Discover more from Eliot Peper
I just finished the rough draft of a new novel.
I still can't quite believe the story started where it did: with a dream. A year and a half ago, I woke up in the middle of the night with an image reverberating in my mind, noted it down on my phone, and went back to sleep. The next morning I read over the note and realized it was the perfect opening for a novel. So I scrapped the outline I'd been working on for months, copied the note into a document, and kept going. I've been writing it sentence by sentence ever since.
Every book brings a new creative crisis. I arrive at a certain point in the manuscript only to discover that long-held ideas for where I planned to take the story no longer work. With Neon Fever Dream, I was two-thirds of the way through and realized that the protagonist didn't have enough of a personal connection to the plot. I thought I might need to rewrite the whole thing, but then invented a twist that reframed everything that had happened up until that point—a highlight of the novel. With Reap3r, I wound up rewriting much of the book, changing point of view characters, and adding 40% new material—the revisions took longer than the rough draft. With this new manuscript, I ran into similar unexpected problems, but because I was writing it sentence by sentence, I could move through them faster and with less pathos. By never knowing what was going to happen next, I became less attached to needing to know what was going to happen next.
Finishing a rough draft is more of a beginning than an ending—I’ll be diving into edits soon—but you’ll be the first to know when it’s ready.
And now, a book I love that you might too:
The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner follows a thief imprisoned for robbing a king who escapes to rob the gods. Venturing out across the sun-baked mountains and gnarled olive groves of Ancient Greece, he must survive countless reversals, untangle political intrigue between neighboring city-states, forge new friendships, and question the fundamental nature of reality to make good on a temple heist that will change the course of history. This funny, compelling, and surprisingly deep story will transport you to a richly imagined world that you’ll be sad to leave behind when you turn the final page.
Things worth sharing:
Whether you're giving a presentation, writing a novel, or teaching a class, earning attention is all about creating and releasing tension. We can't help but mind the gap between setup and payoff, joke and punchline, melody and resolution.
Turns out that artichokes are way more fascinating than they have any right to be.
Handle analytics with care. Tracking points can reveal where you’ve been fooling yourself, which is valuable, but as soon as you start tracking points, the points become the point.
Apples fell from a lot of trees before Newton realized what it might mean. Evolution was going on all around us long before Darwin noticed. One of the strange wonders of life is that all the evidence is always there: any material you could possibly need for artistic inspiration, scientific discovery, spiritual enlightenment, or personal growth is in front of you right now—the key is whether you’re paying attention.
Delighted to stumble upon my newsletter in Chuck Grimmett's excellent blogroll. Beware: His recommendations are extremely curiosity inducing. They will make you want to read the internet.
If you know something is going to work, then it’s probably not worth working on. Everything important is uncertain.
When someone asks you for advice, it’s often better to be a mirror than a fortune cookie: instead of dispensing aphoristic wisdom, listen with sufficient care to identify and point out the truth they already know but haven’t fully articulated yet. Mirrors offer exactly what most advice seekers need: an outside perspective.
These ideas that changed Morgan Housel’s life are thought-provoking enough that they might change yours: “Your personal experiences make up maybe 0.00000001% of what’s happened in the world but maybe 80% of how you think the world works.”
When I’m writing fiction, I often drop ideas, characters, scenes, themes, twists, places, etc. onto index cards, shuffle them, and spread them out in various combinations. Physically remixing the story’s elements helps me increase the density of the relationships between them.
As Derek Thompson points out in this essay about the development and deployment of the smallpox vaccine, we lionize people who make discoveries, but undervalue those who implement and popularize innovations.
Writing on the internet is a weird kind of magic. By working in public, teaching what you learn, and sharing your best ideas, you increase your serendipity surface area, inviting more of the right people to find meaning and forge connection on their journey through the web.
Thanks for reading. We all find our next favorite book because someone we trust recommends it. So when you fall in love with a story, tell your friends. Culture is a collective project in which we all have a stake and a voice.
Eliot Peper is the author of Reap3r, Veil, Breach, Borderless, Bandwidth, Neon Fever Dream, Cumulus, Exit Strategy, Power Play, and Version 1.0. He also consults on special projects and tweets more than he probably should.
“Reap3r is a rarity in contemporary science fiction—a smart, engaging, and deeply humanistic work of futurism that keeps the pages turning with the material of real life.”
-Christopher Brown, Philip K. Dick, World Fantasy and Campbell Award-nominated author of Tropic of Kansas, Rule of Capture, and Failed State