Part-Time Novel Turns 4!

I missed it. My blogiversary raced passed with little notice. The good news is I’m still blogging.

Through the last four years I’ve experienced the highest internal highs followed by the lowest internal lows. I knew I was going to have a writing career and I knew I was just not cut out for this life.

Photo Credit: Peter O'Connor aka anemoneprojectors via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Peter O’Connor aka anemoneprojectors via Compfight cc

I’ve also stopped blogging and started again. I’ve help create a writers conference attended by hundreds of people, had coffee with agents, been rejected, and then asked by that very agent to speak at another conference. If you choose to pursue writing, it can be a wild ride.

Reflection gives you perspective and if there is anything I’ve learned it’s two fold. One, that writing, no matter how solitary, requires community. You’ll go crazy and give up without it. So seek out other writers. The other? Patience. It can be a slow life filled with blitzes and surprise requests. That’s the fun part.

So if you are about to give up don’t. Seek council or a trusted friend. Do what you can do today – 50 words, 100 words, and know that the weight of what we do is not contained to one day’s successes or failures. It’s a larger narrative built over years of hard work, discipline, and good friendships.

Here is an excerpt of what my blog was supposed to be about. I’m glad that this still rings true today.

The intention of this blog is to share what I have learned with those who work full time, have children, are otherwise engaged, but still have the wild dream of publishing a novel someday

Write well today and a sincere thanks to you for your encouragement over the years.

It’s meant more than you know.

Focus On The Long Haul

We live in a microwave society. If you want something you can have it now. Right now.

We sit down to write a novel and after the first page or maybe the first sentence we get stumped. We had this grand idea and suddenly it evaporates before our eyes. We’re left with drivel. And writers hate drivel. We scrapped the idea whip up a fresh one and start anew.

This idea turns out the same as the last. It is garbage. Pure garbage! It is then we get mad. Our novel isn’t good. We wasted our time and soon decide we’re not cut out for it. So we start a different dream. We’re going to open a bakery!

MicrowaveBut we need to focus as amateur writers on the long haul. We need to focus on the slow plod step by step. Writing a novel and becoming a novelist does not happen overnight. It doesn’t happen in a day. Or a month. Or year. Or two years.

But what happens over those days, months, and years if you stay faithful to the path? You become better.  You find one sentence you can love. And a page! And 90 pages!!

And soon a few years down the road we have a novel.

If you’re frustrated today and your idea is just not working out. If you’ve been haunted by that same sentence for the last month. Keep things in perspective. As a novelist, we’re in for the long-haul. Not something quick and easy. We aren’t making this out of a box. We’re growing our own vegetables. Creating our own recipes. This is going to take some time. Let’s just hope we have the gumption to continue on. Because in the end that’s what matters.

If you’ve taken your eyes off the prize of finishing your novel, keep going. Understand this isn’t happening in a second. Understand we are going to have to reference books and reread the things and take classes and edit our work countless times.

Writer, I hope you can find some encouragement in this. Good novels do not happen overnight. If you’re still working on yours and it’s been over a day, perhaps yours will turn out to be a great one – if you keep at it.

Keep writing and take advantage of your weekend. Elbow out some time to write!



Are You A Writer or A Blogger?

Sit down for a moment writer. Pour your tea or coffee if you must, but let’s take some time to reflect.

Survey the last week. Think about the time you spent writing. Whether this has been a productive week for blogging or working on your book, or journaling, it does matter. But I challenge you place that time in three categories: Book, Blog, Personal.

Okay. Now, think about this question: What do you spend the most time on?

I find that a lot of times how we spend our time is who we are. But, in our mind we pretend we are something else. I know I do. If I take this survey of my writing time I see that I spend more time working on my blog and less time working on my novel. Albeit, the fun part of the novel is over. Now it is editing, writing proposal pieces, and gathering names for agencies and agents.

I write this blog post to recommit to my novel. To give it not thought, but time.  After all, what is a writer’s platform if he has nothing to share from it?

Write this weekend my friends.



How Does A Writer Keep Writing?

The start of something new can be invigorating. Whether it is a new beginning at college, a marriage or a move, there are moments in life that leave us full of energy and full of joy, thinking we might literally fly or perhaps, merely climb Everest.

I have felt like that many times with my writing too.That I could sit down and work through the night. My novel would be done and I can move onto the next project I have swirling in my mind. I admire Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes for his unquenchable energy and vigor or the characters in Jules Verne’s stories or the pace at which Dickens can lay down a story for the simple fact that their prose can move so ferociously fast and be so strikingly precise that you cannot help but be swept along by their current.

But what happens when your mind is not abuzz with ideas? When you are trying to drill down for water that just isn’t there to quench your parched aesthetic tongue? Can you simply pick yourself up by your bootstraps and march on? Not if your boots have been stolen.

So how do you continue writing during the dry times, whether in life or in the writing process? How are you encouraged to press and get to your writing implement to churn out more of your novel?




Effective Writing: By Schedule or By Whim?

Don’t lose these!

I am a list maker. I live and die by them at home and at work. Sometimes I get sidetracked and provided that the lists do not get lost, they are essential to me to obtain measurable progress and complete tasks.

This translates to writing as well. I jot down ideas for blogs, stories, tangents, and the like to finish later. If I did not, I am sure the stoke of genius (or so I think!) would rush out of my mind just as fast as it invaded. So for me to be a successful writer at this stage of life I have to plan and be intentional. I have to fight for time to write. If I do not it gets crowded out.

This made me think (and perhaps you can do this along with me) about what makes me successful in my writing? Would it be allowing a jolt of inspiration to come tingling into my mind while I least suspected it and then feverishly scratching it on paper, the laptop or any device that spits out sentences? Or rationing out time every day at the same time to plod along, however dull and uninspiring that might seem.

So how about you? Are you better at waiting for the stroke of genius to come, then churning out fifty pages? Or are you better suited to write two pages a day, every day, until your novel is completed?  My suspicion is that when you evaluate the structure of your daily life, or lack there of, you will have your answer.



How To Write A Book Proposal

I promised, back at the beginning of the month, to send out a proposal to an agent. I feel unprepared, like a parent sending their child off to kindergarten for the first time. However, it must be done, eventually. I am a writer after all and this is, inevitably, the next step.

But, how do you construct a book proposal? How do you prepare your little beauty to step out of the nest with confidence?

As you might very well know, there are many ways to publish and I plan to try the Mount Everest of them–traditional publication.

The following is advice on, and an outline of, a basic book proposal. You might ask when is the appropriate time to write one of these and the answer is two fold. Non-fiction proposals can be both before and after the book is finished, but for Fiction there is no wiggle room. You must have a completed novel before sending in the proposal.

Please keep in mind that each agency, agent, and publisher, might have different criteria of what they need. Please see their submission guidelines before submitting. Also, do your research. Don’t spend your time sending your thrilling space odyssey novel to a nature magazine. Know who you are submitting to in order to find out what they usually publish. Otherwise, all of your time and mental strain over your proposal is for naught.

I. Overview

This is your elevator pitch. In two or three paragraphs write the synopsis of your book, What is this book about? This might be the only time you have the attention of an agent or editor so make them beg for more. Having trouble knowing how to write one? You can find examples of these on the back of nearly every book. Also, bounce ideas off your writer friends.

II. Target Audience

Who is the audience? Is it a children’s book? Is it a YA novel? Is it a picture book? Is there a market for it? If your work can reach a secondary audience name them as well. Basically, name all parties that might be interested in this book. Don’t be bashful, but be realistic. Your grandma will probably not be interested in your book on Weapons of the World.

III. About the Author

This is your time to shine. Who are you? What is your experience or credentials? Do you have a blog or twitter following? Do you have another platform? One thing to be encouraged by is if you are a first time author there are agencies that are looking especially for first time novelists. You don’t have to have 300 short stories published for someone to read your work. Though, it wouldn’t hurt.

IV. Competition

If there is an audience, what other books are currently reaching them? Please do not say you are writing a YA book that reaches the EXACT SAME audience as Harry Potter. While it may be true, it draws unfair comparisons. Know other books that might be in closer competition.

If you are writing a Romance novel, read the back of every romance novel in your local bookstore then write down the ones that sound similar to yours. After this, go home and research them until you are the expert in what is selling, and how you can do better.

V. Marketing and Promotion

Unfortunately, authors are expected to do more for their sales in recent years, especially if they want to be successful. This means speaking engagements. This means book signings and radio or television appearances and interviews in the local paper or your favorite magazine.

This might sound both intimidating and presumptuous. The best place to start might be an author you know who has experience in these sorts of things. If not, ask the local bookstore manager how authors do book signings and even go to a few of them yourself. Then check at the library to find out what you need to do to get some talking time there. Also, if there is a local radio station or university that owns a radio station or television spot, call and talk with them.

Don’t forget your blog, Twitter account, Facebook, and any other social media/writing outlet you might utilize. All can be used for the promotion of your book.

VI. Sample Chapters

I don’t think I need to say a whole lot about this but the particular agency where you are sending your novel may have certain criteria. It might be the first two, three, or five chapters or merely a few of the best chapters in your book. Read the guidelines carefully and do EXACTLY what they say.

In conclusion, the one thing I would like to stress the most if I have not already is, be sure you follow the rules! Don’t deviate. Don’t be “creative” or try to stand out. Don’t reformat your proposal using cute font. Be professional and serious, no rose perfumed parchment. I don’t know how many times I have read or listen to an interview with an agent that said the reason a lot of novels are disqualified is because they are either not good, or don’t follow the directions in the submission process.

It’s Friday, (WOOHOO!!!) and this means there is only one more week to go on my self-imposed book proposal deadline so I had better get cracking. If you are ready to do the same, good luck my friend.