My Novel: The Repossessed Ghost

Hello friends, and welcome to the first in a three part series where I talk about stories I have written.  These will be a little bit self-indulgent, but maybe I’m hoping that some of what I’ve gone through with each of these stories is helpful to other writers.

Here is a list of the things I’ll talk about regarding this novel:

  • What It’s About
  • The Inspiration
  • The Writing Process

 

What It’s About

The Repossessed Ghost is about a young repo man named Mel that discovers he’s psychic when he finds a ghost named Kate in the back of a car.  When he becomes a suspect in her murder, Mel gives up the life he’s known in New Orleans and goes to Sacramento, Kate’s home town.  There, he becomes entangled in a much larger supernatural community.  He must learn to use his powers, figure out who he can trust, and solve Kate’s murder in order to stop the one that killed her from killing again and unleashing an unspeakable evil on the world.

 

What is it REALLY About

I’m glad you asked, imposing type font.

While it’s a fun adventure set in a modern world, it’s really about a young man taking the last few steps into adulthood and learning to take responsibility and ownership of problems rather than just get by.  It’s also about a young woman that literally loses everything and thinks she’s powerless.  It’s not until she exercises her own agency that she truly finds her own strength.

The story is fun and light with plenty of humor and an interesting take on how some of the fantastical elements work in Mel’s world.  Also woven through the story is a theme regarding power demanding sacrifice.  There are a few other things in the story that I think are better discovered than explained.

 

The Inspiration

Many years ago, Michael, Robin, Jason, and I were players in a game run by David Mullin.  The underlying system was Champions, but that didn’t really matter.  It didn’t last that long.  Just long enough for me to really fall in love with my character, Mel Walker.

That first version of Mel was a bit older than the one I wound up writing about.  When playing him, I spoke with an outrageous Southern accent.  He was a little bit creepy in the way he used his powers, but he had a heart of gold.

Imagine an immature man with psychic powers and low impulse control.  On the surface, that was Mel.  What made me really like him was that he had quite a bit more beneath the surface, and I was quite interested in exploring his depth.

Long after the game petered out, Mel stayed in my imagination.  For years, I wanted to write a story featuring him.  In 2013 for NaNoWriMo, I finally decided to give him a shot.  I’d been listening to The Dresden Files on audiobook for months leading up to November, and I was really interested in writing something light and fun.  So began what was initially called “The Mel Walker Story.”

 

The Writing Process

Up to this point, I eschewed outlining.  I didn’t want to spoil the story for myself.  I always saw the writing process as sitting in front of the keyboard and reading the words into existence.  That’s how writing felt going all the way back to when I started in my early teens.

For The Mel Walker Story, I did something a little bit different.  I outlined fractions of the story at a time.  I didn’t spend a lot of time on the outlines.  Most of the time it was just me writing down a few thoughts on what I thought was going to happen next.  It was like creeping up to the edge of the unknown and shining a flashlight into the darkness.  Whatever I saw up ahead, I jotted down.  That was the extent of my outline.

When I started writing, I thought I knew where the story was going up to the point when Mel would leave New Orleans.  I knew the ghost (a nameless character at the start) would be the one pulling Mel out of his comfort zone and forcing him to become a hero.  I thought Mel would leave her behind and get on with his life within the first Act.  Helping her out of a bad situation would be his first taste of the supernatural life, and he’d go off in search of more.

After I started writing Kate, I knew that I wanted her to have a larger part in the story.  I still wasn’t sure how large a part, but I really loved the dynamic between Mel and Kate.  I felt a strong bond forming between these two characters and I was enjoying their dialog.

I had plotted out that Mel would go to the police and things would go badly for him.  Kate surprised me by saying, “Or, you could make an anonymous phone call.”

All of this that I’m describing is at the beginning of the book.  I’m not going to spoil anything and talk about any of the major twists and turns that happen along the way.  I’ll just say that writing the book often involved me plotting a little bit ahead and thinking I know exactly what’s going to happen, only to have Mel or Kate surprise me at the last minute.  I had a lot of fun writing them because they’re voices were very strong and clear to me.

I wrote the first 50,000 words in November of 2013.  I wrote another 11,000 between December and the end of January.  At 61,000 words, I reached the end, and I shared it with my writer’s group at the time.

That first draft was way too short and the writing wasn’t all that great.  Too much passive voice.  Too many basic mistakes.  I polished up the first couple of chapters and sent them to a Writer’s Workshop at Convolution the next year, and got some overwhelmingly positive feedback.  I made some friends during that convention, and one of the professionals, Jennifer Carson, continued to pester and provide encouragement to getting the next draft done.  It took me well over a year, but I finished the 2nd draft and sent it on to Jennifer.

Jennifer, my new writer’s group, and my wife both had fantastic feedback.  Some of it wasn’t easy to hear.  For example, my ending didn’t work.  I’d had doubts about the ending in the first draft and I hadn’t changed it that much in the second.  So I had to go back into the think tank on that.  Other advice involved bringing some characters out more that seemed to fade in the middle of the story, and fulfilling promises that I made to the reader but never resolved in a satisfying way.

I finished my third draft.  I fixed the ending.  I’d listened to all the advice and critiques, and after four years, had something I felt ready to submit for publication.  It’s now a novel coming in at just under 80,000 words.

 

Where Is it Now?

I sent it to someone about a year ago and received a rejection.  Then I let it sit in a drawer for a while.  I pitched it during the New York Writer’s Digest Pitchslam, and one person asked for the full, another person asked for the first 50 pages.  Just this weekend, I sent off those queries.

I think it’s a good story.  It’s fun.  I hope it sells but I’m not holding my breath and I’m not waiting around for it.  It’s not that I don’t believe in the story.  One of the problems is that it’s Urban Fantasy.  I’ve been hearing too many agents that I trust state that Urban Fantasy isn’t getting picked up by traditional publishing right now.  The Independents have cornered that market.

As I see opportunities, I’ll send queries.  I’m not giving up on it.  At the same time, I’m not interested in working on it until the change requests are from a professional editor.  I’m also not interested in publishing it on my own because that’s not a business I want to start right now.

So Mel… I raise a glass to you.  I hope you find a good home.  I have other stories I’d love to tell with you, but I’m not going to write those stories unless there’s a readership out there waiting for you.

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