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Thursday, March 29, 2012
I have always believed in a simple concept. If you are going to do something, do it right - do it well!
You're going to devote alot of time and energy to a huge project. So you do not want to waste time, or find yourself running out of steam part-way through.
So preperation is the key.
Okay, so I had my concept. I would be writing about a Global Emergency Service. They would have futuristic technology and special powers. (A kind of blend between Thunderbirds and the X-Men).
Questions: What do the emergency services actually do? For me, part of that was easy, I had served in the military and police - I knew the dynamics involved of attending various emergencies and what you have to think about for specific incidents.
BUT - I had only observed the Fire Service at work - I had only observed the more advanced applications of Emergency Medical Care. I needed to find out HOW they responded to certain incidents and WHY. What did they have to consider? What were the difficulties and hazards they had to contend with.
That took a while - to gain certain operating procedures - (But it was worth it later).
Okay - How would I now stretch those operating procedures into a futuristic organisation? What equipment would they have? What could it do? What was its limitations?
If I touch on areas of science and medicine and mechanics - what is our current level of understanding? What is currently being developed? How can I "logically" stretch that into a futuristic concept and "keep it real"? How can I make the theoretical aspect become accepted as the norm in the story?
Then of course, I have to add in their special abilities!
What abilities would they have? How do they get them? How do they develop? What are the limitations of each ability? How can the "user" strengthen the abilities they have? How would they be trained?
Talking of training...
What training regimen would have to take place to qualify someone as a "Guardian".
How many years? What would they learn? When? Where? How would you blend the physical side with the psychic - and add in the enhanced education required to operate futuristic technology?
Do you see the planning I had to do? And I was nowhere near the writing stage yet!
Having got this far, I had to be realistic. If the Guardians were too "super-duper" they would be boring!
Oh, a meteor is threatening earth. Yeah, done that, next! Oh, a passenger jet is crashing - yawn, fixed it! B-O-R-I-N-G.
So, I had to ensure they had "realistic" strengths and weaknesses and an operating procedure that is based on sound principles. It would make them fantastic - but "fallible" too. They could be beaten.
But this presented another hurdle.
Okay, I've got this global emergencyservice who are raring to go...BUT
How would I introduce them into society? When would I do it? What have they been doing up intil now? Where? What is their history? How did they start? Just how did the 1st Guardian come about?
See the problem? - So it required yet more planning to give them their own genesis and history.
Combining all these things together with all the notes and idea's I had put together over the years added a necessary depth to my concept that breathed life into it. It was hard work - but it was essential.
Then I was almost ready to begin writingI had my concept - the foundations were in place - what blueprint would I follow? Ah - a blueprint. We shall look at that next time.
Thursday, March 22, 2012
The best place to start any journey is at the very beginning. That's where you discover the roots of what will be; where you unearth the influences that affect you in later life. As such, my road to becoming an author started a long time ago. Back in 1960!
When I was growing up, I wanted to be an astronaut. Either that, or enter the military as 5 previous generations of my family had done. I never dreamed that one day, I would be an author.
Don't get me wrong, I had imagination by the bucket-load, but I never realised that one day, I'd actually sit down and put what was in my mind into a book.
I had learnt to read before I went to school, and from an early age devoured anything I could find to read. However, I particularly loved science fiction & paranormal adventures.
Up until I entered the military, I had mint condition Superman - Batman - The Flash - Fantastic 4 - Green Lantern - Thor - The X-Men & Spiderman magazines. (ALL of them, from No 1) - could you imagine what they'd be worth now?
I'd also read every single science fiction book in the local library, from the likes of Asimov, Clark & Hubbard.
My favorite TV show's were things like Fireball XL5, Space Patrol, Lost in Space, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Land of the Giants, Thunderbird's, Stingray, Captain Scarlet, The Tomorrow People, UFO, Space 1999, Star Trek - spot the theme yet?
While I was in the military, I began enjoying a wider band of fiction - Fantasy!
Stephen Donaldson, Ursula Le Guin, J R R Tolkein, Julian May were authors who I could really relate to - each of them having a different taste to their writing.
During my time as a Police Officer, I kept an eye out for other quality writers, discovering the likes of Raymond E Feist, Trudi Canavan and Tad Williams.
My television viewing followed suit. The New Star Trek Spin-Off's were a must see, as was Babylon 5, Stargate SG1 & Atlantis, Heroes - and a particular favorite of mine - the re-vamped Battlestar Galactica.
Why do I tell you all this?
Well, quite simply, those things had an influence on me growing up. An influence that continued into adulthood, where the harsh realities of life made me wish on many occasions..."If only science fiction/fantasy could be science fact!"
What do I mean?
My time in the military and Police caused me to witness suffering and tragedy "Up close & personal" in all sorts of different places, in all sorts of different ways over the many years I served. At the scene of a death or an accident or bomb blast, I often used to wonder, "What would have happened if we had got here sooner?" - "What would happen if we had the technology to undo this? Or prevent it happening in the first place?"
So it started me thinking - "what IF"
What IF there was such a thing as a global emergency service that had the resources and the capabilities to respond to any type of disaster no-matter where it occured. How would they operate? How would they train? How would they fit into society? Would everyone be pleased?
Thus the "Guardians Concept" was born - Gradually, little by little, bit by bit, over the years, until I started jotting down an endless ream of notes and ideas as to how they could be brought to life.
Little did I realise at the time, that I was following a golden rule of writing:
If you're going to write about something, write about a subject you know well! Something you've had a relationship with - a history with. Something that you can put that personal touch to, and make it stand out.
So - how did I breathe life into the concept? That's for next time
Thursday, March 15, 2012
Yeeha! Congratulations, well done.
That special group you were part of - (by becoming a writer in the first place) - has now become even more select. Now, you're part of a family.
So - what next?
Believe it or not - this can be very important.
Once you get over the initial excitement, (and it will be hard), make a concious effort to try and keep your feet on the floor. Remember, families are made of of different members who each fulfil a specific role. Good families work together, and you can see how that helps them flourish.
Try to approach your new family in the same way.
A publishing house will have an owner - or co-owners - editors - authors - designers and all sorts of other staff who will already be very busy.
Remember, publishers work 12 - 18 months ahead, and although you'll be all excited and cartwheeling around your front room, clutching your new contract, they will be concentrating on the every day business of preparing their imminent releases, preparing artwork, arranging conventions and/or expo's, arranging new outlets, new articles, updating the website and blogs...etc, etc, with and for their already existing authors.
As the new boy or girl on the block, they will do their best to make you feel welcome, but remember, they can't be there to hold your hand every day. They really are very, very busy.
Once you've looked over and signed your contract, filled in your Author Information Sheet, etc etc, there will be a lull in activity. So expect it and don't get lazy.
What can you do in that gap between sending back all your information and completing the final edit as per the editors/publishers guidelines?
Well, there's quite alot you can do besides getting on with your second book!
How many authors do your publishers have? How many new authors? What are the new releases? When are they coming out?
Look into these things, it will help you appreciate why you won't be getting a daily check-up to see how you are. As I mentioned, they really are busy.
Okay, you're part of a busy family. That's great news. If they're busy - that means your new family are thriving and will help you.
So get to know them - become an active part of the team and support them. How?
Put yourself out there! Are they on facebook/twitter? Link in.
Have they got imminent releases? Congratulate them.
Get to know them, and let them get to know you.
If you get any requests from the publisher etc for updates/work/or invitations to take part in something, complete it promptly.
Also, keep busy in other ways. (If you have an agent - they will be busy on your behalf)
If not, think of ways you can support your publisher through your own website, your blog, and other mediums you might be using.
Promote them through those mediums, and involve their input or suggestions into their construct.
By the time it comes to "your turn" for final preparations - you will have demonstrated to everyone you're an active member of the family who works hard to support the team.
Sounds simple I know - but you'd be surprised!
Any way - next time I thought I'd tell you my own story. Hopefully, a personal touch may make it a bit more interesting....?
Tuesday, March 13, 2012
I'll try and explain this in a way that makes sense.
If you are one of the few who have actually spent the time, energy, and passion to sit down over a period of months and months - (possibly running into years) to complete a novel - Then Well Done!
Without a doubt, you are special.
They say everyone has a book in them. But not "everyone" will sit down and actually do it.
YOU DID, so you belong to a very select crowd.
However, on joining this select crowd, you will find yourself at the beginning of a pain filled journey faced by every other author who made it to this point.
Say hello to the world of "Rejection". So - prepare yourself for it, because it's going to happen.
And I stress - not might, not possibly - It will happen.
So how can you prepare? Simply, by doing several positive things.
1. Expect to be rejected from the word "go", and,
2. Give your work to others to read.
There are plenty of offers on the internet from individuals/companies/consultants/writers groups etc etc and who say they will give you honest feedback. Consider them.
If you have a wide circle of acquaintances from professional backgrounds, ask them to tell you what they think. And ask them to be honest.
Listen to what all these sources say, and if it honestly makes sense - use that information wisely.
If a common theme begins to develop - take it on board and make adjustments.
Refine your manuscript as much as you can, so that what you submit is the very best it can be, then send it to those agents/publishers you have selected.
3. Expect to be rejected. - (Am I emphasising this enough?) - Remember J K Rowling I mentioned in the other blog?
If you do these simple things, when the rejection letters start arriving, you will be in a positive frame of mind to deal with them.
Remember - Some Agencies and Publishers won't even grace you with a reply! Seriously!
Of those that do, there will be two main types.
1. Standard rejection - "No thank you, this is not for us" bye bye (Or very similar).
2. However, some publishers will give you a reason why they rejected your submission. If they do, take serious note of the reasons, collate the information, and make use of it.
Whatever you do - Make use of it.
Many, many special people who have come this far give up at this stage, and as such, many, many promising careers are cut short because they could not handle the rejection.
So, don't give up. Keep trying, keep adjusting and refining your story as much as you can, and keep applying..... Someone out there is waiting to say "Yes".
And while you wait, just think of those publishers and agents who said "No" to the aforementioned Ms Rowling! Sorry if I keep mentioning her, but "my oh my" I'd love to have been a fly on the wall at the companies who turned her down when she suddenly struck the big time. Wouldn't you?
What's that line from Pretty Woman...."Big mistake, Huge!"
If you give up, you'll never know.
BUT, if you keep trying, one day someone might say that about you!
Hope this helped - even if only a little.
Sunday, March 11, 2012
Thursday, March 8, 2012
Now you have reached the stage where you feel your manuscript is ready for submission, hopefully you will not be lulled into a false sense of security.
KEEP checking it through for errors, and places where you can polish it so that it flows and shines.
By now, you should have a completed a synopsis. (Better still, several versions!) Why?
Some Publishers/Literary Agents prefer a short synopsis, in as little as 200 words.
More commonly, they will vary between 1 - 3 pages.
So, if you made your notes as I suggested while writing the book, go over each chapter heading and review it, picking out the portions that will contribute to your synopsis.
What does this chapter tell me, and how does it tie in with the overall theme of the book and main/sub plots.
How much of that is essential to explaining briefly what the story is all about.
You need to ensure you construct a brief, punchy review that grabs their attention and will not let them go until they satisfy their curiosity by demanding to read your manuscript.
That standard needs to be achieved for a short synopsis, a longer one, AND an alternate version you may wish to include in the beginning of your second book if your story is part of a series.
(HINT) - When I was constructing mine, I looked at what some of my favorite authors did with their stories and followed suit.
If it's good enough for international best sellers, learn from them!
So, you've done that and now have to decide how to proceed. There are 2 schools of thought!
Agents can be said to act as a level of quality control.
An established Agent with a proven track record is in the business of earning a living from authors, so obviously they only want to take on the best concepts/stories, and those offering the best prospects, because if they don't, they go hungry!
A good agent will offer suggestions for improvement to make your manuscript more saleable, and will know the right Editor to approach at the right Publishing House.
If they secure you a deal, they will then negotiate the best deal for you, as they earn a living from a cut of your earnings.
Afterwards, dependent on the contract you have, they offer varying degrees of support re marketing, websites, advertising etc etc.
When you make your selection - remember it's down to you - but I feel its best NOT to waste your time & energy writing to every well established agency.
Be clever, direct your efforts to those who handle your genre and have a number of successful authors on their list who write your kind of story.
Follow their guidelines exactly, otherwise you face the real risk of having your work recycled to the bin.
Then be patient.
Some only receive agented submissions - (and you can't blame them) - agents act as a quality control filter, and some awful drivel does end up on their desks. seriously!
However, some (Big houses included) accept a direct approach.
Whatever option you choose, again, follow their guidelines to the letter.
Act wisely, some of the massive publishing houses have many different departments, and you will be a very little fish in a huge ocean.
By all means try - but be realistic.
Concentrate on publishing houses who either specialize in your genre, or who have a busy department/wing selling your kind of story.
Not only will you improve your chances, but some smaller houses may even offer brief feedback.
IF they do, take it on board.
DO your homework. Find out when they start accepting submissions for their lists. (Remember, publishers work a year to 18 months ahead. If you submit late in the day, a position you may have been in the running for might have been taken by someone else applying at the right time).
(HINT) - Keep an eye out for new publishing houses who either specialize in your genre, OR, who have just opened their doors to new genres.
They may be looking to fill their books with quality stories, and new authors.
Again - be honest with them.
If they do not want multiple submissions, play ball. (You mess with them at your peril)
If they don't mind, let them know, and assure them you will not then try to play tabletennis with any interest they show against someone else!
Then be patient.
In the meantime, keep refining your manuscript and prepare yourself for rejection.
Think about it, Stephen King started early as a budding author, and if the plethora of tales on the internet are anything to go by, was rejected again and again.
Look at him now.
J K Rowling (YES, THE J K Rowling) was said to have taken 6 years to put her story together and then was rejected12 times, before a small publishing house in the UK took her on.
Look at her now.
These well known names are not alone in being rejected, and neither will you be. You'll join the class of "hard knocks".
But they, and others, are a great example of what COULD happen to you, and through a smaller publishing company at that!
At the end of this series of tips, I will actually highlight my own experience - hopefully it will be something you can relate to, as it will show the value of directing your efforts at the right targets, and the benefits of being honest and open.
Also, it will reveal the real benefits of the smaller publishing houses who treat you as a human being, and someone they want to support.
(But thats for later).
Next time - handling rejection and what to do to stay positive.
See you then.
Tuesday, March 6, 2012
Endless months and months of preperation and writing have come together and you've just completed your manuscript.
Throwing your hands in the air, you let out a loud scream of victory and announce to the world "I've finished!"
You put your feet up, sit back and relax, because after all - "That's it!" - surely? Time to relax.
Sorry guy's - No way. It's far from over.
This is where - perhaps for the first time ever - you learn the value of checking.
Please - if you listen to nothing else, listen to this.
Perhaps you remember me mentioning, that when I'm writing, I go back over the text and read it slowly, word for actual word.
Is it correct, does it sound right, feel right, is it tight?
When I've done that, I read it again for "flow". Is it natural or do I sound like I've swallowed a dictionary and am having an attack of excessive verbosity.
As I'm writing, I check, check, and check again.
So - when we get to this stage, I have nothing to do? Wrong!
As I write this blog, I'm just coming to the end of my first edit to my second book.
I finished the book - or perhaps I should more accurately say - I completed the first draft just over two weeks ago.
Since then I've been going through it, word by word, paragraph by paragraph, scene by scene, chapter by chapter.
By the end of this week I should have finished the first revision.
It can be very annoying to find you've missed words out - but you will find that.
You will also discover where the slip of a finger has misspelt the word you intended to write. (And the auto correct/highlighter didn't pick it up).
Just goes to show - don't trust it - check it yourself.
Read it through - word by word.
Read it again naturally.
Something doesn't feel/sound right? look at it again and everything around it.
It's hard, repetitive, tedious work.
That's why I make a schedule and stick to it.
I take regular breaks to keep my mind fresh, because if you allow yourself to get tired, it's amazing the way your brain will fill in missing or misspelt word for you (Like a bio-autocorrect function).
When I've finished, guess what? - YUP - I will do it again. (although at this stage I will also send it to proof readers, and ask them to highlight everything they find.)
Depending on how many people you have - send them sections at a time - so you don't end up with a manuscript that is near perfect at the beginning and shoddy at the end.
You would be surprised how many make the mistake of sending off their manuscripts without having thoroughly checked them.
But it's not all bad news.... To keep yourself fresh, this is a good time to narrow down your list of Literary Agents and or Publishers - AND - It's a great time to construct your synopsis.
Let's chat about that next time.
Friday, March 2, 2012
I will keep this brief as there is a glut of information about this on the internet.
So, I'll tell you what I did to save time.
I did complete quite an extensive bit of research on the internet as to what to look for and what to expect from an agent and/or a publisher. - And, what they should/shouldnt do.
With an agent, you have to weigh the pro's and con's of getting one in the first place.
Are they well known? Who is on their books? What success rate do they have? Are details available so you can research and contact the authors they represent?
Obviously, the better known the agency, the more established their track record, the higher your chances are of finding a publisher, as they will know exactly where to look.
BUT - if you do want an agent, what about any costs involved, (as more and more do appear to expect some form of fee) - and if they dont, what percentage of your profits do they expect?
IF you do decide on pursuing an agent, try to find one who specializes in your genre, and one who has a proven track record of not only finding quality publishers, but who is known for supporting their authors too.
TIP: Looking for new agencies who are hungry for quality work may help you get your toe in the door faster than usual.
At this stage, make a shortlist to research at your leisure as you complete your book - AND - look for those who are agreeable to you continuing the search yourself.
There are quite a few sites on the internet that list what awards various publisher have won through their authors.
That is an excellent indicator to the standard of work they handle.
Out of that list - look to see what publishers handle your genre - or even better - specialize in your genre.
Are there any new publishers on the block who are expanding their lists?
Once you have your list, begin to research them - and whatever you do - look carefully at what they expect.
Some only accept contact via agents, others don't mind a direct approach.
Some don't mind multiple submissions, some don't mind so long as you tell them, others expect your exclusivity.
Play ball, you will benefit in the long run.
Thats it for now - next time we'll take a look at what you do as you complete your manuscript