Sunday, October 29, 2006

Finding the time to write

I have a lot of friends who are also writers, and one thing we all agree on is that there is always time to write.

Yet, when I run through the net, and blogs, and forums, a common question comes up: How do you find time to write with a daily job to get in the way?

Are you kidding me? I work in the construction industry and have a second job to boot. There is no excuse for not finding the time to write.

Okay, perhaps that was a little harsh. Everybody has their own obstacles. Young children, jobs, or even disabilities. But a writer doesn't write because he or she wants to. They have to. Something deep inside makes a writer write.

I have two jobs as I said before, arthritis, and a few other ailments. Sometimes my hands hurt so bad I want to just quit . . . but I don't. Writing is not something I do. Writing is something that I am. If you are a writer but you can't find time for writing, either you are not really a writer, or you don't plan very well.

Have a pen and pad with you at all times, and write. Keep writing. Keep writing and reading until you have nothing left to do but get published. And then write some more.

Never Quit.

You can do it. I know you can.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

La Jolla Writers Conference - 2006

After the first day of the conference, and please don't think me horrible for saying this, I didn't feel like I was told anything that I didn't know. Little did I know, the next two days would knock that cocky little attitude right out of my thick skull.

It sort of felt like the time I told a friend about having an autographed picture of a particular favorite football player, and he said, "Yeah, that guy is great. I have an autographed jersey of his."

I have been writing all my life and thought that I had it all figured out. Then here comes along this conference to humble me. It's like I have been playing chess with children all my life, patting myself on the back over my numerous meaningless victories, and then was suddenly put into a match with Bobby Fisher, and he beat me in four moves.

Ah, but that's how you become a better chess player. You play against the better players, and this conference was full of them.

At one particular critique the first chapter of my Political Pistachio was shredded up quicker than classified papers at The Pentagon. They tore me a new asterisk, or two. Then I tried my pitch out in a marketing class, and was left speechless (which is pretty hard to accomplish with my rapidly flapping lips, sometimes).

I needed vindication.

So in the final class of the third day I pulled out my last work, The Way of Deception, and even manipulated it a little to make sure it was perfect. Granted, it wasn't pounced on as bad as Political Pistachio, but it received the jabs that it deserved.

What's the moral to this story?

I nearly decided that the moral was that I need a good butt kicking. But that isn't it at all. And the moral could easily be something like that you are never as good as you think, and every writer can use a little skin-thickening every once in a while. But the true moral to this story is that writing is like no other business I know. It is cut-throat in the sense that few get through the guarded door to publication, and that it is a difficult process, though not impossible. But, writers are not cut-throat to each other directly. Writers are the most giving people you will ever meet when dealing with other writers. The critiques are not designed to put a writer in his or her place. The advice is not designed to expose inexperience. All of it is for one reason and one reason only. To make you a better writer.

After 34 years of writing, I am growing up and becoming a writer. 300 rejections or so has toughened my hide. The La Jolla Writers Conference polished it so that I may shine.

Thank you, my fellow writers; and for those of you reading this that have never been to a conference, go to one, and network like crazy.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

As the La Jolla Writers Conference approaches

At the Salute to the Military Book Fest hosted by the Military Writers Society of America last weekend I gave the first six chapters of my latest work, Political Pistachio, to a fellow writer, who gave me very encouraging remarks regarding the manuscript after he read it.

Now, with his suggestions already applied to the work, I plan to take the chapters to a major Writers Conference this weekend. My wife and I will be attending the La Jolla Writers Conference in San Diego, California, and the opportunities to network, meet agents and editors, and learn is wonderful.

I am especially excited that my wife decided to join me. Her support is so valuable to me.

Anyway, I'm scrambling to get everything ready for tomorrow's first day at the conference, so my next post won't be until next week afterwards.

Wish me luck,


Sunday, October 15, 2006

Dreams within reach

Yesterday I spent the majority of my day at a bookfest sponsored and held by the Military Writers Society of America. The event was extraordinary. I don't mean that in the sense that it was an amazing spectacle of lights and wonder. It wasn't. The bookfest was simple. A roomful of authors, the public was welcome but I don't think many people appeared, seated at tables with their love affairs bound within printed pages sat and networked, and laughed, and cried, and got to know each other. Speakers were present. Marketing, self-publishing, traditional publishing, writing habits, how to network, and a long list of other various topics were addressed. Writers spoke about their books, told their history, embraced the room.

It was a day well spent.

One speaker made a statement that set me back. He is a writer's consultant, and to be honest, and this is probably foolish on my part, but I don't recall his name. Anyhow, his shocking statement was, "The query is dead."

The query has been my friend (or enemy depending upon how you look at it) for many years. Granted, it hasn't worked yet, but then again, J. A. Konrath was discovered through the query after hundreds and hundreds of rejections, and look at him now. But, listening to this gentleman, I did realize that he was correct to a point. The business of becoming a published author is more difficult than it has ever been before. The big five houses don't want to take a chance on unproven talent, and the readers don't read like they used to. Readership is down, publications are down, and the number of creative writers is up. What's a writer to do?

I don't believe the query is dead. It is, however, limping and hobbling. Some success stories still rise from the ashes of the query method. Fewer now than before, but they are still there. Self-publishing puts out a few success stories as well. Just look at Christopher Paolini and his book Eragon. He self-published, marketed the heck out of it, got lucky, landed a traditional house, and now has a major motion picture coming out this holiday season based on that novel.

Two key factors in every success story, however, is this. First, they market the heck out of it; and second, they got lucky.

Perhaps I need to hit the small press first. Perhaps I'll catch an agent and hook on to a larger house. Maybe I need to self-publish. Regardless of how I get there, I need to be lucky, and market the heck out of it. That's all fine and dandy, but how am I going to get there?

Todd Uebele, a fellow writer, said to me that for him the key was networking. Networking. Wow, why didn't I think of that? Thankfully, I have this habit of going to book signings. I search them out. I talk to the writers, getting to know them. You may ask, "What good it that? Writers don't get you published. Publishers and agents do." True. But knowing writers gets your name in the loop, and you just never know what will pop up for you.

I am a veteran of the United States Navy. I served proudly. No, I did not see any wartime. I suppose you can call me a peacetime veteran, or at least that's how Veteran's Affairs categorizes me. Still, as one marine so graciously told me once in a comment on my Political Pistachio site, it doesn't matter what was going on at that time. The fact is, I was in the military willing and ready to serve my country if needed. At the last book signing I went to, where I went to meet Gary W. Moore who is the author of Playing with the Enemy, and Jeff Edwards, who is the author of Torpedo, an unexpected opportunity arose. Jeff's wife is vice president of the Military Writers Society of America. They took to me, liked me, and asked me to join. I was flattered, and recognized it for what it was: A huge opportunity to network.

And now, at this bookfest yesterday, I have one writer who volunteered to read my manuscript and give me some editing tips regarding it, a publisher who claimed that she does not publish the type of book I write but pointed me in a direction toward a publisher that does (recommendations are huge, by the way), and a number of writers that gave me their cards and said to me, "If you have any questions, or need any help, let me know."

Wow! And this is just a little book fest! I am going to a conference next weekend!

However, this is huge. I am now treating my writing like it is a business, I am creating a database of friends and associates, and I am receiving help and advice from published writers.

The query isn't dead, my friend. A little CPR from networking, however, will get you in.

I told my wife that now, after years of darkness, I can feel my dreams within reach.

I know that the odds are against me, all writers know that, but the dream is what keeps them writing. Failure is only the prelude to success for those that keep pushing, keep writing, and keep networking. I want to be like Stephen King and his wife Tabitha, standing in their living room in each others arms, crying after that first phone call that told them that Carrie was going to be published, and with a good sized advance.

My wife disagrees. She wants us to be like us, standing in our living room, arms around each other, crying, because that first book finally made it.

See you on the other side, my friends.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Branden likes to read and write

Branden is six years old, and he loves to read. He also loves to write.

That is the way it is with writers, I think. A writer realizes that writing is what he or she likes to do at an early age, and enjoys reading at an early age as well. Writers don't write because they want to. They write because they have to. Something inside the writer says, "Write something." It doesn't matter what it is, as long as they are writing.

Style and the likes and dislikes of the craft form later, and even change as the writer becomes older.

So, Branden, if you get the chance to read this, all Uncle Doug has to say is "Keep writing, and keep reading. It will make you smarter.

Good for you.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Remember Dan Bessie? I met him in Gold Beach, Oregon.

Dan and his wife Jeane Johnson are in France, right now. You can follow their book tour on their blog at bluelupin at blogspot.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

I joined the Military Writers Society of America

The Military Writers Society of America (MWSA) is an association of more than five-hundred writers all of whom share the common bond of military service. I have just been granted membership into the organization. The membership is extremely valuable to me not only in the opportunity for networking with other writers, publishers, and marketing people, but also as a way of showing the industry that I am serious about my craft. Serious enough to join such an esteemed organization. I am excited about this membership, and how advantageous this is to my drive for publication. The first function I plan to attend is on October 14, 2006: "Salute to the Military" Book Fest. Visit their site by clicking the title above, and since they expect no membership dues, donations are important. Feel free to donate by paypal on the site. For those of you from MWSA visiting my site, thank you.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Networking is a good thing

Tonight, I had the opportunity to meet with two writers in San Diego. I purchased their books, and can't wait to start reading them.

The first book I bought at the booksigning is "Playing with the Enemy" by Gary W. Moore, also soon to be a Major Motion Picture. The second book is "Torpedo" by Jeff Edwards, STGC(SW), USN (Ret.). For those of you that like to read, especially where the military is involved, these books are for you.

This was a great opportunity to network and receive advice from published authors. I also received affirmation that once published they will be glad to provide me with blurbs, and an opportunity to join a Writer's Society. All in all, a productive, and enjoyable, evening.

It is so important to get to know as many published writers, editors, and agents as possible. Networking is huge.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Query Letter to an agent

Keep the header simple at the top of the page with your name, address, telephone number, and e-mail address. After the customary date and greating, launch into the description of your book, but write it like the flap copy you find on a published book.

Establish the main character, and the central conflict of the book. Reveal how the character tries to overcome the conflict.

Remember, the query is only the first step. You can't get your foot in the door without catching the agent's attention with the query. Sad, but true.