Category Archives: Getting published

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.

Advertisements

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!

My Two Favorite Words

This Friday, I typed my two favorite words into my manuscript:

THE END

I had been working on a major rewrite of the third act since mid-summer, and I knew the ending was lacking that certain undefinable something. I kept poking it around, hoping it would jump up and grab me, when last week it finally did. I typed like a fiend in every moment I could steal away from my “real job” until, Friday evening, it was finished.

My wife (God love her) suggested we go out somewhere to celebrate, so we went to Holy Frijoles for margaritas and a meal. She was really good about letting me write through my final push to the end. I’m grateful for that.

I’ve been working on my query letter during those times where I was able to write but needed to let the manuscript settle. Now that I’ve got what I feel I can finally call a completed manuscript, I can’t wait to start querying. I committed myself to wait until Monday before I send out the first query.

Is abstaining from sending query letters on the weekend is a good idea in general? Most agents I look up ask for queries as email only, no snail mail, so I am wondering if weekend queries might either be an intrusion into the scarce personal time of an industry professional or one that will be lumped together with three days’ worth of queries to be reviewed on Monday. Either way, maybe Tuesday is the way to go rather than Monday.

Does anybody have an opinion on that subject?

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.

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.

Synopsis Hell

And I thought writing a query letter was tough.

If the query letter is a literary flirtation, then the synopsis is a drunken make-out session in the back booth of a poorly-lit and disreputable bar.

Make the manuscript sound interesting in less than 200 words? OK, sure. No problem.

Make the reader understand the entire 80,000+ word manuscript in 2000 words? Ugh. Less than 1000 words? F*ck. You’ve got to be $#!TTING me.

So, I’m fighting to suppress the memory of when I had to write a term paper and they forced me to write research tidbits down on note cards before I wrote them down in the paper itself. This was intended to teach me something that I would use later in my life. I think that something was that sometimes people will tell me to do things that are pointless and stupid.

Actually, I take that back. I think they tried to force me to write down research tidbits on notecards and instead I decided that was complete BS so I just wrote the stuff down on paper or made copies of the stuff to use in my term paper. I’m sure I lost points or had to stay after school and eventually got a bad grade because of it. I’m also sure that I didn’t give a rat’s cleft @$$hole. That sounds much more like me in grade school.

Back on topic: I’ve been writing down little nuggets of plot and character turning points and so forth on little index cards. I had never seen any use for those little blue-pinstriped pieces of stiff paper before. Apparently I was wrong about them being completely useless. Now I can sort all of that stuff out in little piles and move them around and what not.

Maybe I will shuffle them like a deck of cards and deal them out at random to see what happens. Maybe it will be better than the actual manuscript. Maybe I will re-write it that way.

Who knows? I am a writer gone wild.

And the word synopsis just sounds evil.

Look out behind you! You’re about to be eaten by a synopsis!

I think I might be.

Butt in seat

I haven’t posted anything here for a few days, with good reason.

In addition to FREE AMERICA, I have two other novel projects that I am working on. So, while working in the “getting published” mode, also I have been writing, plotting, researching, re-writing, and doing all of those other things that go into the making of a novel.

While operating in “getting published” territory, mostly I have been distilling my query letter for FREE AMERICA. Now it is time for me to turn my attention to working on the synopsis.

Ahhhhhh the Synopsis. I should probably say “synopses.” By that, I mean it looks like I might need to write a few versions of different lengths. At least I enjoy the challenge.

I guess I had better get back at it.

Query, query, quite contrary…

So, I have started the process of sending out query letters to literary agents. This is something like saying “I have started the process of passing a kidney stone without the benefit of modern medicine.” I expect it might take a long time and might not be the most enjoyable thing I could be doing.

Although I have only been doing this for short time, I have learned some things:

1. My first query letter sucked
2. My revised query letter still sucked
3. Most guides to writing query letters suck

Yesterday, I stumbled across a query letter writing blog that I think is fantastic:

Queryshark.blogspot.com

The Query Shark blog is run by a literary agent who also helps aspiring authors by eviscerating their shitty query letters. Authors whose query letters are selected for evisceration then have the opportunity to submit revised query letters to be further eviscerated. Eventually, some get to the point where they are actually pretty good. In reading through the archive, I have learned some of the reasons why my previous queries sucked. Reading the entire archive is mandatory before submitting a letter to be chum for the Query Shark.

I was going to send out at least one query letter every day until I began reading this blog. Instead of sending a query letter today, I revised my query letter about 15 times. I’m not going to send it out again until I have finished reading the entire Query Shark archive and revised my query until it seems to meet the Query Shark standard. After that, I’m probably going to revise it some more.

Thank you, Query Shark. You rawk.