Friday, April 30, 2010

Work work work

I love the fact that I have an income...meager though it may be. I just hate losing momentum on my book. I have to work today, and the nature of this job is almost certain to leave me exhausted when I get home. I also have to work tomorrow, Sunday, and Monday...which is great because I need the work, but...you know...my writing.... .

Happy weekend! I look forward to sharing a scene from my new book with you all! (It's not a spoiler, it's just funny...in my opinion.)

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Scenery and Descriptions

I have come to grips with the fact that I can't write scenery and city/community descriptions very well. At least not on the first draft. In Defender of the Crown, I do a decent job (according to the OTHER people who have read it), but in my WiP today I spent nearly an hour struggling to come up with two paragraphs that describe the city of Boulder in an impartial manner that would be appropriate for a third-person narrative.

On the bright side, I still have revisions to do before I start sending this one out. That means I get to polish it up. And I can revise pretty well, I think.

You know, the more I write for this book, the more excited I get (still!). I like where the characters are going, and I love throwing roadblocks in their way and then figuring out how to get around them, and then seeing them fail anyway. That failure is what makes a story so great! And now the protagonist gets to pick himself up and try again!

This is such an enjoyable learning experience for me, and I have hope that, given the opportunity, I could really do this for a living. I mean, I've been very productive, beat every single one of my deadlines thus far, and I know exactly what to do when I finish the first draft, and the second draft, and final revisions.

Oh, and I noticed that I have a couple more new readers. If you're curious about the project I've already finished, a brief synopsis and excerpt can be found in the Pages Sidebar on the right. Feel free to look them over and let me know what you think.

Tomorrow I have to head up to the mountains for the day job, and it's going to be really early. I may not get a post up until later in the afternoon, if I get the opportunity to get one up at all. So if I don't talk to you tomorrow, have a happy Friday and a great weekend!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Tangents, Agents, and Sleeping in.

I slept in this morning...for about 45 minutes. That means I got up at quarter to 7...which is actually an hour and forty five minutes later than I'm SUPPOSED to get up. Anyway, this morning I needed it. I was REALLY tired.

I got Chapter 7 of my WiP drafted this morning, and after lunch I'm going to write Chapter 8. I've been looking at the outline for this book, and I realized it was going to be way to short to be a real novel. This morning I decided to fix that. Chapter 7, while completely relevant to the plot, introduces some road blocks to the protagonist. Something this story needed, anyway. I'm not sure exactly how else I'm going to lengthen this book, but I want to take this bunny trail for a while and see where it leads the characters. It should provide a great distraction, both to the readers and the characters, that will teach them something, but will eventually take them to a dead end, making the tension build even more. I love this stuff!

I found another agent listing web site. I didn't send out any queries, though, because I have five unanswered ones floating out there at the moment, and I want to give them time to respond before I flood the market with my request for representation.

I think I've queried almost everyone in the country who deals with my genre and accepts e-mail queries, too. In the next week or two I'll start sending out traditional letters to agents who don't accept e-mail queries.

I'm off to get food, then I'm going to head out for a bike ride. Wish me luck on Chapter 8!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

You should read The Dresden Files

I don't know if any of you have noticed, but I really like Jim Butcher's writing. I mean, I like it A LOT!! Last night I finished his latest book, Changes. All I have to say is, "You JERK! That's the worst... no best... no... okay, yeah, the best book you've EVER written!"

I strongly recommend the Dresden Files books because Butcher's narrative style makes them impossible to put down. Last week I talked about what makes a good page turner, and I mentioned Butcher's tendency to make each chapter end on a cliffhanger. It works because I was up WAY later than I should have been, trying to finish the book.

But it's not just the tension that makes you want to read more. He always throws in little jokes and snarky comments (Dresden is the narrator), and he throws them in at just the right moment to relieve that tension that would otherwise make you put the book down and come back to it later. The jokes are subtle, too. If you don't know the reference he's making, then it won't confuse you. You'll just skip over it. But if you ARE aware of the joke, it's hysterical!

This book wound the tension tighter and tighter to the very end... and then he left us on a freaking cliffhanger!

I really don't have much else to say today. So go read those books!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Crazy Dreams

Last night some friends of mine decided it would be a good idea for us all to watch New Moon...with the Riff Tracks (they're the guys who did Mystery Science Theater 3000). I have to say, the Riff Tracks were hysterical! The actual acting and dialogue for that film? Not impressive in any way. I haven't seen Twilight (though I might have to if I can find the Riff Tracks for it), but all last night my subconscious tried to re-write New Moon with a plot that actually made sense...and was worth the two hours I spent watching it.

I'm guessing that, based on the length of the book, there's a lot more to the story. But the scenes jumped around too much, the director didn't spend enough time letting the audience get to know the characters, and have I mentioned the acting? They all delivered their lines as if they were trying to mock William Shatner.

I do plan on reading Twilight at some point (for the sake of market research), and I will give a brief review when I do so. I will be as objective as possible, and I fully intend on using it as a learning experience. After all, I don't want to be one of those writers who believes their own writing is better than everything else that's out in the world, especially because Stephanie Meyer has been published (and is bloody rich), and I haven't. Obviously she did something right.

Now I have a query letter to get out, followed by finishing Chapter 3 of the WiP. Happy Monday!

Friday, April 23, 2010

What makes a page-turner?

Obviously that depends on the genre. I've found, though, that long, boring descriptions of the landscape, pages upon pages of history that are uninterrupted by action or character interactions or dialogue make for a REALLY boring book.

On the other hand, all of the books that keep me up until the wee hours of the morning all have one thing in common: on the next page, the world could end...and I MUST find out if it does! One of the books I'm reading right now has a lot of that "pages of history and description" stuff, but when the author manages to squeeze in some real suspense, I get this excited feeling in my gut that makes me keep reading. The unfortunate part is that that only lasts for a few pages, maybe a whole chapter, and then the book gets boring again.

In my WiP, I'm taking a page out of Jim Butcher's book (metaphorically since literally would be considered plagiarism). Each chapter must have conflict that is central to that particular chapter as well as the conflict of the overall story arc. With the smaller conflicts, I am doing my best to make sure that it's not resolved until the beginning of the next chapter, too. That way, every chapter ends on a cliffhanger, making the reader look ahead to the next page, and when more conflicts arise, they need to keep reading to make sure the world doesn't actually end.

So how about you? What makes a page-turner in your mind?

Thursday, April 22, 2010

PROGRESS!

Ha ha HA!! In five hours (spread out over five days and filled with distractions) I completed the first draft of Chapter 1 of my new book! Is it done? Probably not, but I can edit it later. 2000 words that say pretty much exactly what I planned out in my outline is impressive for me...last time it took me a month to do that!

So, yeah, I'm excited. Today I start Chapter 2, and then I have to get to the day job around 12:30.

Since Monday, I somehow managed to stumble into a real writer's community. It's one thing for me to check out the forums now and then and hope to find a discussion where I have something of value to say, but for the most part, I find it easier to network on twitter and blogger. I actually have more twitter followers who are writers than I do spam accounts (I think). And I want to plug each and every one of them without doing an obnoxious "follow Friday" string of tweets. So, I'm thinking of putting together a column of recommended reading on the web.

On that note, if you know someone who needs or deserves a bit of a shout-out, let me know and I'll check them out :) I'm not exactly a someone of note, and I don't have any connections, but I can see that people read my blog. And I think there are blogs that you should check out, too! (A great place to start is the "followers" gadget on the sidebar. Click on one of the faces and read their blog.)

Have a great day. I'm off to query an agent, and then I get to work on my WiP!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Middle of the Week

Yesterday was VERY productive. I got the full outline for my next book completely written, and I started writing the first chapter!

I have to say, I'm really excited about this book. The last one I mulled over ideas for several weeks, and then spent several more months just outlining. After that, I spent a year and a half writing it. While I'm pleased with how it's turning out, I don't want to do that again (it didn't help that I was in school, had a full time job, and only worked on it an hour a day...when I bothered to sit down and write at all). I know I'll be able to move through this book in a timely manner. And I really want to read this book, almost more than I want to write it! (Not that I didn't want to with the last one, I just had to play with it a lot before I finally liked it.)

Today I worked a show for my day job, which is awesome because it means I'm still earning a living of sorts. As a result, though, I haven't gotten much done today. I'm putting up this post, and then I'll sit down to my book and write away.

Oh, and I'm happy to report that queries are going out again :) I'm looking forward to some full manuscript requests. After the changes I've made, it should happen (fingers crossed).

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

My second day in exile

Yesterday was one of the most productive days I've had in a long time...as far as my writing goes. In fact, everything I planned on finishing this week is now done! I even got a query letter out late in the afternoon.

Today I'm going to sit down and start on my next book. It's kind of an urban fantasy, and I have some great ideas for it. I just need to make sure I'm not copying anyone's stories or ideas :)

I'm really looking forward to this book. Not because I'm tired of the other one, but because I like writing new stories! I'd definitely prefer to write the sequel to Defender of the Crown, but I don't want to spend any time on THAT project until Defender is actually under contract. With as little success as I've had so far, I don't want two books lying around that publishers aren't interested in at the moment.

So, that's my plan for the rest of this week. Although tomorrow and Thursday I have to go to the day job for a few hours.

Monday, April 19, 2010

A newish beginning

So, last week I almost got laid off at work. While the day job isn't one of my favorite things to do, it paid the bills. I say almost, though, because my employers and I were able to come to a compromise. A little background, first, for those of you who don't know about the company. It's family owned...by my family. There are other investors who, combined, own %50 of the business. Unfortunately, business is slow right now, and I'm the lowest man on the ladder. As a result, they decided that I was the first to get cut (except my dad who intended to fight that decision as much as he possibly could).

I didn't want tensions to rise between my dad and his managing staff, and I didn't want to go through the unemployment hassle (even though UI would have paid me more than I'm making now), and I especially didn't want to take any OTHER jobs that I'm qualified for. So I went to my bosses and asked them if we could work something out. Right now, I'll be getting 8-10 hours a week. My wife and are going to cut back on our expenses, and UI benefits will be there if I need to take them later.

That's the "bad" news. The good news is now I have a LOT more time to write! I plan on finishing up edits on Defender of the Crown this week, and then I'm going to jump into a new book next week. I'll continue querying, and I'll get another story ready to send out.

My bills will get paid, and eventually I will either become a full-time writer, or business will pick up again at the day job and I'll be there full time again.

Friday, April 16, 2010

The Typically Small Friday Update

I got a lot done in the book this week. Only a few more small things to do, which I'll work on this evening and/or this weekend and/or on Monday.

Another update from work...it's not looking as good as I thought. I'm probably going to have a lot more time to work on my writing (though only for a couple of months at the most....I hope). I'm looking for ways to incorporate that into a full-time job. Something I can do aside from getting a book published. Unfortunately, since I don't have a degree, I don't expect anyone to hire me until I can prove that people like what I write.

I'm not sure what I'm going to do, yet, but any suggestions on how to generate an audience and topics that you might want me to talk about are appreciated.

I'm getting a minor headache, so I'm going take something for it and go get ready for work. Have a good weekend.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

In a Good Mood

Yesterday, Todd sent me a link to another writer's blog. Ms. Wagner asked other writers to post their social-media info in her comments, along with a weird fact about them, and then she asked that those writers go follow at least one other writer who commented. I'm following a lot more people now :D To those of you who are new, welcome! And thank you, Hilary, for showing so much support for other all of those writers. (If you don't know who Hilary is, check out her blog. Her book comes out Oct. 1st.)

Now, yesterday I talked about how desperation makes me write poorly. I think the post itself proves that. I got some good news yesterday about my job situation, and it sounds like some of the problems were a bit over-stated to me (from the horses mouth, so to speak), though not by much. Anyway, my advice to writers is to simply stick with your writing and do it because you love it, not because you need the money. Of course, writing full time is the goal (for me at least), but in the words of Simon Styles from Studio 60, "Writing rules, dumb dumb." If you have a bad day, or feel distracted, try to write anyway, and then go back and fix it later. PLEASE don't give up. That's what I did, and the fact that I stuck with it when I didn't want to yesterday helped to lift my spirits. I can look back with pride and I'll never feel like I wasted my morning sulking or worrying when I could have done something productive.

I'm looking forward to reading new books! I want other aspiring writers to succeed. Like Elysabeth Williams, who just found out that she's going to be published! (Congrats)

Writing is rough (as I've said before), just stick with it, even when it seems like you don't have a chance at success.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

End-of-day...

Just a quick welcome to to my new readers! Today has been a great day, and despite the mildly depressed post this morning, I'm in a wonderful mood!

I'll do a more in depth post tomorrow about why, and I'll elaborate on what I was talking about this morning and how I think it should apply to other writers.

Have a great Wednesday night!

Desperate Writing

I've found that, while a need for a paycheck can be a great motivator to sit down and write, desperation makes that writing just awful. My current job situation is tense, and the long-term future is in question. As a result, I'm that much more motivated to work toward publication so that I can do that full time. But last night, when I found out about my job, I almost turned desperate.

Today it didn't come out in my writing (I made a lot of progress on my editing and I didn't ruin anything), but I also feel stuck. I know getting published is a long, time-consuming process, and when I'm done with these edits, it will still be at least a year before I'm published, no matter what route I take to get there. I know I can't rush this because that also creates bad writing. I also need to finish this book before I jump into another one (which I'm eager and excited for!). I just wish I had more time. I wish I wasn't so tired when I'm SUPPOSED to get up at 5am. And I wish I didn't feel so desperate today.

I don't know how desperation makes other writers write, and I'm sure plenty of successful authors got that big break because they became desperate and made some great choices that worked out well for them. For me, it just becomes a distraction.


Note: I never want this blog to be a whiny, woe-is-me, depressing blog. But I also need to be honest. Life is great! Today I just don't feel %100.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Ow ow ow

Stomach pain! It's kinda weird. I've had stomach pains (in different ways so it's not a dangerous thing) for the last couple of days. I think I've been eating the wrong things.

As a result, lunch is unappetizing, I want to nap all day, and work feels that much more work-like. I'm feeling better at the moment, though, so that's good.

There's some place in the back of my mind that makes me believe that I'm forgetting to say something, and I don't know what it is. If I think of it I'll post it, but aside from that, I'm out of stuff to say today. See you tomorrow.

Monday, April 12, 2010

A new week

Something I never understood is how a person in a position to offer customer service could possibly treat paying customers with the utmost contempt. Last week, however, I saw it happen. One of the men who works for a competitor of the company I work for treated me very poorly when I went in to rent gear from him. (We rent from the competitor when we don't have all of the equipment a client needs.)

The first day I found it quite annoying, but it was only his second week working alone in the office, so I gave him the benefit of the doubt and let it slide. Anyone can have a bad day. However, he must have had a bad week, because every day I went in there (and I went EVERY DAY), he made it clear that he didn't want my money or my business.

It got me to thinking, what would the world be like if I treated other writers or potential agents like that? As a matter of fact, other writers have treated me like that (as I've written about briefly in other posts), but even the smallest writer, agent, or publisher should be treated as a potential business partner. Plenty of authors and agents have blogged about this topic, I just thought it was worth repeating after last week.

Personally, if I develop any kind of business reputation, I want it to be along the lines of, "That guy really knows how to work with you, and even when he disagrees, he's polite about it." I'm not perfect, but I never want agents or publishers to call me a jerk behind my back. Yes, to an extent I do care about how I'm perceived, and I do want to be liked, but that's not why I want to have that reputation. It's because I DON'T want people to dread working with me out of an obligation, the way I had to deal with that guy last week. It made me physically ill to think that I had to talk to him AGAIN.

Happy Monday!

Friday, April 09, 2010

Friday Update

I've had a successful week. I got a new chapter written for Defender of the Crown, made some edits to part of the manuscript, and figured out some places to improve the overall story. I'm still waiting for specific notes from Todd, but that isn't keeping me from doing more work.

I had something else I wanted to talk about, too, but I'm so tired that I can't remember what it was. If I remember it, I'll try to get it up on Monday.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Long day, short post

It's been that kind of day. Very productive with very little free time. I'm exhausted, but I'm happy with how much has been accomplished today. See you tomorrow :)

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

A comment on comments

I just want to say that I read all of your comments (one of the reasons I moderate them is so that I HAVE to read them), and I'm sorry I don't respond to them very often. Unfortunately, my job takes up most of my attention, and finding the time to even read them can be a challenge. When I get home, I also have lots of stuff to take care of around the house, and them I'm exhausted.

So it's not that I don't care, or that I don't have any responses that create a meaningful dialogue with you all, it's that I just don't have enough time.

Please continue to comment, though! I really like reading what you all think about what I have to say. :D

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Accents

Accents are cool. They make people unique and have a complex history behind them. Many times they exist because the accented language is the speaker's second language. But how do you get that across in writing? Do you phonetically spell out everything the speaker is saying?

I've read a few books that do this well. The Redwall books, and Harry Potter. But these authors did it subtly and they didn't do it all the time with every character that had an accent. Jim Butcher, however, hasn't done that, and I haven't had ANY trouble imagining how his characters speak.

This came up because in the book I'm reading right now, the characters who speak "country" English (for this setting) do so in a way that feels unnatural. I've heard people speak the way she's tried to make them speak, and it just doesn't sound right. The reason, I believe, is that she does this with nearly every sentence of dialogue from these characters. It's not awful, but it is distracting. It pulls me so far out of the story that I can only read a few pages at a time before I have to put the book away.

That's also the reason I pulled all of the accents out of my story. When I read through the book on my first editing run, I realized RIGHT AWAY that it didn't sound natural, especially when I read it out loud.

My advice for anyone who wants accents in their writing: read it out loud, have someone else read it out loud, and make sure that you don't overdo it. A little bit will go a long way when you spell out the accent. And if it you don't want to spell everything phonetically, just do what Butcher (and many other successful authors) does: tell the writer that the character's accent came through like a shock, or softly, or whatever else get's the point across in a non-distracting way.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Back from Vacation!

Okay, I didn't really go anywhere, but I'm on a regular schedule again. I even got up on time today!

I don't really have a thought-of-the-week or a column for today, but I do have some news: I'm editing my book again. I talked with Todd on Friday, and he gave me some really good critique notes. I had one other beta reader who had the time to finish the manuscript, and he was very helpful, but Todd gave me some specific things that I need to work on before the book is finished. Some of it is stuff that I already suspected, and a lot of it is stuff that I would never have noticed unless he pointed it out from a reader's perspective.

So this morning I got up and started to write another chapter. This will be the first chapter of the book and will introduce the main character and his life-changing event. I have some other things to change throughout the book, but those are all pretty small, and by the end of the week I should be done with these edits.

Now, on the one hand, I'm really glad that I got another round of beta readers to look at the book. My first beta group did help me quite a bit, but none of them had the experience I needed from a critique group. Todd, on the other hand, knows how to tell people what's wrong with their books in a way that makes it easy to approach the changes.

On the other hand, I thought I was done with edits until an agent told me to make changes for submission to publishers. Those kinds of things would be small(ish).

I'm glad I have something to focus on again, and since I only have one query floating out there without a response as of yet, it's not that big of a deal. I just want to get closer to my publishing goal, and right now it feels like I'm taking a step backwards instead of forwards.

Oh yeah, and Todd's book, The Ninth Avatar, is available for purchase. He got published through Trapdoor Books, and the book is finally available on Amazon!