Thursday, March 25, 2010
Around the middle of the week, a friend emailed and told me 'Congrats'. My initial reaction was, 'What the hell for?' I'd been so inundated with live fire, I forgot all about my manuscript currently roiling in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. They let me know my Young Adult urban fantasy Novel, EMANARE, was selected as a quarterfinalist in the competition, making the cut from 2,500 down to the top 250.
When I set my goals for the contest, getting through the first round seemed like a daunting task. A contemporary whom I consider an excellent writer didn't make last year's cut, and now, I've made it through two. My reward? I review of the complete manuscript by Publisher's Weekly. That alone is a huge bonus. I always planned to re-imagine the work on the next time through, so any feedback from professionals would be excellent.
The other cool part about the quarterfinals, my excerpt is available for download from Amazon's Kindle Site. It's kind of cool seeing your work for sale on the site. Granted, it's listed for $0.00, but I'm still jazzed nonetheless. If you remotely interested or read any more of my recent work, you can see where my journey began about a year ago in Iraq by downloading the piece here.
Don't have a Kindle? Download the Amazon Kindle app for your Apple iPhone or Touch. It's a free app, and it'll let you read my piece. Consider that my shameless plug to increase my Kindle download ranking. Did I mention the price for my excerpt is also free?
Someone asked if I was sufficiently pumped to make the quarterfinals. Frankly, I've been too busy with Army stuff to take a moment and let it sink in, but it'll probably hit me sometime over the weekend. Whether I make the next cut or not, who cares? It's been a fun ride, and I can't wait to get the rewrite underway.
By the way, this is my week in a picture. How was yours?
Saturday, March 20, 2010
What I didn't do was: think about work, the short story I have out for query, the WIP, or the completed manuscript(s) that really deserves a good rewrite. It was a nice couple days of taking a break from the normal grind.
Lately, writing has been my unplug, but as I become more embroiled in one project after another, it's moving from hobby to labor, and not in a good way. So, concentrating on family and basketball has been a nice change.
That's it for this week, nothing complicated. I'm going to have a beer, watch a movie with my wife, and continue the unplugging-mission for a little longer.
Friday, March 12, 2010
I caught a whiff of inspiration from fellow OWG member, Michelle Muto, while reading her piece about revisiting older manuscripts. She found pleasure in measuring her progress from one manuscript to another, learning from past mistakes, and applying new ideas to older efforts. At the end of her piece was the question:
"Have you ever ditched one manuscript in favor of another?"
It got me thinking. Just the other day I came up with a rather unique storyline I'd yet to see in a YA Urban Fantasy (not that it doesn't exist, but until I find it, it'll be my own private unicorn). When an idea that cool comes along, I question everything else I'm currently doing and ask, 'Could this be the one?' But that was the same think I said about my last two projects.
So today I'm writing about finishing. Currently, I have one manuscript completed and submitted to ABNA, and another well underway. Each time I started one of those projects I asked that aforementioned question. The temptation is great, especially when the current project isn't moving along at the planned pace. I've found that with my current job and family obligations, writing has moved more towards the back seat. Instead of writing thousands of words a sitting, I feel fortunate to get off a couple of hundred. So when the going to get tough, the temptation to switch to a newer, sexier product is definately there.
A couple of weeks ago, Dresden Files author Jim Butcher popped into Bulletwisdom and among other things, offered the following piece of advice:
"Always start your next project when you've finished your current one."
It's sound logic and one of those mythical pearls of wisdom successful writers try to pass down to us aspiring clowns. Writing isn't easy, and writing well is, no kidding, hard. If a plot isn't developing as well as you'd hoped, and the entire project is coming apart at the seams, then jumping over and starting a new project from scratch would seem like an awesome idea.
However, doing so would miss the point. Writing is a grind, it's supposed to be. Pushing through difficulties and making difficult decisions towards your own sweat and blood is going to be a source of mental anguish and frustration. It's just like exercise: you go through pain and frustration to harden your body and get stronger. Same with writing, perservere through the difficulties and finish what you start. The greatest of athletes are known as great finishers.
Writers are no exception.
So a few days ago, when I was struggling through my current projects latest chapter and experienced an oh-my-freaking-gosh moment of inspiration, I wrote down an intro and a few notes, took about ten minutes to define a basic plot and some characters, then socked it away in my online storage vault--
Until I'm finished with my current project, and ready to start my next.
Friday, March 5, 2010
So why does it feel as though I've learned nothing.
Case in point, I entered a YA contest over at Kidlit. The premise was simple, agent Mary Kole sifted through a few hundred openings, and picked her favorites. Mine was nowhere near the top five, and after reading through her winners, probably nowhere near the top fifty. The winner's opening, especially the top three, had voice that took on a life of its own. Compared to theirs, mine is weak, lifeless, and way too drawn out.
Fortunately, I've scheduled a rewrite.
One of my writing partners (here) unintentionally helped me realize I had a lot to learn about writing. It started with a lecture over passive verbs; she looked at my critique of another member and politely pointed out what I thought was passive tense, was actually past perfect. Like any good professional, I immediately went to school. As coincidence would have it, one of my favorite writer's blogs, Cec Murphy's Writer to Writer, recently addressed appropriate uses of passive voice.
Having spent an adult lifetime trying to crush the evils of passive voice, now I'm thinking I should reconsider. However, the hard part is when to pick and choose those special moments to actually use a specific style technique to achieve a desired effect. In reading Cec's opines of proper passive voice, I picked up his thoughts regarding use of progressive tense. What the heck is that? Now, I know.
Up to now I've simply been putting words on paper without giving much thought to using the actual structure of the sentence as a literary weapon. The second and third order effects have me reconsidering my use of an outline as more than just a story-planning device. As an old boss told me, words matter because they have meaning. How they are used is probably a close second.
Several months ago, my father, an avid reader, quoted me some unknown dead writer who was asked by an interviewer when he learned to write. The writer replied something to the tune of, 'It took a quarter million words for me to start learning.' I'm horribly paraphrasing, and Lord knows, I wasn't listening all that well (sorry, Dad), but only now I can begin to understand the point of his discussion.
Knowledge is heavy, and the more of it I pick up, the more there's an obligation to use it. You can put as much, or as little, as you want into your projects. You can throw a hundred thousand words into a program and call it a manuscript. You can even call your friends and tell them you wrote a book. The way I see it, cranking out the first 'book' was easy, and to date, I haven't really written anything.
But I'm working on it.