Ideas just seem to be no problem. Sometimes I literally feel like I have to turn off the tap on ideas for plots, sub-plots, characters, etc. (As an aside, I do keep a log of these random ideas which I use a source of reference from time to time.)
However, the big motivation problem for me is getting motivated to actually write. I mean what good does it do to have the ideas - sometimes even knowing where an entire book is going - only to never write. Now that there is one book out, it only makes sense to complete the second that is underway, so I can say I have a series.
A confession - I have, and have had, a third of the follow up book done. For a while.
Sure, I have family, work, life distractions, but all of the outside forces competing for my time were present when I wrote the first book and I got that done.
So how do you, or I, get past it? (At least these are the things I did before that worked.)
First, make yourself write. If you don't get something down on the page, even pure crap, you won't have anything at all to work with.
Second, make time to write. In the past I have scheduled a specific time. Recently I went back through and edited my second book, or at least the progress so far, and set a time early each morning to do this. I'm going to continue to do this with the writing.
Third, set goals. I try to write a certain number of pages each day. Some people will have completion dates. Others a scaled in schedule. Use whatever works for you. I once saw a John Grisham interview where he stated the proposition that to be a writer you should write a page a day. That is literally only 30 lines of type a day. Just a few hundred words. However, if you can do this, that is a book a year. Not bad.
Reward yourself as you complete chapters or even a critical scene.
The point of all of this is writing while fun, is also hard work. Even when you are writing fiction. However, if you just put pen to paper your are literally halfway there. Now to just make myself do the same thing....
So no secret I am an attorney. And no secret that I practice in Charleston, South Carolina. It is also no surprise that many times the type of law I practice can have more twists and turns that a two lane mountain road. Many times I find myself thinking that the dilemmas litigants work themselves into are situations I could not have imagined or made up - and I regularly craft plot ideas out of thin air.
When I first started practicing law, I realized that one of the many lessons not taught in law school, was how to put on a poker face when a client made a shocking pronouncement. On more than one occasion early on I had to excuse myself from my office to keep from showing what I was truly thinking. Fortunately I quickly learned to retreat to my poker face externally and while many people would likely have an OMG moment the client was being open and honest and providing much needed information that could, generally, help their case.
Well after a number of years of practice I rarely have the OMG moments, but I am still amazed at the corners folks can paint themselves into.
Which leads me to a comment I get a lot that goes something like this. "With the type of law you practice you must never have problems coming up with ideas for stories."
This dynamic presents much of a dilemma. The bottom line is that while I may use personality or physical attributes of clients, or friends, or people I randomly see on the street, in creating my characters, I have a steadfast rule that I will never use a client's legal situation, in whole or in part, in any plot I craft. In fact, I have yet to have any story line in any plot that relates to my practice area. I do this because I have a strong belief that even if the names are changed the situation could be recognized and this is a risk I simply won't take. Every attorney should, and is ethically required, to hold his client's confidences sacrosanct to the highest degree. So while I do draw upon my day to day legal experiences it is mainly for procedural matters. There are enough places to draw outlandish legal specifics so that the last place I need look is my own practice.
As people are starting to read The Trust, I've been getting a number of questions about how I come up with character names. I've also had a few interesting thing pointed out to me about some of the names I've used. There have been several people who know someone who shares a name with a character. Given that I've never heard of the real life folks that share names with my fictional folks I'm pretty sure we can go with coincidence.
A few of my more astute friends, or perhaps some that just know me too well, have looked past the name of a specific character and have told me, with 100% accuracy I might add, who a character was based upon despite the fact the name was nothing like the name of the actual person. Others have asked me if I have a name in mind when a character comes to life.
Well, the short answer is no.
When I create characters, I see them, and, as I have addressed in other blog entries, bring them to life. However the name is a different thing entirely. Generally I just stop writing, stare into the distance and start kicking around names. In The Trust the main characters were all named a single time and their names stuck having been pulled from out of the blue. Really the only book names directly linked to an actual names are the names of the book canines. One has the name of a friend's dog and the other shares the name of a cat I had as a child. This is more an inside joke as the canine in my life really doesn't like cats, but I doubt he'll get the joke.
There were a couple of names I changed because they were just too similar to real people. One interesting name belongs to one of the main characters. It is a name shared by my nephew who was born after the book was written. I like to think my creating a character was the basis of my nephew ending up with his name, but that would be stretching things I am sure. This also reinforces the coincidence point.
The biggest naming coincidence involves the name Leonardo Xavier Cross. This name was 100% pure concoction and until yesterday I didn't think another moment about it, rather I knew it was 100% unique. That is until a friend pointed out that the main character in "Scrooged," which I readily admit is a movie I love, is named Francis Xavier Cross. Believe it or not coincidence and a coincidence I didn't notice during any of the what must have been 10 times that I watched "Scrooged" this past Christmas or since I have written the book!
Who knows? Perhaps Francis Xavier Cross is the long lost son of Leonardo Xavier Cross. Stranger things have happened.
So today started out pretty icky. It was cold. It started raining. It kept raining. In fact it is still raining.
Then at one of my random breaks during the day, I decided to check Amazon and lo and behold there was the fruit of my labor available for purchase. Nearly 7 years after I first decided to actually write the novel I had been talking about for longer than that it is up on Amazon.
When I first started writing I found myself sitting around thinking how amazingly great it would be if I could have a book available on Amazon. That was a while ago and I do feel a sense of accomplishment that I can go to Amazon (and soon Barnes & Noble) and see my book there, I have elevated my goals.
Now I want to see two (or three or more) books on Amazon and B&N. Perhaps the most immediate goal is to be able to walk into a bookstore and see it on the shelf. That, I will admit would be great.
However, right now the main think I want to start doing is writing on the follow up book. I've had a bit of creative block finishing the second book not knowing what the first was doing. In hindsight, this was probably something I should have handled differently. If I had just kept writing then I would likely have one book published, one in the proverbial can and then been able to focus on an idea I have been kicking about for another book. Never-the-less I'm happy with where I am now, but have learned that regardless of circumstances the easy answer to what to do next as a writer is just write some more. The product may be less than stellar, but at least you'll have something to edit and not be faced with an empty monitor screen!
Who knows is the short answer.
I've been thinking about exactly how I want this blog to go. I've been wanting to start a blog for some time now and I certainly have a surplus of thoughts on a variety of issues. But I've been asking myself what people would be interested in hearing my on.
So I've had a couple of thoughts on this. I have a friend that does an amazing legal blog and his counsel is and has always been "Write what you know."
So that is what I will do.
First, this blog is a blog about The Trust - what got me here with the book, what I have learned and what is happening as I move forward with it. So I'm going to spend some time writing about all of these things.
I plan on writing about the writing process.
I plan on writing about the progress on my next novel and upcoming ideas.
I've also decided to spend some time talking about how writing and the practice of law blend together.
So make sure to check back often to see where things are going.
In the last couple of weeks since I started spreading the word my novel was to be published, I've had a lot of questions on how I managed to get an agent onboard with the book.
Interesting tale I tell them.
I had not one, not two, but three agents and all were a huge help in different ways.
When I finished the book I wasn't sure what to do next. So after some research, I started submitting it to agents - actually many agents. I researched the agents, the genre's they represented and the titles they had sold. I focused on reading books in my genre and researched the agents that represented them. I read books written by agents and followed their guidance. The sum total result of my efforts was an ever expanding file of rejection letters. Some on very nice letterhead, some on very impersonal forms, but occasionally rejections with an encouraging note on what to tweak or improve.
Finally I landed an agent who went after the publishers with a conviction. After that contract ran its course, I started the process of searching for an agent again and the process above repeated. With another agent the process was similar to the first. Then one day I found myself with my third agent after a repeat of the same.
Fortunately along the way the the book kept getting improvement after improvement. Some were major overhauls, some minor tweaks. Ultimately it kept getting better. Overall I think that having several agents was tremendously helpful.
Now, I have also talked to people that have never had agent one and have had their book published. Some of these people self-published, but some did not. There are an increasing number of publishers out there that will allow authors to approach them in the fashion the author would approach an agent. There are ups and downs to this that whole books have been written on, but needless to say, it is possible to be published without an agent by going straight to the publisher. Keep in mind that the publishers that work this way are generally smaller, independent houses. Few if any of the major publishers deal with unsolicited manuscripts.
So the bottom line is that there is no clear cut answer to have an agent or not have an agent so long as you keep the process moving forward!
I was coming out of Court this week and ran into an attorney friend of mine who stopped to talk about The Trust. Prior to last week I hadn't told a lot of people about the book mainly because I was overly cautious, not wanting to jinx the pending publication. It was not until after my publisher said everything had been shipped to the printer did I let people know it was on the way. Since then I have had a number of conversations about the release and I am always humbled and flattered.
So I'm talking to my friend and he asked me what the book was about. While I haven't told a lot of people about the pending publication, a number of people knew I had written a book and the most frequent question was what I had just been asked. So it was no problem to give a 30 second overview that hopefully left him with the, "I have to buy a copy and read it!" feeling.
Then he threw me a curve ball of a question - "So am I in the book?" My unusual silence must have been a bit on the disconcerting side for him. I thought about it a moment and then it occurred to me that in fact, I had based a character on him. So I told him that I had. Then it occurred to me that the character I created based upon him meets a rather unfortunate and untimely end in the follow up to The Trust. Needless to say that comment got a rather uncomfortable chuckle from him though I am sure he walked away feeling the need to look over his shoulder to make sure I wasn't following him.
After my chance meeting I started to think about how I create my characters. I find that as the character starts to come to life on the pages, I start to visualize people I know or people I have seen and then start to build the character around that visualization. Sometimes it is a mash up of several individuals, sometimes it's a single person (when this happens I find myself having to be careful so as to not be too obvious).
So is this normal or odd, who know? However, I find it the process works for me. It allows me to picture a face, a body style, mannerisms that I have seen, of any of a number of similar traits or characteristics. There's probably a little artistic license, but after all, its my book, so basically whatever works.
Seven years ago I started writing The Trust. When I finished it and was telling friends that I had written a book, one of my attorney friends ask, "Are you going to publish an eBook?" I answered with a simple, "No." What I really meant was, "H*** no, you fool!!! I want someone to read it!!" Seven years ago I don't think I had even seen an eBook.
When I was asked this question the only real method to read an ebook was at a computer and most of us don't want to sit in front of a computer anymore than we have to.
Oh how the times have changed.
The other day I read a statistic that more than 15% of all book sales were from eBooks. While that may not seem like a lot at first blush, keep in mind that just a few short years ago the sales were in the low single digits.
Another statistic reports that since November of 2010 eBook sales were up more than 100%.
Publishers love eBooks because there is no messy ink involved. Seriously though the cost to produce and deliver eBooks is minimal and with digital delivery they will never go out of print. Authors love them because while they may sell for less than traditional print books the profit for the writer is generally a higher percentage and even with a lower price the authors generally earns more. The readers that read them love them because they cost less.
I have a Nook. It's size is quite pleasing and it has a number of great features. The two best are that with the free 3G access I can enjoy instant gratification with purchases and it holds up to 1500 books - 1500! Given that my house resembles a cluttered library the nook will be nice.
So the quick conclusion is that the eBooks are here to stay. I think we will continue to see the sales rise and we will likely see the sales outpace those of traditional books. This will also open the door to scores of new writers who may otherwise never have a market for their work.
The publishing industry will have to adapt, there is no question of that.
The one question I do have is how does an author do a book signing for an eBook?
Yesterday was a productive day, but one where I found myself somewhat out of my element.
As many know, I am first and foremost a photographer - photography is something I have studied and have enjoyed doing for years. As a result of this, I am most comfortable behind the camera. However, yesterday I had to have photos taken for the website and for the novel. I have decided I make a horrendous subject, but thanks to having loads of photos taken, and with the help of a very talented photographer, I now have photos to use for the book and the website.
On that note, I also finished the website for The Trust last night. I'll be revising and adding content often so check back from time to time.
I also started a Twitter account - @thetrustnovel so feel free to follow for more updates and unique content!
This is my first post to The Trust Blog.
As I am writing this, I find myself on the eve of the publication of my debut novel which is called (you guessed it) The Trust. It took a long time to get here. Nearly 6 years, a folder bulging with rejections letters, a smaller folder with a few letters of encouragement and finally a letter from a publisher who decided there might be a market for my novel.
In the last few days since I've realized I am less than a week week away from finally holding in my hand the book that started at 40,000 feet somewhere in the air between Pennsylvania and South Carolina, I've been overwhelmed by the support and words of encouragement from friends and family. To all those who have called, emailed, posted, sent words or good thoughts, I can't thank you enough.
It seems that I am learning on a daily basis that the writing of the book is, while perhaps not the easiest part of the process, is definitely just the tip of the iceberg in the grand scheme of publishing a novel. More on this later, but until then check back often. I will be posting as often as time allows about how things are going with The Trust, with the work on my new novel and any other items of interest I happen across that seem to fit with the idea of The Trust.