Avon Books, a division of the Hearst Corporation, published my first novel in 1978. Before that my agent had sold several of my short stories and I thought I was a writer. Then other things took over and for almost 30 years writing was set aside.
Five years ago I started writing again. Since the first of this year, 2012, I have signed contracts for the publication of three books. Two of those contracts are with All Things That Matter Press. In addition to those three-signed contracts I have submitted two other books. I will have another book that will be ready for submission in January 2013. I’m a firm believer in setting goals and so my goal right now is that one-year from now I will have five published books. How did that happen? Well it sure wasn’t dumb luck.
Five years ago I decided to go back to writing and I would approach it as my job. With every job there is a boss and an employee. The problem with this job is that the boss and the employee are the same person. The role of the boss is to set the criteria for satisfactory performance. As the boss I demanded that my employee spend a minimum of 7 hours a day, five days a week at the job of writing. The employee had to spend at least 4 hours a day writing and produce at least 1000 words which ever came later. The remaining time each day could be spent researching material and thinking about another book. As the employee I am very lucky in that I can be working on two or three totally different stories at the same time.
After three years of writing I had material I thought was ready and I started looking for an agent. My former agent had died and no one there, or at any other agency, wanted to handle me. Obviously I was going to have to find a publisher on my own. That’s where Preditors and Editors came in.
With Preditors and Editors the research becomes finding a publisher that publishes your kind of material. The agent is one who is supposed to know what different publishers are looking for. Now it is up to the writer to find someone who likes what he has written.
About the writing itself. I have heard people talk about “writer’s block.” I don’t know what that is. As I mentioned earlier I am usually working on two or three different books at the same time. I may arrive at work in the morning and decide that I want to work on a murder mystery or an adventure story rather than a historical or romance novel. My boss is quite agreeable to this as long as I put in my hours and produce the required number of words. To me the excuse of “writer’s block” is the employee calling in sick because I want to do something else that day. However, my boss is quite willing for me to take a Tuesday or some other day off as long as I make it up on Saturday or Sunday.
I never suffer from “writer’s block” but there are times when I want to say something and I am not sure exactly how to say. That is not “writers block” but a question of method. When that happens I go to my exercises. When a pianist, or violinist or other performing artist cannot render a passage they way they would like to, they goes back to the basic exercises.
For me the exercise is this. – The four basic parts to every story are: the characters (people, dogs, birds, whatever), the action (conflict), the setting (where the action takes place) and the theme (the message you want to convey – good triumphs over evil, or whatever).
There are also four basic ways of telling the story: exposition (stating the information – that’s the worst method. That’s how textbooks are written and that is why they are so boring), Narrative description (drawing word pictures for the reader), introspection (thoughts – stream of consciousness) and dialogue (two or more people talking).
I know where the story is going, I just may not know how I want to say it. Then is when I go to the exercises. Let’s say there is a character. Am I going to describe him from an omniscient point of view – using narrative description? Or maybe describe him by having two other characters talk about him – using dialogue. Or from the point of view of someone just thinking about him – using introspection. Well you get the idea. A little while in the exercise room and I pretty much know how I want to say it.