Exclusive First Look!

I need your help, readers! My novel Bad Romance is getting very close to its FINAL DRAFT. In order to get it there, I’m hoping to get some feedback, from you, to help make sure it’s the strongest story possible.
If any of the following sounds like you, then you might be a great candidate for the “Bad Romance Beta Program”:
– You love reading fiction
– You like discussing literature
– You’re good at offering constructive criticism
Sound like you? Great! For more specifics, and to throw your hat in the ring, please keep reading!
How’s this all work now?
1. You sign up below in the comments. Just your name and email address are enough. I promise to only use your email address to communicate with you about this beta program. You will not receive promotional emails from me or anyone else as a result.
You can also indicate your interest by sending me an email or via direct message to @mmthorn on Twitter.
2. If you are picked to participate in the program, I will send you a current draft and some more specific instructions, sometime between May 5 and May 19.
3. You read my novel and provide extremely helpful and valuable feedback to me, ideally by June 30.
4. I take all the awesome feedback from everyone and incorporate it into the final draft.
5. Book gets published! If it’s at all within my control, you get thanked by name somewhere in the final printed version of the book!
What is this book about?
Bad Romance is about a lot of things. It’s a coming-of-age story, and it’s a break-up story. 30-somethings and their relationships in the early 2000’s, love, cocktails, obsession, one truly excellent sofa, and dating in Cambridge, MA. It has quite a few very naughty bits, so if you’re easily offended, consider yourself warned. For a more wordy and intellectual exposition, please refer to this page here.
How long is this novel? How long will it take me to read it?
Right now it’s a little over 110,000 words, but could hit around 120,000 by the time it’s ready to deliver to you. No idea how long that’ll take to read, but you might be able to estimate for yourself by comparing to this list of more famous novels and their word counts.
How firm is that June 30 deadline?
Pretty firm, thanks! If you need to be a little late, no big deal. I just need to set some sort of deadline to keep things moving! I’m anxious to get this out the door!
What if I start reading it but lose interest?
That’s actually pretty great, as long as you can be explicit about exactly where and why you lost interest. I’m not asking you to like Bad Romance… in fact, some people will be selected specifically because I think they’ll be unlikely to like it. Not looking for rave reviews at this point, just constructive feedback!
Exactly what kind of feedback are you looking for?
At a bare minimum, anything you want to offer would be welcome. I’ll also include a list of specific questions when I send you the story. You’ll be under no obligation to answer these specific questions, and you can pick and choose which ones you answer, if you prefer. Some people prefer to have open license to say whatever they want, while other people prefer a little structure. Whichever kind you are, I can work with that!

Third draft complete!

I’m mostly happy to announce that I’ve completed the third draft of Bad Romance and delivered it into the hands of two volunteer readers. This will be the first time anyone will have read the entire thing all the way through. It’s a big landmark on the pathway to a completed novel, and I have a lot of conflicting emotions around it. Hence the “mostly” in the first sentence. Yes, it’s great to hit a landmark (which is bigger than a milestone), but it’s also sickeningly fearful to let my baby go, to turn it loose into the wild. Once it’s out of my hands, it becomes something else, and there’s nothing I can do to shape what it becomes when someone else reads it. Moreover, there’s still plenty of bad writing in the book, and I know that, but I had to do this at some point. I just decided to take the more emotionally risky path of sharing something I know isn’t nearly polished enough, and get some steering and course correction early on, rather than the safer path of waiting til I had something that felt more done (but which would be harder to make major changes to).

 

I’ve also decided this is a good time to turn off the writerly part of my brain for a while, and not even think about the novel. Let it cool, rest, ferment, cure: whatever. Pick your metaphor (it’s what they’re there phor). So now I’m just a normal guy again, a guy whose first concern isn’t always writing, and making time for writing. As with any newly reclaimed freedom, it’s exhilirating, unbalancing, and self-revelatory. I hadn’t realized what a burden it was to be carrying that book around for so long. I look forward to taking up that burden again, but it’s very nice to take a break and think about other stuff, enjoy other things that life has to offer.
 

 

More about that another time, though. For now I just wanted to share this update, that, even though it’s proceeding much more slowly than I would like (I can’t believe it’s been one year since I updated this blog!), Bad Romance the novel is still in a state of forward motion. After I hear back from my wonderfully patient and generous readers, I’ll absorb what I can of their feedback, and get back on the revision train. Probably after that, there’ll be one or two more major rewrites. From there, my plan is to share with a wider audience (6-12 readers), get any last feedback I can, incorporate any last bits of polish that seem necessary based on that feedback, and THEN start looking around for agents.
 

 

Some days finishing seems close, some days not. Every day, though, I’m just grateful to have gotten as far as I already have.

New excerpt available for download now!

I had another reading this weekend, and I’ve made the material from that, an excerpt from Chapter 8, available on the freebies page. Go get yours now, and let me know what you think!  And, as always, thanks for reading!

Passion Show (cross-posted from Thornography.com)

We’ve been getting ready this week for a party, and, at this party, which is tomorrow night, I’m going to do a reading from my novel-in-progress. This will be the second time we’ll have featured such an exercise. I’m looking forward to it, and our kind and generous friends have convincingly communicated that they look forward to it too. I have a semi-polished passage selected, and I’ve been whittling it down for readability’s sake over the past few days as part of the “getting ready” mentioned above.

 

As I get this abridged chapter into shape for reading, I realize just how little of the novel it, or any given passage taken out of context really communicates about the work entire, or why I’m writing it at all. I thought about giving a little more of this context before the reading, an “artist’s statement” like you see pinned on coffee shop walls, but the more I thought about that, the more I realized I probably had too much to say. I don’t want to further risk exhausting anyone’s generosity by giving a long artist’s statement, followed by a long reading of fiction that I freely admit is not in a 100% finished state.

 

So then I remembered I have this blog. And I have my book blog. I’m not sure where to post this, so I’m posting it in both places.

 

People used to describe me as passionate, which was a way I liked being described. I liked to be passionate, I liked being described as someone who did things wholeheartedly and with a joie de vivre and with a smile. When I was reminded a year or two ago that this was how I was formerly described, I realzied it had been a long time since I’d thought of myself in those ways. What’s more, these days, I don’t think most of the people I know or count as friends would describe me first as passionate. A lot of other great things, maybe, but passionate probably isn’t going to bubble to the top of anyone’s list of adjectives to describe Mr. Thorn at this time.

 

But fuck other people, right? Even the best-intentioned! What matters, we’re told, is what we believe about ourselves. So I’ve been trying to figure out, in the face of evidence and public opinion to the contrary, am I passionate? Put another way: do I give a shit? Even a small, tiny hamster’s turd’s worth of shit do I give? Or have I just given up? Not, like, suicidal given up, but just shrugged my shoulder, put that same shoulder to the sisyphean wheel of quotidian commerce and said, fuck it, because a life of quiet desperation is better than no life at all? Is that it? Am I just phoning it in now?

 

It’s a hard question, and one that mostly I haven’t liked discovering the answers to, but here’s the upbeat message to this story. I don’t think I’ve become less passionate, but I do think I’ve become a lot more circumspect, and I think I’ve learned to value cooler intellect over hotter heart’s impulse. I was a rageoholic for four years while I was in a bad relationship, and it soured me to passion. Passion meant lots of tears, rage, and hotheaded impulse, regretted at leisure.

 

Recently my friend Nick visited and we got into a spirited debate, and it felt so good to raise my voice and to feel like I was passionate about something. But then Nick called me on the raised voice for another reason, and, long story short, I had to wonder, is that all that passion is, sometimes? A loud voice, a strident tone, and fierce exhalation, the sting of a slap, unpremeditatedly applied?

 

The more I look at passion, the less valuable I think the question of whether or not I have it is, and the more valuable I find the inquiry into the meaning and uses of passion. But I also find this: passion really isn’t something that finds you. Passion is something you build.

 

Like this book I’m writing. I’m very fucking passionate about it. Like nothing else in my life, and the closer I get to completion on it, the more passionate I become about it, and the more terrified of it — and my passion for it — I become. I am pouring all of me into it.

 

But the closer I get to “done”, the closer I get to that risk of having to put all of me on the stage of public opinion. It’s breaking my heart. I try to be grateful for anything that breaks my heart, that’s how it grows after all. It breaks, and then heals in a bigger size than it was before. Then it breaks again.

 

I am not passionate about it because I’ve put a lot of time into it, or because it happens to be about things I care about, or even because I want to be a writer, whatever THAT means. I’m passionate about it because I’m trying to write something whose every sentence means something to me or does something to me. I’m trying to write a thing where every idea I put into it, changes me for having expressed it. The truth changes you when you speak it, and if I put ideas or sentences in this that don’t change me or make me feel like a little uneasy or threatened, then I don’t see the point. I’m sorry, but anything else, for me, would be a waste of time.

 

So that’s one thing about this book. I’m building it because I want it to be something, an extension of me, the flesh of my soul made word.

 

But I also want this book to do something. I want it to make the world a better place. I want it to mitigate some of the suffering we create for ourselves through our callousness, our blindness, and, yes even, or especially, our passions. I want this book to challenge people and to make them see the world from an ever so slightly different angle.

 

I have no idea how to do this. I just have to try and trust that by pouring myself into this, what I care most about, my loathing for self-deception and the evil it creates, my love for all the quirky things that make human beings at once strong and vulnerable, and my belief that acts of heroism are almost always either very small acts or what doesn’t happen when we choose forbear. I want it to contain all this and more, all my hope and fear and I want to believe, I really really most of all want to believe, that just by putting as much of me out there (in convenient book form!), I can make a difference, I can slow down our crazy race to the bottom of what humanity is capable of.

 

I hate misery and suffering and cruelty, and I want it — all of it, everywhere — to stop, and this is the best way I know how to move that secret Thornic agenda forward. When I post this chapter abridgement in a day or three, you might just see two girls talking on a sofa (or possibly an awkward first date if I go with Plan B) but trust me when I say to you, it’s the best I can do, it’s what I’m passionate about, and it’s my prayer for everything care about and treasure.

 

I like to think I’m passionate about those causes, but that’s just what I like to think. What I know, however, is that I’m more passionate about this book I’m writing than I’ve ever been about anything in my life. I give myself to it a little more each day, and each act of giving deepens my passion for it, and that’s my lesson for me today, after twenty years of thinking that passion was just something I got to have, for free, just for being me. Maybe that’s true, that passion is democratic and promiscuous, but that kind of passion is no good, it’s a tramp. But this other kind of passion, the one I’ve built out of air, out of imagination and words and memory, this feels like something real, a pulsing, hot creature at the center of my private landscape, a beast that might break its chains and be free and wild in the world. It’s my child, it’s everything I am, and, somehow, much, much more.

Rewrite update

Unless the date affixed to the previous post is wrong, it’s been six months since I’ve updated the site. Truth is, I haven’t really had much to say. First I was too busy hemming and hawing about how to rewrite, and then I found this article, which greatly helped illuminate the way. Now instead of being kept busy by hemming or hawing, I’ve been distracted by the effort of writing…Rewriting… Editing. Whatever you want to call it.

 

Anyway, point is, now I’m done with what I’m calling Step 1 of the rewrite: identifying all the major problems with the book. Now, scattered over about three documents, I’ve got the makings of a list of all the things, great and small, that require fixing in my first draft of Bad Romance, what, in the construction trade, they call a “punch list.” Step 2 is compile the list into one place and prioritize it. Step 3 is, obviously, address all the items in the punch list, and Step 4 is polish it up and get it ready for the editor.

 

Step 3.1, though, is going to be prepare another sample to share! You can look for that in the next 4-6 weeks. See you soon!

Welcome to Romance

Thanks for visiting the site, and thanks for your interest in my forthcoming novel. At the moment, everything interesting is behind the links up above, where you can learn more about the book and a very little bit about yours truly. You can also learn how to be in the VIP and find out more about getting sneak previews. For those of you who were at the reading on November 5, that excerpt I read comes from Chapter 3, which is now available for download on the updates + freebies page. Here’s your chance to catch any bits you might have missed, as well as get a little more background on the characters!

There’s a place on the updates+freebies place where you can subscribe to receive updates about the novel and future downloads as they become available, OR you can just sign up below!