The End of the End?

Actually, that’s a song from Paul McCartney’s new CD. There was a time when a new Paul McCartney CD meant a mandatory “album release party” (beer, pizza and all attention riveted towards my stereo speakers). After his last two CDs were so disappointing that the only thing that got me through the “party” was the beer, I opted to download and preview his latest, “Memory Almost Full,” in quiet anonymity, on my iPod while I ran. Glad to say it’s a step up from his last, critically acclaimed CD, “Chaos and Creation in the Backyard.” All it took was for Paul to stop writing catchy, disposable pop songs for the critics to finally take him seriously. Of course, catchy, disposable Read More…

Writing Hard, or Hardly Writing?

Am I the ultimate hypocrite or what? I start a blog to chronicle my first novel’s (eventual?) path to publication, update it sporadically, whine about what a tedious process it is, hint at starting another book…and then doing everything possible to avoid it. As his career was on the downslide, long after he had peaked with “Sports” and “Fore,” Huey Lewis put out a CD called “Hard at Play.” Keep in mind it had been at least four years since his last flop, “Small World.” The first single from the new CD was called “Couple Days Off.” From a working man’s perspective, it talked about how hard he was working, how he needed to “catch his breath,” etc. The first Read More…

The Results Are In…

Got the critique back from my writer’s group, and I was none too nervous about it. After all, it was the first time anyone truly objective (other than my agent) has read the entire MS. By and large, it was well-received and enthusiastically praised. A big “whew” there. Several people did have significant bones to pick with it, and rarely were they the same bone, so it will be tough to pick and choose what I should address. Some parts I had always had misgivings about were confirmed–the misgivings were justified. Those will be the easy parts to fix/remove. Other parts I was totally in love with were also called into question–not so easy. I’ve heard people say “cut out Read More…

Validation

My writers’ group did some revolutionary “re-writing of its by-laws” recently. (Translation: we all stood around the kitchen eating brownies and complaining how long it took to get a full novel critiqued) Now, instead of submitting a novel piecemeal, three chapters or so at a time, over the course of a year and a half or more, members with completed novels (or just a big-ass chunk) are now permitted to submit the entire MS for immediate critique. Two consecutive sessions are devoted exclusively to one novel. Then everyone brushes their hands together in satisfaction and the critiqued author goes away for another six months or so. Lucky me, I was the first to benefit from this new process. Everyone agreed Read More…

Getting the Word Out

How do you market something that doesn’t exist? Hell, I’m in advertising, so if you count the “benefits” of the various products I’ve shilled through the years, it should be second nature for me. But when my agent asked me to put together a “marketing plan” so he could submit my novel to a smaller press, I froze up. I wrote a novel, for cryin’ out loud, isn’t that enough? Apparently not for some smaller publishers, who actually require a marketing plan as part of a submissions package. My agent said sometimes that can be the deciding factor between two books of roughly equal caliber. So I rolled up my advertising sleeves, sharpened my pencil and immediately emailed the only Read More…

A Dog-Shaped Hole

Take it from me–when you bring home your 3-month-old Golden Retriever, the last thing on your mind is where you’re going to scatter her ashes. Yet one day, there you are. Not so long ago–not quite 10 years–our lives were turned upside down by the excitedly anticipated arrival of our newest family member. Kids were still a couple years off and she was the perfect addition to our new house, carpeted entirely in off-white berber. To this day, I maintain that raising kids–twins, even–was made more bearable by weathering the chaos that comes with training a puppy. What was changing a couple of diapers at once after you’ve mopped up massive pools of you-know-what from your previously off-white berber? And Read More…

Show Me the Indifference!

Doesn’t have quite the same ring to it, does it? But after my initial euphoria of securing an agent wore off, we got down to the true business of getting published.Which…happens…at…about…this…speed. At least if you’re not Nicholas Sparks, who, according to his website, mailed out about three meticulously researched queries, got an agent the next morning and a million dollar advance before dinner. Not that I’m bitter or anything. I thought editors would be snapping up my book, reading a couple pages and immediately launch into a bidding war, complete with movie rights. But that ain’t how it happens–after you spend all that time querying to get an agent, what does he have to do to attract the interest of Read More…

Break Out the Cheap Champagne.

And save the good stuff for publication. Even as I edited from 184K, I continued to submit to agents, burning bridge after bridge and racking up form rejection after form rejection (over 100 in all, by my best guess). In some query letters I spoke of my 140K word novel. A little while later, I was hawking a 135K word novel, and eventually, a 120K word novel. Somewhere in the 120-135K range, I started getting serious bites. Lots of agents asked for sample chaps. Several agents asked to see the whole MS–from big houses, too, like Writer’s House, Nicholas Ellison and Curtis Brown. One agent asked to see the whole MS based on the query alone. He requested “a fortnight’s Read More…

Ask and ye shall receive.

I’m in advertising, and we have a phrase that became painfully relevant to me after I attended my first writer’s group meeting: “If it’s on the rail, it’s for sale.” In my day job, that means if you take a TV storyboard/print ad layout/logo, etc. into the conference room, put it up on the “rail” (a small shelf running the entire length of the wall), it’s fair game to be praised, derided, bought or trashed. Every once in awhile, we’d throw in a decoy idea–one that was so laughably lame that the client couldn’t help but see how superior the recommended idea was. Naturally, they’d buy the lame one, and when we protested, they said, “then why did you show Read More…

Speaking of Fiction…

Check out this take on getting published, courtesy of Lynn Johnston, Canadian creator of the long-running comic strip/sap opera “For Better or For Worse.” FBOFW is one of the few strips that actually acknowledges the passage of time, so kids get older, men go bald, pets die, etc. You know, typical funny paper hijinks. Also typical of comic strips is their tendency to stretch out a few days worth of action into months and months of material. How much can you cram into something that takes about ten seconds to read, after all? Still, I was caught off guard when the novel that Michael Patterson was writing was suddenly picked up for publication. Very few references were made to him Read More…