Get It Down, No Matter What (Writing Tip No. 3)

“Curiouser and curiouser.”

Get It Down, No Matter What (Writing Tip No. 3)

I tweeted last night: “What to do when you want to blog but are too far from your computer and too tired to move. Tomorrow at www.literarywonderland.wordpress.com.” At the time, it seemed like a perfectly good idea. I could go to sleep and dream of peaceful things, wake up, have a day, and then write something brilliant that would rock the blogosphere! Guess how that worked out?

Man, I must have been half asleep when I sent that! What was I going for?? See this is a perfect example of why I should just curl up every night with my laptop. It doesn’t make a very comfortable pillow but I suppose I could rest it on my nightstand and bust it out when inspiration strikes.

So what should you do when you have a creative notion but are too exhausted to do something about it? If your answer is “I do anything I possibly can to preserve it” then you’re on the right track! Some writers keep a notepad by their bed, others whip out their smart phone or iPad and jot it down before it slips away. However you can do it—talk into a tape recorder, wake up your very understanding wife and ask her to remember it, write it on the inside of your eyelids with mascara—I don’t care, just save it somehow! Our brains aren’t equipped to handle brilliance during slumber! Or at least I know mine isn’t.

There have been too many times in my life that I have jolted awake in the wee small hours of the morning, fallen crazy in love for some damn good writing idea, and, confident that it was simply too good to forget, I would fall right back to sleep, safe with the knowledge that, of course I’ll remember it tomorrow. Of course I will. This is the big one! But then, lo and behold, when the crow crows, all that remains on the tip of my tongue is one great and sour DAMNIT!

Write it down, folks. Our subconscious is too precious to ignore, too slippery to contain, and too merciless to give us a break. Let’s start losing some sleep for our good ideas before we lose more of our good ideas to sleep.

Good night.

Ready to Query? How to know for certain. (Writing Tip No. 2)

I finished writing my novel over this past weekend. No parade was held in my honor. The mayor of literature did not give me the key to Imagination City. Not one congratulatory blimp flew over my town and no fireworks were shot into the sky in my honor. What did happen was more restrained. I went out to dinner with my girlfriend and together, we drank a nice Caymus cabernet sauvignon and ate steak. The funny thing is that we had previously made a bet where, if I did not finish writing my novel by a date in late December, I would take her out to this nice steakhouse in our area. The irony is that I lost the bet and did not finish in time. I booked the dinner three weeks ago and, during the course of those weeks, I did finish my manuscript to a point where I am 92% satisfied with it overall. In fact, I finished editing the final chapter (the epilogue) the morning of our big steakhouse date. So take that, Fate.

I have been working on this novel for a little over two years now. And when I say “working,” I mean that I have been sporadically writing it, playing with different chapters and ideas, re-writing, and taking long, guilt-ridden breaks from the work. Writing is hard, folks. But it is an art form that should not be rushed. Nor should it be ignored. I’m just so happy today to report that, after being more or less obsessed with my protagonist for so long, I have finally come to the other end of it and I can see him clearly, I understand his arc and his journey, and again, I am at a 92% satisfaction rate. I gotta figure that’s pretty good.

And so, I am now in the process of looking at different agents, studying up on who might be best to send a query email to. My 2012 Writer’s Market Deluxe Edition arrived last week and I have had several moments to both peruse and read certain articles in the mammoth book as well as begin to start looking at the various listings. It’s a godsend of a resource. I can tell you that right now. I will most likely be doing more thorough reviews in the future but to start, I will just say that I am loving what little I’ve taken in already. But more on that later.

What we want to know right now is this: Is a 92% overall satisfaction rate with your book an acceptable time to start querying literary agents. To each his own, but I say yes! Every agent is different of course, and you really should do your research on what they want to receive and how they want to receive it before just blindly sending your work out there with one general query for all. No no no no no. That just won’t do. When shopping out your work, you want to do so with finesse. You’ve taken the time and probably lived through a lot of heartache and joys as you exercised your creativity and passion to get to where you are right now. It would be ludicrous to take any less of a steadfast, directed approach to seeking representation for your efforts, for your story. Your words deserve the best, do they not?

I knew a guy once—and by the way, this is totally made-up—who finished writing his magnum opus after 45 years and said to me, he said, “Literary,” cuz that’s my name, see, “Literary, I’m gonna write one query letter and I’m not going to put too much effort into it because I’m too danged exhausted from actually writing my masterpiece over all those decades. I’m just going to slap together some nice How Do You Do and email it off to about 100 different agents and see if any bite. I’m not even going to find out what their names are. My work will stand for itself. They can be happy with a Dear Sirs salutation. That ought to be fine. There are no women working in publishing—it’s still 1955, right? Besides… the work stands for itself! They’ll appreciate it for the genius that it is. They will!”

Well I’ll tell you what, my good (fictional) friend did just that. And do you know how many literary agents wrote him back expressing an interest in his work? That’s right, only 7. And then he went on to sign with one of them and he made a million bigillion dollars and lived happily ever after in a palace somewhere in Egypt. But I like to think he was the exception to the rule.

Do the leg-work, kids! I’m definitely going to, anyway.

Write on.

-LW

In Protest of SOPA

Growing up, I never could have imagined we’d have virtually unlimited access to a virtually unlimited web of knowledge which is, for the most part, free. These days, I cannot imagine life without it.

In protest of SOPA, Literary Wonderland is standing behind WordPress, Wikipedia, Reddit, and many other sites in an internet-wide blackout protest today.

So SOPA, in the immortal, sage words of Gandalf the Grey, YOU SHALL NOT PASS!

LW signing off and going dark from 8:00am – 8:00pm.

At Any Rate – A Freshman Freelancer’s Opening Numbers

I played around with a freelance calculator today. It popped out the results I suppose I expected. It’s not easy bein’ green. You gotta work in order to be.

In Lynn Wasnak‘s helpful piece, How Much Should I Charge, she states “smart full-time freelance writers and editors annually gross $35,000 and up—sometimes up into the $150,000-200,000 range.” Granted, the article and pay chart that followed were based on the cost of living in 2005-2006*. Has that much changed in six years? I don’t suppose here in 2012, many freelancer writers are making over two-hundred grand. If you are, God bless you and keep up the good work! For the rest of us though, what are we looking at? What is a number that we are comfortable with, a number that will represent for us, not just a means of paying the mortgage, electricity, hot water and food but also with the all too vital feeling of self worth and satisfaction that we, as a species, so desperately need. How could you ever put a price on that?

I’m speaking rhetorically quite a bit here, of course. We each have our individual lifestyles to maintain. To each his own (and hers). Coming from a newbie’s perspective, I can tell you that I’d be happy with no less than a cool thirty million a year.

And the crowd goes wild with laughter!

Did you like that one? Ppbbtthh.

At any rate… <interjection: I just found this entry’s title> I am sure that learning about your billable hours and hourly rates is a learning process just as everything else. One thing’s for certain though: this new gig’s got class.

LW

*I am now realizing that there is a 2011 pay rate calculator on Waznak’s site. D’oh!

Chapter 1 or 7: Moving In Stereo (Writing Tip No. 1)

I am well and deep into the finishing recesses of my book. It’s been two long years of fighting certain aspects of it, not least withstanding periods of sluggishness, but now I am nearing the end. Or perhaps the beginning? Alas (or ha!), I am seriously considering switching the two. I’m currently re-writing the first draft of my epilogue and thinking, well damn if that couldn’t be the Prologue, instead! It’s an interesting thought, I wonder if my story will have the gumption to do it.

Have you ever moved chapters in haphazard or organized ways to see if your story could work differently? You might have to change tenses or turn some chapters into flashback scenes or go completely Boznai bananas and do a killer Pulp Fictiony kind of thing to make the full work make sense as a whole. (Whew.) However you may have done it in the past, I applaud you. It’d be cool to hear your story. Did shifting the timeline of your story improve it? Did your tale reach new heights?

If you haven’t done this, and you don’t think it’s an off-its-nut idea, you should try it. Or, if you don’t have a book to experiment on, if you’re a poet say, I’m sure this idea is not new to you. I’ve dabbled in poetry a great deal in the past and come off with an approximately 20% personal satisfaction rate overall—the rest is 70% drivel (do that math, it’s different than you’d think)—and having dabbled, I do know the great and untarnished joy of taking poetic license (pardon the pun) and dancing your many lines and stanzas from top to bottom to sideways to shelf and back again! It can be, at its finest, a wildly creative ride. Practice it more if it works.

LW

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r6Ksrmbwr1s&w=420&h=215]

Breaking the Inundation of Inertia

Some things in life are unnecessary distractions. Come to think of it… most are. Do you really need to check Facebook every ten minutes? Ok, sure, your friends’ kids are pretty damn adorable but those pics will still be there tomorrow. And then on Twitter, there’s no less than ninety-two new articles being retweeted in your feed about Jay Z and Beyonce taking over the hospital (interspersed with endless dull jokes concerning Tebow’s 316 yards for Jesus). Steer clear of the nonsense. Close all tabs and get going! Stop reading blogs (as soon as you have finished reading this one) and go warm up your fingers by writing your own words, whatever they may be. Any writing (blog or otherwise) is therapeutic for the lazy writer. In a sense, there is a bit of the lazy writer in all of us. And I am by and large your sluggish king.

A writer writes. How many times have we heard this? But doesn’t a writer also procrastinate, stew in his own uncreative juices, moan, mourn the writing that’s not being done, work a day job, eat, sleep, exercise, make love, shovel snow, love a family, drink, watch television, take vacation, clean the gutters, pay the taxman, be a conscientious consumer and a faithful, dutiful patriot while still questioning your government’s decisions (as is your right) and on and on and on. Yes, this is just an infinitesimal sprinkling of what people do. Everybody has their own stuff, be it normal or weird. I have mine as you have yours as she has hers and we are all together. See how they run like pigs from a gun, see how they fly. I’m crying. Wait. Don’t listen to The Beatles. Not now. As great as they are, they will distract you. You’ll listen to the lyrics and you’ll think, “How brilliant, how simple, how true. Why can’t I write like that?” Why indeed? But listen to the band on your own time. No outside influences here tonight. Just you and your pen. Now is not your time. Now is your Muse’s time. Give in to her and her alone.

I watch too much TV. There, I said it. It’s awful. It’s something I have struggled with for as long as I can remember. My grandfather used to call television “the boob tube.” I always found that amusing as a child. Even though I was too young to fully understand women’s bodies (still am and probably always will be), I did know that the word “boob” was pretty funny. Didn’t know why. Still don’t. But in this sense, the boob, as it were, is the fool watching the tube—the fool who is distracted from his work. I won’t bore you with the sob story of my particular distraction any more than I would with the channel guide or what’s saved in the DVR. We all have some reason or other why we aren’t producing. The question is: are we content? Are we sufficiently and ultimately satisfied with the amount, and more importantly the quality of the work we put out there? If the answer is no, we should turn off our numerous distractions—or at the very least postpone them indefinitely—and get down to the nitty-gritty of the business… as I am sure many of our grandfathers have once quipped.

Get down with it now and get down with it. Be something more important than the non-writer you have been pretending to be. Write what you have always wanted to write. And if it doesn’t come out of you immediately, let it grow. Keep it going for as long as it takes. Til you find something special. And then, you will most definitely be hooked on the high of that feeling. So hang on to it.