Monday, May 18, 2015

My Gen Con 2015 Schedule!



Heading south to Indianapolis in early August. First time at Gen Con and the Writers' Symposium. Love to hear from anyone who's recently been there.

Thursday
11am SEM1577110 - Business of Writing: Early Stage Writing Career—What to Expect.
12pm WKS1578865 - Writer's Craft: Tension on Every Page.
2pm SEM1577060 - Writer's Craft: When to Show, When to Tell.
3pm SEM1577160 - Character Craft: Where to Start When Creating Characters.
4pm WKS1577161 - Writer's Craft: Badass Badguys.
5pm SEM1577116 - Business of Writing: Pitching Your Project.
8pm BGM1575255 - Twilight Imperium.

Friday
9am SEM1578842 - Writer's Craft: Plot Structure – Building the Foundation to a Page-Turning Story.
10am SEM1578843 - Writer's Craft: The Hero’s Journey – Creating a Character Driven Story.
11am SEM1577121 - Writer's Craft: Dialogue & Dialogue Tags.
12pm SEM1577074 - Writer's Craft: Description Through Dialogue.
1pm  SEM1573811 - Getting Started in the Gaming Industry.
4pm WKS1578848 - Writer's Craft: Characterization.
5pm WKS1578849 - Writer's Craft: Plotting.
6pm SEM1577080 - Writer's Craft: Epiphanies & Defining Moments.
7pm NMN1573743 - 3D Game of Thrones Board game.

Saturday
9am SEM1577084 - Character Craft 101.
10am SEM1577086 - Character Craft: Character Voice.
1pm SEM1577092 - Writer's Craft: Sustaining the Tension in Novels.
3pm SEM1578856 - Writer's Craft: Magic and the Modern World.
4pm WKS1578886 - Writer's Craft: Advanced Characterization.

Sunday
10am True Dungeon – Into The Underdark.
12pm True Dungeon – The Sable Gauntlet.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Spirit Quest - Post-Chimera Edit Report

I received the edit of my novel Spirit Quest from Chimera. Reading through the detailed write-up, I’ll admit to being overwhelmed. It’s hard to receive critiques, but it’s exactly what I needed at this point in the process. I had circulated the manuscript to a few Alpha readers and I got some solid feedback, but not what I needed. This edit not only pointed out several significant issues with the story, it gave me the direction I need to move towards to fix the problem.

So what do I need to fix? At this point, I’m looking at the 10,000 foot view and not at the text level (dialogue, passive sentences, repetitive sentence structure, etc).

[ ] Clean up the various POV and re-write from Marc’s POV. I’ve used 4 POVs in my story. It’s Marc’s story and I need to focus on that. That’s about 15,000 words of wiggle room I now have. I can find creative ways to add all that information from those other POVs into Marc’s knowledge pool. Focusing on Marc will help me find his voice and not have it watered down by other POVs.

[ ] Strip out the dream sequences

[ ] Clean up Marc’s inner turmoil and introspection. Cut back on a few of the repetitions throughout the book. Demonstrate a steady growth of his character. I tend to have Marc slip back into his bad habits/qualities. His anger isn’t focused and seems to get thrown around all the time without proper definition, so make it something people can sympathize with. That 15,000 word wiggle room should allow me to add a few more chapters focused on Marc and the progression of his magic.

That should keep me busy for a few months...

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Inspirational Advice and Perspective from Kevin Hearne

I read through Hearne's interview with ThriveWire.com (thrivewire.com/stories/heir-to-the-jedi-author-kevin-hearne-recounts-his-long-journey-to-success) and found a few nuggets of widsom and inspiration. Kevin Hearne is the author of a series of urban fantasy novel, The Iron Druid Chronicles.

  • 6 years to write his first novel, while working day jobs, but it was never published
  • The next novel took 3 years to write
“I wrote better and faster the next time, because once you complete a novel you know what it takes to do it again. There’s a confidence there that didn’t exist before,” he says. “It’s not a profession of instant success. Authors who are perceived as instant successes often work a very long time before getting to the market.”

After an unsuccessful round of query letters, he revised and edits and finally got an agent. His first novel, Hounded, was finally published after 19 years of work!

Lots of good stuff in Kevin's words. There's a lot of hard work before that success, so don't give up. Keep at it and you'll get there. It's about developing that confidence and the writing skills.


Monday, April 20, 2015

Joe Lansdale on Using Said to Tag Dialogue

Over on his Facebook page, Joe Lansdale shared the following on the usage of said to tag your dialogue:

"I hate it when people use all manner of replacements for said. Asked now and then, maybe in a rare case something else due to the scene, but even if you say they whispered, you damn sure don't need he whispered softly, and if you set the scene right, you don't need whispered at all. I hate he replied, he remarked, he responded, and I hate modifiers, he said with irony, he said with sarcasm, he said with excitement. Yuk. I also hate it when it's the obvious with the elbow in the ribs, meaning. "It's a monster!" he said with great excitement. Well, if it's a monster, we know he's excited. And if he's telling you something, and then you say, he explained, that's redundant.

"I'm not saying don't use these. You get to choose how you like to work, but they stand out like a sore thumb to me and I don't want to use them. It's like waving a flag while you write. It also keeps you from actually forming the scene. Instead of writing a scene that explains itself, you are trying to make sure people understand it with unnecessary words and leaping up and down and waving flags. It's a personal choice, and some of my favorite writers do it, but try taking those out, seeing if the scene is clear. If it's not, instead of writing in all those 'explainers' why not just write the scene where it works."

What he said. :) I've struggled with the use of said for awhile now and sticking with "said" as much as possible is the best way to go. Joe's advice is solid when it comes to ensuring your write the dialog in a way, write the scene in a way that you don't need tagging to convey meaning.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Anxiously Waiting

My SPIRIT QUEST manuscript is currently in the hands of Chimera Editing and I'm anxiously waiting on their feedback which will be delivered by the end of next week. Why am I anxious? There's a level of insecurity every time I get someone to read my work. What if they think it's crap?

Then I rewrite.

What am I expecting from the deep dive edit? I know I have some character issues, told to me by a couple of early readers. The problem is that I'm not sure how to address these issues. I'm hoping that this edit gives me some insight and helps me make a plan to fix it.

At every stage through this journey I felt that I had nailed it and then discovered that I hadn't and it's required work to fix. It's my first novel so I'm not trying to be hard on myself. I'm hoping that for the next novel I'll have learned enough so that I can stay at that level and improve the delivery time of a quality product.

Monday, April 6, 2015

All's Quiet on the Western Front

It's been a painfully slow last couple of weeks. My day job's been challenging to say the least and its spilled over into my writing time, sapping any leftover energy I have left. The new normal will kick in next week and hopefully I can get myself into the right frame of mind by then.

My manuscript goes to Chimera editing this week. I think I've got my novel to where I want it and will hopefully have lots of good feedback to rewrite and revise it and start the agent submission process again.

In the meantime, I want to keep going as I feel like I've fallen out of the daily writing routine, especially when all I've been doing for that last six months or so has been revising Spirit Quest. I have some notes of the sequel, but I'm also thinking it might be good to change my mind for a couple of weeks until I get the Chimera edit back. I've been trying to do that for a couple of weeks now, but I'm not sure what's holding me back. Perhaps the need to keep fiddling with Spirit Quest? Perhaps the daunting aspect of taking on something new? Perhaps both?


Onwards and upwards!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

More Rejections... Deep Breaths...

The editor from Del-Rey took a pass on Spirit Quest after a read of my revise and resubmit. She clearly explained her reasoning, feeling she couldn't get behind the characters. Despite the outcome, it was a great experience. It was really exciting getting this far in the process. Painful that it ended that way, but also tells me that my novel isn't quite there yet.

As a first time author, I had no idea when my novel would be at that point and I'm currently lost in waves of revision. So, my next step is to get some professional help. I'm now in the queue at Chimera Editing to get a "Deep Crit Review" of Spirit Quest.

I've been so immerse in Spirit Quest that I'm thinking I need to put some distance between it and myself. Chimera should have the review done by mid-April and that month or so break will do me some good.

And to add to the list of rejections.. The Canada Arts Council rejected my grant quest. Sigh.

Will keep going. I've got the next set of agents I want to submit ready. I'll recover the edits from Chimera and keep trying!

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

The Roller Coaster Ride That Is #PitchMadness

Over a week ago I threw my novel, Spirit Quest, into the #PitchMadness hat. On the weekend, I was thrilled to learn that it had made the final 70 or so pitches out of the over 900 submitted.

Today was the big day where the participating agents placed bids on the pitches they liked.After a grueling hour-long plus process, I learned that my pitch didn't receive any requests.  Like the post's title state, it was a roller coaster ride. From the high on Sunday, to today's crazy level of anticipation and stunned disappointment.



I'm pushed aside my bruised ego and want to congratulate all those who did receive requests. You guys rock!

Now, to focus on the positives:
  • My novel pitch had roughly a 7% of being picked and it was
  • My novel pitch being selected gives me confidence that my idea is marketable
  • Perhaps the participating agents weren't a good match for my story
  • Made several new twitter friends
  • Got some leads on some other agents
 The bottom line of this whole experience is that I know what I've got and I'm going to keep querying!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Never Tell Me The Odds - #pitchmadness

I submitted my SPIRIT QUEST entry for Pitch Madness (www.brenda-drake.com/2015/02/pitch-madness-2015-sorry-edtion-agent-game-rules-submission-instructions/) and it turns out that I'm one of 915 submissions!



Looking forward to the results next week. It's exciting and daunting at the same time, dangling yourself out there.

Here's my 35-word pitch, exactly 35 words:

"A native man learns his stepfather was murdered and uncovers a plot to resurrect the Ojibwe God of Darkness. He must learn to use his spirit magic and reconcile his heritage to stop this menace."

Re-reading it now, I'm not sure I like the word menace. I liked ancient evil, but I think I needed to trim down the words.

Here's the 3-sentence pitch:
"When a young M├ętis man with emerging spirit magic powers discovers his stepfather’s murder was covered up, he sets out to find the killer. But there’s a cabal of sorcerers that will stop at nothing to resurrect Malsum, the Ojibwe god of darkness. Can he find his place among a secret society of Medicine Men, learn to control his spirit magic, and reconcile his native heritage in time to stop this ancient evil?"

And lastly, here are the first 250 words of the novel:

"Ashigan didn't fear death, but the thought of those pursuing beasts clawed at his soul.

The road was still kilometers away and the river was his only option. The waheela were toying with him, chasing him through the forest, taking turns attacking, and wearing him down. He would have been impressed by their tactics had they not been hunting him.

The river was the first glimmer of hope Ashigan had since they started chasing him from Misajidamoo's hunting camp. Misajidamoo had left an abrupt phone message claiming a pack of these wolf-bear hybrids were stalking him. But Ashigan knew the waheela never ventured south of the Northwest Territories.

Ashigan had dropped by the camp to check in on his fellow Medicine Man and found the waheela waiting for him. He managed to escape, but they followed him. He had spent many fall days with Misajidamoo in these woods hunting deer and bear. Never would he have thought he'd be hunted in these same woods.

Stopping at the edge of the forest, Ashigan leaned against a tall birch tree that overlooked the river. His shallow breaths stung his lungs. Twenty years ago, this pursuit wouldn't have winded him. Now in its sixties, his body conspired against his efforts to flee.

The tree's spirit radiated out through its skeletal limbs that stretched high into the sky. Ashigan touched each of the white birch's thirty-seven winters and felt its deep root system. The tree acknowledged his presence and passed along a portion of its vitality.
"

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Pitch Madness 2 Starts Tomorrow

The submission window for Pitch Madness opens tomorrow!

www.brenda-drake.com/2015/02/pitch-madness-2015-sorry-edtion-agent-game-rules-submission-instructions/

What is Pitch Madness? It’s a chance to get your manuscript looked at by one or more of the participating agents.

What do you need?
- A 35-word max pitch for your novel
-  The first 250-words of your novel

That's it. Once you have those two pieces (in addition to the completed manuscript), you need to submit it to the link above.

Best of luck!
Jason

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Agent Hunt - Update #2

It's closing in on 3 weeks since I sent out the first wave of query letters for my novel Spirit Quest. I've received another rejection over the past week. It was a form letter response.

I'm trying to focus on other projects. It's proving rather difficult. Each time I hit a milestone, it seems that the next goal is quite far off. Looking back, when I completed my first draft, I had no idea how much work would be involved in the second and third drafts. Now that I'm on my last pass (recovering comments from a few Alpha readers), I have to avoid having my doubts creep in and stall the momentum I've built up so far. I'm not sure what I expected in terms of the first wave. But, coming off the high of having written the book, I felt like it was going well. I still have 6 outstanding responses, so I'll remain positive and patient.

Reading about how many rejections to expect, I came across the following which made me smile: "Don't give up until you've queried 80 agents or more".

And here's another great article on the query letter process and revision:
johngilstrap.com/essayqueryletter.html

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

An update on my agent hunt

I sent out 8 agent query letters on January 9th. I received on rejection and submitted to another agent, who in turn, rejected me as well. Both of these rejections were based just on the query letter. So I'm remaining positive for the other 7 query letters as they all include chapter samples. I can console myself in that the two rejections had nothing to do with my actual writing.

I'm resisting the temptation to spend any time tweaking the query letter. I compare my novel, Spirit Quest, to Jim Butcher's Dresden Files and Kevin Hearne's Iron Druid Chronicles. They're both urban fantasy series that are very similar, although I feel that my story and hopefully series will be a bit more rural fantasy.

At first I had compared my story to F. Paul Wilson's Repairman Jack as my protagonist would be going around and helping people with his spirit magic. Although we both wrote our stories in the 3rd person point-of-view, Spirit Quest, is also a kind of coming of age novel. That 3rd person point-of-view was important, especially with my strong supporting cast. Tara could easily be the story's co-protagonist, but I'm saving that for the sequel.


Monday, January 12, 2015

And it's done! The final draft of my novel, SPIRIT QUEST, is done!

The final draft of my novel, SPIRIT QUEST, is done. It clocks in around 99,100 words.

I have two Alpha Readers going through the manuscript now and need to recover their comments. When they're done with that, I'll have a read through of the entire thing. But, I want to put a bit of distance between myself and the manuscript. I'm also hoping to cut it down to 98,000 words.

As for how I feel? I'm pretty damn happy. It's been a long road. The idea for this novel surfaced over two years ago. The core of the novel was written in 2012's NaNoWriMo. In 2013, I had an opportunity to pitch the novel and it was well received which prompted me to take that 50,000 and craft it into a real novel. I had a 5,000 word document just of the one-line descriptions of all the little bits and pieces in the story I needed to fix. And that's done!

I know I'm not done done. I can expect at least two more rounds of significant editing (one from the agent and one from the publisher), but I'm taking a moment to enjoy where am. I can look back at 2012 and the two plus years it's taken me to get here with this nice, big, beautiful manuscript and take a deep breath.

Up next, I'm going to spend some time brainstorming ideas for the second and third novels. I also have another project that I NaNoWriMo'ed in 2011, ELEGANT DARKNESS.

Friday, January 9, 2015

And They're Off... Query Letters to Agents

It took a bit longer than I expected to prepare query letters as several agencies had different submission requirements. When you're ready to send out author query letters, take the time to closely read their submission guidelines. For example, most asked for a 5 page sample, but one asked for a 4 page sample, and another a 10 page sample. Some also asked for a synopsis of the novel and even that request had a variety of lengths (from 3-5 paragraphs to 1-2 pages). Cutting and pasting your novel sample is relatively simple compared to the synopsis.

The synopsis itself is an art form. Hopefully you have the basic idea of your novel distilled down to a single sentence. When I started to write my synopsis, I had about 1,200 words. Then I keep chipping away at it until it was down to 900 words. So with this first round of agent queries, I ended up having to continue distilling that down to just over 250 words. It's a great exercise to sharpen the focus of your novel and see what key story items and themes make the cut.

With my first round of author queries, I sent off eight of them to different agencies whose response time varied from 8-10 days to 12 weeks. I expect that there's probably a significant queue already in their inboxes and that I'll just have to be patient and wait. All that work and momentum around starting to feel like a real writer and now I have to wait. I guess that's part of being a real writer.

Of course, I won't be sitting around and waiting. I'll be polishing the handful of little items remaining for my manuscript. I'll also be working on the synopsis of the next two novels. More than enough to keep me busy!

Thursday, January 8, 2015

After Your First Draft...

I'm putting the final touches on the third draft to my novel, Spirit Quest. Although, I could argue that this is actually the fourth or fifth draft seeing as how I've rewritten some chapters.

The first draft is simply getting your ideas on paper, writing it all out. The second draft is taking a long sober look at what you have and finding the real story. The third draft is shaping and polishing that real story.

Working on an existing draft is different than writing. Sometimes all you have to do is cut a word or a sentence, re-write a sentence, or add a new one. Sometimes, it cutting a paragraph or a chapter. And sometimes, it juggling the chapter order to improve the story's pacing.

Don't underestimate the amount of time and work required. The first draft is simply that, a first step. There's a lot of work and a lot of it is thinking work. Thinking about your story and characters and their evolution throughout. Thinking about your ending and making sure you set it up properly. That's another aspect not to underestimate: know where you're going.

Knowing the ending is so key to your whole story. Even after your first draft you might not know where you're going, but you do need to work on that right away as your address your second draft.

It was a great accomplishment to complete my first draft. But, I know now that completing the third draft is a whole other feeling. And it feels great.


Monday, January 5, 2015

A Hunting I Will Go ... For An Agent

The hunt begins this week for an agent for my novel, SPIRIT QUEST. I'll probably wait until mid-January to query potential agents as they'll just be getting back into the office. Meanwhile, as I've done a bit of research and reading on the subject, I thought I'd share my step-by-step guide that I hope to try out shortly!
  1. Get your manuscript done.
  2. Have another read of it.
  3. Search Google for the agents of your favorite writers in the genre you're interested in. Pick five agents. Do a bit more genre-related Google searches to find other agent suggestions.
  4. Review their guidelines. Make sure they're open and they're interested in what you've got.
  5. Do a Google search on those agents, read about them from their twitter feed, guest blog posts, or their own blog posts. Make sure they're a good fit for you. Keep an eye for other agents on those blogs.
  6. Most agents are okay with you submitting to multiple agents, just not within the same agency. 
  7. Review their submission guidelines again and make sure you follow them. There's really no worse impression than submitting your novel and not following their guidelines.
  8. Submit.
  9. Be patient. Don't follow up with them a day or two after their response time estimate.
  10. Be prepared for rejection.
  11. If rejected, go back to Step 3.
  12. Do the happy dance!
 Disclaimer - The guide is by no means perfect and is no guarantee of success. It's just a fun way to present what I've learned. Feel free to post comments and make suggestions.

Here's a great website/blog I came across: quick-brown-fox-canada.blogspot.ca/search/label/*%20Literary%20agents

Friday, January 2, 2015

Everyone Deals With Rejection...


Rejection Letter for U2's tape in 1979. The band would sign in 1980 with Island Records and the rest is history...