Tuesday, August 30, 2011

I'll Fly Away

My novel writing has been going well for the last week. I have been writing down snatches of ideas -- before bed, when I wake up in the middle of the night, or after reading an interesting thought. I've been hanging from cliffs, sliding down chutes, riding in a sleigh, killing giant white cave cobras, and dressing in costumes. But, now I have hit a snag.

I'm most likely going to have to throw out another big ending chunk that I wrote some time ago. On the good news front, if I keep up my momentum, that will not be such a tragedy. On the other hand, I was celebrating that I was up to 42,000 words! Now, just like the Dow, my word count will be plunging.

I had set myself the goal of finishing by end of summer. It's a good thing that summer doesn't end until September 20. And now, on to more adventures ...

Sunday, August 28, 2011

An agent's or editor's dream come true (not)

Dear Agent or Editor:

I have recently had a fabulous idea for a book, and I wanted to share it with you because I'm sure it would be a perfect choice for publication. I'm certain that you're going to go wild over it, because it's a shoo-in as a hit movie. At this point, I'm guessing that there will be multiple printings of the book in addition to the movie deal. Possibly we'll be looking at action figures, because when I ran it by my kids and all their friends, they were absolutely ecstatic.

Before I go into the particulars, I'd like to know what kind of contract I will be looking at for this blockbuster. I'm thinking a five-figure advance would be acceptable, but with the vying that will be taking place on this manuscript, you might want to go with six-figures to insure you're in the running. I've looked into copyrighting my idea, but since I haven't done this yet, I'm sure you'll understand that until I hear from the first publishers or agents to respond, I can't give out the plot details.

I urge you to make your offer quickly and have included my email address so that you can contact me before it's too late. I'm starting the first draft this week.


I. M. Naive

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Can you prepare for Nanowrimo? (68 days and counting)

Some say yes. Some say no.

I'm inclined to agree with them.

To the uninitiated, Nanowrimo is National Novel Writing Month. During Nanowrimo, which takes place in November, writers all over the world sign up on the Nanowrimo site and write a 50,000 word novel in one month. Yes, that's 50,000 words, start to finish. 30 days. For the fastidious among us, it means that you have to daily produce 1666 and two-thirds words every day in order to finish by midnight on November 30th. Each day you get the fun of uploading your word count and seeing what you're friends are doing. If you're the competitive type, this is an excellent opportunity to get the lead out and write like the wind.

Now that you know what the insanity of Nanowrimo is, you might be wondering how you can prepare for this monumental yearly event. Here are some tips that will help you get ready.
  1. Involve your friends, family, and students. (Misery loves company.)
  2. Make a list of people for whom you can offer to do unpleasant and/or embarrassing tasks as penance for not finishing your daily word count. (This is excellent motivation to finish those 1666 2/3 daily words, because no one likes to lose face.)
  3. Make an outline or 3x5 scene cards to help you keep going with creative ideas when you feel like your brain has turned to sludge (usually in the second week).
  4. Make up your mind that even if you can't remember the names of the characters you introduced somewhere in chapter 7 and you have forgotten the original plot, you will keep typing.
  5. Come to grips ahead of time with the fact that it will be a piece of garbage when you're through, but it will be your piece of garbage, and that makes it wonderful!
If you're not the type who looks to the future, I have good news. You can sit down and punch out your word count every day without doing a single thing to prepare beforehand.
There, don't you feel better?

Truly, Nanowrimo is the best of both worlds.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

To podiobook or not to podiobook: that is the question

I recently completed a three-part interview with Mark Jeffrey, CEO of ThisWeekIn. At times when he has not been a CEO, he's been working on an intense sci-fi/magical realism series about a character with Highlander nuances named Max Quick. His first book in the series is out, his second is finished but not out yet, and his third is outlined and he's about to begin writing it. Also, the prospect for Max Quick movies is very big right now.

Where did all this Max Quickness begin? With a free podiobook. Mark Jeffrey didn't want to go with traditional publishing since that would take several years and have no guarantees. He tried self-publishing, but without much success. Eventually an acquaintance recommended free podiobooks. Sure, it wouldn't make anything, but it would get his name out there.

The result? Over a few years, he built a tremendous audience and got over 2.5 million downloads. One of his fans was Abigail Breslin, who mentioned the Max Quick mp3 in an interview. This helped him get a good agent, and the rest is history.

I love success stories like this. An author's life is hard enough just when it comes to normal sales, assuming they can even get published in the first place. Blockbusters like Max Quick is likely to be are rare, especially in children's literature.

What do you think? Is it worth it to podcast your book, even if it means no money at first, or possibly ever? Are you, as an author, willing to try something radically different to rise above the crowd? Are you confident that your writing is strong enough to create a loyal audience base?

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Appeasing the publishing gods

Feverish drum beats echo through the sultry jungle night as natives with torches, like a line of wavering fireflies, make their way up the side of a rumbling volcano. The tropical breezes drift past unnoticed as they climb past trees and around boulders, each clutching a sacrifice to his or her breast.

Finally, as they attain the rim, the reverberation of seismic activity throws them to the ground. Their chief is the first to struggle to his feet.

"My fellow writers!" he thunders to the crowd. "We must appease the publishing gods. Have you your sacrifices?"

As one, they respond with an affirmative cry over the grumbling of the volcano.

"And are they first drafts, unedited and pure in their original form, printed on pastel paper in colored inks so they are sure to gain the attention of an editor?"

"Yes! Yes!"

"Are you certain you have made no attempt whatever to research which publishers might be interested in your genre or type of writing?"


The natives are in a wild frenzy by now, waving their manuscripts over their heads.

"It is time!" shrieks the chief. "Throw your sacrifices into the volcano. The publishing gods must be appeased!"

In a cascade of colorful papers completely lacking sufficiently postaged self-addressed stamped envelopes for return responses, the manuscripts plunge into the fiery depths where they are incinerated before they can touch the molten maelstrom below. A wailing keen fills the darkness as the natives hurry down into their jungle huts.

"Do you think we'll hear anything this time?" one native whispers to his neighbor.

"Absolutely. This time I added a handwritten note about how my kids and wife loved my story. I'm guessing they'll get back to me in less than two weeks. By the way, I'm looking for an illustrator for my picture book. Can you recommend anyone?"

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

If you haven't heard: It's WriteOnCon 2011 right now!

If you haven't heard about it, it's the beginning of WriteOnCon 2011. If you get the chance, head over to their website for this wonderful online conference. Check out the contests that are available for your finished manuscripts or even WIP, too. One of this year's offerings is a free trailer for your manuscript on the Belief Suspenders blog. Check it out!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Learning curve

I'm blogging a day early this week because tomorrow promises to be a busy day. It's supposed to be the first day we start homeschool.

There are probably other schools that will be opening the doors to the hallowed halls of learning tomorrow, but I know that many are not starting until after Labor Day has passed. We tend to start a little early because it enables my kids to have more time for subjects like math. (You can't have too much time to do math.)

For me as a writer, it's different. I thought of this after speaking to a new writer today who was just starting out as a writer for children. I recommended Harold Underdown's book, and then reflected that this young man had many things to learn. The sooner he began his cache of writing knowledge, the better it would be for him. (What was possibly less encouraging was that I had already been at this writing craft thing for years and knew I still had a long way to go.)

It's too bad, but gone is the luxury of trotting off to the school bus stop to be whisked away to an academic paradise where I can study subjects for seven to eight carefully alloted school hours a day. Now there is no beginning or end to my personal school year. Besides this, I have to fight tooth and nail to fit any kind of a study of writing into my normal life.

So here's a thought for you this week. Do you constantly strive to learn more about writing and the publishing industry? Do you struggle to fit it all in, but do you find that, looking back, it's worth the sacrifices you've made to to be a better, educated writer?

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Writers Read... and Listen

I am blessed to be able to have a dedicated daily writing time - although it is occasionally disrupted by having to finish reading a book. The last two books I have read (Rashi's Daughters by Maggie Anton, and Breath by Martha Mason), have helped me greatly with my writing! The first provided great historical insight and the second provided me motivation and inspiration to keep writing!

A few weeks, ago, I had also decided to read poetry to help my writing. I chose a volume of children's poetry. It didn't work. I don't think you can read poetry with that purpose.  I have read some great poetry - most recently by my friend Stuart Card, who writes beautifully about life's challenges and a childhood in Scotland. But, I think poetry's influence is far more ethereal and subconscious -- and indirect.

I have always been a Joni Mitchell fan. I used to sing and play and listen to her music for hours on end. Over the weekend, I rediscovered her again, and what a poet she is! That poetry was implanted in my brain at an early age, and now, I can appreciate the images and stories she told in her poetry and allow that influence in my writing. She truly captured the essence of some interesting characters and the passions of a generation. I have already made some changes in my current project based on some of her musical character sketches.

Sometimes, maybe most of the time, our poetic souls cannot be fed deliberately. They need to graze and ruminate and absorb. Music helps that for me. So does time...

Thursday, August 4, 2011

When life is closing in

I can't give you any philosophical thoughts today, although I have had some recently. School is looming and I'm still trying to catalog my materials from last year while getting ready for the coming year. Somehow, someway, I've got make life work. My mom says that I've got too many things going, and she's probably right, but I hate to give up on any front. (Has any military commander ever been happy to retreat? Of course not.) The real problem is that much of what I do must be done. I've delegated much of our the housecleaning to my children (who need to know how to do laundry, vacuum, and dishes anyway, especially after the domestically helpless roommate I lived with at college), but still, there's a lot left to do in other areas.

At least on the writing front, I'm developing a measure of consistency. I'm not writing tons, but making a little progress each day. That's the name of the game. Step by step.

: ) Have a great week.