Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Little Rewards

This week I am rewarding myself for getting my contest entry submitted. I managed to put the entire thing together and send it in on Monday, so I'm going to take the rest of the week off from this project and focus on relaxing a bit.

I wrote a short story yesterday that I'll polish up and post soon, and I'm going to play some video games. Something I've forgone in large measure since I started this book. Yes, I have played a few hours now and then, but I spent weeks at a time either huddled over my computer writing when I wasn't working the Day Job, or making sure that I didn't neglect my wife. Something that is VERY important to me :).

So I'm going to reward myself with some breaks and a real shot at playing games I don't get to spend much time on.

Oh, yes. I'll be brewing a bit, too, in the next few weeks.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Don't Be Afraid

Life as an artist can be difficult. It's full of disappointment, failures both perceived and real, hard work, sleepless nights, worry over choices and the future, and endless negativity surrounding your work. But don't be afraid to put yourself out there. I'm not just talking about blogging or self-publishing, either. Those can be brutal and they have their own sets of challenges, highs and lows.

I'm talking about putting your work into the hands of people who may not like it and are going to tell you, either by way of rejection letters or published reviews. "Failing" to win the contest I'm entering would be disappointing. But it's not stopping me from entering.

To be fair, I am BLOODY terrified. This is a new experience for me. And I don't know how well I'm going to do. I don't know who I'm up against, how talented they are, or even how my book will measure up against theirs. I don't even know how my writing will measure up against the scoring system. And that's one of the biggest reasons I'm entering AND paying extra to get the writing critiqued.

Aside from sending my books out to beta readers and agents, this is the most real-world exposure my writing will have gotten. And, again, I am afraid. But I'm not, if that makes sense.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Writing in a Vacuum

First off, DON'T DO IT! Writing in a vacuum is always a bad idea. As writers, many of us tend to be solitary folk, and we fantasize about the "romance" of sitting in a secluded cabin in the woods, toiling away on a typewriter until our masterpiece is ready to send to some editor who still manages to accept manuscripts via "the post."

Over the last year and a half, I've REALLY learned the value of having other people read and critique my writing. My critique group showed me many faults in my book, which helped me stay excited about the story. Mostly because their perspectives helped me improve the book far more than I could have on my own.

And recently, another friend of mine looked over my synopsis (despite a very busy schedule) and gave me more invaluable feedback. While some of her comments required more work on my synopsis, it'll only help my writing.

And on a side note, getting trusted writers to tell you what's "wrong" with your writing will make the criticism of professional reviewers sting less when (and that is WHEN not IF) a periodical publishes a less-than-glowing review of your book.

Monday, May 13, 2013

While The Wife's Away...

The Wifey is out of town for a couple of nights for work. That means I'm all alone with the cat. I know it probably sounds lame, but I already miss her, and it's only been four hours. Still, I like having her around. Still! After five years!!

Now, I'm not going to mope around the house for the next three days. I do have work today and Wednesday. But I took tomorrow off. And I have big plans! Poker night with the guys is first on my "bachelor" docket, and then tomorrow I'm spending the entire day brewing beer and working on writing projects. I'm very excited.

Other than that, I have a few irons I'm about to stick in the fire, but we'll see how everything turns out before I mention what those might be. I don't want to get anyone's hopes up ;)

Friday, May 10, 2013

My Two Cents: Synopses

Take some time to research a good synopsis, how to write one, what agents are looking for, and how writers feel about them, and you'll find so many different, often contradictory opinions, that you might as well just figure out the best way for YOU to write your synopsis. In the past, I mentioned that there's no such thing as a "standard" synopsis. It's a total lie. Some places tell you the standard is one page, single-spaced, no paragraph indent. Others will say that it MUST be double-spaced, from 1-8 pages, following ALL of the plot points, side plots, main and ancillary characters. And pretty much anything in-between.

What is standard? There's a 90% chance you MUST have A synopsis in one form or another. Beyond your basic query letter. Why? Some agents still require them. Many editors require them. And it's hard to find a novel-writing contest that doesn't require at least a minimal synopsis.

"But," you say, "I'm self-publishing. Do I need a synopsis?"

Maybe. I don't know. I've never looked into self-publishing. But if I WERE to go that direction, I would write a synopsis. And it would be the best darn synopsis I'd ever written for that book. Why? Promotions! Whether or not I spoil the ending in the synopsis, it's a great tool, especially at a shorter length, to use for promotions.

And answer me this question: What's your book about? I'm a potential reader, you're a self-pubbed author drumming up sales. You caught me with the book's cover. Awesome! Now you have two minutes. TWO MINUTES to sell this book before I lose interest.

"That's not fair," you insist.

No, it's not. But that's life. The average American has a 30 second attention span. The average reader may stretch it out to two minutes, especially if they're properly hooked.

"But I spoke to readers for ten minutes or MORE!"

Doesn't matter. Polite people will hang out and talk for a long time, especially if you're friendly. But in sales, especially when browsing, will make up their mind VERY quickly about whether or not they'll make the purchase.

"Okay, Giles. What the eff does this have to do with a synopsis?"

What's your book about?!? Have you taken the time to lay it out from beginning to end, picked out the MOST IMPORTANT parts, and then crafted them into your pitch? Yes? Then you may be fine. If not, you need to figure that out, and one of the easiest ways to do so is to write a synopsis.

Of course, this is all highly biased opinion, but that's my two cents. For the record, writing my synopsis is by far the most painful part of the experience for me. But to move forward, it's absolutely necessary.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Book Review: Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger

Gail Carriger's first novel in the Finishing School series is absolutely wonderful! Her foray into the world of Young Adult is well executed, lively, and is a great intro to the Steampunk genre AND her concept of a supernatural Victorian England.

This story takes place several decades before the Parasol Protectorate and only features three crossover characters (who will remain nameless so that I don't spoil the book). It follows Sophronia Temminick through her first term at a very odd finishing school that teaches young ladies of quality the skill and social graces needed to survive in the upper classes of English society. And how to employ those skill as an effective spy and/or assassin.

As with Ms. Carriger's other works, this book is well written with engaging characters, brilliant dialogue, and edge-of-the-seat plot. It expands on the world in which we met Alexia Tarabotti, delves into some of the history of world without spoiling the other books, and develops new, exciting elements make the world feel so much more realistic!

My only complaint is that suspension of disbelief is difficult for me when it comes to the finishing school itself. I don't want to ruin the surprise for any potential readers, and I did find the school to be very clever and fascinating, just rather difficult to accept as "possible," even within the realm of this extremely fanciful universe.

Overall, I think this is another book by Ms. Carriger that deserves a place on your bookshelf. And if you have a teenager in the house who may not be "old enough" to read the Parasol Protectorate, give them this one as it's appropriate for pretty much any age.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Charity of the Month: Community

With all of the turmoil in this world, I want each of us to take the time to reach out to our communities. Whether that's the neighborhood in which you live, a city trying to recover from a disaster, or a local charity that's doing great things in your home town, find somewhere to give, volunteer, or just go out of your way to smile more.

While I try to cope the this May 1 snow, you all have a great week.