The Facefaker’s Game is out today! On shelves! In real life!
You can buy it right now, if that’s your thing, or you can read its reviews on Goodreads and then go buy it, or you can read its origin story below and then go buy it. Or you can do all of those things, or none of them. In any case, I’d like to tell you a little bit about how Game came into the world.
In which there is an Idea.
I write an episodic series on Blogger about a boy named Ashes, who lives in the sewer tunnels under a magical city. It’s not very good, and I never finish it.
Part the First
In which there is Opportunity.
It’s my senior year studying writing at Taylor University. I have, up to this point, been a jerk about NaNoWriMo, because “that’s not writing, that’s typing.” Notably, however, I have never actually finished a long project, so I decide to give NaNo a try. As commanded, I write 50,000 words in a month, but the story still lacks an ending. I shelve it.
A classmate posts about a writing contest from Simon & Schuster. S&S wants novel pitches — an outline of the book plus the first 50 pages — from college students. I have 26 days to put it together. “Sure,” say I, “why not?”
I dig out the manuscript from November, but most of it is pretty terrible. I salvage what I can and reshape it into an entirely different project; Ashes remains the same audacious pickpocket, but the magic system and the entirety of the plot are scrapped for other ideas.
My classmates and I turn in our pitches just under the deadline.
I get an e-mail from Simon & Schuster:
Congratulations, you’re a Top 10 finalist. Send us a complete book of at least 60,000 words by September 1 to be considered for publication.
So now my schedule for the next few months looks like this:
- May: graduate from college, find a job, and maybe move across the country.
- June: get married.
- September: turn in a complete book, of which I currently have 50 pages.
I quake in my boots, briefly. And then I get to work.
Part the Second
In which there is Work.
I secure a job with a small indie publisher and graduate from college. Busyness ensues. I do not actually start working on The Book until the end of the month.
I wife my fiancee. Distraction ensues. By the end of the month, The Book is 30,000 words long, about one-quarter finished by my best guess.
I get up at 5 every morning to make things up and write them down, then go to work at 8.
During my lunch hour, I allocate two minutes for food-eating. During the other 58, I make things up and write them down.
Wife and I have only one car, which she needs for work; while I wait for her to pick me up, I make things up and write them down.
Crunch time. By the 18th, I have 100,000 words — long enough to meet the requirements, but the story’s not nearly finished yet. Ten days later, it’s 122,000 words: longer than I expected at first, and that’s without the last act.
At the tail end of the month, I enter a four-day exile to finish the thing, which culminates in a desperate 80-page sprint on the fourth day. When I send the book off, a handful of hours before it’s due, it clocks in at 160,000 words — close to 700 manuscript pages.
I stagger out of the bedroom like a drunkard, grin, and then, I think, fall unconscious.
Part the Third
In which there is Victory.
The book I submit is called Ashes. The publisher’s e-mail says they will sign me on a couple conditions: first of all, the book needs to be cut in half. It’s much too long. And secondly, we need a better title.
I tell them politely that I would absolutely cut the book in half — indeed, I would cut many adorable animals in half — for a publishing contract. And they can name it whatever they want.
A fellow Taylor alum, who works as an agent, hears about me winning and offers to represent me, which I accept eagerly, having no experience with contracts. I do a couple interviews with friends and former classmates, still feeling a little bewildered.
I sign with Simon & Schuster on November 24, 2014.
Somewhere in all this I find out that the publication contract is specifically for an e-book — not the real-life book I have dreamed about since I was eight. I’ll get a few printed copies to give out to family and friends, but that would be it for ink-and-paper. Still published, I tell myself, though I’m more than a little disappointed.
Part the Fourth
In which Victory proves Challenging.
I get laid off from the small publisher and need to get a new job. I land in food service, the same place where I’d worked in high school.
It feels awful.
This has nothing to do with the job; my coworkers are kind and intelligent and interesting, and there is nothing shameful about working a front counter. Even so, when I put on my grease-stained uniform and walk to work, I can’t help feeling that things have happened completely out of order: first you do the high school job, then the grown-up job, then the book contract.
I also can’t shake the sense that I’ve failed — myself, my teachers, my wife.
I start revising Ashes, now called The Facefaker’s Game. Between my newly unpredictable schedule and not-so-faint feelings of failure, the revision is laborious. I miss a dozen deadlines, and begin to wonder if the publisher will just drop me for taking so long.
After six months in food service, I find a new job; it’s an industry I care about and I’m good at the work, and (just as important) the schedule is consistent. Almost instantly, revising becomes faster and easier, even exciting. Writing makes me happy again — or, rather, I am happy again, and so I can write.
I turn in a complete draft of The Facefaker’s Game. It is a full rewrite of the book I submitted in September, containing maybe 60% of its original plot (and even less of the NaNoWriMo project two years past). This draft feels more mature, worthier, than its predecessor. It’s a readable book — it may even be a good book — and I’m proud of it.
Part the Fifth
In which there is Exultation.
My editor pushes the manuscript on her Simon & Schuster coworkers for Christmas. Then, at the start of the new year, she e-mails me to say that the office likes Game. Actually, they really like Game — so much that they’re going to release it in paperback, too. So my baby’s going on honest-to-God bookshelves.
Then the really big one…
I wake up to more Twitter notifications than I have had in my whole life put together, because Brent Weeks (!) read my book (!!) and liked it (!!!) and said in public that he liked it (!!!!). I do not remember fainting here, but I also don’t remember not fainting.
November 1, 2016
It has been, almost to the day, five years since I put Ashes, Issue Zero up on Blogger; it’s been exactly three since I started that sprawling NaNoWriMo project, and almost exactly one since I e-mailed my editor with the final draft.
There is something undeservedly poetic about this day.
It has been five years since I first wrote about Teranis, about Ashes and Blimey and Synder, about Candlestick Jack and his makeshift family of charming, secretive thieves. Five years of dragging something intangible out of my head.
And now it is here. The Facefaker’s Game is out in the wild. It is on shelves. It is in hands. It is an actual ink-and-paper book, and it has my name on it, and that is pretty cool.
(Wait, don’t scroll up! You can find copies in paperback and Kindle right here!)