Posted tagged ‘writing fiction’

5 Stars for My Book From 3 People

September 5, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                     September 5, 2018

                           

Two weeks ago my cell phone rang around 8:00 in the evening. I was finishing up the rewrite on the sequel book to the first one…that I hadn’t planned on there being a sequel to!

I picked up my phone and saw that the call came from my oldest daughter, Kecia. So I answered, as I have a tendency to do, by speaking Spanish.

“Como esta usted?”

“Huh?” came the high-pitched voice on the other end of the line. It was my ten year old grandson calling on his mom’s phone. Jesse does not speak Spanish yet, at least the way I speak it!

“Is this Jesse?”

“Yes, Granddad!”

“Oh!” (pause) “What’s up, Jess?”

“Well, we just finished Red Hot: New Life in Fleming.”

“You did?”

“Yes, and we really liked it!”

“You did? That’s great!”

I had sent the book draft in an email attachment and each evening right before bedtime Kecia had read a chapter of the book to Jesse and my granddaughter, Reagan. They had read the last chapter that night.

If no publisher picks it up for publication I know at least three of the most important people in my life will have given it “five stars” in their evaluation. (Now they are reading the sequel at bedtime!)

Kecia told me that they had cried when a tragedy had occurred for one of the main families in the book. And she told me that they had enjoyed a certain chapter so much that they read it twice.

Both of the grandkids (Their 3 year old sister isn’t quite into the reading and listening stage yet, although she does get read to every night.) are avid and excellent readers, encouraged by their third grade teacher mom. Their reading level is far above the average for their peers. It’s a byproduct of the fact that they have ended their day with a reading time for as long as they can remember.

So now I wait to hear from the publisher who has the draft. I pitched it to the managing editor of a publisher back in May at the Colorado Christian Writer’s Conference. He gave me his card and told me to send it to him. Since then we’ve exchanged a few emails and he’s told me it won’t be until around the end of October before they’ll make a decision.

Another publishing house of the “vanity publishing” type wants me to pursue it with them, but a good-sized payment is attached to their contract…that is, I pay them and sometime down the road…in a future life maybe!…I’ll break even! 

My two good friends, both with knowledge and experience in the print industry, continue to encourage me and tell me that it is an excellent book. They have edited both my original draft and then my rewrite…as well, as the sequel. They have been drawn into loving the characters and have come alongside me as plots have been shaped and considered. In certain times in the writing of the book(s) one of them has said something like “What if…?” or “Why did you take the scene in that direction?”

The publishing industry is tough competition these days. Companies are much more selective in what they are pursuing. In this time of 140 character tweets people don’t read like they used to. BUT people will still read a good story!

For now I have at least three people who’ve given me five stars. Actually, my two editing friends would join the three related to me, so I guess I’m at five people! 

Now I’ve started writing Book 3. It seems somewhat strange to write a third book in a series where even the first novel hasn’t been published yet…but I want to see how the story ends!

A Personal Update

May 26, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                             May 26, 2018

                                   

Permit me to devote my blog post today to my experience at the Colorado Christian Writer’s Conference I attended last week in Estes Park, Colorado. A number of people have asked me what came out of it so I’ll summarize as best I can.

At the conference each attendee is given the opportunity to meet with several literary agents and editors. Those very quick 15 minute appointments are designed to give the writer a chance to pitch his/her book or idea for a book. If there is interest the agent has the option to tell the person that he can send his first few chapters or the whole manuscript for further inspection…or not! 

I had six appointments and was invited to submit my manuscript by five of the people I met with. That was good news on the bottom line. On the other hand, I didn’t feel comfortable with the perspective of a couple of them about what young adult fiction is. 

The best part of the conference for me was the Fiction Intensive Clinic. Those who applied had to submit the first 12-14 pages of their manuscript and a book synopsis. From the submitted materials six people were accepted to be a part of the clinic. The group met for six hours together, plus a 30 minute one-on-one appointment with our instructor, Tim Shoemaker. He has written about a dozen books. Several of them are young adult fiction. Before the conference he had spent about 4 hours of critiquing of each of our group participants’ submissions. He pointed out little details that occurred in our writing that can be easily corrected, made the point that our writing is already good, but it can be made better. Tim is awesome and I bought his three book series that begins with the novel Code of Silence. 

When I told him a few of the other remarks that had been shared with me about youth and young adult fiction that seemed a little bizarre he told me to discount their importance. He encouraged me to press on, which I am!

Because of Tim I’m doing a book rewrite before I send it to any of the literary agents. Although I believe it’s already good I want it to be great. I want it to be the best it can be. It is a very competitive and tough market, especially if you are an unknown. If I’m going to be turned down I don’t want the refusal to be because it’s not good enough, but rather that it doesn’t fit with what the literary agents and publishers are looking for. 

Writing is risky. Words have the power to stir emotions, but they also have the potential to be written in certain ways that cause the reader to become disinterested, to see them as just words that lie lifeless on a page. I think about that each time I sit down to write. Will I write words that can make a difference? 

I can tell a story, but can I write it even better? Yes!

Report From A Rookie Writer

May 18, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                          May 18, 2018

                               

Day 3 of the Christian Writer’s Conference is upon me. There are a lot of people here just like me, hoping and praying that some editor or agent likes their manuscript or idea for a book so much that they hand them a business card and say, “Send it to me!”

That happened in my first appointment yesterday, and I could sense the rising up of tears. Not all of my 15 minute appointments ended up like that, but a couple did. I have two more today and one tomorrow.

It was encouraging to hear the leader of our Fiction Intensive Clinic say that there were many more who applied to be in that group who were sent letters saying “Sorry!” He told the six of us that were accepted that although each of us had things to work on there was potential in each of our writings to be taken to the next level. 

The group spends an hour on each of the admissions, which are usually about the first 10-14 pages of the manuscript. My turn comes Saturday morning and then I will have a half hour Saturday afternoon with the instructor.

This conference is about learning- learning to write more effectively, learning that there are other aspects to getting a book published besides pecking out 100,000 words on my AirBook, learning new terminology, and learning many of the little things that raise a writer’s readability level. 

I’m also learning that it’s necessary to risk. Coming here is risky, because you may get trampled on. Years ago, my fiction clinic instructor was ready to walk out of the same conference because he was so discouraged, but the conference coordinator got a hold of him and gave him a word of encouragement. Years later he’s now the fiction class leader, and author of a number of books. 

There are other conference first-timers here, just like me, but the bulk of the attendees have been coming to this conference for years. They know what to do and where to go. There’s been a few times where I’ve looked like a new freshman standing in the hallway of his new highs chool trying to figure out where the Band Room is.

We all come with stories that we think are the best thing since sliced bread. They are our babies that we want to protect. Having someone suggest that a writer might change the story or the wording sometimes feels like another person telling you to change the way you parent your baby.

Through it all, I’ve become more thankful for the God who leads and guides us and the people he brings along the path to walk with us. 

Writer’s Conference Anxiety

May 15, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                     May 15, 2018

                              

The Estes Park Christian Writer’s Conference is one day away and I’m feeling like a jittery five year old about to hug his mom and walk with shaking knees into his kindergarten class for the first day of school. What will happen? What if I have to go to the bathroom? What if I fall on the playground and skin my knee, or tip over the building blocks accidentally? What if my teacher doesn’t like me and makes me stand in the corner?

Kindergarten questions simply get redressed into grownup worries. As I head to the conference the questions cloud my mind like the halo on top of Pike’s Peak this morning. 

What if my clinic teacher tells me that my writing really sucks? What if they use literary terms that I have no clue about? What is the people there are about half a bubble off center…you know, the elevator doesn’t go to the top floor? What if I have to go to the bathroom really bad? (As you can tell, I’m a bit concerned about taking care of “my business!”) What if I get asked a question and my mind goes as blank as a stare? What if I get Gordon Ramsay for an instructor, complete with English accent and expletives? 

When you have never experienced something you begin to let your mind wander to dark places. 

I WAS accepted as one of six people in the Fiction Intensive Clinic. I had to send my book synopsis and first chapter to the clinic teacher about two months ago and the six of us that were accepted were notified at the end of April. Each of us now has the first chapter and synopsis of the others in the group. There will be some major critiquing and, hopefully, encouragement as we learn about writing tendencies and bad habits. 

I will have appointments with a few literary agents, with hopes that someone will be interested in my book enough to express desire in getting it in front of some publishers. In the midst of this is some personal pride about the story I’ve created, the characters I’ve come to love, and the value of the message that the book brings. My stomach becomes a bit queasy thinking that I’ve written four hundred pages that might get trashed. Actually, I’ve written eight hundred plus pages, because the sequel to the first book has already had its first draft finished. The third book has already been started. Through the pages of type I’ve come to love the characters like the ninth grader, Randy Bowman, and his seventh grade neighbor and friend, Ethan Thomas. It hit me a while ago that I WAS Ethan Thomas in seventh grade and I wanted to be Randy Bowman when I was a freshman. In the course of the first two books Randy helps Ethan become more than he ever thought he could be, a kid easily unseen in the midst of his school who is mentored and befriended towards the discovery of potential and value. 

And, that is also why there is anxiety about this new experience. I’m all in with the story! Like a fourteen year old who discovers his name is not on the list of players who made the basketball team, I’m trying to brace myself for the possibility of disappointment, but also hold out hope that…something just might happen!

Regardless, I believe that God has orchestrated this moment. I’m just hoping that it doesn’t sound like a harmonica in the midst of a wind ensemble!

The Value Of Being Told You Aren’t All That

April 29, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                     APRIL 29, 2018

 

In seventeen days I’ll be pulling out of our driveway and heading to Estes Park, Colorado for the Christian Writers Conference. For me it has the feel of a rookie arriving at spring training camp…the anxiety of being the new kid, the uncertainty of what I’ll find out, and the fear of being told my writing sucks the wind!

I received the good news this past week that I was accepted into the Fiction Intensive Clinic, a group limited to six that will spend a number of hours together during the three day conference affirming, questioning, and dissecting the synopsis and first chapter of each other’s book.

In preparation for the conference, a friend of mine arranged a luncheon meeting with him and a man, who works for the same Christian publishing company, to discuss my book and offer me some guidance. At Estes Park I will have the opportunity to meet with several literary agents, but each of those appointments are only 15 minutes long.

We sat munching on our lunch and chit-chatting and then my lunch partner asked me a question: “Tell me what your book is about in one sentence.”

I pondered for a moment between bites and then offered something that didn’t make much sense, and was more than one sentence.

Followup: “Would you say the book is character-based or a plot-based?”

“Well, I think it would be character-based, although there is the building to a climax and…”

A couple of other followup questions and then the bad news.

“If I was a publisher I don’t think I would be interested in pursuing the book.”

Gulp! My sweet beverage suddenly had a sour taste to it.

It was hard to hear, but probably what I needed to hear. Not that the book isn’t good enough to be published, but rather that I need to be clearer on my understanding and presentation about it. A fifteen minute appointment is not a long time and in those brief moments the presenter needs to communicate what the story is about, its audience, and why I wrote it. My critic did me a favor. He showed me that after you write a double-spaced 400 page book you have to do the hard work of being able to present it.

Part of who we are, our DNA personality if you will, is the desire to “be all that”, to think that we have it…the next Hemingway, or Missy Franklin, or Taylor Swift. We want whatever our performance is to be awe-inspiring and jaw-dropping.

Words of reality are needed to bring us back to who we really are and what we need to do. I officiated high school and small college basketball for sixteen years, and I saw my share of officials who never raised their level of performance because they wouldn’t listen to the words of their evaluators. I was only able to raise my level because I listened to people who were willing to tell me where I needed to improve, questioned me about certain whistles I had during games, and quizzed me on “what if’s”.

There is value in being told that you aren’t all that! In Estes Park I’m sure I’ll hear variations of those words a number of times, but there will also be words said in a way that will spur me on towards a desired outcome.