Archive for November 2012

Revisions, Revisions   4 comments

Ah, the bane of every writer’s life; the dreaded revision. Or is it?

Truth is, whether or not a revision is a pain in the ass happens to be a matter of perspective. But, then again, so are most things we all tend to gripe about. Still let’s take a look at this necessary evil, and see what most of us are really having conniption fits about.

Most authors consider their manuscripts their ‘babies.’ OK, let’s accept that premise, and take a look at our stories from that perspective.

What would we want for our real child if we could give them anything? Would we give our sons and daughters every advantage they could have to succeed in life on their own? Sure we would. We would give them the ability to make friends easily. Captivate others with their charisma, and be popular. We’d remove every defect life hands them. Give them perfect eyesight, healthy athletic bodies, and strong personalities.

Would we piss and moan about it, if we could do that for our children? Would we complain if we had do it again, because what we thought was an advantage wasn’t? Probably not. Would we do it until we got it right for them? Damn straight we would.

That’s a revision, gang. We would do all that for our real babies without as much as a hiccup. But gripe endlessly about having to do the same thing for our ‘babies.’

The reason why is easy to understand. Our egos. We don’t really care about our ‘babies,’ we want our words to be holy writ. We want our genius set in stone, irrevocable, so it is written, so shall it be. In short we care more about ourselves than we do our stories. Otherwise, we wouldn’t be bitching about having to work to make them better.

Personally, being from the ‘story is everything’ school of thought, I don’t mind revisions. I want my stories to be the best I can turn out.

Over time, I’ve created scenes that I thought were the next best thing to Ernest Hemmingway, only to discover they fit the story about as well as your left shoe fits your right foot. They detracted from the story instead of making it stronger. I tossed them aside faster than the days trash and set to work coming up with a scene that did work. Sure it took a while, and I racked my brain for days trying to figure out what actually happened there. But, the end result was a stronger story.

Now what I mean by ‘what happened there’ is I also believe in having the story grow out of the situations that arise, instead of forcing the story to fit the situation I came up with. Which is exactly the mistake I made. I had this great idea, but it didn’t quite fit the way the story was going, so I shoehorned it in anyway. Bad idea and the result was a scene that was as awkward as a fart in a spacesuit… stunk about as bad, too.

Now, I’ll probably do the same thing again. In fact I’m sure I will. But, because I want my ‘baby’ to have every advantage I can give it, I’ll be more than happy to sit down and make any change it needs to make it in this old world.

It’s our duty, our responsibility, and more than that, should be our pleasure.

That’s actually the key to getting out of Revision Hell. Make it a pleasure instead of a chore. You’ll probably find the whole mess goes a lot faster, and is a lot less stressful.

Later, Gang 😉

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Posted November 30, 2012 by Peter Burton in Uncategorized

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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! 😛

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. 😉

The Next Big Thing (Week 23)   Leave a comment

Hoo, Boy!

Looks like I’ve been neglecting my duties here, again. But to my defense; I have been working my hairy fanny off, trying to get my WIP polished to perfection before I turn it loose on the unsuspecting minds of readers everywhere. And believe me, brothers and sisters, if you care about what you do, that takes up a major chunk of your time.

Unknown to me, there is a longstanding blogging tradition among authors known as So You Think You Can Write A Novel. At least it was unknown to me, until my awesome fellow author, and good friend, Aaron Bradford Starr, Tagged me to do this myself. And if you don’t believe me that Aaron deserves the title awesome, take the Pepsi challenge and check out his work through his blog, Imaginary Friend. I’m more than willing to take wagers that you’ll agree.

Following the tradition for a moment I’m supposed to wax all philosophical about being a writer. Well… I would, but those of you who know me know it would be 99 and 44/100s pure BS. In short, I’m an old hack who seems capable of telling stories. And I’m OK with that. Creating entertaining stories that people might enjoy is all I’m really after, anyway. Should something good, (Like making a living.), come out of all of this; I’ll be jumping on my own couch like Tom Cruise on crank.

But enough of this, let’s get to answering the traditional questions, shall we?

1- What is the working title of your book?
Wolfsong: Child of Fenrir. The book is a stand alone story that I propose to expand into a trilogy. Awwww. Who am I kiddin’? It is a trilogy, but you can read one book and it will be a story all unto itself. No tricks, no BS. No having to wonder what comes next, unless you happen like it and want to know what else I have in mind for my characters.

2- Where did the idea come from for the book?
My love of Robert E. Howard’s Conan series. I wondered if I could create a swashbuckling hero along the same lines without making a carbon copy of Conan. At least that was the initial challenge, and like all ideas, it ballooned into something else from there. Did I succeed? I’ll leave the answer to that up to you dear readers. I happen to agree with Mark Twain: Your opinion is the only one that really counts.

3- What genre does your book fall under?
That’s a toughie. It has nearly equal elements of Fantasy, History, Action Adventure, and Romance. I guess if I had to pick a genre for it, it would probably be Historical Fantasy.

4- Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
Morgan Wulfsson: Cris Hemsworth. Nivia Gwynn: Uma Thurman. Marcus Octavius: Tom Hiddleston

5- What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
During the Roman occupation of Britain an unlikely hero arose to stop the expansion, and in the process gave England its most enduring legend.

6- Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
Self-published. As a matter of fact, I plan on making it free. At least as far as the e-book goes. The Print On Demand hard copy I plan to cut to the bare bone on price, if anyone would prefer a traditional book to an e-book, that is. On Amazon, Smashwords, and hopefully all the other e-book venues I can get into, it will be free, though. The idea being that I hope to attract readers who will enjoy my stories, and the ones who don’t won’t lose money by taking a chance on me. No one can please everyone, but i hope to please as many as I can. Hence all the work I’m putting into the project.

7- How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
One year. And BOY! Was it R-O-U-G-H draft. A lot of it was a good idea, but quite a bit was just plain silly. I could have probably sold those parts to Monty Python.

8- What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Another tough question. (Hey Aaron! I thought you said these were easy?) I would have compared Wolfsong to the Conan stories at one time, but things have deviated so far that I don’t think that would apply, except for superficially. I do know what movies it would compare to, though: Dragonheart, Troy, Alexander, and Kingdom of Heaven. (Hope that qualifies.)

9- Who or What inspired you to write this book?
My wife, Tammie. She found some of my old short stories, and a story that i co-wrote on a Renaissance festival website. She was the one who encouraged me to get back into the game. I resisted for a while, then did it just to prove to her it was a dead end. I ended up eating crow on that one and made some sales that put real money in our pocket. Ya know something? Considering how things have gone so far, crow don’t taste all that bad.

10- What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
There is a lot of research into the culture of the Celts and their reaction to Rome in the book. I also did my best to present an accurate picture of how Celtic life could have been in those days. Considering that the Celts did not have a written history, and I’m certainly not saying that I hit the nail on the head, I think I’ve presented a story that is imaginative, and plausable. More than anything, even though it is a fantasy and contains the traditional elements of fantasy, (Magic, mythic beings, etc.), I think the reader will come away thinking, “You know, that could have happened.”

OK, Gang, here is where I let you all know who I tagged to do this with their stories next week. Now, since Arron and I move in pretty much the same circles, we share pretty much the same author friends. So, when I say the pickin’s are slim, you know I’m not just flappin’ my gums at ya. I’m waiting to hear from a few other great authors I know. However, since I have a week to fill this up a bit…

I do have the incredible Joyce Alton of Yesternight’s Voyage on the hook for the 21st of the month. Be sure to check out what she has to offer on the above subject. I also have the amazingly talented Alisha Marie Klapheke, and her blog, I Heart Words. So be certain to check what they have on their own great works. That way you’ll be sure to catch The Next Big Thing.

Now all this still leaves me with three more spots to fill, and if I can sucker… Uhhhh, con… Uhhh talk three more fantastic authors in my circle into doing this, I’ll be sure to update the post. So check back here over the next seven days, and be sure you don’t miss Joyce, or Alisha giving you the lowdown on their books. Who knows? You could be saying to your friends. I knew about that best seller before you did.

Later, Gang!