Sunday, June 26, 2016

A Week in Writing #96

Maybe it's me, but sometimes when I'm editing a book, I start to feel sad when I get towards the end. I'm about ten pages from being done and I'm starting to miss the process already. I'm going to have to do more editing, I know that, but I recognize this feeling in me, a little like getting ready to leave school at the end of the year. Of course, according to that analogy, I have to repeat it the next year. I know there are going to be problems with the book, even after I complete my editing and the rewrite that will follow.

I've been going through trying to tighten the book and fix errors. This version of the book is itself a rewrite as I've changed what had been more of a cold war style story to hopefully a more modern one. I want to say I wrote the first version about 25 years ago and updated it during my "off" work period. The revision doesn't all neatly work, but it's getting there.

Last night, I got to what I think is the best part of the book, the ending. I don't want to give too much away, but I think, even after all these years with the book, that it still works.

The comic book is moving along. The artist delivered the last pages on Tuesday so at least the pencil and inks are done. The artist has also been paid for a cover, though we haven't seen anything yet. My son and editor, Paul, is working on a logo. The colorist delivered page 14 with the promise of more, but that's as much as we've gotten this week from him. Meanwhile, the letterer is up to page 11, so he's about to lap the colorist unless things change quickly. Again, my goal, which is still obtainable, is to have part one of PowerSquared done by Comic-Con. I still think we'll make it.

One of the things that come up from time to time with the letterer is the wordiness of the dialogue. We're constantly having to revise/shorten the dialogue to fit the panels. Another reason I'm happy it's being done close to home. I tend to be wordy and it's my first comic book to write, so I knew this might be an issue. Trying to apply that knowledge, I went through Part Two and tried to see where cuts could be made. Not as painful as you might think, but I hope that it will help things go faster the next time around.

On Saturday, published a review on Trophy Unlocked for International House (1933), a W.C. Fields starrer. The real appeal though was Baby Rose Marie, who was making her feature film debut in the film, singing "My Bluebird's Singing the Blues." Rose Marie would grow up to be Sally Rogers on The Dick Van Dyke Show. I also readied a couple of more reviews for cover. Part of my Comic-Con prep, so to speak. I feel compelled to publish every Saturday morning, so I wanted to be ready.

Working on a review for Independence Day (1996) to coincide with its 20th anniversary on Saturday. I'm about 1400 words into it, so it should be ready.

On the query front, still have five out and within the drop dead date, the agencies say you will hear back from them by if they are interested. (The big if.)

Had some communication this week with a former employee who now writes for Pixel. He was complaining about what he has to write and I was telling him how lucky he was to be making a living doing what he wants to do. I guess it all depends on your perspective.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

A Week in Writing #95

On Saturday, sat down to send some queries, deciding to go with agents using Online forms. Not sure why, but those seem to be the most forgiving. However, I managed to make the cardinal sin of querying, a mistake. I reused a query letter I had already written in one of the online forms, but didn't realize that it mentioned embedding five pages, when that's not what I was doing. Oops! Sent a follow up form email to the agent who has a contact me form, apologizing for the amateurish error, so we'll see. All the comments I read about him made it sound like he was a super agent, so I guess I'm putting that to the test.

Querying is a process I really hate, since I figure one mistake and I'm toast. Not sure if that's true or not, but I'm sure they're looking for any excuse not to read a query. "Why he's not embedding five pages" might be enough. You never know. We'll see if I get a response.

Started using a different query letter. One agency asked for specific items in their form, so I started to use that query letter. Honestly, I feel like, even though there is help out there, that I'm flying blind when it comes to query letters. I don't have enough time to personalize each one and I haven't read enough books to say "I'm a big fan of _________ __________ whom you represent". Sorry I can't make them feel better about themselves (see prior blog entry for reference.)

Found out two agents I've been thinking about querying were not right. To begin with, one that QueryTracker shows as General Fiction is in fact looking for Children's Fiction, sort of a big difference. Not really right for the murder mystery of Public and Private, so he's off my list. The other seemed to disappear. Not only is she no longer on QueryTracker, but she's no longer on the agency's website. I guess she decided that agenting wasn't the right business for her. Not enough feel good queries I guess.

I'm also giving a couple of agents who never responded to previous queries a second chance. One has ignored me twice as a matter of fact, but hey I'm a glutton for pain or else I wouldn't want to write. I hope they're giving me the same second or third opportunity I'm giving them. Make the most of it, please.

So, the count and the amount. I've not sent out six queries for Public and Private with five active, no rejections, but one Did Not Respond (DNR).

In other writing, the comic book is still moving forward. The colorist is up to page 13, the letterer is up to page 7 and the artist is just about done with his work. Signed the letterer to a contract this week, to make it all official and worked on an addendum to the artist agreement for the cover, though I haven't sent it yet. The reason is our artist sort of disappeared on us for about a week, that is we didn't hear from him after raising the concept, so I didn't want to send it to him without hearing from him. He did reappear Saturday night, so we're getting closer to wrapping that up as well.

I find that the most frustrating thing about the project is the not hearing back from people in a timely manner. I guess that's the part of the whole writing process I find frustrating; when you work with someone else, be it an agent query, or an editor, or a artist, writing to someone and not hearing back within a reasonable amount of time. Love it or hate it, but write me back.

Another case in point is the project I pitched to Comic-Con HQ, back in November. All the communication has been me writing them and then getting a response back with a vague reason why we're not talking. The last flurry was about a month ago and then the promise was after the beta launch we'll talk. Launch made, still no communication. I decided to try and different tact and called the development guy on Friday morning and left him a voicemail as a follow up and trying to set up some more definitive time to meet, even if it's after SDCC, which I'm assuming is the next hurdle to cross for them; the actual launch of the site as a paying SVOD channel. Naturally, there was no response by the end of the day. And I'm sure there are about a million reasons why I didn't, but still isn't it polite business etiquette to return calls?

Managed to get some more editing done on Simple Sins. The end is sort of in sight. I think I've got about 100 pages still to go before I sit down behind the computer with the manuscript. I try to work on it when I get a free moment.

Posted a Saturday morning review on Trophy Unlocked of Up The River (1930) an early John Ford sound film, starring Spencer Tracy and Humphrey Bogart in their first credited film performances. I had written this after "Movie Day," my family's unofficial name for the day after Christmas, when we watch four to five movies. I was spurred on to finally publish it when I learned last weekend that the woman who cut my hair was the great granddaughter of the director. Small world. Also wrote a review of Finding Dory, which we saw as a family on Father's Day. Don't want to let an opportunity go by.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

A Week in Writing #94

Well, it's one up and one down as far my queries have gone. Not that I heard back from the agent, but I didn't hear back at all within their time frame. This way, I don't know if I didn't connect with him or he didn't have a chance to read it, or, and I'm just throwing this out there, he's dead. I don't like this about the email age of queries. At least with SASE, the agent feels compelled to send you a form letter back if they do reject you.

One of things I try not to do with this blog is give too much advice on writing, I do from time to time mention something that I've found helpful or not, but I don't have any experience that other would-be authors haven't either. But there are a lot of people out there who want to give you advice. Most recently, I came across "The 5 Mistakes CausingYour Query Letter to Be Rejected". I'm not trying to advertise this, but I thought it couldn't hurt, so I read it.

I especially liked #2 on the list of five: "Imagine you’re a literary agent. You’ve just arrived back in the office from a lunch with a publisher who kept checking their phone the entire time. As you sit at your desk, you wonder if you should give up this agenting racket altogether. You open your inbox to find a new query in which the author read three other books you represented and has something that is exactly to your taste. Of course you request a sample. By querying you in particular, you feel validated in your career. You feel like you matter." I never realized agents' egos were so fragile. I'm supposed to spend a lot of time writing an agent a-you-should-feel-good-about-yourself-letter with the hopes that they might reply to me. Oh, and usually they don't, which makes me feel like I don't matter. Where's the make-me-feel-good-about-being-a-writer reciprocal? Or at least an acknowledgement that I've queried you.

Maybe it's just me, but I find querying to take a lot of time. I did do a second query on Public and Private on Friday and even though it was an online form, it still took me about an hour to do it. It's all about trying to put your best foot forward and, now of course, making the agent feel good about their chosen profession. It's all the second guessing yourself that seems to take all the time. As an example, they asked for a bio to go with the first 50 pages. I hadn't updated my bio in about a year or so, so I was concerned was it too long? Am I saying too much? Am I aging myself to this agent? Will they think that if I have a real job I should give up on this fantasy about writing for a living?

The important take away here is that I did do another query. I chose this agent because they were supposed to be building a roster and they seemed to handle the sort of genre I'm writing in. The online aspect was also intriguing. I ended up sending 47 out of the first 50 pages, since it was the end of a chapter. I'm never sure if they want an incomplete chapter or not. There are no real guides to go by, since every agent really has their own way they want things done. You have to throw yourself out there and see what, if anything, sticks.

A little work was done on the comic book. Waited all week and got two pages from the artist and one page from the colorist. Found a change I wanted the artist to make and I avoided the back and forth about paying for the change by offering to do up front. The pencil and ink differed just enough from the layout that the meaning of the panel changed. Didn't catch the change or think about it between the layout and the pencil, so it's sort of my fault, at least to get us to the end, I'll say it is.

Our letterer started and we're about four pages into the story. He's doing about a page a day, which is good. I wish the other artists were as diligent.

Still working on editing Simple Sins. I'm really shocked at how much needs to be done. A little embarrassed that it's not better than it is. It was the first of the J.D. Barrister books I had written and over time I changed the story. I've got about 140 pages still to go before I sit down and do the heavy re-writing.

Wrote and published a review over the week for the 1933 Alice in Wonderland. Originally a Paramount film, it's now available on Universal's Home Entertainment, but if you read the review, this is one you can skip.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

A Week in Writing #93

Well, not a red letter week for writing, with insomnia taking a toll. A couple of mornings this past week it was all I could do to get up let alone be creative at 6 in the morning. It was so bad that I was up at two on the first tweeting out about films that had come out on that date in the past, something I would have done later in the morning.

The lack of sleep is something that dogs me from time to time and there are definitely better days and weeks than others. This past week was not a good one for me from that point of view. And not only does the morning suffer, but so do the nights.

Unhappily, the nights have not been encumbered by too much work on the comic book. Deliveries have been slow at least from my end. That's not to say that there hasn't been some progress, but not as much as I or we would want. I sort of threw down the gauntlet challenging the artist, colorist and letterer to complete part one by Comic-Con, which is July 20th, so hopefully the pace will quicken. The downside of the artist and colorist being offshore is that it's hard to rally the troops so to speak. I can't pick up the phone and call them as an example. And there is the time difference since as I write this it is really tomorrow where they are.

Did make some progress on the rewrite of Simple Sins, meaning I've gotten through the first 220 pages with edits and I have printed out the rest, though I have yet to start into those pages as of this writing. I also started to make some notes on a new comic book based on our recent escape room experience.

No new queries and nothing new to report on the one that I've submitted. I don't know if it's too soon or the agent, a "he", doesn't like it. That's what I hate about the "only if we're interested" clause with queries to many agents nowadays.

Did manage to publish a Saturday morning review on Trophy Unlocked for Three Men in White (1944) and did begin work on a new one for Alice in Wonderland (1933), an early live-action version of the film.

For the coming week, I'm hoping to get my sleep in order and hopefully get more productive as a result. I need to send out more queries, as no one is going to "find" me if I don't.