The Life of a Novel

…my novel, that is.

I thought that, perhaps, I should tell you a little about my novel. Just in case you don’t know me IRL and I haven’t talked your ear off about it already. If I don’t know you IRL, then feel free to tear my ideas apart with no fear of physical retaliation. If you do know me, though, tread carefully…

Just kidding!

I’ve actually gotten to the point where I can accept criticism of my writing and ideas without bursting into tears and/or plotting the demise of my critics. But I would ask that any criticism be done constructively, otherwise I’ll probably just ignore you. Because I’m still a writer. And I will think I’m right unless you prove to me that I’m wrong. So don’t just say “Your story is cheesy goat balls,” because I’ll probably assume that you are the kind of person who enjoys cheesy goat balls–to each his own–and that you just have an odd way of telling me I’m brilliant. But that I definitely am brilliant.

In any case, I let me know what you think. I’m going to include a book-jacket style blurb, and a little theme description. And you can let me know if it sounds like cliched drivel or if maybe I have something here…

Hint: I have something here.

The Timekeepers’ War is gold, people. Science Fiction gold. You ain’t seen nuttin’ writ like dis…

So, without further ado, I give you The Timekeepers’ War by Cat Phillips

Ghost is known throughout the City for her ability to find anyone, for the right price—anyone except her sister, Lyca, that is; but when she is approached, by the most notorious man in the City, to recruit for a war against the Elysian Empire Ghost realizes that her stake in the conflict might be more personal than professional…

Things are looking bleak as Ghost chases shadows throughout the City, until the day she returns to find a mysterious stranger making himself at home in her flat. Lynch, a terrorist—and one of the most feared figures in the City—needs Ghost’s help. In exchange Lynch offers her a chance to make history and, more importantly, a clue to the disappearance of her sister ten years ago. With the help of Lynch, and an enigmatic group of scholars called The Timekeepers, the City is about to be reborn.

But Lynch means war. If she agrees, Ghost must delve deep into the City to discover truths about her world—and about herself—that will change everything she thought she knew. How far will her search for Lyca take her? And will she be able to live with who she has become once she finds her?

The Timekeepers’ War is a character-driven commercial science fiction novel about one young woman’s attempt to reconcile her past with her present in the midst of a post-apocalyptic civil war. Her struggle to find some identity in an increasingly anonymous culture, her fear of intimacy–with Lynch and the ever-intriguing Mirielle, and her guilt over the “loss” of her younger sister make Ghost a character with diverse personal appeal. The Timekeepers War addresses questions about gender and sexuality, humanity, social responsibility, and the importance of history.

I don’t know about you, but I’d read it.

Seriously, though. Let me know if that imaginary blurb makes sense, or if I need to clarify anything. It can be tough to write a summary for something that you already know backward and forward, because you forget that you know “behind the scenes” stuff. And remember that I’m trying to lure and trap and agent, so I need to know if this sounds like something people will pick up and pay for. Because if you don’t think so, they probably don’t either.

Now. That’s The Timekeepers’ War in a nutshell. So let me tell you a little bit about how it came to be:

Once upon a time, in a land far, far, away. There was a young university dropout who had too much time on her hands before her shift at The (Dreaded) Technology Retail Store started, so she entertained herself by drinking way too much coffee at her local cafe (ya, okay, fine. It was a Starbucks. but damn they make a nice dark roast) and writing down whatever came into her silly little head. Somehow, she managed to mold these ideas into a kind of landscape, a world that was real to her if not (yet) anyone else. She lived in that little world for an hour or two before every shift, and even began to imagine the people who lived there.

A part of her became a person who lived there.

One day, she decided that she had to show someone else the little world she had created. So she held her breath and gave the key to the City to her boyfriend, Philip. Although that little world and its people were only 60 pages long, Phil found he loved it too. And for the first time, he realized that maybe his girlfriend wasn’t crazy, and she could be a writer after all (I’m just assuming, here. Don’t you always think “ya, ya, sure you will” when someone you know says they’re going to be a writer? I did. And I won’t hold it against him if he did too, at first)

Once, she even showed a copy to her cousin, Matt, who also liked it. He wrote a spin-off chapter that opened her eyes to the possibilities of the world she had created, and (eventually) inspired the character named Rook–though, in the end, only the name survived.

But the girl had hit a wall, and didn’t know where to go with her little world and its people. She started working longer hours, and decided to go back to school. One day, embarrassed at her attempt to be a “real author,” she destroyed the City and its people, and that little part of herself. She deleted the file, and forgot about it almost completely.

But Phil did not forget. Every day that she spent working at that Dreaded Store, he saw as a day she could have spent writing. And he believed that, one day, she could write full time and they would be able to live the life they had always dreamed of (the life of bush hermits, in case you were wondering). So he kept the copy of the file she had sent to him all those years ago. And, after they had both graduated from university, after they had both realized that the “real world” sucks and that $50,000 piece of paper they had each bought were virtually valueless currency there, he decided that there was only one thing to do.

Eight years after he rescued it, he gave her back the file she had thought long-dead and gone. And he told her that she needed to quit her job and finish what she started. Because he believed in her, and he didn’t want either of them to spend the rest of their lives wondering “what-if?”

So she did. She quit her job (which was literally the most terrifying thing she had done in her whole life, including learning to ride a motorbike) and started writing. She had no idea what she was doing, and she learned a lot along the way. But 9 months later (coincidence?),The Timekeepers’ War had been born.

True story, bro(s).

So, the TLDR is: I have an amazing hubby who rescued my very first novel from the virtual trashcan, forced me to take a year off of work to finish it, and now continues to support me through the process of submitting it for publication. If every writer out there had someone like Phil by their side, there would be a lot more amazing books out there, I think.

But I’m not telling that story just to brag (although I do think I have it pretty good). I thought I should tell that story for everyone who has a creative person in their lives. I thought I should tell you all just how important your support might be to the people you love, who love to create; it doesn’t matter if they are writers or painters or movie directors or designers or mechanics. You could, very well, make the difference between their living their dreams and their working at the Dreaded Retail Store. And that’s a difference that matters.

So, here’s my novel and the tale of how it came to be. I hope you enjoyed it! Let me know what you think of the idea, or if you have any amazing people in your life who deserve recognition. I think next week, I might publish one of my short stories here. So stay tuned, and thanks for reading.

PS I lost Matt’s brilliant spin-off when I deleted my own writing, or possibly when I recycled my old Compaq desktop (with a whopping 64MB of RAM). Either way, I’m a terrible person. He’s an amazing storyteller and his interest in my story gave me confidence in 21 y/o self, and I hope some day he is able to share his own brilliance with the world. Although, he’s just had twin girls, so it might take a while to get back in the game.

5 thoughts on “The Life of a Novel

  1. I love this blog. I know lots of creative people, two of whom are my brilliant daughters. Unfortunately, I can’t afford to support them much financially, but I do try to encourage them in as many ways as I can and they do the same for me.
    Matt, I suggest you get your stories on tape which you can do while you’re pacing the floor with sleepless babies. Tell them the stories and then later, when you have more time, you can get them onto paper. What do you think, hm?

    1. With all the money in the world, a creative person would still be at a loss without all those other kinds of support that friends and family can give. I don’t want to say that financial support is less important than any of the other kinds (I never would have finished my book had Phil not taken on the burden of bills all by himself) but it has to come along with the moral kind for it to be useful. And moral support is wonderful all on its own. In my opinion, anyways.

  2. Hi Cat!!

    I’m catching up on your posts backwards:)

    I am not an agent and I don’t know what agents look for so given this please take my (hopefully useful) criticism with a grain of salt.

    It feels like your summary is more of an abstract of an article and that yo;u are explaining too literally what the book is about. I think if I were an agent I would want to be pulled in with yo r amazing writing style, and I don’t think your summary provides a glimpse into the book in a way that would make me say “I need to know more!” I think its a bit too logical and more of an English class decomposition:(

    I don’t want to sound harsh, so I apologize in advance if that was direct. Maybe it would be better to be written from one of the characters points of view?

    1. Never apologize for being direct, dammit!

      And thanks for your backwards catch-up! To be honest, I don’t really know what agents are looking for either. Most of the resources I have found are pretty clear on some points, though, which I’ve tried to follow. The bit in white follows a formula: one sentence tagline followed by a one paragraph book jacket style summary that’s supposed to leave them intrigued and wanting more. I hope I got that bit right. Or is that the part that you found too dry?

      The part that follows is my attempt to follow another formula, which basically says: say as much as you can about your book in as few words as possible. You’re never supposed to send a query letter that is more than 250 words. But you also have to tell them what genre your book is, what your major themes and driving ideas are, and if possible, what other books yours is similar to (preferably books that this particular agent has represented in the past).

      That’s the part that slows me down. I don’t know! But I can definitely see where you’re coming from. Some of the examples of query letters I’ve read are quite academic sounding, and you’re supposed to present yourself in a professional way. But then again, I’ve heard stories about people writing query letters on pizza boxes just to get attention. I’m not much for gimmicks, though so I kind of stuck with the tried and true. Well, it worked in university anyways…

      Maybe I should post an actually query letter that I’ve sent out, and hope that a wandering agent might critique it for me!

      Thank you for the feedback, though. I’m getting to the point where I definitely have to rethink my approach. I’ll come at round two in a completely different way (maybe) and see if that scares up any more interest. Everyone seems to be afraid to make suggestions, lol. I thank you for your bravery!

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