So here’s the thing – my first novel is out , but now comes the hard part: marketing. I’m sure I worry over nothing, but from where I sit the water looks pretty damn deep. I have a few upcoming interviews – which are pretty cool, and not so difficult to sound at least halfway normal – and guest appearances on a few blogs (all of which I’ll be sure to beat each and every one of you over the head with at least nine times – any more might seem rude). The one biggie that has me quaking in my slightly stank underoos is the dreaded ‘Book Launch Party’, and inevitable book signings. I’m all about chatting up peeps in twos and threes, but put me in a crowd – especially a crowd there to see me, or individuals there to have me sign a book with a personalized message – and my balls turn to ice. No shit.
I’ve been asked several times by several people when I plan to have a book release party. Don’t worry – I already know most of you can’t come. I live in the wilds of southwestern Ontario, and am as such out of reach to many who live in the States, Europe, or Asia (yeah, man. I got peeps all over this mafecker). I’m still waiting to hear back from T’raHeel, my Telaxian bud from the planet Pleeborp, in the Omacra Delta Quadrant, but I think his mom said something about him not being allowed out after dark. He sent me this really cool slug, tho. Too bad it got away. Don’t worry. Most of you have nothing to fear. T’ra says it only eats assholes.
Sorry. Back on point.
wasted five fucking hours spent a little time trying out sample bytes for a trailer I had planned for Dropcloth Angels. Mission (un)accomplished. I’ll circle back to the trailer after I’ve calmed down a bit. Once it’s done I’ll probably grin when someone asks how tough it was to do, and say, “Shit, man, it ain’t no thang but a rubber wang.” But it totally is/will be. I hate technology.
I look into the future and see me shaking babies and holding hands, and I don’t know how well I’ll be able to pull it off. I’m boring. I bore myself to sleep sometimes. Also, I stutter when excited or nervous. Can you guess whether I’ll be nervous or not while I’m standing at a podium, gazing out at those who, sillyly (<–my word – deal with it) enough, came to hear me speak?
I think “yes”, but what do I know? I may end up being a natural.
Kay so, I didn’t really cover anything that relates to the topic. I’ll try harder next time to focus on the task at hand. I’ll also keep you abreast of the progress I make with this whole marketing issue.
So, yeah. It’s been a long time. o.O
I didn’t know how to make the stat counter work before, so don’t go thinking you’re one of the first to have ever been here. I’ve been around – let me tell you. I’ll be adding shit here and there over the next little while. A while back I decided to give in and go with a mini publisher for my first novel. No, I never did change its name. Dropcloth Angels remains. Boo-ya, bitches.
I recently (like ten minutes ago) read a post on a writer’s site about this subject, and it spurred me to examine my own thoughts on pace & prose, and where and when to use them. This is what I came up with:
There’s a time for pace, and a time for prose. Each is merely a tool used to carve a path. Here is an extreme example:
Say your mc is currently racing against the clock – dodging bullets, pedestrians, rush hour traffic, and two or three heat seeking missiles – in order to save a hog-tied damsel who has a bomb strapped to her chest. The clock is ticking, so there’s no time for shit and shenanigans. Prose has no place whatsoever within this portion of a story.
Okay, say the mc made it there ten seconds too late and the damsel is naught but a black powder burn on a patch of pavement. Now is the time for prose; he laments, he cries, he tosses out that rubber he’ll never get to share with her and her sister Babette, he swears blood vengeance upon the person responsible, and does it all from beneath a heavy fog of prose.
anger, lust, rage, excitement, fight, flight, character interaction (i.e., dialogue, phone conversations, sports, etc.)
Every golfer knows the term ‘You drive for show, but putt for the dough’, and here’s where it applies to you and I as writers. You’ve got the reader’s attention with the chase, the crazy cabbie who spoke a language you thought only trekkies knew, the barking dogs, errupting flames, shattering glass, the falls, the ever-present tick of the clock, and now you need to slow down and allow the reader to take a gulp of air while their heart stops racing.
Scene and character descriptions, back story (if any, but not huge chunks at once, cuz the last thing you want to do is have the reader forget where they are in the story), character inner monologue – their hopes, dreams, petty piss-offs – and setting.
None of this is according to some book. This is how I do it.
Creative Writing: Exercises for Writers
- Write the first 250 words of a short story, but write them in ONE SENTENCE. Make sure that the sentence is grammatically correct and punctuated correctly. This exercise is intended to increase your powers in sentence writing.
- Write a dramatic scene between two people in which each has a secret and neither of them reveals the secret to the other OR TO THE READER.
- Write a narrative descriptive passage in a vernacular other than your own. Listen to the way people speak in a bar, restaurant, barber shop, or some other public place where folks who speak differently (“He has an accent!”) from you, and try to capture that linguistic flavor on the page.
- Play with sentences and paragraph structure: Find a descriptive passage you admire, a paragraph or two or three, from published material, and revise all the sentences. Write the passage using all simple sentences (no coordination, no subordination); write the passage using all complex-compound sentences; write the passage using varying sentence structure. The more ways you can think to play with sentence structure, the more you will become aware of how sentence structure helps to create pacing, alter rhythm, offer delight.
- Focus on verbs: Find a passage that you admire (about a page of prose) and examine all of the verbs in each sentence. Are the “active,” “passive,” “linking?” If they are active, are they transitive or intransitive? Are they metaphorical (Mary floated across the floor.)? What effects do verbs have on your reading of the passage?
- Take a passage of your own writing and revise all of the verbs in it. Do this once making all the verbs active, once making all the verbs passive. Then try it by making as many verbs as possible metaphorical (embedded metaphors).
Characters: There are two types of characters: well-drawn and stick-figures.
- Create character sketches. This is a good exercise to perform on a regular basis in your journal. Sometimes you can just create characters as they occur to you, at other times it is good to create characters of people you see or meet. Some of the best sketches are inspired by people you don’t really know but get a brief view of, like someone sitting in a restaurant or standing by a car that has been in an accident. Ask yourself who they are, what they are about. The fact that you don’t really know the person will free you up to make some calculated guesses that ultimately have more to say about your own vision of the world than they do about the real person who inspired the description. That’s okay, you are NOT a reporter, and ultimately the story you intend to tell is YOUR story.
- Write a character sketch strictly as narrative description, telling your reader who the character is without having the character do or say anything.
- Revise the above to deliver the character to the reader strictly through the character’s actions.
- Revise the above to deliver the character strictly through the character’s speech to another character.
- Revise the above to deliver the character strictly through the words/actions of another character (the conversation at the water fountain about the boss).
- Often when we call a character “flat” we mean that the author has failed in some way; however, many good stories require flat characters. Humor often relies on flat characters, but often minor characters in non-humorous pieces are also flat. These characters usually appear to help move the plot along in some way or to reveal something about the main character. A flat character is one who has only ONE characteristic. You can create whole lists of these and keep them in your journal so that you can call upon them when you need a character to fit into a scene.
- Young writers are prone to write autobiographical pieces. Instead of writing about people like yourself, try writing about someone who is drastically different in some way from you. Writing about someone who is a good deal older or younger than you will often free up your imagination. It helps to make sure you are delivering enough information to your reader so that the reader can clearly see the character and understand the character’s motives.
- Write a scene of about five hundred words in which a character does something while alone in a setting that is extremely significant to that character. Have the character doing something (dishes, laundry, filing taxes, playing a computer game, building a bird house) and make sure that YOU are aware that the character has a problem or issue to work out, but do NOT tell your reader what that is.
For a very long while now I’ve been sitting on my first novel. Waiting. For what, I don’t know – maybe for some agent to magically appear, claiming my writing came to them in a dream or as a vision as they rode the subway home one day. And that’s how it would have to happen, because I haven’t sent it out.
Well, that’s not exactly true either. It was and is with an agent in England, but as the weeks pass without response, my belief grows that my novel has been forgotten or tossed into the trash. Dropcloth Angels has also made its way to the desk of an Avon (HarperCollins) Acquisitions Editor. She liked it but knew HC would pass on it because it doesn’t follow the familiar cookie cutter formula so popular today. She was nice enough to point me in the direction of three or four of the larger Indie Publishers who take chances on novels that don’t follow the norm (let’s use Clockwork Orange for an example).The only problem with that is none of them will look at unsolicited manuscripts. I’m not certain that it would be cool to use this editors name to open any doors with them or not, so I haven’t bothered to submit to any of them.
Aside from also sending this out to Angry Robot for their ‘Open Submission Month’, I’ve not sent out any queries whatsoever. There are many reasons I haven’t submitted more, but three reasons top the list:
a) the industry has tightened its belt lately and only seem to want non-fic books about abused housewives or tell-alls about movie stars.
b) I’m so scared to send my ‘ideal’ agent a shitty query letter, and know (or at least believe) I will only get one chance to knock them out of their panties so want to get it right the first time.
c) I’m a pussy – plain & simple – and don’t want to know that I’ve wasted my time writing a book nobody would buy to prop up a wobbly table.
I’m asked frequently if I’ve been sending out queries. My go-to response is ‘no, but I think I’ll start sending some out next week’. And I mean it every time I say it, but something always comes up and queries for DcA find their way to the back of the queue. There’s always next week, right?
I should really do a follow-up with that agent who’s had my novel for four months. The thing about not following up is this though: I look at it like a lottery ticket. Before the draw I can be as full of hope as anyone. Tomorrow I could be jetting off to destinations unknown with my newly acquired fortune, or zipping around in my cherry-red Corvette. Then, the morning after the draw I see I didn’t win and my little girl doesn’t get that pony I promised if I won. Oh well, there’s always the next draw. Without hearing a “NO” from the agent means I’m still in the game and don’t need to buy another ticket just yet.
Maybe I should change the title of this post to “Lazy”, but don’t have the energy to do so.
This is a large topic, so I’ll be breaking it down into smaller posts because I bore quickly, and likely wouldn’t finish it if I did it all at once.
“Fiction writers learn to write by writing.”
While this is fundamentally true, it’s incomplete and should be part of a larger statement which would include the following: listening to everyone and everything around you, taking note of vocal nuances, speech patterns (and how they might change during an argument, or when the individual is excited), and the singularity of sounds and what those sounds sound like.
Sound like a load of shit? What exactly does a load of shit sound like? Say a fully loaded bag (let’s say burlap) is thrown from the back of a pick-up truck by a man/woman standing in the bed. What do you hear when it strikes something like a sidewalk?
I don’t know either — but if you actually do know, you may have a story to tell.
How about a sack full of mud? Same scenario. Sure you know what it sounds like. You’ve heard it before.
Also, a writer must read, read, read (which I say in every post). You must read as more than a reader; try doing it as a reader/student of the current book on your nightstand. I like to pick apart every aspect of a writer’s story while reading. Well, maybe ‘pick apart’ isn’t the proper wording. I gage my response to an author’s use of the ‘elements’ and try to guess why they did what they did, and also why it worked or didn’t work for me. This is common sense really, and a writer should do this subconsciously. If you don’t do this, you should.
It all boils down to experience, and how well you can relate your own to others.
Explore the experience of experiencing. That’s it. Write lots, read lots, and live life like it was a dare.
Next on the list is licking the doorknobs at the doctor’s office…
Tomorrow I’ll be discussing the ‘Every Author Needs to Write a Million Words’ load of crap. Yeah, I said crap.
This is way different than writing a novel. Scene set-up and how you split them seems to be only slightly less important than dialogue.
Began my foray into this medium with a short work I wrote last year, ‘Merry Fucking Christmas’. Did I already mention that it’s nothing like writing a novel?
To be continued. I hope.
I hate to sound like a dick — and I’m really not — but writer’s block is an excuse for many other things. Writers are writers and they write.
Or they are a doctor, a garbage man, a housewife, a secretary who writes stories. There’s a varying gap between a writer and one who writes, depending on their level of dedication, experience and, most important of all, leisure time. I call it leisure time, but that just means ‘time to do what you love doing’. For a writer, writing is a job; something they do on a regular basis, whether they want to or not, or the electric bill doesn’t get paid. It’s as simple as that.
I don’t consider myself a writer. Sure, I’ve been paid for short fiction and enjoyed exposure through blogs and bloggers who’ve showcased my writing, but until I’ve made enough in one lump to pay a bill, I’m a wannabe — but a wannabe who eventually will be able to pay a bill doing what I love to do.
Keep your shirt on; I’m getting to the writer’s block thingy. Which really is just a name for a triple threat I like to call ‘being a pussy’. “Writer’s block” goes a little something like this:
a) you’re not feeling inspired; you lack the ambition to finish what you’ve started and will try selling yourself any dumb ass excuse you can to justify just giving up. b) either subconsciously or consciously, you know you need feedback, to discuss the particular section you’re working on, but can’t seem to find anyone around you to either commiserates or care about your ‘hobby’ . c) You’re scared; scared of failing, of not being as good as you think, of what your dear saint of a mother will think — or so fucking afraid that you might actually finish it and not know what the hell to do next. I feel your pain, I really do, but it’s not something tangible or solid; a wall that stops you like a runner nearing the finish line.
For the fearful child in you:
You are the prophet of every single nuance of your soul. Everything you’ve ever done or dreamed of doing is right there in your head, waiting to be translated into the realization of one or more of those dreams. Let it out. Pop the top off those bottled up fancies and dump them all over the page. Stop worrying about how others may or may not understand, like or even care about what you have to say.
For the uninspired part of you:
This may sound silly, but I find inspiration in everything I see, feel, that hurts me, helps me, or leaves me indifferent. At times, 95% of the writing I do doesn’t take place anywhere near my computer. I’ll make what I call a ‘head movie’ of what I’d like to have happen for, like, ten chapters, then I let it stew for a while, play it back, play it back again and again, and then I hit the computer. This process has sometimes taken more than a few days. I’m not saying you should shun the computer and not write down anything you feel just has to written down RIGHT NOW. This is only for when you are unsure of the story’s direction. Again with the silly: During times of indecision, I will lay in my hammock in the backyard, watching the sky, the squirrels, listen to the odd sound a tree branch makes as it draws like a bow across a violin against the backboard of my son’s basketball net. Or I’ll watch people from afar and give them a life and past that I create in my head. I initially didn’t think of this as any sort of exercise for the ‘writer’ in me. I just like to daydream. It could be that this is good exercise for the mind, or it could just be a good way to clear your mind of what’s really bothering you. Sometimes, issues within your writing can choke creativity, but if you dwell on it, a constipated mind is right around the corner.
Think no one cares (i.e., family and friends)? Well, they don’t — not really — but they sure as hell will when the advance comes for your first novel. Don’t hate them. They just can’t seem to equate you, the same person who can squirt milk out their nose on demand or pisses all over the toilet seat (even when it’s up), as an intellectual-type writer — which you really, really are. Don’t hate them for feeling this way. Also, don’t badger them to help you read a scene, a chapter (unless they want to), because their opinion is tainted by the aforementioned random body squirts. Instead, talk to (not AT) other writers. They can help, even if you don’t really have an issue you can label as an ‘issue’. In a sort of symbiotic way, writers are the best cure for each other. An idea you had but can’t seem to give legs to may have a simple solution that another will give to you gratis. Flip side of the coin: you help another writer with a problem they have and gain a little confidence from the effort which may snowball into a breakthrough in your own writing.
Okay, so are we clear? There is no such thing as writer’s block. Period.
p.s. If none of this shit works, go see a shrink; you have bigger problems than a case of stunted inspiration.
Last week, I attended my first book signing. I’d always hoped my own would be the first, but barring that, this man was at the top of the list of who I’d see. So I did. Before meeting him in Waterloo at his book signing, I’d already formed an opinion of him: He was a people person, an author who kept his fingers on the on the pulse of his own stardom through interaction with his fans. I heard from a few people at the signing that they’d written to him and he’d actually written back–more than once.
After seeing him I’m happy to report that he is every bit the gentleman he is said to be. He’s also a very personable public speaker. I have no idea what it takes to smile for more than three-hundred photos in a row, but he did–and it was the same grin you’d see on the back jacket of any one of his twelve fantastic novels (I even liked the first one, which is more than I can say for most authors).