Monday, October 31, 2016

Okay, I feel guilty...

I tried to tell the editor if I needed to get the manuscript back before the end of school.  I know myself and in the summer time, I just never write.  I know I should, but it's so nice out I can't sit still.

Now, a quick defense here. I write three to four hours a day the rest of the year.  I always try to get in at least 800 words a day.  But I usually get more like 1500 to 2000.  Writing is just what I do, but I do get burned out after awhile and summer is my way recharging my batteries.  That being said, I didn't get my manuscript in time.  I went into summer mode and only just sent it back to her last week!  Big fail on my part.  Not all my fault because Massachusetts in it's infinite wisdom changed my entire curriculum this year and I've been working like a dog trying to get my head above water at work.

But I think the whole thing was worth it.

The story is tighter.  I started the novel in a logical place, the beginning.  But the story really didn't get rolling until about halfway through.  So my editor told me to cut out 30 percent of the beginning.  Which was just a very tough thing for me to imagine.  So much so that I'll be honest, I couldn't wrap my brain around it.  Till I had the idea that I could start in the middle and then work in the beginning chapters into the tale using flashbacks and dream sequences.  The story is much more dynamic now, I think.  I remember I went to a conference once where a literary agent mentioned that the best place to start a story is not always at the beginning, I think I understand that now.  How we tell a story is just as important as the story itself.

Good lesson.

But I will say, it was really tough to rework it.  The original novel was all first person present.  So all the flashbacks had to be rewritten into first person past tense.  A royal pain in the you know what!  But hey, it's done.  If no one wants to publish it, who cares!  I did it.  I've now completed two novels in my life.

Can you beat that?

Monday, May 30, 2016

It's satisfying to impress one's literary snob parent...

I have been writing for 20 years, my mother has never liked a single thing I wrote.  When she read the first novel I ever wrote she said, "Well, it's not my cup of tea, but maybe someone will like it."  The next time she read any of my writing she told me, "I liked your other novel better."

You have to understand, reading has been a very large part of my mother's life.  If she doesn't have a book open, it's because she is doing a puzzle.  My whole life I grew up surrounded by books.  The only problem, is that my parents are mystery fans and the only genre I like less than mysteries, would have to be cat books.  So I know we will never see eye to eye when it comes to the things I write.  I try to write things that both interest me and are deeply rooted in mainstream popular culture.  My mother just wants a body and an interesting plot twist to keep her turning the page.

But recently the unthinkable happened.

I received praise from my mother.  What's more, she kept the copy of my manuscript I gave her and has refused to give it back!  She once again told me, "This is not my cup of tea-" which I knew, as it was a horror story and I knew that would be well out of her wheelhouse. But she finished that sentence with a sincere, "But it was very well written!"

So I finally received praise from my mother!

Now if I can just get some from a publisher...

Friday, April 1, 2016

All I can say is wow!

I want to thank the selection team at Tablo.io and Laura Cordero for selecting my novel The Darkness as one of the winners of the 2015 NaNoWriMo contest they sponsored.  Being selected as one of three novelists is quite flattering especially when I consider how many novels were submitted.  Honestly, when I started all this, I never thought I could actually win it.  I'm sure everyone felt that way, but for me, it was an absolute certainty.  But that's normal, right?  To have that lack of confidence?  That self-doubt?  I mean, especially a contest like this one with so many authors competing.  Writing a novel is a big enough undertaking on its own, but writing one in a month is a herculean task!

But then I thought, why not?

I have been writing for a long time and mostly for my own enjoyment.  Why not put my work out there.  Chances are, nobody would like my writing and I could continue writing happily in blissful anonymity and obscurity.  But if I didn't at least try, there would always be that voice barking in the back of my skull and I just couldn't let that happen.

So I put myself out there on Tablo.io and Viola!  I won!

The thing that made this contest so appealing to me, (which was brought to my attention by my friend Eva) is that the winners would get a professional edit of their manuscript (which can cost thousands of dollars) and then have the edited version submitted to a network of publishers.  I mean, it is a dream come true really.  An actual chance to get passed the frontline at the publishing houses and have my work read by the people who actually make the decisions.  There are no guarantees here and I know that.  I'm not an idiot.  But this is the best opportunity I've had and I'm eternally grateful to everyone who made it possible.  Especially my family and friends who supported me and read/liked my novel on Tablo.io and made this possible.

I don't deserve you all, but I'm never giving any of you up!

Saturday, March 12, 2016

What a difference a chapter can make?

After chapter four, I was tempted to jump ship and abandon this whole experiment!  I was really just disinterested in Koontz's Frankenstein and nothing in his words changed my mind!  But out of loyalty to a wonderful writer I stuck to him and one chapter later I'm completely hooked!  It's really amazing how that works.  But I guess this is why novels have to be amazing from the first line if they even have a hope of getting published, because unless the writer's last name is King or Koontz slow starting novels don't get read.

That being said, I'm very disappointed here, normally Koontz has me from the first sentence.  In fact as I was reading Chapter six, I kept thinking that it should have been Chapter One.  Maybe it's just the editor in me, but I think novels should jump out at in you in the first chapter.  Grab you by the seat of your pants and not let go till the end.  And Koontz usually delivers me just that.

Of course, I have gotten away from reading him.  In the last fifteen years I've read exactly one new (to me) Koontz novel.  And I also re-read Lightning this summer.  Wow, what a fantastic novel that is!

It was the Face of Fear that drove me away.  Man was that book dull.  Sure a guy who was afraid of heights had to climb down a skyscraper from the outside, but who cares.  It was not well written.  My cousin felt that he was now publishing the books he'd written in his youth that no one wanted before he got a name.  It made sense, but I didn't care about his stories or characters anymore, which is what Koontz book is all about.  But I felt the same way about King for awhile.  I thought he lost his fastball, but man was I wrong.  So I figured Koontz deserved another look see, I'm glad I decided to take a peek.

The character introduced in this chapter was perfect.

When you read the book, that joke will make a bit more sense.

So now I'm in.  I've decided a chapter by chapter account would be insane and might give too much insight into the book.  So I'm going to read twenty five chapters before I check back in with you.  There's just this side of a hundred, so I figure three more pieces before the a general review.

Well, here goes nothing.

Written by Matt Brennan

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Frankenstein experiment...

I can tell you now, that this book is a modern day retelling of the story somehow.  I'm not sure the plot or if the original monster from Frankenstein is the story.  I haven't gotten very far, as I must admit, Koontz has not drawn me in with his language like he usually does.  I don't feel the urgency that I usually feel to finish.

I'm not opposed to modern day retelling's of classic stories.  I've written one or two myself.  But I'm at chapter five and I haven't been hooked yet.

Bad sign.

If' I'm not hooked by now, generally speaking, I won't ever be.  Sadly, I'm considering breaking off from the novel, but my Aunt recommended it, so I'm reluctant to give up.  I do love Koontz tales and that affection warrants a little loyalty.

But I will say, I'm not killing myself looking to find time to read it.

At least not yet.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Writing is a difficult road to navigate...

Let's face it, there is no how to book on being a writer.

Wait that's not right.

Okay, let me try that again.  There is no sure fire, 100% if you do this you will get published kind of book on how to be a writer.  There are hundreds of nearly useless manuals however and I swear the best way to become a published author is to write one these days.

But to be clear, the how to get published pool is full of murky pond water at best.

Everyday I look for more and more ways to develop my skills as an author and still keep my writing fresh so I am engaged.  It's a delicate balance.

Blogging is my latest experiment.  I'm not sure if anyone would really care what I have to say, but I like doing so for now, I'mma gonna keep doin' it!

Now, while I just got done saying there is no manual that is the be all and end all how to get published book, there are in fact two or three must read books on writing.  One of which is Stephen King's On Writing.  He is the most read author in the history of the planet, so it makes sense that he might know a thing or two million about the craft of writing.  And boy does he deliver with this book!  The first half is a memoir and such a page turner, I was actually disappointed when he started teaching me how to write.  I found there is a reason his characters always had such crazy things happen to them.  You know, that old saying, "Write what you know?"  His life was a Stephen King novel!

Anyway, after the memoir is over, he starts to talk turkey and his incites are so simple and captivating, while you read your skills will sharpen.  No practice necessary.  Truly and exceptional book.

Another great resource is The Elements of Style, by Strunk and White.  This book is tiny but so chock full of answers to questions you haven't even thought to ask yet.  I have come to carry it in my writer's bag wherever I go.  And every once and awhile I pop it open and read a few pages.  Those few pages always turns into 20 or 30!

One resource that is invaluable to a writer, is the William Shun Proper Manuscript Format website.  while not a book, you'll find that if you start writing your novel in the proper format, it will save you a tremendous amount of editing later on.  And his model is recommended by many agents and publishers alike.

Kind of a short list, but like I said, some how to books come in the form of novels.  Canary Row is workshop on how to write.  It's amazing to me that Steinbeck put so much story in such a short novel.  I wish I had his gift for storytelling and judicious sentence structure.

Written by Matt Brennan

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Just started Dean Koontz Frankenstein...

Normally, you read reviews after the reviewer reads the entire novel and offers criticism and praise.  But I thought it might be an interesting premise to write my review as I read, giving an impression from time to time as to how the story and writing influences me.

That being said, the writing lacks the normal style I associate with a Koontz story.  His characters are always so rich and the dialogues and interactions so vibrant.  I always feel privileged to sit in on his characters moments.  They seem so intimate and monumentally simple, yet vitally important all at the same time.

The first chapter in Frankenstein introduces what I assume is the main character and hints many special and interesting traits he has.  (Spoiler alert) First of all, he's 200 years old. That is the only spoiler you can expect.

I will say this, however, my initial impression is that the story does not draw me in like my other favorite Koontz stories.  I don't feel like I 'Have To' finish it.  There are five books in the series, which is also a daunting number.  

Now keep in mind, I've read the Dark Tower saga and I even read Shogun, both of which take quite an attention commitment.  But Stephen King weaves an amazing tapestry of interesting characters and storylines in all his books.  And Clavell's Shogun while epically long (1152 pages) painted such rich settings and characters, I was hypnotized from the first page.

It should be interesting how I react to the next chapter.  I'm looking forward to this project.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Cannot begin to describe how important it is to work with other writers...

Years ago I discovered something.  I needed feedback.  All writers need feedback.  No, I don't mean I needed help writing, though I did, I mean that stories are meant to be read.  And we get so caught up in the telling of our tales, that sometimes we forget to keep track of readability.  And I needed someone to read my work and discuss it with me.

So, my options were take a class or join a writers group.

I chose the second option for several reasons.

The first reason is that I was broke.  If you are having a tough time making rent, spending money on a creative writing class is dumb and not an option.

But really the main reason I sought out a writers group, was I wanted regular feedback.  I thought back to the creative writing classes I had taken in college and the assignments weren't always oriented to feedback.  The first group I joined consisted of four local writers in Davis Square, Somerville.  Well, three of us were from there, but one guy lived in Newton.  We met every single week and we took turns sharing our work.  So every four weeks I had a deadline, it was awesome!  Deadlines have a bad reputation I think.  I have always thrived with a deadline hanging over my shoulders.  They always seemed to focus my mind to a razor sharp edge.

I grew as a writer tremendously during my time in that group, but sadly my novel was not completed in that group.  The membership dwindled to three and some weeks we would have to skip because writers weren't ready to submit.  Life had swallowed us up and the luxurious time spent on writing became too expensive.

It was a sad day for me when it was agreed we finally disband.

It was more than a few years before I found another group and the structure was completely different. I still get much out of the experience, but gone are the deadlines I loved so much.  And sadly the regular feedback.  But I still get a lot from my time with The Malden Writers Collaborative, it's just very different.  But as writing is so isolating, I encourage any reclusive writers out there to get connected with other aspiring authors.  Share ideas, offer feedback, and more importantly develop some community.


Sunday, January 31, 2016

Success is a dish best served any time!

No tool can be useful if you have not developed your skills as a craftsman first.  But once you've developed your craft and honed your skills, use every tool you can find to give you an edge.

The (Submission) Grinder is the best tool I have ever found to help writers publish.  Two months ago, I was a writer without a plan.  My afternoons were spent in coffee houses and libraries.  I wrote because I had to, because the need was so strong inside me that not doing it never occurred to me.  At first, I wrote for an audience of one, namely me.  Then I wrote for a few friends who expressed interest in my writing.  But the dream of publishing remained just that.

There has never been a book written that can tell you exactly what you need to do to publish your work.  Nothing.  It's a process, one you have to experience for yourself.  And every failure draws you one step closer to success.

I am proud to say I found success on Friday, or rather it found me, a story I have written called The Glass Slipper Entanglement, has been selected for publication in the magazine eFiction India, which is the leading online and print literary magazine in India.  It is a tremendous feeling of validation to be selected.

You can feel this as well!

The first thing you'll need is a tough skin.  Rejection is a constant.  Don't let it get you down.  If your name was Stephen King, the rejection letters would be less frequent.  But hey, he had oceans of rejections before catching his breaks.

The next thing you'll need to do is write all the time!  And read everything you can.  Writers not reading or writing become crazy people.

Finally, take a good piece of writing and submit it to every publication that accepts simultaneous submissions.  The best way I've found is by using The (Submission) Grinder.  You can track your submission's progress from beginning to end.  And the shear volume of markets is awesome. 

And the best part is it's free.

Don't give up.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

The (Submission) Grinder!

Okay,

So I know what you're thinking.  I already wrote about the (Submission) Grinder.

But I didn't fully understand what it was when I wrote that blog entry.  I thought it was just a great site to search for markets to submit.

But it is so much more than that.

One of the hardest things to remember when you're submitting absolutely everywhere, is well, where you've submitted.  Think about it, one kind of goes into a trance when one gets in the submission mode. It's sort of like stuffing envelopes. You don't count how many you've done, while you're doing it, you just keep stuffing till you can't bring yourself do it anymore. Then if someone were to ask you if you stuffed the envelopes for the city of Tuscaloosa, you wouldn't have a clue.  That's what happens to me when I'm submitting.

Well, I'm happy to say, The Grinder has done something about that.  It takes an extra step, but it's so worth it!

First you have to create a free account and login. Sounds easy, but believe me, unless someone tells you to do it, you might miss the need to like I did.

Then once you're logged in, you'll need to search for a journal and then submit to it. After you're done, go back to the market's page on Grinder.  On the page there is an option to "Log Submission," it's near the top and is a hyperlink and once you find it, click on it.  Now you can actually log your submission and edit it later.  It keeps track of the date you sent it, then when you get a confirmation and whether it was accepted or rejected.  You can log what you submitted (The specific story) and whether you submitted it through the mail or electronically.  It also allows you to enter the date that it was resolved (rejected or accepted).  And whether you got a form letter response or personally written one.  You can even write a note.

The site will even let you know if your submission has exceeded the normal response time for that market.

It is quite the tool.  Not only can you can use it to narrow down searches, but you can use it to keep track of the submissions you made for analyzing later on or so you have a contact list to let markets know when you've been published.  I don't know about you, but I like having a strategy for everything I do.  The Grinder is helping me formulate a strategy and a plan for submission.

And don't forget the best part, IT'S FREE!!!!!




Monday, January 18, 2016

What's worse? Submitting or Rejection?

Honestly,  I can't decide.

I have spent the last week submitting a short story I wrote to different journals and the whole process is so tedious, I'd rather stuff envelopes for minimum wage.  First, you have to find a journal, then see if it accepts multiple submissions, because I'm not going to live forever and waiting three months to see if one journal is going to publish it isn't happening.  As far as I'm concerned, anyone who insists that 'no simultaneous submissions accepted' doesn't want submissions and might as well just close up shop.

But I digress.

After finding a journal that accepts simultaneous submissions, the hunt then begins for their submission page.  Then you have to decide what to do if they only accept email submissions? I mean, Submittable.com sites are much faster and convenient, but what if one of the email only sites is the one who'll publish you and no one else will?

It's all just awful.

But I suppose rejection letters aren't much fun either, though sadly I am getting used to them.

I don't know, I guess it's a coin toss.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

6 months and no posts and then two in as many days?

I found a great resource for young and old writers alike. It's a non-profit database called The Grinder. It's a site that has over 4200 markets to get your work published.  It's free, so therefore limited in its search features, but it's FREE!

After I've written a story that I think is worthy of publishing, I've gone through the arduous hours of submission.  Just like every other writer. This process is as much like driving nails through your skull as it is to anything else.

I, like most writers, know nothing about the publishing world. Most of us don't even know where to start. Heck, I'll bet most are like me and aren't sure what genre their stories should be categorized in.

Well, Grinder will not remove all the headaches associated with publishing, but it does streamline the process quite nicely.

I'll bet many of you reading this have gone to a literary journal and spent ten to twenty minutes trying to figure out how to submit your story for consideration.  I know I have done this more times than I'd care to admit. Whoever designed some of these journal's websites by the way should be looking for a new career.

Well, Grinder has links to the website's submission guidelines page.

Helpful right?

Yeah, I thought so too.

Grinder's advanced search feature, allows you to modify a search by: Genre, Story Subject, Snailmail/electronic, Story style, Length, and Minimum Pay Scale.

Which really helps narrow down your search.

Some of the sub-categories weren't as helpful as I'd have liked, but hey, IT WAS FREE!

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Been awhile but I had an insight that I thought I'd share...

You know I just rewrote this first sentence.  I started with a cliche and that is never advisable.

So instead, let me say this to you all who are taking the time to read this. There is more to writing than just sitting down and carving out a story. Now some of you might be thinking I'm talking about outlining or revising or editing or some other crap.

But I'm not.

There is way more to being a writer than just writing.  First of all you have to read.  Like all the time!  Read as much as you can. Read magazines, short stories, novels, anything! The more you read the better. I like to keep two or three books going at a time.  That way if I get sick of one I can pick up another, this is why ebooks have changed my life.  I carry an entire library with me in the palm of my hand. I would recommend though that you at least keep a book going that is the same genre as what your writing.  I know it seems silly, but it keeps me in the mood.

But that's not all.

No, I don't just read and write, I also spend a great deal of time trying to get my work published.  I'm nobody after all.  I'm easy to overlook.  Let's say you're ready 150 short stories on a dead line, wouldn't you skim through and look for authors you enjoy?  It's only natural.  The next cut is to look for genre's you enjoy. So as an unpublished author, getting your work in front of a big audience is a challenge. So half the time I write, I stop the thing I love doing, to do the thing I like least.

Selling myself.

This is not easy and never has been for me.  I was the youngest and I was always pudgy.  So my confidence is not all that high.  And make no mistake, your stories are you.  They are your blood and they are your sweat and they are every bit your tears.  I think my stuff is good, some of it is even great.  But to sell that to another, I have to make them believe it and that is the greatest mystery of the publishing world.  There is no panacea.  Oh you can waste hundreds of dollars buying books that supposedly have a sure fire method to get published and in the local book stores, but none of them will get you there.  For every J.K Rowling who landed an agent with her third or fourth letter, there are an army of Stephen Kings who submitted thousands of stories only to have them soundly rejected.

But keep trying.  It's our only defense.  Remember, the publishers and the agents are burnt out workers just like you and me.  Remember, three people passed on Harry Potter!  You have to keep writing and keep submitting, it's the only thing you can do.  The only thing you have power over.

Which leads me to my last thing point I want to make.  Writing is relentless.  It's monotonous and it's tedious.  It is the very last thing you want to do after the day you had, but it's the only thing you can think about.  Writers have to write or they begin to drive themselves and the people they love crazy.

So save your marriage or relationship and spend a few hours writing every day.