by Wiley Brooks

Selfie at Perhentian Kecil 0319

This past August, one of my best friends, Monty Dennison, and I were having cocktails during happy hour in Magnolia. He asked me if I had done any work on my novel lately.

I made a snarky response: “I’m going to go to my grave wondering why the hell I didn’t write it.”

His response was short, but what I needed to hear. “Write the damn book,” he said. So I did.

I’m ready to share The Next Best Thing, all 103,000 words, with potential agents. Know any? 🙂  I’ll post a short synopsis at the bottom of this blog entry.

I got the idea for my novel while on sabbatical way back in 1987. I was about to take the train from Penang in northwestern Malaysia to Bangkok. I met a fellow who was, in every way, a character. As I toured Southeast Asia, he evolved into a story. Then I did nothing much with it. Until last August.

Once I started writing I couldn’t stop. I finished the first draft in December. I tinkered with it until March waiting for the monsoons to ebb in Malaysia. When they did, I headed over for a month of revisiting the locales in my story.

It was a great trip. I revised every day, arriving back in mid-April with a solid second draft. The photo above is me working on the book on Perhentian Kecil. The island – beautiful, wild, primitive – is in the South China Sea where the third act of my book takes place.

Then I did a third draft. Those who have taken my writing workshop know that I stress how vital it is to review and revise everything you write. You can always make the first draft better. The first draft is for content. The second, third and subsequent ones are how you make what you’ve written easy for the reader to take in.

Earlier this month, I sent my fourth draft (the one I thought was ready for other people’s eyes) to a small group of beta readers. Beta readers are a work’s first readers. Not editors, their job is to consume the book as a reader would.

They tell you about possible character flaws or holes in the plot. They give feedback on if your dialogue sounds natural, if they can picture the locales in their minds, smell the fragrances.

I’ve now turned my attention to finding an agent. It’s a lot of work and not nearly as much fun as writing the book. Turns out, it’s hard to find an agent. Some have suggested that I self-publish. Amazon makes it easy. But few self-published novelists can give up their day jobs.

I’m not ruling self-publishing out. But I owe it to myself to give my best shot at finding an agent and a publisher. I’ll post more about this process as it unfolds.

Now, here’s the synopsis for The Next Best Thing.

THE NEXT BEST THING is the story of Joey, a delightfully charming young man. He happens to be a psychopath who kills young American women traveling alone in Malaysia. (No knowledge of the locale needed.) He has set his sights on his next (and he says his last) victim when a P.I. with his own baggage is hired to find him. Joey romances Jessica, a 33-year-old redhead from Seattle, on a private tour of the country. Jess, though, is more than Joey bargained for. Meanwhile, Mason, the P.I., pieces together clues to Joey’s whereabouts. He draws closer day by day. Will Mason find him in time? Can Joey bring himself to actually kill Jess? The action ends up on a beautiful but primitive island in the South China Sea. Some will live and some won’t.