Friday, February 26, 2010

Friday at last

FYI, I made some brief edits to the Synopsis (link above). If you've read it, then nothing really changed. It's mostly punctuation stuff.

Now, this is the synopsis that I've been sending out as part of my query letter, but today I started re-writing the in-depth synopsis for agents to read. This one actually spoils the ending of the book, so I won't share it here. It's hard to do, though. I know I'll be able to get everything into the synopsis that needs to be there, and I'm sure I'll be able to do it in a timely manner, it's just a real pain to try to pick the best parts of the story since I like so many different/important pieces of the plot!

I can tell you for sure that I'm looking forward to having representation. Or, at the very least, I'd like to be on auto-pilot with the submission process so that I can sit down and write again.

Any agents out there willing to read my entire book? Just tell me what you think. Beta readers seem to be ignoring my requests for help, so I could use an impartial beta reader to tell me if I missed anything in the editing. I'm sure I'm done, thanks to the last round of edits from my helpful, impartial betas, but a new round wouldn't hurt...especially if it leads to publication!

Alright, I'm done rambling. I'll see you all on Monday. I may continue this daily thing for a while, but no promises :)

Thursday, February 25, 2010

A preview!

So, for a while I've been contemplating giving you all a sneak peak at my book. Today I'm sharing the "elevator pitch" that's been going out to agents who I want to represent me. When it gets pushed off of the front page of this blog, you'll be able to find it in the tabs above. That's right! Blogger created pages for blogs, and I'm taking advantage of it!

Now, a blurb about my book:

After creating a lightning storm that killed a boy from his school, thirteen year old Nicholas Benson enrolls in the Magi Academy to learn how to get his explosive, magical outbursts under control. Nicholas is surprised to learn that Joselyn Jameson, the Queen’s daughter is also a student at the academy. He’s even more shocked to find out that she’s in all of his classes. Soon after the pair become friends, Nicholas has another magical fit that nearly burns the two of them alive before causing him to pass out.

While unconscious, he sees a vision of a small group of anti-royalist rebels intent on assassinating Joselyn’s mother so that the Prime Minister, won’t have to share his power with the Queen. Despite a plague of similar visions throughout the year, Nicholas ignores them until he accidentally overhears a conversation between Joselyn’s uncle and the Queen’s bodyguard who also plan on killing the Queen in order to prevent the election altogether.

When Joselyn refuses to believe that her uncle could commit treason, Nicholas sets out to prove her wrong simply to save her life and the life of her mother. He succeeds only to discover that the Queen’s bodyguard lured him to the palace to use Nicholas’s dangerous powers as the weapon that will plunge the nation into civil war. In a fight to save himself and the people he cares for, Nicholas must finally master his powers or sacrifice his life for the good of the country.

That's it! I hope you liked it.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

New Ideas

I had a new idea the other day, and I think it could do pretty well as a YA, middle grade, or even adult mystery, depending on how I decided to write it. If I went the right direction with it, I could turn it into a show on Showtime, the CW, or ABC Family/Disney Channel. I don't believe it would make me rich, but it could get my name out there, and I'm pretty sure that it would be VERY marketable. What is that idea, you ask? No spoilers. I'm still trying to decide if I'm willing to write the thing.

It's not that I hate the idea, but the type of idea I had would almost be my way of selling out. I wouldn't be ashamed of the books, but if I released them as they sit in my brain because I would feel like I was pandering and peddling drivel. That doesn't mean that I couldn't change the books and make them something to be proud of...but this is the third book idea floating in my head, and I really want to work with the other two, first. On the other hand, this is one of the most "marketable" ideas I can think of at the moment.

It is a pretty cool idea, though...

That's my little thought for the day. It's still early enough that my brain's not working as well as it could.

On another note, changes will be coming to the blog in the next week or so...and additions!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Overwriting vs. Underwriting

So I think I'm going to try to get one post out each day this week...even Saturday! It may be brief, little more than a status update, but I just want to see if I can do it.

I decided not to send out a query letter today because the agent I planned on sending the letter to also wanted a synopsis. The more I thought about it, the more I realized I don't like the synopsis I have written, so I'm going to re-write it over the next week, or so. Then I'll get back to querying...although I may query agents who only want query letters.

Anyway, I was reading Kiersten White's blog from last Friday, and she said something that got me thinking. Basically, she chose to overwrite her manuscripts because it's easier to cut words out than it is to add words to a story that is too short.

When I finished the first draft of my first book (which I'm officially throwing out the window because it was SUCH a bad Tolkien knock-off), I saw that I was short by over 12k words to consider it a full novel. When I went to edit the book, I cut another 10k-12k words out making it WAY too short.

One day, while I was studying my craft in a secret monastery in the Scottish Highlands (okay, it was my bedroom at my parents' house...yes, I lived with my parents at the age of 20. To be fair, I did live on my own in Portland for a year!), I read something in HOW TO WRITE A DAMN GOOD MYSTERY (all caps are used because I don't know how to underline on my blog) by James N. Frey that changed how I looked at writing. You see, I planned on making my next manuscript over 110k words so that when I finally finished editing it, I would have a decent sized novel (around 50k or 60k words). Then this writer laid out a simple outline process that could be used in just about any form of fiction. He also made a point to tell the reader that, as a writer, as long as the plot is solid, and as long as sufficient care is put into second and third drafts in during the revision stage, the word count would fill itself out.

These are certainly two different ways of looking at the writing process, and the second one really worked for me! When I finished the first draft of DEFENDER OF THE CROWN, I only sat at 42k words. But without really adding anything to the story (except for one or two 2k word scenes) I managed to revise the manuscript and end up with 81k words total! That was simply by fixing the imagery and language that I used to narrate the story.

That doesn't make the other process of writing any less valid. Plenty of authors write that way, and they're successful at it. More so than I. For now, anyway :)

That's all I have for today. Time to get ready for work.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Nerds Revisited

Only two weeks ago I stated the premise that Nerds are the new Alpha Consumers. I never realized how irritated people would get by that particular statement! So let's revisit this topic. First of all, many of the folks who commented on the forums were offended at my use of the word "nerd"...as if I'd used another "N" word to describe a group of disenfranchised people who happen to have similar interests. It seems that many of the activities enjoyed by nerds are also enjoyed by so called "normal" people, and these normal people took exception to the idea that their chosen forms of entertainment could be considered nerdy. But just because you like Star Wars, Star Trek, Lord of the Rings, or super hero movies, it doesn't make you a nerd. So there's no need to say, "Hey, I love Star Wars, and I'm not a nerd!" It doesn't disprove my point.

This concept is still rolling around in my head because last week Todd Newton and I were discussing his book, The Ninth Avatar, which will be released through Trapdoor Books later this year. As matter of fact, we were discussing this very topic and how it relates to his book and (if I remember correctly) some of the goals of the publisher. You see, Trapdoor wants to sell books that have mass nerd-appeal. That's one of their core demographics. As far as Todd is concerned, he expressed a worry that his book may not be NERDY ENOUGH to sell to the audience he's hoping for. (I really should take better notes on conversations that use on this blog because I can't remember if that's %100 accurate, but Todd reads this blog, so he can correct me in the comments if I'm off.)

Let's take a look at publishers like Wizards of the Coast, TOR, and ACE and ROC. Look at the front page of any of these publishers' websites. These are some of the largest publishers in the Unites States, and their entire book list is filled with Fantasy and Sci-fi titles.

Nerds read this stuff...obsessively (though not all of them do. That needs to be noted). Two weeks ago I used the emerging Manga market as an example of how nerds influence the buying and selling decisions that are made in the publishing world, both by publishers and booksellers, but when I brought up Star Trek conventions, Star Trek fans who don't consider themselves to be nerds simply got offended that I used an entertaining show to prove my point. Well, I just made a better point. All of those publishing houses cater to a demographic with a tendency to spend hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars per year on books about magic, alien races and far-fetched technology.

However, nerds exist in other genres. Take another look at Twilight. Or CSI, or any author who has written a series of books. I guess my point is, nerd isn't a dirty word, and catering to the nerds is actually a smart business decision because they're the ones who create word-of-mouth...you know, the type of advertising that costs you nothing. Some of these folks will even loan out their copy of the book to someone who they KNOW will never return it, but because they love the story so much they go buy another copy for themselves. (A buddy of mine did that with the TV show Firefly...three times.)

I guess that's all I have to say for now. Just remember who your audience is, and try not to get offended when they don't turn out to be as "cool" as you might like them to be. And just because they like the same things you do, it shouldn't ruin those interests for you.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Am I insane?

Alright, I know this is quite a theme among aspiring writers who are in the querying stage...but WHAT'S WRONG WITH ME? Do I hate myself? I haven't even sent out that many projects, and the rejections I'm getting are suddenly wearing at me!

Don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to say anything negative about anyone, but how do people do this FOR A LIVING? And why do I STILL want to do it? I can deal with rejection, and I know that the odds are high that I'll receive many more rejections before, and even after I get published. On the other hand, in six days I received four rejections. That sucks. Even though I have a partial out there, that's the most rejections I've gotten in one week.

How do you all deal with this? What's a good way to keep from losing your mind? Right now I've been watching Dexter and playing video games. And sending out more queries, even though it almost feels like I'm banging my head against a wall.

On a side note, I would love to hear from agents some sort of specific reason why this particular project isn't right for them. I want to know if this is a genre I should move away from for a while, or if it's just down to specific tastes. I DO realize most agents are too busy to go into any kind of detail, so the fact that I've even gotten any personal responses instead of form rejections from everyone is really appreciated. Still, it would be nice to know why...:)

Thursday, February 11, 2010

A midweek post...'cause it needs to be said

It always hurts to see friends suffer. One of my best friends, the man who helped me develop Flatiron City, is now suffering the same loss my wife, my friend Jeremy, and I have all suffered in the last year and a half: the loss of a grandparent. My heart breaks for him because I know how much it hurts, and I see that soon it's going to happen to some of my other friends.

You see, most of my friends, like me, are all in their mid to late twenties, and as a result, those grandparents who are still alive are at that age when they could leave us at pretty much any time. I'm not looking forward to that part of the next decade. You know, when our elders take their wisdom and leave us behind.

If you still have grandparents who are alive, please take the time to just talk with them, learn from their experience. After all, they've been there, and there is a lot we can learn from them.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Nerds: the Alpha Consumers?

Let's take a look at a sub-culture that influences the world (or at least the United States). They wear pocket protectors, weird glasses, often times their hair gives you the impression that they don't care about how it looks. But what are we missing about these young men (and occasionally women)? Let's see...maybe it's the fact that, despite their lack of popularity in middle school and high school, they RULE THE WORLD! Steve Jobs and Bill Gates...enough said.

Okay, not quite enough. As a writer of Fantasy and Sci-fi, I keep my eyes and ears as close to this culture as I can. It helps that I'm part of that culture, but that's beside the point. The real point is, just because YOU could throw a football 30+ yards into the arms of a WR in high school and WE got, at best, ignored into the corner with our unusual dice and dorky card games, it doesn't mean that we don't set trends. Many parts of current pop culture are now in place because twenty years ago, we nerds decided it was cool. We spent hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars importing Japanese comics and TV shows until companies decided to bring them into the States and translate them into English. NOW, if you walk through Borders or Barnes and Noble, the Manga section takes up more space than the Horror section, and in some cases, even the Mystery section is smaller.

World of Warcraft is another example. At first, only nerds played MMOs, and even when WoW came out, you couldn't find a lot of "popular" people playing it. I've met some of the most "socially acceptable" people, who you wouldn't think are capable of even installing the game on their computer, who know more about this game than some of my friends (I'm pretty ignorant about the game because I never spent much time playing it, but my friends are MASTERS).

We also have PAX, an Expo created by two men who make a living writing comics about video games. That shouldn't be possible in an era where, supposedly, the rich and powerful thirty-somethings in New York decide what should and should not make money. But guess what...the Nerds are the new Alpha Consumers! That's right...we spend a large portion of our disposable income (definition of Alpha consumer) on things like Star Wars conventions, Video Game expos, D & D books, Sci-Fi and Fantasy novels, and plane tickets to London JUST so we can get our picture taken at Platform 9 3/4 at Kings Cross Station!

So what does this mean? Should you change your approach to appeal to the Nerds? If you're writing a genre that would appeal to them, I'd consider the value of it. We read to escape from the bullies, to imagine ourselves in another world, and often times to give ourselves something to discuss with our nerdy friends. If you don't plan on writing something we might be interested in, then ignore what I've just said. Overall, appealing simply to the forty-year-old women who spend ten thousand dollars on a pair of shoes is great for Cecelia Ahern and Nora Roberts, but if you want a loyal fan base who will plug your books for free, assuming they're great, then you'll get it from the Nerds of the world! And you may even get rich! (But that's not nearly as likely as you may think.)

Monday, February 01, 2010

I don't do Holmes

I saw Sherlock Holmes a couple of weeks ago, absolutely LOVED it (and I hope they make another one), and I got a couple of short stories from the library on CD. As I hack my way through this short story that I've been writing, a mystery set in my Flatiron City setting, I take notes on how Conan Doyle crafted his stories. I realized very quickly that an attempt to mimic that style (especially with the setting to consider) would be a disastrous mistake.

I have another author who I can go to for inspiration: Jim Butcher. He's written several short stories for his Dresden Files series, and he plans on releasing a collection later this year. But his style doesn't work for me, either. That doesn't mean that I'm not taking notes!

Here's a bit of a comparison: Holmes has a tendency to go out and research a crime, investigating through stealth, observation, and deduction. And it's often out of sight, since Watson (the Narrator) doesn't follow Holmes everywhere. Sometimes, an important clue will be left out until the detective reveals how and why the crime was committed, though that clue (as far as I can remember) only gives the perpetrator motive. In the stories that I listened to recently, all of them showed the reader all essential information to solve the mystery before Holmes revealed who it was that committed the crime.

In contrast, Butcher's Harry Dresden is the narrator for his own life. He doesn't have a sidekick chronicling his adventures, so in order to keep things interesting to the end of the story, Butcher keeps a couple of facts hidden from the reader. It makes it pretty difficult to solve the mystery, but all of the action (Dresden fights and runs around in dangerous situations A LOT!) keeps the reader hooked.

I use those exampled because I want my short story to look like a combination of both of those styles. My protagonist is the narrator, he's capable in a fight, and he's very sure of himself. At the same time, he uses his brain more than his muscle, and his deductive reasoning is off the charts! I also want to justify the reader's time by giving them a fair chance to figure out "who-dun-it" before I tell them. I realize I'm not Conan Doyle, so I know that I need to place suspenseful situations in my story to keep the reader hooked.

Anyway, that's kind of something that's been on my mind all week, and I thought I'd share it with you so that you could see where I'm coming from as I work on the Short Story.

Question: When you write, who influences you, why, and how? If you don't write, who do you read? Why?