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Breaking dams

Breaking Dams

So, I had this strategy when I decided I wanted to become a writer. I would write manuscripts, lots of manuscripts, lots of different manuscripts. Different genres, different settings, with different characters, and I’d continually pitch them to agents, to publishers, to whomever I had too until one finally sold. The goal was (and still kinda is, but I’ll get to that) that once a book sold, odds were a publisher would ask me to write more, turn it into a series. (Comes with the territory of writing speculative fiction. Not always, but more often than not.)

As many of you know I have finished and started pitching my first manuscript which is currently making it’s rounds (and being rejected) while I am in the middle of gathering the necessaries for my second and most recent finished manuscript “The Stars Were Right” so I can send it out the door and into the land of rejection.

So as according to plan, I should be starting my third book. New world. New characters. New series. I should have started it in earnest a few weeks ago. Though I have come to find out plans in writing — at least with me — are anything but solid.

I have been doing research off an on for a while now, a few different concepts. Some of which might eventually be manuscripts of their own. Yet, when I’d sit down to write any of them…. nothing. Nothing was coming out. My fingers were DOA. I got distracted. I became complacent. I found myself trying to find anything else to do rather than just sit down and start my new manuscript.

There was something getting in the way.

This all takes me back to a discussion that happened over the Thanksgiving holiday in regarding writing, characters development, and the craft itself. I made a comment that my “characters sometimes write themselves” and received nothing but blank looks from a few people. What followed were statements regarding the fact that as the writer, I was in charge, I could just tear a character out of the page if I wanted too, I could force a character to do what I wanted them too. After all it was my story. I should be able to control it.

The fact is sometimes with fiction, you can’t.

Character’s themselves may have traits that become so powerful it changes the direction of a story. The same goes for a story itself, sometimes an idea is so strong it overpowers everything else. It becomes a dam, blocking anything else from happening unless it’s been written down. My dam was Old Broken Road. Old Broken Road happens to be a sequel to The Stars Were Right. That’s the problem! It’s book two! TWO! I am starting book two in a series that isn’t sold! This is the opposite of my plan! (and might be an awful idea/waste of time.)

It’s too powerful though. I can’t get past it. Old Broken Road is overwhelming anything else I ever had a mind to write. It’s a story that is begging to be told, and I guess I’m the guy who has to tell it. When I came to this realization, and put aside all my other manuscripts, everything changed. The writers block I was experiencing seemed to fade away. Ideas, plots, characters, locations and conversations started flowing. The dam is beginning to crack.

So, yeah… so much for strategies. I’m now waist deep in Book 2 of the Bell Caravan Series: Old Broken Road.

Running the Numbers #3

Small update – not much new that I haven’t posted about before – anyway, here’s the numbers for Coal Belly. I keep plodding along – staying busy with other projects while I play the waiting game. I know things are going to get more complex as I start adding in the numbers for The Stars Were Right (which I just finished.)

  • Total Agents Queried: 84
  • Unanswered Queries: 46
  • Query Rejections: 33
  • Partials Requested: 5
  • Outstanding Partials: 1
  • Partials Rejected: 4
  • Fulls Requested: 0
  • Fulls Rejected: 0

Oh! Almost forgot, I also submitted my full Coal Belly manuscript to the Harper Voyager‘s open call for manuscripts, not something they do very often, obviously if something comes of that you’ll be the first to know.

Keep on keepin’ on.

Facing Rejection

One of my partials came back today: rejected.

That makes three of my partials that have been rejected. I see a lot of people lament this sort of response, and I get it, it came be tough. Writing a manuscript is hard, finishing it is harder, sending it out and watching the rejections roll in is the hardest. But… during these times one needs to remember that this is the name of the game. Partials get rejected, queries get rejected, heck even full manuscript requests get rejected. You face it and you keep moving, because in the end that’s the only option you have.

(Unless of course you’re a quitter, and you’re not a quitter.)

I draw maps.

Map of Lovat
Detail of the City of Lovat from my manuscript “The Stars Were Right.”

I write speculative fiction, which is the fancy way to say I write books that fit somewhere between sci-fi and fantasy, both of my manuscripts Coal Belly and Stars exists in realities separate from ours. Coal Belly takes place during an industrial revolution on a river covered planet named Vale, Stars exists in a distant furutre where the surface of the earth has changed significantly and strange creatures interact with humanity on a day to day basis. They’re both very detailed settings and in both cases I found that drawing my own maps really helped me with my world building.

I write with Scrivener (an amazing tool, I’ll probably write a post on it at some point in the future) and it has some templates for locations that I find very helpful. However sometimes a document with descriptions isn’t enough. My love of maps and my reliance on them in my writing is probably born out of my career as a designer. I can write details, but visualizing them spatially is often difficult for me.

“City of Cardova,” a central location in my manuscript “Coal Belly”

More and more I tend to find myself breaking out the ol’ moleskine and starting to sketch. Maps help me see a city, or a nation in better context, I can write to that local when I have it drawn out before me. See the distance between point A and B. Other times I use a map to work out details in a scene or a chapter. Case in point: I wrote a scene towards the end of Coal Belly and after reading it I realized it was confusing, so I drew a map. I choreographed how the whole event played out, I mapped character movement, and made notes on the actions of the scene. It worked out well.

So I draw maps, and will probably continue to do so, how about you? Ever drawn a map to help you write? What tools do you use? How detailed do you get?

Running the Numbers #2

I’ll try to do these running the numbers posts as long as I have new data to share. For even more up to date info: follow me on twitter. I tweet about a lot of things, often my writing. Not a huge swing in the count this week. I had a new partial request (yay!) and one rejection (boo!) anyway… the numbers as they stand today:

  • Total Agents Queried: 81
  • Unanswered Queries: 51
  • Query Rejections: 30
  • Partials Requested: 4
  • Outstanding Partials: 3
  • Partials Rejected: 1
  • Fulls Requested: 0
  • Fulls Rejected: 0

Running the Numbers

I figured it might be of interest if I started documenting the numbers surrounding my hunt for representation. I keep all this in a spreadsheet, recording the agent’s name, their business, their email, and the date they were queried. It’s handy and helps me keep track of everything.

So without further ado, the numbers:

  • Total Agents Queried: 81
  • Unanswered Queries: 51
  • Query Rejections: 30
  • Partials Requested: 3

10% positive interest in my manuscript. Not bad. I’ll take it.