Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Progress Report

I've started my final revision of The Mother of All Viruses. I don't have any structural changes planned, and it's been smooth reading so far. It was my first novel, and has the most grammatical errors, so I have to be careful that I don't get too caught up in the reading to notice punctuation and capitalization errors. I'm considering writing a piece of software to analyze capitalization of words that depend on context (like general vs. General Patton).

I've also started writing another chapter of The Diva of Mud Flats. I'm still mapping out the story, and still defining and redefining the characters. One character has already gone from a hero and love interest, to a villain and now back to a hero, although a reluctant scoundrel type.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Another Rejection

I got another rejection. This time from a publisher. At least it didn't appear to be a form rejection. It doesn't seem to matter how much I rationalize the difficulty of getting published, I just can't help thinking I am doing it wrong. I can't help feeling that the genre publishers look at my book and say it's not genre enough, while everyone else simply says they don't deal with that genre. In this case, it's a modern magic realism fantasy. Maybe I should change the main character to a vampire?

I don't know what it is about my generation, or maybe it's the current generation, but authors seem to be hatching in large numbers like a swarm of insects in a horror story. Maybe the educational system has been more successful than we are led to believe. More likely the internet has turned everyone into a writer (he say's as he types into his blog), and the current economy has forced them to try and make a dime. Heck, email submissions are cheap. And rejections from snail mailed manuscripts are costly rejections.

I keep a log of all my submissions and rejections. When I do eventually sell that book, and then when I sign a movie deal, I'll make sure to send all of them a press release. (Hey! It's eleven pm here, I'm supposed to be dreaming!)

Either next weekend or the following, I'll be sending off another round of submissions. Next month, I should have my first book ready for submission and will send both out.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Bringing Characters Alive

I saw a post on another blog asking how to make characters sound authentic. I thought I'd ask one of my characters to shed some insight. "Francesca? How should you sound?"

"What was that you were saying? How is it that I should sound? How are you thinking I should sound? I only sound like me. Why is it you aren't writing something to get me out the mess you put me int? Do you really think I am standing around all day waiting for you to be asking the stupid questions? No! You need to be getting back to the work, and NOW! As if I had nothing better to do? What was that? Oh, you are having the guests? I didn't see them. You should have said so. Of course they want to know what I am thinking. Who wouldn't? What was the question? Oh yes, how is it you can make characters sounding authentic."

"Why? Who says authentic is so fabulous? If that other person, who asked the question, is thinking that Bella, in the twilighty books, is not sounding like the teenager, then I say, 'WHAT IS IT THAT YOU ARE EXPECTING? She is hanging out with a hundred year old, don't you know?' My author's kid thinks she is knowing better what kids her age are sounding like, but she only just knows what they are sounding like today. They sure aren't sounding like I did when I was her age, not that I'm that old, I'm just saying."

"I think, maybe, some people are forgetting that I am a character. If I am a little outrageous, it is just being my character. If I am a lot outrageous, it is just more character to love, and I do like feeling the love. Now get back to work. I am needing the hero to save me."

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Progress Report

Mid-weeks are slow for me. My day job is both time consuming and taxing. Still, I have managed to make it to the last chapter of The Mother of All Viruses. It's been a good revision pass. I've found a few continuity errors to correct and have modified one of the main characters titles. I think the next pass will just catch any lingering problem words that I may have overused.

Last weekend I mapped out the second chapter of The Diva of Mud Flats. I'm not entirely settled on it yet, but it's provided a good springboard to split the story into three threads. It also introduced two separate villains to the plot, and a second hero. The third chapter will most likely add a fourth and fifth thread.

I wrote my first novel with a small outline I kept on my PDA. My second novel was pretty much free flowing words onto the page. I have thoroughly outlined another, Finding Religion, but have only drafted a single scene so far. I have a less thorough outline for Something About Nobility. I have another started with 2500 words and no outline.

If there is a formula that defines the technical aspects of how a story is written, I haven't found it. To be honest, I don't believe there is one true formula. I take each book as it's own inspiration. Like the sculptor that endeavors to free the art from the stone, I don't over analyze how I intend to get a story from my head to the paper, it will find it's own path, like water flowing down a hill.

Update: I finished the last two chapters. Will probably take a short breather before starting the final revision.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Progress Report

This has been a good weekend. I'm still revising The Mother of All Viruses. I have three chapters left, then I anticipate one more revision pass. It's a good thing when you still like what you wrote, during revisions, and I'm still enjoying it as I go along.

I found a few new sites to help my search for an agent. I have added them below.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Progress Report

Without anything spectacular to report, I want to use this forum as a chronicle for my current projects.

I am still nearing the completion of the second to last revision of The Mother of All Viruses. This revision included three main goals: I'm documenting the scene descriptions so I can use them to produce a synopsis; I've dropped the sub-sub-sub-plot that one of my professors has not received her doctorate yet; I've also changed one of the getaway vehicles from a van to a car (allowing the FBI to locate the abandoned van and it's contents).

This week, I completed the first draft of the first chapter of The Diva of Mud Flats. I still need to work on the outline for the upcoming chapters.

I tweaked the first two scenes of another novel, Something About Nobility. I have two written scenes and lots of notes. I have an idea how I want this plot to end, but I am still putting together the mechanisms to get there. I have defined some interesting characters, and this week, I came up with some more ideas to manage their relationships and another sub plot to distract the primary protagonist.

No takers, yet, on The Lost Art of Magic. I will submit it again at the end of the month. I have expanded my notes on the follow up, I plan two more novels as sequels. I am seeing some interesting chatter about the software I use (yWriter) regarding how it may be modified to further assist book series. I know the software author has a book series of his own, so he is probably motivated to make this a reality.

Un-sponsored plug: If you are an author and work on a PC, yWriter is an excellent tool for putting your novel together. It organizes your work in chapters and scenes. It doesn't write the book for you, it just gives you a way to organize your work. It has advanced features if you want them, but they don't slow you down if you don't need them. Most important, the software is an invisible interface between myself and my work. It never distracts me from my writing.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Working multiple manuscripts

I don't know if this is considered smart or stupid, but I find myself working on multiple projects at the same time. I have completed my second novel, though I still plan to pass it through a copywriter for final editing. I am almost done with my second to last revision on my first novel. I usually do my revisions in the mornings and look forward to completing it. Last night I completed my first draft on the first chapter of a new book. I also have a couple other books started, and several other outlines underway.

I am definitely running the risk of spreading myself too thin to ever finish anything, but usually, I reach a point where I need to mull over what I have done before I continue. Sometimes this is a point where I'll switch gears and make some contributions to another story. I find that writing out the first couple scenes usually gives me some insight on how my characters are going to develop. I like to keep it more right brain than left.

I do use a piece of software that lets me organize my scenes and chapters, and move them around. In fact, without this, I probably would never have tried working on so many manuscripts. It allows me to define my chapters, then sub-define them in scenes. I can create notes about the scenes and the characters and then come back to the project at a later date, I hope.

So, maybe I'm doing myself a disservice, I don't know. If I finish this new book (I expect it to be shorter, perhaps a novella), then I guess my technique is working for me. If I actually pick up where I left off on one of my others, then I can be sure of it.

I think I said "I" 25 times above, so I(29) am going to stop now.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Reading, Riting and Rithmetic

I don't know if today's kids even know what the three R's are. As authors, they can take on a completely different meaning for us.

Reading - I won't preach that you have to love reading, but I hope you at least like it some. I'm sure you will find authors and teachers who will talk down to you from their pulpit and proclaim that you must read, read and read. I'll agree that there is much to be learned from reading other peoples work, especially from the great authors. But I'm not a huge advocate of reading, because you reach a point where you don't want your style to be unduly influenced by someone else's. Plus, there's the cost. Every hour reading could have been an hour writing, but now and then, it's good to pick up a book and see how someone else does it. It's also good to have certain authors or book series that you look forward to reading. I think reading is probably much more important for the younger budding authors, but when you've reached an age that qualifies you for the adjective "seasoned", you'll find life is short and you only want to read what you want to read, and devote more time to writing.

Writing - If you don't like writing, go find something else to do. If you are unsure about what you have written, have it appraised. I attended creative writing courses all through high school and college and a little beyond. Granted, writing was easier in those days, all you needed was pencil and paper. Then, when it came time to share with your class, a typewriter and mimeograph did the trick. No software tools to paste together your story like a comic book, just pencil and eraser. Write something, share it and see what works and what doesn't. Anyone can learn to write, the hard part is the story telling. Story telling is a talent, maybe even a gift. It's not unique to authors, a painter who is a story teller will paint a picture. A painter who is not a story teller will paint a house. It's the same with writing. If you are a story teller, you can write a fictional account to draw the reader in and thrill them with the ending. If not, you can still craft words together, but it will most likely be someone else's story.

Rithmetic - I know, I know, what does arithmetic have to do with writing? I'm not talking about word counts or chapter sizes, it's much more basic than that. And it can be the hardest of all, especially for fiction. We all want to get paid. Getting discovered, or even just noticed, is the hardest part. It uses the other half of the brain too, which makes it harder to do both well. I'm still working on this. If I ever figure it out, I'll let you know.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Starting my first book - The Mother of All Viruses

Happy Mother's Day.

As a matter of fact, my first book, The Mother of All Viruses, is dedicated to my late mother, and my second book, The Lost Art of Magic, is dedicated to my wife, who, while not the mother of my children, has two children and four grand children.

I said in my first post, that I would elaborate a bit on my first book, so here goes.

We had just left California and moved to just outside of Phoenix. Soon after moving to Arizona, I started working just outside of Atlanta, Georgia. Being away from home left me with a lot of free time, too much time to be occupied by playing golf, so I started writing again.

When I first sat down in front of my computer, I wondered how in the world I would ever write 80 to 120 thousand words when the most I had ever written was about 17 thousand. I mapped out a story outline and added some parallel sub-plots and created more characters than I had ever used in a short story. In actual fact, I think I probably created more characters than most authors would advise, at least those that count words and statistics.

I had not invested in any tools to help me at this point, I just started writing in Word. I wrote more or less in a stream of conciousness mode. Even though I had an outlin of sorts, I actually found myself waiting to see how some scenes would turn out. My grammar had significant problems, and I knew this. It improved slightly as I went along, but I always figured it would go to a copywriter for editing anyway. I had a lot to learn.

My wife was a big help. She read my pages and got caught up in the story, and hated those times when she had to wait for more pages. When I finally type 'THE END' on the last page, I started looking around the internet for places to submit it. The first place I found was a Literary Agent that immediately whisked it off to a publisher who wrote back and said that a contract would be coming.

If you are a budding author, and learn nothing else from this blog, learn this: IT IS NOT THAT EASY!

The Agent was a well known famous SCAM, as was the publisher. They offered me a Joint Venture (which is another name for Vanity). I was initially suspicious because they were my very first submission. Plus, I learned that it is somewhat difficult to sell larger novels, espeially for new authors, and this one had grown to over 160 thousand words (so much for me fear of reaching 80 thousand). I found some very useful websites that listed agents and publishers to avoid, and there they were.

Having learned that this book's size might be a problem, I shelved it for a while and wrote my second book which landed at a more workable 93 thousand words. I continue to edit my first novel, and in fact am almost done with my revisions. When I finish the revisions, I will try to shop it around again.

To be honest, between the current financial climate, and the changing publishing world, it is easily possible that I will be shopping five different novels around before I finally make a sale. But, what else do I have to do? I keep writing, editing, and once a month I try to sell some stories and whatever books I have.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

First Post

I think I always knew that selling a book would be harder than selling a song. All through the seventies (my higher education years) I studied creative writing. It was all I wanted to do, besides owning an aquarium store, but that was more of a phase. But, along the way I discovered how much I liked acting and music too. So, when the day came that I discovered computers, and what a good day job it is, I just had to decide what else I was going to do with my life. Selling a novel sounded likes lots of rejections, there were only so many publishers, and acting was another tough road, there are a limited number of playhouses, but music is everywhere. There are live venues everywhere you go, and the radio stations have more varieties than ice cream. So I left writing behind, except for writing some music here and there, but the music industry is tough, and it's fickle.

Someday, I'll tell you more about my experience with music. Five years ago I started writing again. I was rusty, and wasn't even sure if I could write a full length novel, but I did, and then some. Next post I'll talk a bit about the first book.

As I go along, I will catch up some of what got me to this point, and chronicle what's happening now as I try to get my books published, and which books I'm working on.