Thursday, July 28, 2011

Thirteen Days Left & Other Nonsense

There are, as of right now, thirteen days left in my querying cycle for Memories of the Dead, and after that, there are no further queries to be made, sent, or probably ever receive a response from those to whom I sent it. That day will mark the end of PLAN A, and the beginning of PLAN B, which I've informed you all about prior.

The thing is, I'm sort of happy to see the second phase of my devious master plan come into focus. The queries I've sent out haven't got the attention needed--probably my fault, as queries do, in fact, suck a whole lot; and I find them actually harder to write than the actual novel--and that's the thing, the whole query process, being broken and all, is all there is and I--just like everyone else--have to "like it or lump it." I get to "lump it," it seems. Frankly, I think everyone "lumps it" since nobody likes queries: they are the bane of all authors.

It's bittersweet, really. I like the story, others seem to as well, the readers I have all think it's "worth something" (define that as you will), but apparently I've managed to make something that isn't quite within my reach of ability to market successfully. That's the real bummer. I can write a book, some 68 thousand words long, but can't manage to craft a sales-blurb of less than 250 words that seems to hook an agent. I just don't "think" in those small of terms when I write, sadly. It's a skill I don't have, but appreciate immensely.

Along the way, I've received good feedback from agents--well, the ones that bothered to write something other than a form letter rejection--they use words like "compelling," "interesting," and "intriguing." But even those positive words from their own lips was not enough to get them to ask for a full; although I did manage to snag one who requested a partial (50 pages).

Even getting this far is no easy feat. When I started out, it seemed to me that the story would be no more than about 5000 words, I guessed at the time. But before I knew it, there were multiples of that sitting there before me, and the tale wasn't even done being told. The lesson I learned is, I am not good at guessing length when I'm envisioning a story.

I'm very happy to say, "I wrote that!" Even if others might question it's worth or value. Not everyone can say that they've written a book--many plan on doing so, but fewer still complete the journey even once. I can take some comfort in that. And now, I'm well on my way to book number two, MINIMAL--perhaps the querying for it will be less troublesome. We'll see.

But I digress (terribly so, it seems), in less than two weeks, the journey that is Memories of the Dead will change course and head down untested waters to tributaries unknown. What will I find there? Perhaps nothing; but perhaps something will be there, in that undiscovered vista, that makes the entire trek all the more worth while.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

So I can't count...

After double-checking my math, I actually submitted to 101 agents, not just 100. Oh, well, a minor discrepancy at best, and certainly not something worth worrying about. And besides, 101 is the number of Dalmatians...perhaps it will be lucky!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Rejections

Read this.

Now tell me, those that approached agents...who was in "the wrong?" Clearly, the agents--that can only be the real answer.

Next, I ask you: what the heck is up with that?

What's up with that, my friends, is simple: agents aren't the be-all-end-all of writing. They only know what they like, not what a ton of readers will like--just them. What does that mean? It means that there needs to be MORE agents, not less. More agencies mean more agents, which in turn means more writers finding the audience they rightly deserve. Which means you and I, as the ultimate consumer, have a far broader selection of novels to read when we head to the corner bookstore.

Agents often act as "the gatekeeper," but keep in mind, the gatekeeper is not the Lord of the Mansion, nor does he necessarily speak for the Lord...and just as often the gatekeeper is just plain not right at all.

They're an opinion--hopefully an educated one--but an opinion none-the-less. Take their rejections in stride as nothing more than "whatever, you just lost, not me," and go to the next agent. That's how you "win."

Now, I had a maximum number I was willing to query, and that number was 100. I hit that target a while ago, and on August 10, 2011, it will have been eight weeks since my last query. If I do not hear back from those agents by that time...game over for them; and as I said in an earlier post, I will move on to direct submissions. My (perhaps in vain) hope is that direct submission to the couple of companies I know of that accept them will be more prosperous. We'll see.

But take this lesson from this: the greats are great, and the agents are just agents; and nobody's perfect.

Milestones

There are lots of milestones to celebrate when crafting your novel, pretty much anything that's a multiple of one-thousand words is a good one.

Right now, I'm within striking distance of being able to say that MINIMAL is really, honest and truly a "novel," as I am currently sitting at ~43000 words. Soon, I hope, it will reach the much-coveted 50000 mark--which is the recognized standard for being a true "novel," by whomever it is that decides these sort of things.

What's funny is, I still have NO FREAKIN' CLUE how long a story it will be! This thing could hit 100000 before I'm done. I really don't know. It's an interesting journey, writing something like this. But as they say: so far, so good.

New Genres

Single writers do not create a genre: movements do. When you have more than one doing something in a new direction, that's a new genre; but for someone to create out of whole-cloth a term just to describe what they're doing (and nobody else uses that term), then you need to question whether they're not "new, fresh, and/or unique" but rather are "weird, incompetent, lazy, or worse."

I say that because I know I haven't created anything new and unique in the world--nothing Earth-shattering--perhaps one day I will, but until that day comes, I'm just a guy writing trying to have a good time while doing so.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Transofrmers 3

Saw the new Transformers movie, and my original opinion still holds true: the appearance of the Transformers is too muddled to be viewable. In a fight, it's terribly hard to know who just got hit--the only reason for the paint on them is to use that as a visual queue. The problem is this: most of the Decepticons have no paint on them. They're just steel-colored.

I know there will not be a 4th movie, but if they change their minds and do it anyway, it would be nice to be able to watch it and be able to follow the action better.

Maybe I just have bad eyesight.

Friday, July 22, 2011

How to treat an agent

Treat a literary agent like they are a fire-breathing dragon, and you are but a small waif of a Hobbit. They will, and can, eat you for lunch. Don't poke them with a sharp stick. Just be resourceful and respectful. That's how Bilbo got away from Smaug, and that's how you need to treat an agent.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The ideal cover artist

I think that, should I ever come into the money to do so, I would hire Larry Elmore to paint a fantastic cover for my book. The man is a legend, no doubt; but his bright palate appeals to me in much the same way the Sistine Chapel ceiling is bright and the palate chosen pleasing to my eyes.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Ugh...

Sometimes, when I write, the words flow effortlessly from mind to page; other times, it's like I'm trying to copy The Iliad by just bashing my forehead against the keyboard.

I am sorely looking forward to the time when I can think the words onto the page using an electronic connection to the computer. But at the same time, I know I will be shocked by some of the thoughts that float out of my subconscious.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Joe is right on the money & other business

Joe Konrath's blog is right on the money. The reason I say this is because his research and math is correct. Yes, I'd much rather have my book in print by one of the big publishing houses; however, I am also not in disagreement with the ebook is here to stay point of view he's been espousing for quite a while now.

So, I'm going to let you all in on a secret: if my Plan A falls through--and it looks like it will--there's Plan B...which I have never mentioned exactly what that is, other than it comes in before Plan Z.

Let me clarify:

  • Plan A = Regular ol' publishing, from a regular ol' methodology (i.e.: query the agent, get signed, etc.)
  • Plan B = Direct submission to a couple of "big deal" publishing houses I know that accept direct submissions
  • Plan Z = Amazon Kindle/Barnes & Noble Nook -- electronically self-publish

Those are the plans and until August 10, I am on Plan A. August 11 is "day one" of Plan B. Plan B remains in effect until I hear back from them all saying "No thanks, bro." Then it's Plan Z and call it the end of the road for Memories of the Dead, which is languishing in the "good, but not good enough" category, apparently.

So, based on the direction I'm receiving, it is looking highly likely that Plan Z is coming on the horizon faster than three winged demons running from a tidal wave of holy water.

And I'm OK with that. I'm OK with it because, for me, the most important thing is not being able to say "I'm a published author!" Rather it's the fact that someone other than the very close group of people I trust have had a chance to read my book--and hopefully enjoy it. I'm not in this for the money or fame, because I know there isn't any; I'm in this because I have a story and I think you might like it, and I hope you'll read it.

When others read my work, I can only hope that they see in it something of value. Something that resonates with them. Something special.

Because, I'll be OK with that, too.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

One Paragraph story

You may not know that over at Reddit.com there's a "sub-reddit" called "OneParagraph," and what they do is ask you (the reader) to submit one paragraph stories--and others there will comment on them. Yesterday, I found that neat little sub-reddit and posted the following:

A penny dropped is a penny lost. But when it rolls into the sewer grate, that's when its real journey begins. Here, deep in the dark, dank, rank, and foul offal of society's underworld lives the Collector. At once a man, and yet no longer, he dwells beneath the city--collecting the detritus that is cast off by the "upper men" who don't know the value of their losses. And when a penny is found by him, it is carefully cleaned and placed into a giant, early-50s designed, copper patinaed mural of the city that hangs lonely and forgotten in the once used but now abandoned fall-out shelter, replacing the oxidized and destroyed flashing that once dominated the reinforced concrete entryway which serves as the Collector's home beneath the streets. Here he laments his loss of humanity and watches the masses pass by from the protected, self-inflicted cage of the sewer drains. The men above have passed him by, unknowing, as he watched--their bustling and rustling compelling and repulsive at the same time. Though he longed for the surface air, he could not--he dare not--return to his former life, for he vaguely remembered that terrible day; and what recollection he still had of that tragedy warned him: what transpires against one member of a family befalls them all.

The best part is, I received (so far) some very nice feedback. You know, it's always nice to hear something good about my writing, considering I'm still languishing in rejection-letter hell. It gives me hope, and with such a short blurb as the above I'm not really all that vested in it as much as, say, my novel. Pretty fun, Head on over and check it out.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Geek out time

This Friday, the final Harry Potter movie comes out. Being the geek I am, I already have my tickets purchased. I know, it's lame, but I have been following the movie exploits of these unfortunate, young wizards and witches for a while--and they deserve to be seen through to the end. So, Friday, at or around 9PM Central USA Time, I'll be watching the WB logo whip onto the screen for the final time in Harry's life. Sad and cool, at the same time.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

I wish...

I wish I had the ability to know if what I'm writing is worth something to someone other than myself. I write, and I enjoy it, but I'd love to know if it's really worth something--such as a person's time and energy to read. Or am I just a dude, sitting around, writing stuff that nobody (other than me) will ever care about? It would be handy to know, and I have no idea how the truth would change my mentality about writing.

Friday, July 8, 2011

"What if?"

"What if?" is the greatest question that can be asked to a writer, or by the writer about literally anything. It is the beginning of every story, of every quest, and it is the very basis of why I write.

To me, my writing is more than an escape from the mundane-ness of my reality; it is allowing me to be the all-powerful creator for one moment in time. If I choose to be malevolent to my creations, so be it. If I wish to bless them with wealth and power, even more acceptable. I can do, say, prepare, inspire, or destroy anything I want.

And it is all because I asked myself that very loaded and open-ended question: What if?

It's so easy to do, the actual writing is the hard part. I love the "what if?" Sometimes, I am surprised (or just don't like) the answers to that question that might come forth, but that's ok. Not all "what if's" are going to be pleasant for the character to undergo.

That's when I learn the most, really, not about me, but about my characters. I learn silly minutia about them, and I learn how they react when they're out of their element. All because of "What if?"

My current story, MINIMAL, has an antagonist as the primary "mover and shaker" of what's going on, he's seedy, cocky, twisted, and self-assured about everything--including his own abilities--but he's about to get a curve-ball thrown his way. How will he react, I wonder?

Don't know. And that's the "What if?" moment I'm dealing with right now. See, I write my stuff but don't plot my way through it all, I know where I'm going--I just have to get there: the journey is the most important thing, provided I make it to the destination it matters little which road I travel while writing.

How will the bad guy take it? Is he gonna cave under the pressure, or rise above it?

That's "What if?", and I love it.

"What if?" is what allows me, as an adult, to continue to play "make believe" and get away with it. Einstein called it "Thought Experiments," but no matter who calls it what, nor how illustrious the career or the man who says it, it's still the same thing: "What if?"

To me, that's the core of writing. I get to play in the fields I make in my mind, and I get to bring you along. Sometimes the games we play aren't traditional or fun, but that's the great part...next time, the game is new.

Hmmm, I wonder what if?...

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Are agents getting jaded?

That's the question. With workshops and writing skills arguably making things "better," which means that the job of the agent is getting "harder," does this mean that they have to set their sights higher to find the next great big story?

Or...are they just getting jaded from the job?

See, here's what I'm on about: with a similar profession (movie critic), when the job is new and fresh, things are clean, clear, happy. Reviews flow swimmingly, and there's a lot of praise from that critic--he or she seems to be amiable and likes a lot of things. But as time goes on...they get a world view that is more "dim," for a lack of a better word. Cynical, perhaps; or less enthusiastic. Regardless, what happens is there appears to be a law of diminishing gain in play: over time the critic becomes more critical, if that makes sense.

Same too with literary agents? Just wondering. Since I don't actually know an agent--it's not like I can call up, for instance, Janet Reid, or one of the ladies at BookEnds and ask them, I leave it to you. Maybe one of you know.

I'm not naming names

The last few books I've read--and no, I will not tell you titles or authors--have been, to put it mildly, boring. There was really little "there" to make me want to continue to turn pages. I did, of course, because I often find myself possessed by a morbid curiosity about what fell fate will come to the characters; but for the most part they were "ho hum" sort of things.

Which makes me ask: how did these things, being dull, get published in the first place? Was their query so massively awesome (or a lie) that the agent and publisher said "Quick! We gotta have this! This dude (or girl) is the next friggin' Mark Twain!" Or is it that the publisher just had a slot to fill and they randomly reached into the pile of slush and pulled out "a winner"?

Beats me. But I have to tell you, if going by my own experiences is any lesson, it has to be blind, random luck. Truly, the book was the epitome of "meh," and you know what that means. I hadn't been so disappointed since I read some truly awful Poul Anderson sci-fi (or what was supposed to be sci-fi) back when I was a younger man.

I know, this post really doesn't go anyplace, it was just a passing thought I had that I figured I'd let out to the crowd. Don't kill me, ok?

Friday, July 1, 2011

Keep submission rejections in perspective, that's the lesson I learned

The lesson is: don't give up hope. And there's more to it, we're literally in amazing company when we're rejected--even more so if the number of rejections are multiples of 12.

It was this article that made it painfully clear that even the "greats" were just like you and me--dismal, rejected, dour, sad, and above all hopeful.

Yep, it can happen at any time--the magical "I want to represent you" letter--but there's rejection in the way first. Plow through, dear writers, carry on, keep a stiff upper lip, and storm the beaches. Victory is only the next submission away.