Since my first novel TAINTED HERO was released, I’ve been fortunate to have readers ask me a series of questions about the fiction writing business. It’s fortunate because I love to chat with people (as my wife often reminds me). I though, why not post answers to some of the more frequently asked questions, maybe others that enjoy fiction would be interested, so here we go:
1. Q: What advice would you give to someone wishing to write fiction, and improve their chances of success?
A: Actually, I’ve been posting a series of related topics to this question, but I’ll summarize some things I’ve learned:
a. So you finished the manuscript, did ya? You’re about 30% there. Set it aside for a few months, then read it again, and again, and …. I’m not BSing when I say, I re-read my stories 15 to 20 times before I send it to my hit squad. Boy do you need a hit squad. Find someone, hopefully two or three, that will read your scripts and be brutally honest, I mean brutal. Then listen to their comments with an open mine, and don't make excuses why they aren't reading it right. Be prepared to learn and grow with each story. Listen to all per reviewers, editors, and the publisher. You'll learn a lot.
b. The big eight publishers and agents are interested in established commodities where their risk is minimal. A newbie doesn't fit that category, unless you're a politician, actor, or have major connections.
c. The small publishing houses are more open and can provide a higher probability entrance into the field, but it is still hard. The query letter and synopsis really makes the difference between success and failure. One small house said they received 23000 submissions a year. What does that mean to you? The query letter must absolutely shine if its going to float to the top of that pile of submissions so they'll even read the first page of your manuscript.
d. Two really good sources for small publishers are the P&E database and Duotrope's digest. Here are the links. http://anotherealm.com/prededitors/pebi.htm and http://www.duotrope.com/index.aspx
2. Q: How long does it take to write a story and get it published?
A: The time required to create the rough draft varies for me from between six weeks and 3 months, depending whether I lock myself away, or only work incrementally. In terms of the time to get one published, I’ve been very lucky. I’ve read that some well know authors required five to eight years for their first story to be accepted by a publisher. For me, it was 18 months from the first day I took pen in hand and when I got the call for my first novel. Funny thing is, got the call from two publishers on the same day. I was just a few months short of my self-imposed deadline before I had planned to quit. Yeah, I was very naive when I started.
3. Q: What’s the best thing about writing fiction?
A: I’d have to say when readers tell you they love your stories and your characters. That they were moved by something you created in your mind. Just doesn’t get any better than that.
4. Q: What’s the hardest point about writing fiction?
A: Before I got that first call, I’d say the waiting and the rejection letters. Once I became published, there were two areas I found difficult: The constant re editing process and reading the say story twenty times, and 2. Knowing the right blend of passion to include in the story. As a guy, I can deal with most any level, but surprisingly, woman are different (g). I surveyed about a dozen female friends and found that the level of comfort/interest in explicit scenes was all over the place. I decided to go with a level that I would be comfortable if my sister or granddaughter read the story.
5. Q: Do you feel pressure to live up to standards?
A: Yes, yes, yes. Pressure to get 90000 words that flow, stimulate, touch, and enrapture the reader. Pressure to tune, and polish, and adjust the story till it shines, and pressure to do better then the last novel. That’s a little scary for me. For each book, my reviewers have told me the last is my best. I sense pressure to do as good or better, and worry that at some point, just like what happens to most authors, I’ll pass the crest and start back down. My first review on my first novel received 5 stars out of 5 and a “Top Reviewer Pick” rating. My instant thought was “Wow, that’s awesome!.” A few seconds later I thought, “Wait a minute. How am I going to do that again? I can’t get 5 of 5 on each story, that’s impossible, just can’t be done. What have I set myself up for?” Now that’s an overwhelming challenge, and it haunts me each time I complete a story.
6. Q: What should men understand about women?
A: Given I write suspense with a romantic core, I do encounter this question on the chat loops and when I'm interviewed on websites. Since no matter what I say, this one will get me in trouble, I’ll conclude this post with the best answer I can. First, lets look at the guys. We are very simple linear beasts. Feed us, share you many pleasures with us every now and then, and let us take an occasional nap, and we’re in heaven. Now lets consider the other side of the equation that reflects our prime motivation in life: women. I wish we understood anything. I've continued to expand my appreciation and adornment for women, my respect for there patience, their gentle ways, their gift of perception, and their tolerance for the macho side of the men in their lives. But I doubt I’ll ever understand what makes these beautiful complicated creatures function and why we men love them so dam much (I mean beside the physical of course). About once every year or so, I have an epiphany that opens up one of the confusing elements about women: their vulnerabilities, their communication differences, why God gave them control of the sex baton, etc. I figure that on the day I pass from this world, maybe I’ll know about 10%. But I can live with that. I can’t image a world without the mystery of the better half.