Category Archives: Cheap promises

Release Date for FREE AMERICA: June 15

Available June 15, 2016 on Kindle and (for a limited time) Kindle Unlimited: FREE AMERICA: PART ONE (Make my day! CLICK HERE to preorder now!)

free_america

After spending way too much time assessing the current state of the publishing industry, the tools available to indy publishers today, and my own personal skill set, I decided that I might be short-changing myself if I didn’t give independent publishing a go. That means I’ve been behind the scenes hustling, shipping off my MS to more beta readers and editors, putting together my social media presence, figuring out how to set up my author website, and all that BS. Wow, that sure is a metric $#1t tonne of work. It ain’t for everybody, that’s for sure. But me? Methinks I’ve got the stomach for it.

We shall see.

I also decided to serialize FREE AMERICA, which is going to work out very well for everyone (I think) for several reasons, including:

  • I originally wrote the MS in three parts
  • Readers can try out my story for less money and avoid buying more if my story isn’t their cup of tea
  • It forced me to focus on delivering a story worth reading in each individual part

Each part is novella length, so I’m hoping the smaller time commitment will lure more readers. FREE AMERICA #2 will release in the fall, FREE AMERICA #3 will release in the winter, and a single volume will go to print in summer 2017.

If I weren’t so busy, I would be very excited!

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Stephen King’s “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft”

I just finished listening to the audiobook version of Stephen King’s “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft.” If you haven’t read it, I suggest you get the audio version, because he took the time to narrate it himself. Stephen King’s narration of his own words makes them even more powerful. I don’t often wish I could thank an author for giving me the gift of his work, but this is one of those times. It made me type the following letter, which I might or might not print out and ship off. I’m still undecided.

Stephen King
Bangor, ME 04401

Dear Mr. King:

I’m writing to thank you. I hesitated at first, thinking about how much correspondence you must receive and how sometimes it must become tiresome. Then I pictured myself in the future I covet, as a writer who has done something to touch a fellow writer, reading the letter of gratitude. I couldn’t deny you the pleasure. Or perhaps I’m feeling charitable because I watched the Orioles beat the Red Sox last night.

I’m glad you pulled “On Writing” out of the trunk, but not as glad as I am you took the time to narrate it yourself. I’ve developed the habit of listening to writers talk to me about craft as I drive, but I couldn’t banish your book to my car. I had to keep listening to your words. I walked around with earphones on until you finished talking.

Every once in a while, I would chuckle, and my wife would wonder if I was losing my mind.

“What the heck are you laughing at?”
“Stephen King cracked me up talking about a copy error.”
“You’re such a nerd.”
“Yeah. Isn’t it great?”

“On Writing” is more than a mere memoir or manual. Through your words, you gave me, and the rest of the writing world, a call to action: Life is short—write your ass off. It seems trite when I distill it to a bumper sticker catchphrase, but the way you did it moved me and woke me up to that truth. I’m not the same me as I was before I listened to you speaking those words, and I’m grateful.

I’ve only recently begun assembling my personal collection of rejection letters after completing a novel manuscript somewhere near my own minimum standards. Your words will keep me going for as long as it takes. Thank you.

Sincerely,
C.S. Trimmier

Post-NaNo

Success!

Thanks to NaNoWriMo, I achieved my writing goal for the month of November. That kept me away from here for a while, and I didn’t pick it back up right away with witty blurbs about the hellish holiday season I endured or other musings. Sorry about that, folks, but I’m back and wilder than ever.

I’m really liking the bones of the novel I banged out for NaNoWriMo. What was most interesting to me about the exercise is that I found myself relying much more heavily on dialogue than narrative in cranking out the pages during the marathon speed writing event. I enjoyed that, but as a result I’ve got something more like a screenplay than a novel. So, I think my revisions will be more about filling in the blanks than cutting the purple out of my prose. We shall see. I have yet to send the NaNoWriMo manuscript into the cold abattoir of my editing self, but it is making noise in the corral.

Instead, I have been polishing up a synopsis for my finished manuscript FREE AMERICA and working on sending out some query letters to agents. At the same time, I am considering self-publication for FREE AMERICA. Things are so different in the self-publishing world since I began my fiction writing journey in earnest a decade ago. It seems to make a certain amount of business sense for me to pursue self-publication until I’ve got a bigger body of work to go around hawking. By that time, I might be making enough money that I would rather hire an intellectual property attorney than an agent. Who knows.

So, all you indie authors out there, do you have recommendations for good freelance editors, book cover designers and other resources? Please let me know. I’m going to be digging in to that stuff over the next few weeks.

Beta Love, My Beta Love

I have some great beta readers, but one is just fantastic. I’m not going to use his name here at this time since I didn’t ask first. Recently, he read through my manuscript FREE AMERICA at a quick pace and delivered actionable feedback. Actually, he read through the beginning not once, but twice, and I revised the beginning based upon his commentary while giving the ending a major overhaul. He has been clear and unambiguous about what bothered him about the writing. He has also been very positive about its quality.

Good, right?

Being a writer means being inherently self-critical. He, and more or less everyone else who I have shared the book with along the way, had positive things to say about it. Am I a masochist because I long for a dressing down that lays bare exactly how and why my writing sucks? Because I feel that way, just a little. I want it to be crystalized in my mind exactly where my writing is weakest so I can go about destroying those bad habits.

I suppose I did get that sort of thing back when I first started writing novel length fiction. I joined a DC area critique group and went regularly for a while until commuting from Baltimore to DC to do the nasty with my writing got more of a chore than I could stomach. Along the way, I did get some critical smacks of reality that helped me focus on becoming a better writer. Sure, some of them were full of crap. That doesn’t bother me. Being a writer means you need to be able to take criticism and accept that not all of it is necessarily valid. Even the criticism I ultimately ignored helped me become a stronger writer, because I took it at face value, considered other factors and then made the conscious decision to persist in spite of a critical voice pushing me back. I also enjoyed watching the dynamics of a critique group play out. That was probably the most interesting part of the exercise. I think it might be time for me to join another group.

If you know of a group I should consider, please drop me a line. Thanks!

If November is for Novel Writing, then October is for Outlining

After typing my two favorite words into my manuscript FREE AMERICA and setting aside its sequel, I’m getting pumped up to crank out the first draft of a new, completely unrelated manuscript for NaNoWriMo. I’ve been playing around with story ideas and coming up with characters for a few months, and it is time to start getting them into some sort of intelligible conglomeration that will help me bang out the prose.

I mean no offense to the “pantsers” of the world. I am a write-by-the-seat-of-the-pants guy much of the time, especially when I am searching for story. I started out FREE AMERICA knowing nothing about my story except where it began and what the world was like. The rest of the time was spent exploring the world, finding the characters’ voices and discovering where the story went. I enjoyed all of that time (well, most of that time), but it certainly was a giant hunk of time spanning years of my life.

It took me so long to write FREE AMERICA because it was my first novel, and, of course, my first draft ended up with most if not all of the problems that first novels tend to develop. Being too much of a perfectionist for my own good, I decided to find and fix the problems rather than say “oh well” and discard it as my crappy first novel attempt. Do I think I identified and eradicated every single one of them? I’m not delusional. I know I will benefit from working with a professional editor. Who wouldn’t?

Completing the first draft, getting feedback from readers, then working through all of the cutting and revising and rewriting afterward was the deepest learning experience I have ever gone through. This wasn’t just a practical exercise rather than a theoretical one, it was a spiritual journey that forced me to face my fears and develop personal character. Now that I’ve got about as much character as I or anybody else can stomach, I would like to experiment with seeing how expeditious I can be with drafting a complete manuscript from beginning to end.

I’m thinking of this as one big exercise, one that might transform my process. I don’t picture myself creating an ultra-detailed outline. I picture myself doing the sort of planning I do before I travel to a new place for the first time. I want to figure out in general where I will be going and how I will be getting there as well as a little bit about some of the things I might experience while I am there. I see myself finding the major landmarks of the story, exploring the neighborhood a little, and gaining a better understanding of what makes my characters tick and how they would  probably react to the environment and situations I contemplate putting them in. Afterward, I will release the characters into the wild and see what happens, hoping to be a little surprised at what ends up happening.

I will probably wind up doing what I eventually did with FREE AMERICA: create/modify an outline to track what I have written to ensure it all works together. My writing and outlining worked in tandem, each informing the other, until I ended up with my completed manuscript. Much of my “outlining” in the final stages consisted of quick scribbles into the hardcover pocket notebook I carry at all times in order to capture inspiration and honey-do lists.

These are the things I have found most useful in my preparation for this process:

Many moons ago, I signed up for the newsletter at StoryFix.com,  read the books Story Physics and Story Engineering by Larry Brooks, and listened to at least one Writer’s Digest Tutorial by Larry Brooks. All that material has firmed up my understanding of how and why to structure a story. I think I may bit a bit more of a free-spirited writer than Larry Brooks, but I respect his ideas and methods.

I also liked this Writer’s Digest Tutorial from  K.M. Weiland: Outlining Your Novel: Create a Roadmap to Storytelling Success. What I liked most about this tutorial is the pure practicality of it. This is a tutorial that is geared toward getting things done. It is all about seeing the big picture so you can go forth and paint it with your words.

The thing that got my creative juices flowing the most was a book I read by James Scott Bell: Write Your Novel From the Middle. The general idea of this book is that (A) every story has a moment, pretty darn close to the exact middle of the page count, where the main character realizes all is lost, sees who he is, understands what he has become, and/or grasps what he wants to be; and (B) if you can do a good job of nailing down this moment, then you can leverage both the first and last halves of the manuscript from it.

So, I hereby declare my intention to figure out during the month of October what my story is and where it is going so that I can get the words down onto the page during NaNoWriMo in November.

I wish the best of luck to everyone else out there who might also be so inclined.

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Go Fund Yourself

I subscribe to an ezine put out by Randy Ingermanson – “the Snowflake Guy”

The latest turned me on to this crowdfunding thingy: the-ultimate-crowdfunding-course-for-authors

Yeah, they are crowdfunding a course about crowdfunding. Shake off your hall of mirrors flashback and carry on.

I come at it from this place in my head: Instead of writing fiction, I am doing query letters, chapter outlines, and synopses. Finding an agent, selling the manuscript, the publishing process, and getting marketing support is a PITA. Because I’ve got a business background, I’ve been hesitant to self-publish without professional help. If more authors start themselves up and build a following, then the industry has more opportunities to offer bigger advances and better support to those that want to cross over. Everybody wins!

Crowdfunding publishing setup costs and maybe getting a little crowdfunded advance? Now that is a disruptive self-publishing revolution, I tell ya’. This could be interesting, especially when one considers the economics of it all.

I checked out a couple of great posts explaining the here-and-now cash value of what a book earns over time in words that a dumbass writer like me can understand.

One is from Courtney Milan: know-what-your-rights-are-worth

One is from Jeff Posey: What’s Your Novel Worth? NPV and Cash Flow

Assuming one is stubborn as hell (check that one off for me), not shy about marketing oneself (check two), and willing to invest come cash to ensure one’s writing and published product is not a steaming pile of used spaghetti (see crowdfunding scheme above), one might earn a cargo hold more cash by going indy.

Those who know me personally will recognize my having said some of the above before, but the idea of crowdfunding a manuscript publication effort never occurred to me. I must admit that one particular friend of mine might have mentioned it before, but my skull was too dense for it to inoculate my thought process.

Wow. This could be it. This could be the real indy writer revolution. My opinion is that, rather than being the death knell for “traditional publishing,” it is something that will enable worthy authors to get well-deserved attention and for the industry to better focus its resources. After all, nothing alerts publishers to the potential value of a writer better than the author’s past and present earnings.

Go short yourself

While I am searching for the story and characters in my next novel, I decided to do something new: short stories.

3000 words? Sheesh. I could write a 3000 word story with my smartphone. Easy as pie.

I should mention that I can’t bake worth a crap.

What I figured would be a day or so of thinking and writing turned into about a month worth of self-education and intense scrutiny. Shoving an entire character/story arc into 3000 words is not light work. This is especially true when my Inner Critic keeps trashing everything that gets typed up.

I should have taken the sage advice I read somewhere which was to just pound out an entire draft before making a single revision. Just hammer out the hamburger and get the story on the page. Spit it the #@*% out. Then go back and turn that 6593 word steaming pile of feces into a nice, tight <3500 word story.

I once shocked myself while changing out an electrical receptacle just to see what it felt like. That might explain a lot of things about me, but it also demonstrates that I’m the kind of guy that will take a bite of something my buddy tells me tastes horrible. Sea urchin, for example. True story. An even more telling thing about me is that I later discovered ultra-fresh sea urchin can be kinda tasty, meaning I was stupid enough to try that stuff more than once. I also learned that, when travelling to exotic locales, if you are enjoying what you are eating you might not want to ask what it is.

Of course I didn’t take the advice.

Next time, I’m barfing out a whole story before I even think about revision. Really. Promise.

(fingers crossed)

The Arc, the Plot, and Everything

Between fits of hair-pulling, I have been reading quite a bit about the things one must do to get one’s novel manuscript ultimately into the hands of a willing publisher. I’ve been whittling down a snappy query letter. I’ve been distilling a synopsis. Now I’m making an outline.

“Why didn’t you make an outline to begin with?” My psychic powers can detect the question already.  I’m not a seat-of-the-pants writer, but I’m not a fastidious outliner either.

Sure, before I got fully underway, I set down what the main turning points of the plot would be. You know, the tried and true formula for manuscript success: The hero is born, the hero’s life goes to shit, the hero tries to clean up the mess or kill the shit-maker, shit gets worse, the hero gets in super-deep shit, the hero throws the shit-maker into the shit, and everybody lives happily ever after (or not).

Here’s the thing: what I thought the story was before I began is not exactly what the story turned out to be. My characters insisted on a different story. I listened.

Now I need to go back and outline the story the characters demanded. I’ve broken down my chapters into sub-parts, and I am writing a line for everything important that happens in each of them. This means that I am combing through the manuscript once again.

This is a good thing, I suppose. I have found one or two typos and a few instances of language that could be clarified or simplified. One more notch clicks on the gears tightening up the manuscript.

I wonder how many times I will have read through this manuscript before this project is finished. I have read it so many times that it tends to wash over me. I suppose that is why I am finding things I overlooked before now that I am going through the manuscript with the job of making an outline. It is forcing me to concentrate on something practical, shifting my perception just enough to get another angle on things.

After I am finished with the outline, I wonder if I will want to do some story tweaking…

I suppose I will need to wait to see how this novel ends up writing itself.

I am a terrible blogger.

How many times have I started a blog and let it slide away into oblivion, neglecting it for more “worthwhile” or “real” writing? I dunno. But plenty. I am certain that the carcasses of long-forgotten blogs are out there somewhere, lurking in the cyberspace of the interwebs, waiting to embarrass me someday when I least expect it.

I think my main problem is that I thought my blog needed a “theme” tying it all together, unlike my true life which seems to have the common theme of chaos and anarchy laced with OCD. I give up. Screw theme. This is me, and this is what I write. If you don’t like it, then just shine on, my friend. Shine on.