Sophistication is Finished and Here’re Some Thoughts

I wrote a version of this post last night, and then WordPress ate it. As you can imagine, I wasn’t particularly happy about that outcome, so tonight I’m in Pages.

Anyway, Sophistication is wrapped. Kind-of-sort-of-mostly. It’s the first draft, which means that any potential agency or publishing partner will have feedback. But there’s a beginning, middle and end, and that means I’ve wrapped two novels. Hurray for me!

Dead Weight, which is about 100,000 words, took me five or six years to write.

For real.



I completed Sophistication, 120,000 words, in just under two.

If you’re scratching your head thinking, sheesh, this dude’s really goddamned slow, you have every right. Thing is, the snaillike progress had little to do with my pace and everything to do with my discipline. For Dead Weight, I would write a chapter or two and then I’d disappear into booze, video games, movies—life—for a year and a half. My momentum on Sophistication was better, but I still allowed a dozen or more monthlong lulls.

That’s not how you write books, and frankly, it’s amazing I ever finished the first one, let alone the second. What it’s taken me years to understand is that you can’t step away. If you want to be a writer, you have to write, always. Every night. Even if you feel like you’re forcing it, write. Even if you think your story sucks, write. You could be penning the most offensive trash ever conceived. That’s fine. But write.

It’s when you decide to take a day or two off from the process—and I know this from experience—that the days turn into months and even years. One evening you’ll find yourself back at the keyboard, knuckles cracked, rearing to go, and you won’t even remember what you wrote before because it’s been too goddamned long.

Anyway, deadlines help you find your discipline. Case in point, I wrote the last third of Sophistication—more than 40,000 words—in about a month and a half. If I had kept that pace all along, this novel would’ve taken me four and a half months to complete.

All right, enough about length and time. /tirade

Sophistication is an interesting book and I hope readers and listeners will enjoy it. It’s certainly been a challenging novel to write and very different from Dead Weight. For instance, DW was told from the perspective of a single character and written in past tense. Sophistication, meanwhile, unravels from the perspective of at least five primary characters (plus a ton of secondary ones), and it’s written in the present tense—which, by the way, I love. There’s an immediacy to present tense narrative that is, I think, hard to duplicate with past tense. Finally, one is dystopian fiction and the other is a lot harder to classify. Like, a shit ton harder.

So, it’s done. Now what? Good question—thanks for not asking. Well, the short answer is that I wait. The novel is in the capable hands of a major publisher now and if I’ve done my job well enough, good things will come—I’ll keep you posted. And if I haven’t, I’ll keep trying.

Speaking of, I’m planning to kick off work on my third novel, The Deep, Dark, Down, in the next week or two. (I know, write every night, but I’m between books—cut me some slack.) I’m going to do my best to practice what I preach and keep the discipline. I’d love to finish it by the time the Christmas holiday rolls around, but let’s just say it’ll be done by this time next year. That’ll still be a significant leap over my previous efforts.

1:02 A.M.

Important thoughts that I need to remember.

  • Dog is taunting me; he barks at me whenever I concentrate on anything; need to find a way to reestablish human dominance.
  • Second novel at 110,000 words and nearly done. I hope it’s nearly done, because my deadline is 24 hours away. I’m not worried–what’s the worst that could happen? Not even God himself could fuck this up, etc. Right? [Fast forward three days, and somehow I’m in prison.]
  • iPad Pro at 5% power after three hours of video-conferencing with hardcore, Leaving Las Vegas-level alcoholic friends.
  • In three weeks, I join said friends in Vegas, at which time they will try to soak me in a life-giving alcohol pool not unlike the one from Cocoon.  Yes, I’m referencing Ron Howard’s Cocoon, which is the first time in human history that anybody has cited this film for anything, including his closest family members.
  • It’s super hot at 1:04 A.M. in San Mateo. Normally, this area is cold and colder, so we don’t know what to make of the heat apocalypse, but surely it has something to do with zombies.
  • David Bowie. He knows.
  • Fortitude is a show that needs to be seen by everybody.
  • Booker’s Bourbon reminds all other bourbons that they are insufficient.
  • Jumanji sequel seems unnecessary. Original Jumanji also seems unnecessary.

Sophisticated Problems

I’m taking a break from writing to post an update on the status of–well, everything. I’m going to bullet-point this one for the sake of my time and yours:

  • Somewhere down the page, it says Sophistication is coming June 15. That’s a big, sloppy lie. It’s not even done yet. What kind of person would promise such a thing and the–oh right.
  • It’s almost done. That’s a writer’s promise, which means next to nothing. But I have to hand it in to a publisher July 10.
  • Seriously, though, it’s almost done. I’m writing the final two chapters. Honest.
  • I’m also camped out at an Elks Lodge for eight hours during each of the next four days in order to assure that I finish.

I figure I’ll be done by 110,000 or 115,000 words. Here’s proof of progress. See? Almost.
Messages Image(1372572201).png

Home Sweet Home

I was supposed to spend another 24 hours in my hotel room, but I just couldn’t do it. So this morning I checked out a day early and drove home.

I wrote 20,000 words in about three and a half days. Sophistication is now 95,000 words and the story is really, truly nearing the conclusion.

But I needed a break. Yesterday was particularly grueling, I think because for some reason I didn’t sleep well the night prior. And when I woke up this morning, I just knew that I needed some downtime.

So back to a thousand words a night.

Reminder to Myself: Don’t

I just wrote ‘blissfully unaware.’ It made sense. It completed the paragraph. Then I looked at it again and realized that I’m a gods-damned jackass.

If you’re blissfully anything, you are in a state of extreme happiness.

In this case, someone was ‘blissfully unaware’ that another person was about to suicide bomb them from a nearby skyscraper. Reads fine, right?

But stop.

Think about it.

Are you blissful as you make your way to work in the morning? Are you euphoric, smiling, singing, dancing your way across the street with a big, dumb grin plastered across your face?


‘Blissfully unaware’ should be banned from all books.

Matt–don’t forget.

That’s all.

Day 3

7:20 p.m. as I write this and I’ve reached another milestone. Dirty screen grab from Ulysses:


Still managing 5,000 words daily, which is fantastic news. Could’ve been a shit show of wasted time and that’s thankfully not the case.

Six days ago, I posted that I had 25 days to write 25,000 words. I’ve now written 15,000 in three. And if I can keep up the pace, I’ll get to 100,000 in two more.

Again, word counts are misleading. I have a significant amount of storyline to go and I’m beginning to worry that this book will weigh in at 115,000 words or more. But regardless, this is steady progress in a relatively short amount of time. And the quality of the work feels good–although certainly readers may disagree.

Day 2

Good news. Got through more than 5,000 words today. Critical, though, the threads of my narrative are converging in–hopefully–satisfying ways. If I’m doing my job, anyway. And jury’s still out on that. Sophistication now weighs in at more than 86,000 words. That’s fine–whatev. More relevant, it feels like I’m coming to the final chapters.

Unrelated, I did a search on the internet for ‘fat kids’ tonight–don’t ask. I don’t have a good explanation, anyway. For some reason, this came up.


Not sure why. Romeo (above) is not a child. Clearly. What he is, though, is the baddest ass motherfucker to ever walk this planet. Look at him! All right. I know the belly demands to be seen, but his face is up here, people. Up here! And take it in. No, really behold it. Have you ever seen such raw confidence on a dude before? To me, his face says, “I’ve seen the Big Bang and the dinosaurs and I know what quasars really are, so step the fuck off, mortal.”

Maybe it’s just me, though.

You don’t see that?

Hotel Hermit

It’s happening.

My lovely wife has allowed me to bunk in a hotel for the next four days while I race to stay ahead of a deadline. I’m shacking up in San Jose’s Hotel Valencia, which is, incidentally, about 20 miles south of my house. That begs the question, what’s wrong with me? Simple answer. I need isolation. Doesn’t matter if it’s a barren cabin in Alaska, or my neighbor’s extra room, just so long as no people barge in to say hi.

Day 1 results: 4,000-plus words written.

This puts Sophistication at 81,000 words and counting. If I can continue the momentum–and I have almost no confidence in my ability to do that–I should be able to cross 100,000 words in the next five days. I’m only here for four, though, which means I’m more likely to achieve around 15,000 words, which will put me in the 95,000 range.

What’s all this mean? Almost nothing. You can’t judge a book by its word count, just as I can’t rely upon one to determine if my story will be fully told. I think 100,000 words will be sufficient. I might finish it in 95,000. I might need 115,000. By all the gods, I hope it doesn’t take me 200,000, or my hotel bills will be fiscally irresponsible.

In other highly unrelated news, Hotel Valencia doesn’t allow you to bring alcohol into your room–it prefers (singular, cuz American) that you buy it at roughly $80 per fluid ounce (note: Yelp will hear about this.) I smuggled Booker’s into my place, anyway, and so far it seems like the right choice. Also, many of today’s words have been written to Kendrick Lamar’s latest, which has no bearing on any points I might have made or intend to make. It’s just a detail for your consideration.

Will update throughout the next four days with musings that lean to happy and excited or depressed and defeated. Still a little too early to tell.


25,000 Words in 25 Days

So, deadline confirmed. It’s brilliant news and I’ll talk about why at a later date. In the interim, time to get off my ass.

Some writers will look at this challenge and laugh. They can bust out 10,000 words daily without breaking a sweat. Those words will also be tantamount to drivel, but hey, like any good ticket cop, quota met.

I tend to average between 1,000-2,000 words daily. The only problem, as noted in a previous post, is that I like to write in the mornings and afternoons. But hard to conjure words when you have a job to do five days per week and a weekend schedule that trivializes your weekday one.

So, nights.

Good news is that I work best under deadlines. No excuses. Just gotta do it, and my underdeveloped brain seems to embrace the challenge.

Night 1: 1,200 words written by 10:10 p.m. Took me about an hour and a half. Pretty good given that a lot of story and dialog went into this particular section of work. Writing a blog post like this one takes a couple minutes, but try penning the equivalent in a narrative without transforming the project into a steaming pile of dog shit.

Not as easy.

At this rate, I shouldn’t run into many speed bumps in my pilgrimage toward 25,000 words. Which, by the way, will push Sophistication well past the 100,000-word mark–and that’ll make it Dead Weight-esque in size. Bigger, probably. But the better news is that my commander-in-chief (AKA, wife) has already given me the thumbs-up to take five days away in a secluded hotel room and spend 10-hour shifts focused on the book. With that amount of time, I should be able to knock out 5,000 words per day. Multiply that by five days and you get 25,000 words. On top of the 20 others, each of which should allow me 1,000 words nightly.

Lots of words, basically. So unless I really fuck this up, should be doable. More than doable. And yet I’m nervous, anyway, because there’s a lot riding on it.


What’s The Deep, Dark, Down All About?

Hey, it’s 1:06 now, but what the hell, right?

I’m going to assume you don’t know jack shit about me and so I’ll tell you: I have three kids. They all think–are convinced, in fact–that they should be able to read my debut novel, Dead Weight.

They’re wrong. That book is not for kids. Some people have taken to calling it young adult, but that’s a pretty loose categorization. That’s like saying It is a book about clowns, or Ender’s Game is a coming-of-age story. Technically true, but what the fuck? For the record, Dead Weight has–and in no particular order–endless profanity, sex, rape, mutilation, graphic death scenes, and murders. Plural. All of those are probably plural. It also features a protagonist in his teens. So I guess that makes it for teenagers?

Sophistication. I won’t even get into it. This book makes Dead Weight look like The Sound of Music.

Point is, my kids can’t read my stuff. And they can’t listen to my stuff, either. So I got to thinking that it might be nice to write a novel that they could read, and that’s when The Deep, Dark, Down was born.

A while back, I started in on it. I do this–juggle multiple books–because I’m a bloody idiot. And after a chapter or two, I realized that, nope, sorry, I can’t write a kids’ story.

Here’s the briefest setup. Three kids and their dog find themselves lost in the woods. For days. And one night, as a massive storm pummels them, they discover something that maybe was never meant to be found. Something wonderful and terrible. And shit goes real bad from there.

That’s as spoiler-free as you’re ever gonna get.

Point of all this is, I’d be a liar if I tried to sensor the thing in my head. The kids are going to drop f-bombs because they’re fucking kids–one a teenager–and that’s what kids do. Also, I do it because I possess the maturity of a child. And there’s going to be violence–some of it gory, most likely–because I’m sick in the head. If that hasn’t been established yet, hopefully this post clears all of that up.