Sunday, September 11, 2005

Sometimes…

The road to achieving a dream can be less than clear.

After I wrote yesterday’s post, I started thinking about ‘why’ the writing dream has remained so elusive for me.

I think, I may have stumbled over what’s been holding me back. It has to do with the way I approach problems and the resultant solution(s). I use a method I call ‘divide and conquer’. In short it involves taking all the known components, breaking them into discrete little tasks, organizing them, and starting in on the entire project.

I’ve used it in nearly every single activity of my life; as far back as I can remember. It’s served me incredibly well in the software development arena, and in most of my other ‘careers’ as well.

This writing dream however is a bit more, let’s say “fuzzy”, though. The writing part seems simple enough, once I get an idea in my head; the words seem to come along fairly well. It’s the ‘what to do with the words’ part that I find so perplexing.

You see, in everything else I’ve done, I had an assigned task first, the resolution second, and the delivery (and the money) last. In writing, it appears you deliver first, and then have to locate a ‘market’ for the deliverable, and last (hopefully) receive payment for your efforts.

Getting these first two articles published was fairly easy. I simply contacted the editor directly (someone I met gave me her email address), she sent me the editorial calendar and suggested I write something that would tie in with the various themes. I wrote two articles, she accepted both of them. (Task, resolution, delivery)

That process fit in with everything I already knew.

This new process, well how to begin it, is far less than clear to me. Many publishers only accept certain genres of work, others will accept many types of writing, but how they decide what’s ‘marketable’ is very unclear. No one ‘needs’ a book, it’s a luxury, an entertainment product, something I have zero experience in understanding.

What separates the selected work, from all the rest? What sorts of writing is more likely to ‘catch the eye’ of a potential publisher? What kind of living can I realistically hope to earn as a writer (assuming of course someone actually buys something I’ve written)?

That’s a lot of unanswered questions for me. I’ve always answered all the questions first, acted second. I wonder now, should I just write what’s in my head and then, look for a publisher? Or, research the market, find a topic someone is paying for, that peaks my interest and write something to submit? Or, some other avenue I’ve not considered yet?

My personality (an ENTP for those of you familiar with such things) is one of wanting ‘data’, information (and too much is not enough) with which to make these sorts of decisions. I’m beginning to believe that my inability to act on this is rooted in the fact I can’t seem to gather enough of the right information.

It’s frustrating as well, I search, google, yahoo… whatever... and I find an overwhelming amount of information, none of it specific enough for me to act on.

So, I’m reaching out to you folks, my readers, for some answers.

You’ve read my stories, thoughts and ideas, and so on… where do you think I should go to find a market? Magazines you read, publishers you may know of that publish these sort of “life’s moment’s” compilations… Honestly, anything, anywhere, you think I could turn to find a place suited to my style.

I promise, I’ll run down every lead y’all give me, and let you know the results.

Thanks again for stopping by, feel free to leave me a comment, I really do enjoy knowing what you think!

13 comments:

Firehawk said...

Bill,

Someone once said, "There are three hard and fast rules of writing. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are."

I think that this is a journey that no one can really quantify. Each person who succeeds at writing has to have three things, I think. 1)Determination, 2)Luck, and 3)Talent. You'll notice that I put talent last. The will to do it is sometimes more important than anything else, and the luck to find the right person at the right time is also vital. Ability, sadly, is only a distant third on the list. Many talented people fail each year, either for lack of fortitude or luck.

Bill said...

Firehawk - My friend, you often make me smile, possibly unintentionally, but smile none the less.

“Unfortunately, no one knows what they are."

That one sums up my feelings in 7 words!!

There are plenty of talented ‘bums’… educated idiots and talent-less success stories out there for sure. I’ve always hated placing ‘luck’ in the equation… however, I have found that the harder I work at something, the luckier I get.

I suspect your list is in the proper order. I’d add ‘motivation’ to it, but, then again it’s difficult to be determined, and not motivated!

Once again I thank you for your sharing thoughts with me.

Ilene said...

And of course if all else fails there is self-publishing which is getting more popular. Even if you find a publisher, you are largely responsible for promoting your writing. Sooo if you self publish - promote your own book --many times a publisher will take an interest in it. Several well-know authors have started that way. Of course, no one has discovered me yet, so who am I to talk! I did sell a lot of poetry, however, by traveling to mall shows and writing poetry on demand. That was a wonderful way to get immediate gratification, and my poetry sold for a lot more money than magazines, etc. were willing to pay.

One thing though Bill - somethings it is better to just let things flow. Tell the Universe what you want and let it happen.

Good luck!

Bill said...

Ilene - I'm all about 'flow'.. most of the time... but when I get something in my head, it's tough to just 'let it happen'.

The truth is though, the simple act of writing it out for me, over the years, has proved to be exactly the way I let it be known.

Time will tell of course, but, for now, I'll just keep on putting out feelers and see what comes back to me. :)

Good to have you around again.

Whit said...

If I knew, I would tell you. Wait, if I knew -- I would be doing it myself! Who am I kidding!?

I can tell you that my brother has been writing for the past few years for magazines related to his hobby of outdoors -- whitewater rafting, hiking, etc. He writes about what he knows and loves, and his passion and knowledge are evident.

My husband will have his first work published in the next couple of months about what he loves most -- fine scale modeling.

I guess based on what I know -- write about what you love and know, and then the rest will follow. And at least while you are writing, you will be spending time on a subject that you already know brings you pleasure...the rest is just cherries and gravy.

Bill said...

Whit - I suppose that's what I've been doing here, writing about things I know, and love... or at the very least have experienced.

One of the other regulars here has hooked me up with her husband who's been getting car articles published.

My biggest problem with that, is the truck project will be another 6-12 months before it's completed and I can put a series together on it... I'm hoping he'll still be able to help when I'm ready.

Maybe, it's just one of those things that will happen in its own good time.

Thanks again for stopping in and sharing your thoughts.

Jay said...

The things worth doing rarely come with step by step instructions.

I find it interesting that a self-confessed data oriented person could have such a fondness for words and stories.

cyligirl said...

OOOh Bill....Oooooh oooooh Oooooh.... Okay first let me say thank you for coming by my blog and sending your thoughts while I was away. Second, I hope Maryan is doing well. I thought of her daily even in NOLA! Send her my best!

Third, onto this post. (insert the ooooh's here again)

Can I butt in with some brutal honesty here? (That is a rehtorical question hahaha) Bill I swear to you the "Task, resolution, delivery" lifestyle you mention, I KNOW it well. In any other area of my life, it is me. In writing (as you see) it doesn't quiet work that way....

I've been writing for over 17 years now. That is a long, long long time to receive rejection letters. Trust me, I could paper the white house in all those letters! ROFLMAO


So I can offer up a few gems... for what their worth lol

"No one 'needs' a book,..."
Au Contraire Mon Frere

YES they doo need them. Believe it or not, in times of dispair book sales go up....or book piracy via internet, or library use.....people need books, be they non-fiction books teaching them how to deal with thing or make things or be they fantastical worlds that a person can get lost in and find some hope in.....people need them.

Why do you think blogging is so huge?

In a world where we withdraw from our society and hide behind our privacy and lack of community fireside story telling nights, people NEED books.

"What separates the selected work from all the rest?" - Luck, talent, drive and desire. No more, no less - unless you count perserverence (see above huge stack of rejection letters lol)

"What sorts of writing is more like to 'catch the eye' of a potential publisher?" -Sincere, well written, extremely well 'felt,seen,sensed' work.
What I mean by that is this. If you don't catch a pubs eye by the first three pages, your done usually....how do you catch them? You take command. You are the writer, the story teller, you reach out (via your words) and not tug, not pull, but RIP OUT their heart,mind or/and soul via your first three pages.

I don't care if your story or writing is about mystical fairies, hard working men, or train repairs.....RIP their hearts out in the first three words, you will 'catch their eye'.

Remember, with written word, it's not their eye your truly after....you have to reach down into their souls and pull out the one (or more) things that make them need your work. Why do they need to go to the next word, sentence, paragraph, page?

WHY? Because you make them!

"What kind of living can I realistically hope to earn as a writer?" - Depends, what kind of living are you going to force people to pay you? Now I am not talking about pub companies. Face it writers get paid jack until they make it 'big' and then they get royalties....wooooohooooo (which suck too, but hey lol)

But my point is this. I see a ba-gillion writers, all with talent and skill in any given year. I see maybe 100 of them truly hoping to make a living at their craft. I see maybe ten who persue the writing with a vengence....and sometimes, once in a blue moon I see one writer who stands to the universe and says, "Oh yeah...you WANT to pay me for this...because it caught your soul so well."

Those are the big time writers Bill.

My advice is this. Chose what you want to do, make money or write from the heart. If your out to make money (And we all are,) but if money if your main goal in writing - research would be a good place to start. That and writing any column or article for any magazine of good repute. Getting your name and your work out there will directly effect how much your paid alot of times. No massive magazine or paper hires Joe nobdy and pays him/her a fortune....

If you chose to write from or for your heartsake.....the hell with reserching the market. Write your book, re-work it, edit it 16 times to hell and back again. Make an excellent synopsis and query letters, send them to every Lit. Agent and Publishing company. Re-send them after rejections and more editing and KEEP doing it.

I could go on and on (As if I already haven't lol) But I will shut up.

All I can say it go for it...what do you have to lose? Nothing....nothing but the dream ;)

Bill said...

Jay - You're just exactly right!!.... And when I really think about it, the most difficult things I've ever achieved, I did while 'running blind'... thanks for that reminder.

I see the same precision, in language, and the conveyance of ideas, experiences and emotions, as I do in data and mathematics and their ability to convey trends and explain patterns.

Cyli- New nick ‘eh? It’s nice to have you back, and yet glad you were able to get down there and help out!!

First, you’re very welcome, glad you got back safe and sound! Second, she is doing pretty well, all things considered; I’ll let her know you were thinking of her!

As for honesty, I asked, I’m glad you felt like you could just let it out!

As for ‘needing’ a book, I was talking more in terms of you can’t “eat” a book… As for brain food though, another matter entirely.

I know, that deep down, I really knew what you and others have said was the stark reality of it all. I suppose that it is after all the passion of certain writers that keep us coming back time and time again. All of my favorites have a passion for taking us where we could not otherwise go, for what ever reason.

It’s that ‘transport’ mechanism, which for me, separates the wheat from the chaff… the good from the great. I know I already knew that, but thank you for driving it home.

“Why do you think blogging is so huge?”

I’ve wondered about the allure many times…. I suppose, it’s much like internet chat, at a different, more ‘self paced’ level… we can seek out, and find, folks we share an interest with, or who have things to say we find interesting….

I am constantly amazed at the fact that no matter how much things change… how the ‘core’ never really changes much. We all crave interaction with others, and we’ll find it in whatever venue we can!!

Thanks again for sharing your thoughts with me!

Comfort Addict said...

Bill,

To me (no expert), writing is part craft and part imagination. Based on what you've written, you seem confident in your imagination but unsure of your craft.

Here's an idea to learn craft: analyze and imitate. Take some articles and stories that you've really enjoyed and break them down. Then, try to write your own stuff in the same style.

This may smack of plagiarism (or, at least, unoriginality) but I call it school. People do this kind of thing all the time when they learn music composition, programming or swimming. Why can't one learn writing in the same way?

Once you master the many forms that you want to use, you'll find that you'll move easily from one to another without automatically. Then, just let your writing flow (try writing with velocity).

Of course, every successful writer needs one more thing that was best captured by Ernest Hemingway: "...a built-in, shockproof shit detector."

No_Newz said...

You are a very good writer. I would recommend you get the Writer's Market, the version that comes with a free one year online subscription. It's my Bible. It's where I get almost all of my good paying writing jobs. Every magazine, trade journal, ect, is listed with detailed information of who to send it to, how to send it and how to present it to each editor. Send me an e-mail if you would like me to scan some pages from the book to give you a gist.
Lois Lane

Firehawk said...

Bill,

BTW, I'm an ENTP also. I guess there have to be a few of us running around.

You're right about making your own luck. If you're relentless about putting your work out there, you stand a better chance of getting noticed. I had a writing teacher once who said, "The trick to publishing is getting an editor to look up from his meatloaf sandwich." I guess that's been my mantra ever since.

Still, I believe (probably out of great over-optimism and stupidity) that nothing great or important is ever written for the almighty dollar. Great work comes only from love and bitter dedication to making the story just right. That's what makes the real art. Then again, the real artists rarely get acclaim in their lifetimes, and usually die poor and defeated in spirit. So, there's the choice. I think having a "real job" to fall back on is probably the best way.

The truth is that trying to make a decent living at writing is very hard. Only a small number of novelists can exist on their writing alone. Something you've worked night and day on for years might only net you eight to fifteen thousand dollars in the end. Sometimes less. It can't be about the money or the instant success, or you'll never be able to face all the inevitable dissapointment and sorrow that come with trying to publish. In the end only love can get you by. You just have to be unable to imagine a world in which you didn't sit down and write.

Bill said...

CA - I've always liked that quote.. a "built in, shockproof shit detector." That's true of many avenues of life 'eh?

I've tried to emulate the styles of other writers; it just feels so foreign to me when I do, and I’m never happy with the results. Oh, I ‘get’ the style, but, the stories never flow when I do that, there’s something missing.

It is good practice though, and one of the reasons I read so much, when a writer can transport me from here… to the place they write about, and make it feel effortless to the reader, where the descriptions are so natural to the story… to me, there is where the genius is.

Lois – I’d purchased that book, several times in the past, but it’s been 10 or 15 years now… I’ll definitely look into getting the subscription you’ve mentioned. I remember thinking back then that the stuff was already ‘out of date’ by the time the book got to me.

Thanks for the kind words, I may take you up on the email offer, but let me see what I find out this week.

Firehawk – I ‘knew’ there was a reason we get along! The first time I took the test, the guy leading the seminar said I was the first ‘ENTP’ he’d ever met, seems we’re in a distinct minority.. not sure if that’s a good, or bad, thing!

I’m already unable to imagine a world in which I don’t write. I write on cocktail napkins, envelopes, and scrap pieces of paper, whatever there is to write on. Mostly these days it’s a computer, but I still think I do my best work with a pencil and a legal pad.

Obviously, it’s not all about the money, for most of us. I write to get these things out of my head! 

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Thank you, everyone, for your words of support, encouragement and reason. I really do appreciate them all!