7/17/08

The Page Turner


Or, See The Pages As They Turn… Will We Ever Learn?

"Konrath's fourth drink-inspired mystery to feature Lt. Jacqueline Jack Daniels (after 2006's Rusty Nail) is a particularly potent mix of equal parts mirth and mayhem with a dash of sex and a twist (or two) of plot. His latest should be taken straight, no chaser needed."
- Publishers Weekly


Losing heart as a writer happens often. Rejection abounds daily on a giant scale in this business. And you don’t even have to submit your work to get the putdown feeling. All you need do is look around you at other struggling writers and online to see all the rejections they endure. It can stab holes in your own publishing dreams. All (almost all) writers have had to suffer through countless rejections, with aspiring newbies taking the brunt of the hits.

But why?

From my own experience, I can say this, once the blush was off my first completed novel manuscript, I started looking around, checking things out in the big bad publishing world. And I found out I knew next to nothing about selling my writing. I also needed to work more on my writing in general, polish it and remake it. So I studied story construction (plot, pace dialogue, etc.) I researched the publishing industry. I rewrote, revised and overhauled my novel. Then I wrote two more novels. I researched the markets religiously and tried to fit my work into a “target market genre” as the industry calls it. I discovered plenty of great information and wonderful support from other writers, published and non-published. Still, I got the dreaded rejections. I didn’t understand. I thought I was doing everything right, wasn’t I?

Like many others following this familiar writer’s path, I started to think, maybe I wasn’t cut out for the daunting work-hard-only-to-be-rejected-lifestyle. I have to say that sure, I got a few publishing credits, but it seemed that whenever I got too close to the real big deal that something would happen—editors leaving, publishers deciding my work wasn’t timely enough, or even ahead of its time, etc.

Anyway, I needed a preverbal shot in the sagging writer self-image. That’s when I found a few writers whom I can honestly say helped me get back on track.

From one, I learned more about marketing and PR and the business of writing than I ever knew existed.

From others, I learned to access my positive attitude, and keep going. (“If I can do it, so can you…”) Still others helped me critique and polish my writing.

Let me tell you about Joe Konrath. He was the exact spark I needed. His experience echoes what the majority of us writers go through, with maybe a few exceptions. You see, Joe wrote nine novels in twelve years and received 400 rejections to show for his hard work. Yes, that’s right folks—9 novels, 12 years, 400 rejections. (If I thought I had it bad just look at this guy!)

I suspect Joe wanted to give it up, just like the rest of us do at times. But just like us, he couldn’t do it. It always comes back to haunt us even if we put the writing aside for several years.

Joe didn’t give up. And his formula sparked my attention as a writer. His ideas were not new to me, but did open a view to a slightly different perspective.

Of course, the first key is never to give up, never. That rings true for all those best sellers who have passed through the hallowed doors of the huge publishing houses. But this is not the only reason Joe is so appealing as a writer. Granted, what ended up happening to him is unique. Yet his path to success is the key here, his lessons along the way caught my attention. Mind you, these are deceptively simple things that all writers pursuing publication have heard and learned before.

Here is a short version of what Joe had to say:

Back to the first key—Persistence pays off. Never stop writing, no matter what. Write often and regularly. Everyday is best. As Joe says, just sit your butt down and do it—moods and distractions not withstanding. Just get the words out and practice, practice, practice.

It goes without saying that grammar is your friend. Learn it well. Get rid of helping verbs, overdone adjectives, dangling participles, and please stop modifying your verbs and nouns, fix that passive voice, etc., etc. You get the picture.

Next, don’t forget that stories are conflict, plot is conflict. Place your characters in peril and horrible situations, and keep them there. Create more conflict situations for them to endure, keep raising the ante until the end, only then resolve it.

Every line should hook the reader, leave the reader hanging and wanting more. Make the opening sentence a hook. Hook the beginning and end of paragraphs, and scenes, the end of chapters-- when and where you can, hook the story and you’ll hook readers.

Don’t show too much too soon. (And we all know, never tell.)
Sprinkle suspense throughout the story. Keep readers turning the pages, wanting more.

Keep descriptive passages to a minimum, short and to the point, no long drawn out narrative here.

Make sure dialogue is realistic and fresh. No lengthy conversations just because you like hearing your characters talk to each other. Convey information and move the story along quickly.

Revise, rewrite and then revise some more. Make all the words count. If it’s not necessary, cut it out. (And you wouldn’t believe how many words, phrases, paragraphs, etc. are unnecessary and can go.)

Let’s all go to Market

Now for the biggie: That is marketing your work. There is so much to this part it could contain several volumes. Aside from stellar writing (good plot, dialogue, grammar, etc) this is the most important aspect of your writing life. As Joe says, we are business people. Writing is a business. We need to treat it as such and quit whining about it. Go out and sell, promote, connect in the industry.

Target your genre market. Actually, once you’ve gotten the basic craft of writing down, this is your first step. Then start writing your story. Sure, you can just start writing the story. But be aware that it may be harder to target after you write it than if you find the market first.

Is the picture emerging for you now? Is it getting clearer?

You say you just want to write for yourself. No dream of publishing? Yeah right. We all have the dream don’t we?

Do I believe my work is stellar yet? No, I don’t, but I do know I’m on the right track. I’ve sold a few stories, opened a few doors. I may not be near the doors I want to open, but because Joe inspired me, I believe it will happen.

Those who persist do publish sooner, or later.

I suppose you are wondering what happened to Joe. Before I tell you, I have to say this event is not usually a common occurrence in publishing, yet it does happen.

A couple of years ago, Joe hadn’t sold a thing, not even so much as a short story, but he kept on pushing and prodding along all those 12 long years, through nine novels and 400 rejections. Because Joe learned so much about the craft of writing and so many marketing skills along the way, he was finally able to land a good (I mean really good!) agent who took him on as a client.

Within several months of attaining his agent, Joe got “the call” and ended up selling his series of mystery/comedy/suspense novels (in hardcover and paperback) to the tune of... are you ready for this...

A Six-Figure Advance.

Yeah, it happens!

Keep on writing.


Kaye

Visit Joe's web site at: http://www.jakonrath.com/


What I'm Writing

9 comments:

Johnny said...

That Joe really has got it together. We all should study his methods.

Dianne said...

Okay, this is long and good and such a necessary topic. Thanks!

Amanda said...

wow! this kind of makes you want to keep on going, doesn't it?

Cate said...

I say, yea! for ole Joe. How old is he anyway? He wrote for 12 years before publishing? Amazing. Most of us would have given up long before that. But it certainly turned out great for him, finally. Maybe there's hope for us all.

Kaye Manro said...

Yes, Joe does have it together now, Johnny!

Dianne, I know this is a long post, but isn't the info good for all of us?

I hope you keep on writing, Amanda. That is the key.

And Cate, I do believe there is hope for us all, too. To answer your question about his age, I think Joe is thirtysomething. (though I could be wrong) He's a real mover, that one!

Julie said...

Great info! Thanks, kaye.

Chuck said...

I just have to say Joe Konrath's writing is so funny, I didn't stop laughing. And the suspense was great. What a character he has created in Jack Daniels. Read his books.

Anonymous said...

I have to thank you for posting this. I went to this fellow's website and boy, does he have a wealth of information for writers. It's too bad most newbies don't listen.

Michelle said...

This is great stuff! Just great, great, great. That's all I can say.