Friday, October 29, 2010

Random Thoughts

So yesterday turned out to be an interesting day for me because I lost a coworker. I found out that my company let him go, which means that I will be working a lot more. This is both a good thing and a bad thing. It's good because my wife and I have bills to pay, and this will certainly help get those bills taken care of with a little money to spare.

On the other hand, I have to start getting up at 5 again if I want to get any writing done. I am making progress on my writing, though, and it's helping me to feel productive for the first time in weeks.

In other news, I'll be writing a special election-day post in honor of our freedom in this country to choose who gets to make our laws. That will be in addition to the regularly scheduled posts for next week.

Have a great weekend, everyone. Do something fun!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

I broke, but I'm better now.

So for those of you reading this blog over the last two weeks, you've probably noticed that my confidence and energy to write have been waning. Well, yesterday I finally hit my first real breakdown since I started writing thirteen years ago. It was a pretty bad breakdown, but I immediately jumped onto the forums, asked for advice, ranted a bit, and the GREAT folks at Nathan Bransford's site gave me some great advice.

The result? I have a plan of action for fixing my query letter, and it involves very little work. I won't spoil it for any of you (I'm going to tell you about it when it's finished), but it's going to drastically change some of the things I'm already written. And I only have to change a few paragraphs here and there.

So, as I've said before, make sure you stay in touch with other writers. It's almost guaranteed that you will need their support at some point in the future. We know what you're going through, and many of us want to help.

Thank you, again, to the AWESOME folks at Nathan Bransford's message board!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Where do I go from here?

When I got up this morning I intended on sending out another query letter. However, I have not seen any positive results from this letter. I didn't want to try again only to get ignored and/or rejected (a feeling I've been fighting for a while now). However, after looking into an agent's client list to see if my book would be a good fit for her, I discovered yet another blog with query advice.

Unlike all of the other pages I've read before, this site broke queries down to their basic elements and then gave a few examples of how to construct the letter from the building-blocks laid out before me. VERY helpful.

So today, instead of working on my short story or sending out another query letter, I'm writing a new query. I may even do this with Defender of the Crown and send IT out to a few more agents.

See, this all came about because I haven't seen any positive results, and I didn't know where else to look to learn how to improve my work. But I did some digging (which took some real effort) and didn't come up with anything helpful. Like I said, I stumbled across this tidbit by accident. I'm always willing to learn, the unfortunate circumstance that I'm in, though, is that I can't seem to find anyone who can really point me in the direction of good teaching. I just feel like I'm stumbling blindly through this submission process, and all of the other unpublished authors I run across seem to be in the same position.

So for those of you who need some query help, check out this site.

Friday, October 22, 2010

SYLA

Tonight, tomorrow, and Sunday, Todd Newton is going to be at Mile High Con promoting his book, speaking on panels, and even doing a partial reading and book-signing. So on that note I tell you: Support Your Local Authors!

When I worked at a bookstore, I always enjoyed selling books of authors who I had the opportunity to meet at the store. It's a big deal to me to support the local people, especially if they're on a smaller imprint. I truly want to see small-press authors hit it big, and one of the best ways to make that happen is to start grass-roots movement to support your locally published writers.

So go check out Todd's sit, look up his book, and if you're in town try to make it out to Mile High Con this weekend!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

How to Write a Page-Turner

This is a theory that every writer should know. It's not easy, and it's not necessarily something that every book should have, but I still think that every writer should know how to turn their book into a page-turner with this simple technique.

Let's start with a scene:

I stepped out of the Turbo-Lift and into the five-acre park that occupies the highest plateau of Flatiron City's South Tower. The moon shone overhead, but I didn't come here for night-times stroll. I dipped into the shadows behind tall maple tree, tucked in my long legs and crouched low to the ground. My canary told me something big would happen just after eleven tonight.

I glanced at my watch, saw that I only had five minutes to wait, and then looked around for suspicious characters. My canary usually gave me good tips on drug trade among the richest residents of my city, but this time he thought rare jewels were moving through town.

A park bench fifteen yards away creaked under the strain of a large man in a cheap suit. I held my breath, looking for second person involved int he deal. Suddenly, a twig cracked behind me, and then my head exploded and bright lights danced before my eyes.


That's it, that's all I'm giving you. Do you want more?

I know it's not perfect, but I hope it illustrates my point: people will stay up late reading your book if you end every chapter at its highest tension point. Make them turn the page to find out what happens next, build up the action. Make the characters engaging so that when they need to know what's going on, the reader needs to know. That way, when the reader doesn't find out at the end of chapter 7, they move on to chapter 8.

Make sure you satisfy the reader's curiosity, though. If you just string them along for several chapters without giving them some of the answers they're looking for, they'll get bored, fed up, or even mad (which is bad news for you), and then they'll toss your book, make a note not to buy anymore, and move on to an author that does fulfill their needs.

Monday, October 18, 2010

How do you regain confidence?

This question might have been more philosophical two or three months ago. Today, however, it's quite personal. Over the last few weeks, I've struggled with my writing goals and even questioned whether or not I should continue. I have gotten positive feedback from fellow writers, but as of yet have received nothing but negative responses from those in the industry who actually make the decisions. I've pressed forward as best as I can, but it's difficult to sell a product (even if that product is your own art) if you don't believe in that product.

So that brought me to ask myself, "How do I continue my work if I have no confidence in myself?" And my only answer is this: to regain my confidence I must push forward and create positive results. I must learn from every failure, continue sending out my work, and improve my writing every chance I get.

If anyone has advice on other ways to re-instill my confidence, I'm more than willing to hear them. Please share with my readers and me because I know all of us can, at one point or another, use the boost.

Friday, October 15, 2010

How to beat Writer's Block

There are many, MANY books out on the market that offer advice on how to get over writer's block. You've seen them: they're filled with writing exercises that you can sit down to work on when you get stuck on the project you want to work on. They have advice from successful authors, quotes from important figures in history, and many of them repeat the idea that the best way to overcome your block is to sit down and write.

Well, that's not necessarily true. Sometimes you need to get up and walk away from your work just to get your mind off of it for a moment. I'm not saying you should give up, and don't stay away too long. If you hit a roadblock and you're fighting to write something, get up walk around the room for a moment. Do you have laundry that needs to be done? Start a load. Any rooms in the house that need to be neatened? Again, don't take to long, but pick up a few things and put them away. Let that story marinate in your head, somewhere in the background, and then jump right back in.

I've found that this works for one simple reason: I get stuck on one point, I can't figure out how to make it work based on what I've already written, and then I freak out about forcing myself to write something that I'd end up throwing out when I edit the work. So I stand up, take a five-minute breather (sometimes it ends up being a thirty-minute lunch) and when I get back, I re-read what I've written, including a few paragraphs before the place I got stuck, and I have a relaxed, somewhat detached perspective. This new point of view on my work allows me to make easy decisions that I never would have figured out if I kept forcing my way through the writing.

Question of the day: How do you fight writer's block?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Why you should write!

It's amazing how much I can accomplish when I just sit down and write.

Yesterday I got out of work early, so I decided to sit down and write some more. I only got 200 words written that morning, so I figured that would be a good goal for the afternoon as well. After-all, I didn't know how much time I would have to work on my project, and I couldn't assume that I wouldn't hit a few writer's blocks. I achieved over 800 words! And I had fun writing them. There's a good chance that I'll edit out a lot of what I wrote, but I made real, creative progress.

Just more proof that when a writer takes time to sit down and write, they can accomplish something! Keeping active helps, too. You know, because the brain is a muscle that grows stronger when used.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Getting on the horse

I'm writing again. It's only been about 200 words a day, but I've knuckled down to produce a good short story for you, my readers! I'm enjoying it, too. It's really different from writing a novel, and it's challenging me, especially because I haven't tried to write a short story in over two years.

One of the things a friend of mine told me, and I agree with him, is that with a short story, every word matters. Yes, that holds true for novels, but in a short story, like in my query letters, every unnecessary word could make the difference between a straightforward, concise piece of writing and a long, perhaps even dull exercise in futility.

I still outlined this work, and I'm going to revise it to the hilt. So in many aspects, I am treating this project like a novel. It'll just be shorter and filled with tension from beginning to end.

Question of the week: do you write short stories? If so, why do you write them, what kind do you like to read, and what's your process for writing them?

Friday, October 08, 2010

Restating my goals: Who is my audience?

I realized the other day that one of the reasons I'm getting so apathetic toward my writing is that I haven't been focusing on my goals as a writer. I've looked at other writers in my genre, and I want to congratulate Kiersten White for her success. I mean, three printings in less than two months? That's HUGE! Printings are supposed to last for at least a year...if not longer.

Personally, I would love to have that many readers. Especially if the majority of them are young adults. I've talked about this before. I want young adults to have options when they go to the bookstore. There's a lot of fiction out there for young adults, but a lot of it is either geared toward young women or it's filled with vampires. I have nothing against those books, but young men and readers who don't want to read about vampires are left with fewer options.

YA books for young men, especially, appear to be lacking these days, not in quality, but in quantity. My biggest goal as a writer is to help fill that need. If adults join in and read my books, great, but that's not where I want to focus.

This is my audience, and this is where I will focus my efforts.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

If not now, then soon!

Election day is only four weeks away. I know it's a mid-term, and I know a lot of people just don't care, but it's still important. Out here in Colorado, there are several propositions and amendments that I know I can't ignore. I urge all of my readers to go out, discover the issues, and educate yourselves so that you may make the right decisions when you go vote on November 2nd.

I'm only going to remind you one more time :)

Be ready to vote!

Monday, October 04, 2010

Running Out of Words

When I started this whole "I'm going to be consistent with my blogging" thing, I planned on writing a post every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. I thought, "Maybe if I write every day, I'll get more readers. You know, because consistency is one of the keys to getting and keeping readers." But I'm running out of important things to talk about. Partly because I'm kinda tired of the sound of my own voice, so to speak.

Also, I'm just getting tired all-together. I've been writing nearly every day for almost two years. And the only progress I've seen is that my writing has improved. It's wearing me out, though, that no one's reading my work. I know it takes time, and I'm putting in the effort to improve my queries and my writing style, but I've been working on my writing for a decade. I'm just getting tired.

I'm not sure where to go from here, but I don't know if I can write meaningful posts on this blog on a daily basis. I'm going to move back to the three times a week model, and I'm going to spend more time plugging my blog on forums. And I'm going to try to participate in forum critiques more. I just don't know what else I can do.

Any ideas? I don't know how else to go about getting an agent. I don't think agents owe me anything, I just don't know if I'm doing anything wrong, or if I'm just not doing any of it well enough. And with a tight income, I can't afford the admission for any conferences or conventions. I don't even know if there are any cons in my area... at least ones that agents attend. And I certainly can't afford to travel right now.

I really wanted to "attend" the online seminar that Kristen Nelson did last Wednesday about how to pitch SF and Fantasy, but my day job always interferes with those events.

That's enough rambling, I think. I should stop before this turns into a pity party. I'm not depressed, and I NOT giving up. I just don't know what else I can do. I feel stuck. That's all.