Have you ever said to yourself, “I oughta write (or publish) a novel”? Well, here are the steps necessary to be a novelist:
1. Write a good book. A great book. Take a year (or many years) out of your life and creatively fill paper with at least sixty thousand words. Your novel will have to be good - better than the approximately 100,000+ manuscripts submitted each year, to rise to the top of the heap.
2. Edit your work. Several times. Read it over and over again. Look for overused words. Eliminate adverbs (which Stephen King deplores so much he once said, “The road to hell is paved with adverbs.”). Look for grammatical errors. Add description, lots of description. Remove descriptions that don’t contribute directly to the story. Edit again.
3. Hire an editor. A good one. S/he may edit for development, ensuring flow, pacing, structure, scene development, etc. are as good as they can be. When you receive her/his notes, edit your manuscript to include them.
4. (Perhaps) hire another editor to check for grammatical errors. Input and approve those changes.
5. Edit the book again to make sure your changes haven’t created gaps in other areas.
6. Find an agent. Check several online and printed sources to select the best potential agents (out of over a thousand) for your book. Study each agent’s website to know exactly what genre they represent. Study books similar to yours to find, if possible, who agented those books. Make a list of the ideal agents.
7. Prepare to query each agent on your list. Study each agent’s website to discover how they like to receive requests for representation. Some want a query letter containing a brief description of the book and a little background information about you. Others want a query letter with a synopsis (one page, or up to five pages). Others want a query letter, a synopsis and the first five, ten, thirty or fifty pages OR the first chapter or the first three chapters. Still others want a query letter and the appropriate pages without a synopsis. Some want the entire manuscript (with or without a synopsis). Some want the additional items (synopsis and manuscript) attached to your email letter and others want that information embedded in the body of the letter. Still others have online forms for you to use to submit your request.
8. If you don’t ‘land’ an agent, you may want to go straight to the publisher, usually a smaller, independent one. If so, follow steps six and seven above, but target your submission to specific publishers, adhering to each of their requirements.
9. Wait. Usually one to three months or more. IF you receive an offer of representation you’ll need to send the completed manuscript to the agent who may want more changes to your novel. Make those changes.
10. Wait (again). The agent will present your manuscript to various companies that publish your genre, style, concept, etc. It may take three to six months for a response. If a publisher does request your manuscript and you sign with them, they will have changes they want before publication. Make those changes. Wait about a year for layout, typesetting, cover design, etc. Sometimes publishers offer an “Advance against royalties”. These funds are sent to you as the book is being prepared.
11. If you've made it this far, you will probably get Advanced Review Copies (ARCs) which you should send to knowledgeable people (other writers, people related to your novel theme, etc.) requesting a review and/or a book blurb (which can be used on the cover or inside the front of the book).
12. OR… self publish. Use online services to lay out, typeset, create covers, obtain ISBN numbers, etc., at a cost. Also, you can learn to do these things yourself.
13. Market your book. Authors these days must take an active role in marketing and promoting books. Book signings. Social Media. Special discounts. Book giveaways in return for honest reviews (which sometimes suck). The trunk of your car. Whatever works.
14. Congratulate yourself.
15. Receive payment. After your advance has been paid off, the publisher will send you an amount equal to 10% to 15% of the sales price (minus the 15% of your payment which goes to your agent. For instance, after your royalties are paid off, if you sell 10 books for $10 each, you get $10 and your agent gets $1.50, leaving you with $8.50. Go buy yourself a Latte).
Quick quiz: If you’re a woman, how many novels do you read a year? How about us men? Bet the women win. Some sources say 55% of women readers choose fiction compared to 45% of men. Women average nine books a year while men read only five, It’s no wonder only 20% of the fiction market is made of men these days.
Unfortunately, we men are missing out.
Studies show reading fiction helps people be more adept in social situations by increasing empathy, creativity, and what cognitive scientists call the “theory of the mind” — the ability to anticipate what another will do based on how we think that person perceives a situation. Who wouldn’ want to handle himself/herself better socially? Social skills can benefit all areas of our lives — family, work, leisure, etc.
So, what can men do to read more? Here are some suggestions.
These are just a few ideas to trigger your own. Please feel free to share them with others.
For more information see:
If you've received an email from me, you may have noticed I signed it with the words, "Lookin' Forward. That's my way of saying, I anticipate hearing from you soon. It also reflects my world view: that things are progressing in the right direction.
Well, here are a few things I am looking forward to right now:
Sometimes you've just gotta get away. Whether its a walk in the back yard, a vacation to the beach or just a daydream, it can heal the spirit and renew the soul.
In Ways of Escape, Graham Greene said, "“Writing is a form of therapy; sometimes I wonder how all those who do not write, compose, or paint can manage to escape the madness, melancholia, the panic and fear which is inherent in a human situation.”
A couple of days ago, we ran up to the mountains. Asheville and Waynesville are just a hop, skip and a jump north. We breathed in mountain air. We stayed at the 1889 WhiteGate Inn, where rooms are named after great American writers. We spent the night in the Carl Sandburg Suite, but could have stayed in the Emily Dickenson suite, the Walt Whitman suite or one of several others. We shopped around for trinkets and for retirement property.
Today, I'm more tired in some ways, but in others I'm ready to go.
Be good to yourself. Get away.
I read a lot this days. Writers are supposed to do that, to perfect their craft and to understand the market. Besides, reading is fun!
I recently read a book I really like: Andy Weir's The Martian. I'll tell you about that in a moment.
Several months ago, someone (an agent, another writer my neighbor? I don't remember) said something like, "You are definitely a minimalist writer." Since I don't benefit from an MFA (yet), that title eluded me. If it meant I was short, then it could apply. If it meant I was skinny, well, not so much.
Turns out, some writers tend to write minimalist fiction. They like it. Those who don't tend to despise it (based on my research).
Minimalists, according to the "Read Write Think" blog*:
√ Use short sentences and tend to write short stories.
√ Use little figurative language.
√ Don't use a lot of character or setting description.
√ Provide little background information.
I used to blame my writing style on my years of corporate writing. As a training writer, I didn't use a lot of description ("When speaking eloquently to the wonderful and laser-like-focused audience sitting wide-eyed in the spacious hotel conference room..." Nope).
So, I'm a minimalist writer. There, I've said it.
And so is Andy Weir. (See, I told you we'd get back to him.). At least in The Martian. You don't get a lot of description of the Martian landscape or the flight director or the beautiful line of green trees hugging the horizon (I'm kidding. No trees on Mars). But you do get a lot of technical stuff. Way over the top tech description. After all, Andy was a computer programmer before hitting it big with The Martian (which, I should mention, is about to be released as a movie directed by Ridley Scott and starring Matt Damon).
At any rate, I've worried about my writing style for a long time. Why can't I paint beautiful, glowing word pictures like James Joyce or Joyce Carol Oates or Ernest Hemingway (Actually, not that last one... Hemingway is classified as a minimalist, too. Not bad company.)
So I was up about 4:00 the other night, reading The Martian. (The book's not that great - I had just awoken and couldn't go back to sleep.) That's when it hit me. Weir is a minimalist! Yeah! That's why I like this book. It's written by a minimalist for minimalists.
At that point, I was able to embrace my true minimalist self. It was such a gestalt that I sat up in bed, prepared to tell everyone, anyone, about my discovery. But nobody was around. My wife was out of town on a business trip. My kids were asleep upstairs in bed (and don't really give a damn about that sort of thing).
So, I've saved it for you, blog reader. Enjoy. Revel in this new realization.
I am a minimalist!
Remember that old thing we all like so much? You know... Your favorite blanket... Your favorite restaurant... Your favorite vacation spot... Your favorite group of friends... Your favorite...
We're comfortable with those things. We have certain expectations about them and they always come through. They're easy.
But they don't challenge us. They don't make us reach for bigger and higher and better. They don't help us reach our full potential.
The comfort zone.
A couple of months ago I stepped out of my comfort zone during a vacation to Puerto Rico. I checked off one of the items on my Bucket list, doing something I'd always wanted to do. I went hang gliding.
Not parasailing - getting pulled up wearing a parachute attached to a speeding boat. Done. Three times, actually, and the last time, I felt a little unsure of myself in my ripe old age.
No, hang gliding. Going up 3, 4 even 5,000 feet hanging from a kite and floating around awhile (with a certified pilot, I might add). Well, I did it. I stepped out of the old comfort zone, strapped myself in (actually, the crew strapped me in) and took off tethered to a little ultralight plane. When we reached around 5,000 feet, the pilot released the tether and we floated... over green hills, pastures and valleys and out over the ocean and the beach. What an invigorating experience! It's one I'll remember the rest of my life.
That's the thing about comfort zones. When we leave them, something extraordinary happens. After all, aren't our comfort zones simply ordinary? When we move out of them we move into the extra-ordinary.
Give it a try. Let go. Do something new. Take that first step. You'll never be the same again.
I've always been a proponent of learning... always learning. In my college classes, I like to say, "If you stop learning, you stop."
Now, a new poll from the Gallup Organization (here) highlights some surprising stuff about lifelong learning. The main point from this study is 65% of people with college (undergraduate) degrees say they "learn or do something interesting every day". This is about the same as people with some college education (65%), only high school education (65%) and with no high school diploma (63%). However, people with Graduate degrees score higher (74%).
Apparently, a BA or BS degree doesn't prompt learning after college as you might think (and as college mission statements imply). ...At least, for some.
With that in mind, I'm going to share thoughts on this blog that you may have not known in hopes that it might continue to inspire you (and me, since I'll be looking for these tidbits) to continue to learn and grow. I hope you will enjoy them.
Back to Gallup, they quote the French writer Antoine de Saint-Exupery (who authored The Little Prince) as saying, "If you want to build a ship, don't drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea."
Join me in yearning for that vast and endless sea.
Seems to be a lot of unrest in our country these day - much around race issues.
One group says it's a culture thing - certain people or organizations live in a culture biased against Group #1. That culture works unfairly and unjustly and they are, in a sense, victims (although "victims" has negative connotations these days and might not really describe the situation adequately). It's a systemic issue and the system needs repair.
The other group says the problem arises from one or two individuals who behave poorly. They don't represent the rest of Group #2 and it is not fair to lump them in with the rest of that group.
OR... They blame the media as the culprit. In order to express a certain viewpoint (biased, in its own way), the media portrays Group #2 incorrectly, taking sides with Group #1 and unfairly (there's that word again) disparaging the innocent.
Either way you look at it, people feel they aren't being treated fairly (and/or justly).
It seems that we've seen this movie before.
In the late '60s, groups also clashed. Whites with blacks. Adults with kids. Women with men. In the end, it seemed fairness and justice won out.
But the conflict has returned. (Remember that saying about repeating the past?).
7 Sanctuaries deals with issues of race in several chapters. The Franklin family faces the terror of a burning cross and the threats that go along with peaceful protests. The radical preach confronts race issues on a march to Washington and when talking with a fellow minister who was in Los Angeles during the Watts riots. Rob and Larry confront local race conflicts in their hometown of Springlike, FL.
Why now? Why the conflict? Why the turmoil? Is it something in our DNA, like hair color or is it something we learn from one another, about which we need to be reminded again and again?
If there is a central message running through 7 Sanctuaries, it is one we sort-of learned back then and should learn again: Knowing about an issue is not enough. We have to take action, as well.
Only then can we say we've really learned from the past.