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.