Secret Book and Self-Publishing

I am slowly crawling out from the cocoon of heartbreak and back toward my Secret Book manuscript.  However, I’ve reached an impasse that has held up the story somewhat.  The road has two forks, and I need to go down both of them.

My attempt to brave the first fork has shown that my research into the period and especially the English setting is sorely lacking, to the point that it’s holding me up.  I’ll be in London again in two months, and I want to spend much of my time there doing research.  So I’m making plans to organize where and when and who and how.

If I finish the book and it sells, I can write off the whole trip! 

If I finish the book and it sells, I can write off the whole trip!

Image:  Arvind Balaraman/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The second fork led right back to Heartbreak Hotel (I should just buy real estate on Lonely Street, seriously).  I couldn’t write the lovey-dovey part of the book because it’s been so long since I’ve been happy in a new relationship that those scenes are coming off wooden and stilted.  I can’t tap into those emotions right now, even in my imagination.  That realization made writing them and listening to the book’s Einaudi playlist exquisitely painful.

Shit like this all over Facebook right now does not help.

Starring everyone I’ve ever known and a bunch of stupid celebrities I don’t.

Starring everyone I’ve ever known and a bunch of stupid celebrities I don’t.

Image:  mashable.com

So I’ll take First Fork Road for now.  (And I’m listening to Einaudi again, which is a good sign, I suppose.)  Meanwhile, stuffs be happening:

  •  This research and preparation will take time.
  • I’m embroiled in trying to retrieve my Rose’s Hostage critique.  Things are not going well at the moment.  Hint:  if you pay someone to do a critique or editing, get a turnaround time in writing.  In the meantime, a chapter rewrite I thought of on my own looms.
  • I’m still querying agents about Tunerville (more on that shortly).
  • I’ve entered a story in literary magazine Glimmer Train’s New Writers competition.

This past weekend, I attended VisionCon with my Whovian friends.  I went dressed as Donna Noble in an outfit very similar to this one:

I’m not linking to who Donna Noble is.  Go watch Doctor Who on Netflix, you godless heathen!

I’m not linking to who Donna Noble is. Go watch Doctor Who on Netflix, you godless heathen!

 Image:  bbcamerica.com

I clipped a small adipose plush to my jacket just in case no one realized who I was supposed to be, but everyone got it and a couple of people even wanted to snap a pic.  So my first cosplay ever was a success.

While I was there, I attended a panel on traditional vs. self-publishing hosted by horror/fantasy authors Ben S. Reeder, JM Guillen, and EM Ervin.  All three of them are self-pubbed; only Ben Reeder has gone through traditional publishing.  EM Ervin’s book had only been out for two weeks when they had the panel–I could totally relate to her excitement.

Overall, the three writers were in favor of self-publishing.  Guillen said he had never gone for the regular method.  Reeder told the audience that you certainly do not get much money from traditional publishing–advances have shrunk to ridiculous amounts, especially for first novels.  I knew this already, so no surprise there.

Don’t quit your day job just yet. 

Don’t quit your day job just yet.

Image:  graur razvan ionut/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Reeder and Guillen both said that while the slush pile and queries are still a thing, agents have a new tool to find writers–they go online and see what is selling.  And according to Reeder, whom I spoke with the next morning on my last pass through the dealer’s room before heading home, you can make a living this way, if your sales are decent.

I have my doubts about that last, but they definitely gave me something to think about.  I’ve been avoiding self-pubbing for several reasons:

  • It still has a shitty reputation, because anyone can do it. And anyone does.
  • It costs money.  Even if you avoid vanity publishers and publish on Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing for free, if you want even a hope of having a decent project, you still have to shell out for a competent editor and hire a book cover artist.  All three of the panel hosts agreed these two things are absolutely vital.
  • It requires you to do ALL the work.  While traditional publishers these days put authors to work flogging their books, with self-published books the onus is on you.  All of it.
  • It lacks the one thing traditional publishing gives you that nothing else can, according to Reeder: legitimacy.

This last is why I do not want to self-publish Rose’s Hostage or Tunerville.  I’m still querying the latter.  I got a rejection this week that said the query sounded interesting, but that the agent in question was inundated with work and not taking on new clients.  Maybe it was a form email, and maybe not.  It’s difficult to tell sometimes.

You will not see any self-published books at Barnes and Noble, unless they’ve been picked up by one of the Big Five, and that is very, very rare.  Still, it does happen.

You too can write a masturbatory fantasy and have it become a media darling.

You too can write a masturbatory fantasy and have it become a media darling.

Image:  Wikipedia.com

I want that legitimacy.  It’s like getting instant street cred.  If I get it, I will have passed the initiation; industry professionals will have declared my book worthy, and I’ll become one of the club.  For me, right now, self-pubbing is not going to happen with those two works.

I thought–and I keep thinking–that it might be a good way to offer something shorter than a book to you, my readers.  Because I feel bad that you haven’t got anything besides this twit of a blog to read.

What do you think?  If you would like me to put some stories up, let me know in the comments.

Book Updates – [Insert catchy subtitle here!]

You might have noticed that the Secret Book meter hasn’t been moving much lately.  In fact, at all.

Yes, I’m stuck.  No, there is nobody to pull me out.  I have to do it myself.

Oh, bother….

Oh, bother….

 Image:  video.disney.com

 Not indefinitely; I just hit a character snag and I’m trying to work it out.  I don’t think that meter is the greatest anyway; it doesn’t show progress as well as I’d hoped.

The stuck isn’t all book-related, unfortunately.  I’ve been rather distracted by several stupid things lately.  A writer friend posted this Salon article by Ann Bauer and now I’m even more bummed.

Read it; I’ll wait.

Done?  That article hurt.  I know if I work hard, I have a shot, but sometimes it seems like a longer shot than I ever anticipated.  And to be totally honest, at this exact point in my life, getting a book published has not been my main goal.

That’s a family, in case you thought I just wanted to learn papercraft.

That’s a family, in case you thought I just wanted to learn papercraft.

Image:  jannoon028/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I’ve tried everything to find someone like this, to no avail (yet).  In my medical writing class, we were given an assignment to make up our own medical term.  This was mine:

Cardiorrhexisopathy:  A process where the patient persistently falls in love with the wrong damn man, causing the heart to break repeatedly.

Cardi/o—heart
rrhexis/o—rupture or burst
pathy—disease (negative term)

Yes, I do suffer from this condition.  Apparently, the only cure is marrying the right person, but so far, the subject of this research has proved elusive.  It’s almost too late for the kid thing (but not yet), so the universe better get cracking.

Somehow, I’m sure I’ll end up with this one.

Tunerville news:

Three queries out, and one rejection from a publisher.  Bummer.

Rose’s Hostage news:

Serious kid

Image:  David Castillo Dominici/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Secret Book news (yeah, I know I talked about it earlier):

I’m not that far from the end of the first draft.  Some scenes need a great deal of research, however, and they will end up lightly sketched until I can finish that.  The tough part has been writing about the development of a relationship.  I’ve almost forgotten what that feels like.  I keep telling myself, it’s a first draft, dummy; just write down what happens, and you can rewrite it later when your heart doesn’t resemble a pigeon smashed into the pavement by a passing car.

No illustration for that, so here is a picture of a smiling puppy instead. 

No illustration for that, so here is a picture of a smiling puppy instead.

Image:  ilovebabyanimals.com

Some of the research has been tedious, and other things fun.  I signed up for the Doctor Who class at Syracuse University, where my homework is watching numerous episodes of Doctor Who online and then discussing them.  I don’t get any credit, so I don’t realy have to do anything.  It’s perfect!

Since the show was created during the exact period my book is set, it has helped me get into the mindset of that era.  I also follow a page on Facebook called Old Photos of London and the East End.  Other followers post reminisces in the comments, which often yield tiny tidbits that may be useful.

I still need to make a plan for further exploration when I return to London in April.  I’d like to make the most of the time, because I’m only going for a week.  You may not get a post then unless something very cool happens.

 

Hmm, if I sneak into St Paul’s Cathedral and claim sanctuary, would they let me stay forever?

Image:  Nickopol/Wikipedia.com

I’ll be back soon with another vocabulary post.  We’re nearing the end of that series.  If you have any ideas for another you’d like me to do, let me know in the comments.

 

It’s Called a Crush for a Reason

I’m doing a little research for a character in Secret Book.  Did you ever have feelings for someone you couldn’t have, or thought you couldn’t have?

I don’t mean a fangirl / fanboy admiration for someone, where you love their body of work and celebrate all their milestones and spend actual money for the chance to stand next to them for three seconds and take a selfie.

Only once.  But look who it is!

Only once. But look who it is!

 

Photo:  Elizabeth West / VisionCon 2014

I mean an honest-to-God, full on, madly in love crush, where you desperately want someone whether they know you’re alive or not.  It could be Gary in Accounting or Jared Leto, Zoe in your history class or Emma Stone.  Doesn’t matter.

I’ve been exploring this, as it’s come up in the book and it’s something we’ve all been through.  It’s happened to me, and I want to get some insight into what other people have experienced, if possible.

First off, what I know.  If you’re dealing with a crush, your feelings are what they are, and you may have some permutations of these:

  • Excitement at seeing the person every day (or whenever)
  • Hope, if there is even an infinitesimal chance you could ever be together
  • Desperation when you think about how you can’t, so you try not to think about that
  • Happiness, when you daydream about the chance
  • Fear, that the person will meet someone else before you have a shot
  • Euphoria, when / if the person talks to you / becomes aware of your existence (though not if you just spilled a hot latte on them)

Now, let’s add this unpleasantness.  Have you ever had to watch that person walk away with someone else?

That brings a whole new set of feelings:

  • The “oh God no” shock you feel when something terrible happens

Startled cat

Image:  reactionface.info

  • Anguish at losing your chance, even if it was only in your mind
  • Despair, because you will never have what you wanted
  • Depression, especially if you have no other prospects and the fantasy was keeping you going until you do

If you’ve ever had a crush and lived through it, what was it like for you?  Did friends or family know about it?  If so, did they tease you or patronize you?

Note:  If you’re ever tempted to dismiss the feelings of someone who just got hammered by this, try to remember that feelings are what they are.  They are real, and the heartbreak caused by losing a crush can be as bad as that experienced when a real-life relationship ends.

Not that I would know about that, or anything. 

Not that I would know about that, or anything.

Image:  Tina Phillips / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Now the flip side:  have you ever been the object of a crush?  If so, how did you handle the situation?  This has literally never happened to me (that I know of), so I’m really curious about it.

Note:  If you’re the object of the crush and you’ve just destroyed someone’s dream with your shiny new relationship, please refrain from being flippant about it—i.e. saying the equivalent of, “Oh, don’t be silly.  You’ll be fine!”  It’s easy to forget how shitty this whole experience is when you’re over the moon, so mind your words.

It could all come crashing down, because karma is a stone cold bitch.

It could all come crashing down, because karma is a stone cold bitch.

Image:  think4photop / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

A better statement might be, “I’m really sorry that you’re feeling bad over this; I hope you can be happy for me.”  It acknowledges the person’s feelings and is much less patronizing.  And he / she may not be happy for you, so be prepared for that.

Was the person crushing on you someone you knew, or not?  What did you think when you found out?

If you have a story you want to share that you think would be relevant, please feel free to comment.  You can do so without registering.  If you want to share a story but don’t want to post it, you can email me at aelizabethwest at gmail.com.

I will not use any quotes or scenarios without your permission, so make sure you enter a legitimate email address when you post a comment so I can contact you.

UPDATED TO ADD:  It doesn’t matter what orientation you are or if the crush took place in high school.  Anything before that, however, is probably not relevant because I’m writing about adults, and while a crush can be crushing for a child, it typically doesn’t involve sexual jealousy.  Puberty or post-puberty is fine.

The Saga of Secret Book Begins!

It’s been a week since I returned from invading the U.K.  I finally took the British money out of my purse, but I left my Oyster card and tube map in it.  I’m not removing them.  Nope, not gonna do it.  You see, I’m planning to go back in April for a London meetup of my online community, so I will need these things.  Plus, I like to take them out and look at them from time to time; makes me feel less angsty about leaving.

I miss it.  :(

*sigh* I even miss the slow-ass District line….

*sigh* I even miss the slow-ass District line….

Photo:  Elizabeth West

I still hear the tube announcements in my head.  “The next station is…Turnham Green.  Change here for the District line train to Richmond.”  “The next station is…Earl’s Court.  Change for the Piccadilly line train to Cockfosters.”  (That will always and forever be funny.)

Just kidding; I’m sure it’s a lovely place.    

Just kidding; I’m sure it’s a lovely place.

Image:  Lillo Montalto Monella / thefirstpint.co.uk

Now that I’m back, I have three things to do:

  1. Continue working out to maintain weight loss caused by traipsing around Cardiff and London. In fact, ramp it up; I can’t walk outside much longer before it turns nasty.
  2. Work.  (The bills didn’t go on holiday, more’s the pity.)
  3. Finish Secret Book.

In fact, to finish it, I’m planning to use the NaNoWriMo concept again, just as I did with Tunerville.  I won’t formally join in, since I’ve already started it (and that is against the rules), but doing it got me through the book last time.  I’ve completely outlined Secret Book and I think what I have is workable, so there won’t be any plot deconstruction.

Just building…building…and more building. 

Just building…building…and more building.

Image:  Worakit Sirijinda/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

As for the research, I can finish it later.  The main thing I want to do now is get the story down.  There will doubtless be tons of rewriting anyway, so it can wait.  I’d like to build in a few days for more scouting around in London anyway.

If I don’t post much, don’t be surprised–I might blog intermittently during this book, because it will take more concentration than Tunerville.  I had that one in my head so long that it just kind of fell out.  This one is different.

  • It’s more literary than the others.
  • It tackles some settings and time periods I know little about.
  • The timeline is longer.

I can’t talk about it yet, but bear with me.  You know I will, when the time is right.

The Saga of Secret Book and the Upcoming Holiday Continues

I wrote a chapter on Secret Book at lunch last week that was so good I made myself giddy.

Anything is possible with…IMAGINATION. 

Anything is possible with…IMAGINATION.

Image:  philadams.co

I posted about it on Google+, and a friend said, “It is the most elegant drug.”  She’s right; I really did almost feel high.

Now if only I can get the rest of the book to that caliber.  I’m challenging myself with this one–not only is the scope and research more wide-ranging than anything else I’ve attempted, but it’s far more character-driven, and despite a rather difficult and speculative quirk, more literary.

Plus, I have two worlds colliding with these characters.  However, by a stroke of good timing, I’ll be able to cram some research into my holiday, both geographical and cultural.

On the bad side, by several horrible folds and stains in the fabric of time, I will miss the following:

  • The Doctor Who Experience will be shut for regeneration when I’m in Cardiff.
  • There will be a new Dark Arts exhibit at the Warner Bros. Harry Potter Studio the weekend after I leave.
  • My skating club decided on our Halloween show date, for which my coach and I have already choreographed something because I’ll miss three weeks of practice. I have literally been begging for a Halloween show for years.  It is now a fall exhibition and will happen at 7:00 pm on Friday, October 3.

I will be asleep on a train coming back from Scotland.  

Nooooooo!

Nooooooo!

This would have been my program:

If you haven’t seen the original 1985 Fright Night, I highly recommend it.  It’s great fun.

I’ll keep working on it.  Perhaps I’ll get another shot.  Or maybe the Universe is trying to tell me it doesn’t want me to skate any more—this is the second time it’s skunked me on a club exhibition.  A trip to Loch Ness trumps an amateur ice show, of course, but it still sucks.  You’ll have to give me a better reason than that, Universe, if you want me to quit.

Pittbull fight universe and me

Original image:  thememebinge.tumblr.com

Just to drive you crazy (heh heh), listed below are some of the things I’m trying to research for Secret Book.

  • The film industry in the 1970s, primarily in America but possibly the UK as well
  • Theater from about 1960 through 1978 or so (both London and New York)
  • Boys’ boarding school in England in the mid to late 1950s
  • London in the 1970s (this should be easy–my auntie can tell me)
  • Two things I can’t tell you about or they’ll ruin the story, one of which I’ve already mapped out (mu wa ha ha)

If anyone has any specialized knowledge of these things, or knows someone who does, I would appreciate any input you think might enhance the story.

In case you’re wondering, I’ve put the Rose’s Hostage sequel on the back burner for now, until Brian sends my manuscript back.  I can’t write anything until I know what he thinks I should change in the first book.  Well, I could, but I don’t want to.

Besides, if you knew what was going on inside my head right now, you’d be all over me until I finish Secret Book.  Only ONE person knows what happens, and that is someone with whom I had to discuss the psychology issues.

So until I’m finished and start querying, it will have to stay a secret.  I was hoping to get a large portion of it written before I go on holiday, but that probably won’t happen.  Looks like it will be a working holiday.

Maybe if the book sells, I can write it off!

Maybe if the book sells, I can write it off!

Image:  adamr / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

That’s all for now on the book.  I’m counting down the days now until I can get the hell out of here.  If I can post between now and then, I will, but there’s a lot to do, so don’t count on it.  I still have to try on clothes, mock pack, get my hair done, work, clean the shit out of my house, and of course, write.

Look for pictures and commentary on all I’ll be seeing and experiencing.  I’m looking forward to sharing it with you!

 

Book Review! The Watchers: Book One, Knight of Light

I’ve been given a book to review!

For an upcoming blog tour, I am reviewing The Watchers: Book One, Knight of Light, by Deirdre Eden.  It is the debut novel of a fantasy series set in medieval England.

Ms. Eden is a writer and speaker who runs Eden Literary, a company that provides services to writers such as editing, critiquing, promotion, book trailers, and others.  I feel honored that I was chosen for a Powerful Woman Writer Award by her blog, A Storybook World.  You can see it at the bottom of my page and find the link to the site in my blogroll.

Eden’s Amazon biography says:

My goal in writing is to saturate my books with intrigue, mystery, romance, and plot twists that will keep my readers in suspense. I want to see fingerprints on the front and back covers where readers have gripped the novel with white knuckles! 

Aside from writing, I enjoy jousting in arenas, planning invasions, horseback riding through open meadows, swimming in the ocean, hiking up mountains, camping in cool shady woods, climbing trees barefoot, and going on adventures.

She’s well qualified to write the action scenes in this book.  And looks the part as well.  This picture is super cool.

Deirdre Eden knight Zion PHotography Studio

Photo:  Zion’s Studio Photography at Amazon.com

In The Watchers: Book One, we meet fiery haired orphan Auriella, who has discovered a strange new power within her.  Charged with witchcraft, soon she is on the run, pursued by wolves and the dreaded Shadow Legion.  They are the nemeses of the mysterious and legendary Lady of Neviah, whose identity soon becomes apparent.

Auriella and a fellow captive, a chirpy pixie named Cassi, are rescued from the clutches of an evil hag by Ruburt the dwarf.  The three friends travel through a dangerous world, until they reach the patronage of Lady Hannah, who adopts Auriella.

Enchanted by her new life and a burgeoning first love affair, Auriella begins to turn away from her destiny.  But she cannot escape it for long, and soon, her comfort and safety is threatened, along with everything and everyone she has grown to love.

Through heartbreak and loss and with newfound skills and experience, Auriella must face her enemy and fight for her chance to become not only a legend but a knighted protector of the kingdom.

Though I’m not a reader of high fantasy, I enjoyed this book.  Tiny pixie Cassi in particular was an amusing character.  She and Ruburt the dwarf provide comic relief, and they stick loyally by Auriella through thick and thin, as real friends do.

Eden is a Mormon writer, and the theological research she draws on in her writing supports the story beautifully without being intrusive.  Not being Mormon myself, I don’t know a lot of it, but the whole Watchers thing (see the Books of Enoch) doesn’t come across as preachy or even particularly religious.

I would have liked the author to take me through some of the transitions a bit more slowly–some of them seemed rushed.  But I’ve just read The Lord of the Rings again and recently finished Stephen King’s 11/22/63, so the slow tempo of both those books (especially Tolkien’s) may be coloring my perception.

This story would be fine for younger readers who can handle chapter books.  It’s fast-paced and the language isn’t too hard for them.  Young adults and even grown-ups who like a quick read and a good adventure will enjoy it too.  While reading, I found myself wishing I had a nerdy bookworm kid with whom to share it.  This blog post will appear on my Facebook page, and I’ll make sure my parent friends see it.

It looks as though Eden has at least six books planned in the series.  I’m anxious to see what happens next, and how Auriella’s adventures play out.  I think it would make a neat animated film (or a series of them).

Find The Watchers: Book One, Knight of Light on Amazon. Watch this cool book trailer here:

Exciting, yes?

Thanks to Laura Watkins and Theresa Sneed, Book Manager and Blog Tour Assistant of Eden Literary for providing a review copy to me.  Now go read!

Tunerville Update and Principles of Design

Just a quick dash in to let you know that my friend and first reader Jim Allder finished with his reading of Tunerville.  He liked it!

He said it reminded him of a cross between Michael Crichton and Bruce Joel Rubin (author of the screenplay for Ghost; probably because there are ghosts in it).  High praise indeed.  To be compared to the great Crichton made me squee.

Rest in peace, sir.  You left us too soon.

Rest in peace, sir. You left us too soon.

Image:  michaelcrichton.net

Next, I will incorporate his suggestions (one was something I was thinking about doing anyway, which tells me it was on track) and then print it out for its first hard copy edit.  D’aww!

Although that means I have to haul it around in a binder for a few days.  Ick.  Also I better buy some paper.  And revisit my copymarks, most of which I’ve forgotten by now.  I still have my study sheet.

That’s all I have time for right now, since I’m drowning in homework (the four principles of design are:  Contrast, Repetition, Alignment, and Proximity.  Acronym:  C.R.A.P.  Tee hee!).  But I’ll be back soon, when I get my edit finished, and I might even post a wee bit of text.

‘Til next time, people.  Keep your feet warm.

It’s Banned Books Week – read a book nobody wants you to see!

ALA Freadom Slide 2013 (2)It’s Banned Books Week again!

Every year, the American Library Association and a host of other reading-friendly organizations celebrates books banned for one reason or another—content, language, etc.  Some of our favorite reads, such as the Harry Potter series, get banned for the silliest reasons.

From the bannedbooks.org website, we learn the following:

 Hundreds of books have been either removed or challenged in schools and libraries in the United States every year.  According to the American Library Association (ALA), there were at least 326 in 2011.  ALA estimates that 70 to 80 percent are never reported.  (http://bannedbooksweek.org/censorship)

 I thought about listing the five dumbest reasons why a book is challenged, but I found other posts dealing with this on the interwebz.  Reading them, I realized there is only one reason:  fear.

  • Fear that kids will read something they shouldn’t.  Who’s responsible for that?

You decide what your kids read; don’t try to decide what mine do.  I want my kids to be Potter nerds.  I’m pretty sure the school librarians know what they are doing when they pick books for kids.

If you feel you have a legitimate objection, don’t go all crazypants; at least read the book in question so you can discuss your concerns intelligently.

  •  Fear of diversity.  What?  We’re all different; are you MAD?

Yes, you are.  If you can’t celebrate diversity, I don’t want to be like you anyway.  We can learn so much by reading about other cultures, and soon we’ll see how much we have in common.  Hello, deeper understanding.

  •  Just plain crazy fear of something that doesn’t even exist.  Magic, anyone?

This one is my favorite.  Who as a kid didn’t wish they could just think about candy and it would appear?  J.K. Rowling once said (roughly) that the spells in Harry Potter weren’t real.  You could wave a stick in the air and chant “Alohomora!” all day and nothing would happen, because she made it up.

That should be the end of it.  Unfortunately, it’s not.

THIS magic wand really works…and it is awesome.

THIS magic wand really works…and it is awesome.

 Image: ThinkGeek.com

 Fear keeps people from finding out more.  Then bad things stay the same, and we don’t grow as human beings.  When people fear something, they attack it.  But books do more than tell us things; they reflect us.  Perhaps there is more in a book than some people are comfortable seeing.

Look here for lists of frequently challenged books.  Pick one and read it today—if you can find it!

Tunerville and 300th post update: 

On my 300th post, one random commenter who answers a trivia question correctly will win a prize.  I had intended to make it cookies, because of the poll I posted a while back (more votes for that than anything else).

Unfortunately, the cookie shop I wanted to deal with for my giveaway doesn’t want to be associated with personal blogs.  That’s cool; it’s hard to control your info on the ‘net these days.  (Maybe my last post had something to do with it; I don’t know.)  Anyway, no ill will there, so I’ll look around and see if I can find something else.  I may have to put off the post until the 30th.  But the Tunerville reveal is still on.  So stay tuned.

 

 

A view on second drafts–article by Moira Allen

I subscribe to the Writing World newsletter via email.  While catching up on issues I haven’t had a chance to read, I came across this article by Moira Allen.  It’s very relevant to my current situation with Tunerville.

The only exception here is that my first draft experience sucked dog doo.  I enjoyed writing Rose’s Hostage; not so with Tunerville.  On everything else, though, Moira nails it.

Coffee on the Deck – by Moira Allen

January 24, 2013:
Do You, Author, Take This Novel….?

It should be fairly evident to anyone who has been following my editorials that I’ve been having just the teensiest bit of difficulty getting to the second draft of my novel.

I’ve found this reluctance a bit of a surprise. While I approached the first draft with a certain amount of trepidation, the experience was actually a delight. I loved writing that first draft. I don’t think I’ve enjoyed writing task quite so much. I couldn’t wait to sit down to the computer and begin the next scene. And much to my amazement, that first draft actually got finished.

And that’s where things came to a screeching halt. Oh, I said, I’ll just give myself a bit of a break, and come back fresh. Maybe a bit longer break. Maybe a sabbatical. Maybe a round-the-world cruise, followed by a lengthy quest for enlightenment at some remote monastery, and then another cruise… Suffice it to say that time has passed, copious amounts of water have flowed under bridges, and the second draft is no closer to being begun.

Now we stand on the brink of yet another New Year, with that first-of-the-year urge to set goals and tackle the important stuff, and I’m asking myself… why? What is it about a Second Draft that makes it such a different, and more intimidating, prospect than the first?

And then it came to me. The first draft was romance. The second draft is marriage.

The first draft was a dance of delight without commitment. Put simply, I could enjoy the relationship without worrying about whether or not I could actually make it work. One of the mind-games I played was the classic “It’s a first draft, it doesn’t have to be good.” The words don’t have to be right. The rhythm doesn’t have to be perfect. Plot holes can be filled in later. Research gaps can be noted and attended to in the future. We’re just having fun together, my novel and I, spending time together and seeing where it goes without worrying obsessively about whether it’s going “in the right direction.”

But now, it’s time to ask harder questions. Tackling a second draft is not just a stroll in the park. It’s a commitment. One can no longer get away with saying, “The little things don’t matter.” In a second draft, they do matter. One can’t say, “Hey, I don’t have to worry about making it work” — because making it work is the whole point of a second draft.

Nor is it just a commitment to “hard work.” If hard work scared us away from writing, we’d never get anything done. There are lots of writing tasks one can undertake that involve every bit as much work as a novel, but nowhere near the amount of commitment. Because the commitment isn’t just about effort. It’s about emotion.

Writing a novel is, in many ways, a process of embarking upon and committing to a relationship. A novel is something you’re going to spend time with — a lot of time with. It’s going to consume hours of your waking life. Even when you’re not working on it, you’ll be thinking about it, worrying about it, perhaps even having conversations with your characters in your head. You’ll know more about the lives of your characters than you may know about some of your own relatives. When things are going well, you’ll wonder if they’re really going well, or if you’re just deceiving yourself. When they aren’t — well, stock up on the chocolate ice cream!

It is an emotional commitment. It raises doubts, fears, concerns. Is this the right book to commit to? Is this really something I want to dedicate the next X months or years of my life to? Do I have what it takes to make this work? What if I don’t have what it takes to make it work?

Like any relationship, we come to it with hopes, expectations, and dreams. A novel isn’t just a certain number of words. It’s words into which we have invested our hearts — and we hope that investment will “pay off.” We want that novel to be a success. We want others to read it and fall in love with it, just as we’ve fallen in love. We don’t want it to end up on the remainder shelf, or worse, never make it to the top of the slush pile. And if the relationship doesn’t “work out,” we’ll blame ourselves, and perhaps start to wonder if we have what it takes to make any novel work.

In short, a novel has a unique power: It has the power to fulfill our dreams, or break our hearts. Mere “work” alone does not have that power. Only a relationship has such power.

So if you are finding yourself shying away from a first draft, or a second draft, or a third, take heart. You’re not lazy. You’re not afraid of work. You’re afraid of commitment — and everything that a commitment means. Deep down, we realize that only by giving that relationship our all, and holding nothing back, can we truly “make it work.” It’s no small step to take.

But without taking that step, we fail before we begin. So perhaps, as we look ahead to a New Year, we need to say more than simply “I will.” We need to open our hearts, embrace our fears, and say… “i do.”

Copyright © 2013 Moira Allen


Moira Allen is the editor of Writing-World.com, and has written nearly 400 articles, serving as a columnist and regular contributor for such publications as The Writer, Entrepreneur, Writer’s Digest, and Byline. An award-winning writer, Allen is the author of eight books, including Starting Your Career as a Freelance Writer, The Writer’s Guide to Queries, Pitches and Proposals, and Writing to Win: The Colossal Guide to Writing Contests. In addition to Writing-World.com, Allen hosts Mostly-Victorian.com, a growing archive of articles from Victorian periodicals, and The Pet Loss Support Page, a resource for grieving pet owners. She lives in Maryland with her husband and the obligatory writer’s cat. She can be contacted at editors “at” writing-world.com.

Writing the Novel Synopsis, or I’m Supposed to Tell You How it Ends!?

UPDATE:

I got my little car back!  And he’s all well!  He looks as if nothing even happened!

He’s gone from this:

5-28-13 Oliver accident

Ouch.

To this:

  Bow-chicka-wow-wow.

Bow-chicka-wow-wow.

Today I did this to him:

Yes, he’s a boy and yes, he likes purple flowers.  Also, I control him.  Muwahaha!

Yes, he’s a boy and yes, he likes purple flowers. Also, I control him. Muwahaha!

Photographs by Elizabeth West

In other news, I have completed another pass through Tunerville, completed a chapter-by-chapter outline, and now I’ve started working on the synopses.   Why am I using the plural?  And what is a synopsis, anyway?

Simply put, it’s a summary of your novel.  Agents and publishers ask for them in manuscript submissions and sometimes in query guidelines.  They tend to ask for something short, in my experience, between one and three pages.  And yes, you have to tell them how it ends.

One page?! How the hell can I summarize my whole novel on only one page?

One page?! How the hell can I summarize my whole novel on only one page?

 Image:  David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Relax, grasshopper; you can do it.  Start by thinking about your story.  What is it about?  Who are the main characters? What happens in the story?  You don’t need huge amounts of detail; just the gist of it will do.

The synopsis should be written in third person, present tense, no matter how your book is written.  Below, I’ve posted the first two paragraphs from the Rose’s Hostage one I sent to Brian.

Bored office worker LIBBY ANN MARSHALL never dreamed a man like JOSHUA ROSE would come into her life.  He is confident, sexy, and adventurous.  He is also the Black Bandit, a former gang member and armed bank robber in the (fictional) city of Ralston, IL who, one hot July day, kidnaps her during a heist. 

The crime inflames harried city police detective STEPHEN PIERCE and the FBI.  Pierce must divide his energy with another major case, prostitute killer JOHN COOK JR., known only as The Motel Shooter.  Cook is furious with Joshua for stealing all his press and launches his own search for the Bandit.  

Capitalize the names of the characters the first time you write them.  (I left out ages in parentheses because I couldn’t fit the whole thing on one page.)

For Rose’s Hostage, I have one, two, four, and seven-page synopses.  I’ve sent the one and two-page ones out.  One-pagers are probably the one you’ll use the most, so work really hard on those.

In addition to this, you should also have an elevator pitch—a short, two or three-sentence summary, sans ending—worked up and memorized, in case anyone asks you what your book is about.

 

Speaking of Rose’s Hostage, I haven’t received my critique from Brian Keene yet.  He should be finished soon.  Either he was too busy to get to it until today, was waiting for someone to get back to him on it, or it stunk so bad he has to practically rewrite it.  I can just imagine…”Cut this…this sucks…good God, what did you do here…auuughgg!”

  Dolly, in despair over bad reviews of her torrid Ken-Barbie-G.I. Joe love triangle romantic thriller, ended up on the street.


Dolly, in despair over bad reviews of her torrid Ken-Barbie-G.I. Joe love triangle romantic thriller, ended up on the street.

Image:  Theeradech Sanin / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

You know I have more work to do on Tunerville, so why am I writing synopses now?  Well, the damn things are helpful to me.  Doing a huge outline—going through every chapter and summarizing it—gives me little bits I can use in my synopses.  It also helps me see where I need to add stuff, and I’ve already used the outline to split a very long chapter.

The synopses will change as the rewrites progress.  I’ll do the short one, so I don’t have much to edit if I move things around.  When I’m ready to submit, I won’t have to cobble one together at the last minute.

If you are finished with your book and you need some advice on writing synopses, check out the following links to start.

Chuck Sambuchino (Guide to Literary Agents editor, writer, and columnist) gives five tips for writing a synopsis.

http://writerunboxed.com/2012/02/27/untitled-2-27/

Robert J. Sawyer, award-winning science fiction writer, shares his outlines and synopses with us on his website (please, Robert, hire someone to update it!).

http://www.sfwriter.com/ouindex.htm

Anne Mini’s blog, Author! Author! is a dense read, but worth it.  I learned so much here it’s not even funny.  Check out her Synopsispalooza series of posts.

http://www.annemini.com/