A Piggy Breakfast, a New Story

pigfood

It’s the second of January, and I’m (more or less) starting the day off with a good meal:

Two slices of toast with piggies cut out of them and an egg fried in each hole. There’s a slice of vegetarian “turkey” lunch meat, some cheddar cheese, salsa, and sour cream on top.

Sure.. it’s not “healthy” perse’, but it sure has perked me up. Oh! and the three cups of coffee haven’t hurt.


I finished up writing the opening for my first Middle-Grade novel this morning, and after I finish eating, I’ll be getting back into the story.  So, it’s been a good day so far.

I don’t know how much I should say about this project just yet, but a new friend is helping me get my work out there. He asked for 3,000 words of this new project, so I put all of my other writing aside to work on it.

There are a couple of other events and projects that I am excited about, but I will write about those in other posts.

 

Advertisements

Cute Little Preview

The writing’s not over, but I got to spend some time out in the shop this afternoon putting together some sweet little Christmas ornaments. I am showing them this weekend at the Market at the Gardens event here in Midland. After this weekend, they will be available on my Etsy Shop and from The Eclectic Dragon.

NaNo Winner… now what?

I’ve reached 50,000 words for this year’s NaNoWriMo project, and I am forcing myself to stop. The writing is… yeah, let’s not talk about the writing. The plot is… it needs a whole lot of work. The story is pretty darned amazing, though! In my opinion. So what’s next?

Actually, I know what’s next: Revise, edit, repeat.

Now, I go through the whole of the novel, read it through, and figure out where I need to add transition, description, foreshadowing, and world-building. I expect this phase to inflate my novel by another 5,000 to 10,000 words.

After that, I will go through it and polish up my characters’ voices, and make sure the romance sub-plot builds realistically.  I’ll be focusing on character growth and plot continuity. I hope not to add more than 5,000 words here, but I am leaving myself room to add a few growth scenes.

Next, I will attack characterization and tone. I’ll look at dialogue, reactions, character ticks, narrative consistency, suspense, and comedy. With any luck, this will not add much to my total word count at all.

After that, I want to go through and examine my prose—tighten it up as much as I can. I’m no editor, and by this point, I will probably be blind to my mistakes, but that’s fine. I intend to have an outside editor look over this and help me perfect it.

Finally, once I have this all edited and trimmed, I will be looking into publication options.  Now, I have met an editor who has insisted on helping me get this manuscript to shine like a diamond, so I won’t be sharing any test reader copies. I will be making updates about how the process is coming along, though.

 

My Monday Links (a good day)

This morning feels great. I woke up way too early, but couldn’t get back to sleep, so I decided to come in here and tool around for a bit. Video games were fun for about an hour, but it got old, so I decided to log in to MyWriteClub and see if there were any words that wanted to get written.

Check out MyWriteClub here.

There sure were! This wasn’t a terribly productive morning, but I got about 1,200 words down in one sprint, got to the end of a scene, and decided to play around with Vine a little bit. A sun catcher got polished in the process.

Check out the vine here.

Lately, Vine’s been a delightful diversion, but I must take care not to let it distract me from productivity. It’s a fun way to show off what I’m working on though. It might even lend itself well to my online catalog–give visitors to EclecticDragon.com a more engaging view of products than static images can.

Visit the Eclectic Dragon here.

There’s still an hour before the workday begins officially, and Monday has already proven productive. As emails and callers are usually few and far between at the week’s start, and the day job’s home office suffered a software failure over the weekend, it is quite likely that writing and glass work will dominate today. Zero complaints there (except that a few more hours on someone else’s clock would be nice).

This is my Day Job.

I don’t have a whole lot to say with this post, except that I am finding new ways to use time effectively. Online writing sprints help defeat writer’s block, Vine provides an outlet to show off some visual arts, and Twitter is even turning into a valuable resource for writing advice. So that’s about it for now. Just in a good mood and wanted to share it (well, and a bunch of links).

Expensive, expensive, humble pie

In the beginning…

When I was a kid, I loved to tell stories. Mostly these took the form of of weekly Dungeons and Dragons games, short fiction I only ever shared with Mom, and video game plots I dreamed up when I should have been studying. Back then, magic and wonder defined my world, and teachers praised the rareness of my “talent.”

Now, I put the word talent in quotes, because I have since come to realize that there is no such thing as the unique God-gift that I was raised to believe in. Talent is an illusion. What we as creative people have is dedication to a craft. I really wish they would have evangelized dedication instead of talent.

I grew up and marched into my early adulthood thinking that I had what it took to be a great author, just because I had a “talent” for “storytelling.” Sure, I wasn’t a big reader, and I’d not gone to college to study Lit and Writing, but I felt positive that the quality of my stories would earn me an extra little bit of attention from agents and editors. I was to be discovered.

Nope.

People in the know don’t talk about talent and vision any more. These days, their message is all about work, experience, and expenses. “Buy memberships to renowned critique groups,” they say. “Hire qualified freelance editors.” “Join unions and alliances.”

At last weekend’s Permian Basin Writers’ Workshop, during Kay Ellington’s and Barbara Brannon’s lecture entitled, “Your Manuscript on the Flip Side: What Your Editor’s Looking For, and Not,” we were given this rule of thumb regarding the cost of preparing your manuscript for publication: “Expect to spend as much money as you would on a used car.” That’s… a lot of money.

I’ll tell you: it’s discouraging. A soul can write a novel, and then spend more money getting it publishable than they can ever expect to earn from it after publication. How could it possibly be worth the cost and effort? But, I’m beyond all that, right? I’m a bad-ass, amazing storyteller, right?

So, changing gears…

In all things outside creativity, I was raised to look at the concrete facts in the world around me. What is, is. What isn’t, isn’t. The proof, as the cliché goes, is in the pudding.

I spent a few years working as a paranormal investigator, which really taught me to be objective. I learned to test every tiny way to disprove hopeful assumptions. Orbs are most commonly dust, water, and bugs. Vortexes are usually camera straps, motion artifacts, and breath-fog. There is usually a mundane explanation for everything we interpret as supernatural.

As a supervisor in an office setting, I learned to look at peoples’ self-proclaimed credentials with some skepticism. A computer programmer who has authored exactly zero useful computer programs, is not a computer programmer. A sales guru whose numbers lag behind the rest of the team, is clearly no sales guru. A bad-ass, amazing storyteller who has not, by the time he is forty years old, published several acclaimed novels is not, in fact, a bad-ass, amazing storyteller.

To borrow from Fight Club, “[I am] not special. [I’m] not a beautiful or unique snowflake.” Man, this hurt to figure out. And, it’s scary too! How the hell am I supposed to get there? I’m forty, and I might as well have never written a word in my whole life! What have I been doing all this time?!

Despair.

Well, that’s all my fixed mindset crumbling down. If you’re not familiar with Fixed Mindset versus Growth Mindset, then you need to check out the book: Mindset by Carol S. Dweck, PH.D.

I, like most other cis male white people in my generation, was raised on a diet of “You can do it!” “You can be anything you put your mind to!” and “You are unique and talented with gifts from God!” They told me I could be anything I wanted to; they just never told me how.

This brings me to the now.

I have finished Saundra’s manuscript. It has gone through at least 7 revisions–two complete rewrites, countless edits. I have busted my ass to make this novel publish ready. I printed draft copies for test readers; I submitted first chapters for critiques at expensive conventions. I’ve done a lot!

For the past few months, I have been hunting for agents. I stalked my favorites on Twitter, Facebook, and their personal blogs. I read their wish lists, their advice posts. I learned what they read, what TV they watch. Armed with this knowledge, I sent out a batch of well-researched, carefully-crafted queries, and have heard a lot of nothing for it.

No worries, it only takes one acceptance! I will keep working, keep learning, and keep attending workshops like last weekend’s. I learned a ton about query crafting from Seth Fishman’s class, “How to Write a Query Letter and Find an Agent.” Sunday afternoon, I sat down to apply a new coat of polish to my query letter, only to find the original clunky and ugly to read. Yikes! Embarrassing! But, I fixed it–made it better.

Then, I set to converting Saundra’s manuscript into a more easily modified format. I imported her into Scrivener, and that’s when I saw it. Page one, paragraph three, word one—uncapitalized.

Holy. Crap. Nick. How did you miss that?

Well, I missed it because I only had two pairs of eyes on the manuscript for the past several edits. We just overlooked it—an honest oops. Sure, I felt like a complete moron for a while, but I know I’m not an idiot; I was just excited. I jumped the gun.
This brings me back to the Used Car analogy. After two conventions, one conference, and six text copies of my novel, I have spent over $900.00 getting Saundra ready to publish. That’s a pretty crappy used car, to be sure. I’m positive a professional editor would do me a world of good, but the fact of the matter is, I just can’t afford one at the moment: something to save my day-job monies for.

I’ll keep trying, of course. Every batch of query letters I send out will be better than the previous. With every class I take and critique I receive, I will reevaluate my manuscript to see where I can tighten it up. I’ll keep trying, and eventually, Saundra will get out there.

fixing house - east

Surprise!! The Permian Basin Writers’ Conference

Yesterday afternoon, just as I had gotten home from my shift at the Co-op, Chris calls me to tell me about the Permian Basin Writers’ Workshop that’s going on today. The event started with a catered dinner, at the local library where he had just performed with his quintet, and dinner started in an hour! No time to change–no time to get ready. Get back in the car, and get out to the library now!

Now, I am a faithful person, but I don’t usually believe in “God made it happen.” I believe the world works the way it works, and we were put here to enjoy, protect, learn from, and improve the world. I do not necessarily believe that God, or angels, or saints drop things in our laps, just because we pray occasionally.

I mean, seriously, how can anyone believe that when there’s still so much starvation, disease, and violence in the world. What kind of god would bless a middle-class white dude with unprecedented opportunity, while leaving whole other communities to starve?

Sorry… no.

Anyway, all of that having been said, it is pretty weird how this opportunity came to me. See, Chris and his quintet were playing a gig at the library. When the recital ended, he learned about the conference from the events coordinator. He called me, and, bam! I’m on my way to the conference.

Now, I didn’t have a perfectly stellar experience with the DFWcon. It was a great convention, and I am scheduled to attend next year, I just feel that I let myself down by choking so hard on my pitch session. I wasn’t looking to repeat that experience, so for this conference to pop up was a complete surprise. I had nothing prepared; I’d done no research. I just tossed myself in.

So that was last night. After dinner and the opening presentations ended, I decided that I should head on home (skipped the meet and greet and fled with my tail between my legs). Chris was waiting for me and we both squeed a little bit and got to talking about the event. He wagged a finger at me jsome for running away from an opportunity to speak to an agent (again), but instead of nagging, he sat with me and walked me through my pitch to help me build up some confidence about delivering it for real.

I did not sleep well last night. I think I woke up about … ninety-teen times. I don’t remember my dreams except that they were about people I used to know. I dragged myself out of bed an hour earlier than usual and did a tiny amount of research about this weekend’s agent (turns out he was already on my “to query” list).

I didn’t plan any of this! I intended to hang out with some friends today–take a day, off and easy. I wanted to put together some ideas for our D&D crew. But instead, I’m getting ready for a writing conference.

Sure, I know I said that I don’t believe God gives free opportunity to the privileged, while leaving the majority of humans to go hungry, but I have been praying for guidance–saying prayers like, “Please help me see opportunity, and help me find the courage to jump on it like a rabid, half-starved wildcat pounces on an overfed and quite slow-moving turkey.” And now here I am, gearing up for a last-minute event, bolstered by Chris’s coaching and the all-new pitch he helped me come up with. I’m nervous and hopeful. Wish me luck!

Oh, and in case I choke again this afternoon, my novel is an 80,000-word adult fantasy about the return of magic to earth, and the effect this has on a small apartment community in Midland, Texas.

Writing, overcoming blockage, having fun

I tend to hit a wall at 20,000 words when I write. I’ll be going along, happy as a clam, and then suddenly: POOF! No more ideas. I simply can’t think of what happens next

Well, two summers ago, I tried outlining my project in great detail, and broke down a 90,000-word manuscript into 200-word chunks. Writer’s block be damned; I knew what needed to be written whenever I sat down, the small goals were easy to accomplish, and I could be productive without “inspiration” or “motivation.” (I put those words in quotes, because I am beginning to believe that professional writers write; they do not waste days waiting for their muses to get off the pot.)

Anyway, that worked until I fell into a rut at the 40,000 word mark. I got bored. The plot felt like it wanted to go somewhere else, but I felt shackled to my own outline. I never managed to get that story back on its feet.

So this summer, I tried a different approach: writing backwards. (I’ll talk about my inspiration to try writing this way in another blog post.) I began by writing the very end of my novel. I wrote without explanation, using made up terms that would need defining earlier in the novel. I put my characters at their end points, and gave my world its final shape.

Then, I then asked, “How did these characters get here? How did the world end up like this?” I made a list of vocabulary words that the readers would need to understand for this chapter to make any sense. I outlined what would need to lead up to this point, and I wrote the previous chapter. I answered a few of these questions, came up with a few more, added more fantasy vocabulary, and built up to the finale.

By outlining and backwards writing, I pushed myself right up to the 20k wall. Then I discovered the “sprints” on myWriteClub–timed, social, online sessions with monitored word counts that reward writers with a star for every 100 and 1000 words they put down.

Bit by bit, one hundred words at a time, my manuscript grew. I wrote with enthusiasm–urged on by the knowledge that someone else could see my word count–could see every time I stalled out, and how slowly I type in general. I blasted through the 25k mark without even noticing it.

Of course, all the writing tools and toys in the word will do nothing for a writer who doesn’t actually write. I had to take a pretty massive dose of Discipline, if I ever expected to finish another manuscript. Chris and I put together a schedule, which leaves me a couple hours every morning before work for writing and writing alone. Then, I have an additional hour most evenings to wrap up my 2-k-a-day goal. I think I’m doing pretty well.

So this is where I am right now: pushing forward, working hard, enjoying myself, and writing even when I don’t “feel like” it. I want to have this draft finished by the end of October. Then, I can set it aside and get ready for November.

I have no idea what I’m going to write in November.

Check out:  myWriteClub.