Tag Archives: Writing

Getting Up Again

I reached a milestone yesterday: I finished a novel.

Let me explain. Yes, if you look on the sidebar, you’ll see I have novels for sale. And yes, they are finished novels. So what’s the big deal?

A little something called a slump. Or writer’s block. Take your choice.

A few years back, as I was writing my fourth novel about Lyle Villines (part of the Rural Empires setting with a working title of Hillbilly Hunt), I was shopping the novel Startup around to agents in New York. One of the submissions was to Aaron Priest, who rejected it, but didn’t send me a form rejection. He said that he loved the writing, but didn’t feel like anything happened for about the first one hundred pages.

Knowing it was against etiquette, I wrote back, asking if he would take another look (all while pointing out I knew it was against etiquette) if I rewrote that first part. The answer came from an assistant, who said she would read the rewrite, and if she judged it good enough, she’d forward it to Mr. Priest.

Fair enough. More than fair, in fact.

Long story short, I was rejected again. And I could see no way around it.

Now, to be fair, Mr. Priest did point out, in his original rejection notice, that this was his opinion only and another agent might well pick it up.

But I had stars in my eyes. Aaron Priest is Robert Crais’s agent—and Robert Crais is one of my favorite authors. Who wouldn’t want to share an agent with one of your heros?

The second rejection did something to me, and in the ensuing years, writing has been hard to do. I know it’s mental, that I need to find a way around it. Add to that the fact the novel I finished is a mystery—my first—and that compounded everything. I’ve never written a mystery, and they require some finesse. You don’t want to give it away, but you don’t want it to be impossible for the reader to solve, either. It’s a fine line you have to walk.

I kept getting closer and closer, but I’d write a passage or two, then stop for months (or longer) before I went back to it. I had to drag the last quarter or more of the novel out kicking and screaming.

Then, last week, my mentor died. I wrote about him in my last post. I won’t revisit all that, but I will say this: when Dusty Richards died, he’d written over 160 novels.

Let that sink in for a minute. One hundred and sixty.

Dusty’s philosophy? Keep writing.

No matter what happens in your life, keep writing. You’re a writer, so write. It’s that simple. He cranked out three or four books a year that way. Yes, they were westerns and some of them were short. But not all of them. Not by any means.

His dying changed something in me, something more than what happens when you lose someone who means that much to you. I realized that all the people Dusty had ever encouraged to keep writing were his legacy. And that most definitely included me.

I had to make him proud of the time he’d invested in me and others. Yes, many of them no doubt gave up. Make no mistake, this is a tough business, and you have to grow a thick skin. You’ll see far more rejection than you will acceptance.

But, as Dusty admonished so many budding writers, keep writing. Why? Because it’s your dream. Not everyone is cut out for this. Heck, not everyone who writes should be doing it. Let’s be honest here. But many, possibly most, are. And even those who can’t write very well yet will improve if they fall in with the right people, people who give them constructive criticism and encouragement.

And above all, keep writing.

Chances are, if you keep at it, you’ll run into a situation similar to mine, where you hit a wall and have trouble putting words on paper. Maybe life interferes. Maybe you get sent to Eastern Europe to spy on the Russians (if you do, mine that shit for stories). Maybe you have your first child. Maybe someone important to you dies. Maybe the rejection notices keep piling up and you wonder if it’s worth it to keep doing this.

Whatever the cause, for some reason, you can’t write. It doesn’t happen to everyone, but it happens to enough of us that there are endless articles about it and methods to deal with it.
The simplest solution is to do as Dusty told so many of us.

Keep writing.

I don’t care if it’s recipes, or crap you delete the next day, a frown of disgust on your face. And maybe you do it again the next day. And the next. And the next.

The point is, you’re doing something creative, and eventually it’ll turn into something you read, then nod to yourself and think, I’m keeping this.

It has taken me two, maybe three years to finish Animal Sacrifice, despite knowing, in general, how it was supposed to end (if your read this blog regularly, you’ll know I’m what’s called a pantser—I don’t outline my novels). I wrote some other things in between. I have a couple other novels started, and I managed to crank out a few short stories to keep the creative juices flowing at least to an extent.

But Animal Sacrifice sat there in its file, mocking me, it seemed. I knew what needed to happen, but getting the words out was all but impossible.

And yet, I kept writing.

Why?

Well, I have four finished novels prior to this. That’s proof I can do it. And it means I can do it more than once. Plus, I believe in this story, think it’s a good one, and it needs to see the light of day. Yes, there will be rewrites to turn it into a real mystery a toddler can’t solve in the first twenty pages, but the straight-line story is there, and it’s a good one. I say that without ego.

But I also saw my mentors, Dusty and Velda Brotherton—the two who started the writing group I’m a member of—turning out books, no matter what went on in their lives. Dusty spent a month in the hospital with pneumonia last spring.

He kept writing once he was out.

Velda has lost her husband, and her health has put her in a wheelchair.

She keeps writing.

That’s inspiration, folks. That’s drive.

That’s what we need to emulate.

I finished my novel, regardless of how hard it was to write. So go out there and finish yours, and finish the one after that, and the one after that, ad infinitum.
Keep writing.

Later,
Gil

Advertisements

I Lost My Wife to NaNoWriMo

I’m an NaNoWriMo widower… at least to an extent.

If you’re not familiar with NaNoWriMo—or can’t remember when I’ve talked about it before (I sympathize, believe me)—NaNoWriMo is internetspeak for National Novel Writing Month, and you can find out more about it at nanowrimo.org. The simple definition is this: you write 50,000 words in a month. The aim is to write a short, completed novel, though some begin early and use that crunch to finish—or at least get close to finishing—a novel. It happens every November. The idea behind this is to get the story down on paper. Don’t edit. Don’t polish. Just write. What my wife calls word vomit.

Yes, we’re back to my wife again.

See, I got married in July to the woman I’ve spent my life looking for. Less than four months later, she’s writing a cozy mystery for NaNoWriMo. In and of itself, I love the idea, and I’m fully supportive. But as I write this, it’s November 7th, and I miss her already.

See, to achieve this goal, she has to write an average of 1,667 words a day (50,000 ÷ 30 = 1,666.66667, for you math nerds), and she has to do this in the evenings after she gets home from her day job (you know, that nasty thing we writers have to have to do things like eat food). And that means she has very little time to spend with… me.

I know: cry me a river.

Though this post is largely tongue-in-cheek, I have to be honest and reiterate that I support her fully. Way back when we reconnected (my wife and I once knew one another more years ago than I care to talk about), during the catch-up stage, I told her I was a writer and had four books published. She admitted that had been a dream of hers all her life.

See how we’re so well-matched?

But here’s the thing: she saw my writing, and that of the people I associate with, and I think it intimidated her. After that initial mention of wanting to be a writer, she didn’t bring it up again.

And that bothered me.

See, I’d read some of her Facebook posts. And thesis papers. And I knew she could write, if she’d just give herself permission to. But I had trouble convincing her of that.

I stayed patient, though, not because I’m a saint, but because every writer in history has been there: we want to write, but have no confidence in our abilities to do so. We want to be (insert name of favorite author here) right off the bat without going through whatever (favorite author) went through to get that good. It’s normal, and very human, and it’s not limited to writers and would-be writers. I’d guess every creative person is that way.

What separates the wheat from the chaff—or elevates a would-be to a writer—is the discipline to put butt in chair and write. You gotta have your chops, and while meditation is a good thing, it will never totally replace action, especially when it comes to being creative. At a certain point you simply have to do something about your dreams, rather than just dreaming them.

My wife loves cozy mysteries, and she came up with an idea for one (I refuse to share it here until she’s done with it) that I think is excellent, and it draws on her own experience, which will make it more authentic. She’s let me read most of it as she finishes each section, with the caveat that I turn my editing off, and it’s excellent, especially for someone who said she couldn’t write. I’m not much on cozies, but I know good writing when I see it, and she’s got it.

I encouraged her, so I guess I’m getting my just desserts.

But you know what? That’s okay. It’s made her happier than I’ve seen her yet, and she loves that I believe in her, and that makes it worth anything I could go through. After all, she sits in bed to write while I’m reading (how’s that for a hot time in the bedroom?), so we’re still spending time together, and it doesn’t get much better than that.

Only twenty-three more days to go…

Later,
Gil

Two Firsts

This past week marks two firsts for me—the first time I’ve had a book re-released, and the first time I’ve been featured on someone else’s blog.

Let me explain. I’ll start with the re-release.

If you’ve paid attention to my offerings here, you’ll notice I took the link down for Spree. That’s because I got the rights back at the end of last year and a new edition has been in production since, with a far better cover and interior layout.

And the return of my original opening sentence.

When I originally conceived of Spree, I wanted to have fun with it. So I made the writing style a bit irreverent, and very informal. I wanted it to be more stream-of-consciousness than some stodgy, formal thing (I hate that anyway, anymore). Yes, the story becomes serious—as it should—but I wanted the reader to have fun getting there.

In this spirit, the original opening sentence to what I guess you’d call the prologue read This is how it went down. I thought that, in a sentence, summed up the experience I planned to give the reader.

But the original editor/publisher believed that sentence was too omniscient. Not enough deep POV. So it was scrapped, and I’ve always regretted that. Let that be a lesson to you, kiddies: don’t always give in just to be published, which is sorta what I did.

There was one other passage I had a minor problem with, where I had my cop character have a hunch, and the editor didn’t like it. He wanted to add in that the information had come from a confidential informant. I’m not sure exactly what the objection was to the hunch—it’s been long enough that, if there was a reason given, I don’t remember it. Some people just don’t like the idea of people getting hunches, but I’m convinced cops—and people in other professions as well—get these hunches based on their long experience in their jobs. They’re not something weird and mystical, they’re just our brain and subconscious working together in ways we don’t fully understand yet.

But, I let it stand.

Most of the other editing was fine. No objection. But, on the whole, I wasn’t that happy with the publisher, so when it came time to renew the contract, I opted out.

Now, on the other subject, though I’ve been a published author for some time, I’m not good at the PR end of things. I even stopped doing this blog because, quite frankly, I ran out things to write about. There at the end, I was trying different strategies to make it more relevant and less focused on things only other writers would be interested in, but it didn’t work too well.

And, quite frankly, I lacked the self-confidence to promote myself on others’ sites.

But my wife—God bless her—wants to see me succeed, probably more than I do, and she’s getting me out there, making me do things outside my poor, introvert’s comfort zone, which means I’ve been featured on Ninetoes Loves Books (https://ninetoeslovesbooks.wordpress.com/2017/10/26/introducing-gil-miller/), so pop on over and give it a quick read and see what you think.

I’m still not sure what to think of it, but I’m happy to report that the man himself sent me a friend request on Facebook, and we talked a bit on Messenger and it turns out we’re a lot alike, so if nothing else, I got a new friend out of it. And I hope for both our sakes we get a lot more than that. If we can give each other a boost, so much the better.

And if I haven’t put up links to my newest books—including the re-release—by the time you read this, rest assured they’ll be up soon.

Later,
Gil

Into the Unknown

It’s been quite some time since I told you to look for a comeback from me, and even longer since I’ve posted anything here. If you’ve given up on me, I’m sorry for being absent for so long (though, if you’ve given up, you’re probably not reading this, so…). And if you haven’t… well, thanks for staying the course and please accept my profound apologies for neglecting you for so long.

First, a short explanation: I ran out of things to say.

Short enough for you?

The simple truth is, unless I want to stray into areas I probably shouldn’t—and I touched on them with posts such as questioning whether or not political parties have become cults—maintaining a blog week after week is tough for me. I’ve read books about blogging, of course. I’m anal about researching things to the nth degree. But while those books are good at telling you what you should do (a plug for Rise of the Machines by Kristen Lamb would not be out of place here), very few tell you how to do it, and therein lies the problem for me.

Yes, I realize the details are up to me. I’m not asking someone to hold my hand. The problem likely lies more in my comprehension than anything else. What they say makes sense, I just can’t figure out exactly how to translate that into practical experience.

But I’m gonna work on it.

And I’m gonna get back into blogging. I’ve had others suggest several directions for me to go with this blog, directions that don’t consist of repeatedly talking only about writing and being an author (though I’m sure there’ll still be some of those posts), and I may dabble in many of those suggestions. So if things seem a bit scattered here, that’s why.

In the meantime, a lot has changed in the time I’ve been “off the air.” I’m still somewhat in a writing slump—which no doubt contributed to my long silence—but I seem to be slowly coming out of that and I’m feeling the first faint warmth of the creative fires burning again.

And, about three months ago, I married my best friend. Not to sound melodramatic, but I was well on my way to becoming a bitter, lonely old man (another factor which probably kept me from writing), and then this special lady from the past finds me on Facebook and my life turned around completely.

Which leads to my leap into the unknown.

Being a writer, I’m sure it only makes sense I’m a book nerd. So is my wife. And she’d love nothing better than to see me be successful as an author. To her, I’m a rock star. When last I wrote here, I worked as a security guard, which allowed me to do quite a bit of editing while performing my duties on the job. I’ve since left that job and went to work installing network, fire alarm, and coaxial cable, a job I got laid off from after three months. And, despite the so-called improved economy, I’m having trouble finding a new job.

A couple weeks back, one of the attendees at my writers group offered to pay me to edit one of his books he intends to self-publish. I took him up on the offer, but it got me to thinking, and I talked to my wife about it, and the upshot is, I’m gonna throw my hat in the ring as a freelance editor.

And why not? I now have a couple years’ experience under my belt working for Oghma Creative Media. But we’re still not earning enough money for anyone to make a salary yet—though we’re getting tantalizingly close—and I need to generate an income. Yes, from what little research I’ve been able to do so far, it’s a tough field, but I’m used to that from being an author. And if it works out, it’ll mean no more commuting, which will save on gas, and it’ll be a natural extension of what I already do until Oghma gets on an earning basis. And as my wife said, it’s a good time to experiment and see how it goes while I have some unemployment coming in and no job offers as yet.

Yeah, it’s scary. But following your dreams always is. If you sit on your duff and never take a chance, you never get to find out if you could have made it or not. For some, I’m sure that’s fine, and I won’t argue with them about it.

But I’m not getting any younger. If I’m gonna do this, I better get on it.

I’ll keep you posted.

Later,
Gil

Want to Be a Successful Writer? Ten Ways to GO PRO!

But saying we want to go PRO is easier than knowing what one actually looks like. To be blunt, there are far more people “playing writer” than “going pro.” Even those of us …

Source: Want to Be a Successful Writer? Ten Ways to GO PRO!

New Books

Well, I finally have a new book out. Two, in fact: Startup, the first in my Rural Empires setting, and A Temporary Thing, which I wrote as a prequel to Startup (it’s complicated).

How do I feel? About the same as before. I don’t expect overnight greatness from this. I didn’t get it with my first novel, Spree, and I highly doubt it’ll happen with these two books. Just being pragmatic here. The so-called overnight success stories are exceptions to the rule, and are generally no as sudden as they might seem at first glance.

Take Stephen King. His first novel, Carrie, took off like a shot and catapulted him to fame and fortune. It was a novel he threw away and only gave a second chance because his wife urged him to. And he’s stated he still doesn’t really like the book.

Understandable. But he’s also cognizant of what it did for him, so he doesn’t exactly disown it, either.

Either way, Carrie was not his first published work. It was just his breakthrough work. He’d published short stories—a favorite medium of his and one I can’t do well at all—in magazines, most of them men’s magazines such as Cavalier. By the time Carrie came out, he’d been slaving away getting low pay for his work. And all this had honed his craft so that the success Carrie had was well-deserved.

And I’m sure if you read the back story of pretty much any successful author who’s worth reading, you’ll find the same narrative. We may be born with the talent to write—an arguable position—but we still have to work at it to make it better, and we have to keep working at it our whole lives.
And then we have to get noticed.

That’s never been easy. Back when Mr. King was first published, there were gatekeepers—i.e. editors and publishers—who decided whether or not you got noticed. And, quite often, despite the fact they might decide to publish your work, that didn’t necessarily mean they’d do their best to make sure it sold well. One of the many reasons the New York model is falling flat on its face.

Even still, there were lots of books published, and I find them in used bookstores all the time: books by authors I’ve never heard of, and when I crack them open, I see why. These days of self-publishing don’t have a corner on the market of bad writers, necessarily, it’s just that it’s easier for them to see the light of day.

But even when you’re good—and I’ve been told by several people that I am, so I suppose it’s true, at least to an extent—getting noticed is hard. It’s a big sea, and there are a lot of fish in it. Being the one who rises to the top isn’t an easy thing.

So. I have two new books out. They’re available on Amazon. And from me, if you happen to see me. It’s not like I sold out at my release party this past Sunday. That’s the reality of publishing these days, and I’m not looking to quit my day job anytime soon.

But it still feels good to finally have more books out, because that means I’m a bit closer to being able to quit my day job.

And that’s the goal: to tell that day job goodbye.

Later,
Gil

The Costs of Publishing

It seems strange to me, but people who’ll spend ten bucks to go to the latest explosion fest at the theater gripe about the cost of a book and tout it as one of the reasons they don’t read. Maybe our special effects budget isn’t high enough or something.

So let’s look at the math, in a general way.

For the sake of argument, let’s say you spend that same ten bucks for a book. Mass media paperbacks are getting really close to that now, so it’s a semi-valid argument.

If you’re an author with a New York publisher, your cut of that ten bucks is gonna be in the range of five to ten percent. That means for that book, you’re gonna make somewhere between fifty cents and a dollar. Now, if you have an agent, he’s gonna get fifteen percent (based on industry standard. Some may be lower), which means you lose anywhere from eight cents (it works out to 7.5, and I’m sure the agent will round up) to fifteen cents, leaving you with forty-two to eighty-five cents.

Doesn’t seem so bad, does it?

But that’s not all. Now you have to figure out how much you actually made. How long did it take to write the book? You’ll have to break it down into hours, but after you figure in the writing and multiple edits, my guess is, unless you’re someone like Stephen King, you’re not making anywhere near the national minimum wage, never mind what those, um, people in Seattle thought they’d be making with their fifteen dollar an hour minimum.

So where’s the rest of it go? To the publisher. It’s expensive to print books, and if you’re with one of the Big Five, they do print runs based on how many books they project you’ll sell. Most of the time they’re wrong, judging from everything I’ve been reading online, so if they gave you an advance—something that’s shrinking and even disappearing in today’s publishing world—you likely didn’t earn it back. Which is why the Big Five are mostly losing money and are happy to have surprise hits like Fifty Shades of Grey, regardless of actual quality.

Things are a little different on the indie/small publishing side of things. For instance, at Oghma Creative Media, our standard contract is a 60/40 split, and we’re able to offer the forty percent to authors because we’re basically print-on-demand (POD). Still, to set up a book with Lightning Source, the premium way to go when it comes to POD because using them makes you look far more legit to bookstores and libraries, costs well over two hundred dollars (I can’t remember the exact figure).

Granted, it’s still not great money. You’re getting four dollars of that ten-dollar book, but since we’re still a struggling company, you’re likely not selling many books. Yet. But would you do better with one of the Big Five? Unlikely. I’ve read and heard that ten percent of Big Five authors get ninety percent of the promotional budget. Which is to say, they’re really only betting on sure things. It’s a system set up to fail, made to fulfill their prediction that new authors are money pits. It’s a closed loop that accomplishes nothing.

So the next time you feel you’re paying too much for a book, keep all this in mind. And remember that the vast majority of us writers aren’t making money hand over fist like John Grisham and Stephen King.

Later,

Gil