Monday, March 30, 2009

Back to the Beta

Well, I've finished my edits on novel number two and it's back to the betas. Yep. Another round of "Why did you do that's" and "What were you thinkings." At least, I brace myself for those comments. Hopefully, I won't hear those words of despair. Hopefully, I've worked long enough and hard enough to squash those things before they're even a gleam in the betas eyes. But...

Sometimes "the best laid plans", as Burns said. If the Dog Pack finds fault, it's because fault exists. If fault exists, fault must be eradicated. I'm searching for an agent, someone who believes in me and my work. If the might-be agent has a faulty representation of my work, then the words "might-be" will be eradicated and he/she becomes the not-interested agent.

Long ago, publishing houses accepted books directly. For example, Forest Carter, an old cowboy from the plains, wrote a book called Gone to Texas. Mr. Carter went to the library, looked into western novels, found potential publishing houses, and sent his novel off to the house he found most interesting. The publishing house accepted his work, published his book, and a very famous director discovered it in the stacks. The book became the movie, The Outlaw Josey Wales. When Carter was interviewed about his new-found success, Barbara Walters asked what he was going to do. His response? "I think I'll buy a new pick-up truck."

Cute story, but...publishing houses don't do that very often. Nowadays, practically not at all. For some time, Algonquin Press would review the first thirty pages of a novel. I'm not sure if they still do that. Random House? St. Martins? DAW? Nope. They rely on the voice and the filtering of agents. That way the publishers can avoid the tedium of reading three-hundred badly written novels to get to the one good piece in the slush pile. Ergo: no agent/no publisher.

I need my betas to be tough. I need them to point out ALL the rough spots, the failed spelling (even an English major makes mistakes), the character flaws, ALL of it. If the Dog Pack approves, then I query, not one agent at a time but ten at a time. If I get the agent, I may be published.

Lots of ifs. Lots of maybes. Lots of hopes. The dream. Oh! One more 'if.'
If I get published, I'm definitely buying a new pick-up truck.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Bits and Snatches

It's 4:51 AM. I'm up. Can't sleep. What to do? Write, of course. At this hour, the house is quiet, the children sleeping, and even the dog's unlikely to seek a trip around the block. There's time now.

The average writer has a day job, gets about ten percent of what he/she writes published, and frets over finance on a regular basis. I'm an average writer.

One of the problems with having that day job, that family, and those financial woes is time. Ideally, a writer should spend at least four hours per day at the keyboard, banging out whatever he/she bangs out. In the real world, those four hours are hard to come by. The writer sits down and suddenly, little Susie needs some help, a drink of water, assitance with homework. Then the phone rings, and Grandma can't get her remote to work. The clock's ticking. The sudden realization that the milk is running low sends our writer to the supermarket or the growling stomachs of the family demand dinner. It's almost as if the fates are against the dream being realized, and let's face it. Becoming a successful writer is THE dream.

An author doesn't become an author by his/herself. It takes the village, so to speak. The family of any would-be writer should understand the dream. The writer must make the dream clear to the people who surround him/her. Seek their support. In my case, I've promised my six-year-old granddaughter that if Nana becomes a full-time writer and sells books, then we, as a family, can buy a farm. She's already picked out the kind of animals she wants: a pony, some cattle, and some pigs. Thank God, she hasn't asked for any sheep yet. (For those of you who don't know, sheep are the stupidest of God's creatures, they require excessive care, and they smell to high-heaven! Yep, they're worse than pigs.)

Whatever course you chose to chart in life, support is an issue. Some can brave the seas alone and reach that final destination, but not me. Unfortunately, I require support. I need alone-time to write. I can't work through the chaos of normal living. My family must give me space and quiet so that I can focus on the task, or in this case plot-line, at hand. So far (knock on wood), the other members of my household have been relatively understanding. Oh, I've kissed a few boo-boos and answered a few questions, but all in all, they've given the support I require.

I don't get high accolades from them. In fact, I avoid having them read my work. I recently took a copy of my second novel to my mother. She read it. Her response to my effort? She said, "It feels like something a real author wrote." :D

I guess that's high praise, but somehow, it doesn't give me goosebumps. Know what I mean?

Monday, March 16, 2009


Have I slipped under the radar, moved to Mazoula, been lost in the Amazon and eaten by cannibals? No. I had a stroke. In fact, I had three mini-strokes within as many weeks. Tough? Kind of, but not deadly thank God. I'm back, slowly rising from the ashes of my clogged arteries like the Phoenix. I'm not as attractive as that legendary bird, but I'm certainly as tenacious.

Writing? Not much right now. My mind still has a few dents and scratches, but they're slowly disappearing. I'll be up to full force in no time, but in the meantime, I'm regrouping and finishing those final edits on novel number two. As my previous post indicated, I'm almost finished. I don't think I'll trunk it for as long as was previously planned. These minor health interruptions have had it trunked for three weeks already, so sometime within the next three weeks, I'll open the trunk lid and have at it again.

The third novel is coming along nicely now. It was also inadvertently trunked due to the health crisis. Crisis breeds opportunity. At least, it certainly has in my case. I've taken a fourteenth look at those first pages and already found some things that can be improved.

As most of you know, the first five or so pages of any novel are the most important. The unwritten rule is that an author must grab the reader's interest within those pages or lose that interest forever. Something has to happen in that first chapter, something important to the story and something that tends to pique the curiosity in such a way as to lead the reader onward. By onward, I mean straight toward the cashier at the local bookstore.

Yep! How you begin is equally as important as how you end. The story must begin to race early. Oh, sometime after you've caught hold of the reader's imagination, there's room for character development and subplots, but those first events on those first pages should be tied directly to the main storyline.

A test: Go back. Read the first five pages of your work. Wrinkle your brow, tap your fingers, then ask yourself, "What happened in those pages?" If your answer is related to introduction of characters, description of setting and only to those things, you've probably started the story too early. If those things are there but hidden in the background of the main event, then keep on trucking or, in this case, writing.