Thursday, August 30, 2012

What do I need to do to start writing?

What do I need to learn before I can begin to write?

Nothing! Sit down and write.

I say that and people look at me like I just came here from Mars. There are rules, there are formatting issues, there is structure to be learned, there are things to learn about how a story is supposed to develop. There are a TON of things to learn.

This stuff is not writing. These things are editing. Good books are not created by writing, good books are created by good editing. But guess what? You can’t edit a book that is not underway. Chances are if you sit in writing workshops or take a writing class, or any of these things and have not at least started trying to write, the things you hear will not make a lot of sense. You won’t know the questions you need to ask. Once you start writing then you begin to see what you need to learn and the questions you need to ask.

I don’t think I’ve ever had a book-signing where people haven’t come up and said “I’ve always wanted to write a book.” I always respond, “So why haven’t you?”

If you want to write, sit down and do it. Why take classes or get training if you find out you don’t like doing it? Or if you find out you really have nothing to say or don’t have stories that you feel compelled to tell. That’s the starting point, imagination, the desire to do it. And that can’t be taught to you, that has to be something that is already in you.

I’m not knocking writing courses and workshops and writer’s groups. Success is virtually impossible without using these things to move forward once you are started. They will help you develop once you are underway. But if you want to write, quit reading this blog right now and get out a sheet of paper or open a blank page in your word processor and open your mind to what you have on your heart and your mind that you want to say.

The way to start writing . . . is to start writing.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

I'm getting really tired of it

I really am.

Every time I make a political statement I lead it by saying I am a lifetime Independent. I have never been tied to either political party. And I'm not happy with either one right now.

I'm tired of the half truths, innuendos or just outright lies that characterize our current political campaigns. Both sides are doing it. But I have to say the Romney/Ryan campaign seems to be spending time talking about the issues people really want to hear about. On the other side, particularly those faceless superpacs that everybody says they have no control over at all, seem to have a political strategy solely aimed at character assassination. That is just terrible.

I believe that character matters, and I want the finest person possible to hold the highest office in our nation. But it is more important to me to hear what I need to hear to get a person in that office that has answers I can support to turn this train wreck of a government around. We've had leaders who have had outstanding morals and character that did not do a good job at all. And we have had leadership that I think everybody would agree had some substantial moral shortcomings but who did a pretty good job. I think we ought to be talking about issues. It turns me off every time someone mounts another personal attack instead of debating the issues, on either side.

Is it a train wreck? Do you think $17 Trillion in debt is a train wreck? I do. I want to know what we're going to do about it. Obamacare is already estimated to cost at least double what we were promised and all kind of unintended repercussions are already showing up. We need Health Care reform, but most Americans think what we have isn't it. Talk to me about that. The growth of government is out of control, how are we going to turn that around? Rules, regulations, taxes and uncertainty is causing business to not want to hire anybody, how are we going to turn our job market around, because another round of massive stimulous is NOT the answer. The general public is not that stupid.

In fact the general public is pretty tired of being treated as if they are not smart enough to understand what is going on in Washington. It's clear leaders think only they can decide what is best for us. We need to be identifying people on all levels that feel that way and replace them, White House, Congress, and bureaucrats. Convince us who needs to be on that list and who doesn't, but keep treating us like we're stupid and we're going to make you pay a price for that.

Did I mention I getting really tired of all this?

Monday, August 13, 2012

Computer glitch

Have you sent me a submission or an email in the last couple of days? Well, I may not have gotten it.

I hate it when that happens.

I had a computer glitch pop up. I won't go into the details, but all of a sudden all of the email I had worked and deleted showed back up again. That's not so bad. I just check them against the logs and the ones that I've worked I can just delete them again.

But how about messages that have come in and haven't been worked yet. Near as I can tell, those are just gone. Bummer!

I don't know what I can do about it other than put the word out by social media and hope anyone who has sent me something and not gotten a letter of acknowledgement (I try to always acknowledge submissions) will see the note and re-send.

The only alternative that I see is waiting until they write me to check on it and I have to admit that I don't have it. There aren't that many, maybe a couple of dozen, but that's a couple of dozen more than I would like to see this happen to.

Did I mention that  I really hate it when something like this happens?

Thursday, August 9, 2012

On the Road Again

Time to get back on the road.

Next week I’ll be at the Oregon Christian Writer’s conference. I’ve been invited there before, good conference, beautiful country, good faculty and the caliber of the writers that attend is very good. It’s August 12-16th just outside of Portland Oregon.

Following that is the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) conference September 20-23 in Dallas. This is the premier conference for Christian fiction writers and will draw a large delegation of writers. The strength of the programming and the faculty at this conference is outstanding.

October 10-12th I’ll be at the Antelope Valley Christian Writers conference at Lake Hughes just outside of Los Angeles. This will be my first time at this conference but I’m looking forward to it.

October 26-27th will be the East Texas Christian Writers Conference at East Texas Baptist University in Marshall Texas. This is another conference I have attended a number of times, fast-paced, economical, with excellent programming and facilities on a beautiful college campus.

A quick turnaround on October 31st through November 4th will have me at the “Writing at the Ranch” Christian Writers Conference at the Ghost Ranch at Abique New Mexico. This is a beautiful retreat setting that helps recharge your batteries as well as providing terrific program content.

I don’t do conferences between Thanksgiving and New Year, that’s family time, so that will wrap it up for the year. I enjoy doing conferences and trying to work with and encourage writers. Most of the clients that I have came from a conference contact. It’s also a time to make contacts with editors and other industry professionals, seeking information that will help me better serve my clients.

My efforts are leveraged by clients attending conferences themselves and reporting back any information they can gather whether it might be useful to them or not. Gathering such information from any and all sources helps us keep track of an industry that always seems to be in a state of change. The writers? They are there to improve and develop their craft, and to make contacts much in the same manner that I’m trying to do. For writers who are often surrounded by people who don’t really ‘get it,’ it’s good to get off and interface with other writers. Even before I became an agent for years I attended 2-3 writing conferences a year and it has really paid off for me.

How about you? Hope I meet up with you at one of these events.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

A Poor Businessman?

I was sitting out on the deck having a cup of coffee and thinking about my day. I was a chamber of commerce manager for nearly thirty years representing businesses and doing business. When I had a chance to become an agent I immediately saw there was little difference between representing businesses to other businesses, to suppliers, to government, in all sort of relationships, and representing authors in their relationships, primarily to publishers.

It was like I had been training for thirty years to do the job. But the question that came to my mind over my coffee cup was “as an agent do I make some decisions or choices that are not good business decisions?” I don’t know . . . maybe.”

First, business is necessarily about making a profit. Since I’ve started working as an agent it has been more about trying to help good authors, almost exclusively Christian authors, get their words our there where they will serve the Lord than it has been about money. I’m good with that decision, but is it a good business decision?

I know a lot of agents and editors don’t necessarily answer everyone that submits to them. It takes a huge amount of time, but I do, every one of them. Do I waste a lot of time that way? It’s something I really have to do, but is it a good business decision?

I require all of my clients to be in an online client group so I have the ability to contact all of them at one time but they can choose to only receive such priority messages or to be in the group that can interface with one another which they do . . . a lot. I’ve been told I interface with that group too much, again wasting a lot of time. I like being close to my clients, but is it a bad business decision?

When I took a test at a conference to see how to use what talents I might have for the Lord I came up with three special gifts, writing, music, and the gift of encouragement. I go to a lot of conferences primarily as a use of that gift of encouragement, but even though most pay expenses they cost money anyway and many of them are a straight expense. I’ve gotten most of my clients from conference contacts but for the number of clients that I have, am I spending too much there? Is the number of conferences that I do a poor business decision?

Our agency doesn’t charge any money up front but we do have the ability to charge back telephone, postage and copy expenses. I don’t, I’m not happy charging such things to authors unless I have first made them some money. Another poor business decision? 

I don’t represent profanity or content that I’m not comfortable having my name associated with. I’ve turned down some projects that I could have made some substantial money on for just this reason. It’s a decision I’m comfortable with as a Christian agent, but is it a good business decision?

Better than 80% of my clients have published or contracted since they signed with me, but after we exhausted the more lucrative contacts we got some of them started by going to small publishers. Chances are I won’t even recover expenses on many of these, particularly if we count my time worth anything, but we’re building writing credits on them and I hope they will pay off in the future. A good business decision?

I smile as my coffee cup is now empty. Am I a poor businessman? Maybe so, but as I get up to come back in here and get to work I smile . . . is it possible for that to be true and me still be a good agent? My clients are happy that I’m doing my very best for them. Maybe that’s the only measure that really matters.

What do you think?