Posted in Books, Publishing, Writing

My New Book “Write Your Novel Now” is Available on Amazon!

WRITE NOVEL NOW_Digital Cover

Two years in the making, my new ebook about novel writing is officially live on Amazon!

For less than a cup of coffee you can learn 100 essential tips and strategies to help you draft, revise, and publish your novel.

Some of the tips and strategies include…

  • How to develop a killer work ethic as a writer
  • How to write your novel in a single month
  • How to choose the right word count, POV, and tense
  • Why revision is the key to being a successful writer
  • The words and phrases to look for when you’re editing
  • How to successfully query your novel to literary agents
  • What you need to know if you want to self publish
  • The pros and cons to MFA in Creative Writing programs
  • And lots, lots more!

So what are you waiting for? You can download Write Your Novel Now! 100 Tips & Strategies to Help You Draft, Revise, and Publish Your Book right now on Amazon for just $3.49. Yep, just $3.49.

Thanks for the support, and I look forward to your thoughts!

Posted in Publishing, Writing

5 Things You Should Know if You Want to Self Publish Your Novel

0404

Self publishing is something every novel writer should look into sooner or later.

Because you know what? Self publishing has changed considerably in the past ten years, even the past five years. It’s not looked at in the kind of negative light it used to be.

Sure, there is a whole lot of crap getting self published out there in 2020, but there’s also lots of quality novels finding a home with readers everywhere.

Self publishing doesn’t have to be embarrassing. It doesn’t have to mean a death sentence. I’ve been trying to be traditionally published for a long time because I hope to see my book on a Barnes & Noble shelf and I want to work with amazing literary agents and editors that will help take my writing to the highest level possible.

But I’ve also thought about self publishing more than ever as of late. I currently have ten novels in the drawer — that’s right, ten novels that have never seen the light of day — and part of me is wondering if it’s finally time to get to work on putting at least some of these manuscripts into the world.

You can self publish anything, really, but the trick to be successful is to do it the right way, not the wrong way. Trust me, I’ve done it the wrong way many times before, and I don’t want to self publish one of my novels again until I have a solid plan and some talented people to help me make the writing soar.

Here are the five things you should know if you want to self publish your novel…

1. You want the entire package to be as professional as possible.

This is number one. You’re not going to want to slack on anything. Self publishing your novel is not the time to do a quick read-through, throw together a decent cover, and call it a day.

You have to treat the self publishing of your novel, even if it’s just one novel, as a business. You want to be professional. You want to look like you know what you’re doing.

Keep in mind there are so many novels self published these days. How are you going to stand out? What’s going to make a reader care about your book? If it’s not thoroughly professional in every way, you’re never going to make much of an impression on anyone.

2. If you’re not adept at graphic design, hire someone to design your cover.

One of the first things your potential readers are going to see is your novel’s cover. Again, this is not the time to slap something together that’s mediocre or that doesn’t represent your novel as well as it could.

Unless you’re super skilled at graphic design, you shouldn’t be making your cover in the first place. You should hire someone to make a cover for you. I’m lucky enough to have a longtime friend who’s super skilled at graphic design, but there are lots of places you can pay people to do the exact cover you want. There are even places where you can pay money to have various people compete to be your graphic designer.

I know you want to save money. I know you want to find some public domain image and put some fancy text on it. I see these kinds of covers all the time, but they won’t do you any favors. Your cover is going to tell your reader how serious you are about self publishing. Make sure the cover is pure gold!

3. If you have some money in your budget, hire an editor or at least a copyeditor.

I wouldn’t suggest it’s as important to hire an editor for your novel than it is to hire a graphic designer to make your cover, but if you have some money in the budget, it wouldn’t hurt for you to hire an editor to help make your manuscript better in every aspect.

Even just hiring a copyeditor to go through the book and find the typos and misspellings will give your work the professional polish it needs. Do you ever notice typos and misspellings in traditionally published books? Almost never, right? And when you do, it always sticks out because seeing one is so rare.

An occasional typo or misspelling won’t bring your self published novel down, but several will absolutely hurt you in the eyes of the reader. You want them to get lost in your story. You don’t want the magic evaporating for them every few pages because of constant errors in your manuscript. Editors will help with this, and, again, if you have the money, they’re well worth it in the end.

4. Series sell much better than stand-alone novels, and publishing books in the same genre will help grow your success, too.

A big reason I’ve hesitated self publishing lots of the novels I’ve written in the past few years is that there’s all stand-alone books. They don’t have sequels, don’t have follow-ups. And those can be hard sells when it comes to the self publishing world.

Readers love series. They love to go on a journey with characters in not just one book but in several. Trilogies are good. Series of five books or more are even better! If you want to be a success at self publishing, it’s going to be in your best interest to write series instead of stand-alone novel, although it’s certainly possible to write a stand-alone book that sells a lot of copies.

Keep in mind that your genre is important, too. A mystery or a thriller or a romance book will probably sell better than a super introspective literary novel. Readers have so many options these days, and you want to grab them with something. You want there to be some kind of hook. They don’t have time for things they might not understand.

And that goes for the genre you keep self publishing in, too. I made the mistake in my early self publishing days of putting out books in different genres, which absolutely confused my readers. Don’t self publish a horror novel, then put out a romance and a western a few months later. If you’re going to publish stand-alone novels, at least stay consistence in the genre they’re categorized in.

5. You’re going to have to promote, promote, promote.

Here’s the last big one. Something you absolutely can’t ignore. It’s something you need to understand when it comes to traditional publishing, too, but you for sure can’t ignore it when it comes to self publishing.

There’s always this feeling once you self publish something that because you worked on it so hard for so long, the readers are going to show up no matter what. You’ve revised it a bunch of times, had a copyeditor comb through it, hired a graphic designer to make you an amazing cover. The book is in a popular genre, and it’s the first of a trilogy. Naturally you’re going to assume hundreds of readers will snap it up instantly.

I’m sad to say that’s rarely the case. Even if all the right elements come together, it’s very well possible you’ll self publish the book and have almost no sales at all. A week will go by, a month will go by. You’ve told your friends and family… and you’ve sold less than ten copies. What happened? What went wrong?

Well, what probably went wrong is that you didn’t do any promotion for the book. You did no marketing of any kind. You didn’t spend any money for this part of the process, which is simply essential. Sure, if your novel is really good, you’ll probably sell some copies of it eventually even if you don’t do any promotion. Some people will find it if you wait long enough, but the problem is most of them won’t.

You’re going to want to pay for some advertising, you’re going to promote it on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram and Amazon and anywhere you can think of. You’re going to want to try new things constantly and see what works well and what doesn’t. You can’t just sit back and hope readers come. You have to make sure they find your book sooner rather than later!

Whatever novel you’re planning to self publish, I wish you only the best with it!

Traditionally publishing isn’t for everyone, after all. And sometimes you try for traditional publishing for a long while and have no success, but you know in your heart you have an amazing story the world deserves to read.

Just because you never found a literary agent to sign with doesn’t mean that novel you adore is over and done with. There’s still absolutely a way to get it out there, and better yet, you’ll have complete control over it, too!

Self publish for the right reasons, and do everything you can to make your work professional. Spend money for the perfect cover, hire an editor or copyeditor if you can, and promote, promote, promote.

And think about writing a series too, not just stand alone books. Even if you write the best stand alone novel ever, you won’t get very far if you only end up self publishing one book. You should want to self publish lots and lots of books!

And if they’re in the same genre, especially in the same series, your chances of success will only increase in the weeks and months to come.

Want to take your writing to the next level?

Click here to read about my Editorial Services.

Posted in Money, Publishing, Writing

How to Find Success on Medium.com

MediumCover_BrianRowe

Dear Friends,

A year in the making, my new ebook about writing for Medium.com is officially live on Amazon!!

For less than a cup of coffee you can read all about 100 essential tips and strategies to make a substantial profit with your writing.

This book is both for the beginners who are just starting on Medium and for the long-time experts wanting to brush up on their skills.

Some of the tips and strategies include…

  • How to design your stories and profile
  • What Medium features are most beneficial
  • How publications work and why they’re so important
  • Why curation is crucial to your Medium success
  • What curation jail is, and how you can escape it
  • How promotion will bring more readers to your stories
  • Why new daily content will grow your income
  • How to write a successful story in 10 minutes
  • And lots, lots more!

So what are you waiting for? I’d love for you to take a look.

You can download How to Find Success on Medium.com: 100 Tips & Strategies to Make a Profit with Your Writing right now on Amazon for $3.99. Yep, just $3.99.

Thanks for the support, friends, and I look forward to your thoughts!

Posted in Publishing, Writing

I Start Querying My New Novel to Literary Agents Today!

0127

Today I begin querying my new queer YA thriller to literary agents.

And I’m currently dealing with all sorts of emotions.

I’m nervous for sure, since I’ve been through this process ten times before. Ten times in ten years, and only once has a literary agent taken a chance on me.

A few times I thought signing with an agent was going to happen for me… and it didn’t. In the spring of 2016 I queried a novel called Toothache that received twenty full requests from agents in the course of a few months. I thought I had it made. I thought at least one or more agents would agree to take me on. But none did. They all said no. And I was crushed for awhile there.

Even when you pour your heart and soul into your book for many months and even years doesn’t necessarily mean a literary agent is going to take a chance on it, or you. There’s no guarantee of anything. And I have to remember that moving forward.

However, I’m still cautiously optimistic as I begin the querying process again, since I did have success with an agent once before and I feel like in the past three years since I signed with that person, my writing has improved considerably and my querying writing skills have improved a lot too.

I was lucky to work with an individual who showed me the power of revision and how strong of a writer I could be after lots of hard work and dedication. I’ve certainly come a long way.

And I’m also super excited, since I’ve been writing and revising this novel for three years now.

I’m ready to finally send a pitch for this book into the universe and see what happens!

I started working on this manuscript in February 2017, and I finished the first draft that August. It’s the novel I wrote for my MFA thesis at the University of Nevada, Reno. It was a novel I wanted to write years before, but I felt I wasn’t ready yet. I felt like I needed some time to mature as a writer, and I also knew how insanely hard this particular project was going to be.

And hard it definitely was. I put it off and put it off. I thought about it for the longest time (years, really), then finally wrote the first draft when I decided I wanted to make it my MFA thesis. I spent a long summer in dark rooms creating the first draft, messing up and making mistakes, but finally writing the thing and finishing it after so much time.

And in the past two and a half years I’ve completed eleven additional drafts. Twelve drafts total, and it’s been through so many different versions and iterations. In the second draft I gutted eighty-two pages from the middle. In the third draft I deleted two characters and added a new one.

I had seven beta readers read the novel for me and give me feedback in 2018. My MFA thesis advisor read it three times during my final year in the graduate program and helped me immensely in shaping it into something great. My former literary agent read four drafts and gave me awesome notes.

The book kept changing and changing. I kept making it better. Even in the eleventh draft I wrote three brand new scenes. And in the twelfth draft I just completed, I removed four thousand words from the book, stripping out any sentences, phrases, or words that didn’t need to be there.

The first draft was 110,000 words. The second draft was 80,000 words. After many more revisions the book got all the way down to 65,000 words, then went back up to 76,000 words. The draft I’m ultimately querying is 72,000 words, a good word count I think for a young adult thriller.

For three years now this story and these characters have been a part of me. Have obsessed me. Have given me reason to sit down at my computer again and again for another focused writing session.

But you can’t hold onto your novels forever. At a certain point you need to send them out into the world and see what happens.

After two and a half years working together, I unfortunately parted ways with my literary agent at the end of last year, for reasons I won’t go into here. She’s a tremendous agent and person. I wish her only the best.

I needed a fresh start at the beginning of 2020, and now it’s time to finally take my favorite novel, the project that has totally consumed me since 2017, the manuscript I’ve spent far more time on than any other, and start pitching it to literary agents to see if they might want to take it on.

I don’t know what the next few weeks and months will bring. I don’t know if one or more agents will take a chance on this thing. I sure hope somebody does.

All I know is I’ve put everything I have into this novel, and I know after three years of hard work it’s the best thing I’ve ever written. It’s the manuscript I always hoped it would be and more.

If there’s anything I’ve written in the last ten years I want to be my first traditionally published novel, it’s this one.

So keep your fingers crossed for me, okay? The querying… begins now.

Posted in Fiction, Publishing, Writing

My New Short Story was Just Published in a Literary Journal!

1205.jpg

I’ve been seriously writing fiction for 10 years now, and I rarely have an experience like this one.

Since I started sending out my work at the end of 2010, I’ve mostly received rejections. I’ve gotten so very used to rejection.

In the past five years I’ve written fifteen short stories, and about half of those have since been accepted to literary magazines or paperback anthologies.

But even the stories that were accepted took a long, long time. Sometimes years. This past spring I had a story of mine, “I’ll See You in the Morning,” finally accepted to a literary magazine after four years on submission and probably twenty drafts total!

And then also this year I had my short story “Character Driven,” which I wrote at the end of 2016, finally accepted for publication, which was made me so happy. I love that story.

That second piece was on submission for about two years before it was accepted. Two years doesn’t even seem like a long time to me anymore. Two years seems almost average.

So it was a total shock to me this past summer when I wrote the first draft of a new short story called “Walter,” revised it a few times, sent it out to five places… and was accepted to one of those dream magazines in mere weeks. From first draft to acceptance was ten weeks, a goddamn miracle!

The story was inspired by a real-life event that happened to me in Portland, Oregon, in March 2019. Sometimes it’s better to come up with a story from scratch rather than piece together a work of fiction based on something that actually happened to you, the writer. But in this case, everything worked out.


And the nice surprises kept on coming!

When I received the initial e-mail that said “Walter” had been accepted to Bosque, I was overjoyed. Ecstatic. I was floating on air for days.

When you get rejected as much as I do, an acceptance of any kind is a truly momentous occasion. In early August I was informed that my story would be published in November, and I figured I wouldn’t have any e-mail interaction with this person until November, maybe late October.

An initial surprise: Mere days after receiving my acceptance letter, I received a follow-up letter from Bosque’s editor informing me I had been chosen as the literary journal’s pick for Fiction Discovery of the Year!

I had to read that e-mail twice, believe me. I didn’t believe it at first. What a lovely surprise this was!

A second surprise? The editor reached out a week later about copyedits. I figured whatever changes she wanted would take me an hour, maybe two. If I was lucky, maybe just thirty minutes.

You know what the editor wanted changed? One word. She questioned one word in the entire story. I agreed with her that the word was unnecessary, so I cut it from the manuscript, and then sent the story back.

That was it. I was done. After spending an entire year with a literary agent who made me revise my book ten arduous times, to be asked to change a single word of my manuscript was definitely a lovely surprise, one I did not expect.

A third surprise? Yes, there was a third one! In mid-September I received another e-mail from the editor telling me I would be paid for my story because of being designated as the Fiction Discovery of the Year. It wasn’t a lot of money, but it was a lovely gesture, and I was thrilled to receive a check in the mail a few weeks later, wow!


Were there any more surprises? Yep, the best one of all was this very week!

It’s one of the great surprises you can have as a writer — when the literary journal actually shows up in your mailbox.

It’s happened to me five or six times before in the last few years. And every single time it arrives not expected but as a total surprise because you always forget it’s coming.

I hadn’t thought of Bosque and “Walter” for a month or so. It wasn’t on my radar. I just returned home for a trip and checked my mail to find a package from Bosque, and I gasped! Here it was, hooray!

And oh my God, what a beauty this journal is. I say that every time I see my work in print (well, almost always), but after a decade of writing fiction and getting some of my work published, this is by far the most gorgeous literary journal yet. Here are some pictures below…

This was such a fantastic way to end my first decade of writing fiction. Such a perfect motivation to keep me going strong for many more decades to come.


Although I think of myself as a novel writer, not a short story writer, the success I had with “Walter” inspired me to return to the short form.

Starting in 2017 I promised myself to write at least one new short story a year, and I’ve stuck to that. I wrote a story in 2017 called “39 Pies” that has gone through twelve drafts and has been rejected at least forty times. In 2018 I wrote a long magical realism story called “Gretel” that has been getting extremely kind rejection notices, which is promising. That one’s gone through about ten drafts and I’m confident it will find a home one of these days.

Since ‘Walter’ was accepted so quickly, I decided to write a second short story in 2019, and so recently I completed my last new work of fiction of the decade, a story called “F” that’s written in the second person. I just started sending it out, and so far, only rejections. But hey, who knows what might come of this one in the new year?

Because of the success of “Walter” I have decided to aim for two new short stories a year. And to take risks every single time. I write middle grade and young adult novels, so it’s been fun to write adult fiction in my short stories. To write the kind of story I would probably never attempt at novel length.

To keep growing as an artist by thinking outside the box and coming up with something no one would ever expect of me.

So if you’re interested in writing short stories, now is a better time than ever to take a risk in more ways than one! Let my journey serve as an example of what can happen when you persevere, when you try and try no matter how much you fail, no matter how many rejections roll in year after year.

If you stick with something long enough, and if you give it your all every time, it’s absolutely true: you will get better, and you’ll eventually start to hear that lovely word yes even if you’re used to that ugly word no.

Let’s all see where our imaginations can take us in the months to come. Here’s to risk-taking and memorable short story writing in 2020 and beyond!

Posted in Publishing, Writing

Why You Need to Learn How to Write Compelling Loglines

0911
In her 2012 craft book Writing Irresistible Kidlit, author Mary Kole says,

A logline pitch is what most agents and editors compose to get attention for our projects. It’s a distillation of your book into a short, digestible, and, ideally, electrifying idea.


If you want to become a successful writer, it’s vital you learn how to write loglines.

This is most especially the case if you write screenplays or novels, although figuring out a logline for your latest short story can be helpful, too.

A logline can seem annoying to you at first. You might think, I just put six months into this script or novel. I just gave it everything I have, and now I have to find a way to pitch the thing in one to two sentences???

Yep, you do.

In fact the earlier you figure out your dynamic, electrifying pitch the better. The worst thing you can do is spend a year or longer on your latest novel, and then discover there’s no clear way to pitch the thing in a concise way to the people who matter — literary agents and editors.

I’m struggling with this a bit right now actually with my MFA thesis novel. It has two POV characters who only slightly intersect with each other until the very end of the narrative. Trying to figure out how to pitch this particular project has given me many a headache, especially since I’ve been working on it for two and a half years.

There’s a lot that you’re asked of as a writer, I know. Not only do you need to revise your novel or screenplay to the point where it’s ready to be queried, but you also have to often write a 1–2 page synopsis, which is a tedious process but necessary for most agents and editors.

And then, of course, there’s the logline. That brief sentence or two that can make a world of difference in your writing career.


So what exactly is a logline?

Mary Kole features a clear definition in her book:

The logline is a sentence that delivers all the necessary information about a project. The genre, the protagonist, the set-up, the problem or the hindrance to said goal.

You should in two sentences or less be able to quickly tell another person what your book or script is about in a way that makes that person want to read it. And you should be able to in as few words as possible get across your genre, who your main character is, the main set-up and conflict, and what the problem is for that character in reaching his or her goal.

Here are three samples of loglines from Kole’s book…

A kid with legendary bad luck must survive a juvenile detention camp’s secret agenda and unearth the truth about his family curse. (Holes by Louis Sachar)

A boy grieving for his crush receives a box of tapes sent just before her suicide that implicates thirteen people in her death — and he’s one of them. (Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher)

A popular girl has the opportunity to relive her last day over and over against to see if she can change her ways and alter her destiny. (Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver)

Notice had none of these three examples necessarily gives away the genre of the book, so if the genre sort of comes through in your pitch of the story, you likely don’t need to explicitly state it.

Just get to the story, the main character, the dilemma. Do what you need to do to ensure that your latest writing project is attractive to your potential readers!


No matter what part of the writing process you’re in, try to boil your project down to a logline.

You don’t have to be finished. You don’t even have to have started the novel or screenplay yet! I’ve heard famous authors say you should come up with the logline before you write a single word. I don’t necessarily agree with that, but some people stand by it.

Yes, at a certain point you’re going to need to come up with a way to pitch your project in a couple of sentences. Sure, in a query letter for a novel or screenplay you can write a little bit more than two sentences. You can usually get away with six to eight sentences or so when you’re discussing the story.

But figuring out your logline sooner than later will absolutely help you in the long run. It will help you understand what makes your project stand out, what makes it unique. Discovering the perfect logline early on will get you even more excited to keep working on your project and ultimately complete it!

And it will also help you find that all-important audience when that logline attracts the readers you want. Like beta readers, sure, but also agents and editors. The people who have the power to make a major difference.

So go for it! Come up with incredible loglines time and time again, and there’s no telling how much success you’ll have throughout your writing career.

Posted in Publishing, Writing

Why You Need to Take a Chance on Writing a Commercial Book

0828.jpg

You should write the book that compels you first and foremost, no matter its sales potential.

If the book you want to write might not be commercial enough, might not be the easiest sell in the world, but you want to do it anyway? Then by all means, write it.

I’ve had a couple of books like this in the past. A novel about two boys who meet on the first day of first grade and proceed to fall in love over the course of twelve years, that was one. I’ve tried to sell it on and off for four years now, with no success.

For the most part I’ve been lucky in that what compels me for the most part in my novels is commercial stories. Stories of romance and horror and suspense. Stories that will hopefully grip any reader who comes in contact with it.

Because here’s the deal. If you want to be a novel writer, at the end of the day, you need to at least grasp the concept of commercial novels, of sales hooks. You need to write books that lots and lots of people will want to read!

In her 2012 book Writing Irresistible Kidlit, author Mary Kole defines a commercial novel as the following…

A commercial book is one that has blockbuster potential, whether it’s because of a trendy genre, an engaging world, an unforgettable character, or a great “meets” comparison. For example, a commercial premise could be “Lord of the Flies meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and gets a lot of editor attention (if done well). Commercial books are larger than life and have higher stakes than most literary books.

I grew up loving commercial books, loving commercial movies, and I’ve always been drawn to larger-than-life stories that have high stakes.


And you know what? So do many readers, especially younger ones.

They want a story that keep them hooked from beginning to end. One that offers endless surprises. One that makes it impossible for each and every one of them to put the book down!

That’s the kind of book you want to write, whether it features non-stop action or features no action of any kind. It doesn’t really matter the genre ultimately. What kind of story can you tell that has big stakes, not small stakes. What kind of story can you tell that will transport the reader to a different place?

And what kind of story can you tell that has a great sales hook to a potential agent, editor, librarian, reader? What will make people want to read it?

Kole defines a sales hook as the following…

[It’s a] selling point. Is this book in a particularly hot genre? Does it feature romantic elements or a strong friendship story? Does it tackle a hot-button issue in a new way? Is it about an especially timely topic? Is there something to the storytelling that makes it stand out? A selling point isn’t a gimmick, but it’s a unique benefit that’s easy to get excited about and pitch.

Having a sales hook is important because it will actually get the important people who can make a difference in your professional life as a writer to get excited about your latest manuscript.

I write books for children. I want to get my books in front of children. But the only way I will ever get there is to write a book that will excite my agent, excite editors, excite librarians. And a really helpful way to do all of that is to write a book that has a commercial component, that has a hook of some kind.


Remember that you don’t ever want to write a book just to write something commercial.

All those gatekeepers I mentioned before will see right through that. You have to be passionate about your stories and characters, you have to care about the world you’ve created.

To write something just to sell it, just to make money, without any deep feeling or care for the story as a whole, will lead you down a lonely road that ends in disappointment.

At the end of the day you need to write the story you’re fascinated by, that you simply have to write no matter what. And even if it’s not the most commercial story in the universe, still at least keep in mind those elements that make up a commercial story in the months and years to come.

Because it’s super important, always, to consider your potential readers, as Kole talks about in her book…

[Your readers] want stories that surprise them, thrill them, and lift them out of the everyday with a once-in-a-lifetime plot that’s a big departure from their normal existence. What’s something they can’t experience in reality? What’s something realistic but unlikely to ever happen to them? What are some universal “What-if” questions all humans tend to indulge in and that you can drill into? This is the beginning of high-concept thinking.

Your readers want a story they’ve never experienced before. Something that will keep them mesmerized from the first page to the last.

Give them that story, no matter what story it may be, no matter what genre it might be in.

Take a chance on writing a commercial book one of these days… and then see what happens!

Posted in Fiction, Publishing, Writing

Wow, My Short Story is Being Published in a Paperback Journal!

0815.jpg

It usually doesn’t work out this way.

Usually I write a new short story, and I brace myself for two years or longer before it sells.

I have two stories I wrote in 2016 that still haven’t sold. Two stories that have been rejected more than fifty times each.

I have a story called ‘Character Driven’ I first wrote as a screenplay way back in 2005 before I eventually turned it into a short story in 2017 and received dozens of rejections over the course of eighteen months before it finally sold to a paperback anthology.

I’ve even had stories that took four years to sell, like my piece of creative non-fiction ‘A Window to Dreams’ which I wrote in 2012 and then sold to a literary magazine in 2016.

And like my story ‘I’ll See You in the Morning,’ one of my favorites I’ve ever written, which I wrote the first draft of in May of 2015. I revised this story more than a dozen times and I collected probably seventy to eighty rejections on it before it finally sold to an online literary magazine earlier this year.

Let’s just say I’ve had my share of difficulty with trying to sell my short stories. I don’t write too many of them — one or two a year — and so each one means a great deal to me.

Earlier this year I wrote my newest short story, ‘Walter.’

This was my first story I’d written after receiving my MFA in Creative Writing at the University of Nevada, Reno, in 2018, and the process of it was kind of great.

For the first time in years, I was writing a story I knew wasn’t going to be workshopped. That I was writing more for me than anybody else.

I had an encounter with a homeless man last March in Portland, Oregon, where I was attending the AWP Writers Conference, and I couldn’t stop thinking about the encounter when I was traveling home to Reno. I thought those ten seconds or so held the nugget for a new story.

Wouldn’t you know it, in mid-April of this year I sent the latest draft of my middle grade horror novel off to my literary agent, and I suddenly found myself with two to three weeks with no creative project to work on.

These periods don’t happen to me too often, actually. Usually I’m writing the first draft of one novel and then revising the fifth draft of a second novel and then maybe tinkering away on the twelfth draft of a third novel. I usually jump from one project to the next all throughout the year, with little time to dedicate to a new short story.

But suddenly I saw myself with three weeks to work on something new, and the encounter with the homeless man was still lingering in my mind.

So I wrote the story. And I wrote it really fast.

I wrote the first draft in five days. I started it on a Monday morning. I finished it on a Friday morning. I wrote 800 words a day, and the first draft was 4,000 words exactly. The original title was ‘Spare Any Change?’

The following week I changed the title to ‘Walter’ and I cut about 300 words and added about 200 new words.

The third week I cut another 300 words, got the manuscript to a place I felt really good about it, and then I let the story rest for a month.

At the end of May, I read through the story one more time, tweaked a few final things, then sent the story off to ten literary magazines.

I hoped I might hear back from a few of them throughout the summer. I heard back from half of them. All rejections. But that was okay. I’m used to rejections.

In June I sent it to two more magazines, and at the end of July I came across a literary magazine called Bosque Journal that took literary stories under 5,000 words and ONLY accepted submissions between July 1 and July 31! So I sent it off quickly. The editors at Bosque rejected a story I wrote last year, so I didn’t have high hopes.

On Tuesday afternoon, I received an e-mail.

I’ve been hard at work on other projects. I haven’t even been thinking about ‘Walter’ much lately.

I heard the ding sound from my phone telling me I had a new e-mail. I clicked on my inbox. And saw the following word.

ACCEPTANCE.

That really is a great word, isn’t it? Especially when you’re a writer. Acceptance. Not rejection. For once in my lifetime, it’s not rejection.

I figured I’d was going to be sending ‘Walter’ to literary magazines well into 2020 and beyond. And I was okay with that, honestly. It’s my philosophy that you should send out a short story 100 times before you give up, after all.

I felt it’d be a miracle for this new story to be accepted in less than a year. I didn’t think I was going to hear any good news this summer, that’s for sure.

So color me surprised when I learned that the story was accepted by the editors of Bosque Journal, a well-regarded paperback literary magazine, and will be published in its ninth issue this November! How cool, is that?

This brings me number of story acceptances on Submittable.com to 5.

5 acceptances, and 428 rejections. Yep, you read that right.

This great news about my latest story is further proof that if you want to be successful as a fiction writer, you can never give up. You have to keep going no matter what. You might go a whole year receiving rejection after rejection. You might think your fiction is worth absolutely nothing.

And then one day, you discover your fiction is worth something. That it’s actually worth more than you thought. You discover you have talent, that you have something to say. Someone out there loved your story… and you’re about to be a published author!

Amazing moments like this one is exactly why the writing journey is worth taking.

Because when you’re rejected most of the time, an acceptance is truly an out-of-body experience.

My little story I wrote mostly for me is now going to be released into the world later this year… and I couldn’t be more excited.

It’s like what I’ve said before. You won’t get rich writing short stories, but if you love writing fiction, if you want to have a long career, it’s worth doing anyway.

So do what I did. Write the next story, revise it a few times, send it out widely.

And then see what happens.

Posted in Books, Publishing, Writing

This is the One Thing a Reader Wants

0731.jpg

 

In her 2012 craft book Writing Irresistible Kidlit, author Mary Kole says,

Today’s publishing marketplace is tough. Not all writers who set out to publish will see their dreams come true. And even if they do publish, readers will not automatically flock to your writing without good reason. The only thing a reader wants, at the end of the day, is to care about a character and a story. That’s it, that’s all. If you let them down here, they will not return to your pages.


The one thing a reader wants is simple.

A reader wants a character and a story to care about. That’s it.

A character. And a story. To care about.

Sure, there are other factors that will keep a reader flipping through the pages all the way until the end.

Big surprises. High stakes. Constant tension. A good mix of dialogue and description.

But a compelling novel especially comes to down to that one thing: a character and story to care about, deeply and completely.

I don’t know about you, but if I don’t care about both of those elements, I struggle continuing on with a novel I’m reading.

Especially when it comes to character. I don’t even need an extraordinary story if the characters mean something to me.

I just adored every minute of the third season of Stranger Things, and something that hit me by the end of the first episode was that I love the characters on the show so much that I’d still enjoy the show if nothing extraordinary happened.

If there were no monsters. If there were no big stakes.

If all the show did was explore those characters’ lives, I would still want to be there for every minute of it.


Such is the case with the best fiction.

You want your characters to be so compelling that very little could happen in the story, and you would still go along for the ride.

So when you do have a lot happen throughout the narrative, when you throw endless surprises and twists at the reader, when there’s a major death nobody sees coming, when an ending reveals something about a character that changes your entire perspective on the book…. your reader will absolutely love you for it.

Mary Kole is right: the publishing marketplace is tough. There are lots of reasons for an editor to say no to your novel.

What you want to do is write a story and characters that nobody will want to say no to.

That no readers will ever be able to put down… even if they try!

All a reader wants at the end of the day is to care about a story and a character.

If you can master that part of novel writing, there’s no telling how much success you’ll be able to achieve.

Posted in Publishing, Writing

Learn to Think Big with Your Stories if You Want to be Published

0730.jpg

In her 2012 craft book Writing Irresistible Kidlit, Mary Kole says,

Many beginning writers fall into the trap of thinking too small with their stories. The resulting projects lack multidimensional characters, tension, and stakes. The whole novel goes from point A to point B with only a few bumps in an otherwise straight line. None of the characters experience deep, seismic shifts in their lives, beliefs, or identities. And I fail to care even a little bit about the story because there’s not much of one.


If your reader doesn’t care about your story, it’s over.

There’s no way around it. There’s nothing you can do about it. And it doesn’t matter that you think every sentence of your story is lovely, that your use of setting is stellar, that your POV work is ambitious.

There needs to be a story that readers care about. And you need to write characters they connect with. I’ve struggled a lot in my writing life throughout the years, but one thing I’ve tried hard to do well when it comes to my short stories and novels is writing compelling stories with three-dimensional characters. Stories that make you keep flipping through the pages. Characters you can relate to.

I would much rather read a novel that’s just so-so written but has an amazing story and unique characters than read a novel that’s beautifully written but has no story or characters I care about. Something needs to pull you through the narrative. Something needs to keep you coming back. I’m a slow reader and often need a week or longer to finish a novel.

I can’t tell you how many novels I’ve started reading that I enjoyed for a few chapters… but then lost interest. I’m sure the same thing has happened to you, too. Sometimes I’ll make it halfway through a novel and then still give up. And with more and more years that go by, and less and time it seems, that book really needs to keep me hooked from beginning to end.

Such is why it’s important for you not to think too small with your stories, and instead think big.


But what exactly does it mean to think big with your stories?

You might think this means you need to write a giant epic fantasy novel that takes place in a whole new world with robots and cyborgs and magical lands and apocalyptic winters and death-defying action scenes.

No. Thinking big with your story doesn’t mean the story itself needs to be big and epic. You can still tell a realistic contemporary novel about a romance. You can write a suspense thriller that takes place in one day. You can tell a simple story about friendship and growing up, you can really do whatever you want when it comes to the actual idea.

What Mary Kole is discussing in that quote is that you need to go beyond your basic story idea in order to write a truly compelling novel. It’s not enough to just come up with an idea you love and tell the story in a way that offers little in the way of obstacles and tension and surprises. It’s not enough to come up with a cast of stereotypical characters we’ve read in a hundred other books.

Sure, just getting a first draft of a novel completed is a major first step and worthy of celebration. A lot of people can’t even get that far.

But if you want to be published, you need to start thinking bigger. Imagine you’re the reader of your book. Would you want to read every page? Is there any place in the narrative you might find yourself drifting?

Kole talks about stakes in that quote. I believe having high stakes in a novel is immensely important. High stakes can be a lot of things, of course. It can be life and death for your protagonist externally or internally. It can be winning the state championship game, or getting the girl, or just surviving middle school. But the stakes need to be there somewhere, in every chapter hopefully. You can’t write a story that grips the reader without any stakes.


Stand out from the pack by thinking big, not small, with your latest story.

When it comes to your latest narrative, don’t just do the obvious. Don’t take your story from point A to point B in a way that twenty other writers would, too. Do something original. Throw obstacles at your characters. Tell your story from a POV that might not be expected. Include a twist in chapter five, not necessarily chapter twenty-five.

There’s a lot you need to do in order to be a published novelist. So many struggles you’ll face along the way, like I have. You can follow all the rules, do everything you think you need to, and still get rejected. You can write the best story you can, revise it to death over the course of two or three years, and still get rejected. You can sign with an awesome agent, have your work pitched to equally awesome editors, and still get rejected.

It’s why one of the first things you should do when you start a new project is think big, not small. Think about ways you can stand out from the pack. The idea itself doesn’t have to necessarily be super original, but the way you tell the story should be. You should tell the story in a way that no other author would.

You might not deliver on your first novel, or your latest novel, whichever number that may be. It might take you a few more. I just finished the first draft of my twentieth novel… and I’m still trying. I’m still going for it, thinking big every time.

If your dream is to become a published novelist like mine is, just keep writing, keep growing, and keep thinking big.

As long as you don’t give up, you’ll get there eventually!