Monday, December 31, 2007

Out with the Old, in with the New

The year of 2007 has slipped through my fingers. And in those twelve months I’ve managed to write only four entries to this blog. Terrible, I know.

Perhaps I’ll be better in 2008. We’ll see.

This last year has been very strange for me, both with my writing and the other aspect of my life. Here, at changing of the time, I have finally finished re-writing my novel. There is a bit of tweaking left to do, but for what it’s worth, it’s done. Now comes the agent search.

My first professional sale, a story titled "Romeo’s Kiss", is still scheduled to appear sometime in the near future. When the contract arrives I’ll let you all know when and where to find the story.

Happy New Year.

Monday, October 22, 2007

They Call it Gaman

Eight months is too long between posts, but hey, I never claimed to be the best blogger in the world. I created this blog to help give me a web-presence so that when my publishing career takes off, I’ll be better equipped to do some shameless self promoting.

But, as most young writers are all too familiar with, the road to success is filled with great empty potholes – long jags of time where nothing is happening. Oh, you’re still writing your little heart out, but either no one is responding to your manuscripts, or you are just stacking up a pile of rejection letters that leans to and fro as you enter the room, threatening at any minute to tumble and bury you beneath self-doubt and dismay.

There are plenty of reasons (some good, some lame) as to why I haven’t been posting lately. On my last post I had written that I was hoping to have re-written my novel by the time my son was born. Ha! Oh man, I still fall over laughing when I read that.

Well, the novel is still being polished, but I really am close to the finish line now. I promise. I just had to learn to write at odd times: after work, late at night, in my sleep ... you get the picture.

Besides the Baby Boot Camp I was attending, I also ran into a spot of bad luck. While re-writing the novel, I also was sending out three short stories that had yet to be published. I figured if any of them landed then that was just one more publishing credit I could show to potential agents.

One of the stories came within a gnat’s wing span of making it into an anthology. It came down to me and another story, but in the end they went with the other guy. That was heartbreaking, I’m not going to lie, but I took a deep breath, did a little revising on the story and sent it back out with its brothers.

I sent all three stories to one publication. I was very encouraged that at least one of these stories would hit the mark. I watched the calender like a druid mathematician, waiting for the response day to come. Well, it came and went. So, like always, I gave it an extra month, playing it light and breezy, when in fact I was all nerves and twitches.

I sent a well edited email, as to not seem too desperate or pushy, and awaited the response. It wasn’t good. They had no record of my stories. They must have been lost in the mail.

I wasn’t very happy, but what could I do? That’s right, nothing. So I sucked it up and re-sent all three stories (this time online). I got an email the next day; they had received my stories. Again I waited. The response time came and went. I dispatched another query email, and once more was informed that all three of my stories could not be located.

I was not in a very good mood. Though I was given the option to re-send the stories again, I declined. Instead I decided to send them out to separate publications.

Two of the stories came back with repeated rejections. No big deal, I was used to that. Besides, at least they weren’t being misplaced. But the one remained out there; not a word to ease my pain.

No news is good news, as they say, and I was hopeful this would hold true. I had sent this story (the one that almost made it into the anthology) to one place in particular that I felt was a great match. Once again the response time came and went, so I sent the all too typical email.

You’ll never guess what happened. That’s right! They had no record of receiving it.

This publication was very understanding, though. They usually required a postal submission, but allowed me to re-send the story by email. I gave it a quick once over, then sent it back.

Same ol’ song and dance. Response day came and went, I sent an email, but this time no response. I waited a couple more weeks, then sent another email. Can you guess the answer?

Right again! They couldn’t find one word of it anywhere.

I literally threw my hands in the air, stomped about my house, and pondered whether or not this was a sign that I should hang up my keyboard, and find a better use of my time.

After cooling off I decided, against my better judgement, to re-send the story a third time. What did I have to lose? It was another email, so at least I wasn’t wasting paper.

The next day my wife informed me that there were two emails in my inbox from the publisher. I assured her that it was only a confirmation that they had received the story and that they would be in contact.

I opened the first email, and I had to read it twice before I could believe what I was seeing. The editor remembered reading my piece, and he wasn’t sure how he had misplaced it. Then he simply stated, "Contract will be along in due time." The second email, sent only minutes later, was asking if I could provide a bio for the story.

Needless to say, I couldn’t hit the floor with my hat. I had my wife come up and read the emails just to make sure that I wasn’t fabricating something in my mind. She verified that I wasn’t crazy, at least about this, so I responded with a heartfelt thank you.

At the moment I am awaiting the contract to arrive. This is my first "professional" sale. My first publication where I’m being paid with dollars and not free copies. It has nothing to do with the money. This is a real publishing credit, and will hold a lot more weight than the other seven that I’ve collected.

Until the contract comes I’m going to keep the name of the publication to myself, lest things fall through, and I look foolish. But my hopes are high, and my spirit is refreshed. I believe the Japanese call it gaman: perseverance.

So, if you were wondering what I’ve been up to these past eight months ... the answer is persevering.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

My Happy Place

Okay, so I’m a little behind schedule. The important thing is I haven’t stalled.

I had hoped to rewrite my novel by the time my son was born. I’m close to half way done (around thirty chapters left), but my wife’s due date is nine days away.

If she goes early, or even on time, then no, I’m not going to make it. If she goes late, and I really bust my butt, then ... well, it’s a maybe.

I’ve had to throw out whole chapters. Write new ones to replace the ones I couldn’t live with. I’ve deepened the characters and their relationships. More imagery. More suspense. It’s been slow going.

I’m happy, though. Happy to be writing. Happy to see the progress I’ve made from the first draft to now. Happy that the world I’ve created (or at least transcribed) is becoming more real and defined.

It is the euphoric sense of purpose that only comes from the act of creating. It doesn’t really matter what comes of this novel, does it? As long as I can be happy with my work, then the rest will work itself out.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Moving Forward with Focus

To move forward, sometimes one must go back to the beginning. I have been sitting at a crossroads for a while now, not sure which way to go.

It’s my own fault. I’ll admit it. I was good out of the gate, but down the road I always petered out. Sometimes it was fear. Sometimes it was procrastination. Sometimes it was that big bully "The Job" that pulled me away. I’m ranting. Let me focus.

As I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, I started my writing career with a novel. I didn’t set out to do this. I was just putting to paper the story that was in my head. This is the story that started as a couple of paragraphs–the one my wife spied on the computer. I did good. I forced my butt to stay in the seat and I pumped out around 100,000 words. It was tough but I finished it.

Now came my first dilemma.

Who was I? Nobody, that’s who. I had no publishing credits. No contacts in the publishing world. If I was going to get published I would need an agent. And if I was going to get an agent, I would need to be published. Whoa! Did anyone else feel their head spin?

So I set my novel aside and started writing short stories. That part has actually worked out well for me. After about three or four short stories I once again felt the itch of the novel. I had had an extremely vivid dream–one of those that stays with you like indigestion from a 4 A.M. pizza. That dream was the fuel for novel number two.

Dilemma number two.

Do I embark on the second novel or do I go back and polish on the first one? Right or wrong, I went for the second novel. It was winter time. I was laid off from pouring concrete until the weather broke. It was great. I would get up early, kiss my wife as she left for work, then off to the computer I’d go.

I was doing great. I had somewhere around 50,000 words down when something horrible happened. They called me back to work! Oh, did that take the wind out of my sails. I struggled over the next few weeks to keep writing. My output kept dropping and dropping, and eventually I gave up.

I continued to write short stories and even wrote a second draft to my novel. You want to talk about a ROUGH draft. It was like a chunk of coral wrapped in sandpaper. I passed out my revised version of the novel to some trusted friends. I even gave it to an English professor at Indiana State. The advice that was the hardest for me came from my friend Catie–an English major at Indiana University and granddaughter of the afore mentioned English professor.

My novel was written in first person. Catie said I should switch it to third person and tell the story from several different points-of-view.

That did not sit well. The story wasn’t perfect, I knew that. It wasn’t ready to send to agents yet, but a change like that was a bit much. That was a complete overhaul. I would practically be writing the whole thing over again.

I set the novel aside and went back to the short story again. But the two novels wouldn’t leave me alone. The first was down on paper, the second still half in my head. They come to me in my daydreams and the times when I look inward. It seems they’re not through with me yet.

So I found myself at that proverbial crossroads. An alarm is ringing within me. "Crap or get off the pot," it tells me. I never said my inner self wasn’t rude. Maybe it’s that another year has come and gone. More likely it’s that my firstborn is only a couple of months away. Whatever the case, there are hot coals beneath my feet. I have to move, or die where I stand.

I began to consider Catie’s advice. Good advice is like good medicine. You’re better for taking it, but it sure is hard to swallow. I was afraid. What if I spent all my time re-writing my novel and it still isn’t fit to be published? It was the first story I had written. There is a lot there to fix. But it is a good story. I was more experienced when I wrote the second novel. It’s only half done, but I still have the desire to finish it. What to do?

Well, come what may, I’ve decided to go back to the beginning. I am taking Catie’s advice. Yeah, it’s hard. Yeah, I have to re-write a lot of it. But it feels really good.

I’ve regained my focus. I’m polishing this jewel with everything I’m worth. If I stay on schedule, it should be finished about the time my son is born. I have three short stories that are still floating around out there. I’m confident they will find homes. Soon I am going to take my FINISHED novel, whatever publishing credits I have, and I am going to find an agent.

After that I have my eyes set on novel number two. I can still see that dream. The characters still call to me. I’ll not let them down.

Wish me luck.