Wednesday, December 28, 2016

How Todd spent 2016

In short, it was the year of Vortex.

As indicated, I devoted the bulk of this year to querying selected agents regarding the completed manuscript. This took place in several small waves throughout the summer and fall months. I culled a number of different references in order to target agents that represented Contemporary YA, Sci-Fi or similar. New agents, well established ones, East Coast US, West Coast, even a couple overseas. Alas, though I received a few offers of encouragement that went beyond the rote 'Not for me,' there were no takers. At this point, I feel I have allowed sufficient time for reactions to come in accordingly on my outstanding queries. These days most agencies tend to operate on the basis of: if you don't hear from us by X, assume we are not interested. I'd estimate around half of my query letters did result in some kind of formal rejection returning; I figured I'd be lucky to get any kind of actual rejection from around a third of them. Props to the ones who took the time to say no thanks. Closure is a good thing.

So I am therefore switching to the next stage of my go-to-market plan. I'm currently in the midst of performing two professional editing passes on the story: a) an extensive structural critique to identify any plot, characterization, continuity or other glaring issues requiring correction, and b) a line edit to catch and resolve all the grammar problems. In parallel, I'll be commissioning cover art. The goal is to pull together an e-book package and self publish early in 2017 via Amazon and Smashwords. Once that is accomplished, I'll be into the marketing and promoting stage of my plan. I'm interested to see what the latest options are in this area, how they work, certainly how well they work (if that's even measurable). One way or another, this ride will be fascinating.

I actually do have an older short story of mine, Shadows in the Mirror, that I need to package up and publish as a standalone e-book. I'll be completing that activity to learn the latest and greatest methods and procedures involved ahead of having to use them for Vortex. The tools and techniques for e-book publishing continue to evolve since my last hands-on years ago. From what I'm seeing, it appears to have simplified somewhat but it still isn't to the point where it could be called simple, consistent and reliable with predictable results. Unless a writer just wants to fork over a fee for someone else to take care of it. I suppose that's mighty dirt simple, if you can afford to do it.

In the background, I've been working on a smattering of flash pieces. One looks promising to have ready for early 2017. Most of the other works I'm chalking up to exercising and experimentation. At some point next year, I'll need to sort out and embark on my next major project or two.

So onto 2017. As of now, it's looking like year 2 of Vortex, at least for starters. Hope this ride doesn't get too bumpy.


Silly me.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

I updated my web site

Being a software developer type in a prior life, I confess that I couldn't resist designing my own author web site. So that's what I did. Guess what? It showed. Particularly because, as a SW developer, I couldn't bring myself to use any of the pre-canned packages that make assembling a web site a snap. Nope. Not me. I had to roll my own from scratch using an earlier generation of Microsoft Publisher.

Those days are done. I acquired some help. The Todd Thorne site now has a fabulous and slick new look-and-feel.

Check it out.

Friday, March 25, 2016

What Todd is Writing

Vortex clocks in at 73,000 words. Amazing. Incredible. Hallelujah.
Now for reflections…
For the most part, the story went where I expected it would. I mapped it out last year, though I must say, since then, there have been some surprises along the way. Meaning, twists and turns I didn't envision. That's what 'discovery' writing can do for you. It provides plenty of opportunities for your keyboard to take control and pound out a real zinger or two. Even still, the story wrapped up the way I'd envisioned. I am quite tickled. Biased as I undoubtedly am, I really enjoy reading it.
Now begins the process of commercialization. I've decided that I'm going to query select agents in the genre that embodies Vortex (YA and New Adult + Speculative Fiction). We'll see if it garners any interest. Say what you will but these are evolutionary times in the publishing industry, which is shorthand for: all bets are off. That being said, it remains true that well-told stories will find their audience, one way or another. That's the amazing aspect of this business. There are numerous ways to get your stories circulating in quest of the ultimate audience. Perseverance can prevail, assuming it doesn't drive the writer insane along the way.
So where did Vortex come from? Well, that's a story unto itself…
On May 29, 1982, an F4 tornado wrecked havoc upon Southern Illinois. Living in Marion, Illinois at the time, I had a set of grandparents. Stereotypically, they happened to live in a trailer occupying a classy trailer park skirted by the tornado in question. My Grandpa told me about what he saw that day. He stood outside and watched the twister head straight for him, unerringly and unstoppable. I will not forget how he described his vision of the thing. It weaved methodically, side-to-side, vacuuming up everything in it's path. 'Serpentine' he portrayed it. To him, it seemed like the thing held him mesmerized, to the point where his physical safety was in jeopardy. He couldn't stop watching it. That's what he said. 'I couldn't take my eyes off of it.' As it set upon him, somehow, he shook off his hypnosis and rushed inside to be with my Grandma there in the end. They survived. Ten people didn't.
Vortex is for you, Grandpa.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Blog Interruption Over

Apologies for the unexpected blog hiatus here. It's something I let get away from me. Whenever that happens, quite a gap can build up, especially given the murderous way time flies. Anyhow we should be back to normalcy.

This is also an opportunity to remind everyone that you can find me over on Twitter and Facebook if you happen to frequent those venues.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Sale "As Luck Would Have It" to Every Day Fiction

It is particularly fitting this flash piece is posted up on Every Day Fiction here on Friday the 13th. Thanks to the delightful editors who not only took the story but creatively scheduled when it would run. Bravo!

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

A semi-pantser figures it out

It's the last day of 2014. I'm 50,000 words deep into my draft manuscript for Vortex. Seems like an appropriate time to pause and reflect.

What Vortex has taught me about my writing:

  • I'm not the type that can write the first draft from start to finish prior to doing any edits
  • Polished (read: edited) scenes/chapters increase my confidence in the new, subsequent ones I write
  • I'm a pantser, meaning I discover the story as I write it, but...
  • Deep into the story, I really want to know where it's going, so I do outline the parts to come
  • With outline in hand, I can't resist writing ahead--fleshing out upcoming scenes and vignettes--particularly the juicy or significant ones
  • Regarding those upcoming scenes, sometimes my exploratory drafts get tossed, unusable; sometimes it triggers me to retrofit earlier chapters I'd edited and felt were mostly baked
So this seems to be my natural writing style. Picture a chunk of virgin territory before you. Into one corner, your explorers probe. They find rich land and call in the settlers. The land is made productive and a thriving community develops. Then, it's time for more exploration, more settling. Sometimes, though, the explorers return to the established areas and cause upheaval, all in the name of the ultimate goal: total conquest. Eventually the entire territory is won over.

Which means I write like most people play the games Civilization or The Settlers of Catan. Amazing, eh?

No matter your own writing style, here's hoping your 2015 is supremely productive and richly rewarding.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

How a cheeseburger became a craving

This is a follow-up (finally) to the sale of my story "Cravings" and how it came into being originally as a tale about killer cheeseburgers. Read more about that here.

So I'll confess that I initially screwed up regarding the cheeseburger theme, in a way that affects a lot of writers. The problem with my original approach to the story (which I called "Cheeseburger in Paradise") wasn't with the premise. By and of itself, the essence of the tale was fine. The problem I introduced was regarding the focus. Here I made a blunder in the first version of the story by casting the cheeseburger as the star. The core. The central cog around which everything else revolved. Heck, if Jimmy Buffet could get away with it, I could too. Right?

Except... no.

Delightful as a scrumptious, gooey cheeseburger might be, sci-fi readers aren't keen to have them as the protagonist of a story unless: a) the reader has a bad case of the munchies, or b) the burger develops sentience somewhere along the way. I couldn't count on the former and the latter, while intriguing, wasn't the tale I had written. Alas.

Unfortunately, I then compounded my little problem with the story's focus. I didn't realize what I'd done with "Cheeseburger in Paradise." I got so caught up in my homage to the humble fast food staple, I totally missed the fact that the story had little appeal. Nada. Zip. Except perhaps to stockholders of certain burger-based franchises.

After I'd accumulated a handful of "Pass" replies by various editors, I decided it was time for a different approach. At this point, a writer has three choices regarding an unsold story.

Choice 1 - they can press on and keep submitting. Perhaps it's a matter of finding the right editor/publisher for the right fit. Perhaps the writer will luck out and collect feedback along the way thus enabling a bit of fine tuning to ultimately make the story irresistible.

Choice 2 - they can trunk the story. This means putting it into limbo, possibly forever. This option might not imply permadeath for the story as it could be resuscitated and circulated again in the future. Or perhaps parts of the story could find new life in the context of another tale.

Choice 3 - they can rewrite the story. Change the plot. Change the pacing. Change the characters. The setting. The conflict. All options are fair game to recast the story into a form that has more appeal.

Regarding "Cheeseburger in Paradise," something told me to elect Choice 3. I'm not sure exactly what that 'something' was. I suspect I managed to take a hard look at the story from the perspective of a virgin reader, which is not an easy thing given we, as writers, are obsessively close to our stories. Close as in parental love for sired children. These stories are our babies. They don't have flaws. Just minor setbacks to be overcome. Teeny tiny aberrations. Nothing serious.

Except... no.

Stories aren't future Olympians or Nobel Prize winners or Supreme Court Justices. They are (for some of us) commercial products to be sold and shared. As such, they cannot bear any flaws. Hence writers are constantly questing for perfection of their precious little darlings, which raises the specter of a host of new challenges -- a topic for future blog posts.

Fortunately for me, I was finally able to listen to my inner reader. I came to recognize that the story wasn't about a mythical cheeseburger. The compelling story really was about the people who were caught up somehow in that mysticism. "Cheeseburger in Paradise" thus morphed into "Cravings." The rest is history.

That's it really. I would say that writers employing a rewrite choice for an existing, unsold story are actually in quite a position of power. The heavy lifting has been done, after all. If you force yourself to be an unbiased reader judging your (currently suboptimal) story for what it most lacks, you might learn that you need recast only one of the prime elements of story to get a more appealing result. Or not, in some cases. Either way, you be the judge. You hold the ultimate power of the pen.