Zombieland

There is absolutely nothing to report on the novel front. I’m stuck in query limbo. My manuscript is in the hands of one agent, who I hope to hear from soon. Otherwise, I’m still scoping the literary agent landscape for someone to represent my book. I remain optimistic and patient; it’s all I have at this point. In the meantime, I’m writing a science fiction short story, and my goal would be to land a print gig. I have nothing against online, but print would be a nice feather in my cap.

So while I wait on agents, I’m also doing some reading. I started Stephen King’s Under the Dome. It’s a daunting read as it breaks the 1,000 page mark. That’s at least 3 books I could be reading! I’m already starting to flirt with reading another book as the book not exactly wowing me right now.

I’m also catching up on movies. After a number of romantic comedies and dramatic films with my wife, I was able to catch Zombieland this week via Netflix. I wanted to see this movie the moment I caught the buzz online.

A zombie apocalypse is nothing new: it’s been over 40 years since Romero introduced Night of the Living Dead. What Zombieland delivers is comedy and horror. It’s a perfect balance too. The movie has even paced humor that never goes slapstick, and the horror is tempered so that it never becomes gratuitous.

Another upside is cast. For years, zombie movies have been plagued (excuse the pun) by bad acting. No namers who tried to hard to act or even look scared, doomed many zombie films. Zombieland, on the other hand, has at least three established actors. Woody Harrelson (outstanding/ almost Natural Born Killers like), Jesse Eisenberg (funny and works well with Harrelson), and Emma Stone (saw her in The Rocker and thought she had a ton of potential). There’s a 12-year-old who’s good too but the other three drive this movie. Because the acting is good this movie seems fresh even though the subject matter is not.

Having these characters interact in a post apocalyptic landscape works well. The fact that there are zombies is more of an afterthought than the focus. I think that’s trick to a good zombie flick. If the movie invests in the characters, the zombie action is just that much more entertaining. Shaun of the Dead comes to mind. Funny and balanced with horror. You get into the characters and it moves the movie well. The zombies are good, more Romero like. Zombieland gives the 28 Days Later type zombie: fast and aggressive. I’m not particularly partial to either, just as long as the movie delivers.

The movie clocked in an hour and half which felt short and left me wanting more. I guess there are plans for a sequel which I totally welcome. I highly recommend this movie and enjoyed it from start to finish. However, I’m afraid it’s success will begin to spawn imitators, which is inevitable. Regardless, Zombieland freshens up the genre and delivers an all around good time.

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Some interest in my novel

I got my first request for a partial this week! Many queries later some positive signs. I know it’s not a given what happens next. Just the fact I’ve been able to generate some interest means the queries are working and that persistent thing might actually be worth something. More to follow…

I’m back…

It’s been two months since I last posted and for good reason. First, my laptop contracted a horrible virus. I had reinstall Windows XP (glad I saved all those start-up disks!), and then reloaded all my programs and what not. That took about two weeks. After I got my bearings, I went full throttle and focused on the query for my book.

To say the least , the query process is sobering. I have six rejections out of thirteen letters sent out (seven are without a response). As of this week, I have scrapped my old query for a new, tighter one. My previous query was bloated with detail and was all over the place. I know this because I went to Writers.net and got some unbiased feedback. Basically, I had a few folks slap upside the head and bring back down to Earth.

Agents are busy people. They don’t have time to sift through War and Peace style query letters. Give them the hook, plot, and conflict – that’s it. If you (or I) can’t do it, time to rethink the query process. That’s what I did.

The other thing I learned about the query process, stick your guns. My wife asked my why I kept tinkering with my query. I didn’t have a good idea why, but I know that it wasn’t the best it could be. What I have now I think is the real deal, and I have to be ready to ride this one out. If I don’t, then I have no idea what’s not working. The query? my novel? This is the risk in querying – believe in you what you’re pitching and stick with it. That little voice in my head constantly questioned if my query was any good, and as a result I kept changing it. In hindsight, I should have stopped sending out letters until I was confident in the end result. I’m getting there now, and will once again continue my assault on the literary world.

Novel Revision: Done!

It’s been a couple of weeks since my last post and for good reason. I just finished my third revision of Bleed American. I started in the middle of June and finished literally today, August 31. I’m happy it’s over but it’s not done. If I’m fortunate enough to land an agent – I’m sure they’ll be revision there. If I’m fortunate enough to get a book deal – I guarantee they’ll be another revision. Hell, if I don’t get anything, there might be another revision. From what I read on other agent and writer blogs, revising can go a few more times which is fine as long as leads to publication.

This third revision accomplished a couple things. First, I cut 54 pages or about 22,000 words. How was actually the easy part. As I reread every single page, I had my orange pen (see my Editing post for why orange) and slashed away at redundancy, run-ons, incomplete thoughts, you name it! I overwrote, overextended, tried to be clever even though I wasn’t, and I lost focus. Third time around, it was easy to see what needed to go.  I also felt that I was able to tighten up the plot. I think writing the synopsis might be a little easier, but I think I could capture the conflict in a sentence now. When I wrote a query or synopsis, calling out the conflict was a challenge which should have been a sign early on that some revising needed to take place.

Now that I’m done revising, how am I going to reward myself? By writing queries again! No time like the present. Plus, I’ll be able to blog at least once a week, if not more.

I love to hear from other writers out there about their revising stories.

One of my other objectives is to establish more writing credits. I’m actually intrigued about the idea of going after a literary magazine or something. I love writing genre stories, but I want well rounded in my writing. I also see it as challenge. Sure, it’s tough enough to get published, but to note that I’ve earned credit on a few different avenues must be worth something, right?

Novel Revision: Halfway

The third revision of Bleed American is going well. It’s definitely going faster. Maybe because it’s the third time through so I know my story better, or it could be that my story is clearer to me now. I think it’s the latter. The query letters that I sent out prior to the third revision, I struggled with the letter and synopsis. I knew what my story was about, but detailing it in a letter? In a one page synopsis? Sounded impossible then, but tangible now.

What’s different? I’ve cut out a lot. Not just words but extraneous information that I thought was important when I first wrote BA. I tried to force too many plot shifts that it seemed like luck had to do more to do with moving the story than cause and effect.  I actually had an agent make that comment that my synopsis relied to much on luck and not enough of the story driving the plot. That pissed me off! But, of course, I’m still an aspiring writer, and he’s the agent with a number of big time writers as clients. That criticism really got me thinking about a third revision. As I go on through revising, I have mental notes in my head that challenge me to move the story forward on its own. I believe in a natural path of storytelling. It needs to be organic, at least for me. This mind set is definitely led to much improved draft. 

The other aspect that forced this third revision was my writing style. The same agent that told me that my plot shifts were too lucky, also praised me for smooth, commercial writing. But also went onto say that I wasted my efforts to explanation and sluggish paragraphs. I agree.  As I’m revising, I’m finding a lot of instances where I’m “proving” I’m a writer. Long, wordy passages. Overkill of the thesaurus. I think being in writing groups can cause this mentality. There’s tendencies to push further and explore in writing. That’s fine as long as it adds value. I might have misinterpreted it and pushed to far and explored to much. Looking back, BA was a lot to read the first go around. I want edgy, sharp writing that allows the reader to pace and keep interest. That wasn’t happening after the second revision.

I see my novel much clearer now, and that’s building my momentum to finishing this revision.

Building a Base

Like many unpublished authors today, I’m blogging about my path to becoming published. I’m looking to chart my progress in revising my novel, landing an agent, and submitting short stories.

Right now, I’m going through a second revision of my novel, BLEED AMERICAN. I revised it once, my wife read it once, and now I’m taking another crack at it. I let BLEED AMERICAN (BA) breath for about 9 months. I’m glad I did because I’m catching a bunch of stuff I missed: missing words, poor dialogue, grammar, weak plot points, soft character development, etc. Most importantly, focusing on making my writing tighter during this process. I want it sharp so every page, paragraph, word affects the reader. A few agents provided constructive criticism that I originally ignored. Originally ignored. I set my pride to the side and took an honest look at BA, and that’s why I think this second revision will help.

So during those nine months of letting BA breath, I’ve written a couple of short stories and participated in a couple of contests. My goal was to build my base. I wanted to show agents that my work has merit just like my novel. Much like this blog I want to showcase what I’ve done. I’m going to detail my writing accomplishments, as well as BA, in future posts.

So now you know my base, where I’m starting, and this blog will document my path to publication.

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