Friday, September 14, 2007

How I got here, Part 6: The 13th Reality

Needless to say, I was pretty pumped about Chris and Lisa wanting to take me to lunch. I mean, publishers dont buy people lunch just to be nice for crying out loud. We all know they're blood-sucking demons. Okay, just kidding, just kidding.

I went to work immediately to come up with some ideas. If I remember correctly, I had about a week. One idea was about a boy who finds out he's actually part of a virtual reality universe and that he can become a real boy if he makes it to this mysterious section of the . . . okay, I'll stop there. It was basically Pinocchio meets The Matrix. Sound lame? You bet! (Actually, it's not as lame as it sounds, and I fully plan to write it someday)

Another idea was something about aliens. Enough said. Lame. As the kids say, gag me with an iphone. (okay, they don't really say that, but they SHOULD say it. That's funny stuff.)

There were other ideas. Some were cool. Some were mediocre. Some flat out stunk.

But one of them, I really liked. I'd always had this general idea of a kid getting weird messages in the mail, full of riddles. A test of sorts, to weed out the less-than-worthy and seek the brilliant. Throw in really dangerous stuff so they have to be courageous, too. A grand mystery that leads to a certain place, on a certain day, at a certain time. Where something extraordinary will happen and change the world forever. Something that makes you want to use a lot of cliches.

Of course, that whole idea would be really stupid if the kid solved the mystery, made it to the end, and his only reward was a deciphered ad for Ovaltine (name that movie!). No, I had a much better idea. It involved everything from Quantum Physics to things called Gnat Rats. Really tall people and really short people. Alternate universes and really good spaghetti.

But more on that later. The whole thing came together and I fell in love with the story. I decided to focus on it, leaving the other ideas as nothing more than short paragraphs. For this Big Idea, I wrote 3 full chapters and a 10 page synopsis. The main character's name was Mason McGee and I called the book: THE NINETEENTH REALITY.

In an extremely rare burst of foresight on my part, I decided to send this proposal to Chris and Lisa BEFORE our lunch together, in hopes they would actually read it so we could have a worthwhile discussion. Lisa did, and emailed me to say she really liked it. And then, on the big day, as we all entered the restaurant together, I remember Chris saying something to the effect of, "I just finished THE NINETEENTH REALITY proposal. I love it."

Lunch was a whirlwind. I had gone prepared to get down on my knees and beg them in the name of all that is good and green on the earth to give me a chance. But instead, it was nothing like that. From the first scraping of the chairs across the floor as we took our seats to the last delicious bite of oriental chicken salad (yes, I remember what I ordered), we talked business.

As in, "We wanna do this book" business.

I couldn't believe it. I kept expecting Chris to break into snorts of laughter, pointing at me and slapping Lisa on the back, saying, "We got HIM good didn't we? What an idiot. Now get out of here, Dashner, you're makin' me sick." But no, it was for real.

We talked about contracts, advances, artwork, ideas for the book and the series, release schedules, marketing plans. I almost choked on an almond when Chris said he wanted to send me to BEA in the summer of 2008. (That's Book Expo America, a really big thingamajigger where all the big publishers pimp their latest stuff.)

I knew, even before we left the restaurant, that this was the biggest break of my life and that my lifetime dream of being a full-time author was now a distinct possibility. This would become even more real as the deal came together, as Jenny got involved, the contract completed, the advance issued, yada yada yada. Chris wanted the book to come out in February or March of 2008. That was only 15 or 16 months away.

There was just one thing. I, uh, actually had to WRITE the book. Three chapters wouldn't quite cut it.

And that was how Mason McGee became Atticus Higginbottom. It was how the Nineteenth Reality became the Thirteenth Reality.

And it was how I wrote a 90,000 word book in 7 weeks.

(to be continued)


Marcia Mickelson said...

90,000 words in 7 weeks. Wow! That's amazing.

Anonymous said...

ay yi yi yi

I think my current idea is sitting around 10,000 words and I'm stuck ha ha ha

Tristi Pinkston said...

I can't believe no one has answered this yet -- it's A Christmas Story.

I'd like to hear how nineteen got whittled down to thirteen, if you're up to it.

Author said...

Tristi beat me to the Christmas Story answer! That's a great movie by the way!

James Dashner said...

That movie's a tradition in the Dashner home at Christmas time. In fact, I heard a rumor that Santa watched it 2 times through on TBS while he put together the #$%@ kitchen toy for sweet little Kayla Dashner.

I'll definitely explain more about the 7 weeks and the changes. It actually never felt rushed. It was the most creative, fluid, fun writing I've ever experienced.

Good gravy that sounds corny. Someone throw me a tissue.

Sarah, the best way to get unstuck is to, uh, write. How's that for advice!

Kimberly Vanderhorst said...

This is such a fascinating read. Hope I get to write a similar one someday. Except I think I'll order a caesar salad instead.

Jean Knee said...

James, you should read kimberly's blog, she's a great writer too

James Dashner said...

Jean, I did check it out. Great sense of humor and I likey the music thing on the side. Cool!

And Kimberly, I never order salad. I'm a steak and ribs kinda guy. I only ordered salad that day so I wouldn't look idiotic devouring my food like a raging beast while we discussed my future. :-)

Annette Lyon said...

And naturally you treated your wife to a day at the spa after she held down the fort so you COULD write that fast, right?


James Dashner said...

No, her reward was getting to be the first person to read it. Oh, stop.

It was a crazy time. But we're only talking the first draft here. I mean, 7 weeks is 49 days. Say you take off one day a week. So 42 days. That's just over 2,000 words a day. No big deal.

Of course, some of those days I wrote 4 or 5 thousand. But it was a lot of fun because I loved the story so much.

And my wife deserves a lot more than a day at the spa. One of these days I'm going to take her on a cruise.

Luisa Perkins said...

A Christmas Story, A Christmas Story!


I can't tell you how encouraged I am by your real-life saga. I recently got rejected by a big NYC house, and I've been sitting around feeling sorry for myself for way too long. Say it with me: Fraahhhh--GEEEEEE--layyyyyy.

You, Tristi, and Annette have gotten me back on my A-game.

James Dashner said...

Luisa, I'm just glad you're hanging out with us. I love your sense of humor and just so ya know, my wife is major into knitting and all kinds of arts and crafts. Especially quilting.

Anonymous said...

What a great book! First book that I read that wasn't a text book. Something about the picture on the cover intrigued me.

Anyway, I work in the building with the Shadow Mountain people and was given the opportunity to read the book (Advanced Reader's Edition) before the finished book was released.

Absolutely awesome. My first intent was to read it to my children but after about three chapters, I started taking it to work with me and found myself not being able to put it down. I am so excited and I am already awaiting book two when book one hasn't even been released yet.

Most books I have read would bore me after the first chapter but 13th Reality was amazing. I was hooked like a fish on a fishing line. I could even feel the courage grow inside of me as I read it.

Awesome, awesome, awesome!!!

Anonymous said...

I went to your website and it does not seem to be working. I was hoping to request some bookmarks and more teasers for the school I work at. Thanks

Sharon said...

That is amazing! I've been working on my first book for almsot a year and i have 104,876 words and 323 pages that i still need to format to the size of book i would like it to be, but 90,000 in 7 weeks! that's amazing!
I wish i could do something like that, but i have school to do...(major drag)can't wait to graduate and have some time for my books. *sigh*

Anonymous said...

Wow I love the book but I had now Idea about the whole 90,000 words in 7 weeks!!

Anonymous said...

If I showed these books to my teacher,Mr. Kikosiki,His favorite characters would be either Mistress Jane Or Reginald Chu.

Anonymous said...

By the way Im nine and I love the two books that I own and I am waiting for the third.

Julie Belnap said...

I told this to my Mom. She liked it. I liked this too. I'm going to finish it and be done with it, because dinner's almost ready.

xristina said...

hey..i honestly LOVED your 'maze runner' i read it in less than 12hours..i just couldn't stop!i'm waiting like a maniac for the scorch trials (in greece they haven't been pulished yet.. :@) but i really want to read all of your books and instead of leaving out words i can't understand or anything i would like to know if the 'jimmy fincher' saga and the '13th reality' series are or will be translated in greek..i've searched everywhere but i can't find answer would you please inform me about that? thank you very much you're really an upcoming author,i'm sure the majority of the world will recognize your one of a kind talent and love you :)

Anonymous said...

wow i love these books thanks for posting!