Are You America’s Next Top Novelist?
Okay folks, here it is. The first installment of my weekly essay called BubbleFuse! You guessed it. You have big dreams of getting published. Big fluffy, pink cotton candy, balloon dreams over your head, just like in the comics. Well guess who's going to burst them? That's right. It's a no holds barred, free-for-all, in-your-face (3 clichés) commentary about the realities of getting published in today's literary marketplace. Sissies and hacks need not apply. Serious writers only. That means you.
What's the point? You're going to learn something. Something that will get you closer to your goals by:
1. Weeding out the myths
2. Igniting a spark in your thinking
3. Lighting the fuse that will trigger an atomic explosion in your brain and burst your cosmic bubble to the four, dark, nameless corners of the earth. (How over-the-top can I get?)
And what qualifies me to dispense all this manna from heaven anyway? Scratch the vinyl record right here folks. Who cares? I'm 50 and I've already been up and down the godforsaken mountain more times than you can shake a Query at. I trust myself, and that’s more important than anyone trusting me. (Besides, I have 6 awesome children too. They teach me all I need to know. :)
Getting published, or getting anything else you want in life is more about knowing who you are and where you're going. It's about beating the system at their own game. Any system. The publishing system, the political system, the monetary system. Take your pick. Systems are run by people just like you and me. We all bleed the same way. We all have strengths and weaknesses. We all want the same things. (Except for Cormac McCarthy) Money, some one to love, and...more money. That's it. What’d you expect? Okay, let's throw in God's wisdom, salvation, and good health. Not in that particular order, mind you. But in my book, God comes first, although money is a very close second. Money, after all, does have the tendency to solve a lot of problems as long as we're responsible with it. Remember, it's the LOVE OF MONEY that's the root of all evil. Money itself has no power to ruin or destroy or to manifest anything of greatness. That kind of power, was, has been, and always will be in your hands.
And that folks is what this is all about. Your destiny, whatever that might be, is in your hands. It's all attainable and doable. You have the power to say YES or No to your dreams. All you have to do is put into action the right kind of work. STOP. The right kind? Yeah, you know, not the wrong kind. But the right kind. Not the kind that will get you nowhere because it's going in the wrong direction. SOUTH. Wrong button. Wrong curtain. Wrong fork in the road. You want the other one. The other way. The right way. The only way. (Hmm...how do I get myself out of this one?)
Ahh...Easy. All you have to do is remember one thing, and one thing only all your life. Nobody cares what you want. NOBODY! (Excuse the ! I really needed that.) Not even my Mama. She's got her own life too, you know. You're on your own. It's up to you and nobody else. Everyone else wants to get paid just like you. If there’s nothing in it for them, your SOL. That's the big secret. But of course you already knew that. I haven't exactly cracked open any mystic or cryptic Rosetta Stone with that one.
So then, why is it so difficult to get what you want? Aha…maybe certain gatekeepers want all the glory and all the power. The Romans did, why not them? (Ludicrous, you’re their livelihood) Maybe you don't know who the gatekeepers are, or how to win them over--persuade them to see things your way. (There’s only one way) Maybe the gatekeepers are not human. Maybe they don't speak the same language. (What language? The language of money? The almighty dollar? The pesos? El Dinero?)
Yeah, now you’re catching on--I’m insane. Well, yes, I am cuckoo for cocoa puffs, but that’s another story for another time. I’ve made my point. Stop living your life as if everyone owes you something. It’s the other way around. You and me owe what we have to life. We owe it to God himself. We have to be givers and not takers. Believers and not doubters. Leaders and not followers. (How preachy of me.)
Okay, okay, so what does any of this have to do with getting published? (Hell if I know) Good question, when you find out I’ll be the first who wants to know. Drop me a line and tell me all about it. (J.O.K.E.)
Trust yourself. What you know is not yours. It belongs to the world. It belongs to God. He created all things. What makes you think any of it belongs to you? Why should we own any of it? Who decides who gets what? Does God pick and choose who succeeds and who fails?
YOU DO. That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you all along. It’s up to you. Get it done already. Stop procrastinating. Stop making excuses. You need a plan. And for God’s sake, stop thinking everything’s impossible. It’s always the opposite. All things are possible. Even getting published and becoming America’s next top Novelist. What’s so impossible about it? (Am I really preaching to myself here? Ahh...yes.)
Repeat after me: I can do all things. All things are possible. (This is getting freaky) I can do this. Okay, so what’s the next step? How do you stop getting all those rejection letters?
Here it is in 10 easy steps: (Yeah right.) I wanted to squeeze all this into the magical 3 easy steps but, dream on, this is about bursting bubbles, remember? Actually, it’s more like 100 easy steps, but I’ll have to break it down, 10 at a time, every week.
1. Classify your work (Mainstream Fiction, genre, Magical Realism, whatever) and get it to the right gatekeepers. That is, the right lit agent, or editor. The one you’ve researched and know that he or she is passionate about stories like yours.
2. But first, learn to write a kick-ass Query letter. (Always a catch, I know.)
3. Make sure your MS lives up to your Query letter. In other words, make sure your writing, the balance between your dialogue and narrative, flows. Like the Ying and Yang of prose. Write a page-turner. How? Do it the easy way. Write a story with built-in conflict and suspense. A detective or lawyer story. (A la Grisham) Not interested in those. Fine, make sure whatever you write has plenty of conflict and suspense that will always keep the reader engrossed in your story. How? Just do it. (Okay, that was outright incensitive.)
4. Learn how to write great openings. (“HOOKED”, by Les Edgerton, or “A Story Is A Promise” by Bill Johnson) (Both available on Amazon or Half.com)
5. Learn how to write good Dialogue and sub-text, and captivating narrative. (Any Writers Digest Series)
6. Learn how to develop intriguing characters. (WD)
7. Learn how to infuse your work with relevant themes.
8. Learn about plots and sub-plots and plot twists. (WD)
9. Learn the difference between a premise, a theme, a moral. (How To Write a Damn Good Novel II, James Frey.)
10. Find your own VOICE. (You’ll have to dig deep for that one. But it’s all about you.)
And of course all this is just the proverbial tip of the iceberg lettuce. Read more. Sleep more. Write more. And come back for more. Next time I’m going to blow your mind with stuff you’ve probably never heard before. I’m going to blow the lid right off this MOTHER. As only I know how, in my own way. Stay tuned.
LEARN, LEARN, LEARN. And you thought all writers were born geniuses? Pleeeeease. (Only Cormac McCarthy was born that way. I do think he was one of God’s chosen ones, hmmm…hard to say. I’d like to take a look at his massive library. Hemingway himself owned over 8000 books, so he claimed. All neatly stashed in his Finca Vigia estate in Cuba. Hemingway had a huge head and so does McCarthy, which means larger brains, hence more gray matter. Just thinking to myself.)
My nickname was peanut head as a kid. Still is, in fact. Enough said.
Okay, you’ve got the gist of it. The whole BubbleFuse! concept. First I blow your mind with some outlandish, bombastic, preachy monologue, then I save the day with some relevant information about writing. Which is what most of you will ever read. But that’s okay. You see, the monologue is mostly for me. For my benefit and my edification. It’s all so bittersweet. Just like life. Just like the ending to any good story. Chalk it up. Another tidbit right there. Seek and you shall find.
Here’s what’s coming up on next week’s installment:
1. The Perfect Query Letter
2. What Agents are Really Looking For
3. What Self-Publishing Can Do For You
Trust yourself, and the universe will surrender to you its infinite wisdom.
It has no choice, you are its only vessel.