122 Rules by Deek Rhew

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Do What You Love - Don't Let Inhibitions Stop You

This week's blog is short and sweet. I'm tired and have been wrangling with the decision of rather to cut 50,000 words from my debut novel or break it up into two book. You can read the dramatic-gasp!-details in my post The Path to Getting Published Part 4: Query Letter and Debut Novel Length.

Decisions. Decisions. Decisions.

What has kept me going in this is my love of writing. Not just the initial idea to epaper, but the revising, beta readers, figuring out how to say more with less, all of it.

Bottom line: making shit up is fun.

What I've also discovered is that it's easy to get focused on the end goal, that of getting published. What can I do to make it so an agent and following that a publisher and following that readers will love my writing? Yes, in the end it's about the reader, but during the process it's about the writer.

Depending on the speed of the reader and the length of the book, a novel can be dishearteningly consumed in less than a day. I'm a little slower and will take a couple weeks, sometimes longer, part of it is I want to give the writer their full due, they worked hard so I'll put some effort too. But no matter how long the reader takes the writer is in the thick of the story for years. In that time it's easy to let inhibitions, both externally and the crap going through your head, prevent you from really stretching your creative legs and doing everything you want to do.

Nothing kills the creative process like inhibitions.

In last week's Jay and Silent Bob podcastKevin Smith, and Jason Mewes were screening their new cartoon movie. For those that don't know, Kevin Smith is an indie film maker, whose credits include Clerks 1 & 2, Mallrats, and more, he started Smodcast Internet Radio, on and on. Jason Mewes is an actor, recovering drug addict, and most recently a director. Google them if you want to know more, this isn't a memoir.

During the Q&A portion of the podcast, a film student asked for advice on making it in the movie business. What followed was the most touching and inspiring monologue about creativity I've ever heard. Kevin's take on it is from the movie-making perspective, but it's applicable to writing or any creative endeavor.  I've listened to it a dozen times and each time I've come away feeling re-energized and ready to lay it all out there.

I clipped out that 20 minute section of the podcast. You can listen to it online or download it to your MP3 player. NOTE: In this venue there is a lot of swearing, so if that sort of thing turns you off you may want to skip it. But for the rest of us, prepare to have your inhibitions blown away.

Of course I'm going to try and get published, we writers are an introverted but egotistical bunch. However, I'm going to remember to focus on the process I love and not so much on the end goal. As Kevin says, do what you love, and the money will follow. And if it doesn't, who cares? At least you got to do what you love.

Carry on

Download here or listen on line

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Path to Getting Published Part 4: Query Letter and Debut Novel Length

A Lesson in Query Letters and Debut Novel Length

I started my second novel two years ago, the first one being a learning experience and is collecting dust in some digital folder someplace. The content for the new book, perhaps my very first true muse experience, started with a flash of a scene that was so clear and vivid, I had to write it down. No laptop and my handwriting is crap, so I typed it in an email on my phone. Wish still had that email, but it's long lost in a cyber trashcan someplace. After that the story just kind of started writing itself.

It felt like someone was handing me the content. That somehow I was cheating and at any time someone, someone with actual talent, was going to call me on my bluff and my story would be done. But that didn't happen.

On the journey I only did the smallest amount of research and almost never talked about my writing. This was mostly because I was worried I would jinx whatever voodoo, disrupt the energy, kill the mojo, or whatever it was that was making things work.

I remember reading an acknowledgement section where the author said he was giving his book away because he ran out of content before he reached the minimum 100,000 words his publisher required. I was about 50,000 words into my own book by then, so I that's where I threw down the flag. 100,000 came and I remember internally doing back flips in celebration.

Cue ominous book too long music

Then I kept going. Right. Cue book-too-long ominous music. A few months later I finished my first manuscript at just over 170,000 words.

I was ecstatic! That was awesome! Booyah!

Editing took nine months and when I finished I had an 180,000 word behemoth. See I'm a put-'er-inner not a take-'er-outer. Still thinking I'm doing okay, I went through and "killed my darlings" taking out excessive adjectives and even pulling an entire story line, creating a novella from that content. Still, even after all that it was still 157,000 words long. Sweet! If 100,000 was good, 157,000 was even better, right?

Those of you in the know are shaking your heads. Right. I know I missed a memo somewhere.

Someone missed a memo
The moment of reckoning came when I posted my query letter on Agent Query for critiquing. I found the link to the site on Dee Ann Waite's blog entry Are You Really Ready to Publish?. Guess what the number one thing they said? WAY too long. The actual comment was, "No agent in their right mind would sign a 160k word debut novel." You have to appreciate Yuffie's candor.

What? No way! Google will justify my indignation! Only it didn't. Nor did an email to Dee. Both confirmed the absolute maximum for a debut novel is 120,000 words, but more in the 85-95k range is preferred. It's too expensive to print such ginormous tombs for a new authors. Plus, does your novel need to be that long? Really? No, probably not.

Google to the rescue!
So the last couple of days I have been figuring out what to cut. NOTHING! Screams part of my mind. But the more I've worked on the query letter, the more I've realized what the core focus of the book is and just how far I tend wander off the path from The Phone Rang... to the The End.

Another revision of the query letter, a printout of the MS, and a sharp #2. No more put-'er-inning, only take-'er-outing with some reworked content.

This has been a roller coaster, dipping into the disheartening and stressful with short peaks of optimism. Needless to say not much else is on my mind as of late. It doesn't mean the end of my writing career, it's just a milestone. A smack-along-side-the-head learning experience. Plus, writing a query letter, summarizing your book in a few short sentences is a bitch.

I have challenged myself to see how much I could take out and still have a great story. With that in mind I'm grinding my pencil and checking my ego.

Take-aways for debut novelists:
  1) Novel word length goal: 80,000 to 95,000
  2) Query letter word length: 250-300
  3) Visit QueryShark.BlogSpot.com for query samples. Agent Janet will critique your letter for you
  4) Writing a query letter is hard work. No two ways about it. No shortcuts.
  5) Visit Agent Query for more help on your query letter.
  6) Your letter is more than just to get an agent. Use it to help you focus on the core of your novel. The two actually go hand-in-hand.
  7) After you are done editing, spend a few bucks and print your book. Then get a pencil and start marking things off that need to be cut.
Stephen King says it's about story and it's only about story. Thank you again, Mr. King. Right as always.

Carry on.