Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Exclusivity

I have a thought on exclusivity with agencies. With magazines, they're a hassle, but I understand why they do it. With a book publisher, I actually don't know of any who refuse multiple submissions (which isn't saying much, I haven't gotten to the point where I'm ready to talk to publishers...hence the need for an agent), but agents?

Let's break this down. We'll start with requests for full manuscripts. Obviously, it's COMPLETELY reasonable to ask me not to send out queries to anyone else. After all, they're seriously considering my work, and if I decide to go with anyone else while they're looking over my book, I've pretty much wasted their time.

Partial requests. This one depends on whether or not they'll give me an offer based on the partial, or if they'll want to see the complete manuscript later. From what I understand, it takes anywhere from three to eight weeks to look over a partial, and if it takes even longer than that to look over my full, then they're basically asking me to hold my breath for several months to half a year. If I'm giving exclusivity with a partial, I would like some kind of timeline so that I know how to plan in the event of a refusal. Obviously, if I've given them a partial, they actually are interested in the book.

Exclusive queries. When I send out a query to an agent, I don't expect to hear back from them for at least three weeks, often times longer, and occasionally shorter depending on what they say on their website about how quickly they respond. So, with as many agents that exist, and how difficult it is to get one, asking me to query one agent at a time is unreasonable. Especially if the agent declares openly that it will take at LEAST six weeks to get back to me. I've run into one such agent, and I didn't query them. If I went one agent at a time, it could take me YEARS just to find representation.

When an agent asks for a partial or full manuscript, then I'll be willing to give them exclusivity, but if they want me to wait for a month an a half just to hear back from them when I could query five agents at once, why should I work with them? What do they have to offer? (And that's not a derisive question. If they have HUGE clients and promise to work with me just as hard as they work with them, then I'll be open to an exclusive query, but not if their client list consists of seven unpublished authors and one indie-press romance that sold 100 copies before going out of print.)

Do any of you have thoughts on exclusivity? This may sound one-sided, but I basically don't like the idea of waiting six weeks for a probable rejection. It just doesn't make sense, business-wise.

Monday, March 29, 2010

A quick update from my phone

Emily and I are on our way up to Estes Park, CO for the day, so there isn't a big update for you today. I'll try to get a real post up tomorrow. Have a great day!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Friday

Not much to say today. I got another query out this morning, and I'm still thinking of ideas for the WiP. I just need to figure out which plot I want to use and how to make sure it doesn't get cliche. Oh, and I need to figure out one sub-plot. I want to keep this one below 60k words.

Anyway. Have a good weekend. I'm on vacation next week, but I'll update some throughout the week.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Grrr...

So yesterday was CRAZY busy. I was by myself at work all day, and I knew that would happen, so I slept in yesterday morning. After all, I had to be able to think, and at 5 in the morning, I can't really do that. I barely had time to sit down for a lunch yesterday, and when I got home, I was too tired to move.

This morning, I planned on getting back into the query process, but, of course, we live in Colorado, and it snowed the other day. Since my wife didn't work yesterday, the snow behind her car never got cleared (we live in an apartment). I spent most of the morning helping her to get out and on her way to work today.

So that's why I didn't update yesterday, and why I won't get a query letter out today. Don't get my wrong, though. I like being busy at work! It means I still have a job, and it means that the day goes faster!

In other news...you know how I said the other day that I've never been able to think of a good urban fantasy plot? Yeah...I figured one out. I'm going to start working on that in the near future. And it's not like anything I've ever read. Not that THAT's saying much, but I worked at a bookstore for years and never heard of anything quite like this. That's not me being egotistical, it's just me hoping that there ISN'T anything out there like this because, if it's done right, it will have a better chance of selling :D

Anyway, I need to try to finish breakfast and then get to work. I shall endeavor to have an update tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Why I haven't tried Urban Fantasy

Let's get this straight first. It's urban fantasy, not arcana. Arcana is plural for mysteries or secrets (now used in the fantasy setting to describe magic), fantasy is a genre.

Well yesterday I heard back from the agent who had requested a partial from me in January. She was very polite and she let me know that I didn't grab her in the first few pages, and that completely justifies the cuts I made to those pages about a month ago :) She also said, and this is what really got me thinking, that historical fantasy is very difficult to sell.

My setting could be called steampunk, but because of how I describe it in the novel, it DOES fit in the historical category a lot better (even though it takes place in a fictional universe). Don't get me wrong, I LOVE urban fantasy, and I'd love to write one that takes place in the Denver area (I like writing in Colorado), but I don't want to jump on that bandwagon... not without a solid story. It'd be like all of those people who are currently trying to get vampire novels published because of the Twilight craze. Sure, there was a call for vampire books for young adult fans, but the murmurings in the publishing industry (if my ear is properly placed to the ground) is that vampires aren't the up-and-coming trend. Therefore, if you don't have a FANTASTIC story that stands out from EVERYTHING that will EVER BE WRITTEN, you better have a series that's already sold really well.

The same seems to be what's going on with urban fantasy. It's a trend that's well established by big names out there (even though I don't know who's written them for YA yet), and if I try to join in, I'd look a little too johnny-come-lately.

Historical fiction is easier to keep timeless (rather than dating itself with period-specific references), and if it gets published it'll stand out against urban fantasy. I definitely understand why it's difficult to sell, though. It has to sell. The trendy book doesn't need to be as good (even though that's still a consideration) since it's part of the trend. There are plenty of people who will read what's popular simply because it's the style of story they like. It doesn't mean they like that particular plot, character, or even that author, but they'll give 'em a shot just to see what they did with the genre.

Anyway, I might try my hand at some Urban Fantasy after I see what else is out there and if I'm not to late to get something into the genre :)

Saturday, March 20, 2010

New layout

I decided the other layout I was using just didn't fit. I may play with other layouts in the future, but for now, I think I like this.

Happy Saturday.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Another brief update

Today I got caught up in some minor changes to the conclusion of the book. I have one more little thing to look at, and then I'll get back to querying. Monday won't have a column, but I do have a surprise for all of you!

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

No comment

For those of you who visit every day to read what I have to say...I got nothin'. Just one of those days. OH! I did get a revised version of my synopsis up on the forums, though. And tomorrow I'm going to do more edits to the manuscript since I haven't heard back from any agents yet. See if those edits make the book catchier. Not really revisions, just some small edits.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Mid-week update

I got some more work on the synopsis done. It's slowly taking shape, and I really want to move on to the next project while I send out queries. I AM glad that I have things to work on, and that they are real improvements.

Hopefully I'll be able to get up early enough to finish the synopsis tomorrow. Then I can query away some more. See you all tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

An addition to The Column

Something I've noticed in the forums (and this is due to the nature of writing something rather than saying it aloud) is that advice is easier to listen to when the words used sound constructive. This isn't criticism on anyone, I just noticed that I, personally, have fewer aversions to advice when the person giving it comes across as someone who wants to help, rather than someone who just looked over my work and wrote down their notes on my work.

While the second person is genuinely trying to help me, it's the bluntness of their words that makes me hesitate to listen...at least if I'm not in a good mood. Thankfully, even the worst advice can be helpful at times, and no matter how I feel, I realize this. That's why I always, at the very least, look over the suggestions once while I attempt to apply them to changes I make.

Just something to consider when looking at yesterday's post, and while you're looking over your own work and other people's thoughts on it.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Monday Column: Giving advice

For the record, I have been guilty of the following. I'm trying to point out something I've learned through personal experience.

Writing forums are a place for us to go and see what's going on in the industry, connect with our peers, and even ask for help. However, writing is very solitary work, and for many of us (myself included) asking for help can be difficult. Especially when there is a high risk of two out of three responses to a post turning out to be nothing but "what you REALLY need to be focusing on right now is..." and "no, no, no. Don't do that, it's not what's IN right now. You need to do this..." or the worst, "that's not how I did it, and I did it the way every SUCCESSFUL writer has done it, so you need to find out how that's done and change what you did."

That's not helpful, it only comes across as speaking to hear your own voice. To be fair, when I made this mistake, it truly was an accident. I had the purest intention of giving advice that I rarely heard when I started writing, and I wanted to share it so that this other writer could be successful. It came across wrong, and things kinda blew up from there, and I definitely regret how I approached it and how it turned out. And I'm sorry.

For any writer out there who participates in the boards, this is for you, and it's something I try to keep in mind. Before you reply to a post, consider: what are they asking for? If it's help on a query letter, or a first page, first chapter, or synopsis, is there anything specific they want looked at? If so, answer that FIRST. If you don't have any response to give to their specific request, make sure what you DO say is actually helpful, and mention that to the person who posted. If you ask for a critique on a synopsis to see if it makes sense to other people, and all you get back is a bunch of posts about what different kinds of synopses you should be writing, is that going to help you? Or if you post your first chapter to see if it grabs the readers' attention, how irritated would you be if all you heard was how weird your name is, and here are some suggestions on marketable pseudonyms?

While that advise might be helpful, I think it's best to assume that the other writer knows it already. If a writer is especially frustrated, you'll only frustrate them more, driving them off where they don't have to listen to anyone.

There are plenty of opportunities to offer constructive criticism, useful advice, and random facts that the rest of us may not know, so keep your eyes out for them, and make sure you do it in a way that doesn't sound arrogant and like you think you know it all. Because in the end, your intentions only matter if the outcome is positive.

Let me say that again. Intentions ONLY matter when the outcome is beneficial. No one cares how much I wanted to help them if all I did was make them feel stupid.

Friday, March 12, 2010

It's coming back

One of my beta readers just sent me feedback, and it's looking good! There are some things that were mentioned that I believe I'll change, but I want to wait until I hear back from my other beta readers before I move in that direction.

The really bright side to this is that the reader did like my story. Even complimented it. It proves to me that I'm not just wasting my time :D

Unfortunately, waking up this morning was nearly impossible to do, so now I won't be able to get much work done before I have to go to the day job. I do have a few ideas of what I can do, though.

Have a great weekend, everyone. On Monday, I'm not sure what I'm going to talk about, but I think I'm going to start calling it my column, rather than the topic of the week. Ah well. See you Monday!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Another short update

I started looking through chapter 2 again. It's a good thing, too. I missed some grammar issues the last time through. I'm going to try to make some more changes/additions to this blog this week, but no guarantee. It's been a long week already.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Small update

It's Wednesday. It's going to be busy at work today. On the bright side, I got a revision of my synopsis done. It's posted on a forum to be critiqued. Hopefully I'll be able to get more work done on it tomorrow, but if not, I'll look over chapter 2 or 3 for things that might be able to be cut. That's all.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Swearing in Prose

Let's talk about swearing in writing. Specifically, I want to talk about why I don't swear, but also why, if you do use curse words, you should do so only with great consideration.

We'll begin with why I don't swear in my writing. I don't think it's necessary. I'm also writing for young adults, and I never want to be accused of being a bad example to young people. I know swearing is everywhere in movies and on TV, and even in some of the other YA books they're reading, and if they read books marketed to older audiences, then there's an even greater chance that they'll be exposed to foul language. But that doesn't matter to me. I want readers to know that if they want a fun story that won't offend them in any way, they can read my work. That's not to say that I'll discourage anyone from reading any other book, but I know that, especially with younger readers, parents don't want their children exposed to curse words. When I start writing books for adults, I intend to find other ways of expressing the characters' frustrations.

Now, for swearing in other books. The Dresden Files books have profanity in them, but sparingly so. In fact, the first time Butcher used a cuss word in his books, it caught me off guard, and it made a real impact and got the point across fantastically. I've learned that, in writing, swear words stand out. It's not like speaking out loud where you can slip in a swear to emphasize your point and many people won't notice. Like I said, it's everywhere. When we hear it, we tend to ignore it. (I know many people don't, especially the older generations, but this is directed more toward the 40 and under crowd at the moment.) But when you read a page full of the "f bomb" it gets tiresome. A book I've been listening to on audio CD does that a lot. But even when I listened to it, I felt like the author just ran out of something clever and expressive to say, so he just filled in the blanks with "effing" this and "effing" that. I got bored.

I know, as writers we're supposed to portray people as they are, but that can be done without actually using the word the character is supposed to say. You can always just tell the reader, "Slade hit his thumb with a hammer and rattled off a string of profanity that he learned in his army days." That's not very creative, but it tells the reader that the character swears without actually swearing. If you continue to make points like that throughout the book, the reader is going to know that the character will swear when it suits him, and when you finally drop an "f bomb" in the climactic battle between the protagonist and his nemesis, the reader is going to sit up and say, "Okay, now it's serious!"

Back to my earlier point, as I listened to that CD, I thought about what it would look like on a page, and if I read that, I'd simply skip over that section of the dialogue. Not because I'm offended, but because it wasn't really going anywhere. They were excess words that didn't really get a point across. If the author had used half the swear words as he had used, I would still get a solid picture of the character without feeling like he stopped telling me a story just so he could prove that he wasn't ashamed to throw a few foul words into his book.

When you write, just keep that in mind. Save your swear words for when you REALLY want to make a point. I mean, just imagine how much attention the Pope would get if he threw out a swear word in the middle of a speech. Would you have any doubt that something was bothering him? On the page, they have that impact, for a while. Then they become just as tiresome as the same, flat descriptions of the paintings on the wall of an art collector's pillared mansions on the beeches and in the mountains. You don't really have to describe each one in detail. Just do it once and we'll get the picture.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Monday Delay

I know Monday is usually my "big" topic discussion, but I'm moving that to tomorrow. Today I'm starting over with the synopsis. I got some great feedback over the weekend, and I found a sight that's walking me through the process, so I'm starting over and taking it one step at a time. Finally, I'm able to relax and enjoy this part of the experience!

One thing that's struck me over the last year is that, when I finally understand what I'm doing and I can see how I can do it, even the most aggravating and difficult task becomes, at the very least, satisfying. I know I'm making progress, and I'm PROUD of my accomplishments. I mean, I'm learning. It may be a while before I get published, but I'm closer now than I was two years ago when I sat down to write this book.

Oh, and hopefully the next book will take less than a year to put together. Now that I understand what it takes :)

Now I have to get back to work. Thanks for the patience with our "topic of the week".

Friday, March 05, 2010

Friday Update

Oofda. I worked on my synopsis again today, and I'm really glad I looked it over. I managed to cut some worthless information out of it (worthless for the specific purposes of the synopsis). Now I just need a couple of folks on the forums to look it over and let me know what might be wrong with it.

The problem I've run into there is that, for ever person who gives me great advise, there's at least one person who HAS to tell me why I shouldn't be writing, whether it's why I need to hold off on the synopsis, hold off on the querying process altogether, or whatever. And they never tell me what I need to do to fix my synopsis. They just preach at me. Feels like I'm just wasting my breath by asking for help, sometimes.

Ho hum. Just a minor annoyance that kinda gets old when I really need help.

Oh, and Battlefield: Bad Company 2 is awesome. So I'm going to try to play that a bit this weekend :D

Thursday, March 04, 2010

No, I'm not happy with it...yet!

Finally finished that synopsis...sort of. I got the entire plot on paper, but I'm not happy with how it turned out. I just don't like the way it sounds. But since the synopsis is supposed to prove that I can create a solid plot, rather than solid prose (or so I've read), I have it up on a forum for some folks to give me feedback. That means I'm going to get help on how to improve it :)

On another note, I'm tired. Sleepy. My brain isn't working right now. I know I need to get up earlier, but it's so HAARRRD. I'm certain (from experience) that if I get up at 5, when I'm supposed to, I'd actually wake up with enough time to make some real progress with my writing. So I'm going to try to get up at five so that I can kill a scene from my novel that feels more corny than anything else.

Oh, and it also fits in with my need to make sure this book stands alone...without needing any sequels.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Too much story?

As I try to write my synopsis, I'm struck with just how much story this book has, and that's only the main plot arc. Technically, the side plots don't take up much space, but even if I don't write about them in my synopsis, I have a lot of events that could be used to show the tension in the story. The hard part is deciding which ones are the most important and which ones need to be left out to keep it succinct.

In an almost related subject, Heavy Rain is awesome. There are at least three whole novels in that game, each from a different perspective. I won't write down any spoilers, yet, but I plan on giving my impressions on the game and its story when I've beaten it a couple more times. That way the spoilers don't spoil nearly as much for those of you who are interested in playing it.

Hm...I'm kinda surprised I could come up with an update today :)

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Forward

So, as I continue to send out queries for Defender of the Crown, I'm considering my other book ideas to give me something to do. Right now I really want to write Flatiron City, but I'm not sure what the best direction is for that book (hopefully series) yet. So I believe I'll move in a different direction and put together a novel that will have little to no potential to become a series. A stand-alone story with no potential for a sequel. (Even though Defender stands alone, it will hopefully become a series of books. Not holding my breath, yet.) In fact, Nathan Bransford talked about this only yesterday. I really agree with what he said, too.

However, this is quite a leap for me because every book I've tried to write, except for the first one, was intended to become a series, even though I never had any thoughts or ideas for a second book or beyond. I kind of had an idea of where it COULD go, but always planned to write the first one and see what happened later. When you don't plan on making more than one book with the same characters, though, you make different decisions about what to tell the reader about your world and your characters (though that may not always be the case).

I've met a couple of writers who believe that every book, regardless of the style, genre, or whether or not it's intended to stand alone, should all be written exactly the same way. Without planning anything out before you sit down to write. That may work for them, but that's not how my brain works. I need to know who the protagonist and antagonist are, at the very least, before I sit down and create my story. I really like to know what the protagonist does in his free time (all of my heroes, so far, have been male), and I like to have an idea of where they came from and where they plan on going...so that I can throw a stick of dynamite into those plans and create a novel :D.

Anyway, some time this summer, I plan on sitting down and writing a new book. Something to keep me writing while I try to get published. This one will stand alone. I won't write more than one book with these characters. I just don't know who my audience is, yet. Should it be the 14-18 year-olds? The 16-25s? Or possibly the 18-99s? I'm thinking more along the lines of 15-30ish...but we'll see.

Monday, March 01, 2010

More Work

Last Friday I sent my book to several people to look it over and "beta" read it just in case I'm missing anything that could be getting in the way of finding an agent. On Saturday, Todd sent me an email with some suggestions for chapters 1 & 2. So on Saturday night and this morning, I re-edited chapter 1. I'm actually quite happy with the changes...especially since I pulled nearly 400 words out of the manuscript! I know, it's weird to be happy about lowering the word count, but I always enjoy eliminated excess from my manuscripts.

Anyway, I'm going to wait until I hear back from the beta readers before I make any more changes to the book, and tomorrow I'm going to continue writing that elusive, in-depth synopsis.

On a side note, Todd mentioned that I have a lot of adverbs in my book. They don't stand out to me that much, no matter how many times I read through it. As I reread this book, and as I look at the suggestions my readers give me, I'm going to try to eliminate more wasteful words, but I know that adverbs will more than likely fall through the cracks. This goes along with another comment Todd made. He told me that I have a tendency to use very detailed and, in his words, overly specific. He's right, of course, but when he said that it might be necessary for the genre, I found that odd.

As I think back, many books from the genres that I've read paint pictures in the same that I would LOVE to put into my book, but they do it without necessarily going overboard on their descriptions. I don't know how much telling (instead of showing) that I do, but it's something that I'm going to keep an eye on, especially as I prepare to start another book. (Yes, I'm going to move forward with a story idea, but not yet. Details will follow). As far as this book is concerned, if my memory serves me correctly, the overly detailed descriptions kind of dwindle away as the story progresses, so I hope that saves me from a lot of work.

I'm going to try to get another post up tomorrow, but be prepared for something short.