Hello and welcome back to the blog! It’s Super Bowl week and I’m excited (Chiefs fan here). Today, I’m going to ramble about various topics that are on my mind. Let’s get started.
- I’m still querying literary agents about Breaking Character: the Craven House. Earlier in the year I queried twenty-one agents. I’m up to seven this time around. I’m no math genius but I believe that makes twenty-eight queries so far. Later today, two more will hit the electronic mailbox. Thirty seems like a lot. Yet I’ve been told by those with more knowledge in the area that it isn’t. Try a hundred before you give up. Challenge accepted.
- I would be lying if I said I wasn’t having my doubts regarding my decision to put off self-publishing in favor of finding an agent. I still maintain self-publishing will be tough for someone without the monetary means and marketing knowhow like myself. However, with self-publishing I’m in control of how and when things happen. There’s always a goal to reach towards. Adapt the novel to the publisher’s criteria. Create a unique and interesting cover that makes it stand out to readers. Advertise and market. The list is longer, but you get the idea. When querying agents, once the query is perfected, well, that’s it. Hurry up and wait.
- I’m aware that readers wonder if writers base some of their characters off real people. For me, the answer is not usually. That being said, I can think of two instances where I based a character off someone. One was on purpose, while the other was a complete accident. In my current work in progress I accidentally based a character off my oldest daughter. If you’ve read the blog before then you’ll know she happens to be the same daughter that I employ as a first reader. She paused while reading the first draft and said, “Becket sounds a lot like me.” I laughed and thought about it. She was right. It happened by accident, but she was right. The second character based off a real person was more or less on purpose. It’s based off me. Why did I write myself into a story? The story, in this case Breaking Character, dictated it. It’s as simple as that. The story is the captain and navigator of the ship, while I’m merely the first mate at the helm hoping not to crash into anything. If I listen close enough and follow all directions the voyage is smooth sailing, usually.
- Throughout a writing project I do a lot of research. My most recent search: could someone use telekinesis for flight? I found the answer to this question of theoretical human capabilities easily enough. Obviously, the answer was for fictional purposes, as I didn’t throw myself off the roof of my house to test it. Sometimes the answer is less clear. In that case I go with my gut. It rarely steers my wrong.
- To fully capture the characters and happenings of a novel a writer must encapsulate themselves in the story. Sure, that world is fictional, and the characters aren’t real. Yet to the writer at the moment of creation they’re as real as it gets. I say this to make a point. If you interrupt a writer during that special time they spend with their characters, don’t be surprised if you receive a far-off gaze and a “What’d you say?” as a reply. At that moment we’re still getting our bearings on the real world. We’ll come around, just have patience.
- Reading is the most important thing a writer can do, aside from the act of writing. “If you don’t have the time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that,” Stephen King said in his book On Writing. It really is that simple. Reading teaches you what to do and what not to do. Unfortunately, you learn more from the latter than the former. There’s a lot of bad fiction out there. Reading some of it is as good as sitting in a classroom.
- I finished a book this week that I regret reading. I don’t say that very often, but it’s true. Like I said above, reading a bad book can teach you lessons about what not to do in your own writing. In this case, the plotline of the book turned out to be an excuse for one writer—no, I won’t name her—to stand on a soapbox about several issues troubling her. Look, I can stand by while a writer makes their beliefs known for a few paragraphs or pages. But a quarter of a book? I think not.
- I believe I stated last week, lying is the biggest mistake a writer can make. Is withholding a key element of the story for a big reveal later in the book dishonest? Is it lying? If one of my children knowingly withheld key information from me, I would consider it a lie. I guess that answers that question.
- I’ve always enjoyed reading third person point of view (he/she) over first person (I) when it comes to a story. The same preference holds true as it pertains to my writing. I don’t need a character to tell me a story. That’s what the writer is there for, thank you very much. Not everyone shares this opinion, which is why I’ve written a few short stories in first person in recent years. It’s not near as polished or compelling as my third person writing, but I’m working on it.
- The Stranger is close to having a new title! I have it narrowed down to Dark Discoveries, A Dark Spring, Lies in the Night, or Father of Lies. Truthfully, I’m not crazy about any of them, but a book must have a title, right? The Stranger was always a tentative title so I could start writing while a new title percolated in the depths of my brain. I’m nearing the end of the second draft without a eureka title moment. One of these four with do.
I think that will do it for today. Until next time, remember to follow your dreams, even if they terrify you.
Stephen Michael Roth