When You Don't Feel Like Writing...

That was me a few days ago. I kept finding excuses to not write--not a good thing when you want to be published writer! Alas, I didn't write that day at all.

But the last three days I have been writing...and I've managed to surpass my Nifty 350 each time. In fact, there was so much flowing that I didn't leave work to go home until after 5:00! (I did have to endure some major slowdowns going home. Bah.)

These last two days I've just had the program running (off one of those jump drives), and I've managed to just get into a nice rhythm.

The first day seemed like it was going to be another one of those days procrastinating. But I decided to try to use a technique that's helped me before, something that sounds so outlandish you probably won't believe it.

It's called Emotional Freedom Technique. Now, that website won't give you, the writer, anything specific to writing. But I downloaded an e-book that is specifically tailored to writers.

The basic gist is this: By tapping on certain acupressure points, you'll unleash bad emotions; at the same time, you'll be saying certain phrases to, first, bring up those bad emotions, and, second, replace them with good emotions.

My big thing, where writing is concerned, has to do with realizing that my writing is important. (Of course, my day job is important to pay the bills, but why shouldn't I look at writing fiction as important to my creative side?) I received a newsletter last week from the woman who is selling the e-book (and, no, I don't receive any sort of commission from her), and she had a script in the newsletter that deals directly with this--apparently, this is something she has to deal with, too.

The first time I used it--going through what's called rounds of tapping (wherein I did two rounds)--it worked! The words just flowed from my fingers. As I mentioned recently, a lot of those words might be dreck, but when you're in the rough draft stage, who cares? If you hit the main points by using index cards or whatever system you use, that's all that matters. You can clean up things later.

I tried it again three days ago, this time doing three rounds, as I felt I really needed some positive things to boost me. It worked again! Right now, I've finished Chapter 3, and am eagerly looking forward to writing Chapter 4.

Mythology Courses and Other Research

I'm enjoying myself right now with a course from The Teaching Company. Many of their courses cost hundreds of dollars, but they have a lot of sales throughout the year. I'm listening to audio CDs of a course on ancient Greek mythology, and it's fascinating. My original thought was to get some ideas for a previous story I was working on; that work has been abandoned, for the moment, but I'm still deriving pleasure from it. It's interesting to hear about how female-phobic the ancient Greeks were, the most well-known myths, the gods and goddesses--it's endless as to the number of things I've picked up from this course.

And I see they have an Egyptian course...hmm...although I'd have to get it on DVD instead of audio CD (which means playing it in the car ain't gonna do it). I'd want to see any maps or photos, so I'd have to go that way. It still costs over US$100, but I'm contemplating it.

Check 'em out.

And, as always, don't give up--keep writing!


Back to Work

This weekend was devoted to having as much fun as possible. Sunday was a drag (the Giants were slapped by the Seattle Seahawks), but Saturday was indeed a fun day: Celtic Fest! Lots of Irish music and food and beer...well, some of the food and beer were not Irish, but who cares? There were also CDs, clothing, candles, and various sundry available for sale, and I couldn't resist picking up a few things.

There's not much to say as regards the written word--about 1,700 words the past two days! I'm really hitting my Nifty 350 without too much trouble. A lot of what I wrote is probably dreck, but I'm forging ahead; I can clear out the junk once I'm in revision mode (although I did do a tiny bit of revision on the first part of Chapter 2).

I got on with it after those few revisions, though, and I'm close to the end of of the chapter. The ending will involve the guy who saved Jackie from bleeding to death in the first chapter--Diego Montoya (just a working name at this point).

I also introduced another character, Gary, who is one of the gay guys on Jackie's floor. He's helped her through a lot of rough spots, plus he's cooked some nice lunches and dinners for her; Gary's lover, McLean (who hasn't been introduced yet), can't cook unless it can be thrown in the microwave.

Jackie isn't very domestic, either.

I'm hoping to complete Chapter 2 either tomorrow or the day after. Chapter 3 will continue with Diego (obviously). Plus I'll have to rewrite some of the index cards--although I'll keep the discarded ones, because one never knows if they might come in handy...

On the Writing of Queries

I'm not at the dreaded querying stage as yet, but it'll come soon enough. Ack! Trying to put across what happens to the characters in your novel in one page is not easy. But if other people have managed it, then so will I!

I've got plenty of links to check out when the time comes, but here are a couple I plan to check out more than once or twice:

Miss Snark - Synopsis versus plot outlines in queries

The Snarkalicious One presents an extremely simple way to do a query. Basically, it's:
  • The hero is:
  • He faces this problem in the first 50 pages:
And so on. The blog entry isn't too long, but it gets to the gist of what agents are looking for in a query.

Here's another one. It's a pitch generator:

Kathy Carmichael's Pitch Generator

You just type in the blanks (Title, Character Name, etc.), and then it generates a sample pitch (query). It might not be to your liking, but at least it might get you thinking in the right way.

Give 'em a whirl.

Don't give up--keep writing!


More and More Words

I went well beyond 350 words today...I wrote 1,000!

I also took out two index cards, deep sixing a character who had nothing to do with the plot (Jackie's grandmother). I'd originally written her into it, expecting her to move the plot along, but after rethinking things, I realized I was just trying to shoehorn her in (I'll make it fit! ;-)). Not a good idea. All your characters, whether major or minor, have to contribute something, or out the window they should go.

I also decided to make Jackie's mom snarky and pushy (in what I hope is a funny way). I might have to do a re-write of the Alzheimer's, but I may introduce it at some later point in the story. Or maybe I'll hang it on another character. That's part of the fun of writing fiction: You can do pretty much whatever you want to your characters--as long as the story holds together.

Will the story hold together? Well, I'm not going to wait until the very end to decide. I'll take a step back around Chapter 3 or 4 and see if the story is coherent or confusing. If the latter, I may put back my original intent.

And thus the beauty of outlining--especially using index cards. If I don't like the way the story's headed, no problem, yank out a card, write something else. And I can rearrange scenes, too, if the need arises. Another good thing is that if I'm looking for something, I'll be able to track it down a little bit easier than in the past. I certainly don't want to spend half an hour trying to see where the heck I put the scene about so-and-so, a minor character.

Outlining By Spreadsheet

If you prefer an electronic version of outlining (as opposed to using index cards), there's an excellent one over at Sydney Laine Allen's website. She's a romance writer, and she takes you step-by-step through it so you can set up the spreadsheet on your own.

Or you can email her and get it already formatted.

I'm not exactly a Luddite (ask my hubby), but I like using the index cards. I can take them with me and jot down anything that hits my brain; I can't do that with electronic stuff as I don't have a notebook computer or a PDA. And I'm not interested in getting either right now.

Keep writing!


Nifty 350 (Thanks For the Idea, James Scott Bell!)

As in 350 words a day. That's going to be my goal until I type "The End" on this story.

I wrote today. Nine hundred and ninety-five words, to be exact. Yay, me! Beginnings aren't easy, but I'm determined, as I blogged yesterday, to go forward and not look back over what I've already written. This is a first draft, so I shouldn't expect anything. Maybe the occasional good line or description or whatever, but nothing that sings off the page.

Not yet, anyway.

I did follow that first index card, where I briefly plotted out the opening scene (and all the other scenes in the story). I feel I'm off to a good start, as I got my point across in a somewhat humorous fashion (which is what I was going for).

A brief synopsis: A divorced, 31-year-old contract paralegal divides her time among her love life, caring (part time) for her Alzheimer's-stricken mother, her job, and trapping feral cats. Her love life is in a coma at the moment (one-night stands definitely aren't her thing), her mother's driving her crazy, her job is going fine but she wants to do it full time.

The cats? Well, one in particular is going to give her a scratch that lets loose with a curse, one that will bring her in touch with a gruff man who sometimes speaks in a strange language, a secret society dedicated to the Egyptian protectress of cats, and a demon bent on ripping apart all those who have the curse...

Meh. Not bad. :-) As long as I can make it sound interesting all the way through. Oh, her one voice of sanity is her grandmother, who's more lucid at 91 than Jackie's (my protag) mother has ever been--at least to Jackie.

Shuffling the Deck

I also tried that shuffling the index cards idea. Although it didn't suggest any different plot connections or whatever, it did suggest another scene which I felt I was needed (this is toward the end of the story). And, I'll probably lay out the index cards after I go through the first three or four, just to see if my mind comes up with something: A twist, another character, another scene, whatever.

No writerly advice or websites to check out; I haven't been online very much today. I will say that I think there are no rules when it comes to whether or not to use an outline. I took an unscientific test in Plot and Structure and came heavily down on the Outliner side. Others might come down on the seat-of-the-pants or Non-Outliner side; still others will have a combination of both. The bottom line is that a writer should use whatever gets her to finish her story.

Keep writing!


Back to Blogging

Last week proved to be a busy week at my day job; my night job, prowling the streets as a vam--ooh, pardon! That's personal information for my husband and my use only. ;-)

I managed some more work on my story, though. I've decided on a last name for my protag; I did more extensive write ups on the other main characters as well as the minor ones; and found some more research on trapping feral cats (a bit of which will go into the opening scene). Today, I wrote some more scenes on index cards and numbered them in pencil. Later today or sometime tomorrow, I intend to do what James Scott Bell, channeling Robert Kernan (Building Better Plots) suggested: Shuffle the cards, then go through them two at a time. This is to see if any new connections between plot elements present themselves. If something does hit me, I'll definitely revise the structure, and go from there.

My Objective

My objective tomorrow, and the days thereafter, is to write straight through--without revising anything. This has been one of my problems of sticking with a story: Too much futzing around with what the protag says or does or whether there's a breeze or a cyclone ripping through at a certain point in the story. As Bell says, on page 4 of Plot and Structure, "Your job with the first draft is to pour yourself onto the page."

That's what I'm going to try to do. I'm going to try to quit worrying if I've got the correct words the first time around; I'll go with my instincts. And if those instincts aren't right, I'll worry about it at some point past the first draft.

Ah, another quote for me to think about, from the great Ray Bradbury (from Zen In the Art of Writing: Essays on Creativity): "Let the world burn through you. Throw the prism light, white hot, on paper."

His writerly output speaks for itself.

So tomorrow is going to be a good day--I'll have plenty of time to finally start writing the story!

Looking For Agents

This time, just a little tidbit. I currently subscribe to the free version of Publisher's Marketplace; the paid version is USD$20 per month. I get the free version because, well, I'm not yet hunting for an agent. When I get to that point, I'll switch over to the paid version, at least for a couple of months (you can pay for it on a month-to-month basis; nice).

You'll get an overview of what's going on in publishing, from deals, to personnel changes, to interesting web articles on the movers and shakers in the publishing world, and even a job board. You can get an idea about which publishers are buying what from which agents/agencies, and even a range of the advance the author received.

By the way, you'll note there are plenty of debut authors; the email specifically marks those as such. Don't believe anyone who tells you new authors aren't published anymore. Think about it: Tom Clancy and whoever else you can think of were all once debut authors.

Something to nibble on.

You can subscribe to the free Lunch here.

As always, keep writing!


9/11 - Five Years Later

There are things you see and hear in documentaries over the years, usually in black and white. My grandparents were asked in later years, "Where were you when Pearl Harbor was attacked?" For my mother, when I was born in 1962, when asked where she was when John F. Kennedy was shot, she would say she was walking me in my stroller.

And so it is, unfortunately, with this day. It certainly isn't something I looked for 5 years ago, to a part of history; I'd rather I was a part of history in some other way, like my mom being a dancer as a 9-year-old at the 1939 New York World's Fair.

Yes, both my husband and my family have some ties to the City (er, New York, for those who aren't familiar with that). My husband's ties are quite deep, as his grandmother and grandfather grew up and worked in New York during the Great Depression of the 1930s, and stayed there, with a few side trips, until his grandfather died way too young in the late 1960s.

So please indulge me as I tell you my experience that horrible day...

9/11/2001 - A Beautiful Morning

I'd gone in for bladder surgery a few days before, and was looking forward to my follow-up appointment on 9/12, wherein my catheter would finally be taken out. Goof that I am, I looked at the catheter and the little bag attached to it as my six shooter, because I could tie the bag to my leg just like the cowboys and cowgirls of the Wild West.

I did my usual thing that morning, got the dogs out into the backyard, got them back in to feed them...that sort of thing. After he washed up, my husband came down as he always does to get his breakfast and make himself some coffee. We sat and talked, watched some TV news. It felt like a lovely, beautiful day was about to greet us.

If only we knew.

After seeing my husband off to work, I took a brief snooze, then decided to watch a movie on one of the movie channels (either American Movie Classics or Turner Classic Movies; I can't remember which).

Now, I love old movies of the 1930s and 1940s, and there was a good one on that morning, Stanley and Livingstone, starring Spencer Tracy. I hadn't seen it in a while, so I settled in to watch it.

I couldn't. I just couldn't sit still. I guess I could always say that something in the flow of the universe was disturbing me, but making that claim sounds like hindsight and, of course, "hindsight is 20/20".

So I flipped around the channels...until I came up on a photo of something burning. The announcer of whatever newschannel I stumbled on intoned, "The north tower of the World Trade Center has been hit." Or something like that. I thought it unusual and surreal enough that I had to let my husband know what had happened, especially since his sister still lived in the City at that time (thankfully, she was out of town that weekend with one of her other brothers, the first real vacation she'd had in many years).

I called and let him know about what had happened, that the announcers were saying some sort of plane hit the tower. I wondered if maybe the same thing happened as what happened back in the late 1940s: A WWII plane hit the Empire State Building. But that happened in thick fog; very soupy conditions.

I hung up and continued to watch.

The World Comes Apart

I did a little cleaning around the house, but then sat down again on the couch to watch what was unfolding. Were people being evacuated? Who was dead? What type of plane was it? All these thoughts swirled in my head as I flipped from newschannel to newschannel, seeing if I could hear anymore information to impart to my husband.

I'd soon have my chance, and I wish to God I didn't.

The camera was trained on the north tower, with huge, dark plumes of smoke streaming into the sky. One or two other news choppers were circling, just small specks buzzing around the Center. I noticed something off to the right--it was much bigger than the helicopters. In a split second, I realized it was a plane of some sort--and it was headed to the other tower! "Doesn't it see the tower?" I shrieked, watching the plane go into the building...

I was dumbfounded. Shocked. Aghast. I just sat and stared. Did I really just see that happen? Did I really see a plane hit the south tower? That station's feed went down, so I tried another one. They were showing that scene over and over...

I awoke out of my stupor long enough to call my husband. I tried again and again, panic rising. Of course. Everything was a jumble because of what happened--everyone was trying to get in touch with everyone else. I either managed to get through or my husband did, and we talked, as he tried to calm me down.

And then he said something that didn't compute, at least not right away: "Nancy, we've been attacked."

What? No. It couldn't be. It couldn't happen here. But then my mind woke up...and I knew he was right. One plane was an accident...two planes? No. Until that moment, it hadn't crossed my mind it was a terrorist attack.

We kept in touch throughout the rest of that morning, through either email or phone calls, whichever managed to get through the mangled lines. During one phone call, my husband told me the north tower had fallen. I'd just washed up and come downstairs to the TV. "I've got terrible news," I told him. "Both towers are down."

He left work late that morning, and after giving me a hug and kiss, told me his experience on the roads. "Everyone was driving about 30 miles per hour. It was unreal, like people were zombies, just going through the motions." New Jersey drivers usually sail along at a high rate of speed because we want to get where we want to get now. But not that day.

Thank goodness my husband came home; we comforted each other, and our dogs helped where that was concerned, too. We did nothing but watch the news for several hours, viewing and listening with horror as we learned the Pentagon had been hit, and that a plane had gone down in Pennsylvania.

Close to Home

Thankfully, no one in either of our families was killed or maimed in these attacks. But there was one close call, and as we found out later, an acquaintance of ours at the time lost a co-worker.

A friend of ours, Jeff, was supposed to take that early flight out of Newark to California for a meeting. He decided to be lazy and changed to the one after that one. I couldn't believe when he told my husband and I this in such a non-chalant manner. This was just a few days later, and I don't think it had sunk in that he'd dodged death...

The other close one I found even more sad. A friend of ours worked in some capacity for a toy store chain. One of his co-workers, who hadn't been on a plane in a long time, needed to go out west for a meeting. It was his unfortunate luck that he got the flight that eventually went down in Pennsylvania. Imagine that...you haven't been on a plane in, say, 30 years, and your first time back on one...is your last time alive on Earth...

A Small Tribute

To all those who have lost love ones at either the Trade Center or the Pentagon; in any of the planes that went down or into buildings that day--you have my deepest, most heartfelt sympathies. Words can't express it well enough, but I hope that God or whatever higher power you believe in will give you strength and peace of mind to go forward with your life.

For the fire fighters, police officers, EMTs, and whomever else tried to help people out of the rubble--you have my utmost thanks for your selfless acts. To those who didn't make it out of the Towers--I hope your loved ones find peace of mind to carry on.

Peace to us all. May we all find peace and serenity in whatever burdens we have in our minds.

My Novel

This will be quite short. I did manage to do more bios over the weekend, diligently writing them down in my journal. I changed the name of the protag to Jacqueline Namir. Ack, I guess the names of all characters are subject to change.

I also wrote and re-wrote a couple of scenes.

So I think it's coming along well.

Keep writing. And never give up on your dreams.


Research and Query Letters

Research for Cats in Manhattan continues. I finished a really nice bio on the protag (possible name: Marina Zarhagian), sketched a couple of others.

My main project was to get a handle on the trap/neuter/return (TNR) thing as it relates to feral cats. Feral, or wild, cats are those that can't be adopted. TNR came about when a lot of people noticed an increase in the cat population and wondered what to do about it. My basic research suggested someone going out with a wire cage, leaving some food about for the wild thing to go after, caging it, bringing it to a vet to get neutered, and then releasing the cat back into the colony (there's usually more than one cat in the feral world; think penguins and their rookeries).

Of course, truth is stranger than fiction (oof, cliche!). In this case, though, it's not strange but more complicated. And I want whatever I write to have the air of authenticity to it--as much as possible anyway. I mean, how do I know someone, somewhere who actually does this sort of stuff won't read my book? For instance, I've heard of scientists getting SF books published and then other scientists reading them. They'd get tripped up by the others, taken to task for some astrophysical impossibility (or whatever).

I'm not going to go overboard on the research, however. There has to be a point where the writer says, "Enough!" and starts to write her story. And if the information is readily available or at my grimy fingertips, then I can refer back to it; I can catch any problems in the first or subsequent revisions.

For Those Who've Written Their Magnum Opuses

I'm not at the query stage yet, but for those of you who are, I'd suggest taking a gander at Miss Snark's blog (see the sidebar for the link). A warning to those with weak stomachs: She's not called Miss Snark for nothing. And those who leave comments on her blog (referred to as Snarklings)? They can be snarky and rough, too.

As I write this, she's currently going through her 3rd Annual Crapometer (not to be confused with the Crapometer link in the sidebar; that's for Elecktra's Crapometer, a fun/interesting blog in its own right). What makes Miss Snark's Crapometer great is that it's a combo (this time, anyway) of both query letter and the first page of the novel, so you get an idea from a literary agent if the letter and the first page work for her.

Alas, most didn't work for her, although there were a few where the query sucked but the first page was pretty good. Take from that what you will. Oh, and the Snarklings get in on it as well.

Always keep in mind that this is just one agent's take on query letters: Your mileage may vary with other agents. But at least it gives you an idea if you're onto something or need to scrap the whole thing and start over again.

Read the queries and first pages. Learn. Absorb. Keep your sense of humor intact.

And, as always, keep writing!


Onward...and Forward

I'm continuing with Cats of Manhattan, my urban fantasy. I'm writing short character bios for the main protag and other denizens of my weirdo mind. (Trust me on the weird mind bit. Or is it the characters that are weird? Or both?)

As I continue doing that and allowing my mind to come up with more vivid scenes to write on index cards, I came across something on the Writer Beware Blog that made me sit up and take notice. This is not something to concern me at the moment, but it is something for me to consider down the road, after I've revised my manuscript several times (and had the entire thing critiqued at least once).

Research on agents.

On the sidebar is a link to the blog entry (Little Known Resource). What is it? Publishers catalogs and rights listings. I read through a few and found the story blurbs (mostly) interesting. However, for those of us who want to be published novelists, the important thing that Victoria talks about is that many of the listings have agent's names attached them. Not all of them do; many have the literary agency. But it does sound like an excellent, extra resource for those who are doing the Agent Research Rag.

Click on the link. Read the entry. Go to the websites and absorb.

Many, many thanks to Victoria Strauss and Ann Crispin for providing such a valuable resource.

Keep writing!


What Happens When You Read Other Blogs First


I've been reading through Miss Snark's blog (see the link in the sidebar), absorbing what she likes and what she doesn't like in query letters and the first page.

Of course, I did zilcho as to my own work in progress.

Anyway, I've decided that instead of this being a writing advice blog (since I haven't had a novel published as yet), I'm going to make it more of a personal blog--with a writerly bent. I'll occasionally comment on the sleazy side of the industry (scam publishers and agents), but I'll leave the advice to those who've said it much better than me--and who don't go off on tangents like I tend to do.

Over the Weekend

So, did I do anything this weekend? As a matter of fact, I did. I wrote some more scenes on index cards, wrote the back blurb for the novel (which probably won't see the light of day beyond my eyes), and put together a more-organized writer's notebook than the tattered gamish-gamash that I've been hauling around.

If you're the outlining type (and I've conceded to myself that that's what makes me the most comfortable--and productive), here's what I've done to tab different sections of my notebook:

  • Tab 1 - Plot Ideas
  • Tab 2 - Characters
  • Tab 3 - Research
  • Tab 4 - Plot Summary
  • Tab 5 - Questions/Misc.
It's a great idea--but I certainly can't take credit for it. It's a suggestion in James Scott Bell's Write Great Fiction: Plot & Structure. This book is turning out to be my best ever purchase, as far as writing books go.

So far, that is.

We'll see if this eventually leads to publication.

Let's see--I've done quite a bit of research into Egyptian gods and goddess (and their idea of the Netherworld); I'll need to do some more NYC research; plus some more on feral cats and the organizations that trap them, spay/neuter them, then release them back onto the streets (these are wild cats that can't be adopted).

I'm still not sure on the character names, but they can be changed.

Tomorrow, I'm hoping to dive in and get the story off to a good, moving start. I just have to remember not to cram a ton of description and backstory into the first few paragraphs...and I should be okay.

The operative word is "should." The next few weeks and months will let me see if this is viable, if this is doable.

Keep writing!


About Those Scam Publishers...

If all you're interested in from your Magnum Opus is to hold it in your hand, by all means, go with a straight-ahead print on demand (POD) outfit like Lulu.com, where you can do it cheaply and with a minimum of fuss.

But if you want to make some money from your novel, and have decided that agents aren't for you (have you actually sent out query letters after doing research on them?), you could certainly go the publisher route--although it may take extra time. Plus, you'll have to bring in your own lawyer to go over the contract.

And not just any old lawyer--it should be one who's familiar with publishing contracts, because they're a somewhat confusing and peculiar beast.

What Should I Look For In a Publisher?

First, make sure the publisher accepts unsolicited manuscripts; many only accept agented ones. You might have a good chance at a small press where this is concerned.

Next, as with agents, make sure your novel is a good fit with that publisher. For instance, Mundania Press accepts manuscripts for SF/fantasy, horror, mystery, romance, and historical. If your novel doesn't fit into one of these categories, don't send it along; it'll show you to be no better than an amateur--and will waste the time of the people acquiring novels at that publisher.

Book publishing is a business. Do your homework before you send out anything.

Separating the Wheat From the Chaff

I know, it's a cliche, so sue me. ;-) But, again, as with agents, there are good, legitimate publishers that will get your books into bookstores as well as online, and will sell to people beyond your family and circle of friends.

Read that again. What "publisher" in their right mind would sell only to authors? Well, there's a "traditional" publisher that does just that. Unfortunately, it's sucked in a lot of people who haven't done their homework; they think they're getting the best deal, because no one at the big-time publishers will give them the time of day.

This is your wake up call. Real commercial publishers have the idea that they want to sell your novel far and wide to people you don't even know. Sure, maybe your cousin five times removed on your mother's side will sidle into the local Barnes & Noble and pick up your book. Then again, maybe she won't. But your book will be stocked on the shelves at that bookstore, where plenty of people who don't know you may pick up the book. If it's got a great cover with a great story inside, there's a very good chance your book will be bought.

The commercial publishers, big and small, know how to do this. They've got marketing departments and salespeople; they know what sells.

As to big-time publishers not giving you and your book the time of day...is it possible that your book isn't ready for prime time? Have you revised it a few times? Gotten fresh eyes to look at it to give you ideas as to what works and what doesn't? No?

Publishing is a business (keep that as your mantra). Why would anyone who's trying to sell something and make money off it publish something that's either not completed, is too short to be a novel, is full of grammar problems, full of typos, etc? What the heck is in it for them? (The same can be said for agents, who work off commission). I'm sure there are non-profit publishers out there, but if you really want some sort of career as a novelist, why don't you hunker down and become one?

Take a course or a buy a book on grammar, if that's your sore spot. Same thing for spelling (don't rely on spellcheck). Buy how-to books on learning the craft; go to writers' sites to see what books are recommended, or at least helped half a dozen people. Apply these ideas and guidelines and absorb the information.

Then write your brains off. Keep at it. Persevere. It's hard work, yes. But what in life is easy?

Nice Rant. What Else Should I Look Out For?

There are linguistic markers to look out for, whether you're looking at a publisher's or agent's website. These should warn you that either they're out-and-out frauds, inept, or just don't have a clue.

Giving new writers a chance. ...a professionally-edited manuscript. It's all gobbledy-gook, and doesn't take place in the real publishing world.

Of course publishers give new writers a chance...if they have a good story that isn't rife with typos. Of course publishers edit manuscripts. Egad, why do you think publishers have in-house editors--certainly not for fun.

BTW, commercial publishers don't care if your manuscript is professionally edited or not; don't even bother putting that in your query or cover letter; it screams "amateur."

Does the publisher have their books stocked on shelves in the brick-and-mortar bookstores? This doesn't mean "can I order their books" from the bookstore. That's a different animal. The publisher should have books physically in bookstores. People don't necessarily go to Amazon and browse; a lot wander through a Borders, see an interesting cover, pick up the book, and if the story grabs them, purchase it.

And let me set this straight: I'm talking about those presses and publishers in a commercial sense. I'll leave university presses and the like to those way more knowledgeable than I am (and I'm still learning where the commercial publishing industry is concerned!)

One last thing, if you really want to try going directly to commercial publishers. Take a look at what the typical editor is thinking/looking for when your manuscript is in the slush pile. That's a real, live editor at Tor who's giving you those insights.

Just something to keep in mind when you're sending out that manuscript.

My Story

I'm starting to outline using index cards; I've already got some good scenes going. Whether they'll all end up in the story doesn't concern me right now. I just want to get the damn thing written (before revisions, of course).

I'm not sure if I'll post again until next Tuesday (with the Labor Day weekend coming up, I just feel like being a lazy bum where blogging is concerned ;-)). But who knows? Maybe I'll be so bored, erm, moved to blog something over the weekend.

Stay tuned...and keep writing, no matter what!