Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Award Winning Opening Line ;)

If you head over to Terrible Minds today you'll see that Mr. Wendig posted the winners of the recent opening line contest. You may also notice that I was one of three winners. So, woohoo to that. Now, this post isn't to brag, but I wanted to discuss the line a bit because for me it is kind of loaded.

For those that didn't check, the line I used was:

I'd won a kingdom through iron and blood, but I had no idea what to do with it.

It's a fun line. It is also the beginning premise to a story I've tried to write like five different times and failed each time until I finally admitted I wasn't good enough for the story just yet. It's kind of an excuse, but it could be true. I do, after all, have wild ambitions for the story. The question is how to portray it?

The idea for the story is simple enough. It's basically the "what happens next?" after the classic story of a person recovering their family's land from the people that took it over. The break down then being that you have this young noble who has spent their life learning to steal, fight, and survive suddenly in charge of a kingdom. Their problems are no longer the "shove a sword through it" kind but more the negotiations and compromises that have to be reached in order to run a country. Stuff that makes them balk and gall are common place. Why do you have to make concessions to feed orphans? Because the person with the food won't give it to you without them. Just kill him? Great, now you're in a war, and did we mention they have all the food?

There are also other problems as well. The old friends that helped the person succeed, other nobles, other kingdoms, old debts, the list goes on and on. Perhaps too far. Perhaps too ambitious? But it is something I want to write.

I've abandoned dozens of stories over the past few years. I regret each and every one of them, but this one has never left me. It's refused to be cleared from the stove. It is always just there, on the back burner, waiting to come back out.

Maybe it's time to try it again? Of course, I'd need to finish my current WIP first. 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Sweet Sweet Rejection

Well, it happened. After weeks of eyeing my "professional" email address and having my heart skip a beat every time i saw a new email was there waiting to be read I actually got a response from one of the agents I queried.

Long story short: I was rejected.

It is an interesting feeling. I'm fairly certain I got a form rejection, but it was nicely worded. The reason given is not one I can fault the agent for either. For whatever reason she simply didn't feel passionate enough about the material I had put forward for her to think it would be a good fit. Considering that your agent is the one actually on the front lines fighting the battles for you passion is important, and no story - no matter how good - is going to appeal to everyone. Hell, it's not even going to appeal to everyone who loves every thing you love - notable exceptions aside.

I was prepared for rejection. I was expecting rejection. Still, it stings a little bit. I think it's supposed to, but since I read the email I keep going back and forth on whether or not I should be morose, even if only for a little bit, about this.

Oh, I also broke one of the major rules. I responded to the rejection letter. Nothing bad. Really, I promise. Just a short note thanking the agent for their time and wishing them luck with their future prospects. It seemed the least I could do considering they'd put time towards reading my query and sending me a response in a timely fashion. Who knows, maybe it'll put a small smile on their face when they read it and let them know, if only briefly, that not everyone is a rage monster looking to rip their head off whenever they make an unliked decision. Not likely, but a boy can dream.

Anyhow, that's about it for this. Ultimately I think the rejection is good for me. My first response was "I should keep writing." My second response was to check this agent off the list as having responded and to query a couple more agents. I figure if I get 10 rejections I'll do a major revision of the query letter and re-re-re-re-re-re-check the first five pages that are going attached and try again. At 20 it may be time for a re-write or just shelving and moving on for now.

Long story short though: I gotta keep writing and keep trying. How else am I going to make this work?

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Progress Begets Progress

Small update, but I want to keep this going. It is funny, but in a way submitting to those agents is probably the most productive thing I've ever done as a writer. I don't mean that in the literal or direct sense, but more from measuring the outcome. Since submitting my mind has been a lot more geared towards writing. I'm working out problems for stories that have  been languishing or side-tracking because of them, I'm getting ideas down, and I'm getting progress made on my current WIP.

None of it may be as fast as my brain wants, but steady progress is good. In a way the submission process has been freeing. That story is in an actual "wait and see" with the unasked question being "so what is next?" What's next is the now. Maybe it will work out. Maybe it won't. But the resurgence of motivation is nice.

Now I just need to keep it going.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

So I Sent Some Queries

Around mid October of 2013 I figured I had enough polish on a novel I'd written that I could send it out for queries. Then I told myself to wait. It needed another pass with some people reading it, so instead I asked some people for some feedback and left it alone. Then I got a bit of feedback, not from everyone but some, but then it was mid to late November. Uh-oh. November means NaNoWriMo which means every agent in the world is scared to look through their inbox because people just send rough, unedited first and zero drafts at them. I didn't want to be lost in the slush so I figured I'd wait.

See where this is going?

Monday, March 17, 2014

Back To Scratch

I have a problem. Maybe you have it too. It's a problem that has persisted in almost every story I've tried to write that's gone longer than 10,000 words. I've only missed having this problem three times that I can recall, and of those three times I've only truly subverted it once and that with a story I'm currently cleaning up to try and put on submission for an agent.

The problem is a simple one. My characters lack flaws. Now, they're not perfect - nobody is - and I'm sure they do have some flaws but they're not meaningful flaws. They don't cause themselves more problems. They don't take actions that will cause them problems. They respond to things intelligently, with forethought, detachment, and planning. It's not a horrible thing, but it does kill stories and make them lull at times.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Reading and Writing

This is actually a quick update compared to the normal length of time I usually have between these things. However, I wanted to come in and talk a bit more about what I've been up to.

As I said before, I've been writing with a bit less focus. One day I may be writing on what I consider my "main" WIP about a thief named Skye and her solving a murder she's taking the rap for. On another I could be working on any number of small side projects, or just writing for the sake of it. The fun part about this is that while I'm not sure if I'm going anywhere, I am having fun writing which is important. I'm also having fun reading, and not just published stories in genres of my choice.

I think I mentioned it, but I am giving the Online Writing Workshop a free trial, particularly the Science Fiction/Fantasy portion of it. How it works is you get points for critiquing the works of others, and you spend those points to post your own work. This works in two ways that are really cool.

  1. You have to be participating in order to receive critique on your own work.
  2. In taking a critical eye to the works of others you can improve your own writing.
#2 is the big one, and something the OWW actually mentions in its spiel. There is something about reading someone else's work that can help free up our ego to see problems. For example, in a story I read recently I pointed out that I was having trouble buying that the character felt anything for some people, despite being told they did, because of how they were acting. Essentially, what should have been an experience in grief seemed to be more grief that went away at random times. Since making that observation though I've caught similar trends in my own work and have made efforts to remove it.

Other aspects of it are more basic. With the raw un-polished writing you get to not only see what works and what doesn't work, but you can see why what doesn't work doesn't actually work. When someone has a story that is just padded with -ly words and weak verbs you can see how it kind of pulls away. Especially when the same person then uses a strong verb with no -ly words and you see how much stronger it feels.

Another example can be in how much is said. In my writing I tend to bog down in details. I feel like I'm more likely to say "He reached across and pulls his sword from its scabbard," when a simple "he drew his sword," could suffice. I noticed how peculiar this trend was when a simple line "she slammed her sister against the wall" caught my attention. The scene before had the characters apart with the point of view character having her back to her sister. Then that line. I wanted there to be a description of the turn, the stride over, the grab, and then I realized that the succinct "she slammed her against the wall" had all of that in there just because it all happened so fast that all you get to know is suddenly the MC is there, has her hands on her sister, and her sister is against the wall.

It's good stuff. So, maybe, especially if you're looking for some critique on your own writing, you'll give it a shot. As for me, I think I need to cut more time out for writing. It's a lot of fun when it gets going.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Ever Shifting Gears

Time has a fun way of slipping by when you're not paying attention. Didn't even realize until today just how long it had been since I stopped it. So, how are you doing? I'm doing well. I'm still writing, but the way I'm writing is a bit more awkward.

I'm still averaging over 500 words a day, but it isn't all in one story. I'm not sure how much I like this. I prefer working through a story, but I've been changing gears and going around without neglecting any one tale for too long that it is still working. What is important here I guess is that I am writing, I am writing nearly every day (weekends are still a bit awkward) and that is going well enough.

In a way it is somewhat like an idea I tried out before, just less structured. When one tale has me stuck I write something else. Only one of these is a big novel length story, and that is the high priority. The others are small pieces and trial runs for other stories.

In other news though, I did find a fun website. It's decently old I guess, so you may know about it, but it is called the Online Writing Workshop, or OWW. The link is http://sff.onlinewritingworkshop.com but that is specifically for the Science Fiction/Fantasy section. Essentially it is a critique group where you get the ability to post your own work by critiquing the works of others.

So far I've received good advice on the piece I posted, and have been able to read some really good stuff in turn. Just reading others work with a critical eye is a huge help, especially since nothing there is super polished and ready to go really. There is just something cool in seeing other people's writing in that raw form and it can really help. On a couple occasions I noticed problems I have myself, only since it wasn't my writing seeing potential ways around it was a lot easier. Then, when I look at my own writing, that same solution is there and quite frequently still works.

Anyhow, that's me for now. How goes your own writing?