Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Spread the Love

This year has been insanely busy for me. Finished a novel, moved house, a lot of real life drama. Things are settling down now and I've been dying to post an update on my blog, so here I am.

2013 has been a major journey of self-discovery for me as a writer. It turns out, with novel writing, I'm better at character-driven than plot-driven. I've learned my writing vastly improves when I let a character narrate as opposed to playing narrator myself. My fictional characters have stronger voices, go figure. Also, I've crossed that bridge from having a well-crafted plot to expressing a well-crafted plot. They really are two different things. The former is strictly from a writer's perspective, and a bit amateur, as in, look at my plot, isn't it neat? The latter is from an author's perspective and more professional, as in, allow me to tell you a story, it begins like this...

Last but not least, and this deserves its own paragraph, I've learned the difference between creating suspense and building suspense. Like many writers, I could come up with a million plot points that start to create suspense, yet building suspense takes more than dropping all these little ideas and hoping at least one catches fire. I've learned to set the fire myself, take a big step back, and let it all happen. No need to force suspense, it'll will be there. It's like letting an infant walk for the first time. It takes a leap of faith, which is one of the hardest things to do.

So, I now have a completed manuscript of a psychological thriller and I'm exploring publishing opportunities. Because I don't have an agent, I've been hesitant to publicly talk about traditional publishing, especially on the internet where the disagreements are endless. I have a two tiered planed attack. 1, pursue agents, if that doesn't work out for whatever reason then, 2, independent presses. In regards to the process of traditional publishing I'm going to break everything down in simple terms and use myself as an example.

Literary agents do not publish your book for you. Ever.

Anyone who has seen the movie Jerry McGuire will know how an agent functions. They make deals and show you the money. You don't seek agents because you want to be published for the sake of being published. To be brutally honest, anyone anywhere at any age can upload a word doc and be published. That's the easy part. You seek agents only because you want to make money from being published. Publishing is just one step in a very long process.

Patience is always the key.

I don't begrudge anyone for self-publishing, that's a writer's personal choice. If that's what you want, go for it. However, I've noticed that the number one reason many will self-publish is time. They want it done now. When I worked as a graphic designer, I had a poster in my office that read, I provide service that's high quality, cheap, and on time. You can have any of the two. That's the real world in any kind of business, it takes time. If you aim to have everything right this second, you'll miss out on something. You want high quality and cheap? It won't be on time...

Writing is a job. Crafting fiction is a career.

Be prepared. A solid commitment is needed to pursue crafting fiction as a career. It will not matter how many online cheerleaders you have, though that can be a nice confidence boost to keep you going. It's like that old truism about the most popular girl in high school who never gets phone calls because all the boys assume she's busy every Saturday night, when in fact, she spends every Saturday night alone. It happens more often than not. Popularity and success are two different things, in the same way writing and crafting fiction are two different things. It will not many how many friends say, I loved it! It won't make the slightest difference if you have 2000+ friends on Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace. It also won't matter if you only have 10 friends on social media. The difference lies in perserverence and consistency. I'm getting my psychological thriller published and pursue agents as a means to make money from the story, because I've long since made the commitment to my career. Popularity is nice and beng loved by many is validating, but unless a solid commitment is made, neither will ever mean a damn thing.

Query Letters, Outlines, Synopsis, oh my.

There is so much information available online at a click of a button. I've long since learned that 99% of it is dead wrong, and the other 1% is right but doesn't know how to phrase things in a way that an aspiring writer or a burgeoning author can understand and it can all get bloody confusing. Chances are the majority who so freely give advice online have no direct experience and don't know what they're talking about. Once, I had a woman, in a rather bully and bitchy way, dictate that “my terminogoy is confused.” Er, what? Well, according to the world of her, a real synopsis is always exactly four pages long. Geez, must be lonely in that perfect little world of hers. I've had aspiring writers try to bully me into writing one way only and following a specific formula, because otherwise zomg I'll never get publish. Let's see, getting the approval of a bunch of unpublished amateurs online or (!!!) publish original fiction. I'll publish original fiction, thanks.

I do have a point, online bullshit aside. The process is actually really simple. Here are the steps:

1. Write a one paragraph synopsis of your plot idea, or at least one sentence (see Hooks for more info).
2. Write a 1 – 2 page full synopsis of your story.
3. Write a full manuscript.
4. Write a query letter, this is where you can use the paragraph from number 1, and bits from number 2.
5. Find an agent, and this is the most important part, that share a common interest with you, whether it's golfing or the love of a fast-paced thriller, just, something. Remember, this is someone who could be working with you for the rest of your life, so you better have something in common and establish a good working relationship.

A few more pieces of advice from my own direct experience. The above process is completely unrelated to job applications, because this is not a job, it's a career. Queries are not some impossible monster to fight, it's just a brief description of your manuscript, and if you developed a solid plot first, then the rest will fall into place. Last, publishing is easy, anyone can do it. Building a career and producing stories that are meant to last, takes a lot of hard work and a lifetime commitment.

In conclusion, love yourself, love what you do, and love all the hard work involved, no matter how long it takes, and for pity's sake, stop trying to find a short cut in life because it doesn't exist anywhere.

Happy Holidays!

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