On Submitting a Novel

I’m trying to remember the last time I tried submitting one of my novels to a publisher or an agent, and I’m thinking it may have been at least five or six years go, when I’d just finished the final edits of A Division of Souls.  I’d submitted it and other projects off and on over the years before that, with no success.

That part was frustrating, sure, but I won’t hold it against the publishers and agents.  I get why it’s so hard to get past the slush pile.  I got over it, and it helped me take the idea of self-publishing a hell of a lot more seriously.  It also made me a better writer in the process.

During our vacation a few weeks back, I reread what I have so far of the Apartment Complex story, and I was struck at how different the style is from most of my other novels.  It’s not as frantic as the Bridgetown Trilogy, or free-floating as Meet the Lidwells, or as fantastical as In My Blue World.  It feels like a style I could really sink my teeth into with future novels.  At the risk of tooting my own horn, I think this is some of my best stuff yet.  [Even after threatening to ragequit the project in frustration earlier this year, at that!]

Dare I say, I’m rather proud of it right now.

It got me thinking — maybe this one has a good chance of being picked up somewhere?  I mean, yeah, I have a wish list of publishing houses and agencies where this would fit in quite nicely, and that’s a good place to start.

So why now, and not with the other novels?  I think part of it is due to the fact that my previous work does feel rather indie.  I’d like to think they’re decently written, but they purposely don’t have that Manhattan Literary Sheen™ to them.  [I’m not saying that as a put-down.  I say this as a parallel to, say, the loose noise of early-era Dinosaur Jr or Sonic Youth on indie labels versus their much cleaner late-period major label releases.  I produced my self-published novels to be indie on purpose rather than to attempt to conform to something more commercial.]

Simply put, the Apartment Complex story, I feel, is a story that deserves a strong platform.  I’d rather not see it fall through the cracks due to my inability to get it seen by potential readers.  It’s a story that I truly would like to share with a lot of people.

That said…I’ll have to start doing my submission search soon, because it’s been ages since I’ve looked at a Writer’s Market to see who’s out there nowadays and who’s accepting and who isn’t, and what format they prefer.

But that part’s easy.  It’s getting the thing done and all cleaned up that’s the hard part!

I’ll read to you here, save your eyes

 

doctor who matt smith reading

I’ve been working without my reading glasses lately, and strangely enough I seem to be doing better.  I have kind of weird eyesight in that I’m not entirely near or farsighted, but lately it feels like my sight is getting better for some reason.  I often wear glasses when driving or when reading, but I’m finding it harder to read with them than without them.  Especially when I’m reading text on my phone.

Yeah, I’m not sure either.

Anyway, I’ve chosen not to wear my reading glasses during Day Job hours or during writing, just as an ongoing experiment to see how my eyesight truly is.  I know there are certain things that get me dry-eyed (staring at a screen for hours, natch) and angles that give me issues (looking hard to my left, my eyes go slightly out of skew and I see double — but not to the hard right!), and I’ve been making sure I don’t ignore these issues.

Having decent vision is right up there alongside decent hearing for me.  I read and write about as much as I listen to music, and I do both FAR more than the usual person.  (I also do all the driving in this household, so I’d rather not drive like Mr Magoo, thankyewverymuch.)  I try not to overdo it, and if I do feel like I’m overdoing it, I’ll make sure I take some time to give the ol’ eyes and ears a rest for a bit.

This brought to you by a writer who needs to remind himself to keep to healthy habits more often!

Too Much Information

During a Worldcon panel the other weekend, someone had asked one of the panelists about detail in your prose; when do you need more, and when do you have too much?  It’s a very good question indeed, because it’s one of the biggest mistakes a beginning writer often makes.

I should know, because I’ve gone through both extremes.  Back in my school days, my writing lacked so much exposition that it read more like a shooting script than a novel.  A few years and a handful of trunked projects later, I finally got the hang of balancing exposition with the action and dialogue.  However, I soon slid to the opposite end of the spectrum: my prose was far too verbose.  It took a few more years before I finally found and stuck with a happy medium.

How do I handle keeping a fine balance between prose and exposition in my writing?  Good question, because half the time I’m going by instinct.  I suppose all writers have their own balance they’re comfortable with, and mine is achieved by being aware of my pacing.  It all goes back to my equating novel writing to songwriting: I go with what sounds right to me musically.

When I’m writing a scene, I’ll know ahead of time whether or not this is going to contain a lot of action and detail (fast beats, layered production, a high-powered chorus, and perhaps a middle eight to provide a quick breather before moving on again), if it’s going to be a highly emotional scene (slower pace, minimal production with detailed focus on the melody, a memorable chorus, and a solo to pull at the heart strings), or if it’s just going to be a connecting scene (short, sweet, and to the point, and the barest hint of a motif borrowed from a previous piece).

With this in mind, I’ll know when I need to fill out the scene with exposition or detail, or when it needs the barest of touches.  A connecting scene will be tedious and drag on if I decide to put an infodump there, but it’ll make much more sense if I spread it out over the course of an action scene.  Perhaps as a character slowly coming to the realization that the cousin was the murderer after all, and that all the pieces suddenly fall in to place and giving him even more reason to keep chasing this now-familiar shadowy figure in the alleyway.

Most of this is instinct to me now, because of my decades of listening, studying and memorizing different pieces of music.  I write the scene according to the pace and the emotion I’m looking for.  This is my particular style of writing so it may not work for everyone, but it certainly works great for me, and hasn’t steered me wrong yet.  I even use it now and again when I’m writing these blog entries; even if it’s only a quick five hundred words, it’s still worth it for me to make the flow and style enjoyable to you, my readers.

I can’t tell you exactly what works for you as a writer, but I think keeping all this in mind might give you an idea of providing your own answer to that question:  when do you need more information in your prose, and when do you have too much?  Listen to the pace you’ve set, and let it provide the clues for you.

All at once

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Yeah, I’m having one of those months.

I won’t go into detail, but it’s one of those times where Best Laid Plans are thwarted by no other reason than Unexpected Events.  And this time out I have a few personal issues that have popped up that are causing stress and frustration.  All I can do is deal with them, and balance them alongside these same Best Laid Plans.

It can be incredibly frustrating when this happens when you’re a writer.  You don’t want to ignore the personal issues going on, but you’d rather not put your livelihood on hold, especially when you’ve worked so hard over the years to make them happen.

The most you can do is soldier on somehow, same as if your Best Laid Plans were thwarted by the Day Job, or whatever has come your way.  For me, the most I can do is continue to find the time to push through these projects the best I can, despite it all.

Post-Vacation Exhaustion

that thing you do where was i

Note to Worldcon newcomers who typed in the URL from my freebie cards:  Hi there, and thanks for your interest!  I talk about writing a lot on this here blog, so if you have any questions on that sort of thing, by all means feel free to ask.

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Note to self: even with the best of intentions, heading out to a major convention fifty-plus miles away the day after a ten-hour flight back from London isn’t the best of ideas, no matter how you slice it.  We have been moving almost nonstop in one way or another for the last sixteen days.  Lesson learned.

We’d decided to take Sunday and Monday off from everything and just relax and catch up on what needs catching up, that way we’re somewhat conscious and rested come Tuesday when it’s back to the Day Job.  We’ve been on vacation for almost the entire month, having flown out of SFO on the 4th and joining the working world again tomorrow.  It’s only two weeks and an extra day, but it feels so much longer than that.

While I didn’t get any new words done on any projects at 750Words, I did do a hell of a lot of reading of both In My Blue World and the Apartment Complex story (as you see from the previous fly-by posts).  I focused most of my attention on the former since it’s first in the release queue, and worked my way up to about the first third of the novel.  I’ll keep this up until the run is complete and then jump in on the Big Honking Revision Process.

Which brings me to the following: I’ve noticed that my revision process has definitely changed over the past five or so years.  I’ve taught myself newer and quicker techniques, discarded my bad habit of flailing the story into shape, and paid a lot more attention to the details.  I’m sure I still have a long way to go, but I’m definitely getting there.

That said, I’ll be back to normal on Friday with more writing insights — I gave myself some time to think about new and different subjects to blog about here, and I hope you’ll enjoy the entries when I post them!

Vacation fly-by: More revision notes

I’m still going through In My Blue World and making notes on what needs fixing. There are two MAJOR fixes to be made: one, that I need to change the POV to omniscient 3rd person, and two, that a number of sequences need to be pasted together. It’ll be a big undertaking that I won’t be able to start for another week or so, which of course is making me twitchy.

On the plus side, the story itself is solid — it’s tight and there aren’t that many holes and continuity issues I need to fix. It’s only the prose (and the first chapter or so) that needs cleaning up. And the cover is already done! I’m still aiming for an October/November release at this time. *crosses fingers*

So…what about the Apartment Complex story? Good question. I’ll still be working on that when I can and take my time, as I purposely haven’t assigned a drop date for it. [There is also the cover art issue, but that’s another post entirely.].

Okay! Back to work…

Working vacation: editing notes

Aah fudge. In My Blue World is gonna need a lot of work after all, isn’t it?

Well– maybe, maybe not. My opening chapters are always a hot mess. It’s definitely going to need a lot of TLC. From what I’ve seen up to about 3/4 through, it gets much better as it goes along.

Also: it’s stupidly HOT here in London. Thankfully our room has great AC!

Fly-By: brb, going on vacation and Worldcon

spirited-away

My blogging schedule may be all kinds of screwy the next few weeks, as we’ll be:

  1. Heading out to the UK for a week and a half, starting tomorrow.  We’ll be visiting many friends, shopping at numerous stores, enjoying the free museums, and ogling the royal palaces.  And taking loads of pictures.  I may make the occasional short fly-by post just to keep things updated, but since we’ll be in a completely different time zone, don’t be surprised if they pop up at strange times.
  2. Heading to Worldcon 76 down in San Jose as soon as we get back.  I’m still looking forward to meeting up with many writer friends and chatting meeting even more for the first time.  I may not be on any panels, but I’ll still be networking and having a lot of fun.

I’ll be honest, I’m not even sure if I’ll be able to get much writing done.  I’ll most likely be doing revision work for In My Blue World and doing a read-what-I-have-so-far of the Apartment Complex story.

But I’m not complaining…we’ve been looking forward to this vacation for quite some time!  I’m looking forward to just having fun and seeing all the fun things!

We’ll be back to normal hopefully by the 20th or so!  Thanks for your patience!

On Giving Away My Books for Free

btown trilogy halfpage ad front b2

First of all:  If you’re here visiting for the first time after downloading any of the books in the Bridgetown Trilogy from Smashwords during its July book sale, hello and thank you!  I’m thrilled that you wanted to check my books out!  I hope you enjoy them!  And by all means, if you like them, please post a review on GoodReads!  That will make this writer very happy indeed. 😀

SO!  I’m sure some of you out there are wondering…why did this weirdo, who spent far too many years writing this damn trilogy, give it away in e-book form for free a few years after he FINALLY released it?

Good question indeed.  I have a few answers for you:

  1. Some time ago I put A Division of Souls up for free and kept it free, as a way to bring people into the Mendaihu Universe.  This by far has been my most regular seller, for obvious reasons.  It’s the enticement product.  It’s the register endcap.  It’s the book that says ‘hey, check this out’ and ‘if you like this, there’s two more sequels’.  I regularly get at least a few downloads a month for this one.
  2. The Persistence of Memories and The Balance of Light are at an already reasonably low price of $2.99 each.  I think of this as an analogue to mid-price cds you find at record stores…back catalog titles that are no longer consistent sellers, but are consistently available at an affordable price.  Again, this is part of the ‘long game’ process, and it’s actually worked to my expectations.  I might not get a big payout, but I’ll get at least one or two purchases every month or so.
  3. The sale is only for one month, and I know there are readers out there who, like me, get involved in a series and want to either buy the entire thing in one go, or at least be able to find and download them easily.  And everyone loves free things, right?
  4. It introduces new readers to my work.  Though I only got a few purchases since it was released, I did get a bit of interest in Meet the Lidwells, with a few sample downloads.  That right there is a learning experience; perhaps it’s that they weren’t interested in the story I had to say there, or perhaps the formatting wasn’t to their liking, or maybe it’s just not a book that many are interested in.  I’m okay with that; it’s not a science fiction novel, but a straight fiction novel in the format of a music biography.  It’s up to me to work on new promotional avenues for that one.

I haven’t yet looked at the stats for July as a whole, but from the email notifications I’ve received, between all three books I’ve gotten a good few dozen downloads and even more sample downloads.  Not bad at all.

In the meantime, I’ve put the url for this blog both on the books and on the freebie cards I’ve made.  [That’s the front of the freebie card for the trilogy above.]  I’ve been doing my best keeping this particular blog on a timely and expected schedule — and crossposted to Twitter and Facebook at that — and that has helped me gain new readers as well.  I spread out my freebie cards at all the conventions I’ve gone to as well.  All in all, from what little I’ve done so far for promotion, I’ve gotten a hell of a lot more response than I ever thought I would, so that’s saying something.  I can only imagine what the response would be once I restart the email list and start upping my promotion game!

So yeah, I’d say even though I didn’t earn a single penny this month, I got a lot of new readers, and I think that’s pretty damn cool.