Thursday, December 30, 2010

My 2011 resolution? 1999 all over again

At the risk of being cliched, I'm writing a New Year's post about my resolution for the upcoming year.

I decided to do this mainly because this past year sucked sooooo badly that it's just a pleasure to see it fade in the rear-view mirror. Seriously. Good riddance, 2010.

This past year saw my confidence reach new lows, while my stress levels hit record highs. This was the year of my hitting the wall, writing-wise. Of finally concluding that only an act of Providence will result in my getting published.

I worked harder on my writing this past year than I ever have, and that's saying something since I was an award-winning journalist (writer and editor) for twenty-five years. I actually read more how-to-write-fiction books this past year than novels for the first time in my life. I study them like I'm aiming for a doctorate.

And yet, even as I worked so hard, I kept reading accounts of how the publishing industry is tanking. Two particularly frightening articles I've read in the past week (I'm not even going to link to them, to spare you the horror) came to the conclusion that the days of a debut author getting a first novel published are over.

I don't know if I buy that argument completely, but I do recognize that things are far different now than only a couple of years ago. And they are getting worse all the time.

I've spent a lot of money lately preparing to take my manuscript to NYC for the Writers Digest conference next month. And yet I sit here wondering if it's money wasted, money we could have used for things far more important than pitching my work to literary agents who likely aren't looking for new clients anyway. Things like food, for instance.

But it's done. I'm going. Too late to back out now.

So after considerable thought, I've decided on my 2011 New Year's resolution:

I'm going to pretend it's not really 2011.

That's right, I'm going to write like it's 1999!

I'm going to operate under the assumption that quality work can still get published the traditional way, despite the growing cacophony of naysayers.

I'm going to pitch that freaking novel like it's yesterday's bath water. I'm going to hand out business cards and network and all that stuff that used to work. Back in the day. Back in 1999.

I'm going to continue to read accounts of how Stephen King and J.K. Rowling got published despite all of their rejections. I'm going to pretend it can happen to me, too.

Call me a dreamer if you will. Call me naive.

And hopefully, before the year is out, you can also call me published!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas, all!

I know I've been absent lately. It's been a bit crazy with all the holiday doings and the last-minute push to get the novel rewritten and to my new book editor.

We're in the midst of a major Christmas Eve snowstorm here in central Illinois and I just crashed my car into the boulder at the end of my driveway. Yay. Luckily it didn't do too much damage, although it took me and the three boys more than an hour to get the car up the drive and into the garage.

Now all I need to do is get the wife home from work safely in an hour or so and we can sit down to a big Christmas Eve dinner. It will be the first time the entire family has been together in weeks. It's what I love most about the holidays -- getting all of my kids together under one roof. Even their constant bickering and giggling makes me smile.

Anyway, I thought I would sneak online and wish you all a very Merry Christmas. I hope that you and yours are safe and happy this holiday weekend. I promise to be around a bit more often as the holidays fade into the rear view mirror.

Feliz Navidad!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Devil is done

I just finished my latest (and final) revision of The Devil You Don't Know and shipped it off to my new book editor.

I rewrote the beginning completely, rewrote most of the middle, and tinkered with the ending until I was mostly satisfied. I'm now convinced I will never be completely satisfied with any book I write. I can accept that.

I added two brand new plot lines. I also found my theme and polished it until it emerged. I cut another five thousand words from the manuscript in the process. It was the latest of several cuts over the past few months.

Five thousand words. Think about that. More than two chapters, gone in five days.

So the book that stood at a whopping 145,000 words when I finished the first draft over a year ago now stands at a relatively svelte 107,000 words.

Now all I have to do is rewrite the query and write a new synopsis. Oh, and wait for the new editor to rip it to shreds.

Once those are done, I think I'm ready to take this baby to New York City.

Then I can get back to my new book, and do it all over again.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

A quick thought

As we sit here, awaiting the Monster Blizzard that is right this moment heading our way, I thought I would toss out a quick post on what I like most about following my favorite authors on Twitter.

They make typos just like me. Isn't that cool? And sometimes, their spelling is atrocious (wait a minute, did I spell that right?).

So. Anyway, I thought that was cool.

WRITING UPDATE: Well. I've officially gone nuts revising The Devil You Don't Know. My new editor is waiting patiently for the manuscript, while I'm sitting here rewriting the whole damned novel. Again. See, I had a shiny new plot idea, which in turn led to a shiny new plot twist, which in turn led to a shiny new theme that needs to be polished like fine silver.


Tuesday, December 7, 2010

A little holiday cheer

Oh. My. God.

I love, love, love this video. It manages to combine my favorite Christmas show from my childhood with some decent New Wave from my adolescence, resulting in one hell of a Christmas blast from the past.

Crank this baby and enjoy!

Monday, December 6, 2010

A new beginning

Literally. A new beginning.

Today, I rolled up my sleeves and completely rewrote the opening chapter to The Devil You Don't Know, which from now on shall be known as The Novel That Will Not Die.

A few months ago, I rewrote the entire ending. It got better. Much better. I've rewritten the middle so many times that I sometimes read it and don't recognize it as my work. (And I suppose that's not a bad thing.)

But the beginning has remained pretty much the same for three years, with only some minor tinkering here and there.

But that changed after my meeting last week with my second book editor. She, along with a couple of other readers, had commented that I was introducing too many characters all at once. I was, of course, but on purpose. The beginning was a series of short vignettes written as (gasp) a prologue. They set up the novel's premise and provided the inciting incident.

I opened up a new Word file and rewrote a new Chapter One from scratch after sketching it out in a notebook last night. No more prologue. No more character vignettes.

My wife, who has long been a champion of the old beginning, read the new one this evening and admitted she likes it much more than the original. That's a start.

I'm trying to get the book in shape for the Writer's Digest Conference in late January in New York City. I have reserved a spot and purchased my hotel room. All I'm missing is airline tickets. I have until Dec. 15 to change my mind and get nearly all of my money back -- if I chicken out.

I want to go. I want to take my manuscript and wave it under the noses of fifty of the top literary agents and editors in the world. I want to meet Janet Reid and Donald Maass. I really do. I want to hand them a business card, wink casually, and tell them to "call me."

Well, maybe not. But I want a chance to take this baby of mine to Gotham and go balls to the wall. One last shot, perhaps.

And so, I'm back at work on TDYDK. It was tough getting back inside the character's heads after all this time, especially since my new book is so different in tone, setting and voice. But once I did, it was like I'd never left it.

I was writing dialogue for Michael Reed like it was 2008 all over again. Whoo hoo. Who says you can't go back home?

I think I'm challenging myself with this because I've fallen victim myself to the writer's malaise that seems to be sweeping the Internet. From Natalie Whipple to Nathan Bransford, people are in flux. Formerly confident bloggers are opening up and letting the world see their insecurities and fears. Natalie, especially.

As a result, I love her as a writer even more now. She's just like I am!

But all of this soul-searching and insecurity -- for me, at least -- can be debilitating. I am a better writer, hell a better person, when I am moving forward. Like a shark. Because I'm always afraid that if I stop, I'll die.

So onward. Perhaps to New York. Anyone with me?

Friday, December 3, 2010

A clarification

In my previous post, I wrote about my meeting with an independent book editor. I met with her to discuss whether she could help me with The Devil You Don't Know.

During that discussion, we talked about whether the subject matter of my book might make it more difficult to publish. She said that it might, and we talked about ways to get around that potential problem.

A couple of people I've corresponded with seemed to feel the editor was out of bounds by giving me her opinion. She was not. I was the one who brought it up, since I've been worrying about it for some time. She only answered me honestly. And, in fact, we had a fruitful conversation about how to deal with the issue. For that, I'm grateful.

I just wanted to set the record straight. Hey, it's the journalist in me. Have a great weekend.