The Blog/Diary of Novelist Sam Batterman

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Thursday, November 26, 2009


Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. As life gets hectic and crazy-busy heading toward Christmas, here's a holiday that literally forces the breaks onto my "run-away" life and makes me turn inward for a moment and reflect on what God has done for me. I'm thankful for so many things: my wife, my children, my church , my friends, my job and for writing.

Being a published author affords me many opportunities that I would never had experienced before. In the last month I've met three authors that are struggling through the same "find a publisher--finish the book" experience that I went through over a year ago. It's a frightening process that's very alien to people not working in the publishing industry (like me). It is great to share my experiences with them and try to encourage them to keep going. I hope they will.

A fellow author (and college alumnus) reviewed Wayback recently and posted it on his fine author blog. By permission, I'm re-posting it here. Adam is the author of Fatal Illusions, a thriller that takes place in Michigan's Upper Peninsula (or the UP as the natives call it). I hope to have a review on it soon.

My Review

I was delighted to read this new novel by author friend and fellow BJU alumnus
Sam Batterman. I have always been fond of time travel stories and was especially interested to see how Sam would treat this classic but somewhat worn plot device. (From H.G. Wells to Michael Crichton, we've seen a wide spectrum of time travel sagas, not to mention numerous movies and TV shows.)

What I discovered was a novel that is really a carefully executed balancing act between suspenseful plotting, scientific research, and biblical truth. This technique is risky. Does the scientific information weigh down the plot? Are the biblical ramifications of what the story's characters experience lost in the plot? I thought Sam did a good job of striking the right balance, and he certainly put some hard work into this project. The list of sources Sam consulted for his bibliography is nothing short of amazing. This guy did his homework, and it shows!

Beyond the obvious creationism message, I was especially intrigued by scenes that describe the garden of Eden and Noah's ark. I've often wondered what the inside of Noah's ark looked like; Sam does a good job of giving readers an inside look. The main storyline of researchers sent back in time to the time of Noah's flood gains further complexity by a group of terrorists who plan to alter history in an unexpected way. I won't give away the subplot or their diabolical plans; you'll need to read the novel for yourself. The ramifications of their plans and how Sam probed the possible outcome of choices unique to two time periods definitely gave a new spin to the time travel concept that I hadn't thought of before. What a fascinating, thought-provoking read! With just enough hooks to keep the story moving forward while taking readers down a path of new possibilities and into a world we've read about in the Bible but only imagined,
Wayback is definitely a worthy, suspenseful, and educational read. Definitely check it out!

Additionally, there should be a few other reviews coming in the next month or so.

I will be at Bob Jones University Campus Bookstore on December 4th for the "Light the Night" event and signing books from 7-9PM. If you are in the area, please stop by and say "Hi!"

I've started the second re-write of Maximal Reserve, my newest thriller, which I hope will be published in 2010. I have some early readers digging into it and I'm sure the story will only get stronger after they feedback to me. This novel is longer than Wayback and in some cases more complicated. I still have work to do, but I love the story so far. Can't wait to share it with you.



Monday, November 9, 2009

Engineering a Book - Maximal Reserve

Well, the first draft of Maximal Reserve is done. This means the general story, characters, chapters, length (and depth of the book) and basic tone of the book are complete. This doesn't mean that the book is finished, but it does mean that how the book starts, runs and ends is essentially done.

Unlike Wayback--where, to be honest with you--I had little to no idea what I was doing until the edit stage, Maximal Reserve started with the foundations that I learned along the way with my first book. I tried to take the criticisms of Wayback and my strengths from Wayback and combine them. People generally liked the story of my first book and the scene descriptions were called out as strengths with character development and dialog being areas that some felt could use work.

I agree. So, on Maximal Reserve I focused on Characters--characters that I now love. In Wayback, the science team was the protagonist (or perhaps Jim Spruce was depending on who you ask) - in Maximal Reserve you get to know the protagonist, warts and all, from the very beginning. It has the same twists and turns that my first book was known for and additional dimension -- better relationships, better romance, better emotion--better everything.

People ask me what it's like to write a book and I suspect each one is a bit different, but now I focus my answer on what I relied on for the last seven months--structure and engineering.

How can art be engineered? It has to be to work. Fiction has structure - whether it's conventional, contemporary fiction or literary fiction - there is a formula that must be considered. It's not enough to have a good start or prologue--is there enough "ummph" to make it 80,000-100,000 words?

For me the challenge is around 30,000 words where the transitions occur and the middle of the book feels like it's sagging. It takes focus and rewriting to tame a manuscript and get to the resolution in a meaningful way.

Here are some things that I kept asking myself all through the writing of Maximal Reserve:
  • Is there tension - everywhere?
  • How are the transitions handled between Act I and Act III?
  • How does the protagonist grow during the book?
  • What is the relationship between the antagonist and the protagonist?
  • Do the subplots slow down the story, or support it?
  • In my case, does the science overwhelm the story, or support it?
So, with 90,000 words in the bank, I can now share the synopsis of Maximal Reserve...more news will be coming...What's next? Well, I have a whole raft of early readers and critics lined up to shred the manuscript (from a critical perspective).

Will the story change as a result? Undoubtedly. This is an early look at how the book will be perceived by the rest of the world. I can't wait to hear what they think...good or bad.

Phillip Channing was just an ambitious college graduate who wanted to make his mark on the world. He didn’t know that mark would be the greatest oil discovery of all time–in the wrong place. Phillip finds the largest oil reserve in history, dwarfing the lucrative reserves in Saudi Arabia, and threatening to change the balance of power and wealth in the favor of the most unlikely country of all.