When I was a little kid and first dreamt of becoming a writer, I never could have imagined how there is sooooo much more to it than just writing.
Don’t get me wrong, writing is very important. I’ve spent 20 years honing my craft, and I intend to never stop striving to be better, no matter how good I become. If I somehow become the #1 best selling fantasy author in the world (if only) I will never stop trying to one-up my writing style, my stories. I want to be better.
But 7 months after publishing The Sword of Dragons, one thing has become very, very clear to me – writing is only part of the job.
Let’s pretend for a moment that I had published via the traditional method: found an agent, who found a publishing house, who paid me up-front for my work and helped with a lot of the ‘other stuff.’ That still would have left me with a lot of work to do.
As the author of my novels, I am the one best qualified for promoting it, and I believe that rings true for all writers. You know your target audience. You know your novel. You know its strengths, its highlights, what makes it worth reading.
But promoting it, and building a platform, is in and of itself is a full-time job, I’m discovering. And right now, I still suck at all of that, lol. Seriously, I would never have gotten this far if it hadn’t been for the advice and help of people like Wayne Adams, M. H. Lee, and Christian Michael.
But there’s still so much more to do, so much more that can be done. As I prepare to launch the Orc War Campaigns web series, my shortcomings are becoming even more apparent.
Challenges of the New Series
The story is turning out beautifully, in my opinion (hopefully my beta readers will agree :) ). Where it is now, where I plan to take it, it will make an excellent addition to the SoD universe (not to mention free to read!)
But how do I build up anticipation? I’ve tried to do so here on my blog, but I feel like I’ve fallen short. I’ve wanted to put more about it on the SoD website, but I’m struggling with how to present it there. And I need to do at least something to help present it graphically on the website, but once again, I’m struggling.
The first three stories are pretty much ready to go. Some final tweaks, that’s it. In fact I consider the first story, “Invasion,” completed and ready for public consumption! But presentation is important. I can’t just put it on a file upload and say “here ya go, folks, enjoy!” It deserves more than that, and so do the fans.
Which is why I made the decision (but never officially announced it until now) that the web series will not be launched this month. I am instead aiming for early to mid January. Nebulous, I know :( But with the first 3 ‘episodes’ all but complete, my focus for the next two weeks is creating a platform from which to launch :D
Not All is Lost
While I’ve struggled considerably with the ‘business side’ of writing, it has not been a complete failure. Sales are up! :D Almost all have been eBook, but there were even more print sales this month than the prior 4!
And this is the coolest part – it is safe to say that I have fans. :D Fans who are supportive, excited for the series, and bugging me almost every week for updates on the release of book 2. (For the record, I love being bugged about that, it inspires me to keep moving forward!)
So in light of all of this, and in light of the fact that I have achieved more than enough sales to be considered a member of RMFW’s IPAL (though I must now put in the paperwork for that), I am comfortable in calling the release of my first novel a success! And while I cannot yet live off of writing, this has turned out to be a giant step in the right direction.
And you know what? I have all of you, those who have followed my blog, read my book, and encouraged me, to thank for that success. Thank you everyone for a successful, life-changing first year!!
(Note: this will not be the last blog entry of the year. Stay tuned for more!)
I know, 10 days since my last blog article, such a slacker :/ No worries, I won’t make any excuses…not like Han Solo here.
(Yeah, I’m just a little excited about the upcoming new Star Wars movie :D )
Which brings me to the actual point of this article – rediscovering my roots. Novels, movies, video games. Okay, so when I say discovering my roots, I mean my creative roots, my sources of inspiration.
I know I’ve mentioned them all in the past, but what I’ve not talked about is how I’ve lost touch with many of them lately. I’ve spent so much time doing other things over the past year that I’ve read maybe 5 books in the past 12 months (an insanely low number for me), and played even fewer video games.
And these have always been fantastic sources of creative inspiration for me in the past. Not the only ones, mind you, but I feel like I’ve strayed very far away from an important part of who I am: stories.
That’s why I watch movies, and read novels, and play video games. Yes, even video games. I hardly play them for the challenge, it’s the story I love :D
Must One Be Inspired In Order to Inspire?
Before anyone thinks otherwise, I’m not saying these are the only things that inspire me or make me happy, not by a long shot. But I have felt like I’d lost a lot of my inspiration, and am only now rediscovering and rekindling that inspiration.
I mean, come on, I produced an entire novel in 3 months once (but it still needs some revision.) Now…well when was the last time I wrote and finished a novel? Last year.
That’s horrendous for me. I used to write 9 novella-length stories a year when I was producing my fan fiction series. Now it’s been over a year since I actually wrote a novel.
Is it because of my lack of inspiration lately? I do know that I’ve begun to slowly immerse myself back into creative works, such as novels, movies, and even a little bit of gaming again. And what has happened as a result? I’ve finished all prewriting work on book 3 of The Sword of Dragons, and I’ve begun production of a series of short stories (okay, let’s face it, they’ll end up as novellas most likely, lol.)
But still no writing. Until today. Today, I’ve done just a little bit of actual writing, for the first time in what feels like forever. And it was exhilarating!!!! :D
The Power of Geekdom
So it’s no secret, I love these three creative sources. But it goes soooo far beyond that. It’s the people, the attitudes, the spirit, the culture.
That’s something I also started to discover before my slump. When I started this blog, I went to the Colorado Gold Conference (writers are geeks in their own right :D ) and the Denver Comic Con. It was so fantastic to meet up with and chat with people who understood and loved the same things I did.
So, as I continue to rediscover all of my sources of inspiration, I think I’ll start immersing myself in the culture yet again. I have some pretty awesome friends who can help with that, one of whom comes to mind is the same man who interviewed me for his podcast on VtW Productions, Wayne. He’s hosting a gaming weekend at his house in a few weeks, and I’m really looking forward to meeting and hanging out with a bunch of fellow gamer geeks :D
Anywho, I’d write more, but…frankly, I want to get back to writing the story I started earlier :) So until next time, I’ll see you all later!
Game on, read on, watch on, and never ever lose sight of what makes you who you are.
No, the title isn’t referring to time travel or Doctor Who (although I DO love that show :D ) In this case, I’m talking about the value I’ve learned in setting down a project for a while, and coming back to it with fresh eyes several weeks or even months later.
I’m sure a lot of writers have heard that before, I know I have, but recently I’ve discovered the true value in it. You see, back when I first started this blog, which was also when I first got the idea for Chronicles of the Sentinels, I set aside book 2 of The Sword of Dragons, Burning Skies. In fact my first blog post about Chronicles, here, was on June 14th, 2014.
Now I’m gearing up to write book 3 of the series, and to get myself motivated and back into the characters, I’ve gone back to re-read the first two novels. Little did I know how much work I would need to do on both of them, but especially book 2!
I’m only 80 pages in and the pages are covered in red ink! Why? Was I really such a horrible writer when I wrote and edited it at the beginning of 2014? Well, no, not exactly.
But for starters, having taken a step back, I’ve forgotten a lot of the ‘behind the scenes’ thoughts to each page, each character, each plot element. That means that when I read it now, I’m reading it more like any other reader would. And I’m finding the plot holes, and the sentences that don’t make sense.
That I believe is the true value in stepping away from your work as a writer, and perhaps in any artistic endeavor. You created the work, so you know what you intended it to be and to mean. But the reader doesn’t. The viewer of your art doesn’t. The audience of your music doesn’t.
So do yourself a favor and step back for a while. See your work as intended, through the eyes of an outside observer.
Never Stop Learning
I have also learned so, so much in the past seven months! In fact in taking stock of what I did in 2014, the second half was a year of incredible growth for me in writing.
The most important beginning for me was going to the Colorado Gold Writer’s Conference, for two reasons. First, I learned so much from the workshops and classes there!
Second, and I think this is the most important part: I started attending a writer’s critique group hosted by RMFW. And while I’ve only taken my own work to that group a couple of times, I’ve participated in as many of the meetings as I could. I’ve read other writers’ pages, critiqued them, and most importantly, heard others’ critiques.
So now, with all of that accumulated (and still accumulating) knowledge, I’m finding so many ways to improve book 2! When I’m done with it, I know it’ll be better than ever :)
I also realize that my journey in becoming a better writer has not ended and never, ever will. I’ve always believed that a person should never stop growing, never stop improving themselves. I want to make sure I always apply that philosophy to my writing, too. I can always outdo myself, all I have to do is try :)
The best part is that as long as I can do that, readers will always be able to expect each new story to be better than the last! :D
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.
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
While 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
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.
As many of you read in my last article, agent Lucienne Diver of The Knight Agency asked me to send her 30 pages and a synopsis after my pitch at the Colorado Gold conference! I’m still so excited! I also promised to tell you all more about what happened in that pitch, so here we are, as promised :)
The story actually started the day before my pitch to Ms. Diver. Saturday, when I attended a class she hosted called “When is it YA?” I discovered something: in my attempts to write a Young Adult novel, I had actually written an Adult Fantasy. (She recently posted her presentation on her blog, check it out!)
Before anyone gets the wrong impression (too late?) I want to clear up some definitions here. In the publishing industry, an adult fantasy does not mean it is a sexually-oriented novel. That would actually fall under erotic literature. Adult fantasy means the fiction is targeted for an audience 18 years or older.
As I sat in the class, one thing started to become apparent: Chronicles of the Sentinel was not, by the industry’s definition, a YA story. The most obvious reason was that the 3 main characters are 22 years old. While a 22 year old person is actually considered a young adult, in the publishing industry, YA ends at 18.
More than that, it’s also what the story covers. While Chris, Emmi and Alycia are college students, the majority of the story does not take place at school. In fact you only see the college campus in chapter 1, and that’s it. They are very much college-age individuals dealing with personal and interpersonal issues you might expect from college students, but these issues also easily bleed through into the post-college realm.
After discussing this with Ms. Diver during my pitch, I was surprised when she told me that marketing CotS for adults rather than YA was a good thing. It has become difficult to sell YA Fantasy in the current market, but Adult Fantasy is selling. In other words, it would be easier to get CotS published as an Adult Fantasy at this time.
From Just Right to Too Short
This has one unfortunate side effect: at just over 72,000 words, CotS:Legacy was just the right length for a YA novel. But for adult fiction, it falls short of the generally accepted minimum of 80,000 words.
That means I have some work to do. Ms. Diver pointed out that it could still work at 72k, but if possible to expand on it before sending her my 30 pages and synopsis. So that is what I have set out to do!
For starters, I’m reading through the novel chapter-by-chapter and, where I feel it is needed or appropriate, I am enriching the language. While I’m only 4 chapters in as of last night, I’m already realizing a mistake I had made: thinking that I needed to keep the language super simple for YA readers.
The fact of the matter is, young readers read up in age (a fact I learned at the conference.) I know I did, I was reading adult-targeted fiction since before I even started writing. I remember reading Lord of the Rings at age 11, and while I found it excruciatingly boring in parts (which I still do, even though I love it!), I devoured it and finished very quickly!
I should have never written down in the first place. So in all honesty, going back through CotS:Legacy now, I’m really glad to be able to make the small changes and additions. I don’t know that doing so by itself will make the novel reach 80k words, but it’ll be worth it, and so far in 4 chapters I’ve increased the word count by about 500.
One thing I’d like to do is increase Alycia’s character development. Like Emmi and Chris, she does go through a change in book 1, but it is much less pronounced, and I felt in the end that I hadn’t given her as much attention as I should have.
So that is something else I’ve been doing as I’ve gone along. I’ve given her more attention, let her come alive as all good characters do, and this will be an additional focus throughout the novel.
I do not want to add anything arbitrary, but I want readers to have the chance to fall in love with her! So instead of massive sections here and there that would ruin the flow of the story as it stands, I’m adding tidbits here and there, little character nuances to give her life.
Ms. Diver did not give me a deadline for when I should submit the pages to her, but this is my life, and just as I did while I first wrote CotS, I’m treating it like a 2nd full-time job. So I’m giving myself a deadline of completing this revision by Sunday. I don’t know that I’ll actually succeed, but it is an attainable goal.
I’d like to try to then read through the novel one more time, to ensure I didn’t mess up the flow. Right now, it seems like it flows very well, and beta readers seem to agree with that! I don’t want to sacrifice that flow just for an extra thousand words.
Final Thought – I’m Relieved It’s Not YA
Some of you might be surprised to read that, but honestly I’m glad to be writing in Adult and not YA, for one important reason: as I’ve started developing book 2, I’ve realized that fitting that story into a YA-length novel would be difficult at best.
But with 80 to 90k words to work with, I think book 2 will fit the bill perfectly, and will leave me room to develop all 3 of the protagonists as deeply as I want :)
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.”)
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.
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!
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!
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
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.
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 :)
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!
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.
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! :)
Excited, terrified, anxious, hopeful, energetic…a whole slew of words, I could go on and on. (No really, I’m a writer with a BA in English, I can go on endlessly! ;) )
It’s an end and a beginning all at once. Without even having realized it, this conference was to be a major milestone even before I decided to attend. Even if I don’t attract an agent this weekend, I know that this is going to be a huge step in my career as a writer. I have the panels I want to attend picked out, and they’re exactly what I think I need right now as a writer.
Plus I get to mingle with a bunch of other writers, something I confess I haven’t really had a chance to do before! That in and of itself is exciting, to meet those who are going through or have gone through the same struggles I have, who have the same hopes and dreams.
I think I’ve mentioned it before, but what really started me on this course was when I attended a Lindsey Stirling concert on May 30th. A combination of doing something I had never done before, and was terrified to do (go to a major event like this alone,) and the music and her story just moved and motivated me, and left me with an incredible energy that, even over 3 months later, still hasn’t dissipated!
There’s much more to it than just the concert, of course, including finding myself, learning to believe in myself, becoming comfortable in my own skin. Not to mention coming up with my best idea for a novel so far definitely helped :) But one thing I’m really just constantly reminding myself tonight: relax, have fun at the conference, and above all, don’t be afraid to be myself, even if that means being a little goofy/funny!
So here we go. The next big step is before me. And tonight, just now, I finally feel ready for it :) Care to keep going on this crazy journey with me? Because believe me, my story is just beginning, and I intend to take you all along for the ride!
One last bit of exciting news: today I was asked for my autograph for the first time in my life! And not just by one, but by two people!!! :D
Thanks for reading,
Trials and triumphs of writing, finding an agent, and publication.