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Authors' Thread (New! Improved! Now With 10% More Questions!)

Discussion in 'Writers' Workshop' started by jgmacg, Jan 25, 2007.

  1. jgmacg

    jgmacg Guest

    A new thread for craft questions and discussions about books and the writing of books.

    If there's interest, we can try to get some board members and guest authors in here to chat about their work.

    I'll start.

    Turns out they're much easier to read than they are to write.
  2. dawgpounddiehard

    dawgpounddiehard Active Member

    Re: Author Thread

    I'll follow...

    Where does one start once you have these essentials?
    -Computer with a word processing program.
    -A topic.
  3. Msaint

    Msaint Member

    Re: Author Thread

    You next need to develop opposable thumbs and/or a partly functioning central nervous system. Then you have to be nailing, or have blackmail photos of, a high-powered acquisitions editor at a major publisher. What you do between those two crucial steps, God only knows.

    I'm by no means an expert, but I do have two books under my belt that several relatives and a girlfriend in the, um, Niagara Falls area have read. So, joking aside, I'd be glad to chime in with whatever answers I can provide as to the writing/publishing process, at least as I know it.

    One major hurdle I had to overcome was the "Wait, this sucks, what the hell am I writing here?" syndrome, in which I'd furiously write for 3, 4 chapters, all excited about the prospects of this original topic, just loving it, but then I'd start second-guessing and overthinking. I'd flip back to Chapter 1 and start editing, tweaking, nitpicking. And pretty soon I'd be mired in the middle of Chapter 1 with no earthly idea how I'd even gotten to Chapter 4, let alone how I'd get to Chapter 5, 13, 22, etc.. For years, this produced piles of half-/quarter-written manuscripts on a variety of topics that, to this day, I have no idea how they even entered my head. Personally, I think you have to just plow on through until you're finished, THEN go back and start hacking away at it. Get a complete first draft under your belt, no matter how many plot holes, under-developed characters or run-on sentences there are, just to prove to yourself that you can actually see a manuscript through from start to finish.

    And then you have to craft the absolute perfect agent query letter/email to get the post-writing ball rolling...and then craft the absolute perfect proposal for editors...and then work with your editor to, well, edit...and then sweat out the production process...and then, pre- and post-release, fight and scrape until your knuckles are bloody for even a shred of publicity...but those are other mystifying subjects for another time. And while some of the above sounds a little glass-half-empty, I can honestly tell you that it's been one of the most rewarding (not financially, mind you), enjoyable, fascinating, downright enjoyable experiences of my life.
  4. friend of the friendless

    friend of the friendless Active Member

    Re: Author Thread

    Sirs, Madames,

    I'll jump way ahead on this one (since it was my bright idea).

    My publisher, Doubleday/Random House Canada, has suggested to me that I commit to a daily blog in the hopes of gaining marketing and publicity advantages. I've started it up--which is to say that I'm throwing it against the wall and seeing if it sticks. I go into it sorta sheepishly. No expectations. And really, I'm doing this in large part because I want to be a model citizen in the publisher's little world (did one book for them last year, doing one this year, and in talks about one down the line). I don't remotely imagine that this will get snakes on a plane / blair witch buzz. Has anyone done something like this? Or aware of something like this working? Thoughts?

    YHS, etc
  5. Msaint

    Msaint Member

    Re: Author Thread

    My agent is often pushing blogging as a way to build an audience, and I was lucky enough to blog on fantasy football for NY Times this season (they started a new section on the sports page called "The 5th Down"), which was a lot of fun. That said, it didn't exactly send sales through the roof, so blogging can be hit or miss. If anything, it just gets/keeps your name out there a little more than usual. But 5th Down was a blog site someone else had created, which was good because I personally don't have a ton of extra time right now -- between work, family, writing more directly book-related stuff -- to dedicate myself to updating a blog every single day, or update it well. And you might not, either. That said, I have heard of bloggers gaining an audience through their sites, which can only be a selling point when pushing otehr book projects (i.e. you have a "built-in" audience), and if you can find the time to update daily and make it fun/interesting, by all means, go for it, certinaly can't hurt, and it keeps you sharp.

    And there are other ways to "please" your publisher: try to drudge up reviews/press on your own through online book review sites like bookgasm.com or mediabistro, through your local paper, anywhere, everywhere. Offer to send people complimentary copies left and right. Just my experience, but my editor/publicist is always happy when I bring them leads or do legwork for them -- and the author, as you no doubt know, has to do a TON of legwork on his/her own. There's a misconception that once a book is out, the author just kicks back as they roll in wheelbarrows of money. Um, yeah, not true. Publicists, if you get one, are overworked, often working on 10 other books besides yours, so expect nothing, and be happy for anything, is the motto.

    Good luck. Post your blog URL here when you can, I'd love to check it out.
  6. friend of the friendless

    friend of the friendless Active Member

    Re: Author Thread


    That's reassuring to read about your blogging. It sounded at the start like the publisher's idea of a snipe hunt.

    I hear what you say about publicists--I've tried to take it on myself. I know my publisher can't knock me for what I did on my own for promotion. Two hockey books in the last two years ... I built up my own network of radio contacts, everything from drive-time sports talk radio in Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, Calgary and Vancouver, right down to game broadcasters in Swift Current. Yup, that was me on the broadcast of the Red Deer Rebels and the Brandon Wheat Kings and the Sudbury Wolves. Plus, for the next book, I was in Sweden at the world under-20s and ended up doing a radio interview (on the Canada-wide broadcast) about my current book during the second intermission of the final. I've had comp copies sent out to bloggers hither and yon--waiting on reviews from them. The NHL Network did a piece about the subject matter of my book during the world junior tournament and plugged it. The upside is that I have it all in place to do again next fall.

    Re: blogging. Long and short, I don't have a clue, so here's what I've been able to come up with.


    Clearly it's a work-barely-in-progress. It will be tricked out in a few weeks. Any suggestions appreciated. Well, almost any.

    YHS, etc
  7. Msaint

    Msaint Member

    Re: Author Thread

    No worries. Again, I was probably telling you stuff you already well know, but I always like sharing war stories with other authors. Speaking of, a good site for chatting about writing, publicity, agents, etc. is www.writers.net., in the "discussion" links. Was a good place to get some unbiased criticism of query letters early on, especially.

    Fun reading on the blog. I'm admittedly not a big hockey fan, even though I played hockey goalie in high school, in a pretty solid prep league in CT (played against Brian Leetch, Craig Janney, among other future NHLers). Well, played is a stretch -- I warmed up prior to games in which Brian Leetch and Craig Janney happened to be playing, for I was merely the backup goalie, although I did get some action against Deerfield Academy, Janney's team, and stopped a shot of his (read: he misfired and hit me square in the top of my left pad). That was my hockey apex; been all downhill from there. That said, once you've been hit square in the face or the nuts by a screaming slapshot, other sports activites don't inspire too much fear, and honestly, I feel my early goalie experience helped me be a (slightly) more confident football kicker.

    Having grown up around Boston, I was a huge Bruins fan as a kid and into my teens and post-college -- from Orr and Espo to Bucyk and O'Reilly to Bourque and Neely -- but I gotta tell ya, there couldn't be less excitement for NHL hockey here right now, which is sad, considering its Original Six status. I have no idea how they'll turn it around, either. They showed signs of life after finally spending some money to bring in guys like Chara (when, before, cheapo absentee landlord Jeremy Jacobs would Krazy Glue his wallet shut), but as big as that signing was in hockey circles, it paled in comparison to, say, the Sox signing Dice-K. In December. Celtics are suffering from the same indifference on the part of fans. Again, it's sad, because the Boston area has been such a tremendous hotbed of hockey talent, but the NHL is flatlined. All the losing doesn't help, but the B's are over .500 in a pretty tight division, so there's hope. What do you think the NHL can do, if anything, to get back on the sports fan radar?

    Have lots of hockey-crazed friends and will pass on the links for your books. Maybe I'll even be lured back into the game by reading them. ;)
  8. jgmacg

    jgmacg Guest

    Re: Author Thread

    I crawled out from under a 16,500-word story yesterday. It's like tunneling your way out of solitary with a spork. Took the whole of ten weeks. And the edit/rewrite/edit/rewrite process will extend another two weeks at least.

    It won't run at that length of course - but was the kind of piece that needs to be written in full before it can be figured out. You write the block of marble (or cheese, depending), and the edit becomes the chisel (or parallel implement for State Fair-caliber novelty cheddar sculpture).

    So I haven't posted much lately, but wanted to ask our bloggers how the blog thing is going.

    I have a website that went up prior to the publication of the first book, and have been very pleased with the internet presence it creates. It's not particularly interactive, though, nor am I sure I want it to be. People can write in if they choose, and I'll generally answer if such is required, but blogging (at least blogging well) seems like work. And I am a lazy, lazy man.

    There's a book idea right there for anyone who wants it: Blogging Well.

    Or perhaps just the transliterated name of a village in Wales for your next collection of pastoral short stories.

    Both Seth Mnookin and Warren St. John have very stylish, very effective web operations for those looking for further inspiration.
  9. friend of the friendless

    friend of the friendless Active Member

    Re: Author Thread

    Sirs, Madames, Mr macg

    16G--that is one massive draft. (Consider the source: I once gave a 6,000 word query for a 3,000 word mag story.)

    The book-related blogging venture has had some decent traffic and shout-outs by others in the niche. Jeez it's time consuming. That said, I guess it's no different (or at least not that much different) than journal-keeping. Stuff that you can mine for story/book ventures later on. I'm just hoping that it might be a networking outlet--that maybe stories/sources might come to me through it (within the hockey niche). But it is ridiculously time-consuming. I must be doing it all wrong.

    YHS, etc
  10. jgmacg

    jgmacg Guest

    Re: Author Thread

    This book is kicking my weak, scrawny, not-quite-smart-enough-to-master-the-material ass. This morning in particular.

    Just had to say it somewhere.
  11. friend of the friendless

    friend of the friendless Active Member

    Re: Author Thread

    Mr macg,

    Sympathies. Handing in 25k first installment on next title. Cross-eyed. The significant other--Only Friend of the Friend of the Friendless--sent in her ms (18 months in the making) just after breakfast. B-tch.

    YHS, etc
  12. jgmacg

    jgmacg Guest

    Re: Author Thread

    Thanks for stepping into the confessional Fr. FotF. I send warm ecumenical regards and congratulations to you and your mighty Significant.
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