Archive for the ‘aspiring author’ 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! 😛

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! 😉

Swigging The Muse, Fighting The Urge   Leave a comment

Nope. Sorry to disappoint, but this little post is not about the hazards of addiction, or alcoholism in the writing profession. Well maybe one addiction, but we’ll get to that in a moment. As far as alcoholism goes; I take the fifth. Maybe the pint, but that’s another story. 😉

This post is about the most insidious addiction any aspiring author can face: The desire to get published. Like all addictions this one has more hidden traps than a politician has lies. If we’re not careful it can also land you in a hole that Betty Ford can’t dig you out of.

Besides our love of storytelling, and much like a drug, there are few things that will give a writer a bigger high than when the muse is pouring out full force. Hence the first half of the title. When we are hitting the groove, and the well of clever creativity seems bottomless, that’s when the addiction to publish rears its ugly head. We become as desperate as a heroin junky to have our baby shown to the world. If Satan showed up at that moment with a contract in hand, we would jump at the chance, or at least seriously consider it. The problem is he often does, but doesn’t look like himself so we’ll be more likely to take the bait.

By now, most of us know about the land sharks that swim through the business of writing. If not, then I suggest bookmarking two sites that can help the newbie to identify these publishing leeches. One of the best is Predators and Editors. The other is, Writer Beware by the SFWA.

However, these are not the only forms the publishing addiction devil can take. One of the worst, and most devious is when he takes the form of YOU. When Louis Binstock first said, “Very often we are our own worst enemy…”, he wasn’t lying, and that little cliche deserves a place carved in gold.

A true story, and I’m not naming names because this can happen to anyone and I don’t want to embarrass, only illustrate. A very talented writer I know recently epublished a very good novel. Thinking that they had exhausted their list of agents, and none of them were interested they decided to go to the readers with their book. Normally this is a very good tactic these days. You have to work your tailbone off to get some recognition, but your story has a chance of gaining a audience and you have a chance to gain a career. All in all it is a smart move. Unless, as in their case, an agent you forgot about suddenly pops up asking for a look at the manuscript.

Yep, that is just what happened, and my heart goes out to them. Most agents won’t touch a story once it has been epublished, and neither will most publishing houses. The possible exception being a story that is raking in the bucks. Even then, they would be likely to offer publishing your next book instead of going with the epublished one. In a way it’s not really fair, since you did all the work gaining a readership, and now they want a piece of your pie, but that’s the way it plays out most of the time.

Let’s face it; epublishing and POD (Print On Demand) publishing is something of a godsend to a struggling author. But, if you allow the addiction of getting published to drive you like a mule team, it can also be your worst enemy.

Another way this “golden goose” can trip you up is by turning out bad writing. As hard as it is to live down a bad reputation in the real world, it can be a thousand times worse here in cyberspace. Especially if that rep goes viral. At that point your probably better off turning to a pen name and starting all over again from scratch.

This is why an editor or, a whole trailer truck of beta readers, is so important in serious epublishing. Even then there are no guarantees, but at least your not putting the noose on yourself, and jumping off the gallows on your own.

The point to all this drivel? Haste does indeed make waste. Being in a rush to publish is usually a suicide charge into a machine gun nest. If your very lucky, you might only get wounded, odds are your gonna get cut in half.

This is a slow business, no matter how you approach it. Take your time, get it right, and most of all do not jump at the chance to get published in any form. You have all the time that is left to you. Make it work for you, instead of against you, and keep that addiction locked up tight in a little cell somewhere.

In the end, you may just be glad you did.

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

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. 😉 😀

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