Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Inspiration

I've done a few posts on inspiration, but last week on twitter Nathan Fillion asked the question, "Who inspires you?" I didn't tweet back anything, but I did stop to think about it again.

I realized that, with all of the episodes of Buffy, Angel, and Firefly that I've been watching, Joss Wheden inspires me. As do the actors that play his parts. They convey great characters that make me want to sit down and write... and that's exactly what I do! I grab my computer, create characters, and then devise problems for them to overcome.

However, those actors don't stop inspiring me with those shows. I watch Castle and Bones as often as I can (thanks Hulu!) because of the great stories that are crafted by the writers. Castle, in particular, inspires me because I can appreciate the process of putting together a mystery novel. I know Nathan Fillion isn't a bestselling author, but his character is and I like watching the character because a couple of years ago, I tried to write a mystery novel. During that time, I studied the art as often as I could. I'm surprised and pleased with how authentic Castle's process is throughout the course of each episode. Yes, I know it's formulaic, but most stories are these days...regardless of their genre. Anyway, Castle makes me want to sit down and write a mystery, almost as much as Jim Butcher makes me want to write a mystery...so that's what I'm going to do. My next WiP is going to center around a murder investigation.

So now that I've talked about inspiration, I MUST ask the question: Who inspires you?

Monday, August 30, 2010

Confusing Pronouns

Last night I finished a book that, from beginning to end, filled its pages with confusing pronouns. This book was written in third-person, but it followed four or five different characters, most of them male.

In the course of the narrative, the author constantly spoke of one character by name (usually a male), and then referred to another character as "he" in the next paragraph. Here's an example (not taken from the book). This is Third-Person close. I'm following Tom, and Tom is interacting with Sam.



Tom walked into the cafeteria and set his tray down next to Sam's. "How's it going?" he asked.

"Not bad," Sam replied. "I aced all of my midterms. How 'bout you?"

"Cs and Bs," he replied, taking a seat and digging into his lunch. "I know I would have done a better job if I could have studied during my grandpa's funeral."...


Confusing, right? Believe me, the book itself was worse. It felt as if the author completely ignored the beta readers and the copy editor when they pointed out this problem. On the other hand, it shouldn't necessarily take a copy editor or a beta reader to prevent pronoun confusion.

Here's a tip: if you have two or more characters of the same gender interacting with each other, make sure that you refer to each of them by name any time their actions follow the action of the other character, especially if you begin a new paragraph. Does that make sense? Every time Sam performs an action that follows one of Tom's, my job as the writer is to make sure that I implicitly inform the reader that Sam is indeed the one who is acting.

Now I know readers are smart and capable of figuring out who's who, but when I read through the book that prompted this post, I found myself skipping ahead and backwards to figure out who the author was talking about. In fact the only reason I fought through this book, as bad as it is, was because I wanted to see how the story ended. If anyone ever asked me if the author is worth reading, though, I will give them an emphatic, "NO!"

Friday, August 27, 2010

Work Work Work

I get to go in to work today, which is great because I'm a little down on hours this period. As for querying, I'm going to take a breath and wait until Tuesday. I got one response, and since I have three unanswered letters out there, I want to get at least one more response before I start sending out more. That way I know whether or not I need to revise the query.

I'm also really hoping Query Shark looks over my letter to help me fix it. That would be awesome.

Ladies and Gentlemen, have a great weekend!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

My thoughts on Queries

Yesterday, Nathan Bransford asked how people feel about this site. I was actually quite surprised at how many people oppose the very concept. Some of the folks who commented on Mr. Bransford's post seemed to be afraid that their query would end up getting one of the sites that makes fun of queries.

I don't worry about that, and here's why. After reading through the archives of Slush Pile Hell, I noticed that each and every letter that ended up there tried to be memorable in the wrong way. The authors presented themselves in an arrogant, self-important, and sometimes creepy manner, as if their personality, writing background, or any number of other reasons entitled them to landing an agent. They didn't let the writing speak for itself.

The most important part of a query is the writing. What's your story about? Let your story stand out, present it in a way that makes the agent want - or even need - to read more. And failing that, hope and pray that they forget you before the rejection hits your inbox. If your book (not you as a person) doesn't wow the agent, then letting the agent forget who you are is your best chance at getting them to represent you later on down the road.

You see, if you make a bad first impression, even if you're just weird and unprofessional, they're less likely to take any of your projects seriously. They'll remember you as that guy who "received this story from the alien Rotnek, and it's not really a novel, but we should present it to the waiting masses in that form so that they'll learn to trust me as their new spiritual guide."

I write my queries to let the writing speak for itself. So far, I haven't wowed any agents, but if they remember me, I'd be shocked. There's nothing about myself that would guarantee good sales of my book, so I let the book do the work. I just try to present it in a way that makes the agent want to read it and sell it. And if you do the same thing, then there's no reason to fear ending up in Slush Pile Hell.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Two down, many to go...

And that applies to my query AND my book. Today I begin another WiP. This one, while modern fantasy, will be more on the paranormal side than THE WYRM FIEND is. Chris Drake is definitely a true hero, but my new protagonist isn't going to be as strong. I'm thinking of following the classic film noir style while modernizing/personalizing it to my story. It's going to be gritty, but witty. At least that's my plan.

I'm really looking forward to this, too. It shows that when I finish one book, I can jump in and start again. This, I know, will be helpful when an agent starts pitching me to publishers. It shows that I have follow-through, and that I can produce a product.

As for querying, I'm going to take it slowly. At least for a little while. I sent out one yesterday, and I sent out another one just a few minutes ago. I want to see what kind of reaction I get before I send them out en mass, so one a day will work for now.

Now, I have work to do. Have a great Wednesday!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The big day

Karate Kid part II is on in the background today. Such a great movie...way better than part III...and don't get me started on the joke-of-a-movie with Hillary Swank.

Today is the day: the day that I send out my new query letter to that first agent. Yesterday I said I'm nervous. The reason I'm nervous is because I'm not sending this letter out to some random agent that I expect and/or hope to get a rejection from. I'm sending it to one of the agents at the top of my list. However, even with all of the great feedback I've received, I'm not an expert in writing queries. Since I have yet to succeed, this is still a venture into the unknown for me.

I don't know how it's going to turn out, and that winds me up pretty tight. But this is how I feel pretty much any time I take a risk. On the other hand, when I asked my wife to marry me, it turned out well! :D

Monday, August 23, 2010

I'm sitting here, bored again, wondering what I should work on. I've gone through my synopsis and query, I can't think of ways to improve either of them (I'm not giving up on revisions, I just need to look at them from a different angle, I think), so tomorrow I'm going to send out my query letter to ONE agent. Just to see what kind of response I get.

I have the newest revisions of my query up on the forums, and I'm waiting for some more feedback, but I think it's time to take the plunge. I'm confident, yet nervous.

Monday

Ahh...Firefly! I love this show. I think I'm going to keep this on in the background while I work on my query letter and synopsis today.

I really hope I'm done with these documents. I took a week off to let them percolate in my brain, and in that week, no new critiques popped up on the forums where I had them posted.

I had a very relaxing, yet boring week last week, and now I'm excited to get back to work on my WiP...which is no longer in progress :)

Anyway, I have very little to talk about today, so go check out my excerpt (lower down on the page). See you tomorrow!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Work!

The other day, I got a call to go into work. So I get to drive ALL around the Denver Metro area today, beginning with a trip to Red Rocks! For those of you not in the know, Red Rocks is quite a famous amphitheater in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. It's a great place to see a show, and really easy to drive in and park... if you're in a car. I won't be. I get to drive a box truck in there which, while it's something I CAN do, is something that makes me nervous.

You see, while driving on narrow roads in the city (like down-town) the worst thing that can happen if I don't line the truck up is maybe hitting a wall with my mirrors. In the mountains, if I don't get the truck JUST right, I can roll over the edge of a cliff.

It's not THAT dangerous, partly because I know what I'm doing, and partly because the roads have plenty of room up at Red Rocks, but it still makes me pretty nervous. I mean, I'm a writer, for crying out loud. Not a truck driver. But I'm also a truck driver, so watch out!

Happy Friday, have a good weekend!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Game On!

You know how I recommended playing games to help you get creative? Well, if that didn't convince you, watch this video, and then go find people to play with!




And, of course, watch The Guild! First three seasons are on Netflix instant watch, and the fourth season (the first five episodes) are available on MSN.com.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

RPGs are good for writing.

As many of you already know, I am a gamer. I play video games and table-top RPGs. However, when my gaming friends and I get together, most of the time we talk about OTHER things. We never talk about what our characters did in the game last night, we never marvel over how cool or how painful a win or loss might have been. We simply use the game as a venue to spend time together as friends. It's like Monopoly, only...you know...fun.

It's also a great exercise in writing. Especially if you run a game. I'm really looking forward to running a game some time in the future (not sure when that will happen, though) because when I'm not working on a novel, it gives me a great opportunity to hone my story-telling skills. If anyone is interested in this particular past-time, I encourage you to find a good gaming group. Fear not: if you don't want to spend time with nerds who are obsessed with nothing but the game, just be picky. There are plenty of us out there who go see movies, go to concerts, hike, camp, and so on.

But group activities that hone your writing skills are good for you. They help you relax, and those people will (usually) keep you from losing your mind...especially when you're ready to pull out your hair because your story isn't behaving.

Monday, August 16, 2010

One of THOSE days...

I have a lot going on today, and I'm not even at my day-job. There's a great deal of things to do around the apartment, things that COULD wait, but probably won't simply because I don't know what to do next in my writing.

I still have to fix my synopsis, but based on feedback I've received, it looks like my query letter is complete. I'm no fool, though, so I'm sitting on it for a while, and I'll come back to it to make ABSOLUTELY SURE that it's ready to go. I also sent it to Query Shark for review, and I'm REALLY hoping she reviews it.

Last night, I saw Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, and I think that was one of the best movies I've seen all year. It's funny, entertaining, and I got most of the jokes/culture references. I highly recommend you see it.

Also, if you're newish to this whole writing thing, and even if you're not, go check out Todd's blog for his first of (hopefully) many "Pitfalls of Writing" posts.

So, I'm off to start cleaning my kitchen. I'll probably sit down to look over my synopsis a bit later, and then it's off to game night with the guys. Tomorrow I'll put together a real excerpt from my newest book.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Stick to it!

Perseverance is key. No matter what you want to accomplish, stick to it. When things get tough, fight back and work harder to succeed.

That's the best advice I can give, and since my body decided to try to kill me today, that's all you get. Have a great weekend. :)

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Sleep Deprived and Needing to Edit

Yesterday I did a little bit of work on my synopsis, but what I spent most of the day on was my QUERY LETTER! I've gotten some great feedback on it so far, and while I'm tempted to send it out today, I'm going to wait until I have my synopsis closer to completion. And I want to triple check to make sure the query letter is ready to go.

I don't know where I'm going to work on my stuff today, but I know I NEED to get out of the house. I didn't get enough sleep last night, and unless I intend on napping on the couch all day, I need to go somewhere.

Soon I'll put together an excerpt for all of you to read, and when the query is done, I'll post that, too.

Oh yeah, yesterday I formatted the book! (I write it on my Mac, but since Pages doesn't export well, I always do the final format in Word on my PC. It's a lengthy process that needed to be done, so I did it!)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

POV Why you should write in First Person

First person is a great way to make the reader really connect with the protagonist. If you, the writer, have a great character with a unique perspective on the world around him that just wouldn't come out in third person, then FP is the way to go.

I've read several books in FP that were done really well, like the Sookie Stackhouse books and the Dresden Files. Both protagonists are very different from the people they spend their time with, and while, in my opinion, Sookie Stackhouse could have been written in third person just as well as it was in first, I do think Harris did a great job with her series. (To be fair, I'm only up to the second book. So right now, the stories might have been DIFFERENT in third person, but not better or worse. I don't know how later books in the series turned out.)

The Dresden Files is an example of a series that would not have worked in TP. A lot of Dresden's personality comes through the narration, his inner thoughts, and sidebars to the reader. The books wouldn't be as engaging or entertaining in a different POV.

An example of a book that SHOULD have been written in FP but was written in TP instead? The Dexter books. The author wrote them as if he can see inside Dexter's head, but he tells the reader what's going on from the perspective of an observer, rather than letting Dexter tell the story himself. I believe the books would have been more engaging and I would be more sympathetic toward the protagonist if the books were written in FP.

So when you're getting ready to choose one POV over the other, ask yourself a couple questions: which perspective will make this book better? Will it enhance or get in the way of the story? and is the reader going to connect to the protagonist?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Tuesday update.

I got the entire plot of my book written down in my synopsis yesterday. It's WAY too long. I have it posted on a couple of forums, but I think the length is intimidating people. Not that I'm in too much of a rush. I learned a lot about writing synopses with my last book, and even more with this attempt yesterday.

I only have seven more chapters to enter into the computer, and then all of my proofreads are done! By the end of the week I plan on starting work on my query.

Tomorrow I'll get that first-person post up.

Have a great Tuesday!

Monday, August 09, 2010

In Wich I Don't Make Friends:

Yesterday, I thought about Twilight again. I said before that I listened to the audio book, and I didn't particularly enjoy it. But I pretty much left it there. These days, though, it seems to be a trend among aspiring writers to trash Twilight.

On the other hand, I have not seen this trend extend to veteran authors or agents who blog. The only author whose opinion I HAVE heard is Stephen King. And he wasn't generous.

I don't understand why this trend is so prevalent, though. I know many people can get jealous, and that could be part of it, but I think it's too late to convince people NOT to read the book. The critics have spoken, the fans have gathered, and Stephanie Meyer is a successful writer. (Notice how I didn't use quotes there? That's because she IS a success. She wrote books and millions of people read them. And millions of people also saw the movies.)

Anyway, I think it's high time we move on. Striving to be the NEXT big thing is great, but we can't change how successful Twilight is. And, as for me, I know ripping into the book won't help me get published. I have my opinion, I've been as fair as I can on this blog, and I'll be INCREDIBLY vocal around my close friends, but not online.

Friday, August 06, 2010

POV: Why you should write in the Third Person.

POV is an interesting topic, especially since so many people have widely different ideas on why a writer should use one perspective over another. As writers, I'm certain you've heard all of the arguments, and if you've taken ANY writing classes, I can assume that you know the various levels of third-person narrative. I'm not going to talk about all of the artistic purposes of third-person POV today, I'm simply going to tell you why I think you should pick third-person over first-person in your novel.

Third-person offers many advantages over first, regardless of how close you stick to the protagonist. My personal favorite is that, if the story calls for it, the author can switch to a new perspective.

There are several examples that can be made, such as Butcher's CODEX ALERA where he follows three or four protagonists (depending on the novel) and gives the reader brief flashes of the characters' thoughts. At times, he'll even step back to give the reader an view of the scene from an eagle's eyes.

Third-person can make it easier to draft a story, too. At least in my opinion. I've found that when I write in first-person, I need to keep myself in the protagonist's brain the entire way through the story. But in third-person, I have no trouble writing scenes the way I want them to be written. Going through and editing/revising is easier because I only have to tweak a few things before it's finished, rather than making sure that the protagonist's opinions and past experiences color the scene for the reader.

There are probably hundreds of other reasons to write in third-person, and I would LOVE to hear them. Please feel free to comment.

Some time next week we'll discuss first-person.

Have a good weekend!

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Almost done. Almost done!

I just finished my proofreads... a day ahead of schedule! Now all I need to do is enter the changes into my computer, which I shall do as I write my synopsis.

I promise, I'll have some teasers up soon, so stay tuned. And tomorrow, I'm going to discuss POV and my thoughts on why third person should be used over first person in certain situations. Oh, and don't fret, next week I'll discuss the advantages of first person over third :)

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Update, update, update!

I only have thirty-seven more pages to proofread! I got over fifty done today, and I'm not even exhausted. If I didn't have other things to do this afternoon, I would still be working on them.

I have a couple of writing-related posts in mind to work on once I'm finished with my proofreads, but for now, I'll just keep my updates short.

Go write something!

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Smile

I just had a very long, frustrating afternoon. It didn't ruin my day, and I got through it by being friendly to the people who were making it difficult. As a result, I made it through with very little difficulty. I just took a very long time.

With that in mind, as an aspiring author, I always strive to treat other writers, agents, and editors well. I may not make their day better, but I refuse to be the person who could make it worse.

So go smile at someone today. Be friendly. You may find that it will keep your day from getting bad :)

Monday, August 02, 2010

More and more progress!

I'm GOING to start writing my synopsis next Monday. I worked this weekend on reaching my half-way mark on my proofreads, and I intend on finishing those proofs this week.

I'm also super stoked because the Colorado Primaries are this month, and I actually get to participate in this election. I know it's not the mid-term yet, but some of the people running in my party aren't the people I want to get elected. I'm quite excited about some of the others who are running, and I REALLY want to see them on the November ballot.

Again, please vote!

I'm at my day job today, and it's my lunch break. So this is about all I have for the day.