Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Writing for the right reasons

When I was in high school I wrote poetry mainly to impress a girl - granted, she became my wife, but that's not the point. If you are writing to impress people, to make yourself look good, and so that you can say "I told you so," it may not be for the right reason.

Okay, you may be saying, "Who cares what the reason is? That's my business. All that matters is that I get published."

But with the wrong attitude and reasons, your chances of getting published diminish. Talent alone does not get a writer published, and a nasty attitude sure doesn't help. An editor can recognize snottiness as quickly as they can detect passion, desire, persistence, and the right reasons.

This is a business, and needs to be treated as such. Write with passion, and treat your manscript as a product. Sell it with the right motive. Succeed because your tenacity made it so, and you passion enabled you to create a superior product.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

The writer in the corner

It is during those moments when I am alone, silent, and in deep thought that my characters speak to me. It is when I allow the world to vanish, and the noise to cease that my stories develop. When you don't know where to go next in your journey, stop and listen to the writer hidden deep in the corner of your soul.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Excess Baggage

Have you ever heard of people that drag a lot of stuff along when they travel? I'm one of them. I always overpack. It makes my traveling, to be honest, more complicated and cumbersome. But you know what? Sometimes, when I least expect it, some of those extra things make the trip nicer.

I have a lot of excess baggage in life, as well. Once I took this psychology test and the way it was set up, the higher the score the more stress you carry around in your life. I scored so high that my score was just above the "ticking time bomb" level.

I'm proud of my excess baggage because it's not the kind of excess baggage that ought to be released because it's nothing more than weight holding me down. My baggage is the kind that I have earned from past experiences. Mine bubbles up from a relatively dark past that doesn't necessarily slow me down, per se', but makes my friends laugh out loud when I tell the stories that relate to this baggage. They were the things in my life that made me grow. Mistakes I learned from. Crazy experiences that only I, according to my friends, would ever have the cajones to attempt.

That excess baggage, often times, is not a weight to hold you down when you are a writer, but experiences to draw from for your stories. As a writer, this baggage should never slow you down, because in actuality it is not the weight of monkeys on your back, but wings that help you fly.

Monday, August 21, 2006

As I sit here. . .

I haven't been able to write for weeks. Work has me busy. Life has me busy.

Perhaps I should get back into reading.

Reading exercises the mind, and nurtures the writer within.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

A new word is like a wild animal you have caught. You must learn its ways and break it before you can use it. - H.G. Wells

Beginning writers tend to want to turn to the thesaurus often. There is nothing wrong with new words, but it's usually obvious when a writer depends too heavily on a thesaurus. First of all, too many difficult words are too much for a reader. Keep it simple. Second, no word from the thesaurus should be used if you don't know how to use it in conversation. Misused words is a quick way to the rejection pile.

Don't get hung up on fancy words, and your readers will appreciate it.

Also, have faith in yourself, and develop a thick skin. Take criticism gracefully, use what's useful and discard the rest.

A writer can be forgiven for a lot of things, but never for quitting.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Playing by the Rules; or not

If you are a writer then you know that the road to getting published is paved with rules. You can't send a query without an SASE, and then complain that the agent or editor did not respond. That's just how life works. We must play by the rules.

Granted, sometimes, bending the rules gets one noticed, and there's nothing wrong with trying to be unique. However, gimmicks that cross the line will never work. Never. What gets a writer noticed is originality, and good writing. Period.

Okay, okay, I've heard the stories about good writing that never gets published and "not-so-good" writing that sells a bunch-load of books. That has more to do with marketing.

Just because you get published doesn't mean that you should just sit back and watch the money come in, because without you getting out there and selling, no money will flow.

I still remember what J.A. Konrath said after he got published. He said, "I waited tables for 30 hours a week, then spent 20 [hours] writing. Since becoming a full-time writer, I work an average of 60 hours a week--weekends, nights and holidays. . .[and] I've never been happier."

He also said, "Even after years of work without selling anything, I never gave up. . .There's a word for writers who never say die: The word is "published."

Finally, "Talent is only part of the equation. You also need persistence, humility, and a sense of humor. Good writing won't ever be read unless it's well edited and marketed. . .[The Writing] business requires hard work, dedication and market savvy."

Good words to work by. So, what are you doing sitting there reading this? Go write! Go write, and become a success.

A professional is an amateur who didn't quit.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Waiting for the end of the race

Writing to be published is like running a race. It's not a sprint down the length of a track for the finish line, but a long distance race that requires stamina, and perseverance. I must pace myself, but keep the pace brisk. And it doesn't matter how much I fouled up in the past laps, as long as the finishing laps use what I've learned to thwart me to the final goal, publication.

And then when I cross the finish line, a new race begins, and new strategies and learning experiences take hold.

Right now, I am concentrating on my breathing, and techniques. The goal is in view, but I'm not sure how far away it is. Nonetheless, I know that I will reach it, and when I do, the race, no matter how tough it seems to be right now, will all be worth it.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Writing when the world is crashing down

As I struggle with arthritis, my job, my overall health, my wife's health, my wife's schooling, money matters, my son's dilemmas (21 year old prodigal son), my daughter's dilemmas (an almost 16 year old young lady), church, outside schedules, responsibilities in Oregon (as well as here in California), the numerous rejections I receive, and trying to get a toe into the proverbial door of the writing business, it is enough to make me want to scream: ENOUGH!!!!

How can anyone write with such obstacles?

Hemingway wrote through a drug addiction, World Wars, and injuries sustained as a part of an ambulance crew during the First World War.

J.K. Rowling was a single mother of a preschool-aged daughter; an aspiring writer trying to make ends meet, that, at one time, because times had become so hard, was forced to go on public assistance in order to survive.

Stephen King was hit by a van in an accident that nearly killed him in 1999.

Piers Anthony has faced controversy, legal battles, and at one time was even blacklisted by the publishing industry.

Dan Brown, though I am not thrilled by his books, has faced plaigerism charges, and battles from many groups, including Christianity due to his novel "The Da Vinci Code."

Agatha Christie braved seperation from her new husband during World War I, and was convinced that she would not survive the London bombings during World War II.

What am I quiveling about? This is nothing. Many published writers began with years of unnoticed hard work as I have, and hundreds of rejections. Good writers get noticed. Good writers make it. Good writers become published eventually.

A professional is an amateur who didn't quit.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Disappointments and rejections strengthen you as a writer.

After checking J.A. Konrath's Blog today I discovered that he won't be able to come to California due to unforeseen circumstances. He has three books out, all a part of the Jack Daniels Mystery Series.

Dan Bessie and his wife, Jeanne Johnson dropped me an E-Mail indicating that they are in Connecticut right now on their book tour, and after reading in the News section of my website, assured me not to worry about all of the rejections (72 in all so far this year) I've received. His advice was to just keep practicing my craft and keep sending my work out there. Dan's book is called "Reeling through Hollywood." His wife's is titled "Starlings in the Park."

I missed Mario Acevedo this year when he was at the Book Festival in Los Angeles at UCLA, and he won't be in California for the rest of the year. His second book is in the works, and is due out in March of 2007. He says he isn't sweating. Sure he isn't.

The La Jolla Writer's Conference is drawing near. My wife and I will be attending it in October. We're kind of nervous, and it doesn't look like I will have the book, Political Pistachio, ready by the time we go. Work, my arthritis, and my wife's hospitalization took so much time that I failed to work on the manuscript.

October 2, 2006 I am planning on attending a book signing in San Diego for a book called Playing with the Enemy by Gary W. Moore. The book sounds awesome (and combines two of my interests - baseball and WWII).

And one of my other blogs, Political Pistachio, had 47 hits on Saturday and another twenty early this morning.

And with all of this that I do, it always seems it gets harder and harder to move forward and perservere. Sometimes I am so frustrated I ask myself, "Why do I keep trying?"

Ah, but that is the key. Each setback and experience makes me a better writer, and a better businessman. The difficulties enable me to be become stronger so that when success arrives, I can handle it. I will not give up. Dan Bessie's advice was perfect:

Keep practicing your craft and sending your work out there!

oh, and of course my own mantra: A professional is an amateur who didn't quit.