Friday, January 4, 2013

Time to Write (Rewrite, Revise)

By Chester Campbell

Now that we're still perched up here on the fiscal cliff, at least for the next couple of months, I suppose we should get back to writing. Actually, for the past six months or so I've been involved in rewriting, or revising, as I prefer to call it. When I started my fiction writing career back in 1989 (my non-fiction career started in 1947), I turned out eight novels before getting into print. After having seven series books published, I decided to dig back into that pile of old manuscripts that had graced my office floor lo these many years.

Having been a fan for many years of the Cold War spy story, I was well versed in the three-digit organizations like the OSS, CIA, KGB, and MI6. I had written a spy story back in the sixties that spent six months with an editor at Avon before he gave up trying to sell his contemporaries. So when I turned to novel-writing after retirement, I scouted around for a good spy plot. With peristroica and glasnost in full sway, the Soviet Union was falling apart. I visualized what might happen in the aftermath. The demise of the Cold War would give Congress a great reason to slash military and intelligence spending. I came up with a plot involving rogue elements of both the KGB and CIA intent on keeping things in their favor.

For a protagonist, I had just the man, a former FBI agent I had known back in the late sixties when I served as editor of Nashville Magazine. He had an intriguing tale to tell of how he was left out in the cold by J. Edgar Hoover after failing to infiltrate the Mafia, an operation dreamed up by Hoover and his assistant director, Bill Sullivan. I did a wealth of research and turned out a story several editors liked but didn't buy.

Following the lead of authors like Joe Konrath and Rob Walker, I decided to revise the book, Beware the Jabberwock, and put it up for the Kindle. After lengthy revision, including the elimination of several thousand words, I had it edited and then published as an ebook. Since it is double the length of my series mysteries, I raised the price to $3.99 compared to $2.99 for the others.

Jabberwock was the first book of a thriller trilogy, so I tackled the second book next. I thought I had copies of the original manuscript computer files but couldn't find The Poksu Conspiracy anywhere. Fortunately I had a clean copy of the paper manuscript, which ran around 600 pages. I had recently read where MWA members could get a deal on transferring paper to digital by Blueleaf Book Scanning. I packed up all that paper, shipped it off, and soon had a PDF file ready for editing

With Poksu added to my Kindle inventory, I got to work on Overture to Disaster. This one had an interesting background. It started out the longest of the trilogy. I sent it to the Jay Garon-Brooke Agency and got a five-year contract after cutting a few hundred words. This was the agency that put John Grisham on the map, and it was in the zenith of his popularity, before he sued the agency after Garon's death. Unfortunately, they failed to get me a movie deal...or a publisher.

I have finally finished revising the manuscript and am ready for the final edit. It should be turned into an ebook in the next couple of months. All of which means it's time for me to get back to writing something original, like the sixth Greg McKenzie mystery.

Of course I still have a couple of more old manuscripts lying around that need to be revised and put out as ebooks. Seems like there's no end to this.

Visit me at Mystery Mania


Morgan Mandel said...

It's wonderful that we now have a chance to resurrect prior books and also introduce new ones to a larger audience than before. Also, great that there are services that save an author so much time, such as the one you used to to scan your older book.
Good luck with all your ventures in the coming year!

Morgan Mandel

Chester Campbell said...

Thanks, Morgan. I agree, the ebook market has brought great opportunities for exploiting backlist books and manuscripts that deserve a second chance.

Randy Rawls said...

Great Chester.
Recently, on an author's list I read, there was grousing about Amazon and the Kindle--complaints they're too big, have too much of the market, etc. I simply could not/can not understand why authors complain about a service that makes it possible for folks like you (and me) to resurrect manuscripts from the past. I'm glad you're taking advantage of ebooking to bring back those earlier efforts. What a wonderful opportunity for all of us as both writers and readers.