Wednesday, April 25, 2012

It's time for Shaping Clay to earn its name

A year ago, when I got it in my head to write a few stories for Amazon.com, I intended to do it more as a way of working through some of my own feelings about being an adult with autism than as a way to make money.  Don't get me wrong--I want to write professionally, or I wouldn't have invested so much time and money into my schooling--but the Clay Dillon stories I wrote were dual parts therapy and prewriting.  You see, I'd been working on a semi-personal novel about my adolescence for about three years.

I was pretty happy with the reception the stories received.  I published four of them in all, all set during Clay's first grade year, and they sold about fifty copies each with very little promotion.  I kept plugging at the novel, eventually reaching an outline phase and writing seriously on a draft.

By mid-October of last year, that draft had ballooned into a 45,000 word beast, and I was only on chapter 4 of my 13 chapter outline.  I decided that I had gone wrong someplace, and I set about rebooting the draft and approaching it from a different angle.

Then, something wonderful happened.  I didn't quite get back to the novel I'd started, but something else started to click, and I began working simultaneously on several more Clay Dillon stories, all set around the same time period as my four original Amazon.com shorts.  As those stories became more complex and Clay took shape to me more clearly, I realized why I can't write Clay as an adult.  It's because he's not one, not yet.

I have to shape him.  I have to let him grow.

I've been working on that in earnest for a little bit.  Clay's not the only character I've been living with this year, but he is the most complete, and I'd like to bring him out into the world.  I'm almost done with a cycle of stories that makes up a loose novella, of sorts--it's highly episodic, but there is a clear throughline, and I suppose it can be read either as a series of stand-alone pieces or as a single story, in much the same way that many hour-long TV shows can be enjoyed either as a serial or as a season.

The Summary:

Clay is autistic, but he doesn't know what autism is.  Neither do his parents.  In fact, the only thing any adult in his life has ever learned about autism, they've learned from Rain Man.  It's not his parents' fault, though--his mother was only 16 when he was born, and that was in 1980.  The same year that the DSM-III was issued, the very first edition of the Manual to recognize autism as a distinct condition.  

He would be a teenager before Asperger's, PDD-NOS, or Childhood Disintegrative Disorder would be recognized.

Because Clay can talk, and because he's bright (he learned to read at five years old), no one really questions his social withdrawal, his obsession with comics and cartoons, or his tantrums.  After all, what child doesn't have tantrums?

Well, no one questions them until he starts school.  Once he does, the teachers suspect something is a little off.

Clay knows, though.  He knows that there is something fundamental in his life that is not being discussed.  He knows that Nothing is Right.

Progress:

As of right now, I have 25,000 words written, and they're all words I want to keep.  I have only 2 more stories/chapters in my outline, but I need some help.  It's summer, and for my profession, that means a major slowdown.  If I'm going to not only finish this, but also see it edited and formatted, I'm either going to need to raise some funds or to wait until Christmas (months after I finish the book) to be able to bring it to market.

I've put up a Kickstarter to help raise the funds to put the book out, and also to act as a pre-ordering system for those of you who are interested in buying a copy.  In addition to that, my Short Stories and Sample Chapters page has a couple of sample chapters, the ones previously released on Amazon.com, for free for you to read.  If you enjoy them, please consider helping to fund the project.

What's Next:

If the Kickstarter succeeds, I'll have the main text of the book done and ready by mid-July.  Depending on which of the rewards are purchased, I may have some bonus materials to write, and so I've set the delivery date for all of the rewards to September.  I earnestly hope to deliver the pre-ordered copies earlier than that, but September is the planned release date for this book on Amazon.com if everything goes well.

I also have some stretch goals in mind, but I'm not unveiling them until I see that the project's been funded.  This is my first Kickstarter, and I want to make sure it's going to succeed before I get to into planning those extra tasks.

If you've made it this far, then I'm hoping that means that you're interested in helping the project.  Head on over to Kickstarter for more details.