Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Part 4 of 6 Publishing Hurdles - editing, editing, and more editing

As most authors my know, a single book may take several dozen readings before it is ever finished.  This is an arduous task that isn't to be taken lightly, and can sometimes be the difference between quitting and publishing.

Now, some books, I will admit, you just need to be quit.  Start something new.  But for those who do not, editing can be a rewarding task.

Editing is, probably, one of my favorite parts about writing--well, that's not true, I love all parts of it, from the idea stage up to and including publication.  But editing has a special place in my heart.  I get to shape a story from being okay to good, and from good to . . . a little higher.

It is also a HUGE hurdle.  More time is probably spent editing your book than any of the other hurdles combined, with the exception of waiting on publication--traditional, that is.  But that hurdle will have to wait.

How do you edit?

To each their own.  I know that's a crappy answer, but each writer takes to editing a bit differently.  I could tell you how I do it, and how it has evolved.  For that, just click on the "editing" tag along the bottom of this post for various tips I've used.

I do have one suggestion: read it aloud.  If you stumble when you're reading it, you might want to rewrite the passage.  Constantly be asking questions about the story, on how to improve it.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Tales of a diabetic father: dealing with rebellion

Rebellion for a young diabetic all comes down to control.  They want some.  Especially in a world where they seem to have none.

They're being controlled in what they eat, what they can do, what they can drink.  Virtually their entire life is turned upside-down due to this disorder.

So they rebel.

Food seems to be the one area where young diabetics rebel first.  This can either be two-fold: they refuse to eat or they sneak/horde food.  Both can be dealt with easily enough, but you need patience.  Remember, we're talking about control here.  If the diabetic perceives they're more in control, the less apt they are to rebel.

Refusing to eat can be dealt with simply making something they like.  You need to be reasonable, of course.  You just can't let them eat chocolate cake all they want.  Our oldest son has never liked mashed potatoes.  So, whenever mashed potatoes are on the menu, we make him a baked potato--which he likes.  Go figure.

Sneaking and hording food is a bit more difficult, as you have to be constantly vigilant.  As our son's dietician said to us, "Feed him until he's full."  So, we feed him until he's full.  Then, when we catch him not sneaking food, we praise him.  We remind him if he does.  It's difficult not to get angry, especially when you're on a strict budget.  Ask your dietician for ideas on how to make your little one more full.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Why don't we hear about the failed stories?

Carrie wasn't the first book Stephen King published.  It was, in fact, his third--that is, if you don't count all of the others.

Because I'm sure there were.

How about all of the stories Tom Clancy wrote before Hunt for Red October?  Or the stories J. K. Rowling wrote before she came upon Harry Potter?  A Time to Kill I'm sure wasn't John Grisham's very first attempt at a book.

Why is it we never hear about the trunks of failed stories our favorite writer has stored in their attic?  The ones they wrote before they were published?

We only hear about the successes.  And, because of it, everyone thinks you need just one book to put you on the map to publication.  I don't know how many times I've heard, "If I can just write this one book, I'll be set for life."  Not true.

Brandon Sanderson, acclaimed bestselling fantasy author, has publically stated that he wrote 12 novels before he was ever published--that's impressive, dude!  And do you know what he was doing with those 12 novels?  Learning.

Learning the craft of writing by . . . well, writing.

And that's what all of the other writers were doing too.

So write and fail.  And keep failing.  Because at least you're doing something.  Then, one day, when your skills are honed like a razor-sharp knife, you will be ready . . . and published.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Happenings In The Outhouse 26-Jul-2013 / New thriller

Yesterday, I completely revamped my current project list--okay, completely may not be the right word, but I did change it up a bit.

I do have sequels in mind for Beholder's Eye, in a series I'm calling the Central Division Series.  I started one years ago, only getting the first four chapters down before stopping.  Guess when I wrote them?

In December . . . 2004!

Needless to say, those few chapters need a lot of work.  Scratch that, I'm completely rewriting them--there's that pesty word again, completely; even here it's not true.  I'm keeping the bones of it, but fleshing it out greatly.

These past few days, I've been thinking about how the thriller will go, plotting and outlining in my head.  At this point, I believe I'm ready to start writing.  I know where it's going to end.  I'm excited for it, because the journey I'm going to take in the first draft will be interesting how it'll all turn out.

This Wednesday was also our Permanent Ink writers group meeting.  Only one other was in attendance.  The meeting went well: I shared half of a short story, which will end up being my next submission to the Writers of the Future contest.  Evelyn shared a story she'll be submitting soon regarding her husband's life on the farm where he grew up.  It's very interesting, these stories from the past.  I can't wait for them to be published, so I can share them with all my readers.

Lastly, I got some great news regarding Beholder's Eye.  It was rejected by the small press.  Good news, you say?  Yes.  I would've taken any news as good, because them the story will have a direction towards publication.  At this point, I'm trying to nail down a cool cover, and then it'll be up on the Kindle shortly.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Part 3 of 6 Publishing Hurdles - finish the first draft

The first two hurdles are: one, coming up with an idea; two, starting the first draft.

Number three is finishing the first draft.  I don't know how many times I've met someone who's started a book but never finished.

You need to finish.  Finishing your book is a huge accomplishment.

Start by setting a daily or weekly word count goal.  It can even be 100-200 words a day (which isn't much, but over time the words will add up).  Then, after a few days or weeks, slowly increase the word count.  It's okay at first to not write everyday.  Go every other day, if you want.  Or just on weekdays--or weekends.  Although I do not suggest the latter because there's too much time between the weekends.  You really need to be working during the week too.

Ideally, write every single day.  Even if it's a small word count.

Take a 75,000 word novel.  Break it down into 500-word days.  That's 150 days.  5 months.  If you were to increase it to 1K or even 2K a day, you see where the number of days is shorter (a 75K word novel, in 2K a day chunks, can be completed in a little over 37 days!)

Set a goal.

Then achieve that goal.

Then, strive to exceed the goal.  You can do it.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Don't forget the pain

Like so many others, I recently avoided going to the dentist.  Not because of a routine cleaning and check-up.  Those are scheduled six months in advance.  But this time, I had a filling come out one of my back teeth a few weeks ago and I thought I could avoid going in until my next appointment--in September!  Then, that tooth started to hurt.  Real bad!  There's a scene in Cast Away where Tom Hanks's character takes an ice skate to extract a tooth that's causing him a great deal of pain.  Trust me, I've thought about taking such drastic measures, especially when the pain became so great and both the ibuprofen and Orajel weren't working fast enough.

Then, when the pain went away, so did my need to call the dentist.

At least, until the pain returned.

In our lives, we come across times that cause us pain--a heart attack, a cancer scare, a home foreclosure, a vehicle repossession--and we work hard to allieviate the pain.  We do this by exercising, eating healthier, working harder, starting a business, or all of the above.  Then, once the pain subsides, we seem to forget all about it.  We go back to eating all the wrong foods or not working as much or saying "I'll exercise (or write) tomorrow."  We forget about the pain.  We obtain another credit card or another loan, forgetting how those scumbags treated you the last time when you couldn't pay.

And this time will not be any different.

Always remember the pain.  Because if you don't, the pain will return and you'll kick yourself for not doing something about it.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Happenings In The Outhouse 19-Jul-2013 / Podcast hiatus

It wasn't until recently that I realized just how many podcasts I listen to--that number near the 20 mark.  Some I just started listening to in the past month or so while others I've been listening to for the past few years.  Some I download from the computer and put on my MP3 player (no, I do not own an iPod and I'm okay with that), and others I listen to on the Stitcher app on my android phone.

And now I'm about to say goodbye to several of them.  It may be a short period of time, but right now I have so much on my plate that I find I cannot fit the time for all of them.  Instead of listening to podcasts in the car, I spend my daily drive to work and brainstorm stories.  The same with chores, like washing dishes or mowing the lawn.

I need a break.

Because I also realized many of the podcasts weren't helping me on my writing.  A few I will still listen to on a regular basis, and that number is around a half-dozen.

I'm working on the finalized edits for Beholder's Eye.  I also am still working on the hard edits for a horror novel I wrote years ago.

I'm also participating in the Write About 2013 summer lecture series by Brandon Sanderson--this is the main reason I'm holding back on the podcasts, for I want to learn a lot from this master of the storytelling craft.

My ebook Guest of Honor is available on the Amazon Kindle store.  For the price of a cheap cup of coffee, you can buy and enjoy my book.  It also has a short story and a chapter excerpt too for Beholder's Eye.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Dusting off the old trophies

As I stated in last week's "Happenings in the Outhouse", I'm editing an old manuscript.  And I mean, it's anywhere from 8-10 years old.  I've gone through it from time to time over the years, and just when I think it's perfect, I'd send it out to agents.

This is one book I've gotten quite a number of bites on over the years.  Several agents have even asked to read a partial.  But, time and time again, they've all said the same thing: it needs work.

Yes it does.

I don't recommend going through old manuscripts, but from time to time, some of the stories you've written could warrant seeing the light of publishing.  With a strong editing hand, that is.  I'm learning a lot by going through it, and I'm only on the first few chapters.  I'm making it much, much better.

I don't write for the market, yet in this case I'm making an exception.  This book has zombies in it.  In watching both Season 1 and 2 of The Walking Dead on Netflix and World War Z in the theater, zombies seem to be making a comeback--although I wonder if they ever even left.  My zombies are more like WWZ yet they play a small part.

In looking back at my other old manuscripts, there's one more I'd like to tackle soon, but for now it's going to sit on the backburner.  Sorry to sound so cryptic, but let's just say it's a cross between Nightmare on Elm Street and the Boogeyman.  That's all I'm going to say about that.  Oh, I almost forgot, I have a little bit of The Exorcist thrown in too.  But that's for next year.  If at all.  It's been several years since I've looked at that one.

What can entertain you for less than an hour and cost $1.99?  You got it, it's my ebook Guest of Honor which is available on the Amazon Kindle store.  I also have a short story and the first chapter of Beholder's Eye in it too.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Tales of a diabetic father: the dangers of complacency in diabetes (and what we can learn from a Matthew Broderick movie)

Our family had an emergency this past Saturday night: we lost our daughter's insulin pump somewhere between our local pool, my sister-in-law's van, and our house.  Needless to say, we were in a panic.

I'll spare the details of the ordeal, but rest assured we found the pump by our front door--amidst a pile of shoes in the corner--the next morning.  For a good 12+ hours, we had to rely on insulin pens (which my daughter hated!) to deliver insulin and kept an all-night vigil every 2-3 hours.

We became a victim of complacency.  And for diabetics, this is a very bad place to be.  Instead of constantly wanting to know where the pump was and making sure she wears it at all times, we fell into a mode that could've turned out dangerous.

Raising diabetic children requires us parents to have a constant vigil.  I'm reminded of the Matthew Broderick movie from 1983 called War Games.In particular, the DEFCON mode of the country, with DEFCON 5 being completely safe and DEFCON 1 being World War III.  Dealing with diabetes requires parents to be constantly in that DEFCON 2 or 3 mode, and ready to move to 1 at a moment's notice.

Even though emergencies may be far and few between, they can happen.  And many of those times can be preventable, as we become victims of complacency.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Part 2 of 6 Publishing Hurdles - starting the first draft

You've decided on a story idea.  What's next?  Write the first draft.

Sounds easy, but it's harder than one thinks.  Do you outline ahead of time or do you just write it "by the seat of your pants"?  Perhaps I should have a part 1.5 or something to deal with the planning of your novel, but I can throw it all in here.

Set a goal.  A daily word count.  Start small, like 100 or 500 words.  Commit to writing this amount every single day.  If you find it difficult, plan ahead.  Outline if you have to.  But write.  Having a daily writing goal will keep you accountable to yourself.  Write this number down somewhere.  Total it up for the week.

Then, as the weeks go by, increase this amount.

Before too long, you'll have 20,000 or 50,000 words under your belt.  How long should this take?  To get 50,000 words, which is short for a novel, you need to write 500 words a day for 100 days.  A little over 3 months.  Average novel length is at least 75,000 words.  Many fantasy novels are over 150,000.  That will take you almost a year to complete the 150K mark at 500 words a day.

But completing the novel will be part 3.  Because I've run into so many people who can't even get past this hurdle.

Commit to the daily word count.  Write it down.

Good luck

Be sure to check out my ebook Guest of Honor available on the Amazon Kindle.  For you Kobo book lovers out there, Guest of Honor on Kobo is also available.  Please review it as well.  It would be greatly appreciated.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Happenings In The Outhouse 12-Jul-2013 / Busy times

Busy times abound!

Between writing and a recent surgery for my wife, I have to say, "Life sure ain't boring!"

First and foremost, my wife has been having eye complications since around October 2011.  Lately, though, they have gotten worse as she developed an ulcer in her eye.  Long story short, Tuesday this week she had a partial cornea transplant--she's still in pain, but it will subside and she'll be able to see better.  This all stems--no pun intended--from her stem cell transplant on September 1, 2011 to help cure her Acute Myeloid Leukemia.

Fingers crossed, she's still in remission . . . and on the road to improved health.

For writing, I'm literally in the middle of three writing projects.  I am working on the final-final edits to Beholder's Eye.  The main edits were done late last year, but I re-read it again as well as had a beta reader go through it, and I'm fixing a few minor mistakes.  Other than that, I'll good with it.  I'll still wait for the small press to finish looking at it, and if they pass on it . . . well, then it's off to the Kindle store!

Next is the major revision of a . . . horror novel, a small-time zombie apocalyptic novel I wrote years ago and am completely re-writing it.  I'm only on the first three chapters, and so far they're turning out great.

Lastly is the online class I'm participating in by Brandon Sanderson on the Write About site, and it's the 2013 Summer Class.  It's great fun, and so far I'm learning a lot.

And of course, I have to mention that my novelette Guest of Honor is available on the Kindle store for $1.99.  It's a suspenseful thriller that crosses the lines of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre and the serial killer Ed Gein.  Please pick it up by clicking on this link, and when you get a moment, I'd be grateful if you'd write a review.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Obituary of a loser

Not really sure why--although I'm positive Dr. Freud would just love to get me on the couch to talk about it--but lately I've been reading a lot of obituaries.  Some are fascinating, the deceased person having lived such a full, abundant life (some even accomplishing much in a short amount of years) while others . . . are downright boring.

If you want to do something, don't wait until you're on your deathbed and wonder what in the hell you ever did with your life.  Do it now.  Start.  Set goals.  Accomplish them.

Read the biographies of accomplished people and be inspired.

What would your obituary say?

Accomplish something!  Do something productive, instead of sitting on the couch for hours each day watching TV.


Then do.

If not for the world, do it for your life.  Accomplish so much that even your obituary is inspiring.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Tales of a diabetic father: packing extra for trips

Last week, over the Fourth of July, I took my wife and our oldest son to Rochester, MN, as my wife had an appointment at the Mayo Clinic.

Our son has type 1 diabetes.  He is on a Medtronic pump, and has been for over seven years.  And there is one thing about pump-users: there is a lot of equipment to bring.  Even for an overnight trip, like this one was, we still had to bring an extra reservoir full of insulin and 2-3 infusion sets, just in case.

Because you never know when things go wrong.  Even if you're not a pump-user, things can still go wrong.  Sometimes we over-prepare for trips, and feel stupid for doing so, but when the crap hits the fan we're glad for the extra supplies.

I checked our son's insulin level on the reservoir before leaving.  It was half-full, which should've been more than enough for the trip.  It wasn't.  As we left Rochester Friday, our son said, "Ah, Dad, I only have 3 hours left on the pump."

This was three hours with no bolus activity.  Not good.  Especially for a 7-8 hours trip.

Needless to say, we're glad we had the extra reservoir of insulin packed.

Monday, July 8, 2013

To swear or not to swear

Vulgar language can be a sticky subject.  If you swear, it may turn some people off.  If you don't, it may sound unrealistic--depending on the circumstances.

My very first novel--a deer hunting horror story--was about five guys who went off hunting together each November, and boy oh boy did they swear.  Fuck this and fuck that, with a few shits and goddamns thrown in for good measure.  And, of course, can't forget the (ironic) mother of all vulgarity: motherfucker.

By the time I had five novels under my belt, the amount of swearing went down.  Dramatically.  Why?  It wasn't that I was a prude.  I'm not.  I can use profanity like a sailor, and in many cases I'm not proud of it--especially when it's been pointed out.  But in my writing nowadays, I only put it in if it fits the circumstances.

When I edited Beholder's Eye, a thriller about a police investigator who's daughter is kidnapped by a serial killer, I noticed that when I have dialogue between the two main characters--both investigators for the Minneapolis PD--they don't swear very much.  Do they need to?  I decided not to.  I worked as a cop for roughly a dozen years, and trust me not all cops swear.  Some do.  And some do a lot!  But not all.

It has nothing to do with vulgarity lacking nobility--I believe this was a line taken from the movie Misery.  If it fits, put it in.  If it doesn't . . . then don't force it.

But, by God, if you really need a character to say "Fuck!" don't substitute "Fudge-muffin!" or, worse yet, "F%#@!"  You'll just make yourself look stupid.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Happenings In The Outhouse 05-Jul-2013 / Cancer and Critics

This has been a whirlwind week--and it has nothing to do with it being Independence Day yesterday.

Monday morning I completed my inspirational novella tentatively titled "Sorry, Lord."  It turned out better than I expected, and for now it's going to sit in the digital drawer while I work on other projects.  Currently, it's a little over 15K words, which means technically it's a novelette (SFWA rules dictate novellas start at 17,500 words).  But, after I start editing it, it'll be well over the 17.5K mark.

I'm also submitting writing to an online class taught by Brandon Sanderson called Write About  Besides the online lessons, writers are asked to submit a piece of original writing every week and critique four other writers' writings.  I'm having a blast reading all the new stories, and I'm even loving the critiques I've been receiving.  Some good and some not-so-good.  Doesn't matter.  I want to grow much better as a writer and I want the harsh critics.  A few don't like my present tense style, but have backed it up with a note that it's a personal preference.  I'm learning, and that's all that matters.

Cancer sucks.  Let's make no bones about it.  Virtually everyone knows someone who has been struck down by cancer in one form or another.  Our family, up until roughly two years ago, seemed to be pretty well immune to it--aside from two grandfathers, one who battled leukemia and lost while the other battled prostate and won.  For now.  There are other shirt-tail relatives, but by and large it didn't seem to affect us greatly.

Until two years ago.

My wife was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia.  Long story short, she's still in remission (thank God!) but has had other complications.  Namely with her eyes.  She is legally blind and is fighting to keep the sight she has left.  On the day of this posting, we'll be in Rochester, MN at the Mayo Clinic for another appointment to check her eyes.

Cancer sucks.  This week, a guy my wife met when she was battling her leukemia lost his battle with leukemia Wednesday.  He was in his mid-twenties and fought more than anyone I know.

Yeah, cancer sucks.  I just wish Bill Gates would funnel some of the money he's using to make new toilets or battle malaria (yes, all worthy causes) and help battle cancer.  I understand it's a complicated battle.  But I do believe it's one we can win.

Then one day we can all cheer: RIP CANCER!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Part 1 of 6 Publishing Hurdles - where do your ideas come from?

Getting published, either self-published or traditional, is difficult.  It requires hours upon hours of hard work, and it is a long path few people successfully achieve.

In August last year, I wrote a popular blog post titled: The Perpetual Bell Curve of Becoming a Published Writer.  I wrote it on a whim, when I looked at the rocky road to becoming published, and realized it looked like a bell curve--or a series of them, almost like a wave.

I decided to take the bell curve scenario now and chop it up, examining each piece in individual posts.  I came up with at least 6 "hurdles."

The first hurdle is coming up with an idea.

Everyone gets ideas.  There isn't a person I know who hasn't said at one time or another, "Man, I've got this great idea for a book!"

But here's the problem: they did nothing with the idea.  The first hurdle is taking the idea and forming it into a story.

What if vampires invaded a small New England town and took it over?  Enter Stephen King's Salem's Lot.  What if a young lawyer, fresh out of law school, was hired by a law firm who happened to do business with the mob?  Enter John Grisham's The Firm.  What if a young orphan boy discovered his parents were wizards--and he is too!  Enter J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter series.

These ideas are simple.  And there's nothing stopping you from creating your own.  Here's an exercise: take a blank sheet of paper and sit somewhere (preferably not at your computer) and write down 20 story ideas.  Do this for a week--not including weekends.  You'll end up with 100 story ideas.  I listened to a podcast recently where the author forced himself to come up with a new story idea every single day.  Including weekends.

You also need to make it easy to write down your ideas.  Put them in your Smartphone, write them on a piece of paper, text it to yourself, e-mail it to yourself.  I have a TASK feature on my phone, and that's where I story a lot of my ideas.

What tricks have you used to keep track of your ideas?  Please feel free to leave a comment.  Also, if you have any brainstorming tips, I'd love to read about it.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Tales of a diabetic father: a math lesson for the younger diabetic children.

This past year, my seven-year-old daughter was in the first grade.  She loves school, and near the beginning of the year one area she was having troubles with was math.

It wasn't that she was failing.  Lord, no.  But she was having a little troubles with addition and subtraction.

Then, I decided to make a game out of her blood sugar checks.

Let's say we check her blood and her reading is: 145.  I then ask her, "Okay, what's 1 plus 4 plus 5?"

She'll think and think . . . then say, "Ten!"

Yes!  She is so proud of herself.

Now, so many months later, we still do it.  It's a little game we play, which gets her to start thinking of addition in her head.  There are times when she counts on her fingers.  No problem.  At least she's thinking about it.

And loves it!

Here's the cool part: it even gets her to remember what her blood sugar is afterwards too, later in the day.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Half-year review. How are you doing on your goals?

Yesterday, as I flipped my three calendars for the next three months--yes, I have three calendars in my office, the first one showing the current month and the next showing two months out--I realized the year was half over.

Can't believe it's gone by so quickly.

Then, I perused my 2013 goals.  I'm still a long ways from completing a lot of them, but then again I have accomplished much so far.  Some are close to being completed, and a few others are "pie in the sky" goals.

How are you doing?

What do you need to do to accomplish some goals?

What are you waiting for?  The year will be done before you know it, and then you'll complain that you accomplished nothing.  For once in your life, do something that matters.

Do it today.  Not tomorrow.  Not next week.  Today.

Your life, and the world, depends on it.