The Times, They are A’Changin’

We rarely notice it happening, but we all change as we grow. Some things may remain the same, like our taste in movies or our favorite book, but as the world changes around us so too do we. Our attitudes and opinions evolve, the way we react to certain situations transform, and our memories transform to match the way we want to remember them. It’s human nature. The way we look at something tomorrow may be dramatically different from the way we look at it today.

On my “About My Projects” page I have a short description of a current work-in-progress that I’ve referred to as “Parallels” since it’s conception in my mind almost ten years ago. I began writing this particular story during an upsetting time in my life, and the story reflected that. The first few chapters, if you knew enough to know where to look, were all about me, about my thoughts and feelings, and how I wished a big, crazy adventure would sweep me away from those thoughts and feelings. I spent a lot of time on that first version of the story, until I had probably somewhere between 25,000 and 30,000 words…and then I started all over from scratch.

It might seem illogical. After all, you wouldn’t stop reading a book halfway through and start over from the beginning, so why would you do the same while writing a book?

The reason is that my attitudes had changed. Events had occurred that made me think different, made me want to modify the story. And so I began again, with changes to the plot, changes to the main character, and changes to the overall tone of the story. This time I think I wrote somewhere around 15,000 words.

You might see where this is going now, and why this particular piece has been in the works for almost a decade. Until a couple of years ago I would only write every now and then, when I got the chance or when the fancy struck me, so by the time I would get around to adding some more to this work-in-progress things would have changed again. Attitudes, feelings, perceptions, the world around me, and how I thought readers would react to the story. When I first began writing this story I was writing it just for me, with no intent that anyone would ever actually read it, but as time went on I felt that it could actually become something worth publishing, something worth sharing with the world. But not in any of its previous forms.

The worst form was actually a webcomic version that involved this little fella.
The worst of the several forms was actually a web-comic version that involved this little fella.
Cute though, eh?

I’ve been thinking a lot about this work recently. With my zombie apocalypse novel nearing completion, I’ll need to put my efforts into something else, and I want it to be this piece. Though I’ve already done it a dozen times, I want to start over again, this time with a much more adult, professional view of the world and what readers want. I have a desire for this story to be told, and for the first time in the past decade I believe I know exactly how I want to tell it.

The story will be changed quite a deal, from the issues that plague the main character, to the number and nature of supporting characters, the length and format of the overall story, and many things in between. For one thing, I’ve decided that instead of the 100,000+ word single adventure that I was originally envisioning, this story will henceforth be a series. I do not yet know how much I will be able to stretch the story out, but I anticipate 6 books. If that seems like an outrageous stretch (after all, each book would have to be somewhere in the range of 70,000 words, which means more than four times the original length I had expected), don’t worry. I have lots of plans. Previously this story went from point A to point B to point C, and so on, but there are lots of modifications that can be made, subplots that can be added.

There will be lots of other changes to ensure that this story is the best that it can be, but suffice it to say that despite my usual tendency to deal with things as they come, I’ve got lots of big ideas and plans for this and it’s all really rather exciting.

It’s not always expected, and we don’t always notice it happening, but sometimes change is an excellent thing, don’t you think?

The “right time”? What’s that?

A reminder: This post courtesy of Julie Jarnagin’s 101 Blog Post Ideas for Writers.

91. The right time to begin a new project

This really depends on what kind of a writer you are.

For me, growing up and writing stories in my spare time, the “right time” was always whenever I got a new idea that I just had to get down on paper. But that was all just for fun, with not a concern in the world of what might happen to that story in the long run.

Professionally speaking,  the “right time” to start a new project is more likely to be when you’ve finished the old one. If you’re writing for a living and you’ve got agents/editors/publishers to deal with, they may not be overly impressed to find out that you’re playing around with a new project while they’re not-so-patiently waiting for you to hand over the old one that they’re paying you to write.

Then, there’s another way to look at this; that is, if we were to think of the “right time” as the literal “right time” for you – personally – to begin working on a new project. This can bring up all sorts of issues for each individual writer. After all, it might not be the “right time” if you just had a baby and have very little free time to yourself. It might not be the “right time” if your day job has become overtime heavy. It might not be the “right time” for any variety of reasons that keeps you from actually sitting down and writing.

So when is the right time? Is it when your kids are old enough to keep to themselves while you work? Is it when most of your debts are paid off so you don’t have to worry so much about finances? Is it when something drastic happens, like losing your job and having no other way to make ends meet? Is it when you literally have nothing else to worry about? Because if it is, I can go ahead and tell you right now that you will never start that project. You may as well just forget about it now, because it’s never going to happen.

Professionalism aside, the “right time” to start a new project is right now. If you haven’t guessed why yet, right now is the best time to do anything, the only time to do something important to you, because the future is unstable, unreliable, and unknowable. You might think that it would be better to wait for any of a million possible issues or distractions to be out of the picture, but the fact of the matter is that you will never have no issues or distractions. There will always be some financial issue, health problem, family mess, or personal obstacle to deal with. These are the kinds of things that we will never be free of, and convincing yourself otherwise guarantees that you will never accomplish anything you hope to accomplish.

There’s no point in waiting until tomorrow, next week, next month, or next year. Start now, or you might never start, and if you never start, there’s no way you can ever finish.

The Infamous Agent

A reminder: This post courtesy of Julie Jarnagin’s 101 Blog Post Ideas for Writers.

42. How not to get an agent

If you’ve been paying attention to any of my previous posts, you know that I don’t have an agent. I have no writing career to speak of, aside from my ambitions and will-be-finished-someday-soon-I-swear manuscript. As a result I’ve had to do a bit of research on the next few prompts, since they all involve information that only someone who had put actual effort into a serious writing career would know.

For how NOT to get an agent, I’ve snatched a few ideas that I found from actual agents explaining what not to do if you want them to pay any attention to you.

If you do NOT want to get yourself an agent…

…send them a query letter that talks about how wonderful your book is. They will be the judge of that.

…send them a manuscript of a genre that they have stated they do not represent.

…waste time and energy telling them your entire life story when you should be focusing on the important information about your manuscript.

…send them a manuscript that is rife with spelling and grammatical errors.

…contact them in inappropriate ways, i.e. stalking their Facebook page, calling their home phone number, etc.

…reply to a rejection with anger; seriously people, grow up. You’re supposed to be a professional.

…beg and plead for them to accept you. Again, I say, grow up.

So there you have it. Pick a couple of the above suggestions, have at it, and you’ll not have an agent in no time!

A Little Push

A reminder: This post courtesy of Julie Jarnagin’s 101 Blog Post Ideas for Writers.

29. Encourage other writers to keep going

I suspect that it is an inevitable truth that at some point (and possibly multiple, regularly occurring points) every writer feels like giving up. Whether you’re an amateur working on your first real manuscript or a published professional having issues in editing, writers are a naturally self-depreciating breed. As my rage comic indicated, we have a tendency to flow through repeating stages of “I’m so awesome!” and “I’m such a hack!” It is a tendency we share with artists, musicians, and other creative peoples who put a little piece of their own selves into their work.

Some of this constant shift in attitude can be attributed to physiology (moods, hormones, emotional state due to outside forces, etc), but much of it is likely due to the lifestyle of a writer and the inability of people in general to fairly, and without bias, judge themselves.

The lifestyle may break may would-be writers because they simply can’t (or feel that they can’t) handle it. The life of a writer may seem simple and carefree to many, but in reality it can be very stressful and difficult. Deadlines may lead to anxiety and burnout. Disagreements with editors and agents can cause frustration and a feeling of losing creative control. Rejections from published and poor critiques/reviews can create doubt, depression, and the belief that you’ll never be successful. It’s a mentally and emotionally exhausting situation to volunteer for.

And then there’s that bit about being unable to judge ourselves. As humans, we are notorious for this, not just involving creative processes, but in every aspect of our lives. One only needs to observe drivers on the highway to understand the concept. Everyone on the road believes that they are an excellent driver, while everyone else is a dangerous SOB who needs to be arrested. It’s the same with writers, except that in our case it works at both ends of the spectrum. Either you think you rock (even if you don’t) while everyone else is a hack, or else everyone else is amazing while you’re a miserable failure (even if you aren’t).

So, in conclusion, being a writer is wrought with emotional distress, time management impossibilities, peer-to-peer conflict, pain of rejection, and psychological issues, and on top of all that you might never become successful enough to make a living out of it.

And here I am, supposedly about to tell you to keep going. Hmm…

Here’s the thing…have you ever heard the phrase that nothing worth doing is easy? While it may not be a logical descriptor for every person in every situation, it still rings true a good deal of the time. Do you think the athletes who go to the Olympics just breeze through the events without any training? Do you think young army recruits just walk through the door and all of a sudden they’re a high-ranking officer? Hell, do you think pregnant women just have a squat and a grunt and a beautiful, perfectly healthy baby just pops out?

If you really care about something – genuinely want it with all your heart, then you’ll do what you have to do and endure what you have to endure to make that dream a reality. Olympians know that they’re going to have to push their bodies to the limit, but they crave that gold, so they move through it. Privates-in-training know they’re going to be trained hard and disparaged at every turn, but they want to serve, so they deal with it. And women know damn well that childbirth is like to be a painful, miserable event that makes them feel like they’re going to die, but they want to bring a life into the world so they damn well manage it.

So if you really want to be a writer, write. Put your heart and soul into it and deal with whatever you have to deal with as a result, because in the end that’s the only true way to get what you want. You have to be willing to do whatever is necessary, end of discussion. If you aren’t willing, well…I guess you didn’t really want it very much in the first place, did you?