Archive for the ‘aspiring writer’ Tag

What Is Your Dream Worth?   6 comments

Hi, Gang.

You know, as writers and aspiring authors, this is a question we should often ask ourselves. Some of us do, I’m sure, but all too often I have a feeling we tend to answer it with a get-the-pain-over-ASAP answer instead of giving it the attention it deserves. You know, one of those quick, “Anything! Now, let me get back to my life,” answers we tend to forget all about just as soon as the dog craps on the carpet. Or until the latest episode of our new favorite popular TV show comes on. Truth is, they’re both about the same in value.

This kind of answer, in and of itself, is a perfect clue as to how much we really think our dream is worth. For one thing it’s absurd. I would give all I can for my dream of making a living writing fiction, but certainly not everything. It’s definitely not worth my family, my good friends, and if you think I’d give up the family jewels, guess again, chuckles… It ain’t about to happen. I’m too fond of the old boys for that.

So, now that we’ve established that the standard answer is a huge pile of steaming horse nuggets, let’s give the question the consideration it deserves.

In many ways this is a question that we must, and will have to answer for ourselves. The funny part, at least to this long-haired country boy, comes when we believe we can put next to nothing in, and get tons back in return. Where this notion came from I can’t begin to say, but I know it’s yet another outright lie. The amount of fuel needed to keep your body running for a month outweighs you by quite a few pounds, and don’t get me started on the internal combustion engine.

Now I’m not saying we have to spend a fortune to make one. But the plain fact is, we are going to have to invest heavily in our dream if we really want it. And some of the areas we have a tendency to waste our resources in can only make an outsider shaker their head in wonder when we give that standard answer, “Anything.”

We all know of aspiring writers who will say that, spend $85.95 on The Super Season Sports Package, and go for a ‘free’ site to set up their author’s web page. Or the wan’na be writer who will think nothing of spending $50.00 on the latest Playstation 3 game, but can’t seem to find the extra cash for a $24.99 book on how to write fiction that sells.

I don’t know about you, guys and gals, but it looks to me like that, “Anything,” is quickly turning into an, “Anything, but.” And you have to wonder just how seriously to take that answer, or the person making it. Worse, you have to wonder how seriously the people who count, (Agents, editors, readers.) are taking him/her?

Particularly when you consider the fact that neither one of those examples helped the writer so much as a micrometer towards their dream of becoming a successful author. But the latter of those two choices could have brought them one step further towards that cherished goal.

Those, of course, are just two of a blue-million other examples I could go on about. And the truth is, all of them are leaching precious resources away from your dream. The odds are, you might not even be aware of them. Thanks to the impulse buying, keep up with the Joneses attitude that our consumer culture has ingrained in us, they’re almost a knee-jerk reaction. But, fortunately, it is one we can take control of. Or I should say, those of us who really do want to make it in this business can take control of.

At least we can if we are aware of it, and that is the point to this whole post. Now, you are aware of it. The only question is: “What are you prepared to do about it?”

Before any of you smartypants out there start leaving comments about my being hypocritical and giving out advice I don’t follow myself… this post was inspired by exactly what I’m preaching above.

The reason my blog has fallen by the wayside more often than not was dial-up. I live in the country, there is no cable, and satellite internet is expensive. At least for me it is. But, I could not get away from the fact that the writing game is fast becoming dominated by the Internet. And if you don’t have broadband on the ‘Net, you just became a push-cart trying to win a NASCAR trophy. Ain’t a gonna happen.

Given that, I scrimped, saved, and was finally able to get broadband. It wasn’t easy. I had to deny many of the luxuries I hinted at above, but you know what. I thought about that question long and hard. My answer?

My dream is worth anything I can give to it, and those needless accessories are not.

Later, Gang. ;)

Rejection Inspection   Leave a comment

Is there anything as frustrating as having a partial request, or a full for that matter, form rejected by an agent or publisher? Well, if there are, brothers and sisters, I sure as Hell do not want to know about it. This business is rough and depressing enough without you lot making things worse by introducing my virgin sensibilities to the negativity I’ve been fortunate enough to avoid so far. So there! :P

Now, truth be told, we all know just how much of a pain in the ass the above question is. It probably wouldn’t be so bad if the gatekeepers would just give us a hint as to why they didn’t want our story… or at least come right out and tell us we suck mountainous rocks. But, no. For the most part they just leave us to twist in the wind like an old plastic bag that got caught in the limbs of a dead tree.

To be fair, though, you’d have to know how busy agents and editors really are. And I’m not even going to go into how much they actually have riding on the decisions they make daily. Agents a little less so than an editor. All the agent misses out on with a bad decision is a potential commission. The editor risks their job if they make too many gaffs and start costing the publisher money.

Ok, you caught me. I did it anyway. But you can’t begin to understand why you may have gotten that form rejection without understanding what the other guy has laid on the line.

Quite honestly, almost every rejection you get will be a type of form rejection. Face it, brothers and sisters, your manuscript is one of hundreds that come in the P.O. box, or e-mail, daily. The gatekeeper’s ‘to do’ box grows at a rate that would make a politician’s bank account jealous. Odds are, unless the ‘personalized’ rejection was hand written expressly to you; it’s just a gentler form rejection that has probably been sent to quite a few other would be authors, verbatim.

Like it, or not, we’re just another faceless manuscript in an ever growing pile of manuscripts. If you have ever done a well thought out critique, then try to imagine doing that for several 100,000 plus word stories a day. Starting to see why you get a form rejection instead of a personal response that will take twenty or more minutes to write, yet?

Hell, it takes me a whole day to do a critique of one chapter for one of my crit partners. I can’t even imagine trying to do it for a whole novel with a hundred more waiting for me to get to them. And we want an agent to drop what they’re doing and give us detailed reasons for our rejections? Would you, if you had all that work to do? (For those of you who said, “Yes.”, I’m Henry the Eighth… pleased to meet you.)

So, I’m going to let you in on a big secret in the publishing industry. When you have a polished story that has been put through all the proper channels of beta reading, critique partnering, revisions and rewriting, then still get a form rejection. The most likely reason is this: The agent, or editor did not think they could sell it.

It’s actually that simple. This is a business, and if they don’t believe they can make a buck or two off the work they are going to reject it. None of the gatekeepers are in the business to give you, or me, writing lessons. That is our job, not theirs.

If you suspect it is your writing, then you need to get busy with your end of the deal and work on your art. If you do have a good story that the gatekeepers don’t think they can sell, then you have two options. Trunk the book as a non-commercial idea whose time has not yet come, or prove ‘em wrong and put it out there yourself. After all, the reading public is the only critic whose opinion is worth a damn, anyway.

If you can sell it big, I’ll personally guarantee the agents and editors will be beating a path to your door to represent your next book. As I said, this is a business, and you just proved beyond doubt that you are a saleable commodity.

Does the post seem a bit cold so far? That’s probably because this is a cold business to try and break into. It always has been, and a little research into the struggle of famous authors will prove it. But, I am not a cold person, and neither are a lot of other writers I know of. So, in that spirit, and being true to my real nature, let me offer you some help in getting where you want to go. (If your still reading this, that is.)

There is wonderful on line community of writers in all phases of the publishing experience known as AgentQuery Connect. You can find all sorts of help on every phase of this job there. I warn you though, it is an addictive place to be.

Another fantastic on line resource for writers is WritetoDone. I would also highly suggest downloading their free EBook, The (nearly) Ultimate Guide to Better Writing. The link for it is on every page there, so you won’t have any trouble finding it.

Ok, so much for the free resources that can help you cut your odds of being rejected. Time to see just how serious you are about becoming a published writer. How bad do you want it, and how much are you willing to invest in yourself, and your craft? I’m not talking a fortune here, but if you are unwilling to spend a little on yourself and your craft, then I have to question just how badly you really do want to be a writer.

There are two books from The Writer’s Digest that are really helpful. Bargain hunters can probably find them cheaper on Amazon, but however you get a hold of them, by all means, stop being so cheap and get them. They are:

No More Rejections: (50 Secrets To Writing A Manuscript That Sells), by Alice Orr

and

Writing the Popular Novel, by Loren D. Estleman

Google both titles, or follow the above link to The Writer’s Digest, and acquire them both. At the worst you’ll spend about $45.00 on yourself and your craft. Surely you’re worth $45.00? Well I think you are, and you’ll be very happy if you think so, too. (C’mon, be honest. You spent at least that much in one month on entertainment that didn’t do a thing for your career.)

Best of luck, and…

later, Gang! ;)

Why Am I Doing This?   Leave a comment

Well hi there, brothers and sisters.

Since Aaron kick started me with the blog I did last week, I figured it might be a good idea if I got back to keeping up with my responsibilities’ around here. I mean there’s no sense in having a blog if you don’t blog, is there? The only problem is, I tend to run out of subjects to blather on about. But I’ll give it a shot and try to get at least one blog in a week… maybe two if I’m lucky.

Now you may suspect that the above title pertains to this blog, but it doesn’t. Instead the title is a paraphrased version of a question I have been asked a few times about my nearly finished novel, Wolfsong. It generally gets asked when the person posing the question discovers that I plan on giving away a novel that I’ve been working on and revising for the past three years.

Usually the actual question is, “You worked on this story for three years, and you’re going to give it away for free? For God’s sake why?” Or something along similar lines.

Putting aside the look on the questioner’s face at the moment, (The one that makes me suspect they have the local mental health clinic on speed dial and are thumbing the button.), it’s a legitimate question. Why am I basically working for free over the last three years? The truth is… I’m not.

Wolfsong actually began as something of an experiment, and a bet between my wife, Tammie, and myself. She had found a few short stories that I did ages ago and kept for sentimental reasons. She also discovered an online story I co-wrote on a renaissance festival site that encourages such things. Which prompted her to ask why I didn’t write anymore.

I went on to explain that writing was one damned hard profession to make a living at, and made certain to include all the negative things that I’d come up against back in the 80s. I might as well have been discussing advanced quantum mechanics with the Statue of Liberty. Not that she didn’t understand… she did. But, the poor dear has more faith in me than I have any right to expect.

So, just to prove my point, I went back to work and created Wolfsong. To be fair, I did my best at the time, and put every outdated thing I remembered about writing into it. Then, I tried to sabotage the whole mess by making the book a POD, (Print On Demand), and doing absolutely as little as I could to promote it. My evil plan was to be able to say, “See? I told you so.” It didn’t quite work out that way. The darn thing double crossed me and sold a few copies, (So, you see, I already did make a couple of bucks off the story.).

Ok. So she was right, and I was wrong. If I’d have known at the time such a thing would happen, I would have done a better job on the story. Now that I know, I am doing just that. I pulled the title, treating it as a rough draft, (And believe me, boys and girls… it IS a rough draft.), then set to work rewriting and revising the story. The difference now is, I want to attract some readers. To do that I need to put my A-game forward instead of just a half-hearted attempt to prove myself right and my poor wife wrong. I never win at that one, anyway. But I keep trying.

Now, I’m certainly not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but I did realize that the story had some potential to attract that many readers with no promoting. A couple even left me nice reviews. So I decided to put my blood, sweat, and soul into the story and polish it to a flawless diamond shine. Or, as close as I could get it.

I found some beta readers, a few critique partners, and let them rip into my baby with both barrels. If you happen to be a writer who hasn’t done this yet with your story; you’ll soon understand why Leopold von Sacher-Masoch was a writer.

In the meanwhile, as I worked on the seemingly endless revisions, I got back into relearning the craft. My dear aforementioned wife presented my with a library of books on writing, and I began getting back into the swing of things.

All of this preamble aside; Why am I doing this? To improve my writing? Yes. In the hopes of gaining a larger readership? Yes. To have a chance of making a living? Honestly. Yes.

But most of all; I am doing this to provide what readers I can get with the best work I can possibly turn out at any given moment. I kind of think they deserve it, even if it is free. And win, lose, or draw, I will always believe that.

Later, Gang. ;)

It’s Not What You Write About   7 comments

I’m pretty sure most of us have heard that old saw, “It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.” Well with that in mind, because it is true more often than not, let’s apply that to writing. It’s not what you write about, it’s how you write it.

Let’s face it. Ebook publishing, and POD publishing, has made it easy to get a story out there to the public. For serious writers who sweat and toil over their craft, trying to turn out the best product they can, this is damn good news. The downside, (There always seems to be a downside.), is that same ease has opened up a flood gate of pure garbage from the get-rich-quick writing-is-easy crowd. Anyone who thinks that has never tried to seriously write a grocery list, much less a novel.

The result is; there are a lot of Tara Gilesbies putting out feature length versions of My Immortal, or pretty close to it, every day. If you don’t know what, or who, I’m referring to here count yourself lucky. If you happen to Google My Immortal or Tara, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

My good friend, and fellow writer, Darke Conteur, assures me that eventually these characters will fade from the scene. I hope she is right, but I don’t think she’s considered the fresh crop of Taras popping up daily. (BTW, Darke has two ebooks published, and I can 100% guarantee you that both are well worth reading. Darke is very serious about her craft and how well her stories come out. Darke writes some damn good Paranormal Fantasy and you can check her work out here at Smashwords.com. At $.99, and $1.99 neither novel will break the bank, and you’ll more than get your money’s worth.)

Our mission as serious writers/storytellers is to make certain we put out the best we can do. The truth is this has little to do with genre, or idea, but it has everything to do with how you tell your story.

To illustrate my point, what would you think if I told you I had an idea about a full length novel involving rabbits. I would even give them their own pseudo language, and there wouldn’t be a human being in the whole story. Sounds like a silly idea for a novel, or a children’s book doesn’t it? But that is exactly the idea Richard Adams had when he wrote the best selling classic, Watership Down. And it certainly isn’t a children’s book, it’s classified as a heroic fantasy.

Now, on it’s own, most agents, publishing houses, and editors would dissmiss such a concept for a novel out of hand. Naturally that didn’t happen, and the reason was because Mr. Adams knows how to write a story. It wasn’t what he wrote about that made Watership Down a international best seller for thirty years, it was how he wrote it. There in lies the rub.

All too many future authors spend too much time trying to pin down the next trend in writing, or follow the current trend all too closely. Instead they should be working on how to tell a good story. How to write fiction that sells.

True it is scarier to do so, your taking a risk. But, no more so than the risk we take by just being another faceless member of the follow-the-popular-trend crowd. Even then, if we work hard on how to tell a good story, it is possible to upset the current King/Queen of the hill, and take their spot for ourselves. Actually that last part is even harder than striking out on your own literary path. The odds of being dismissed as a “copycat writer” are better than the ones you’ll face in blazing your own trail.

So, how do you learn to write a novel that sells?

There are plenty of “how to” books out there that can tell you just that. All you have to do is be willing to listen, and apply what they have to teach. Writer’s Digest has a slew of them, and it’s worth the small expense to pick out one, or two, and learn the craft. Even the poorest of us can put a buck, or two aside a week. Maybe even hint at a birthday, or Christmas present. And there is always the library.

Either way, it’s a small investment that will pay you big dividends later on. It may also save you from becoming the Tara Gilesbie of the E-publishing world. Well maybe not that bad, but would you even want to be considered a close second in that contest? ;)

Later, Gang;
Pete

Digital Self-Publishing and DYI   Leave a comment

Keeping up with the changes to the world of writing over the past couple of decades or so, seems daunting enough. Between Print On Demand technologies, Epublishing, Kindle, Mobi, Barnes&Noble getting in on the ebook reader bandwagon, as well as the ever shrinking advances and support from the traditional publishing houses; it can feel more than a bit overwhelming for the aspiring author. Particularly if you happen to be completely new to the business.

To make matters worse, if you do decide to go the self-publishing route you will discover that everything is left in your hands. This means that you are responsible for Graphics, (your cover art); Typesetting, (the look of your book), Proofreading (finding all those niggeling little gaffs that people will point to and say, “What a dumbass.”); Editing, (I don’t really have to explain this one, do I?); Marketing, (Advertising, promoting, etc.); and Formatting, (making certain your ‘baby’ looks just as good in Kindle as it does in Mobi, etc.).

Unless you happen to have major bank to hire a pro to do these jobs for you, you are stuck with Do It Yourself, (DYI). The problem here is, not all of us are Graphic artists, Salesmen, or typesetters. (Plus one points if you know what kerning is. If you have to look it up, then you know what I’m rambling on about.)

Now, I don’t know about you, but I don’t have a big bankroll to spend on any of these necessary endeavors. To be honest, with my medical bills I’m doing well to ensure we get to eat something besides soup beans once a month around the old homestead. That fact alone leaves me in pretty much the same situation as most of you out there.

And lets face it, most of us are not computer programmers. So formatting in different reader languages holds the same frustration as trying to write a gaming program in C++, Pascal, Cobal, and Assembly simultaneously. Which doesn’t take into consideration that most programs are notoriously stubborn about reading another programs files. In fact they’re downright prejudiced about it. One of the reasons that webpages view differently between browsers.

But, take heart. Although this all seems to be akin to climbing Mount Everest with nothing more than a bag of rosin and a pair of tennis shoes for equipment, there is much we can learn to make the task easier. We might not be able to do every one of those tasks that go into publishing a book, but what we can do will go a long way towards “rolling our own.”

For this round let’s focus on formatting. Since most of us are trying to make a living as writers, we need to build as large a readership as we possibly can within our chosen genres. This means that we can not rely on Amazon, or Smashwords to do the job for us. Well, we can with Smashwords, to an extent. But that seems akin to allowing someone else to breathe for us. It might work, but it probably won’t work as well as breathing for ourselves.

Unless you are proficient in HTML, XML, or Mobi, you’re going to have to find a way to accomplish this task for ourselves. As you probably guessed, this means a couple of programs to do the job for us, and a way to check our results.

First off you will need at least two separate ebook reading programs, one for Kindle and one for Mobi, (Barns& Noble use the Mobi format). The Kindle reader program is free for your PC, and can be found here from Amazon. Mobi format reader for PC can also be downloaded for free here. And if you want to make certain that you have as many possible versions to cover as many bases as you can, here is where you can find out about The Top 4 Free ePub Readers for PC.

Ok. Now that we have a way to actually see what our ebook will look like in pretty much all the top ebook readers, it’s time to get down to some serious DYI formatting.

The easiest way to get this part of the job done also involves two free programs. One is Sigil, a What You See Is What You Get, (WYSIWYG), ebook editor; the other is Calibre, an ebook manager capable of doing a pretty good job of changing an ebook’s format without messing up the book’s look… most of the time. To fix any problems you may have in this, and other areas of useing these two programs to format your own ebooks for self-publishing, here are some links to a few tutorials that can help you over those rough spots:

IT Connect/Creating ePUB Ebooks.

How To Easily Write and Publish Ebooks with Sigil.

Getting Started with Calibre.

Now, before you get to thinking this is easy, don’t. It is easier than learning HTML, or Mobi coding language, but your still going to have to do some serious work. The upside is, you will know for certain how your book is going to look to the reader. The more proficient you become in using these programs, the more professional your ebook will look.

Good luck, and I hope this makes it easier for you to get the results you want.

Ever;
Pete

What Red Flag?   12 comments

A strange malady that seems to infect aspiring authors is a form of color blindness. In particular a blindness to the color red. Often when a red flag shows up in their story they have an immediate tendency to turn it into a transparency. This usually manifests itself as having to explain/defend large parts of the story.

I’m not saying that there won’t be a handful of people who don’t get it, you can’t please everyone. But when there are a significant number of folks getting stuck on the same thing. Something is wrong and explaining/defending it isn’t going to make it go away.

It should be obvious at this point that for your story to work, you are going to have to follow every copy around and explain the same points to every reader. Now, I’m not the smartest guy slogging through life, but I’m pretty sure that is not a viable option. I’d also be willing to bet that the average reader isn’t going to wait for you to show up to explain your genius to them. Their just going to dump the story, experience buyer’s remorse, and cross you off their reading list.

As I said, I’m not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but that just doesn’t seem like a sound business strategy to me. And make no mistake, dear readers, unless you are just writing to please yourself, this is a business. A business that depends as much on repeat customers as it does on new ones. Deliberately sacrificing repeat business for the sake of your ego is a sure trip to has-been land. If you ever make it out of never-was land in the first place.

There is a wonderful little business book by F.J. Lennon called; Every Mistake In The Book: A Business How Not To. (Yes, I read business books as well, because this IS the publishing business, and I want to succeed at it.) Mr. Lennon has made just about every business mistake you can think of, and a heck of a lot that you haven’t. So when he says to do, or not do something, I have to bow to his experience. After all, he has already paid the price for that mistake… damned if I want to pay it too!

Hear are just a few pearls of wisdom he learned the hard way, but they apply to the business of writing as well as any other. Ignore them at your own peril.

Give the people what they want, not what you think they should have.

In other words, if you are ignoring the red flags, explaining/defending every little point YOU want to keep in your magnum opus, you are giving the people what you think they should have, not what they want. Mr. Lennon lost his first company doing this, you’ll lose your career. If you ever get one in the first place doing this.

Make money, then art.

This goes right along with the above. Before you begin to make these fantastic art driven vehicles for your amazing prose, you better be a brand first. To do that you have to garner a reading public and hold onto them. Otherwise, consider a career writing fan fiction for free. (To be honest, I personally wouldn’t risk it then. Readers do not have to stay with you and there are literally millions of up and comers waiting to take your place.)

Above all else, don’t make crap.

This should be self explanatory, but I’ll bet that it isn’t. If you are just starting out, not a brand name author, turning out what you want, and shooting for high art that has to be explained/defended to more than one person… you ARE turning out crap. It’s that simple.

Readers want to be entertained. They do not want to have to scratch their heads, wonder WTF you mean by those new words you made up, or where in hell your going with this. They want you to guide them through your story as effortlessly as possible.

If you find yourself having to explain/defend large portions of your story, that is a big red flag. Pay it heed, or ignore it as you will. It’s your story, your career. Believe me, the big name authors won’t really care that much, because you won’t be taking any readers away from them any time soon.

Ever;
Pete

You Want Me To Do What?!   4 comments

I’ve not spoken much about my standing in the Speculative Fiction Marathon, and there is good reason for it. Thus far I have either been very good, or very lucky. In the reviews of the first three chapters I have received only one ‘No’ vote. I didn’t address the issue because it would feel like bragging to me. I hate bragging, especially from myself. Bragging seems like an open opportunity to stick your foot in your mouth, and I haven’t sucked my toes since I was about 14 months old. At least, not if I could help it.

So, why bring it up now? Simply because it appears that I will be re-writing and re-posting chapter four. The vote stands at two ‘Yes’, and two ‘No.’ (See? If I had been crowing about my ‘stellar record’, I’d be dining on that same crow right about now.)

But, I digress. This offers me a perfect opportunity to muse about re-writing, plot holes, and editing in general. It also allows me to muse about these bumps in the road leading to published author, and the aspiring writer’s near phobic aversion to them.

If you are really serious about making a career as a writer, that’s all they are. Bumps in the road. If small things like this are major disasters for you, my sympathies when the really big things hit. You’re gonna get splattered across the literary landscape like semi-truck roadkill.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I am definitely NOT saying that you have to roll over for every little nit that someone discovers in your manuscript. What I am saying is there will be things that you didn’t think of, and to let them go unaddressed simply because the reviewer, critic, or editor doesn’t see your ‘genius’ is just plain s-t-u-p-i-d. 99.99% of the time, you are passing up an opportunity to turn out something of a masterpiece for the sake of your ego.

I don’t know about anyone else, but my ego isn’t the one paying the bills, or trying to get this career off the ground. I am.

Wait a minute! Isn’t my ego the same thing as me? No. My ego is that very small part of me that has a bad habit of getting in the way and screwing up a good thing. Robert L. Ringer, in his seminal classic “Looking Out For Number One”, compared ego to a dinosaur. As long as you feed it, everything is fine. The moment you reach a point where you can’t feed it; it will step on your house.

I’m sorry to say that over the years I have tested this little theory of Robert’s. Know what? There are a few crushed houses in my wake that used to belong to me. Relationships where I just had to be right, jobs where I knew better than the boss, small businesses where I was the Boss and knew better than anyone else. Sometimes I wonder where I would be right now if I hadn’t let ego get in my way.

Think I’m going to let that little S.O.B get in my way this time? Oh, Hell no! If this is going to fail, I can do bad all by myself, thank you.

The point to all this meandering? Mostly it’s been to remind myself what letting my ego get in the way has cost me in the past. But, also to let any other, younger writers know what they have in store for them by letting their own dinosaur run unchecked.

One of the trickiest areas to deal with is knowing when something is a legitimate point, and when it actually is a story destroying opinion. Most things are not. They are simply something you didn’t notice, or a way of handling something that you didn’t think of. I’ll let you in on a little secret, too.

Even the best actor you can think of has a director telling them what to do. It’s the same in the publishing world. Editors, beta readers, agents, and critics are all doing the job of the director. Actors who puff up their ego, no matter how famous, soon find themselves without work. The actors who work with the director find themselves in demand, and very often on the cover of Entertainment Weekly. The same rule holds true for authors… in particular aspiring authors.

For myself, I’ll be re-writing chapter four, regardless. To be truthful about it, I’ll be re-writing the other three chapters as well. Even though they passed, there were many points made that I needed, and I’m sure going to use them. So, in the end it doesn’t really matter if I pass this week, or not. The only difference will be, if I don’t, the rest of the group will get to see the re-write before the story is finished. ;) :D

But, before anyone thinks I’m totally wishy-washy; I will be keeping the term knight. There is ample evidence that the term could have originated with the Celts, as well as the practice of dubbing.

In The Epics of Celtic Ireland, by Jean Markale, (Which analyses the few surviving written accounts of Celtic mythology.) The Celtic God Mananann Mac Lir was often called the Knight of the Sea, and was referred to in the translations this way. Since the Celts did have a word for King, the word used to describe his title is obviously something else, and this word was translated as knight.

See? You don’t have to give up everything. ;)

Ever;
Pete

Tough Enough   6 comments

Working through the AQC Speculative Fiction Marathon is an experience in itself. As a result some things have gotten away from me. The blog, for example. It’s probably not a good idea to let it lay fallow for such a long time. Assuming I still have any readers out there, I’ll try not to do so again.

Jumping back into the blogging fray, it occurred to me that one has to have an extreme degree of toughness to consider becoming a writer. Either that, or just enjoy the sensation of pain. It’s a small wonder that Leopold von Sacher-Masoch was an Austrian writer and journalist. The namesake of masochism couldn’t have chosen a better profession to feed his need. (Short of volunteering to be a human target for a knife throwing class, that is.)

All that said, I will say that I am not a friend of pain. The less I experience that sensation in any of its myriad forms the better. But, like death and taxes, it is impossible to avoid completely. In particular when it stands between you and something you want. Such as becoming a published author, for instance.

When I have often heard a non-writer, and on occasion an aspiring writer, comment on what an easy job writing is; I come to two conclusions. One being that they have never tried to seriously become an author. The other is, they need to stop eating those wild mushrooms before they loose all sense of reality, or accidentally kill themselves.

The truth is, the moment you decide to pursue the career you have set yourself up for more work, and abuse, than you could possibly imagine. Not only is your ‘finished novel’ nowhere near as finished as you think, but the task of polishing your baby into publishing quality is one long hard road to travel. Until the book actually sees print you will be rewriting, revising, and rethinking every nuance in it. In short both your baby, and your ego is in for one hell of a beating.

Don’t think for a moment that self-publishing will save your tail, either. Not if your serious. In many ways self-publishing is harder than traditional publishing. Especially if you ignore any well meaning advise you may receive on your work. Since you won’t have the aid of a seasoned editor to help you, you’ll have to take the advice of your beta readers and peers. Ignore that, and I guarantee your reviews are going to chew you a new one. If you are lucky enough to get a review in the first place.

Even better, none of this so far takes into account the massive amount of work you will have to put into marketing your book, promoting your book, and advertising your book. Then, when all that is said and done, it is still quite possible that you’ve done little more than waste your time, effort, and money. The book can still fail simply because the reading public doesn’t want it.

As I said on AQC recently, (A phrase Darke liked so much she tweeted it.): The publishing business is a dog eat dog world, and we are all wearing Milkbone underwear.

Now, I do have to say that it is not my intention to scare anyone away from a career in writing. Instead I’m just trying to give a heads up. This job isn’t the sweet, work-less deal that many take it for. It is hard and brutal. To have a chance of success you have to be tough. You must be willing to wade through Hell just to sandpaper a wildcat’s ass in a phone booth.

It all boils down to one thing. How bad do you want it?

For myself, hand me a sheet of #6 grit, and close the door on the phone booth. ;)

Ever;
Pete

Marathon Motivation   9 comments

As I explained in my last post, there is a measure of nervousness that goes along with putting your work up for your fellow writers to review, and critique. This is especially true when you have such a great amount of time and work poured into the piece. That is merely a human reaction. The social need for acceptance is core deep in us all. And this is where the writing game gets tough.

All my usual bull-feather slinging aside, acceptance is not my main motivation for putting my story through Marathon. My main motivation is to discover what, and where my story needs improvement. To discover what will stick out in a reader’s mind, and where they might miss something that I needed them to notice. (The technical help doesn’t hurt, either. I can really butcher grammar and punctuation at times. ;) )

Now, I will confess that many of the critiques touched on points that I thought I had sewed up. Imagine my surprise when I found out that I needed to fix some things I thought I had down pat. Yet, there they were and all I can say is, “Thank goodness someone noticed them, because I sure didn’t!

For many aspiring authors things like this can be devastating, and that is only natural. It’s human. But, stop and think for a moment. What might be perceived as rejection is not rejection at all. It is an opportunity. It is a chance to fix things before they really blow up in your face. Which is better? To have a few of your peers say, “You have a problem here that needs fixing?”, or to have the reading public believe you have all the talent of a mudpie?

I don’t know about anyone else, but I prefer the former to the latter. I need all the readers I can get, and to that effect I have to turn out the best product I can offer to them. Few people will take a second chance on a product that breaks the first time you use it. Storytelling is no different, and you rarely get a second chance to make a first impression.

I’m not saying that I wasn’t disappointed, or shocked to read some of the things that others noticed in my story. I was. But, only for the initial second, or two while my ego was trying to break out of its cage. Fortunately for me, my ego isn’t as large as my desire to be an author, and I saw what I was being given to me. Pearls. Again, I can’t speak for anyone else, but I need all of those I can lay my greedy little hands on as well.

It can be said that I’ve been lucky so far. After all, I’ve been given a passing vote by each reviewer, so far. Well, the week ain’t over yet, and who knows what the next reviewers might find? Either way, it will present another chance to make my story better for the reader. I refuse to see it in any other light than an opportunity for taking my storytelling to the next level.

See? All you Dr. Frankensteins in the Speculative Fiction Group are creating a monster. And, in this case, the monster is grateful for all your hard work.

Now, I have to get back to returning the favor.

I’ll try to keep the blog up to date, but my posting may be erratic for the summer. Marathon is far more important at the moment, and I have to do my part to try and help, if I can.

It’s a big debt to try and repay, but I’ll do my best.

Ever;
Pete

Marathon Mania   14 comments

In just two short days from now the Summer posting marathon of the Speculative Fiction Group at AgentQuery Connect begins. To say the least, I’m as nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs over it.

For those of you who may not know; The posting marathon is actually a beta read/critique of a polished work in progress for those of us who belong to the group. In short you end up with several different authors critiquing your story one chapter per week.

Now I am certainly not opposed to critique by my fellow writers. As I’ve often said, I can’t fix what I don’t know about. And with several different authors, from several different levels of publishing experience, I’m sure to get a good cross reference as to what I can do to make the story better. After all, that is my main goal as a writer; to turn out the best possible work that I can.

So, why should I be nervous?

In short, good old fashioned self-doubt. Sure, I like the story. Sure, I think I have been clever, and wove together a tale that will keep the reader turning pages. Sure, close friends and family think its one of the best things they’ve read. But, if all I was after was ego massaging, I wouldn’t be bothering with editing, revising, throwing out old sub-plots that didn’t drive the story, etc,etc. I’d just keep bugging friends and family so I could hear them say, “You should publish this.”

(Bless their hearts, but they have said that about any piece of garbage that I’ve concocted over the years. And, believe me, there were more than a few stinkers in that mix.)

No, what’s keeping my shaky meter in the red are the same old nagging thoughts that plague any wanna-be author. What if the premise of the story isn’t as hot as I think it is? What if my characters are not properly defined, and my plots are actually juvenile, and tripe? Worse yet, what if my storytelling is boring?!

In a couple of days, I’ll find out.

Now, just for argument’s sake, let us suppose that the worse proves true. What then? Should I just chuck the whole mess, and start thinking about a career flipping burgers, or asking, “Do you want fries with that?”

Maybe. But, my gut reaction is, “OH, HELL NO!” No way am I going to blow an opportunity like this by turning belly up over some bad reviews. What I am going to do is learn from the experience, work on my weak areas, and take yet another running shot at it. Perhaps with a new story, if the current one is unsalvageable.

Does it bother me that I may have wasted three years on this particular story? A little. Still, it isn’t the end of the world. If the tale isn’t what I thought it was, at least I’ll know why, and that is worth its weight in gold to an aspiring writer.

All too often I’ve seen new writers who believe that their story is akin to the wealth of the Indies. They seem to pin all their hopes on a single story, and God help them if so much as a single sentence is looked upon in a negative light. Speaking for myself, this appears to be the most egotistical approach to writing that anyone could take. Just who are these people trying to please? The readership, or themselves?

If they are trying to please themselves, congratulations, they already succeeded. If they are trying to please a readership, I think they have a long hard road ahead of them.

It is true that you can not fill a cup which is already full. More often than not, this particular cup is full of itself. Hopefully, I can remain the kind of writer cum author who checks their ego at the door when it comes to the story. Fully knowing that not everything I put down to a word processor is genius.

All rambling aside, like anyone else, I’m hoping that the story will be well received. I certainly know that it isn’t perfect. Perfection is an impossibility. Yet, I would like to get as close as I can. At least I’m lucky enough to have a place where I can get plenty of feed back, and that is a good thing. :D

I’ve two more days to polish the story a bit more, then comes the acid test.

Wish me luck, if you will.

Ever;
Pete

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