General update and thanks to Beta Readers

So, the big revision has been done for a bit, and I’m going over beta reader critiques. There’s definitely stuff to be touched up on, but it’s very close to being done an this is by far my best work yet. Of course though, it must be shiny as shiny can be before I want to send it to editors. I may start sending out queries to agents though – it’s at a stage where I don’t think the touching up I have yet to do is going to change an agent’s answer. It’s mostly fiddling at this point. Possibly adding one scene, but I have to figure out what’s to be in that scene. I might have it though, just involves some rearranging, which may even make another scene run a tad smoother.

And thanks to my beta readers giving me valuable feedback. There will always be things I don’t pick up on myself because I know what I’m trying to say in my head. I think writers will always need a second set of eyes to keep them honest.

But there comes a point when the author needs to decide how much fiddling is enough, and send it out into the world to fend for itself. I’m edging towards that point. I’m sure I want to have at least one person finish the novel (besides the mother in law, who’s biased :P) to get feedback on the ending. There’s one other point in the ending I may change, and the more I think about it, the more I think I’ll need to change it, because it’s just not as meaningful if the character making the decision hasn’t got anything left to lose.

That and one other scene might need some delicate treatment for potentially triggering subject matter, and a minor character’s dialogue needs to be completely rewritten so that he doesn’t sound uneducated because when I originally wrote the character, he and another character weren’t brothers, and there was no need for them to have similar backgrounds in education.

Down to nitpicky things, mostly though. And then, copyediting for flow – I have a friend who’s really awesome at that.

And I have written a query letter, and said friend has gone over it to beat the lumps out so it reads smooth and makes sense. I will touch up my synopsis too, since it’s a 1 and 1/2 page synopsis, and I should be able to get away with two for most queries.

Then, out into the wide scary world with it!

Writing vs Career vs Writing Career

One of my blog readers and (beta reader :)) brought up an interesting topic, and I think it was worth it’s own blog post.

So this is only vaguely connected – but I’d like to hear people’s opinion and it has a bearing I think on Lindsay’s situation. I think a serious writer who is earning a living from other work (not writing) can have a job but not a career because there is only so much emotional commitment and energy to go around and you have to put it in to one thing.

I think this is true for nearly everyone – there are a tiny number of people who are so exceptional they can do anything fairly brilliantly – for the rest of us there is this choice.

Andy

Agree? Disagree?

I agree with part of this – that if you want to be serious about writing and aim to make a career out of it, it’s very difficult to balance that with a career outside of writing. I have a job – it pays the bills, barely. And by barely, I mean, my husband and I have just moved in with my mother in law because they jacked up the rent on our ghetto apartment, and we can’t find an affordable apartment that will allow us to keep our cats, and doesn’t require me to have a car.

But part of the decision to do that was, I admit, that I don’t want to have to get a second job to survive, because if I did that, then I would seriously have no writing time. And that would kill me. I’ve been in the have-no-time-to-write situation before, and the frustration and depression that led to was crushing. I ended up quitting, once I found another job that paid better. I don’t want to do that again, ever.

My husband knows what happens to me if I don’t have time to write. When I get grumpy sometimes, he’ll take care of supper and tell me to go write.

I could move up in the company I work at if I wanted to. I’d even be interested if I wasn’t so busy getting my manuscript together right now. The elation of having finished the revision has sunk in, by the way – haven’t been in such a good mood in a long time.

I don’t know about these fabled people who can do both, though. They say no man can serve two masters. I’ve never heard of such a person in real life. Anyone I hear of does choose one or the other.

Lots of people write as a hobby, and there’s nothing wrong with doing it just for yourself. It’s no different from taking piano lessons, or ballroom dancing. People do it because they enjoy it, and develop a skill worthy of praise. As opposed to say, spending that time playing video games. Bragging about working on endgame content in World of Warcraft just doesn’t garner the same respect and sense of accomplishment as bragging about a dance or musical recital – or writing a novel.  These people may not aspire to getting published. They might, though, and some do, and they might be happy with getting a book or two out there in their lifetimes, but these aren’t people who aspire to make their living writing. They likely find themselves fulfilled by their primary career.

Then there’s the people who want to make a living writing. I don’t think you can really do that and work on developing a career at the same time. You could already have a career, and work on building a writing career, but there will come a point where, if you want to really get somewhere and accomplish enough to have a chance at making a living writing, you’ll have to decide which is going to come first – the other career, or the writing career.

You can spend twenty years revising a novel to perfection, and it could be a great novel at the end of that, and sell passably well. But that won’t make a career in writing. Most writers who support themselves writing, they’re saying you have to have at least one book out per year, to survive, and now they’re saying even that’s not enough. That takes discipline, and it takes more passion than the hobbyist writer needs to give it.

There’s a lot of people who say they’d love to make a living writing. There’s a lot of statistics saying the odds of getting published professionally, are pretty low (the most common one I see: 1/100), and the odds of getting published a second time are even slimmer.  But there’s also a lot of people who say they’d like to get published and don’t really try, or don’t try very hard. Or they try, and then they can’t handle rejection. Or they try, but shoot themselves in the foot by not doing their research on the importance of following submission guidelines. I love those people – I don’t have to compete with them. If those statistics include all those people who won’t get published because of something they don’t do, then that means whether or not I eventually make it, is far more in my own control than the statistics would make it seem. The question becomes “How badly do you want this?” Because if you want something badly enough, you’ll do whatever you need to, to get it.

You put enough quarters in the machine, eventually you’ll get that winning black gumball.

Celebratory Alcohol: The Eyelet Dove revision is done

It’s not absolute final draft, but it’s close, and it’s worthy of human eyes besides my own. I have made it as good as I can make it, and Beta readers will help me polish it.

This was a lot of work, and I’m damn proud of myself.

My mother in law is reading part 3 now – she’s already read part 1 and 2. She gets the honour of being the first person to ever read the ending. Besides myself, of course. And she has no idea what’s coming. I’m kind of curious, and half worried what she’ll think of the piggyback ride scene. She reads fast – she’ll likely finish tonight. She’s liked it so far. Lets see if she hates me after she reads what I’ve done to my poor unsuspecting characters.

In the meantime, I’m drinking till it feels real.

Next is polish up a query letter an synopsis while I go through beta readers comments, and then send this puppy out.

This will get published. It’s my goddamned turn.

Keycon 29 Tomorrow!

Tomorrow is the beginning of Keycon 29, for which I’ve booked off time from work to make sure I can go. I really needed a vacation anyway, so I have a week after.

As usual, they have guests of honour.

I have new costume stuff for this year. I have a real, steel boned corset, and a pair of aviator goggles from the Abney Park market that came with dog tags with the AP jolly roger on them (skull with spiked hair, goggles, and a propeller and cutlass instead of bones, hee! My best friend thinks it’s ridiculous.)

I’m doing a panel, on Saturday at 1pm, apparently with Ellen Smith, on writing query letters and synopses, and I’m excited about doing a panel for the first time. No idea what the turnout will be – I hope it’s more than one or two people, but if it’s more than ten, then I’ll be glad to have a co-panelist with me, so I don’t get eaten.

There’s also the readoff, but I don’t think I have anything to read for it that really fits with their theme of Survival. Not that I likely have anything short enough for the five minutes you’re allowed to read. Just not really a flash fiction author.

And Author Idol is back! The first year they did that was really cool, and had a great turnout. It had a panel of four authors and editors as judges who would raise their hands (Robert J. Sawyer opted for armpit farts) at the point where they would stop reading a submission, and when three of four hands were up, the reader would stop and go on to the next piece. It was just the first page of your novel or story, that year, and my submission did decently well – the editor running the show didn’t like it and made them stop, despite there being only two hands up, and Robert J. Sawyer even argued with her, adamantly refusing to armpit fart my story.

That opening needs work, I’ll concede that, and I’ll go back and revise it, possibly when I’m finished with The Eyelet Dove, but for now, this year they’re doing opening pages or one page synopses. So when I found out, I scrambled to whip together a synopsis for Dove to throw at them, and I’m excited to see what they think. I don’t know if the rules will be the same. It’s also tempting to give them my first page, since the opening of the story has gone over so well with readers in general, but the synopsis is probably what I need feedback on more, and on top of that, well, I’m doing a panel on queries and synopses, so I should darn well do the synopsis option. If they’ll allow both, then I’ll give them both.

As usual, there will be the social, and the fancy dinner. I’m tempted to go to the fancy dinner – we weren’t going to, but apparently the entertainment is the sequel to the steampunk play they put on two years ago, by Kiss the Giraffe productions, which was fun. There’s usually tickets available for the dinner still available at the con, so we might pick them up at the con.

And the Dead Dog, where we drink all the alcohol left over from the hospitality suites. Giant room party taking up the entire fifteenth floor. Be there.

But I’m off today, too, so really, today is my Friday. I think I pretty much have all my costume stuff ready. I might make lists, so I don’t forget things. I still want to buy a pair of steampunk earrings from that guy who calls himself Thorgrid, or Thorgrid Jewellery. Hopefully he’ll be there again – he has the last three years, I think. Has nice stuff.

In other news, my chapter 2 of The Eyelet Dove was well received by my new critiquing group last night. They had some great feedback on where there’s details and description missing – always my weak point, but as far as story and character, I’m getting pretty much the reaction I want. Just some cosmetic touching up to do on that chapter.

As far as the revision, I’m on the touching up description/dialogue/flow part, and it’s going faster because I fixed a lot of this stuff in earlier stages as I came to it. The biggest trouble at this point is running out of space on the page to make corrections, and wanting to just type it up so that I can see the flow clearer. I think in later revisions, I may do the type-in earlier, though that may depend on how bad a wreck the story is to begin with. This one’s bad, and yet, it’s interesting to realize how the state of a first draft doesn’t really reflect the quality of the final draft once it’s done, only how much work it is to get it to final draft. This one’s just a very complex story, and to try and get everything straight, and things revealed in the right order, it’s been a challenge.

I hope to be done the final draft, or at least as good a draft as I can get on my own without beta readers helping tighten and clarify, in the next few weeks. I’d like to be on the typing out stage by the end of my vacation. Will try at least. Wish me luck, I want to start sending this to agents.

New Critique Group

It’s been quite a while since I’ve been able to regularly attend a critique group – my old one in my home town is too far to get to on a regular basis.

But I heard from a friend about one that meets down the street, and I never would have heard about it if not through the grapevine. So I checked up on it, and the owner of the store where they meet said to bring something to read and come by.

They’re a mystery writers group, but they have decreed that their definition of mystery would be very broad, to include anything with mystery in it. With my love of intrigue, most of my work fits their broad definition, which is awesome, because they’re an awesome group and I’m very excited to have found them.

With my old group, bless their hearts, but there was always a genre gap – they were writers of memoirs and non-fiction, mostly or literary fiction at best, and while they were always open minded and never snubbed me for writing genre fiction, I always felt like they weren’t quite sure what to make of me.

These guys, even if they’re mainly into mystery, we were far more on the same page, and I got great constructive feedback on the setting and fight scene and suggestions on how to make them better. They were all very nice people — and good writers, and they seemed to like me too. I’m very much looking forward to meeting with them again next month!

The Art of Bad Titles or Words I Swear Never to Use in a Title

There are certain words that make catchy titles, and certain words that make my eyes glaze over if I see them in the title of a book. Basically, if one of the following words is in the title of the book, you’ve got one strike against you in convincing me to read it:

  • Heart
  • Moon
  • Star
  • Crystal
  • Blade
  • Shadow
  • Quest
  • Dream
  • Dark/Darkness

If I ever am tempted to use two of the before mentioned words in a title, somebody please shoot me.

I mean, I’m not the best at titles, but skimming over a list of amateur fiction titles in a workshop, I found at least four to seven titles containing each of those words. I read a couple out to my husband, and he said, “I think I’ve read that book. Like, five times.”

Really, if the best title I can come up with for a story is The Crystal of Dreams, or The Moonblade, or Heart of the Whatever the Hell, then maybe you need to rethink your story. If that really, honestly is the most appropriate title, then, well, I don’t know what to say.

But chances are, it isn’t. Chances are, there’s something more unique and intriguing to your story than the name of the object of power that’s going to save the day when your hero acquires/uses/destroys it. What titles like that tell me, is that this story is about a thing, that’s probably some kind of gimmick that makes the story go, and little more than that. Doesn’t tell me about characters, or anything like that.

Titles that attract me are ones that have more, you know, unique words. Actually, I think the word I’m looking for is specific. Words that refer to something specific, rather than vague ideas. The first thing that comes to mind is the one I keep looking at, and I’m not sure if I’ll read, but the title grabs me, is “Whitechapel Gods.” Whitechapel is a district in London. It has meaning to me. It gives a lot of context to the word “Gods.” The words in my list, they could mean a hundred million things, in context, and paired with another one of the words in the list, it’s even worse, because then you have no context provided by the second word.

Which reminds me, there’s a clause in my vow never to use those words that states that those words may be used freely if they are being used literally. Peter S. Beagle’s story “Two Hearts” refers to the two hearts that a Griffin has, in the world of the story, because both must be pierced to kill it. If a character’s actual heart has been replaced with clockwork, then I’m good with a title like “Clockwork Heart.” I reserve the right to use “Moon” in my title, if the characters are actually traveling to the moon. “Star” and “Dream” would be reserved for sci fi only. The rest, I can’t really think of a good excuse for.

Just my two cents, and just my opinion. Anyone else have anything that makes their eyes glaze over when they see it in a title?

First Lines Contest at Blog: Between the Sheets

More than one critiquer has commented on liking the first line of The Eyelet Dove, so when someone tweeted about a first lines contest, I figured what the hell, and entered my opening line.

And what do you know, I got a runner up prize. Pretty cool, huh? I’ve had a number of critiques on the OWW on this particular opening chapter, and it’s gone over pretty well, overall. I’m quite proud of it, and I think that it’s within a few line edits of being ready to send to an agent or editor.

I like this idea, overall, for a contest. I think I might try to do something like this myself. Thing is, one line makes it not such a heavy commitment for the person putting it on, and yet, you get feedback on one of the most crucial parts of your story. I like that idea.

And she says she’s thinking of doing a pitch contest in the future, so stay tuned, if you’ve got a novel to pitch:

NEXT CONTEST COMING IN APRIL:

Create your best pitch and win a FREE WRITER’S WEBSITE (a $450 value!) or BLOG from professional web designer and developer, Brian Mowell. Details coming soon. YES, this is a FREEsetup of your author website or blog! A-M-A-Z-I-N-G PRIZE! Already have a site? No problem. Have your existing site revamped for FREE!