A Writers Circular Logic - Revisted

I write . . . therefore . . . I am
I am . . . therefore . . . I must have purpose
I must have purpose . . . therefore . . . I set goals and objectives
I set goals and objectives . . . therefore . . . I am singularly focused
I am singularly focused . . . therefore . . . I am easily distracted
I am easily distracted . . . therefore . . . I must have Netflix, Facebook, Dish, etc.
I must have Netflix, Facebook, Dish, etc. . . . therefore . . . I am in debt
I am in debt . . . therefore . . . I need a real job
I need a real job . . . therefore . . . I must have a decent education
I must have a decent education . . . therefore . . . I probably attended an institution of higher learning
I probably attended an institution of higher learning . . . therefore . . . I would have partaken in the college experience
I would have partaken in the college experience . . . therefore . . . Many of my brain cells have bitten the dust.
Many of my brain cells have bitten the dust . . . therefore . . . I can’t remember what my next point is
I can’t remember what my next point is . . . therefore . . . I make notes
I make so many notes . . . therefore . . . I write
I write . . . therefore . . .I am

Two Steps Forward – One Step Back

I’ve chronicled my journey towards publication…in detail…here on my blog. There have been the false-starts, steep learning curves, detours – both personal and creatively, extensive querying, all of it culminating with my current rigorous submission process. In many ways my voyage has been similar to others I’ve read about here in the writers blogoshphere – comparing the process to an emotional roller coaster ride. I prefer to think of it as a deep water dive. At its lowest depths you feel so alone, so isolated, so unsure of why you’re there in the first place. But when recognition finally finds you, in whatever form, the rush to the surface can be so exhilarating. Unfortunately, ascending too fast, or being reckless, is when the bends set in.

Lyrics from the Gilbert O’Sullivan song – “Alone Again” have been stuck in my head recently. At some point I have to wonder if this ‘get published’ quest was really meant to be. When I think back over these past seven years on everything I’ve experienced, two phrases have guided me through. 1) If it were easy, everybody would do it. 2) Persistence is the key to realizing your dreams. Looks like I’ll be putting both of those to the test again.

When I landed my agent in February of 2015, I was beyond ecstatic. We got along well and she seemed truly passionate about my novel. It seemed like a good fit. As the months rolled by and my book hit the submission trail, that glow of excitement began to erode. I experienced long periods of time when I wouldn’t hear anything from my agent -- and contrary to popular beliefs – bad news is better than no news, at least for a writer. I communicated my feelings to my agent and we agreed to mandatory monthly updates. That worked well for 5-6 months, but then things began to slide again. I began to suspect that my chosen partner wasn’t working as hard as she should for my interest. Looking back on it now I'll admit there were early warning signs, but the prospect of moving forward to the next level easily blinded me.

So I’ve decided to cut ties with my agent and seek other representation. I don’t take this decision lightly, because I REALLY don’t want to dive back into the query waters again. However, I can’t abide the current situation either.

The funny thing is that now I feel like the one that has failed…again. When I was querying the first time around, every rejection letter felt like a failure. You become numb to it after a while, but it’s a failure none-the-less. Then when I went on submission, every decline from a publisher – even the ones that were hotly debated – became another chalk mark in the failed column. Now I’m walking away from my agent and I feel like a failure again because I didn’t do a good enough job of research. In my professional life (my real job) I’ve never experienced disappointment like this. In the 33 years since I graduated from college, I’ve worked for only to companies. I’ve succeeded, been promoted, and essentially excelled in my field. So absorbing so much failure, and still voluntarily setting yourself up for more…well…just take that as a testament of my determination to succeed – as well as my belief that I have something to offer for the bookshelves in the commercial marketplace. 

So here I am…back on the ocean floor. Yes...it’s cold, pitch-black, and so so quiet – except for the sound of my own breathing. The good news is I’ve just finished revising my latest book and I am extremely pumped about it. I know (feel) that there will be a post someday announcing my ascension from these murky waters yet again.

Stay tuned.

The Intentional Novelist

This past April when I was attending the DFW Conference, I met a fellow writer who told me about a new website he was about to kick-off. His name was Henry McLaughlin and the site he was talking about was called The Intentional Novelist.  The sole purpose of the site was to provide information for aspiring writers regarding all aspects of writing, from articles about improving your craft, to tips on how to break into the publishing world. Much of the content provided would come from fellow writers, and he was hoping it would grow into a community where ideas and resources would be shared openly and freely, with no strings attached.  To help launch the site he was looking for people who would be willing to write a blog article which would help get the ball rolling, and since he was so impressed with the success WRiTE CLUB he was wondering if I'd considered penning one for them.

My answer....where do I sign up? :)

I didn't know Henry before that day, so I did a little checking. He completed four years of courses with the Christian Writers Guild and is currently a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, and North Texas Christian Writers where he serves also as Associate Director. He has been a voracious seeker of writing knowledge, attending numerous conferences, workshops, and retreats. Henry also leads online and local critique groups. I discovered that one of the areas he most enjoys most is mentoring and coaching other writers, helping them to become the best writers they can be, which is one of the reasons The Intentional Novelist came about. Henry is also a winner of the Operation First Novel contest for his first novel Journey to Riverbend.

Shortly after I met Henry, I was contacted by the websites co-founder, Rachelle Harp. I learned that Rachelle spent many years teaching music and social studies in the public schools before pursuing a writing career. Over the years, she studied and honed her writing craft through various workshops, conferences, and books. She has taught at writing workshops and clinics and is an active member of her local writing organization.
Rachelle is a Writers of the Future Contest finalist and two-time Silver Honorable Mention winner with her short stories. Her novels have earned recognition as a NovelRocket.com Launch Pad Grand Prize winner, as a Zebulon Fiction Contest winner, and as a San Francisco Writers Conference Contest winner.

The website has been up and running since early July, and the article I wrote for them entitled -- "How to be a Hooker (A Novelist One, Of Course!)" -- will run on Monday, August 8th, if you're interested. Here's the link to use that day, http://wp.me/p6QUsH-4s - along with a snippet.

Even if you're not interested in reading my article, you owe it to yourself to check out The Intentional Novelist. It really delivers on the promise Henry hoped for!


Plum Line - Revisited

This was originally posted in August of 2010.

Today I thought I’d contribute my two-cents worth regarding the eternal debate…pantser vs. plotter.

It’s really not a debate as it is a personal preference.  Do you outline your plot (plotter) prior to sitting down and writing a manuscript, or do you tend to fly by the seat of your pants (pantser) as you write?  In case you don’t already know, there is no right answer.  Both methods are viable and used by multitudes of writers.  Pantsers tend to believe that outlining stifles their creativity, preferring to have their story emerge organically as they write.  Plotters, on the other hand, see their method as allowing them to map out intricate story elements and avoid unnecessary re-writes or revisions.  The amount of detail in these outlines range from the very basic on a single piece of paper, to the highly complex that encompasses an entire notebook by itself.

Me…I’ve always been a plotter.  Writing mystery/suspense novels – both adult and YA -- I find it necessary to use this tool to ensure clues are dropped and time related events are coordinated properly.  But as it turns out there’s another reason.  Let me illustrate it for you.

Anybody who’s been around construction, or undertaken a home project or two, will recognize the term plum line. It's a piece of string, coated with colored chalk, and when you roll it out and snap it against whatever you're working on it imprints the chalk on the surface. This provides you with a visible reference point to ensure you either remain level, or lay things out in a straight line. Nowadays they use lasers to create the lines, but the concept is still the same.

Although I outline and plot events in my chapters very carefully, I still allow room for it to breath and grow.  When I'm writing I make adjustments to incorporate idea’s I may not have previously considered, because it makes sense at the time and it moves the story in the direction I want to go. But sometimes a small change early on can turn into a major deviation when the project nears completion, and without a plum line to keep you centered and maintain a point of reference, a writer can easily drift away from their core premise. The result could end in disappointment, or at a minimum major re-writes.

When I completed the final chapter of my last book, something felt off. I couldn't really pin-point what it was, but I had this unfulfilled sensation. I hadn’t referred back to my outline while writing the last third of the book (a mistake) so I decided to go back to it in case I missed something.  What I discovered was a minor change I had added early on that snowballed until the way the book ended was thematically different than what I’d outlined.  I had drifted off the plum line.  I made the necessary adjustments and my happy face was back.

What about you?  How do you tell when the flow of your story is veering away from your plum line? 

I Carry It Around In My Heart - Revisited

This was originally posted in March 2010 – but it still rings true today.

I bet many of you already know to what I’m referring.  I’ve read it in your blogs, gathered as much from the comments you’ve left here.  It’s a feeling that’s almost indescribable, and I’m worried that I might fall on my face trying to communicate what it is.  It’s always with you, but there are certain times when that wave of euphoria gushes from within and promises to lift you above the everyday.   If scientist discovered a way to harvest it and turn it into a drug, entire cities would grind to a halt as the number of overdoses reached epidemic proportions.

Do you know what I’m describing?  That’s right.  The feeling a writer gets when he knows he’s written something that has significance.  A piece of your work that has successfully toyed with a readers emotions in some way.  Maybe it’s a simple blog post that elicits a deluge of comments, a short story that causes your best friend to laugh uncontrollably, a poem that opens the tear ducts, or a novel that when a reader finishes elicits a deep and lingering sigh. A writer who has experienced something like this, on any level, never forgets what it feels like and is always searching for ways to re-create it.  Does anybody know of which I speak?

I use that feeling like a shot of adrenaline sometimes, when the world is doing its best to bring me down.  I’ll draw upon memories of praise from my awesome critique partners.  I think about my blog followers, those talented fellow writers who have linked themselves to me, and I to them.  I fall asleep at night with a smile on my face, recalling a recently written scene in my current WIP, imagining how my wife will react when she reads it for the first time.  

For me, this blog is the origin.  Everything I have accomplished so far stems from here, and from you.  My first baby-steps into fiction writing started here.  I have met, become friends with, and collaborated with, some truly amazing writers…and individuals, all from here.  My journey is just beginning, but I am confident that my foundation is a solid one.

I reached the 200 follower milestone last Friday.  Honestly, it kind of snuck up on me.  Not that I wasn’t paying attention to the newly arrived, because nothing could be further from the truth, I just didn’t notice the number.  Originally, I planned to throw another celebration to mark the event, but I have since thought differently.  I wrote when I celebrated the Mighty 100 that I wanted to focus more on generating content that would increase the number of comments left by the “like-minded”, and if I did that the followers would take care of itself.  If you build it…they will come. I’m going to continue on with that philosophy.

In the meantime, I’ll continue to try throw a little entertainment your way.  And if I hit a chord, please let me know.  It doesn’t matter if you’re the first commenter, or the 50th, they all contribute to that feeling we writers thrive off.

They say the home is where the heart is.  In my case, this blog is my home…and I carry it around in my heart. 
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