Tag Archives: Tor.com

The We Sold A Trilogy Trilogy Part 2: AKA Part Eleven

K, time for some honesty.

The novel I just sold? My eleventh. The sequel to it will be my fifteenth. They weren’t all finished, and they certainly were not all revised and submitted, but all of them crossed that 50,000-word-mark that defines a novel.

I wrote a novel my freshman year of high school, in 1994. One. I wrote a very bad, very long book my senior year, in 1998. Two. I revised it over the next four years and sent it to Tor and Baen, the only houses with open sub calls, after my awesome dad copyedited the whole thing.

Revisions and all, Tor and Baen still rejected my second novel.

What part of 280,000 words, written by a teenager imitating Robert Jordan, wasn’t there to love? Srsly Tor.

I wrote Three in 2002, but it got mired. Four in 2004, which I revised and sent off. Twas roundly rejected. Started two in 2006 that both petered out quickly; I count them both together as Five. Six, in 2008, descended into a 225,000-word mire. Seven, completed in 2009, took four years to revise, then made the rounds and collected personal rejections from many places, including Tor, Harper Voyager, and my current agent. A small press is currently interested in it. Cool new soon.



In 2010, I wrote Eight to re-do the 2008 mire… and ended up in another mire. In 2011, I wrote Nine, a prequel to pre-empt that… another mire.

(I was producing, submitting, and being crushed repeatedly by short story rejections by this point, too. In case you forgot that part.)

During 2013, I was sitting in a talk by the dorkily dashing Randy Henderson about long-term career planning. At the time I was struggling with Ten, yet another giant epic fantasy novel, a different mire than the last three mires, which had a million story threads and once it was done would take years to rewrite, and I thought…

Gasp. I should just write SHORT novels for a while.

Fifty, sixty thousand words takes a month to write in first draft. And a month to revise. Why was I breaking my brain over books three times, four times that length? I knew how to do short fiction, and all I had to do was expand those skills. What’s more, the problems in fifty thousand words would be proportionally smaller.

So then I wrote Eleven, Twelve and Thirteen in 2014. (My agent also rejected Twelve before she saw Eleven.) I just managed to finish Fourteen’s first draft earlier this year.

That’s a lot of words before I got decent pay for any of them. I’m glad I stuck it out, through tons and tons of rejection. I can only imagine how much more difficult that amount of rejection is for writers from marginalized groups, who put up with a level of BS and aggression I don’t.

Any craft has a “journeyman” period, in which a professional does quality work while still mastering the craft. A lot of good journeyman novels get published–Everything Is Illuminated, The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, Patternmaster–even The Name of the Wind, I think, could be defined as a journeyman piece. But very often in your journeyman period, your flaws still show through.

I think Four was a decent early journeyman piece. Had self-publishing been viable in 2004, I probably would have thrown it up on Amazon to see what happened. I’m glad I didn’t. I’m not putting down self-publishing. But I’ve seen a lot of journeyman writers, who have more raw talent than I did in 2004, write a flawed book with good parts, watch the rejections come in, get frustrated, and self-publish it. Self-pubbing is great if you can pour all your time into it, or if you write something niche enough to sell itself.

It’s not what you should do with your first (or fourth) decent, wide-appeal book because people rejected it. Chances are, if mainstream publishing didn’t want it, it’s not good enough to be a breakout self-pub hit. It’s more likely another journeyman piece.

When I look at all those failed novels, and those wrong turns, and everything I’m learned, I’m not mad at the publishing industry that rejected me, I’m mad at myself for taking so long to learn from my mistakes.

The We Sold A Trilogy Trilogy Part 1: Trilogy!!!!

We bought a zoo!! We sold a trilogy!!

So, I sold a trilogy of a space opera short novels to Tor.com, with, of course, the help of my amazing agent Sara Megibow and my awesome editor Beth Meacham. Film-related rights are with Kim Yau at Paradigm Agency.


I have a LOT of stuff to blog about in regards to this book. Cuz I been trying to sell a book for a while, folks. So this blog post will have to be first… in a trilogy!

So, Part 1: The Idea!

Like most creative endeavors, this book came from one part inspiration, two parts practicality. I’ll speak on the inspiration here and the practicality in the next two blog posts.

Inspiration: sometime in 2013, the opening scene of a thing came into my head. A galactic empire falls. While celebrations sound outside, in the inner corridors of power, a single order rings out: Kill all the humans.

I loved this scene, and what it predicted: a chase scene novel, set in the wake of a devastating war that had BLOWN UP A LOT OF SPACESHIPS SWOOSH PSHOOM. The inner child, mostly interested in thingsblowinupinspace!!!1!!!!!, joined forces with the outer 36-year-old history-buff political skeptic. Violent revolutionaries, especially in the 20th century, don’t have a good track record once they get into office.

I wanted to write a story where the scrappy Rebellion acted less like action figures, and more like Bolsheviks.

(At first, when I didn’t have any story details but the opening scene, my working title was “Kill Luke Skywalker.”)

I knew the characters in this story would have to come from several groups: the refugees themselves, the soldiers confronting corrupt orders, and of course, the Han Solo/Mal Reynolds types, those petty crooks. What’s a space opera without a wretched hive of scum and villainy?

Shortly thereafter, Jaqi and Araskar, the smuggler and soldier I knew to be crucial to the story, found their voices. Jaqi would be young, out of her depth, but principled; Araskar would be struggling with combat trauma and drug addiction.

And by consequence, my galaxy moved away from Star Wars into its own place. It is populated not by aliens and humans, but by “crosses”–various species created by genetic tampering. Crosses were the underclass, and humans the “bluebloods.” Genocide and racial purity took on even more of a presence in the story.

In 2014, when I had the first few stabs at this space opera story, I showed it to my soon-to-be editor, Beth Meacham, at a writing conference. She encouraged me to finish it and send it to her, and keep it short for the Tor.com novella/short novel line. I ran all the way home (pretty much, guys) and finished a first draft, rewrote it to something decent in 2015, and off it went.


TUNE IN NEXT BLOG for the story of how practicality played into this, and how I decided to write a teeny little space opera instead of the massive doorstopper fantasies I usually write…