November 18, 2009

Like Father like Daughter...ah, crap

Time for some progeny bragging. A large part of my daughter, Kiersten's, homework this year has been something called narratives. Sort of little stories not worried about beginnings or ends. She's been working hard on them and actually got an A+ on the last one, which involved vampire gummie bears.

She absolutely LOVES Capcom's Resident Evil franchise (so much so, that she asked for an early Christmas present of a Wii so she could play the new Resident Evil game that just came out, doing every chore she could find in the house and then some to make her point...but that's another story). In any case, for her most recent narrative she's writing about what happened to the R.E. characters between version #2 and #3 of the game. It always bugged her that the game developers just dropped a bunch of stuff during that time, so she decided to write about what the characters were doing in the time in between.

I'm getting asked questions like "how do you put gas in a motorcycle?" and "how many G's in lunge?". Gotta love it.

Of course, as a mostly frustrated writer I want to tell her to go do something else, but I won't. She's in for a world of hurt, but she needs to find that out on her own. For now, I'm just proud. Damn proud.

October 28, 2009

Castle Tightpants

If you're a writer, a fan of Nathan Fillion or if you have any taste at all, you're no doubt a fan of the ABC show CASTLE. For me, it's right up there with Mad Men and FlashForward as the best show on television this year. And it just keeps getting better.

The CASTLE Halloween episode was on earlier this week, and while it was an awesome episode in its own right, the opening had a special touch for all the Browncoats out there. Watch the video below and you'll see why Firefly fans need to be Castle fans.

October 16, 2009

Where you at?

I'm right here, something wrong with your eyes?

Okay, okay. I've been busy on a rewrite of Stealing Genius. After the, oh I don't know, 723rd request/comment on my novel's length, I decided it had to go on a serious diet. Really, it had been in the back of my mind for a while, but then I received a specific partial request if I could cut 20K from the book. So I gave in and figured I'd take a couple days to carve out the most egregiously boring parts before sending in the partial.

That was three weeks ago. And I'm half done. To date, I've cut about 25K. Granted, the first half had the most significant cuts, and subsequent requirements for scene mending and recreation. The way things are going, it will probably be another couple weeks. By then I should have cut a total of around 35K, putting the manuscript at just under 105K. Not only much more marketable, but right at the length books of this genre are expected to be at the moment.

Once I'm done, I'm going to send out another round of queries and try to forget about this book. I need to write something else. I mean NEED. I typed the first words of Stealing Genius on November 3rd, 2008. Under a year to being done--really done--is okay. Over a year and I'm afraid I'm going to become one of those writers you run into at conventions who wants to tell you about the book they've been writing for the past seventeen years. In them, it makes me want to cry. In me? Well, let's just say it rhymes with cry.

In the interim, thanks to Nathan Bransford's blog, I discovered, and ran the last draft of Stealing Genius through it. Here it is for your visual enjoyment:

July 1, 2009

Killing Floor

Finished reading Lee Child's first novel, Killing Floor. Just loved it. Great voice and a simple, unvarnished story. I'm not sure I'll like his subsequent books as much. Killing Floor was written in first person, and for some reason after this novel he switched to third person for his Reacher novels. I read the teaser for his next novel in the back of Killing Floor and was less than amazed by it, I'm sure mostly due to the change in proximity through the voice shift. Have to think about it.

But if you haven't read any of the Jack Reacher series, definitely read this one. Just excellent.

On a side note, titles always interest me. I kept waiting to see why this one was called Killing Floor. There's one tiny mention of a "killing floor" from a slaughter house in the book, but it has next to nothing to do with the plot. I'm pretty sure they picked it because it sounded cool and that was all. I also noticed the phrase "bad luck and trouble" in this book, which as it turns out is the title of one of the Reacher books down the line.

June 29, 2009

Still Kicking

I was starting to think I'd imagined all those queries. I just got a partial request from a huge house in NY. Very cool. He says he takes about 8 weeks to respond. Which is about when I'll hear on the others. So it looks like I've got a quiet summer ahead. But of course I'll be too busy writing my next book to notice. :)

June 8, 2009

It's been quiet...too quiet

Apparently my queries are being read around some sort of postal worker bonfire for kicks. Next to no activity for the past couple weeks. Not sure what -- if anything -- to make of it.

I did have some unusual activity on one of the partials I had out. It was rejected a few days ago with a few nice words. Okay, I was good with that (well, as good as you can be with a rejection). Then yesterday I got another email from the same agent (written from scratch, not a reply to my emails) titled "Your ms". It went on (and I mean ON) about how much she liked my story and how the writing was very good, but basically left off with "good luck with your writing". I wasn't sure what to make of it. After much humming and hawwing, I ended up sending her a thank you for the comments. Weird day.

I still haven't started the new book, yet. Lots of research and thinking, but little else so far. I also sort of want to write a couple of short stories first.

Beyond that, I've bitten the bullet and started exercising and limiting my calorie intake. About three years ago I went on the "Zone" with no exercise and lost 65 pounds in 9 months (yes, I was a pig). I fell off it after that and put about 50 back on slowly. I've decided to count calories this time (something I've never done before) and progress into a cardio/strength training routine at home. So far so good. I've lost six or seven pounds so far. Of course, I'm hungry all the time and every teeny weenie muscle in my body hates me now. :)

That's about it for now. I still haven't decided if Thrillerfest is doable or not. I'd really like to go, but that baby's expensive. We're still in a wait and see posture for now.

May 24, 2009

Step away from the computer

Writing is a solitary endeavour, but even Batman leaves the Batcave now and then. With the discipline required to get your butt in the chair (BIC) every damn day, and the full attention (to say the least) that most projects require, especially near the end, it's easy to forget the rest of the world. Sometimes it even feels like you're supposed to forget it. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

The world, with all its interruptions and annoyances, is what fills the writer up and enables them to write full-bodied, believable fiction. How can you write about the relationships of your characters, if you don't have any? How can you deal with the conflict between what your protagonist wants and everything else pulling at them if your life is a one note song?

Of course, we all fall into the trap now and then. The trick is to recognize it before it requires medication. Make dates with your spouse/lover. Plan weekend outings with your family. Try new things you've never done before. Your writer bone will be nervous as hell, but you'll actually be strengthening it.

I also find that when I've hit a wall and can't find a solution, getting away from the problem and doing something ordinary and mundane tends to magically solve it. Mow the lawn, paint a room, wash the car...whatever. It may not feel like it, but your writer bone -- which is in the back of your brain between the desire to put melted cheese on fries and daydreams about Missy Peregrym -- will still be chugging away on the problem and thankful that you got your interfering conscious fingers out of the way.

And when those days/weeks do come up where you need to roll the stone over your cave's entrance to hit a deadline, your family is going to be a lot more understanding. And your fiction will be that much more relevant, layered and accessible.

May 21, 2009

Request number three

Just got another request for the full manuscript. This was a pretty neat one, too, since it was based on the query, the first chapter and the synopsis, not just a letter. Luckily no one was home besides me so my screaming was unobtrusive. ;)

I know it was silly, but I was getting worried there. Just like I'll be worried again three days from now.

And just to make sure I don't get a big head from even manuscript requests, when I told my wife about it she said "This is a different agent than the last one who asked for it, right?"

Gotta love it.

May 18, 2009

Ode to the Right Brain

By the light of dawn,

I twist the words.

No longer letters,

but merely obscureds.

The opus was done,

such a long time ago.

Or was it just yesterday?

I no longer know.

Like breadcrumbs for pidgeons,

I toss the letters out.

Then try to stay strong,

and elude the blackhole of doubt.

Though in the end,

there's nothing to do;

but wait for the clock

to stop its backward skew.

I so miss the days,

when my characters were me,

instead of just hooks,

in a blood-stained query.

May 13, 2009

Rough Day

After a day of no email activity at all, I got 4 form rejections today. Well, three to start out, then one in minutes on the queries I sent out to replace the rejections (I try to keep a constant number out there.) Some days just go like that.

It occurs to me that the initial query submission stage is like tossing slightly damp paper towels against a window. Sometimes you have to keep tossing new projectiles to replace the ones that didn't stick at all. Sometimes they look like they're sticking, but then they'll fall off and take a couple others with it on the way down. So far, if you can get them to stay for a week, they seem to be sufficiently dried and glued to the window. Until the agent monster comes along and busts the whole damn window, of course. ;)

May 12, 2009

Novelist Nightmare

Stole this off Alicia Walker's blog. Just SOOO good!

First Full Request

After spending the weekend working up about five different versions of queries, finally settling on one and feeling confident "this was the one", I woke up this morning to my first request for the entire manuscript. Based on the first query I sent out. Hubba-wah?

Huge house in New York, too. Pretty cool.

May 10, 2009

Query Hell

After those first couple of bright spots, things were not going so well for my little query. I was attributing it to agents who said they wanted "thrillers" when they meant "crime thrillers", which my book is not. Using three different variations on my query, I've had about 7 very fast rejections (some within minutes!), mostly forms. I do still have about 10 queries out there, but somehow I got it into my head that my query was bad (yes, it's wanted in 3 genres and doesn't give a damn). So I posted it on a writing forum for feedback....and changed it....and posted it....and changed it....(you get the idea). Oy.

So I took the advice, visited about 800 million blogs and websites, read sample queries and finally got my query in a shape that addressed all the advice. It was technically perfect. And about as lifeless as Al Bundy in the sack. I've succeeded in making my query un-unique, uninteresting and uncategorically rejectable. Essentially, I took all the "me" out of it.

Then I found a bunch of "real" sample queries on the 'net that were successful in getting representation, if not a book contract. And you know what? Not a ONE of them stuck to the "rules". Hell, most of them started with rhetorical questions! (And these queries were mostly posted on Agent blogs BY Agents as an example.) Pardon my french, but WTF!

Then I read a post by a guy on Miss Snark's blog. It basically said he went through the exact same thing. Then one night when he was loaded up on Bacardi and coke, he tapped out a new query and synopsis in a I-don't-give-a-youknowwhat style. In two weeks he had an agent and shortly after that he had a two-book contract. He went on to say he felt the reason was not that he was loaded, but that he was loaded enough to just use his natural VOICE, rules be damned.

And the scales fell from my eyes. THAT's what was missing from the technically perfect query I had Frankensteined up!

So at least now I know what I have to do, even if I don't know how to do it. And good thing, too. My wife has assured me that if I use the word "query" one more time and we're not in a gay bar, she's going to show me just how PERSONAL a rejection can be.

April 28, 2009

Here We Go

Sent out my first query for my book yesterday. Wow, that was nerve-wracking. Hovered my finger over the send button for almost a minute.

Originally I was going to send out 10 queries and keep that amount out there, but I just sent one. I think I need to test the waters before I go diving in. Last thing I want to do is hit up my ten dream agents with a crappy query and burn them off my list. Actually, I hope I don't do that at all, but losing one opportunity is way better than losing ten. Though I will be really disappointed if that happens, since this one is right at the top of my list.

I should probably leave it alone at this point, but I'm going to continue polishing my manuscript.

Between working on the next book, of course.

April 21, 2009

Nathan's Results

Okay, just a quick note on Nathan's results.  Turns out only two people picked the three queries that were for real published works.  I didn't get any of them.  Not a real big surprise there.

What was a surprise is at my measly 10% request rate, I was 16th out of all 50 queries.  Kind of boggles the mind.  I'm pretty confident that in light of the genre miss/hit factor, with a little polishing, my little query-that-could can make it up to a nice 50% request rate in the real world, which is just fine, by my book. :)

April 19, 2009

Agent For A Day

This week I was rejected 295 times. Humbling doesn't begin to describe what the experience was like. And as bizarre as it sounds, I'm thrilled. Let me explain:

As I mentioned in an earlier post, Nathan Bransford held an unusual contest on his blog -- Agent For A Day. He accepted queries for the contest and on Monday he posted 50 of them. Participants in the "contest" then spent the week playing Agent, either rejecting the queries or requesting pages based on the query. The caveat being, you could only request pages from 5 of the queries. And to make things really interesting, there were several queries posted for books that went on to be published.

I played the game and selected the 5 queries I'd like to see pages for if I were really an Agent. It was hard, but not near as hard as I thought it would be. The queries were posted on his blog throughout the day, and to my surprise when Nathan posted Query #12, he posted mine.

The contest ended last night and Nathan is going to post stats on Monday, but I kept a few of my own for my query:

My query (which was posted anonymously) received 331 responses. Six of those were neither requests nor rejections, but just conversation or double posts. So in all, there were 325 real responses. When my query was posted, the formatting was messed up (the only one of the 50 like that!) with weird line breaks. Five of the rejections cited this as the reason for their rejection. So let's just toss those away, meaning there were 320 real responses. (Note: Nathan did fix the formatting after the first few days, but by then about 80% of the responses were already in. A fact that makes the requests I did receive even MORE astounding.)

I received 36 requests for pages. Putting my request/reject percent at just over 11%! I was astounded. Mostly because when this started, I knew next to NOTHING about writing a query. I've written a lot of cover letters in my writing career, but writing a query is a whole other thing. It's a skill and almost an art all its own. The query I posted was more a book blurb than anything else and I wrote it in about 5 minutes. It was for a real work (my recently completed novel) but I had no idea it would be selected from the hundreds of queries Nathan was sent to be part of the special 50. And before I give you the wrong idea, Nathan said himself that he just "clicked around his inbox" to select the 50. As with most things in a writing career, luck was the biggest factor here.

As the responses came in, I tried to organize them into a few pertinent categories. First of all, the "Agents" in this contest were mostly fellow writers, so EXACTLY what value you take from this contest is subjective at best. For instance, there were a LOT of query rejections (not just for mine) because the query was for a book that just wasn't in a genre that the "Agent" was interested in. Obviously (or at least hopefully) this wouldn't happen in real life. I tagged about 85 of the rejections as this type. Which was probably lower than the actual number. That means I had 36 requests out of a possible 235, increasing my request percentage to just over 15%! Unbelieveable.

Other tags I used were DETAIL (not enough in the query - 58), LONG (manuscript too long to consider even if they liked the query - 21), and COMMON (nothing in the query to differentiate the work from others in the same genre - 10).

I can't wait to see the stats tomorrow and see how I did against the other 49 queries posted (and to see if the 5 queries I picked were the actual accepted works or not), but this has been a phenomenal experience. I've already rewritten my query based on the feedback and I'm sure any requests I get when I start sending queries out for real next month will owe a lot to this trial by fire.

Thank you, Nathan! :)

April 12, 2009

Stir Crazy

After spending several hours every day, for over 5 months on a project, working on it starts to become second nature. But of course, you don't become a writer by working on the same project endlessly until you suck dirt.

So my novel is now in front of my beta readers, a small group of people I trust to get their feedback and impressions. In fact, they've had it for almost a week. Thing is, this "free time" on my hands is about to drive me CRAZY.

Sure, you can work on a new book (which I tried to do), but part of you knows there's at least one more draft of the book coming and doesn't want to allow you to let go of it. I AM champing at the bit to move onto another project, but I'm at that weird point where you just have to sit very still so the procrastination wolf doesn't see you. :)

Thankfully, this little phase should only last a week or two. And next week I'm participating in Nathan Bransford's "Be an Agent for a Day" contest, so that should be fun.

But tonight? I'm about to lose what's left of my itty-bitty mind.

(serenity now...serenity now...)

February 27, 2009

First Draft Done

I finished the first draft of my new novel Stealing Genius a few days ago. There's still a lot of work to be done in the rewrite, of course, but overall I'm very happy with how it came out.

To date, this is the longest novel I've ever written. It came in just over 165,000 words. I've already cut over 8,000 words and will no doubt be cutting thousands more before I'm done. (Okay, I'll be adding a few, too.) But even at its now svelt 157,000 words, it cuts quite a daunting figure.

You know you've written a hefty book when it takes more than one ream of paper to print it out!

I'm hoping to have the rewrite ready for my beta readers by the end of March. The family is off to Florida for a week then, which I'm no doubt going to need.

For those keeping track, I started the book on November 3rd, 2008. So, with time over the holidays and such when I didn't write, it probably took me about 3 1/2 months to write it.

Oh, and while I was working on it, I talk about it in general terms with my daughter. One element she particularly liked were the good/bad sisters I told her about. In fact, she liked them so much she made some of her drawings for me. I have to say it was quite inspiring and helped me along, since at the time I was only about 2/3's of the way through.

Well, back to work.