Tag Archives: query

Self-Publishing – Is It Freedom?

Hi everyone!

Image Source - http://carlywatters.com/
Image Source – http://carlywatters.com/

Today I came across a blog article by one of my favorite bloggers, Carly Watters, the article was called “5 Things You Didn’t Know About Querying as a Debut Author”  First and foremost, if you are a debut author looking to find an agent, check out that article.  She makes 5 very excellent points!

In fact, what she said in that article really helped give me some perspective on agents.  First, and I think this is the most important part, agents are individuals with individual tastes that are as varied as readers’ tastes.  Keeping that in mind, chances are good there is an agent out there somewhere who would love to see and represent your work (and mine :D heheh.)

Image Source - Unknown
Image Source – Unknown

Second, agents aren’t “creatures of the night” or scary monsters.  They really are people.  More to the point, they do what they do because they love to read.  Which means agents, good agents, want to read debut authors.  They are excited about finding new talent to bring to the world, not just for everyone else’s enjoyment, but for their own as well.

However, another thought occurred to me as I read through Ms. Watters’s article: relief.

Relief that my choice to self-publish The Sword of Dragons means I don’t have to worry about refining my query letter or synopsis.  I don’t have to wade through the vast sea of agents to find one whose interests may coincide with my story.  Relief that I don’t have to hit that dreaded ‘send’ button when I query.  Relief that I don’t have to get any more rejection letters.

Well, no more rejection letters for The Sword of Dragons.  I do still want to one day go down the path of traditional publication for one of my works.  Why?  Because I want to see my book on bookshelves at Barnes and Noble or The Tattered Cover (it’s a Denver thing :) ) Right now, print-on-demand doesn’t really allow for that, nor do eBooks.

Image Source - https://cbsdenver.files.wordpress.com
Image Source – https://cbsdenver.files.wordpress.com

So there will still be query letters in my future, and, I hope (crossing my fingers) an agent :)

But I just have this incredible sense of relief that I no longer have to query for The Sword of Dragons.  My writing future, this novel’s future, it’s in my hands.

I kinda like that :)

I do know that I have a ton of work ahead of me.  I also recognize that I probably don’t even know the half of it.  I’ve already put in more work than I anticipated just formatting the novel for createspace.com.

But it’ll be worth it in the end.  Of that I am certain :)

Oh and I know I promised the abstract last week, but I had to be sure it would fit in the cover’s back page.  Well it didn’t, so I have pared it down.  If it fits in with the cover, this will be the first place I post the abstract, I promise!

Thanks for reading!
-Jon Wasik

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Writing Critique Groups

Hi everyone!

First I want to apologize for how long it has been since I wrote a blog entry.  Two weeks to the day!  :-\  It has been a very busy couple of weeks, and a bit of a roller coaster.  Okay more than just a bit!

But, on the bright side of things, I have completed the revisions to Chronicles of the Sentinels – Legacy, and only need to finish up a query letter and synopsis, and then I’m ready to send my pages to Ms. Diver!  I’ll post the manuscript’s stats at the bottom of this article :)

On to the subject matter for today’s article!  And this has a lot to do with becoming published and/or finding an agent.

The Other Half of the Job

Now before anyone says anything, no, I am not down-playing the importance of writing skill.  No matter what, you must have a quality piece of writing in order to have a chance at either mainstream publication or making your self-published work sell.

Having said that, I have learned this year just how important it is for a writer to get out from behind the pen and actively work on getting your name out there, or going out and meeting other writers, meeting publishers and agents face to face.

In general, writers are by nature introverted to some extent.  (This is not a universal truth, however!)  And I used to have the naive impression that all writers had to do was write, and then leave the rest up to the ‘professionals.’

I was wrong.  I’ve been learning all about what a writer should do beyond writing this year, and honestly is part of the reason I started this blog, and started my facebook page.  Whether you’re self-publishing or going main-stream, it is chiefly the writer’s responsibility to promote themselves and their work, to get their name out there.

Image Source - RMFW.org
Image Source – RMFW.org

Beyond even that, however, is the ‘mingling’ part.  And yes, RMFW’s Colorado Gold Conference and my experiences there is a big reason behind tonight’s blog!

If you haven’t read it yet, read my blog that details my experiences there!  I met so many different writers, which in and of itself was incredible!  More than that, I got to meet editors and agents, and pitch to one, which led directly to finding an agent interested in my work!

The lesson learned there was that my one weekend at the conference was far, far more productive than cold-mailing query letters out.  Now of course, there is no guarantee that you’ll have any success going to such conferences.  You really must have a good product to sell, be a person an agent or editor wants to work with, and have a good pitch!!

There’s also something else that I am going to highly recommend all writers do…

Writing Critique Groups

kevin-wolfWhile I was at the conference, I was encouraged by Kevin Wolf to join a local critique group hosted by RMFW.  I’ve now been to two sessions, and I have to say that it is an incredibly helpful resource!

Not only do you get to meet and collaborate with other writers regularly, but you get multiple eyes on pieces of your work, which allows for a wide range of view points, opinions, and suggestions!  Plus if you’re lucky, you’ll have published writers in your group that could potentially give you advice in other aspects of the industry!

Having said that, I should caution that not all critique groups are alike.  I was lucky to have found a great group my first time out, but I’ve heard horror stories.  So I would recommend checking around, and if your first venture into a critique group doesn’t go well, look for another one, but don’t give up!

I know that those of you who live in a small town might not have such a group.  I have two recommendations.  First, there are online critique groups, so just do a search on the internet!  Second, try to create one in your area!  I would be willing to bet that there are at least a few writers even in the small towns :)  And even if that’s not the case, it can’t hurt to try!

So what do you all think?  Are there other resources ‘out there’ that you would recommend on top of this?  And if you do go out and find a critique group, or are already part of one, I’d love to hear about your experiences with them!  So please leave a comment below :)

Chronicles of the Sentinels – Legacy Revision

So as promised, here are the stats for the revised version of Chronicles of the Sentinels – Legacy, now marketed as an Adult Modern Fantasy novel :)

Word Count: 75,237
Page Count: 231

Photo Source - http://mainlineoptix.com
Photo Source – http://mainlineoptix.com

It’s a marginal increase, not the 80,000 words I was wanting, but I was grateful for the opportunity to flesh it out without worrying about making it too long.  I feel like anything extra added to the story would be arbitrary at this point.  This increase doesn’t come from big chunks tacked on here and there, either, every single chapter has been modified to some extent, little modifications here and there.

This includes fleshing out Alycia’s character more, so I am very pleased with that :)

I’ll be sure to let everyone know when I finish my query and synopsis and send it out!  Thanks for reading.

-Jon Wasik

Colorado Gold Conference 2014!

Hi everyone!

So yesterday the Colorado Gold Conference hosted by Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers concluded, and it was an amazing conference!  I don’t even know where to begin!  (and some voice in my head just went “From the beginning!  Duh.”)

Image Source - http://the-croods.wikia.com
Image Source – http://the-croods.wikia.com

It was a whirlwind weekend packed full of epic goodness, I met so many incredible people and learned so much!  Plus, there is some really good news about Chronicles of the Sentinels!  Shall we call that foreshadowing and leave it until the end?  As the good Belt said, “Dun dun duuunnnnn!”

There’s a lot to talk about, so bear with me!

Thursday Night – The Newbies

One thing I can say about the members of RMFW, they were all incredibly welcoming to all of us newbies!  Starting with the night before the conference actually began.  Kevin Wolf had sent out an invitation for any of the newbies showing up at the conference Thursday night to meet in the hotel lobby, and about fifteen of us showed up.

Image Source - www.westindenverboulder.com
Image Source – http://www.westindenverboulder.com

I was a bit nervous at first, but as I came down to the  lobby and found a few of the other newbies sitting and chatting with Kevin, I was immediately welcomed by such warm, open people!  Furthermore some of the bigger names for RMFW happened by while we were chatting and stopped to welcome us as well :)

When everyone was set and Kevin had given us some great tips, we went to the bar and had drinks together, exchanged business cards, and had a great time!  While I had been nervous about the conference before, that night made me feel so welcomed and so confident that I had made the right choice to come!

Friday – Masters and Coaches

Something I actually didn’t realize, because I didn’t actually read carefully enough: the conference didn’t technically start in the AM on Friday.  There were, however, Master Classes as they were called that started bright and early, 8AM.  When I found out they were optional and cost extra, I happily paid for the “So You Want To Write a Series” class, and I was not disappointed!

Image Source - www.smmirror.com
Image Source – http://www.smmirror.com

I learned so much from speaker Susan Spann!  This was a particularly helpful class for me because I have always written my stories as series, starting with my fan fiction.  I seriously don’t know if I’m even capable of writing stand-alone novels!  (Although that could be an interesting future challenge.)  I know that what I learned from her will help me immensely in the days to come.

Shortly after that 4 hour class and a quick lunch (okay that was a lie, I forgot to eat lunch that day…) I had my pitch coaching session with Heather Webb.  Naturally I was extremely nervous, and although I had prepared a pitch several days prior, when I sat down in front of her, my mind went completely blank!

Photo Source - http://www.heatherwebb.net
Photo Source – http://www.heatherwebb.net

But that was okay, because she started asking me questions about the characters and story and helped me come up with a much, much better pitch!  More than that, as soon as I started telling her about Chronicles of the Sentinels, her eyes lit up, and she was immediately hooked!  That is an awesome feeling when an established author who writes in a completely different genre finds your story idea intriguing :D

From there, I attended a couple of seminars, including an uplifting “Rejection is a Four Letter Word” seminar :)

Friday Dinner – I Found My Home

Image Source - www.westindenverboulder.com
Image Source – http://www.westindenverboulder.com

Friday night’s dinner was just as phenomenal!  I ended up sitting at Heather’s table and met some phenomenal Historical Fiction writers.  More than that, however, was the feeling that had started to build that day, and entered my conscious mind at dinner.

This is going to sound cheesy, but: I found my people!  lol.  Seriously, though, everything that had happened, I felt like I had found people who could truly understand me.  I felt like I had found a home, of sorts.  The funny thing is, about a half hour after I had that very thought, someone up on stage said something very similar :)

It occurred to me that I don’t actually know many writers in my personal life, or at least, I didn’t before now.  To be surrounded by 400 of them?!  And unlike the attitude I got from certain people at a certain university I attended almost a decade ago, everyone from every genre, including Literary Fiction, were open, warm, curious, and creative.  Everyone accepted everyone else with open arms.

Why?  Because we’re all writers.  And I’ve learned just how special that really is :)

Saturday – Pitch #1

Saturday was another full day, 14 hours non-stop just like Friday, but it was a truly nerve-wracking day!  Saturday was when I had my first pitch!  *gulp*  Worse than that, it wasn’t until 11:20AM, which meant I had the whole morning to freak out over it!

Thankfully my fellow writers came to my rescue :)  When I entered that waiting room, the first thought I had was, “I’ve seen photos of things like this, when actors and actresses are waiting to audition for roles.”  I sat down, and looked at the person next to me, who looked as nervous as I felt.  So what did I do?  “Hi, I’m Jon!”  Just like I’d already done dozens of times at the conference.

Image Source - rmfw.org
Image Source – rmfw.org

Striking up random conversation with everyone around me soothed my nerves, and seemed to help them with the same :)  When the time came, I was still nervous, of course, but the editor I pitched to, Kerri Buckley, was extremely friendly and patient!  And while Kerri was not one who represented Fantasy, she encouraged me to submit to her coworker, and said she would tell him to expect me :)

After that I had lunch, where I met even more awesome people, and finished the day of conferences optimistic and quite happy!

Saturday Night – Who Needs 2 Forks?!

The dinner Saturday night was probably the most formal dinner I had ever attended.  I’m not kidding, 2 forks, 2 knives, a dainty looking spoon, and some…interesting fancy meals.  I felt wholly out of place in my Hawaiian shirt and jeans.  But, as always, writers came to the rescue, and those at my table made me feel quite welcome :)

Image Source - www.ninc.com
Image Source – http://www.ninc.com

The Keynote Speaker was Mark Coker of the famous Smash Words website, an insanely fast-growing self-publishing eBook website!  His speech was pretty inspiring in some parts, while other parts were a bit degrading to traditionally published authors, but all in all I was impressed.  And there was one thing he said that I really loved hearing: printed books are not going away!  There is an equilibrium being created between eBooks and printed novels, and for someone who has always dreamed of seeing a hard-backed copy of my novels, that’s good news :D

Sunday – The Big Day!

Image Source - twitter.com
Image Source – twitter.com

Sunday was when I had my 2nd pitch to the agent I was most looking forward to meeting: Lucienne Diver of Knight Agency!  And thankfully, I was considerably less nervous after the incredible amount of support and interest I garnered from everyone throughout the conference!

I was totally unprepared for what happened next: I went in, met Lucienne, and at her request I dove right into my pitch.  A minute later, it was done.  Without blinking, she handed me her card and said, “Ok, I’d like you to send me 30 pages and a synopsis.”  I was completely blown away, and I can only imagine the look of surprised glee on my face!!  She wanted to see my work!!!!!  An agent was interested in my novel!  Wait, let me repeat that in it’s own paragraph for effect:

Lucienne Diver wants to see my work!

It was exactly what I had hoped for!  :)  There is more to that short, 10 minute meeting with her, but I’m going to save that for my next blog article: it deals with genre, target audience, and something about Chronicles of the Sentinels that I am most excited to share :D

After attending one more session about Theme, there was a final lunch with another inspiring speech, where I got to say goodbye to all of the fantastic friends I had met.  I have to admit, as exhausted as I was by then, I was really sad to have to go.  I felt like I was leaving my new home, just when I had found it.

What’s Next?

Next, I have some work to do on Chronicles (again, more to come on that later!  This is already a too-long article…)  I am looking forward to submitting those 30 pages and the synopsis to Lucienne, and who knows, in a couple of years, my first novel may very well be on bookshelves!

No, scratch that, I’m not going to say may.  I’m going to say will.  In a couple of years, Chronicles of the Sentinels – Legacy will be on bookshelves all over the nation!  The power of positive thinking, right?  ;)

If you’ve made it this far, kudos!  This turned out to be my longest blog article yet, but there is so much material for more articles.

To anyone who attended the event, and to RMFW, thank you for an amazing weekend, and for making me feel at home!  :)

-Jon Wasik

The Process – How I Write My Novels, Part 2

Hi everyone!

As promised, here’s the next part of How I Write My Novels.  If you missed part 1, click here!

Writing the First Draft

Photo taken by Laura Earley
Photo taken by Laura Earley

There’s no other way to say it, I love this part more than any other!  With all of the pre-writing done, I pick up my laptop, go to my favorite Starbucks, and I start writing from the very beginning.

Usually what happens is I have two windows up, one with my transcribed plot progression (not sure if synopsis is quite the right word) and the other is which ever chapter I am working on at the time.  As I go along, if I need a reminder about where I am taking the story or characters in that chapter, I look back at the other window, and then I continue writing.

For The Sword of Dragons I also have other documents on my laptop that have basic descriptions of who characters are, major cities or other locations, and descriptions of certain objects.  These files help me to ensure I keep continuity within the novel as well as from one novel to the next.  They are what are called “living documents,” I update them as I go along, they are constantly changing.  I have the feeling I’ll soon have something similar for my new novel :)

This is also the part when I get to know my characters the best.  All of the little nuances, all of the reactions, the emotions, this is when they come out, as I write the story.  I find that I can’t really plan these too well, because then they come out feeling artificial.  They just happen!

When the characters move me and drive me, that is when my best work is done.  I also discovered in The Sword of Dragons book 2 that my chapter outlines are not hard and fast rules.  If I have ideas to change or add things in as I go along, I do not hesitate, because when I do this, it’s usually my unconscious mind saying “this is boring, but do it this way instead, and it’ll be better!”  For instance, book 2 was originally supposed to be 36 chapters (not counting the prologue and epilogue) but when I finished writing, it ended up with 4 additional unplanned chapters!

Since I’m not yet living off of writing (although that has become my goal), I can’t do this every single day, so I usually end up going to Starbucks every Saturday or Sunday (or sometimes both) and I spend at least 4 hours there writing.  This usually lets me get at least 2 chapters done, depending on their length, but when I’m on a roll and the writing takes on a life of its own, I can write upwards of six chapters!

The point is, I write on a schedule.  I do this for a few reasons, first of all because I love to write so I don’t mind writing on the weekends :)  But second, if I don’t write regularly and just treat it like a ‘whenever’ kind of thing, I’ll start to slack of for whatever reasons.  This keeps me going, keeps me from falling behind.  This allowed me to completely write book 2 of The Sword of Dragons in just a handful of months!  Imagine if I could do this full time!  :)

The First and Second Proofread

Note that not once did I mention proofreading while writing the first draft.  I used to do that, I used to write a chapter, and then stop and re-read that chapter to proofread, but I attribute this, at least in part, to the troubles I had writing my first couple of novels (including the one I finished in 2004 and will never see the light of day!!)

That is because it interrupts the flow of storytelling.  Not everyone might experience that or agree with me on this, but I strongly advise against stopping to proofread every chapter.

Once the first draft is complete, I’ll usually let it sit for at least a few days while I allow the high of completing a full novel to wear off :)  My first proofread is done on the electronic version, on my laptop or desktop PC.

Reading something electronically is an entirely different experience than reading a hard-copy, or at least it is for me.  My first read-through of my manuscript usually results in minor changes, some typo and grammar fixes, etc.  But once I print out the manuscript for the second read-through, I go to town on it!  Figuratively speaking…

I don’t actually do this right away, once I finish my first proofread (which I seem to do in a couple of days) I let the novel sit for at least a couple of weeks.  This gives me some distance from the story and characters, so that I can come at it with a fresh perspective.

The Sword of Dragons book 2 page 1
The Sword of Dragons book 2 page 1

When I’m ready for round two, I print it out, and I read it with a red pen in hand.  That red pen also acts as my bookmark, because I find reading the hard-copy takes me a lot longer.  I don’t know why I go slower, but it also means I catch a lot of things I didn’t catch before.  I also write in notes for any additional paragraphs or sentences or scenes I want to add.  Some of the pages look pretty red by the time I’m done with them!

I can’t stress this enough to all writers: don’t be afraid to make big changes to your manuscript during your proofreads!  If your mind is saying something doesn’t work, trust your instinct!

Beta Readers

The final parts are pretty cool, in that I get to have eyes-on it from others.  While I saved this part for last, beta reading can be done at any time after completion of the manuscript.  For book 1, I let friends read it only after it was a polished product.  For book 2, I sent the chapters to my friends as I finished them, and then sent revisions during the 1st proofread.  (I’m still working on proofread #2).

Thank you to my friends Nick and Natalie for being my beta readers for two novels now.  You two are awesome!!

Be warned: your beta readers might have things to say that you don’t want to hear.  But remember that they don’t know the story inside and out like you do, and if they say something seems wrong or is off or is confusing, so will almost every other reader out there.  Heed their feedback!!

When all is said and done, I usually do one more hard-copy proofread, and inevitably find more typos, grammar errors, etc.  Since I don’t have an editor, this is the part when the manuscript is fairly polished, and is ready for query letters to be sent out.

Final Remarks

To be honest, without an editor, you could proofread for the rest of your life and still find things to improve.  There comes a time when you have to call it good and start to try to find an agent.  Don’t let your work become stale or stuck in ‘proofreading hell.’

I’ve heard some folks say that they start to feel down after they’ve finished writing a manuscript, like coming down from a high, but by diving into the proofreading, I find I really don’t have that sensation.  Especially since by the time I’m on proofread #2, I’m already deep into fleshing out the story for my next novel :D

Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed these articles!

-Jon

Positive Rejection – Hope From an Agent

Hi everyone!

I received an email today that positively made my spirits soar!

At this point I’ve only submitted my query letter to six agents, I haven’t “shotgunned” it out to more because I was sort of testing the waters.  This was, after all, my very first query letter, and I knew it would need work.

Kimberly-Cameron
Image source – Kimberly Cameron & Associates website

One of the agents I submitted to was Pooja Menon at Kimberly Cameron & Associates.  Most of the agents I’ve submitted to only wanted a query letter or the letter plus a synopsis, but this agency also wanted the first 50 pages of my manuscripts.

All of the other agents I’ve submitted to so far either didn’t respond or sent the standard copy/paste rejection letters, but Pooja sent a personalized response.

In and of itself I find that a little encouraging, that’s better than anything I’ve ever received previously, not just for this novel but for everything I’ve ever submitted for publication in the past.  But it was her response that made me smile.  She specifically complimented my writing and said she thought the story was interesting.

Unfortunately it wasn’t one she felt she was right to represent.  I don’t know if that’s a standard sort of way of saying “Sorry, not interested” but on the whole her email was highly encouraging :)

Writers more experienced in the search for agents might not think much of this, but I will definitely say that for me, this was a huge boon, and I am very grateful that she took the time to write a personal response!

In any case, I find that I still am having trouble writing a revised query letter to submit to agentqueryconnect.com for further critique.  I seem to be stuck on coming up with a good hook, so I’m going to do some research, find examples of good hooks, and see if it sparks some ideas for me.

Thanks for reading!
-Jon

Query Woes – How Do You Describe Your Story?

There is one thing I struggle with consistently when it comes to the world of writing: how to describe my stories.

When someone asks me “What is your novel about?” my mind immediately turns blank.  It is one of the most frustrating experiences I have ever had, and it happens to me almost daily!  Someone recently reminded me of a Doctor Who quote that applies: “You know when someone asks you what your favorite movie is, and suddenly you forget every single movie that’s ever been made?”

However, it goes beyond this.  This isn’t just a “Jonny-on-the-spot” blank moment, this is a struggle that has extended into writing query letters, and is perhaps one of the greatest obstacles I face at the moment to finding an agent.

What is a query letter?

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term, a query letter is a one-page presentation of your story and yourself that you send to literary agents in an attempt to garner interest in your work and, eventually, land an agent to represent you and your work.

Query letters have a basic formula that all writers are encouraged to stick to.  Trying any other format has been described as ‘trying to re-invent the wheel.’  There’s no need, the wheel works fine just as it is, and if you try to sell a reinvented wheel to GM or Mitsubishi, they’re just going to laugh at you and go pay lower prices for regular wheels.  Agents expect a specific format to your letter, and I have read that if you don’t stick to that basic principle, most agents will not even finish reading your query.

The format is simple: Hook, Mini-Synopsis, and Writer’s Bio.

The Hook

No, the Hook isn’t afraid of ticking crocodiles.  The hook is supposed to do just that: hook an agent’s interest and, for that matter, everyone else’s.  In one sentence (some leeway on that, but generally speaking it’s one of those rules you want to try to follow) you have to make your story seem interesting and unique, and give the agent a reason to keep reading.  If the hook doesn’t catch the agent’s interest, most likely he or she is going to stop there and send that dreaded rejection letter.

The Mini-Synopsis

This is exactly what it sounds like, a very short description of your story and the characters.  How short?  One paragraph.  How hard is it to condense your entire story into one paragraph?  Well, for a real challenge, try to describe Lord of the Rings in one paragraph.  Added difficulty: it has to be in such a way that it seems interesting, and isn’t just another fantasy epic that’s like the 50,000 other ones already out there.

Writer’s Bio

For published writers, this area is probably easy.  Describe your writing credentials.  Essentially, you’re trying to tell the agent why you’re worth the risk.  For someone who has nothing professionally published, this is pretty difficult to fill out (but that doesn’t mean you should leave it out of your query letter!)

My Struggle Writing a Query Letter

My first query letter is time stamped July 2013.  I have probably gone through 2 dozen revisions (including a few complete re-writes) and am still struggling to make it work!  I owe a lot of the progress I have made to articles such as this one.

I do realize that part of my struggle is my tendency to over-think and focus in on the details too much, but when you only have a paragraph for your mini-synopsis, focusing on the details is your worst enemy!  I also struggled with writing a 1-page synopsis, which some agents require for submissions on top of the query letter.

Until recently I’ve posted my query letters on my personal facebook page and asked friends and family for critiques, and they have been invaluable with helping me fine-tune it.  And yet I knew it still needed improvement.  The two agents I sent the latest revision to rejected my story, and I had the feeling that the query still needed work.

So I went to the forums I’d been lurking about for some time at Agent Query Connect.  I finally created an account and started responding to other writers’ posts, and then today I finally posted my own query letter for critique and advice.  I braced myself for the worst, knowing they would be brutally honest, and hoping for nothing less than that same brutal honesty!

I was not disappointed :)  Only two writers have critiqued my query letter at the time this article was written, and their critiques all touched on similar points.  My query letter is generic, it describes a story that sounds generic, and leaves the characters as unknowns.

This helped me to realize something.  In my query, I’m focusing on the story too much, and not giving enough attention to the characters.  Naturally I need to talk about the story, specifically the catalyst for the story, which is the titular Sword of Dragons, but for a moment, go back to the example of the Lord of the Rings.  When you think about the novel or the movies, what are the first things that come to mind?  Does the One Ring come to mind first?  Sure, its in the title, but is that all?  For me, it’s the characters that I think about more.  Frodo’s bravery stepping up to take the ring.  Samwise’s undying loyalty.  Gandalf’s fireworks and his love of Hobbits.  Aragorn’s steadfast leadership.  Merry and Pippin’s mischief.  Gimli and Legolas’s friendship.

The characters are what make stories worth reading.  The characters are what stick with us when we walk away from a story.  They are the ones who live in our hearts forever.

Where Do I Go From Here?

Realizing just how important characters really are, I intend to attack my next revision (or rather, rewrite) with the idea that I want to make the characters the focus.  The Sword of Dragons is the catalyst, yes, but the characters are the ones who make things happen, who fail or succeed.

I’ll be sure to keep you all posted on my progress :)  Until then, thanks for reading!  Click “Like” below if you liked this article, and click the “Follow” button if you want to know when I’ve posted more articles!

-Jon

My First Blog – A New Adventure!

Hi everyone!

Welcome to my first blog :)  My name is Jon, and I’ll be your tour guide on this crazy writing adventure!

Up front I want to tell you all what this blog is going to primarily focus on, and that is writing fiction, the trials and triumphs of trying to find a literary agent, and eventually getting my first novel published.

I hope that my blog will be helpful to other aspiring writers, but more than that I really wish to start making a connection with everyone out there who’s willing to follow this blog!  I don’t just mean other writers, but anyone and everyone!  I want to connect with my readers, and as passionate as I am about writing, I know that this blog will be a personal journey that I am excited to share with you all!

For starters, I will be writing blog entries on how I go about writing novels and short stories, including telling about my endeavors as I write them.  I also will be discussing the process of finding a literary agent, which includes the (sometimes painful) process of writing query letters and synopses.

Something else I want to do on this blog is write short stories within the same universe as the novels I am currently trying to publish, called The Sword of Dragons, and post them here for all to read!

So while there isn’t much here yet, please subscribe to my blog, because I guarantee you that there is a lot to come!!

I also would like to encourage everyone to feel free to leave comments.  Introduce yourself for starters!  My only stipulation to everyone is to please, please keep things civil.  I want this to be a blog people from all walks of life feel comfortable coming to :)

The Story So Far…

I talk a bit about my writing endeavors up to this point in the “About” section (see the link in the header), but I wanted to cover some specifics about my current project, and where I am right now in my quest for publication.  If you aren’t able to finish reading to the end of this entry, don’t worry, it’s a bit of a long story, full of evil things like writer’s block and dozens of drafts of query letters :)

The Sword of Dragons has a decade-long origin story!  Longer, actually.  When I was in junior high, I came up with a science fiction story called Star Dragon Legion.  While a future sci-fi story, it also involved magic and dragons.  Before you roll your eyes, remember that I was very young and very inexperienced as a writer :)  I never finished a novel for the series, but I wrote numerous short stories.

Fast forward to my senior year of high school, I was required to do a senior project, and I chose to do mine on writing a short story and trying to get it published.  The short story I wrote was entitled “Star Dragon Legion – Sword of the Dragon”.  In it, the protagonist was required to complete a trial by retrieving a fabled, powerful weapon, the titular Sword of the Dragon.

I never did get it published, and to be frank, it was pretty poorly written, but I learned a lot during my project, especially because I had taken my first creative writing class!

Sometime during my freshman year of college, I came up with the idea to take the basic principle of Sword of the Dragon and turning it into a full-on fantasy novel.  By the end of my sophomore year, I had finished, and that summer I sent it to a publisher.

It was rejected, and before I sent it to another publisher, I decided to do another round of proofreading.  By this time I had moved on to a 4-year college for my junior year, and was in the middle of a great creative writing class!  I had already learned so much, and so when I tried to read Sword of the Dragon, I realized how badly written it was.  I couldn’t even get through the first chapter!!

So I shelved it.  And some time later, I started a rewrite.  Shelved it.  Started another rewrite, and shelved it again.  It wasn’t until 2008 that I began what would become the final version.  By then I had graduated college and had numerous creative writing classes under my belt, so my writing style was considerably better (even today I still think the early chapters are well-written!)  I got about halfway through the novel, when… DUN DUN DUNNNN….  Writers block hit.

Evil, accursed writers block!  For the next couple of years, I struggled with writers block, and between 2008 and 2012 I only wrote 2 chapters in The Sword of Dragons!

2012 was the golden year for me.  Something changed that summer, and I picked up Sword of the Dragons again, right where I left off, and started writing like mad!

Sometime near the end of 2012 is when I finished the first draft, and I spent the next few months proofreading and getting friends to read through it.  During this proofread, I also renamed the novel to The Sword of Dragons, and by extension renamed the weapon that is the catalyst of the novel.

Next came the hardest part of all – finding a literary agent!  Which I am actually still in the process of doing.  By now I’ve gone through at least a dozen drafts of my query letter, and have written a few synposes.  I’ve submitted to only 6 agents at this time, all of whom have rejected my story.  I didn’t feel ready to “shotgun” out my query letter, and have continually tweaked it.  In a future blog post, I will be discussing an extraordinarily helpful website for query letters, and is where I plan on submitting my letter for peer review before I shotgun it out to several more agents!

In the mean time, I have written the second novel in the series, titled The Sword of Dragons – Burning Skies.  It took me about 4 months or so to write this one, I have really found my groove in writing!  I am still going through the proofreading and editing process, which I will discuss in future blog entries as well :)

There’s a lot more to talk about, but I feel like this is long enough for an initial blog entry.  You all will get to know me and my tale a lot better as time goes on, don’t worry!

Thanks for reading :)

-Jon