My experience writing the Clark Ransom trilogy

Last email, I said I would tell you why I have written several versions of my novels in The Clark Ransom Trilogy. By versions, I mean different novels, with different plots and characters. I’m hoping the effort will cause a more exciting and fun read, and that I have not gone through an elaborate exercise in procrastination.

Those of you who have been subscribers since the beginning have been waiting all this time to see this trilogy about Stanford Archaeologist Clark Ransom. You had to be wondering, why has it taken me forever to produce? 

The simple answer is that I take forever to trust my own instincts.

For the last several years, I have belonged to a wonderful writing community. In that community are many successful authors. Who was I not to take every bit of their advice?

Most of their advice was great, useful, and made me more productive. I am very grateful to that community. Through them, I have grown a lot, both as a writer and a marketer.

However, one-size-fits-all advice can’t always fit. Yet, I tried to follow all of it, and that led to discard the first two versions of both The Toltec Conspiracy and The Tula Plot. (Boy, I’m thankful I didn’t write the third novel, The Cholula Massacre, as well).

As I know now, I should have just followed my gut.

And what did my gut tell me? I should have followed the theme that I wanted to pursue: how to distinguish between the supernatural and aberrant psychology?

Instead, I listened to the writing group, which said since I live in Mexico, the trilogy should be about an archaeologist who confronts the cartels. So version one of the first two novels involved a Narcos-like story. Mexican cartels battled Mideastern terrorists who had set up training camps in the Sonoran deserts. Both groups were struggling for control of the US border, and they caught Clark Ransom in between. 

Sounds exciting, right? I’d love to read it or better yet watch it on Netflix—sort of Fauda transplanted to the Western Hemisphere. 

Except, I kept wanting my occult elements, my visitations by Toltec gods with mysterious amulets. Otherwise, it just felt flat to me and boring to write. Yet I pursued and tried.

Then I sent that first version to an editor. He saw what I had felt. It was clear; I had to start over.  

I had also already written the first rendition of The Tula Plot, but I didn’t need to send it to an editor. It too had failed.

Revision 2.0 fell victim to a second piece of advice: people were waiting for me to put something out. If I didn’t publish soon, I’d lose potential readers. So I rushed, put in everything I wanted, sent it to a different editor whose feedback was more positive, but who said the lack of focus called for a total rewrite.

The lesson had sunk in. I knew from day one what was the right thing to do, and that was to trust my instincts. I would know when the novel was good enough.

So I sat down for three months and created my beat sheet (a few paragraphs for every scene detailing characters, setting and what the scene had to achieve to move the novel forward). Two-hundred-and-forty-two scenes later, I was ready to write. 

Three months after that, I completed the first draft of The Toltec Conspiracy. That was three weeks ago. I am now looking for any plot holes, character inconsistencies, tightening up scene descriptions, etc. 

There will be two more edits after this, getting feedback from a couple of beta readers, and a final proofread. Then, I’ll be able to publish novel one of The Clark Ransom Trilogy.

Later in this process, I’ll be asking if any of you would like to be beta readers who would get a book in its not-quite-ready-for-prime-time state—sort of like off-Broadway pre-opening try outs. You’ll have a list of questions like where did you get lost, where did you find yourself bored and needing to stop, etc.

Also, I’ll need a larger group of advanced readers who would get free copies of the novel for an honest review on the day of publication.

I need to set up webpages with criteria to be a beta or an advanced reader. If any of you would like to apply now, answer this email and I’ll put you on the list.

Thanks so much.


P.S. I’m trying to email you every two weeks. So back at you soon.

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