Friday, September 29, 2006

Edit Induced Delirium

I had to take a break, my brain is mush. Still editing, and periodically obsessing about the first paragraph of the prologue. I think I've got it right, for now. Tomorrow I'll probably read it and feel differently. I've cut the manuscript down to 110,000 words and I've still a ways to go, and there is one fairly long passage that I know I'll be taking out. This thing might be down to 100,000 by the time this edit is complete. Fine with me. It's getting tighter and smoother with every stroke and backspace. I've continued working on the query letter, and it is getting better. I hope to get some postive responses from the recent queries, although I haven't sent it out since the most recent improvement, which I guess I made last night? Yesterday? Who cares...

My brain is tired and when that happens I start second-guessing myself on the edits. "Does this sound right? Does it need to go or just change?" My perspective gets wacked and I know it's time to step away for a while.

I've started another story and it's at about 35,000 words and the story still can't decide if it wants to be literary fiction or a thriller. It could go either way. I may have to trash the last 15,000 words. Frustrating. This is my best writing to date, and the story is just hovering out there, indistinct and ambiguous, but it's there and I can feel it's presence waiting to be defined. I haven't written anything new on it in a over a week. Focused on the edit right now. I hope that by the time I finish agonizing over Gold I'll know what the hell is going to happen with the new one. If not I might have to leave it for now and move on to another story. The sequel to Gold or something entirely new. Whatever. It's too far in the future to worry about. If it's not happening tomorrow, it's too far to worry about.

I'm done. It's time to read. I have two books going right now, Get Shorty by Elmore Leonard, and The Night Manager by John Le Carre. Polar opposites in style, but both are engaging and entertaining. Peace and scrambled eggs with cheese...

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

And again...

I'm at it again. Editing the manuscript. Cover to cover edit, particularly heavy on the first five chapters. I've edited, revised, removed, rearranged, and rewritten the first five chapters. I've adjusted the pacing, making it quicker to the action. After the prologue, that is. I've rewritten the prologue somewhat, but it was pretty fast paced already. I removed some backstory from the first chapter, trimmed it down and put it back in toward the end of the second chapter, took out some paragraphs, tightened up the dialogue tags, and really made some drastic improvements to the opening chapters. I can't believe how I continue to see ways to improve it, after having edited this thing so many times. Surely I've edited this manuscript a hundred times or more. The good news about that, the way I see it, is that it means I'm learning and getting better at seeing the weaknesses in my writing. That's great. It's also discouraging to know that I had so far to go. I guess it's a good thing that my query letter was so fucked up I hadn't gotten any requests for the manuscipt. As they say, there's a reason for everything. Now, the new and improved query letter should generate some interest, and the manuscript is getting very polished and tight. I should be through it by the end of the weekend and if I have any requests for the full from these recent queries (8 in the last two days), I'll work around the clock if necessary.

I'm into the agent blogs now, big time. What I've learned about the business of getting an agent and getting a publishing contract can't be quantified. I've learned as much from the comments as from the agents, though the ass kissers can be annoying. Miss Snark's blog has an inordinate number of ass kissers. I've never cared much for ass kissers, and some agents have a following, like groupies. They grovel for attention, and when Miss Snark should deign to mention them or in some other way show them attention, they lose control of their bladders much like a delirious puppy does. They are a relatively minor annoyance and many of the people that submit posts have constructive and insightful comments. I've learned much about the professional expectations of the agents and editors from the comments, and rookie mistakes to avoid. The format, for example; I didn't know that it was a huge faux pas (pardon my French) to have hard returns between paragraphs and not indent the first line. My entire manuscript was written like this, and evidently it is the most glaring mark of a rookie, aside from starting out the story with "Once upon a time..." Imagine my relief when I realized what a stroke of luck I'd had in not getting any requests (tongue in cheek, sort of).

But the blogs, yes the blogs. Miss Snark and Evil Editor are my favorites, primarily because not only do they provide me with immediately useful information, they deliver it with such humorous precision that I sometimes find myself laughing out loud. I'm glad I found Agent Kristin's blog, and from there the Snark and EE blogs, I feel like I'm going to school for free.

And now, back to editing...

Friday, September 22, 2006


One thing about hitting bottom: if you bounce back up it becomes easy to find things for which to be grateful.

If you've truly experienced a mental, spiritual, and physical bottom, the absolute despair and absence of hope, that constant, unyielding sense of "it is never going to get any better", you know that it is a very dark place to be. Existing in doom.

I've been there. It sucks. At the end of an extended alcohol-induced depression, I was existing in doom. I don't ever want to go there again. Staying sober isn't difficult these days, but sometimes staying sane can be. Once you've been granted a reprieve from the obsession to drink, then it becomes a question of living life on life's terms and living it right. Some days are easier than others. I can get twisted up over small stuff in a heartbeat. Let the person in front of me at the light not accelerate within two seconds of the light turning green and I'm throwing my hands up in the windshield, "What the fuck? Let's go!"

Or if life doesn't live up to my expectations in some minor way, my initial reaction will be to consider it major. Sometimes I fail to remember that what I'm going through today is preparing me for what I'll go through tomorrow or next week, and I can use that preparation to learn, or I can use it to get pissed, or sulky, or cynical. These days, I try to learn.

When I get into a rut these days, I'll slow down and take a look at the good in my life and it puts things in a better perspective. A few of the things I have to be grateful for today:

My health
My family
My friends
A roof over my head and food in the house
The bills are paid, and I can pay them next month too
The nearby ocean
My talent, such as it is
My manuscript

By the time I get that far on the list, I'm feeling pretty good. If you've got a good attitude, small shit is just small shit and it don't mean shit. Not eloquent, but I think it makes my point. Look at the big picture and focus on what's important and let the trivial shit take a ride. Learn something from it. Grow with it.

As I said, some days it's easier than others, and most days it's as easy as I'm willing to let it be. Peace and left over skeddi...

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Finding Hope

I finally feel good about my query letter. I have to thank the Evil Editor blog. Reading the facelifts he does on queries has truly helped me improve my own. I've tightened it up; it's concise but has punch. I abandoned the business letter format I'd been using, which was too wordy and lacking excitement. No wonder I've been getting form letter rejections, my query really sucked. It's discouraging, because I've queried about forty agents with shitty letters, but it's also exciting because I think I'll be getting a better response now. I'm feeling hopeful about it.

I have about fifty pages left to edit on the manuscript and it's getting pretty tight. This time, it's the discussions on Miss Snark's blog that I have to thank for helping me improve. One such discussion was regarding the over-working of dialogue tags. I found that I had a habit of doing this, adding actions to the tags, like this: "See ya later," she said, waving as she walked out the door. I did that a lot, and it isn't an absolute no-no, but you want to watch how often you do it. It can become a pattern and thus a habit, and it's lazy writing if you're doing it frequently. I've been restructuring quite a few dialogue sequences and it reads so much better.

I really believe this is a solid, publishable manuscript. I wish I had an easy way to update the chapters on my website, I've really improved the flow. There probably is an easy way, and I need to call the guy that designed my site, he can probably walk me through it. I have a fear of all things requiring geek-like abilities so I'm procrastinating on that. I need to do it though, the new revision is much better. Oh well, the manuscript will be ready when the agents ask for the full. More queries going out tomorrow with the new letter, and I'm confident I'll get some requests.

So, tomorrow my task is five queries. Email queries as much as possible, but snail mail if necessary. I snail-mailed one today, even though the agent said she accepts email queries, she prefers snail mail. So I snail-mailed it. Any little thing to get looked at.

I'll edit five more pages tonight and then sleep. Peace and skeddi with meatballs...

Saturday, September 16, 2006

A Good Saturday

It's been a good day. I woke up breathing, didn't hurt too bad, everything works properly, nothing went wrong throughout the day, my team won - convincingly, as they should have - and I lost $23 playing poker with some friends tonight. Oh well, I had fun anyway, it was a friendly game. All in all, a pretty good Saturday. It beats the hell out of spending the day on the blacktop lot of a car dealership, which I was doing not so long ago.

After I got sober three years ago, I went to work at a Toyota dealership as a way to get back on my feet financially. I've been in sales my entire illustrious business career, and I knew if I only worked hard at it that one day I would achieve the pinnacle of success and land a job as a used car salesman. A purveyor of high quality, pre-owned automobiles. Finally, I had reached this goal. It only took twenty years of hard drinking to elevate me to such a lofty status, and I was happy to be there.

Actually, I was happy to be there. While in the hospital with plenty of time to survey the wreckage that my life had become - how I ended up in this condition is obviously a long story, but it's sufficient to say that alcohol had kicked my ass - I had what some would call an epiphany. There I lay on an examination table in an hospital emergency room, deteriorated to a puny and frail one hundred and twenty pounds, internal organs screaming and shutting down, and for some reason I was still alive. I decided at that moment that whatever time I had left, no matter what condition my body was in, I would try to live it right. I surrendered with complete abandon. I was beaten, I knew this. I couldn't win the war with the bottle. But if by God's Grace I was given more time, I'd live it right. And I've tried to do this. And for that reason, when I was once again employable and was hired as a salesman for the used car department of this Toyota dealership, I was grateful for the opportunity.

I found that I could make a living selling cars. I didn't have to be pushy, lie, cheat, or be cheesy, and I did okay. The one thing that I always hated, though, was working every Saturday, especially during college football season. I'm a college football junkie, what can I say? Even so, I stuck it out and did pretty well. I was promoted into the position of selling our cars on eBay and handling our internet leads for used cars. It was a pretty good gig, actually. The money was good and the hours didn't suck too bad. This gig lasted for almost a year and a half, but it was destined to change when our General Manager was fired and a new GM was brought it. I saw the handwriting on the wall and several things came together at the right time, and I made the decision to leave the dealership and promote my book full time. That was the middle of May of this year, and for the last four months that is what I've been doing. I promote locally and market the book to agents. I've just recently begun the agent marketing but I'm in full swing now.

In the three years since I've been sober I've regained my health, worked hard and made some good decisions, written a novel, published it myself, and because of the earlier good decisions, have had the opportunity to promote it and get it out in some bookstores, do some signings, generate some local print and broadcast publicity, and I've started another novel. I'm trying to get an agent for the novel I've written and the ones that I'm working on. These things are miralces and blessings and I try to remember to be grateful every day.

It's been a great few months. I work my own schedule, which is usually mornings and evenings, and I have the afternoon to either work or play. I can switch things up as I need, and it's a wonderful thing to have that kind of flexibility. I'll make an excellent writer, once I start getting paid for it. I'll have to go back to work before I start getting paid for my writing, I'm sure. I've a budget set that when I hit a certain point, it's back to earning a paycheck, and I'm trying to make that last as long as possible. Having an agent locked up by the time I have to go back to work has been my primary goal since I started this adventure, and I'm doing my best to make it happen. And in the meantime, I enjoy my Saturdays. I'm grateful for them and I try to wallow in them all day long. I watched college football and took a nap this afternoon and it was wonderful. Almost free, too.

Are you cheering for me yet? Are you fascinated by my tales of danger and adventure and overcoming adversity? Are you fighting down a lump of emotion in your throat or is that your dinner coming up?

My brain grows weary. These perambulating ruminations have exhausted the resevoir of perspective and now I babble. That's a couple of five dollar words there. Nice work. Peace and biscuits with sausage gravy...

Friday, September 15, 2006


I'm not trying to show off. Really. I don't have many pictures of myself in digital form and of the few I do have, this is my favorite. For obvious reasons. This picture was taken last Christmas, and the three ladies are very good friends of mine and are the wives and girlfriends of some guys that are very close friends as well. Cheers!

A New Blog

I'm a new blogger here on Not a novice blogger - I've another one on a writer's community website - but I flound this place and thought, what the hey, the more exposure the better. Maybe. See, the deal is, I'm an aspiring novelist. I've been writing short stories for many years - I won't say how many - and a few years ago decided to tackle big stories and see how I do. I've written one novel - which I self-published am currently trying to sell to a traditional publisher - and I'm now working on a second, with a couple of other projects percolating on the back burner. This also explains the title of my blog. My way of making fun of myself by using five dollar words to say that this blog will consist mostly of stream-of-consciousness ramblings and occassional rants. Writing is also my way of putting some order to my thoughts, though it may not appear so here. I won't be editing heavily.

Subconsciously I'm seeking your approval, hoping that you will comment on what an insightful, witty and articulate guy I am. I hope you will be fascinated by my stories and perspective. Look how interesting I am... Just kidding. Or am I? I think anyone that puts their thoughts on the internet must be seeking something. I know I am. I'm seeking an agent at the moment.

As a first time novelist, landing a literary agent is no easy task. It is a process filled with rejection. For most writers, anyway. For me, certainly. I've queried about 50 agents so far, sending the queries out steady for about a month and a half now, and only this Wednesday have I finally had an agent request the manuscript. Requested "the full" as they say in the biz. I sent it yesterday. I'm currently going through another edit, cover-to-cover, and I hope it's polished and tight enough. I still have about 90 pages to go on this revision. I've edited this thing so many times and if he likes it enough to rep it, he'll probably have me edit another 20,000 words out of it. It was 121,000 words when I finished it and I thought I had cut it down it pretty well as I wrote. Then I went through it from page one and did a complete edit and cut out 6,000 words, and had it down to 115,000. Now, I'm 2/3 through it again and it's almost into the 112,000 range. It will be at or below 110,000 when I finish it this time, I'm sure. Depending on the feedback I get from this guy, I may hire a professional editor to work on the book. We'll see. Self-editing is a tricky business. After you've written something and reread it about twelve thousand eight hundred and forty seven times, you tend to stop seeing it, you're only seeing what you think is there. And you miss things that a fresh pair of eyes would catch. Thus the need for professional editors.

I should hear something back from the agent by next Friday, or so his email said. If he rejects it, I'll live. At least he will provide some professional feedback, which I've not received from any of the other agents I've queried. The responses to my queries - a query consists of a cover letter, synopsis, and one to three sample chapters - have been pretty much form letter rejections, or an occassional email that says "while we think your project has merit, we're not sufficiently enthused... blah blah blah..." So at least with this he will be able to tell me if it's worthy, close to worthy, or not worth the time it took to open the email. However it goes, at least I will finally have a professional opinion to consider.

Well, I think I've rambled enough for one night. Peace and warm waffles with butter and syrup...