Category Archives: Twitter

Don’t Ever Stop!

So… This little thing called PitchWars happened. It’s what triggered this particular post, but it’s not what this post is about so I’ll cover it very briefly.

It’s a contest where writers submit their first ~250 words and a Query to the four mentors of their choice and hope to get selected. In short (because I’m rubbish at being brief) I was selected by the Awefantabulous Renee Ahdieh.

Renee is exactly what I want and more importantly need in a mentor. Her feedback has helped me add layers of depth to CROW’S BLOOD that I knew were missing, I just couldn’t see where. I’ve learned some of my pet phrases, identified some comma issues I have, and so much more, and I’ve exterminated them with prejudice.

Anyway!

Seven weeks later, our part in PitchWars wrapped on January 22nd as it went to the Agent Round. The first 250 words were posted with a 35 word pitch (here in case you’re interested), in hopes of Agents commenting and making requests.

It’s those requests that bring me to the point of this post. I had 0 requests. Zip. Zilch. Nada.

Let me tell you a bit about how this little writer’s ego works: I’m a brash, cocky, confident bastard. Except when I’m not, which is often. The key is that I try not to let that side show to the world at large too much. The only person who sees that side of me most often (my wife) does a great job of propping me up so I can continue being the confident bastard that I am.

I’d be lying if I said getting zero requests didn’t sting. It cut pretty deep. Those are my words! Right there, with that zero looking me in the eye, I could have quit. Packed it all in and reclaimed my TV and video games. I could have given up the dream and driven my wonderful wife insane.

I could have listened to the mean voice in the back of my head that kept whispering “Zero, that’s how many people give a damn about your words. That’s what they’re worth. That’s what your worth. Give it up. Go home. Loser!

I’ve heard that voice before. That’s the voice that comes around any time I put myself out there, whether I’m public speaking, writing, tweeting, or posting on my blog. I don’t like that voice. I made the decision long ago not to listen to that voice. That voice is an asshole. The things it says aren’t true and are designed to cut us where it hurts the most. That voice is borne of fear.

We all have that voice. The difference between those who go on and those who fold isn’t a matter of skill, or worth, or ego. It’s a matter of will.

So here’s what I have to say, not only to those who didn’t get requests in PitchWars, but to those who have ever queried, or submitted, or done anything that brought around that voice:

Don’t. Ever. Stop.

Do what you love, whether it’s writing, drawing, dancing, singing, building life-size models of X-Wings out of Lego, whatever it is, as long as you love it (and it doesn’t hurt anything).

As for PitchWars… Would I do it again? In a heartbeat! I’ve learned so much, and met so many wonderful, dedicated, and helpful people.

Until next time, I’m going to go write and revise, because that’s what I do, and I love doing it.

“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me.” – The Bene Gesserit

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Filed under Agent, BookB, Character, Contest, Critique, deadlines, Editor, Ego, family, Feedback, Grammar/Spelling, Learning, MacBook Pro, Motivation, Pitch, Query, Revision, Twitter, Validation

Thiiiiiiiis close!

The last five days have been harrowing, dreadful, bone-chilling days. With my latest revision complete and polished, and with my Query Letter and Pitch polished for #PitchMadness, I really only had one thing missing from my arsenal: A Synopsis.

Let me define that little eight-letter-word for you as best I can: 
Synopsis [si-nop-sis] (n):
  1. A brief or condensed statement giving a general view of some subject.
  2. An evil  creation of agents and editors for the express purpose of torturing writers.
  3. A soul-sucking vampire in word form.

There’s no perfect consensus in the writing world on what exactly a synopsis is but this is what I’ve found to be most often repeated:

  • 1-5 single-spaced pages
  • Block formatted paragraphs (no indents)
  • Double-space between paragraphs (a single blank line)
  • No smaller than 10pt font
  • Outline ONLY the main plot of your book
From what I’ve seen, 2 pages is the standard length for an agent (at least with the agents I intend to query in my first round that require them).
Sounds easy enough right? Just take your ~60,000 – ~115,000 word (240 – 460 page) book and boil it down to ~1,000 words. Oh, and keep it interesting! Remember: You’re selling your idea here!
Simple right?
ARGH!!!
So here’s what I did: 
I went through my manuscript, skimming chapter by chapter, and making notes of the major points of that chapter. I tried to keep it short and ended up with around 2,900 words.
Then I went through and mercilessly cut anything that didn’t directly have anything to do with the main plot. 1,900 words.
I pared, whittled, reworded, and tweaked every sentence, revising from my quickly written notes to the most sparse text I could get while still maintaining clarity and some semblance of flow. 1,300 words.
I did that two more times, ending at just over 1,000 words, which fit nicely within 2 pages at 10pt Arial and 10pt Times New Roman.
Then I called it a day.
Now, that ordeal is done until I’ve had someone other than me, who’s read the last revision, go over it and tell me what I’ve done wrong.
I have to apologize and thank my wife and children for bearing with me and giving me the time to work on this and a sounding board for my complaints, and my friends and followers on Twitter who have had to deal with me exploding/ranting/whining/begging over the past five days. I’m sorry if I’ve gotten on any of your nerves.
– Alex

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Filed under Agent, BookB, Critique, Editor, Grammar/Spelling, Learning, Pitch, Query, Real Life™, Revision, Story Elements, Twitter, Word Count

Revision Update and Agent Fears

Here I am, hip deep in my out loud revision pass and getting on to some much cleaner chapters. There are a number of pitch contests and (self-imposed) deadlines coming up this month that I hope to have CROW’S BLOOD ready for. I’m still on schedule for my goal of querying agents by the end of the month.

I’m going to update the progress bar on the right to reflect how far through this pass I am. It’ll be a rough estimate, but it’ll do.

Querying is something that absolutely terrifies me. I find the whole idea somewhat paralyzing.

The problem stems from Twitter. You see, I started tracking Agents down via Twitter (which is an awesome resource for writers to get to know other people in the industry) and following them.

In the course of following them I’ve connected with quite a few. Some to the point where I greatly value their connection beyond an Aspiring Writer<=>Agent connection. Those connections have gone on to the point where I’d like to hang out with these people even if they weren’t a potential resource for my writing career.

Our personalities seem to mesh, and damn it, I like their style! It also helps that they’re all great at their jobs and know what they’re doing enough to freely give help to the community. It’s because I like these people and value them so much, they’re exactly the agents I want to query. They’re people I think I can work with.

That’s where the problem comes in.  I’m afraid to query them! What if they don’t like what I send them? What if they find out I’m a hack who takes 5 revisions before his story even resembles a cohesive mess? What if they don’t like me any more? How will I face them on Twitter or at Cons if I reveal so much of myself to them through my writing? What if I, in all my awesome horribleness, am the “writer” that makes them close their “please submit your next work” door, or even quit Agenting (I know it’s not a word!) altogether?

I picture cabals of agents I adore getting together for a good maniacal laugh over a brandy in a NYC bar while scribbling all over my book in red marker.

ARGH!!!

Breathe damn it.

I’ve considered only submitting to contests, which, while entertaining, and a great way to meet other writers and agents, still doesn’t necessarily get me working with the agents on my top 10 list (yes, I have one).  I’ve actually considered querying agents I don’t know… Just so I won’t potentially damage the pseudo-relationships I have with the agents I like… How broken is that?

The other pitfall of this neuroses I’m developing is endless revision. When will I ever consider something “good enough” to send to the agents I like? How do I let go? What if I let go too soon?

To you other writers that read my ramblings, have you gone through the same things? I sometimes wish I’d started writing before the internet made connecting with people so far away so easy.

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Filed under Agent, BookB, Critique, deadlines, Ego, Id, Query, Twitter

Revision 2 complete!

This is my first attempt at a novel length work. I’ve been reasonably good with writing short fiction and stage plays in the past. I’m learning just how different this process can be, especially when it comes to revisions.

The first revision resulted in an entire rewrite of nearly 2/3 of the book. This pass I’ve just completed probably rewrote another 30%. Entire chapters were scrapped, rebuilt from the ground up, and in some cases moved.

I hope I’ve cleaned up all the plot holes and character inconsistencies at this point.

The next pass will be targeting passive voice, word choice, and grammar. It should be considerably faster as I’ve been doing some of that on this pass I’ve just finished. Still, I’m putting it out there for Critique Partners (my post on CPSeek.com is getting no love so far) to have a go at it with the intent to get fresh writerly eyes on Plot and Character (please! please! please don’t look at grammar just yet!).

The novel isn’t the only thing that’s getting revised either. Thanks to some help from Lauren Spieller and this epic post on her blog, my Query has been getting some love too. Distilling 100,000 words to a single page query has been frightening. I can only hope I’ve done a better job on the story itself.

Even if this novel never sees the light of day I’m better for it. I’ve had a lot of fun and learned a great deal along the way that will help with the next one.

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Filed under Character, Learning, Query, Revision, Twitter

Surviving the Holidays

Well, I’m here. That means I survived. If you’re reading this, then you too are a survivor. Congratulations!

The holidays, regardless of which ones you celebrate or why you celebrate them, are about tradition and bringing families together. Anyone who survives that dangerous mix deserves their due credit.
I didn’t do it alone, my wife and children helped me through it all with a continuous flow of joy and rich foods. My wife is an artist with food and confection at a level that I strive for with words.
I’d have to say the hardest part of the whole holiday ordeal was not writing. It’s not that I didn’t write or revise at all, but it certainly wasn’t to the schedule I’ve grown used to. It kept leaving me with a nagging sense that I was being lazy and leaving things undone.
I’m revising now, which means I’m learning a LOT about my bad habits and just how horrible and clunky some of my prose can be. 
I’ve got this fantastic thing I do, which likely comes from my personal speech patterns, where I use more complicated words when simple will do. I don’t seem to let it creep into dialog, which is a good sign that I’m not overpowering my character voices.
I’m enjoying the experience so far. Granted, I’ve only revised 6 chapters in to a ~50 chapter manuscript,  but some of them needed serious surgery. I’m talking the “hit it repeatedly with an ax until it stops moving” kind of surgery. Messy, somewhat painful, but necessary. 
I’ve started to receive feedback from my Alpha Readers on some of what they have so far and it’s been invaluable. It’s really quite amazing how much some of them pick up on. I probably drive them batty with how I’m dropping, revising, and re-dropping the same chapters to them on Dropbox, and I’m trying to clean up that process so they’ll have a frame of reference when I give them updated revisions.
I still aim to push it out to some Critique Partners over at CPSeek.com and on Twitter by end of January. The timeline from that to Agent Query Submission will have to be more flexible depending on feedback at that level.
This writing thing is a lot of work. It’s a good thing I enjoy it.

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Filed under Alpha Readers, BookB, dialog, dropbox, family, Feedback, Learning, Motivation, Real Life™, Revision, Twitter

Acknowledgement Problems

I read a blog post recently stating that Authors should keep their acknowledgements in their books short and concise. It got me thinking (not that I’m in a position to start thinking about an Acknowledgements Page yet but bear with me). I don’t know about every other aspiring writer but I have a strong need for good information, external validation, and support. How on earth would I pare down the massive list of everyone who’s given me a little (or big) push, or some really key piece of information that inspired or helped me limp through this process called writing?

Let me give you an example of what I mean.
Offline, my main support comes from my lovely wife. She allows me the time to write, which is a pretty big consideration, we have a 3 year old that keeps us busy and a 13 year old in Rep Hockey, so she’s sacrificing her alone-time with me. She also props me up when I have my little personal crises and think that I suck and shouldn’t bother. All in, it probably helps that my writing keeps me out of her hair and makes me far less grumpy on the whole.
We just passed our 16th anniversary together, as I’m only 33 you can do the math and figure out that we’re Highschool sweethearts. I wouldn’t have it any other way. She’s a light in my life and a strong foundation I can always turn to.
For information, like most, I tend to go online and I devour anything I can find on the subject of writing. I’m like a writing zombie constantly in search of other people’s brains. There’s a lot of great stuff out there if you look, books, blogs, podcasts, and Twitter people (Tweeple?).

You know what I’ve found along the way? An awful lot of contradiction with a strong core of consistency. Most of that seems to come from the fact that there are really very few keys to becoming a successful and accomplished writer. The rest of it is a matter of personal style and what works for the individual.
It appears the key points to being a halfway decent and possibly successful writer are as follows (in no particular order after the first):
  • Write every day.
  • Finish what you start.
  • Allow yourself to suck (on the first draft at least).
  • Read often (and in the genre you write for).
  • Have a story to tell.
  • Revise (and revise, and revise, and revise, and revise)!
  • Persevere
Other elements such as outlining/architecting vs. pantsing/discovery writing, character vs plot, etc. are all up for debate (on the whole). I myself strongly believe in a combination in both cases. 
I outline my plot and story arcs heavily while allowing both to change drastically if “discovery” strikes or something feels flat. 
When it comes to scenes and characters I have to “write myself” into them, which is most definitely a “discovery writer” thing to do.
Prose, grammar, and spelling are all things to be cleaned and touched up in revision as far as I’m concerned. Yes, I have some inspired moments while writing the first draft, and some of them may even make it into the final manuscript, but I won’t know that until I get there.
That’s what I’ve got so far, and it’s by no means clean or polished and certainly up for debate. Like everything to do with writing, I’m learning as I go. Without the people that I meet online, or the podcasts and blogs that I follow with their myriad of tips and helpful information I wouldn’t be nearly as far along as I am.
It will likely take several more books to streamline and work it out for myself, and that’s a good thing, because it lends to my whole solution to the “Acknowledgements” problem: Write and publish enough books to cover everyone. It’s going to take at least 20-30 books.
– Grimm
P.S. I was originally going to list and link some of the blogs and Twitter folks that I follow but I’ve decided against it in this particular post, as many of the tips and information comes from multiple sources and it would just be a mess. Instead I’m looking to add a people/links bar to the already overcrowded right hand bar once I clean some stuff up.

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Filed under BookB, Character, Discovery Writing, family, Grammar/Spelling, Learning, Outline Writing, Real Life™, Story Elements, Twitter, Validation

Scrivener, NaNoWriMo, and Twitter Trolls.

This is going to be a bit of a departure from my regular blog post direction. Instead of talking about writing itself and my daily life around it, I want to talk about some of the organizations and people that I’ve encountered in my journey so far.

NaNoWriMo and the Office of Letters and Light are highly responsible for me being where I am on my journey today. I’d heard from many podcasts and professional writers guides that the key to being a successful writer is to “write every day” and to “finish something”. NaNoWrimo 2011 was instrumental in helping me believe I could actually write a full length novel to completion (or at least a really awful first draft).

Until I hit that 50K mark on my first NaNo I had only written short stories to completion and had started several novels that never got past about 30K. Not only did I Win my first NaNo, I went on to complete the draft I was working on. It’s been torn apart and rebuilt from the ground up into the work it is now solely because I found the hunger to follow my dream of being a writer re-ignited.

They are a non-profit organization that subsists entirely on donations, their store and supporter funding.

Scrivener is a sponsor of NaNoWriMo and one of the big prizes for participating or winning NaNo is a 20% or 50% off code for their product. I grabbed the Scrivener demo near the end of October to see if I’d like it. It had an incredibly easy learning curve, helped along by an awesome tutorial, and an intuitive interface. I don’t see myself using anything else to write on for the foreseeable future.

There was a surprise at the end of NaNo. Their winner code redemption on their site had a little bug that took not 50% off the purchase price, but 100%. I didn’t even notice until I’d finished checking out and it hadn’t asked for my credit card. In a panic I sent them a Tweet telling them of the issue without spelling it out for all of Twitter-dom. I also fired off an email in hopes that they’d be able to correct the problem before they lost too much potential revenue.

You see, I’m not one to balk at free software, I’m too cheap. Their offer wasn’t meant to be free though, and the last thing I wanted was the folks at Scrivener, or the folks at OLL/NaNoWriMo to end up unhappy with how their relationship was working. On top of that, Scrivener was a great product that actually improved my writing experience and made my life so much easier that I figured they deserved my money. It’s not like they were asking for much.

I received several responses. I was very impressed and awed at the speed and graciousness of the responses from David at Scrivener. I received a few personal responses thanking me for my honesty and quick action at reporting the issue. When I asked if there was any way I could give them the money owed I was told they’d be sending out a form response later in the day. I’ve copied that below (bold is my emphasis).

Hello Scrivener User,
As you finally got united with your much deserved NaNoWriMo winner coupon code for 2012, you may have noticed a slight glitch in our web-store when you secured your Scrivener licence. Our clumsy fingers meant you acquired Scrivener for absolutely nothing, rather than the 50% discount we promised. Many of you have already been kind enough to approach us, bringing our attention to the matter and indicating a willingness to pay for Scrivener. You’re under no obligation to do this, nothing underhand will happen to the registration details you received, but we’d naturally appreciate your support!

We’re trying to make this as painless as possible, so going via PayPal is probably the cleanest solution. If you have an account, please sign in and make your $20.00 (Windows) or $22.50 (Mac) payment to sales@literatureandlatte.com. If there is going to be any cost associated with you making this transaction, please deduct this from what we’ll receive. Under no circumstances should you have to be paying more than 50% of your Scrivener licence rate. PayPal have provided this fairly helpful link https://www.paypal.com/us/webapps/mpp/send.
Once again, this was a mistake on our part so you are under no obligation to pay now for the 50% of the licence fee that our systems failed to ask for. Our sincere thanks to all those who have contacted us to inform us of this issue and to offer to pay the balance.
Many congratulations on completing 50,000 plus words during November! We hope you’ll be able to complete many more as you continue to use Scrivener.
All the best, David

Um, wow. Talk about stepping up. Kudos to David and the folks at Scrivener and thanks for yet another reason to love the product and the company.  Needless to say, they received my payment shortly after receiving that email.

There was a darker side to this story though. For pointing the problem out to them on Twitter someone clearly took offense.

The tweet was removed before I could respond, and they had several other tweets (also removed) directed @ScrivenerApp complaining about how they were being ripped off by not getting the software “free” like everyone else because they were “late to the game”.  Clearly whoever is “responsible” for this Troll account needs a bit of a reality check.

I’ll have another blog post later today covering some of the other organizations and people who had given me so much needed support and help along the way. This one is getting a bit long and I have to get back to doing the job that pays me for now.

-Grimm

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Filed under BookB, NaNoWriMo, Scrivener, Twitter