Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thanksgiving Thoughts and an Update...

FIrst off, HAPPY THANKSGIVING everybody.  A day early, but I'm not going to be working tomorrow so I had to get it out now.

Next up, I'm still without a properly working laptop.  My old one is still working as a word processor and I've been able to make some progress on the 7th edit of my novel.  Just haven't had much time to work on it due to college demands.  Hope to get further on it over the next 4 days.  I was going to get a replacement this weekend when I visited family, unfortunately the check engine light in my car came on and that trip has been nixed, until I get the car checked and fixed.  Oh, well.

I'm also hoping to get a couple of 'finals' done for college as well.  Instead of exams, I'm getting papers that need to be done.  One is already completed, it just needs to be edited and cleaned up.  The other I've already got the material to work from, I just got to get it started.  I also hope to complete a third paper this weekend or at least get it well under way.  Then the only "FINAL" I have to worry about is a regular test in my Spanish class, that really doesn't count much.  My teacher drops our lowest test score and I've gotten A's on all my tests this semester already.

I'm also fighting a bad cold bug which is in a holding pattern right now.  It's not getting worse, but it's not getting better either.  I'm hoping for the latter soon.

So that's where I've been and what's going on.  I hope to do another more helpful entry here soon.  All I can say for now is have a safe and happy Thanksgiving and keep writing.  Look to your dreams for inspiration.  Because some of those funkier ones can give you ideas for new storylines and characters.  Believe me I've had more than one of those.  Play with the ideas, flesh them out and see where you can go with them.

Enjoy, and thanks for being patient between blog posts.

So, you can all see what's been happening

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Today's Topic: Saving Your Work on Disc/Stick

For those of you who've been following my exploits on Facebook, you already know that my laptop suffered a 'slight' difficulty.  When I say slight, I mean a virus got in there and trashed most of the internet functions.  Right now all it's good for is a Word Processor that also plays videos on  CD/DVD's.  This is why I haven't been blogging much lately.  I'm using a library computer at my college to post this.  I hope to have a new laptop by the end of the month, so please bear with me. 

You can imagine my horror when I realized what had happened and raced to warn others on Facebook not to accept anything from me until I notified them otherwise.  This was a virus that recreates itself by accessing everyone in your address book from e-mail, Facebook, etc. and mails itself to all of them.  As far as I know only a couple of people fell for it because they didn't read my warnings and it got past their Virus Protection programs. 

That's the long and short of things.  Which brings me to backing up and saving your novel/poem/short stories whatever onto disc or memory sticks.  I GOT LUCKY!  The novels were untouched and were still completely intact.  I'm going to be careful though and do a test  by making a copy on a disc and have a friend scan and open it with their virus protection first.  It wouldn't do to have my novel disc infecting someone like an agent or publisher who wanted to see the full thing.  I can just picture how well that would go over.  "Ah Mr. Krummenacker interesting novel you sent I was really impressed at how IT CRASHED MY ENTIRE #*&#%*+@^ SYSTEM, YOU STUPID....(insert obscene words and insults of your choice here)."  I suspect the conversation would just go downhill from there.

My point being that even if I hadn't gotten lucky I would've only lost nothing.  I had already saved the latest revision onto a disc.  Plus, all the outlines and beginnings of other novels are also on that disc.  But if I hadn't done all of this, I would've been totally screwed. 

Now, I know a lot of you have children, nephews, nieces, dimwitted brothers/sisters, or the less-than-observant significant others who use your computer at one time or another.  I say this to you...
****Warning it will be in all caps because I'm really trying to save you from a lot of grief.****

FOR THE LOVE OF GOD AND THE SAKE OF YOUR OWN SANITY, SAVE YOUR WRITINGS ON A BLANK CD OR SEVERAL, OR A MEMORY STICK! 

You'll thank me for this one day.  Trust me.

That's all for now.  I have to get to class. So until I can get an empty computer here at the library, or get myself a new laptop, take care.  And keep writing.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Oh Look A New Entry... YAY!!!

One word... COLLEGE.  I'm enjoying it, but man it takes up a lot of time.  Also, I've been going at my novel with a vengeance lately.  Now it's time for Zombie-Author to take over.  No wait, I'll save that for later this month when it's closer to Halloween.

Now for today's subject... any suggestions?  Just kidding.  All this talk about college has made me think a lot about doing your homework.  And even in writing, there's a lot to be done.  Yes, you can write a book and start sending it off willy-nilly to every publisher and agent you can find.  Just be prepared to do an awful lot of waiting and smacking your head against the wall.

I suggest you keep a large supply of Aspirin, Tylenol, or Ibuprofen near the wall for afterwards.  And please don't do it in the middle of the night, the neighbors may start to complain.  Also, don't keep using the same spot on the same wall, you may end up leaving a forehead print.  Move around, maybe try a different wall, but not the space next to where you've been banging your head.  One of your Troll friends may notice and demand to know why you were writing smack about their Mama.  (Terry Pratchett readers will probably be the only ones to get that reference.  So everybody get out there and start reading his Discworld series. You'll thank me for it later.)

Getting back to doing your homework...  You could send your manuscript all over the place and wind up with a lot of rejections, wasted time and low self-esteem.  OR, you can start looking up agents and publishers to find out what genres they work with.  Now, I brought this up once before.  Know what genre you're working in.  If you send your awsome historical romance to a publisher who prints Sci-Fi and Horror they're going to send it back with a form rejection letter or you'll hear nothing.  Meanwhile precious manuscript has been happily digested by the nearest trashcan or shredder.  So start looking to see who publishes books in the genre you're working in.  This also applies to when you're looking for an agent to represent you.  Agents get dozens of submissions daily and it really helps if you aim for someone who specializes in your genre.  It doesn't guarantee they'll take you on, but it sure is a step in the right direction.

Next piece of homework... Yeah I know I'm a slave-driver.  What guidelines do the publishers and agents want you to follow?  Guidelines are word count, genre, how to format your submission (double-spaced), how many sample pages to send, etc.  Following these guidelines is extremely important.  Because if you don't take the time to look these over and follow them, you're inadvertently telling the agent/publisher that you don't respect their time.  Not a great way to try and start a working relationship. 

I know all this research takes time, but it is important.  I started doing my research when the first draft of my novel was finished.  That's how I found out how much work I still had to do.  I had no idea that 190,000 words was way too long for a first-time author and that I needed to cut it down to around 100,000.  (Boy did that Ibuprofen next to the wall come in handy that day).

So start doing your homework now, even if your book isn't finished.  There are plenty of excellent websites out there where you can get a lot of good, solid advice and guidelines.  Check on the list of blogs and sites I've marked next to my blog.  You'll find them under "Blogs of Interest".  Trust me, you'll be glad you did.

That's all for now.  Keep writing!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Perspectives...

Sorry for the delay between postings.  College has been a little crazy and I'm still letting the dust settle.  Might have taken too many units this time around, so I'm cutting back a bit.  There are only so many hours in the day and so many days in a week.  I can only do so much at a time as I'm coming to realize.  And I have 2 more semesters where I can easily fulfill all the class requirements I need to complete.

I've also been fighting a bug, there's a flu going around at the campus.  He's easy to recognize kinda gross looking, bad attitude.  He's watching everyone go by and if you make eye contact he points at you to as if to say, "You're next."  Which is unfortunate because I was checking out a hot babe walking behind him.  Said babe, being my wife.  Ah, the price one pays for love.

Anyhow... this weeks subject Perspectives.  When I was in my early teens I became involved in magic thanks to a friend who was already a fine magician.  I started learning from him and then he introduced me to a local magic shop where I learned even more.  But there was a price to pay.  Once I knew most of the things to watch for, I could never view magic illusions performed by other magicians the same way.  I would watch for their presentation, their misdirection, and of course how the illusion could be reproduced.  My perspective had changed completely and all I could do was try to emulate and become a better magician myself and entertain others.  I found a lot of pleasure doing shows for others.  One of my best performances involved my wife as the "Assistant from Hell".  Not literally mind you, just that she wasn't the sparkly sweet kind of assistant most magicians used.  I may one day resurrect that act just for fun.  We both had a blast.

But what does all this have to do with writing?  Simple.  The more I've gotten inside the heads of my characters and how they react to the situations I've created, I've developed a new perspective on everyday life.  When presented with a problem or obstacle, I find myself mentally attacking it from several different angles at the same time.  Of course I'll only use one or two of the solutions, depending on how successful they were.  More than four and I'm ready to call in the expert.  My wife.

But this has become second nature for me.  I even wind up with story ideas from some of the various perspectives that I came up with.  You'll find this is true the more you write.  So remember to jot some of your more interesting perspectives and approaches.  You never know when they might prove useful.

And now, I will bid you all good night.  Sleep well and dream up more story ideas.  Any you don't like feel free to send to me.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

A 9/11 Message To All...

I don't normally do this, but I think it's overdue.  I'll get back to my usual blogging in a day or so.  So here goes...

I want to say thank you to those at Ground Zero 9 years ago.  To the police and fire crews who saw, suffered and lost especially.

But I also want to salute the ordinary people.  The ones who did not run away but towards the towers when the first plane hit.  The chefs, the mailman, the secretary, the construction workers... everyone who raced towards the place where people needed help.  You who pulled open your shirts, blouses, to reveal a huge "S" on your chest or maybe it was golden eagle, a lightning bolt or some other inspiring symbol.  You might not have even known it was there until that moment, and you acted.  You did all that you could assist your fellow human beings in trouble.  You didn't care about their race, religion, sexual orientation, or whatever.  You simply reacted to a tragedy of epic proportions and reached out.

Thank you and God Bless.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Drawing from Life...

Greetings one and all.  I survived my first week of College, got all the classes I wanted and a nasty case of Heat Exhaustion.  Doing better now, but it has been quite an experience.  Which brings me to today's topic...

A lot of people wonder where can they find inspiration, settings, characters to write about.  My answer is, look back on your life.  You may not think you've led a very interesting life or maybe you've been all over the place and have had numerous adventures and wouldn't know where to start.  In either case, you have a wealth of material to draw upon.

For example, in my novel I chose upstate Connecticut.  My grandmother lived there for many years and the place always fascinated me.  She was caretaker for a famous architect who owned a mansion there, that dated back to the 1600's.  Beyond the mansion was a 100 foot hill with a little cottage at the top.  While near the house my grandmother lived in was a large kennel, that housed the architect's numerous cats and dogs.  All of this was surrounded by rambling woods, a stream and some farmland. 

The town my Grandmother's place belonged to, was just a few miles down the road.  It had seen the Revolutionary War and many structures from that time are still standing.  So here was place with a long and colorful history, most of which I still do not know.  But, I can always go back and research it on-line to get more ideas.

I reinvented the town as well as my grandmother's home for my story.  My town is situated some 2 1/2 hours from NYC, and was about 10-15 minutes from either the state of  Massachusetts or New York.  I removed the mansion and the cottage on the hill, so I can use them in another story down the road.  I kept the kennel in the story and had my protagonist convert it into an art studio and workout room.  Then I added a large structure to the grounds, which holds a private ballroom for dancing.  So now I had the setting for my novel.  Not that hard really.

To help make my main character seem more real, I drew upon places other places from my childhood.  I did not change the names because I wanted to have actual locations that readers could recognized if they had ever been to them.  So Wantagh Park with its cement maze, large rockets made of piping (great to climb inside of), and Jones Beach with its brick tower appear in the story. These places were important to me, and I gave my feelings and impressions to my protagonist.

And that's what we want to do.  Make our settings and our characters be as real as possible to our readers.  We want them to feel like they've met these people or someone like them before, for good or for bad.  Remember, you've got other characters in your work who are not going to be likable. Just don't make those characters too easily recognizable because you could be slandering someone and get called on it. 


So be willing to draw upon your own life experiences.  Good or bad.  Even the ones that seemed not very interesting or outright boring.  You can always have something amazing happen during one of those "boring" moments, that suddenly launches your hero/heroine into an amazing or terrifying adventure. 

That's all for now.  Keep writing and take care everyone.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Listen to the Voices In Your Head...

Now you're probably wondering, has this guy suddenly opened shop as a shrink and is trying to drum up business or something?  Rest easy dear friends, that is not the case.  When I say listen to the voices in your head, I'm talking about the characters your writing about.  You may have them completely fleshed out in your head.  Their appearance, personal history, likes/dislikes, the works.  But once you start writing about them, a lot of that is going to change.

I can't tell you how many twists and turns my book has taken because characters will suddenly be running off in a totally different direction than what I had planned.  They take side trips that sometimes work really well. It's even happened with some of the secondary and background characters.  I'll be writing a little walk on scene with them and BANG,  I know their background and history and how it will play a key role in the main story.

Now this works out great for me since I'm planning a series of novels.  Some of these secondary characters and their back stories, are going to become the main characters in some of my later books.  It already happened with my first novel, which is still under rewrite. One of the secondary figures had lost a parent in a strange traffic accident that still has a number of unanswered questions hanging over it.  I was going to make this part of my current work, but the book was becoming too long.  So I've set that part of his story to the side for now.  But, I've hinted heavily at that mysterious accident that made him become a cop, thus sowing the seeds of interest for that later book.

So be flexible when this happens to you.  If the characters aren't behaving themselves, they may be laying the groundwork for later stories.  And sometimes, you may even have to remove them from your current project altogether, because you have a totally different vision for them elsewhere.

My last piece of advice for today is this.  If you start hearing other voices in your head, that are not anyone nearby or in your writing do the following.  Make an appointment with a head specialist.  Just remember to pause at GO and collect $200.00.  You'll need it to pay for the session.

Enjoy and keep writing.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Ideas and Inspirations and "Dark Shadows"

I'd like to write, but I don't know what to write about.

Sound familiar?  When people talk to me about what I'm trying to do, I hear that same refrain over and over.  And I know where they're coming from.  I only decided to try my hand at writing about two years ago.  Why didn't I do it sooner?  Because I had nothing but fan-fic ideas.  Inserting myself or my friends into situations involving established well known characters like Dr. Who, Harry Potter, etc. Although my friends and I were involved, we'd just get to lend a hand and interact with these beloved characters who were still the star of the stories.  Or I'd create an original character/being who, happened to cross paths with The Doctor.  My creation was not superior to him, but they got to work together and went their separate ways.  This was fun because I was involved in fan clubs with their own newsletters where these tales would be published.  So I had both an outlet and an audience.  But when those clubs went away (about 15 years ago) I continued to play with story ideas in my head.

Then I found something from my childhood... DARK SHADOWS on DVD.  I first ran across this series when I was 3 years old.  I didn't fully understand what was going on, but I knew I liked Barnabas Collins the first good-guy vampire on TV.   I had come in during the Leviathan storyline and watched as faithfully as I could.  But, parents, school, etc. tore me away.  But I never forgot the show or Barnabas Collins.

Then my wife discovered the series in reruns, while attending Pomona College in Claremont California.  Like me, she too got hooked.  So we always kept an eye out hoping to find it in reruns in Sacramento or for sale.  Finally four years ago, we found it on Netflix and started watching from the beginning.  This refueled my desire to kick around story ideas not involving us or our friends.  I started to think about how I would update things and started to lay the groundwork for writing it, just for my own amusement.

Then we reached the end of the Barnabas storyline, and were introduced into a parallel timeline where he had never become a vampire and had a son, Bramwell. This storyline did not involve vampires or werewolves but a family curse that Bramwell, the unwanted poor relation, would help defeat.  I began kicking ideas around of how I would have approached that storyline which involved a ghost and a curse.  I found myself saying, "A ghost? Ah, I would've done this... And introduced such and such type of  character... Then I would've gone with a completely different threat like..." and before I knew it I had created a story idea that was completely different and original. 

Once this sank in I began writing the ideas down.  Changing the names, creating new characters and situations and thus began my first original writing project.  I was 2/3's of the way through the first draft, when my wife pointed out that setting the piece in 1807 may not be the best idea.  If I was serious about getting published, a story in a modern day setting might be easier to sell.

I thought about this long and hard, and decided she may be right.  So, I put that project aside and started a modern day piece.  But, I included a descendant of the family I had created for the 1807 story, as part of my cast.  While she wasn't the star of the new book, she would play a crucial role in it.  This would lead to her becoming the main focus of the next novel, which would have direct ties to the events that involved her ancestors back in  1807.  This of course would lead me to finally complete that particular story, and show my audience what led to the events of the 2nd book.

So here I am, two years later.  My first completed novel is still undergoing editing as I await to hear back from an agent I queried.  The 2nd one is partly written, while the 3rd book set in 1807 awaits completion.  All this because I was inspired by a TV series from the 60's.  But, I've also been getting inspiration from books by H. P. Lovecraft, August Derleth, Stephen King, Peter Straub, Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte and others.

So if you're wondering, "What can I write about?", look to the things you enjoy for ideas.  Such as movies, TV shows, books, hobbies, etc.  What kind of setting can you come up with for a story?  What events are happening in that setting?  What kind of personalities might we encounter there?  Once you figured out those questions, try running with it.   

Remember there's only so many stories out there.  Boy meets Girl.  Boy loses girl because she's an android or an alien.  Boy gets girl back after being cybernetically enhanced.  How many times have we seen that one?  But, it's what touches and twists you put on it that can make it new and original.

Happy writing all.

PS:  For all you Dark Shadow fans, in case you haven't heard, Tim Burton is bringing it back to the big screen with Johnny Depp as Barnabas.  They plan on making more than one film, if the first one is a success.  And we all know there's a lot of stories we'd like to see them do.  Keep your eyes and ears open and check it out when it arrives in I believe 2011.

PPS: Also, the original cast of Dark Shadows have been doing Audio-Dramas on CD.  These are new stories with the actors and actresses reprising their roles from the series, complete with the original opening music.  They are terrific.  You can find them on Amazon.com or through Big Finish Productions.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Solid Advice from An Agent About What to Expect

What is the Role of an Agent?

http://chipmacgregor.typepad.com/main/2010/08/what-is-the-role-of-an-agent.html

I found this article thanks to Rachell Gardner a literary agent with WordServe Literary.  She posted it on Twitter and I found it to be extremely informative and helpful.  For those of us who have yet to get that call from an agent saying, "Love your writing, I'd like to represent you..." the points brought up here are incredibly important.  You must have a good idea of what the agent's role is in your business relationship.  Furthermore, Mr. MacGregor also gives great advice about what an agent SHOULD NOT be doing.

I strongly advise you all go and click on this link and learn from it.  I know I did.

Now, I have to get back to rewriting my novel, which I have successfully brought down below the 100,000 word mark.  I've removed a lot more than I expected, but was able to add new scenes and situations that raise the tension and mystery levels to new highs.

Later everyone, and keep writing.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

You Must Have Character(s)...

The great revision continues...  Which is why I haven't updated recently, sorry about that.  But, it's been quite the chore trying to whittle my novel down from 123,500 words to below 100,000 words.  Hardly a Herculean task, but it is time consuming. Mostly because when I've removed certain large scenes, I've been able to slip in new smaller ones.  These new scenes have helped move the plot along more quickly, but also build tension where there hadn't been enough before.  In the end I'm winding up with a better product.  Hooray for rewrites!

But I haven't been just doing the revision, I've taken time out to do some reading for my own enjoyment.  Currently, I'm re-reading "Ghost Story" by Peter Straub.  I first read this book back in 1980 and became enthralled.  Who would've thought that a mystery involving 4 old men, a young writer and a teenager could be such a page turner.  I enjoy Mr. Straub's handling of the characters and settings.  I also found the concept of using a Manitou for an antagonist quite refreshing.  How true Mr. Straub's is to the legendary creature is up for speculation.  All authors have the opportunity to put their own touch on such legendary and mythological creatures.  One only has to look at Anne Rice's or Stephanie Meyer's and their completely different takes on the vampire.

However, I think it's Mr. Straub's manner of dealing with his characters that I find most enjoyable.  They have their faults, weaknesses and frailties.  Yet they struggle against such incredible odds to win the day.  A flawed character is a far more interesting person to read about than a  perfect one.  The perfect character who is the most beautiful, talented, able to handle any situation can get downright boring fast.  Unless the author has given them a really well written adversary that challenges all their skills.  

Of course, in most books the protagonist is going to win the day.  But how they overcome their own insecurities, self doubts?  Do they have a history that haunts them or holds them back.  Did something happen in the past that cost them something emotionally, mentally or physically.  How does it relate to what their facing now?  Tie all those things together and you can wind up with a character the audience can relate to and want to cheer on.

That's all I've got for today.  More soon.  Enjoy your weekend everybody.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

It's Still About The Rewrites...

I thought I'd said enough about rewrites in my last entry.  Well, I was wrong.  Mind you I've put away the hockey mask and chainsaw.  At least for the moment.  I managed to remove entire scenes and sections in one day bringing my word count down from 123,500 to 107,000.  Now, I've donned a surgical mask and am using a scalpel.  Why?  Because after removing the most obvious sections that took up too much space, the novel needs to be edited page by page.  I've reduced some of the word count by simply taking sentences and rephrasing what's being said, but with fewer words.  Yes, this is a lot of work, but so was writing the story in the first place.

Now, I can only speak for myself on this matter, but I'm finding editing and rewriting no bigger chore than creating the story.  Some people can get downright tired of going over the same scenes again and again, or dealing with the same characters. They get to the point where they want to add a new character armed with an Uzi to get rid of the others and put an end to it.  While that's an interesting thought, it tends to ruin the rest of the story.  Unless of course you're writing a mystery/thriller and that happens to be the opening scene. But if its not, then you need to look at things in a different way.  If you are planning future stories with some of these characters you can gain new insight into them while doing your rewrites.  Even secondary characters can start looking more interesting to you.  At least 2-3 supporting cast members in my novel, may be getting their own story (short or long) down the road. 

And that file I mentioned in my last entry, where I've been placing the scenes I've removed from the draft I'm reworking...  It's grown to 60+ pages (double-spaced).  I have much more material to work with for the sequel as well as the beginnings of at least 2-4 other stories.  In other words, while rewriting can be the pits it can also be the seeds that become  so much more.  Remember, most of us are in this for the long haul.  And we need to keep coming up with more story ideas.  You can wind up with a treasure trove of them by keeping what you didn't use.

On a personal note, one thing I discovered during this latest rewrite was that  I was losing the tone of the novel (mystery/paranormal-horror) by focusing too much on lighter moments with the characters.  Friendly banter, teasing, etc. makes your characters seem more real for your audience.  But don't lose track of whatever perils and complications await them. Cutting some of this down a bit will also reduce your word count.  In my case considerably.

Well, that's all I've got for now.  Time to scrub up and continue the surgery.  The novel is down to 103,700 words and I'm barely a quarter of the way done.  Remember the target length for a new author is between 80,000-100,000 words (for adult fiction).  Keep writing everyone.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

It's All About the Rewrites...

I've been busy lately with a lot of new contacts thanks to this blog and Facebook.  I'm also on Twitter these days, though I don't Tweet a lot.  At least not yet.  I resisted Twitter and doing a blog for some time, because I didn't think I'd have a lot to say.  But it seems that I do.  My biggest challenge is not blogging too often, for fear I'll run out of good topics.  That and the fact that I'll be heading back to college at the end of this month.  I don't want to suddenly cut back on my readers, that would seem unfair and inconsiderate.  And I know I can keep up with doing 2 entries a week while I'm studying.  Especially since there seems to be a lot to do when it comes to blogging, at least for me.  I always write my entry and then let it sit for a while.  Then I'll come back and look it over, do some cutting, pasting, and  rewriting before finally posting it.  

All of this holds true for writing in general.  When I completed the first draft of my novel, I hit the word count tool and was shocked.  The count was 190,000 words.  Yes, you read correctly 190,000 words.  I didn't think I knew that many words.  My first thought was, 'Please tell me this thing has gone banana-wackies on me.'  Sadly, it hadn't.  So I knew it needed some serious editing and rewriting.  Little did I know I was about to take my first journey down that infamous, and really long path, known as the learning curve.

I started looking up guidelines at my local library where I was nearly kicked out for gasping too loud.  Okay, there might have been some colorful language involved too.  But only because I knew I'd read books that are 300-400 pages by authors like Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Peter Straub and others.  So what was wrong with me doing something really long?  But then I went back to their earliest works and realized, they didn't start out that way.  You have to be a solid, established, best-selling author to get away with books that long.  Remember, you're an unknown quantity from a publisher's point of view.  They take a bit of a gamble on every book they put out and they want good sales in return.  And they're putting the money out to make those books a reality.

Eventually, I went back to my novel to see where I could do some cutting.  Lo and behold I found where I had repeated important ideas and plot points in several different places.  Can you say redundant?  I knew you could.

This is why we need to go over our work when it's finished.  Unless you're at it everyday and can somehow keep track of all the points and facts you've already put down, this can happen.  I was at this novel on and off for months, so it was bound to happen.  I just never realized how many times it did.  So I began my rewrite by eliminating those mistakes.  But, I was careful to keep the key elements and information where they had the most impact.   I also removed scenes and concepts that were interesting, but not essential to the overall plot.

So now I had it down to 123,500 words.  Yay me.  I started querying and doing more research.  I found out yesterday that the acceptable word count for a brand new author is usually between 80,000-100,000 words.  I took this news with dignity and good humor... eventually.

After an hour of uncontrollable sobbing (remember my previous entry on not dwelling on the bad stuff for too long), I got out of the corner and dusted myself off.  Then, I headed over to the closet and pulled out hockey mask and a chainsaw.  Yes, I know Jason Vorhees doesn't use a chainsaw but it just felt right on this occasion. 

So, now it's time for more rewriting.  Luckily, it doesn't involve the Prologue and first chapter that is waiting to be looked over by the nice agent I've mentioned in my earlier posts.  I already have some good ideas where to cut and what characters and events should have less screen time. 

HOWEVER... (sorry for the capitals but I feel this point is important).  I am not going to just delete those scenes or toss them in the trashcan on my laptop.  I created a folder for the items I remove from my novels to preserve them.  Just because they aren't necessary or working for this particular book, doesn't mean they're useless.  Change the names or situations and you've got a ready-made scene for another storyline.  You might even get an idea for an entire story from those fragments.  And the only space they're taking up is a tiny bit of memory on your computer.  I've even kept the earlier drafts of my novel before the cutting began.  I find it important to be able to see where it started and whether or not I kept to the spirit of my original concept.  

So you can see how rewrites can actually help you avoid costly mistakes and even give you the basis for future novels.  It can be hard work, but it can also mean the difference between getting that agent or that publishing deal we're all chasing after.  I've even found that by shortening my work, the story flows more smoothly and the tension mounts faster.  This allows the book to get a good hold on the reader's imagination.  One of the best compliments I got from one of my Beta-Readers (see previous entry on those folks) was that she didn't like reading my novel at night.  Because she wanted to actually go to sleep and knew she'd have a hard time putting it down.

Now it's time to put my hockey mask back on, oil up the chainsaw, and get to my own rewrite.  And remember, writing is a lot of work.  But it's worth it in the end.

Oh, and if you're wondering what genre I write in, I'm afraid I have a hard time classifying it myself.  What do you call a novel involving a reluctant psychic, a 16 year old mystery, scenes of horror with a sci-fi twist thrown in towards the end?  If you figure it out, please leave a post and let me know, because I'm having a difficult time explaining it to agents.  And you need to know what genre you're working in, before you start sending out queries.  But that's a subject for another entry some other day.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Importance of Being Beta-Read...

Been working on setting up my Twitter account and checking some other blogs.  I'm always trying to find out more about the publishing business.  There are a lot of great sites out there and I'll be adding more links soon. I strongly recommend looking the Guide to Literary Agents that I've already posted a link for here on my site.  You get the most up to date information and pieces of solid advice from sites like this one.  I've also found a lot of good advice and suggestions at my local library as well.  You can find some good books like Writer's Market, How to Become a Writer.... etc.

One of the best pieces of advice I've run across is recruiting some Beta-readers.  They can be family, friends, or if you're really lucky a friend of a friend who may actually be in the business.  Ask them to read what you've written and get back to you with their thoughts, opinions, and concerns about your work.  You can wind up avoiding a lot of embarrassment and frustration this way.  Perhaps your grammar wasn't what it should be.  Or maybe you repeated certain plot points in more than one area.  Or 4-5 times in my case (Damn you Inebriated Monkey--see my first post for more about him).  I'm just glad I caught those before I gave it to my readers.  Remember, very few if any writers get their piece done in one shot.  Rewrites are a fact of writing life.  You may think your work is fine or even perfect as it is.  In fact you go so far as to sport an eyepatch, while brandishing a sword in one hand and a pistol in the other saying, "Say one word against me treasure and I'll cut you from stem to stern."  Yeah I know odd reference, but I LIKE pirates.

Choose your Beta-readers wisely.  Don't just look to best friends who'll stand there and tell you how perfect it is, while nodding like a bunch of Bobble-heads.  They don't want to hurt your feelings and may try to be nice by not telling you where you might have gone wrong.  Your feelings may wind up getting hurt a whole lot more when the form letters, or endless silences, arrive from people you've sent your work to for representation or publishing.  You may decide to give up on something that actually has serious potential that will never see the light of day.   Stephen King, the master of modern horror, nearly gave up on his first novel "Carrie" and had tossed it in the trash.  His wife Tabitha (a fine author herself) fished it out and convinced him to keep working on it.  Result: it was made into a movie twice and he is one of the biggest names out there.

Now, when you do hear back from your readers and they tell you what they felt didn't work, there will probably experience some annoyance.  This is understandable.  Your writing is your child.  You got it dressed, gave it a good breakfast, told it to play nice with the other stories and sent it out into the world.  Now it has come home with a few bruises, maybe a scraped knee, and a bit muddied.  If you must be annoyed, do so for like half an hour, 1 hour max.  Then think about the points your readers brought up.  Maybe you didn't make things clear enough.  It was obvious to you, but what about the reader.  You want people to fall in love with your work.  Mind you, don't go overboard if only one of your Beta-readers didn't get something.  If the majority of them got it, maybe it was that person.  However, if more than one says they had a problem, then it's back to the old word processing program for some re-working.

Which brings me to a very important point.  Even when you get an agent that says, "I'd like to represent you..." or that publishing deal comes your way (you lucky stiff), you're not done.  There are going to be even more rewrites and edits up until the day it goes to print.  Be prepared!  These folks are in the business and have been for quite a while.  They know what they're talking about.  They want to put out a product the public is going to want to buy and fall in love with.  And that product is your story and they want to help you make it perfect.

That's all I've got for now.  Time to check my e-mails and whatnot.  Maybe I've got a book deal coming through at this very moment...  And since I'm daydreaming, I'd also like a pony...

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Welcome to the Musings of a Creative Mind

My name is Allan Krummenacker.  That name probably won't mean much to a lot of people.  I'm hoping to change that one day soon or... "In the not-too-distant-future next Sunday A.D. la-la-la-la..."  OOPS that's from Mystery Science Theater 3000.  Sorry got carried away, it happens.  But that's the thing about having a creative mind and spirit.  We're drawn to things that spark our interest because they are different and original.  They inspire us to see what we can come up with.  For me it started with art.  Pencil, charcoal, pastels.  I'll try and post some of my work here very shortly.  It'll give you all a little insight of the things to come.


Currently, my creative leanings have led me to try my hand at writing.  I completed a novel a few months ago and have been sending out query letters along with a sampling of the first couple of chapters.  So far I've heard back from a former literary agent, a friend of a friend, who was kind enough to look over the first 2 chapters and a synopsis.  She got back to me within a week and gave me some tips.  Mainly about how to format it for submission.  She told me I have talent and there was very little wrong with my writing style.  I've sent it to 3 agents so far.

The first agent sent me a form letter and that's it. This person had good reason.  I made the mistake of simply copying and pasting my query letter and sample chapters from MS Word into Gmail.  Those of you who have done this know what I'm about to tell you and please excuse the use of capital lettering.  I'm only using it for emphasis....

ALWAYS CHECK THE E-MAIL BEFORE YOU SEND IT OUT!!!!  The copy/paste undid the entire format I had so painstakingly set up.  I found this out as I was getting ready so send the query letter and sample pages to a new agent.  What I saw made me wish there was a large rock for me to crawl under.  Unfortunately I was indoors, so I looked for a dust-bunny to crawl under.  Once more I was thwarted.  My wife had vacuumed the day before.  I looked for a knife to commit Hari-Kari.  But both Harry and Kari had already left for the day and had taken the knife with them.  You wouldn't believe how tempting the spoons started looking to me at that point.  But I digress.  The letter and the sample chapters had become one blur of indistinguishable nonsense.  An inebriated monkey with a typewriter could have done a better job.

I have made sure not to make that mistake again.  The second agent I sent it to responded within a day with a personal note saying she was going to pass it wasn't the right fit for her.  But that she felt some other agent would want to represent me and my work.  So now I'm waiting to hear back from the third agent.  She e-mailed me not too long ago to let me know she was behind on submissions, but only because she reads every one that comes her way.  And she takes the time to respond to them.  I'm sure I'll hear something in the near future.  In the meantime I'm working on the sequel to my novel.  This is one of the biggest and most important pieces of advice I keep hearing from established writers.  Don't just sit around and wait to see what kind of reaction you get.  Keep writing.  Work on that next book.  Don't worry about the first one until you've been told whether they want it or not.  If they don't, send out another query and get back to work on the next book.

That's all I've got for now.  More soon.  Good night and good luck.