JM Williams

A home for all things fantasy and sci-fi.

SHARE: 5 Things Being a Journalist Taught Me About Writing Fiction

Jun
10

People come into writing from different places, and every author’s unique experience reveals something about the writing process. Martinez offers several good tips here, but numbers three and four really stand out for me.

Good dialogue can help keep a story interesting. You can maintain momentum by delivering background and exposition in dialogue, rather than in data-dumps. But I don’t think readers will necessarily notice good dialogue. On the contrary, bad dialogue stands out. It draws the reader out of the illusion.

One thing you can do to improve your dialogue is just listen to how people speak around you. Some writing gurus will tell you to avoid “ahs” and “ums” in your dialogue, but I disagree. Filler words are a real component of natural speech, so why avoid them? Unless you intend your dialogue to sound artificial.

Martinez also mentions word choice and efficiency. This is a very important skill for fiction writers to develop. Efficient prose will make your story read much better. It will improve your flow. Part of the problem fantasy authors face now is that agents and publishers expect, even demand, overly high words counts for novels which results in long, dry exposition and filler.

Well, that’s my spiel. Head over to the original article and check out all the tips this journalist-turned-author has to offer.


Former journalist and current thriller writer Michael Martinez shares five things that journalism taught him about writing fiction—including paying attention to details, researching, and economy of words.

Source: 5 Things Being a Journalist Taught Me About Writing Fiction | WritersDigest.com

REBLOG: The #1 Rule Of Writing

Jun
10

Victor has some great thoughts here, presented in parable, which is always a useful technique. I fully agree with his point, though I don’t know if I have enough authority yet to demand others listen to my opinion. All I can say is that I agree that writers need to work up from the bottom, and it’s a rough struggle.

I don’t see myself as a Whitney or Flynn. I was top of my class in college, I know I am a decent writer. But I also know that I am entitled to nothing, that I need to prove myself the same as any other new writer. I’ve encountered people like Victor’s John, people just out of college that think having a degree means then are suddenly a professional entitled to professional work and pay.

My encounter was with a graphic designer. She had just graduated from art school. She never made a book cover in her life. Her online resume was only a dozen pictures, all or most being her school assignments. And yet expected me to pay her professional rates for a product whose quality I couldn’t begin to judge.

In my case, I started out targeting the bottom. I sent my work out to publishers offering little or no compensation, just to prove myself, get feedback, and make a name for myself. I’ve recently hit my twentieth acceptance. I feel like that is a pretty significant milestone. I have been at it for about 8 months, and have yet to get accepted with a professional-level publication. But I know my writing is getting better, and my reputation and fan-base is growing, slow but steady.

I already have a book deal, though is only a novella and with a indie publisher. I also have a job with a serial fiction company. I am making inroads into the fiction business. Sooner or later I will get that first professional credit, which I like to think will come sooner rather than later. I have a few good pieces in the submission cycle that I think can make it. I’ve had a lot of help revising and editing those pieces, which is critical. I also have my finished book, which will find a home eventually. I am not rushing it. I know traditional publication takes time and I am investing that time to ensure maximum success.

I believe that is what makes a successful author. Though, I’m not yet a proper authority on the subject. I’ll get back to you on this once I’m a genuine pro.

Tips Straight from the Horse’s, er Judge’s Mouth

May
26

One of my current goals as a science fiction and fantasy writer is to eventually get into Writers of the Future. This has been a target for me ever since one of my literature teachers in college won and was published by them. If you can survive the brutal competition and professional-level judging, you can proudly declare yourself to have made it.

My perception–as limited as it is–is that if you get into Writer’s of the Future, people will start taking your seriously. Agents and publishers will take a closer look at your manuscripts; readers will seek you out. That’s the step from being an amateur to being a professional, respected, money-making author.

To that end–and to help anyone else who is considering entering the contest–I have found an article with ten tips from one of this quarter’s judges. What better way to get ahead but to know what the reviewers are actually thinking?

I sent a story to the last quarter of WotF, so this guy probably looked it over. I feel like I avoided all of these issues, so maybe I have a chance to get in. My current story is certainly better than the last one I submitted to them. Wish me luck!

You can find the article HERE.

My Adventures in Publishing, Cont.

May
12

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I’ve thrown together another tracker for my book submissions. Thus far I have received rejections from five agents. This, of course, does not include the agents and agencies that simply do not reply when they reject. Not even a form rejection letter. There’s a few more on my list that are past that threshold and are as good as rejected. It makes it doubly hard to keep moving forward when you cannot track where you have been accurately. I wish they would just implement an auto-reject button in this email system so at least authors can get a reply.

I have been getting very discouraged by this as of late. Until yesterday, when I received two letters from agents with some constructive feedback. They both told me my query letter was strong, but that my concept did not fit their needs. In the end the rejection was due to a clash of interests, not that my letter or concept was inherently bad. I have been fussing about whether my query letters were decent for the past two months I’ve been sending them. It’s hard to know if your letter is even getting through the door when no one offers you any comments.

So I know my query letters are being read, the problem seems to be that my concept is too unique and novel for most agents to handle. Agents seem to want things comfortable and conventional. This is the opposite from what I have grown to believe. I always thought novelty and innovation would be widely sought-after and praised. It seems that most agents are unwilling to take the risk on a new concept.

I created my book with a unique structure under this understanding, that it would appeal to agents and publishers more than a conventional novel. Its seems that this is not the case. Perhaps I should have started with a conventional book. But, it is what it is, and manuscript I have is the one I have.

Both agents that gave me feedback on my query letter encouraged my to just keep trying until I find someone who appreciates the project as much as I do. That’s what I intend to do. Knowing my queries letters are decent, I might starting sending out queries faster than I had originally planned.

Maybe.

Fastest Rejection in History!

May
03
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Source: 123RF.com

Here’s one for the record books: 1 hour, 6 minutes. That’s the fastest rejection I’ve received for any piece of writing, ever. That’s kind of special, in its own depressing sort of way.

This is one of three rejections I’ve received from agents for my book so far. The others took much longer to get back to me. I can’t believe my query letter was that bad…not that bad. I feel like I might have caught somebody on a really bad day, someone who was told off by somebody else and was just itching to press the red button.

My id is urging me to compensate for the loss by firing off queries to a bunch more agents. But my logical mind tells me that would not be the right response. I have read in several places that you shouldn’t query too many agents at one time. You need to allow time to receive responses and feedback. If they all come back as rejections, maybe your basic query letter is just not working. Maybe you need to rewrite, or rework your approach.  My manuscript is currently with nine other agents, which I think is a good number for now.

I’ve just got to be patient. But man, waiting sucks!!!

Writing Tools: Write Monkey

May
02

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I have written before about the nice little program Plume Creator, and how it can be very helpful for organizing a large project and keeping on track.

My post on the topic can be found HERE.

Plume Creator helped me incalculably to finish my first book. I used it to keep track of chapters, scenes, even characters. But the most useful tool in the program was the distraction-free writing application.

Write Monkey takes that idea and does a much better job of it. When you launch the program, it immediately full-screens, covering up your taskbar and notifications. It also doesn’t have an onscreen toolbar, you can right-click to get all your file and editing options. So, from the moment your start, there is nothing but your words, and a tiny clock and wordcount in the corner. It is amazingly freeing and focusing, to have no other distractions but your own words (which can be quite a distraction themselves!).

The main drawback of Write Monkey, as compared to Plume Creator or other writing apps, is that is doesn’t really help your organization. You need to keep your files and data saved on your own. Though, I have started keeping my outlines in Word format anyways after finishing the book.

Right now, as I focus on smaller pieces of writing, Write Monkey is more appropriate for me. Maybe if I start working on another novel, I will go back to Plume Creator, but for now I need the writing tool more than the organization one. The only large project I am working on now is the series with Fiction Vortex, which is a collaborative effort with other authors writing in the same fantasy universe. That forces me to run all my outlines and synopses through the team, so I won’t forget or lose any bit of it.

Anyways, I urge you to check out Write Monkey if you have trouble concentrating while you write. I has been very helpful to me.

And speaking of Fiction Vortex, the Kickstarter is still active for our new reading app. You should head over and check out the promo video for Fictionite. Support the platform that supports me!

REBLOG: YOUR PILE OF FAILURES

Apr
26

This is a very good article on failure, and the artistic process in general. I think the biggest take-away for me is the passage: “Think of it like this: If you have three finished short stories and the first doesn’t sell you still have two more in circulation. If you write one short story and wait for it to sell before writing the next one you may never be published ever—you may not even ever get to write that second story.”–This is right on.

I, of course, take this advice to a perhaps ridiculous level. I have about forty stories now on my tracker. I have 31 pending submissions. So far, I have received 15 acceptances, and 81 rejections! But just as this article says, having so many stories circling around, I feel less invested in each individual piece. The more I write and submit, the easier each rejection becomes. It feels like moving to a point of perfect Zen harmony, where I am satisfied with any response, acceptance or rejection. This helped significantly with my book submissions.

I have recently received the first response from an agent, and it was a rejection. But it didn’t even cause me to stutter. I sent out queries to two more agents this week, and if those don’t pan out, I have a bunch more tagged in my Writer’s Market book. At this point, I have enough success to know I am doing something right, so all I can do is keep driving on.

Failure is a reality of life. But it is a truth that today’s youth are not being taught. I recently started negotiations with a graphic designer to maybe do a cover for my book. The discussion was dead on arrival. The designer was fresh out of college, had no experience, a completely blank resume. Yet she expected to get near professional rates for her work. Of course, I wasn’t going to pay that for work I could not gauge the value of. Plus, as an artist myself, I know how it is to get started in the business.

Half a year in and most of my publications are still with free or token-pay publishers. You have to make a name for yourself, build a resume, before you can start demanding professional rates and respect. Hand-in-hand with that comes failure. Lots of failure. You have to get through the failure and prove your worth, then you can call yourself a professional.

It can be discouraging, but if you look at the most successful writers, people like Stephen King or J.K. Rowling, they struggled for their success. They worked other jobs while the wrote. They got rejected, time and again. But they kept at it, and in the end it all proved worth it.

If you really want to be a professional writer, you just got to grin and bear it, embrace the struggle and let it make you stronger. If you do, you’ll make it someday.

My story in Fantasia Divinity Magazine, Issue 9

Apr
09

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One of my Iric stories, under the title “Dragon’s Tongue,” is featured in this month’s Fantasia Divinity Magazine.

You can read it online here: READ ONLINE NOW!

Or you can grab the paperback here: BUY ON AMAZON!

I hope you will consider picking up the print version and supporting this great indie publisher. Fantasia Divinity has a bunch of interesting projects in the pipeline and I am grateful to be a part of it!

My story is now live on FFM!

Mar
28

My story “No Longer a Pup” is now live on Flash Fiction Magazine. It is a background story for a character that plays an important role in my upcoming book. If you enjoy reading Wolf’s origin story here, you’ll probably love the misadventures he has in In the Valley of Magic. Check it out!

No Longer a Pup

SHARE: Dealing With Rejection: 5 Bulletproof Strategies for Writers

Mar
03

This is a pretty good list of strategies for overcoming rejection. This post deals more with freelance and non-fiction type writing, but the same strategies can be applied to fiction publishing as well.

This author suggests the publishing cycle can at times be like a “cosmic tennis match.” I couldn’t agree more. I still think the best strategy for dealing with rejection, as I have said several times before, is to stay in the game. If you miss the return, pick up the ball and serve again. One of my Adventures of Iric stories–which I titled “Memories of the South” for the sake of external publication–was rejected five times before finding the right editor! And often times that is all it is, finding the right person to read your story. This particular story proved too introspective and not action-packed enough for standard fantasy publishers, but it was just the thing Eternal Remedy was looking for.

For me, the worst part of rejection is getting form letters. It sucks to not know why the story was kicked back–Was the writing bad? Did the reader not like the style? Or was it just seen as not a good fit for the publication?–all of these reasons leave you with different implications moving forward and are important for future interactions with that publisher. Most editors send form letters now. It has made the whole process that much more difficult, but what are you going to do?

If you need some help dealing with rejection (or preparing for rejection if you are just starting to try to publish), the article linked below is a good place to start.


a writing rejection from an editor or client? No problem. Follow these five strategies for dealing with rejection to be more successful.

Source: Dealing With Rejection: 5 Bulletproof Strategies for Writers