Category Archives: Writing

How Breaking Into Publishing Is Like An Adventure Movie

For me, breaking into publishing was like a scene from the movie The Great Escape.  At times I was Charles Bronson, tunneling underground and trying to crawl my way through the soil.  Sometimes I was Steve McQueen, locked up in solitary but lots less cool. Right now, I’m James Garner, in a plane heading for the Alps. Hopefully my plane isn’t leaking fuel.

I used to think my writing career would go like this:

1)   Write brilliant novel;

2)   Acquire an agent for said novel; and

3)   Sign six-figure contract with a big publisher.

Um, no.  I soon discovered agents had no interest in me unless I was a proven moneymaker.  Fair enough, but that’s a Catch-22 isn’t it?  Fortunately, the rise of e-publishers finally gave me an alternative.  I learned I could submit directly to these e-publishers and have a better chance of breaking in than poor Angus Lennie (The Mole) had trying to climb over the barbed wire fence at the POW camp.

I used the author’s online resource Duotrope to narrow down a short list of publishers.  Then I crosschecked with Absolute Write Water Cooler and Preditors & Editors to see what the publishers’ reputations were.  Occasionally, I was cheeky enough to track down published authors on Goodreads and ask them their opinions of their publishers.

After I’d done my research, I began submitting manuscripts. Writing query emails and synopses are another topic altogether, but suffice it to say practice helps. Once I’d managed to place a few books, the whole process became easier.  The publishers I’m with all have supportive author loops where you can ask questions and learn the ropes.  Many experienced authors are more than willing to give advice or lend a helpful hand to the newbie.

Of course, my career didn’t just take off when I e-signed my contracts.  I’m having to learn the fine art and craft of promotion.  As Saturday Night Live’s Roseanne Rosannadanna used to say, “If it’s not one thing it’s another!”  But it’s an awful lot better on this side of the fence, I must say.

~ S.G. Rogers

(Hat tip to Roberta J. Gordon (@GeminiWitching) for asking me to write this post)

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The Pinocchio Effect

As a reader, do you frequently wish an author had taken the story further?  And as an author, have you ever written a story that was ripe for further exploration?

 

Question:

  1. To transform a short story into a full-length novel, what must occur?
  2. Don’t even attempt it. Pick up a hammer and smash your thumb repeatedly as a reminder of just how painful such an effort would be;
  3. Place the manuscript on a Medieval torture device known as The Rack and turn the crank until the tale is long enough;
  4. Plant the story in a sunny backyard spot under a mound of fertile soil. Add water, and wait until your novel reaches maturity; or
  5. Be prepared to take your characters, settings and plot where no one has gone before. (Theme song from Star Trek plays here)

We haven’t even addressed the question of why you’d want to turn your exquisite cupcake into a multi-layered creation worthy of Ultimate Cake Off. Because, to paraphrase adorable little Oliver Twist, you want more. Your story has a great premise, terrific characters, and you’d like to spend some quality time developing what happens next—or what came before.

So far, I’ve adapted two short works of fiction into novels. The first one was written as an hour-long television pilot. That teleplay eventually became a published 78,000-word young adult fantasy novel, The Last Great Wizard of Yden. The second story was written for a sword and sorcery magazine, but I always felt I’d rather arbitrarily stopped the action to keep the word count below 8,000. Now, Tournament of Chance is just under 80,000 words.

Have I inspired you to pull out one of your trunk stories and get cracking? You might want to consider the challenges before you move forward. Be prepared to dig painfully deep to make your adaptation readable. Writing short stories isn’t necessarily easier than writing longer length fiction, but it is different. The former might be akin to a fifty-yard dash whereas the latter is more like a marathon. As my manuscripts developed, I was constantly exhorting myself to try harder—to be more creative, funnier and wittier. I had to trot a veritable ‘parade of horribles’ in front of my heroes in order to give them higher mountains to climb. If I didn’t sit back with a gasp and think, How awful! I can’t do that to him/her…my efforts weren’t good enough. In other words, just because the characters, setting, premise and a rudimentary plot are already established, that doesn’t absolve you from the responsibility of actually writing the darn book. Did you think it did? Then the answer to Question 1 above will be A. Ouch.

~ Suzanne

Angst in My Pants

Rumor has it there are two camps of authors: ones who neatly plot out their novels or stories before they fire up their computers and those who begin with only a premise and just start typing. Personally, I’m not sure either method is more valid than the other, it’s just a matter of personal style.

Or is it?

I’m in more of the “Let’s see what happens today” category, but I think I finally figured out why.  I’m impatient.  I can’t wait for the pot to boil, I’m not satisfied for the cookies to bake before I have a taste, I frequently go to the grocery store without a list and I’ve been known to cut my own bangs.  Furthermore, I never stop to ask for directions, although perhaps that’s just my homage to men.

Problematic?

For me, writing on a deadline becomes a challenge.  Furthermore, I frequently have moments where I think this time I’m not going to be able to come up with a solution to a plot problem. Yes, I have several unfinished manuscripts because I wrote myself into a ditch…but I intend to get back to them sometime in the future.  And each time I have that moment of self-doubt, the self-talk goes the same way:

“What if I can’t figure this out?” Bites lip.

“You always say that and then you always figure it out.”

“Not always.  Remember Going Green?”

Winces.  “Yeah, but this time is different.”

Fortunately, usually it works out and I turn into the stretchy guy from Fantastic Four as I pat myself on the back.  Nevertheless, today I’m collecting data on other personality traits that might be connected to writing styles.  

Plotters:  Is it true that, like Mary Poppins, you’re practically perfect in every way?  Never crammed for a test?  Plan out weeks’ worth of menus at a time?  Lay out your wardrobe the night before? Secretly identify with Hermione Granger?

Pantsers: Would it be accurate to say you’ve got a streak of independence wider than the Atlantic Ocean?  Been known to run out of the house with one black and one brown shoe?  Do you eat cookie dough raw or sample icing before it’s spread?  Always admired Mr. Toad from The Wind in the Willows?

I think I know the answer, but I’d love to hear your opinion.

~ S.G. Rogers

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