It's been a long while since I spent much time talking about writing on this blog. Then again this year has been tough on me as far as the writing goes. Finding time has been hard but I'm going to try and get back in the groove. With that in mind I'm going to try and blog a bit more about the craft and my take on it, from the creation process all the way to the publishing business.
You will have to take this posts for what they are worth. After all, I've yet to find a home for any of my novels, so if I really had any earth shattering how-to advice I'd be using it myself. But I have been around the writing block enough times that I feel like I've gained some worthy knowledge.
A week or so back I posted that this blog was now 2 years old. That spawned a bit of confusion that I had only been writing two years. That is not the case, so for today I thought I'd give you my writing history.
After a lifelong love of books, and fiction in particular, I began actively writing with publication in mind in the fall of 2001.
My first novel I titled Small Town, Big Lies. I finished it in about nine months. Looking back I should have followed the general guidelines of the Romance genre and made it a contemporary but I didn't really know what I was doing. I watered it down with too many POV (Point of View) characters and tried to do too much with the story. Because of the multiple POVs and subplots I marketed it as Women's Fiction. Of course it was also littered with telling rather than showing, passive writing, and other assorted beginner mistakes. Not knowing any better I sent out lots of queries and was lucky enough to have four or five agents request the full manuscripts. One editor that I met at a conference even requested the full and for a time, I though I was going to get lucky with my first novel. But the marketing team at her publisher overruled her and said the novel had nothing to separate it from books already on the shelf.
After that I wrote a few short storied before diving into my next novel. UnLuckLess was a title no one ever liked but me. Nevertheless I continued to call it UnLuckLess in the nearly hundred queries I mailed out. (Very few agents took e-queries then) The novel was about a man who believed himself to be the unluckiest guy on earth, when actually his bad luck aways turned out to be good luck in the end. Confused yet? So was everybody else, but I'll try to make you understand. You have a flat on the way to the airport and miss your plane that is bad luck. If said plane then crashes and everyone on board dies your bad luck just became good luck. The novel was more subtle than that. It too had a strong romance element, but the female protagonist was married and the plot was dark and heavy and it would never work as a romance novel despite the to protagonists eventually riding into the sunset together. This novel drew little interest from agents and the few that did request more all said it was too dark, too heavy and too gritty for the commercial market. And the writing not strong enough for it to be literary. No one ever came right out and said that but the implication was there. I did receive one handwritten rejection from an agent that read ... "Your excess verbiage and meandering storytelling does not appeal to me now or never." Harsh yes, but accurate as well. Though he is no longer an agent and I am still writing so that takes the sting out a bit.
After that I wrote a few more short stories, published a few, and then started a new novel called Murky Water. But as the feed back came in for UnLuckLess I stopped writing it. If it was too dark then Murky Water was an absolute black hole. Murky Water started with a death, ended with a death and dealt with death throughout. I still believe in the plot and characters but who knows if I'll ever finish it.
Sticking with an aqua fascination I next began writing A River Without Water. A River had a female protagonist in her late twenties who'd spent her entire adult life running from an abortion she had at seventeen. She blamed her father for forcing her to give up her child. I poured a lot of research in by reading psychology books about the after affects of abortion and I even interviewed three different women who'd had abortions at a young age. My character ended up traveling cross country with a man whose wife dies in childbirth after going against medical advice to have an abortion. Neither character knew about the others past, but each learned that the grass isn't always greener on the other side of a difficult choice. This novel gained some interest but many agents brought up the difficulty of a male author writing such a story. The novel did have a subtle pro-life slant, but my intent was always to look at the emotional aftermath of an abortion not the legality or morality of the procedure. I still think it is a worthy novel and one that can be enjoyed by any fan of Women's Fiction regardless of their political or religious leanings.
Again I wrote and published few more short stories. I started this blog. and then commenced writing a novel called If Only He Knew. It was a story about a married women that believed sex was ruining her life. Her nymphomaniac mother was about to get kicked out of the Baptist ran retirement village, her 15 year old son was dying for his first taste of love, and her rancher husband was out having sex with some floozy twenty years his junior. My character was even sick of hearing about her husband's bull semen business. So she hatched one doozie of a scheme to teach them all a lesson.
One of these days I'll finish this novel but I got sidetracked while writing it. You see I one of the short stories I wrote in the interim was a 13,000 word piece titled Plundered Booty. Several friends read it and said it was the best thing I'd ever written. All of them with Deborah Elliott-Upton at the helm urged me to flesh out the characters, add a subplot or two and turn it into a novel. Most of you know I did that very thing and the novel version of Plundered Booty is now one of the top 500 quarterfinalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel contest. Next week the announce the Top 100. If you haven't read the excerpt or left a review over at Amazon you still can at this link.
Currently, I am working on a creative non-fiction project. A memoir based on my days working at a Feedstore here in Amarillo for what has to be one of the world's most hilarious and immoral bosses. Despite those adjectives he was also one of the funniest and most likable people I've ever met. To this day I consider him a friend and a mentor because there truly is a lot to be learned from a bad example.
If you wish to read one of my published short stories there is a link to my favorite at the upper right hand side of of my blog. or you can wait a few weeks for my story Y Not to appear on David Cranmer's fabulous e-zine, Beat To a Pulp.
Writing and trying to sell fiction is not an easy chore. It will leave you beat to a pulp. I've said it before and I'll say it again. Writing has more ups and downs than a bordello's bed springs, but the ups truly are glorious. And right now I'm feeling pretty good. I have a short story coming out, my latest novel is in the top 500 of a contest that accepted 10,000 entries, and just this afternoon I had a request from an agent who read a partial and has now wants to read the full manuscript.
So all in all I've been in the fight for nearly 8 years. I've completed four novels, dozens of short stories, started a blog, met lots of great people, and had a ton of fun.
Sure, I have a few incomplete novels buried on my hard drive, along with some short stories that will never see the light. And yeah I have a nice collection of rejections, but no one can say I that I haven't continued to come out swinging. I do believe that there is still a good bit of fight in my bones. Per the title of this blog, ONE DAY my name will grace the cover of a novel.