Sunday, September 20, 2009

In the Hands of an Agent

Now that I’m done doing my happy dance (it lasted a few days), I can report that the first draft is done, bound and in the hands of an agent. Whether or not he wants to be my agent is what we’re going to learn – along with whether or not he thinks there’s a chance of anyone representing this book, ever.

It’s like we’re climbing Everest (and this is as close to that as I’ll ever get): First you have to book the flight and buy the parka. That’s like writing the book. I did that. Then you have to climb a mere 17,000 feet to make it to Base camp 1. That’s like finding an agent who will give you the time of day. That’s where I am right now and I’m extremely grateful to the Sherpas who have made my trek a little easier.

Once you’re successfully at Base Camp 1, there’s only 12,000 more of the most treacherous and steep feet on the planet to go and you’ve arrived. Just like finding a publisher willing to print and distribute the book. That’s a hike I hope to face soon – at least metaphorically.

And so we’re off. Hopefully pictures from the summit won’t be too long in coming.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Speed Bump Gets It All Too Right

If you missed this morning's Speed Bump by Dave Coverly, then go back and read the comics' pages in your newspaper and shake your head slowly at how right Coverly is.

Then let me know if I should add that sign to the cover of my book.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Chapter 27, Phil Schaap & Lester Young

Lester Young is a god and no one is so fit to jockey his records onto the turntable as Phil Schaap at WKCR, 89.9 New York.

I'm outing myself as a Phil Schaap fan as I've been listening to him pretty much non-stop lately while he's been celebrating what would have been Lester Young's 100th birthday. Lester Young is, of course, one of the three great tenor saxophonists the world has known (the other two are Coleman Hawkins and John Coltrane). And while I'm more of an alto man myself (it's my first instrument), I have to acknowledge the amazing passion that fed Young's style, voice and creativity. At the same time, I have to say that Phil Schaap's passion and knowledge are almost as inspiring.

It's been a day of listening to some of the best recorded jazz presented by arguably the best jazz DJ to ever be on the airwaves. And I've been dealing with this inspiration and beauty and talent while working on a chapter with the working title "Keep Needling". All this beauty has been channeled into great advice like "The angrier your opponent gets, the better off you are."

If Phil Schaap ever finds out about this, I wonder if he'll find a way to block my radio from listening to him.

Friday, August 14, 2009

I Used to Write Titles First

Always, always, always – I used to write titles first. Some of the worst songs I ever wrote when I was 10 were a result of some great (I thought) and forced (in retrospect) titles. Equally, some of the best papers I wrote in college began their lives as a title, a single unifying idea that tied my approach together in some pithy way. When I started getting paid to write, I kept that basic strategy – come up with a good title and the piece writes itself.

I had to think about titles last night while I was watching an old Harold Lloyd movie, Girl Shy. In it, Lloyd is writing a book about dating (something his character had never done) and makes up his strategic insights as he goes along. He gave it the title “How to Make Love” (using the old, less X-rated sense of the term). The publisher treats it as a joke, and renames it “The Boob’s Diary”. Smart move, as it never would have sold as a serious advice book and the funny name didn’t sound quite so odd back in 1924.

I started my book with a title in mind, but I no longer like it, so I’m wondering if I’m more like my ten year-old self again or more the Harold Lloyd type. I'm not sure which answer I'd prefer, either.

I’m putting together a list of titles for a future post. Have one to add? Just let me know and I’ll post yours right along with mine and see what the world has to say.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Never Edit on Drugs

Growing up, there were certain life rules I learned from books, movies and my brothers. "Nerts to you" was, I believe, one of my brother's primary rules, but more universal ones came from other sources to round out his Zen sensibilities.

"Never go up against a Sicilian when death is on the line" springs to mind.
So does "Never get into a land war in Asia."
And who could ever forget "Never tell Han Solo the odds"?

Sadly missing from that list was, until today, "never edit your work while taking painkillers."

Just over a week ago, I had foot surgery. Once I was conscious enough to sit up and write, I made sure I didn't. Writing while in a post-operative daze didn't seem like a good idea. But I didn't want to hang out in bed and do nothing, so I decided I'd edit the 19 chapters I have that I'm pretty satisfied with.

Big mistake. I'm still taking painkillers, but fewer, and a review of how I changed things reveals just how drug-addled my brain has been for the last 10 days.

So if "never edit while taking painkillers" wasn't on your list of life's rules yet, take my advice and add it on now. You'll thank me later.

Saturday, July 11, 2009 - A Great Writer's Resource

On the off chance you're a writer, especially if you're looking to become a first-time author, check out It's a great resource for writers and very no-nonsense.

Some of their articles are very basic and well-suited to beginners, while others are more for writers ready to find an agent or a publisher and walk you through those processes in a clear, concise manner.

If you're even further along the process, you won't want to sign a contract until you've read their articles on that process. I get a little OCD about these things, so I read every article on the site and learned a ton.

In short, unless you're Stephen King, is a good place for you to learn something you should know about writing and getting published.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Writing Goals for 2009

I’ve been asked what it is I want to accomplish with this book and this blog, so if you’ve been asking yourself (or me) the same thing, here’s my 2009 to-do list:

Read the book.
I’ve always wanted to read this book, that’s why I’m writing it. So I want to finish it and read it, not for editing purposes or tweaking, but actually sit down with it and read it. I hope I like it.

Prepare the packet.
I’ve got scads of information on what makes a good book proposal and even more material to put in mine. I want to finish that this calendar year and send it out.

Identify several publishers and agents.
I have some idea of who would actually publish this, but I need to take the time to approach them properly and that means reaching out to agents who might represent me, too.

Get two rejections from publishers and agents, each.
Getting rejected is a given. It’s like being single when you don't want to be. You need to flirt with a lot of publishers and agents in order to find one willing to spend some time with you, and then it takes even longer to find one you want to spend some quality time with. But getting rejected would mean I’ve accomplished my other goals, so it’s a good thing. This is progress.

This would make 2009 a good year. Achieving anything beyond these goals would be the malt powder on the hot fudge sundae of my project. And if you don't know what I mean by that, then it's not summer where you are right now.