Tuesday, August 24, 2010

My head hurts

Oh. Hi there. Been a while, huh? Sorry. I've been busy here in the writing dungeon, slaving away at the new book. (That's NOT me at left. I wear a blue tie when I write.)

And the new book is going well. Thank you for asking. ;)

I've also been cruising the Internet lately, where I've been reading all of the doom and gloom reports about the state of publishing today.

I mean right now. Today. This hour. I say that because it seems to be changing that rapidly. Today, agent Rachelle Gardner wrote a blog post saying she's rethinking her previous aversion to self-publishing, partly because it's so difficult to get pubbed the traditional route these days. Publishing houses are paring staff and cutting mid-list authors right and left. It's never been harder, she says, for debut novelists to get published the traditional way.

It's not pretty, especially for someone sitting on one finished manuscript and hard at work on the next. Since most of you reading this have either already written a novel or are writing one now, I don't have to tell you how much work it is, right?

For the record, I have not considered self-publishing. Yet. I honestly believe agents like Nathan Bransford when they say that self-publishing still has that stigma attached to it that might make it even harder to get published the traditional way, i.e., with an agent and publisher. You know, where you actually make money.

Now money is not, nor has it ever been, a major factor in my fiction writing. I am still romantic and naive enough to want my work read by people who might enjoy it. Who might get something intangible from it. To be moved to tears, or laughter. To be entertained.

I've sent out less than twenty queries on The Devil You Don't Know, and have received nothing back as of yet (five are still outstanding, including three I sent just last week). In other words, I'm still early in the process and I'm nowhere near giving up on TDYDK.

But that's not to say I don't worry about the state of the industry. As I've written here before, I left the newspaper industry as it was crashing down around my ears. I then stepped -- quite innocently, I might add -- into the fiction writing industry, only to start hearing rumors of its inevitable and unavoidable demise.

Geez. Is it me or what?

Anyway, my blog friend Annie at http://theinkphantom.blogspot.com/ blogged about this today. She's torn, as I am, about what to do in these chaotic and rather frightening times. Her post is informative and forward-looking, unlike my thrown-together drivel. Please cruise over and read it. It's worth it.

Also, Annie offers some quality help for writers at her blog. She knows her stuff and she's always willing to help out. So if you're reading this, please go over and follow her blog. You won't regret it.

Thank you and carry on.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Different story, same writing?

My new book is sleek, sexy and damned dangerous. It's very different from The Devil You Don't Know in that it contains lots of, well, sex. And like its predecessor, it also contains violence. And plain weirdness.

I love it.

But as different as it is in my head, as I write it, it's starting to sound ... familiar. I realize that we all have our own unique writing styles, and that a lot of what we write is going to be similar to other things we've written.

But I want this one to be different. Unique. Not like the other one, you know?

So I'm finding myself angrily deleting anything that sounds even remotely like it came from the first book. I want this one to be more lyrical, more of a psychological thriller. I want it to be chilling and poetic.

I mean, I want it to read like a cross between John Updike and Neil Gaiman. (Like I could pull that off.)

Still, that's what I'm shooting for. To a certain degree -- probably because I'm being so vigilant about it -- I think I'm succeeding.

My question to you, dear Blog Friends, is this: Does everything you write end up reading more or less the same? And if not, how do you manage to write different works differently?

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Do you LOVE to write?

I periodically pick up Stephen King's wonderful On Writing, thumb to a random page, and start reading. It seems that no matter where I start reading, I find something useful that aids me in my writing career.

Today, I grabbed the dog-eared copy that lives permanently next to my bed and opened it to ... well, that part the always makes me feel guilty. Damn it.

It's the part of the book where he goes on and on about how much a real writer needs to love the act of writing. According to King, one should write no less than a thousand words a day -- seven days a week. Anything less means you're not (gulp) a serious writer.

And you had better love it. King claims that a real writer (my words, not his) loves writing, the act of writing, more than anything in life. Yes. More than sex. More than chocolate. Even more than baseball!

As Scooby-Do says, "Rut row."

Don't get me wrong. I love writing. Except for those days when I hate writing. You know? I mean, there are days when really good shit just oozes from my keyboard. Those, unfortunately, are few and far between. Mostly, there are days when I sit for hours and crank out 250 words of pure, unadulterated crap. Can I get an amen? No? Never mind.

On those days, I absolutely despise writing. Hate it. I'd rather be cleaning the toilet than sitting at this computer trying to make sense of the crap coming out of my brain.

Ah. But here's my saving grace (you knew there'd be one, didn't you?): I would rather sit here and squeeze out those crappy 250 words than not write. That's right. I'd rather suffer through writer's block and crappy prose and shitty first drafts (thanks, Anne LaMott) and all those things we take for granted each and every day, than not write.

That must mean I love writing to some degree, right? Why else do it? But to say that I love the act of writing more than anything else on Earth?


For this writer, doing the really difficult writing is like slicing open a vein. It hurts. It's depressing. It seldom puts me in a better mood.

The only time I'm in a worse mood is when I'm not writing. Sigh.

How about you? Where does writing -- not having written, but the actual act of writing fiction -- fall on your like scale?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Project update

Sorry, but I only have time for a short update today. I'm about 4,000 words into my new book (working title Empty Spaces) and I'm feeling pretty good about it so far.

It's a psychological thriller that follows two survivors of a horrific school shooting (with a couple of nasty plot twists!). The main characters are a 34-year-old teacher and an 18-year-old female student, the aforementioned survivors.

Of course, one of them isn't who you might think he/she is. ;)

The biggest hurdle for me so far is getting back into the writing-everyday routine. I wrote a ton yesterday, almost to the point of burnout. Today, I wrote far less. Sigh. I know from past experience that the routine will eventually come if I just stay with it.

So, I'm curious. What are you guys writing? I'd love to hear the "elevator pitch" for your WIP.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Searching for the right project

As most of you know, I finished my first novel a few months ago and have been mired in query hell ever since. I've started three new projects since then and shelved them all -- including my political thriller that now sits at 20k words.

The first thing I started after finishing The Devil You Don't Know was what I thought was going to be the sequel. Then it occurred to me that it might be a bit, um, presumptuous of me to begin a sequel to a book that may or may not get published. Frankly, it seemed like a waste of time.

But the opening scene, a school shooting, was by many accounts one of the best things I've written since taking up fiction writing three years ago.

What to do?

Well, the weeks off this summer seem to have proven fruitful. I had the most wonderful idea for a new book that can use the opening shooting scene (which I posted on this blog a few months ago) in its entirety.

I suspect I was putting so much pressure on myself to succeed at the next book that I was being overly cautious about what to tackle next. I've decided to keep the other two and finish them later. But I'm pursuing the new book, which has a working title of Empty Spaces.

Sometimes I think my problem is that I have too many ideas. Each one seems new and fresh and exciting, but after a few weeks of writing it, I think of something better. Sigh. I know I need to pick one and focus on it (while continuing to query TDYDK).

So. That's what I'm doing. How about you guys. Do you have trouble deciding what to write next? Do you only work on one project at a time? Or do you have several cooking at any given moment?

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Butt in seat; brain on vacay

Um, is that the proper use of a semicolon?

See? I can't seem to get my brain in gear these days. I spent much of June and all of July on a summer hiatus. I spent time with the 12-year-old and we had a blast. Best summer ever, he says.

I agree.

But now, the time has come to put the butt in the chair and start writing again. Or, at least, start doing something again. But I spent today here at the old computer and accomplished .... nothing. Zip. Nada.


I know I need to start querying again on TDYDK, even though I'm about this close to giving up on it and sticking it in the drawer. Still, I spent damn near three years of my life on it and I owe it to myself and my family (who stuck with me during the hard writing days) to keep on trying to get it published. Somehow.

And I need to finish planning my new book and get back to writing it. Every day. Like I used to.

But man, it's not easy. I know what I'm getting myself into this time -- months and possibly years of agonizing over every word and phrase, only to find myself right back here someday in the future.

Ah, the life of a writer. Great, ain't it?

But, as Scarlett O'Hara famously said: Tomorrow is another day.

Let's see if I can make it count.

How's your writing coming along during these Dog Days of Summer?

Monday, August 2, 2010

Home at last

Actually, we got home about 3 a.m. Saturday after I decided to drive straight through from Williamsburg, Va. Yes, that's right. Seventeen hours. A new personal best.

Needless to say, we were exhausted for most of the weekend. Today, I drove another six hours to take Brennan to his grandparents' in suburban Chicago for a week of "Camp Gramp."

Nothing much to say, other than I'm glad to be home. We had a great vacation, but I'm looking forward to getting back to writing on a daily basis. This week, I'm back to querying and blogging and planning the new novel. It'll be nice to get back to work after almost three months off.

Hope everyone is well and enjoying the final few days of summer. We shall talk again soon.