluse like attitude. None of which are much fun, but is what it will take to get the job done. So for those of you who’s calls I don’t answer, I’m writing… or ignoring you.  And for those of you who know where I live… you’ve been warned.

DAY 12 OF ‘THE ADVENTURES OF ABIGAIL STORM’

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After a couple of weeks of filling my notebook with scribbles and madness, it’s now time to move into the future and commit those words to Scriviner.  What’s Scriviner you ask? Or maybe you don’t but I’m going to tell you anyway.  Here’s the pitch from the Scriviner peoples: Scrivener is a powerful content-generation tool for writers that allows you to concentrate on composing and structuring long and difficult documents. While it gives you complete control of the formatting, its focus is on helping you get to the end of that awkward first draft.

But what it really is, is a word processor that is not going to shit its pants when a manuscript starts to run over one hundred pages (I’m not pointing any fingers here Microsoft Word).

When you first open it, it might look like one of those puzzles they give little kids to see if they are geniuses, but if you’re keen on writing a novel, stick with it. Unless you like hurling abuse at Microsoft Word for the last three hundred pages of your book… I don’t don’t know, maybe you’re into that kind of thing.

You can find it here: Scrivener

 

 

 

 

DAY EIGHT OF ‘THE ADVENTURES OF ABIGAIL STORM’

I wouldn’t write a shopping list with out an outline… and deep in outline territory is where I am. Something I’ve been doing in the past couple of years in the outline department is mind mapping (I know, I know, it’s a wanky term). So I look at the page and vomit words and plot at it, although I’m sure that’s not the technical term for mind mapping.

Below is one I did for the last book, ‘Out of Exile’. A lot of the story changed as it was developed, but it’s a good indication of what the Abigail Storm notebook is looking like right now.

WARNING: ‘OUT OF EXILE’ SPOILERS AHEAD!

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My Top 100 Badass Action Films: AKA movies to drink beer to

Top-Gun-image-2 If anyone has ever read anything I’ve written, then you would know that there’s a fair amount of action in those books and screenplays. So now, as I gear up for the new book I’m re-watching a bunch of movies and figured I would put together a list of my top 100 badass action films of all time.

If there’s anything you think I’ve left out, or you think is a bullshit entry on the list, I want to know.

*These films of testosterone and awesomeness are in no order whatsoever.

1. Die Hard
2. For A Few Dollars More
3. Raiders of the Lost Ark
4. Mad Max 2
5. Predator
6. Aliens
7. Speed
8. Where Eagles Dare
9. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
10. The Raid
11. Escape from New York
12. Lethal Weapon
13. Total Recall
14. The Matrix
15. Rambo
16. The Dark Knight
17. The Rock
18. Mission Impossible
19. Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol
20: Jurassic Park
21. Taken
22. The Bourne Identity
23: The Poseidon Adventure
24: Skyfall
25: Commando
26: Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
27: Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry
28: The Great Escape
29: Point Break
30: Top Gun
31: Big Trouble in Little China
32: The Terminator
33: Terminator 2
34: Rio Bravo
35: Kill Bill
36: Kill Bill 2
37: Backdraft
38: Twister
39: Cliffhanger
40: 2012
41: Appleseed
42: Leon
43: RoboCop
44: The A-Team
45: The Magnificent Seven
46: Bad Boys 2
47: The Killer
48: Hard Boiled
49: Die Hard with a Vengeance
50: The Last Boy Scout
51: Starwars
52: The Wild Bunch
53: The Dirty Dozen
54: Saving Private Ryan
55: Heat
56: Face Off
57: Con Air
58: Desperado
59: Beverly Hills Cop
60: Goldeneye
61: Crank
62: Assault On Precinct 13
63: Air Force One
64: The Long Kiss Goodnight
65: Under Siege
66: Goldfinger
67: Inception
68: Dirty Harry
69: Yojimbo
70: Star Trek
71: Children of Men
72: The Warriors
73: Iron Man
74: Planet of the Apes
75: Independence Day
76: From Dusk Till Dawn
77: Ronin
78: Bullitt
79: Tombstone
80: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
81: Shogun Assassin
82: The Fugitive
83: Man on Fire
84: Black Hawk Down
85: The French Connection
86: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
87: The Fifth Element
88: Captain America: The Winter Soldier
89: Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia
90: The Getaway
91: Hot Fuzz
92: Starship Troopers
93: Tron: Legacy
94: North by Northwest
95: A Bittersweet Life
96: Battle Royal
97: The Untouchables
98: The Searchers
99: Minority Report
100: The Guns of Navarone

DAY TWO OF ‘THE ADVENTURES OF ABIGAIL STORM’

The neighbours hate me. I’ve been blasting rock ‘n roll all day and have been playing it loud. I’m putting together a list of around 200 songs that are kind of the musical personality of the book and will play on repeat for the next couple of months as I write. 

Here’s a few of the highlights:

1) Cherry Pie – Warrant
2) I Love Rock ‘n Roll – Joan Jett
3) Ice, Ice Baby – Vanilla Ice
4) 99 Luft Balloons – Nena
5) Boys in Town – The Divinyls
6) If You Want Blood – AC/DC
7) Paradise City – Gunners
8) Common People – Pulp
9) O.P.P. – Naughty by Nature
10) Blister in the Sun – Femmes

(Due to some plot issues that I won’t go into, all music is from 1980 to 1999 – but all of it is awesome).