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Hi, everyone! And greetings from the Sheraton Hotel in midtown Manhattan! The weather is extremely cold here as we brace for our first snow storm of the winter (except for the weird one we had on October 29). Tomorrow (Saturday) we could have as much as five inches, with more across the Hudson River in New Jersey where I live. Natives who usually complain about the winters are actually excited because a winter here with zero snow seems oddly wrong. I’m excited too because I’m one of the strange people who truly loves the snow. And being in the city during the storm will be especially fun.

Meanwhile, I arrived at the hotel just as the conference was getting underway. Had to really push my body through the lingering dizziness from treatment #5, a successful push eventually made possible by my mind, which was excited¬†like a kid about coming here. The sessions began at 4:00 p.m., right on the scheduled dot, and did not conclude until 7:15. Upon returning to my room, there was no heat, and within a few minutes I was shivering. So, they had to call an engineer, who was working somewhere else at that moment, and I waited in the lobby bar where I had a club sandwich and a cranberry juice (missing my favored wine and calamari but pretending). By the time they switched my room, it was almost 9:30. Then I settled in (the new room is great–bigger, newly renovated, and a nice reward), washed my face, took off my hair ( ūüôā ), and sat down to transcribe my copious notes for you from the three sessions. But I’m too tired to do a good job for you,¬†so I’ll get the notes out to you first thing in the morning before I report for duty at session #1 at 9:00.

Here are the three topics and presenters, though, as a tease:

  • “Writing About Yourself in the Digital Age” — A.J. Jacobs, Author
  • “Writing the 21st Century Novel” — Donald Maass, Literary Agent (extraordinary)
  • “Pitch Perfect” — Chuck Sambuchino, Author, and Editor of Guide to Literary Agents

All three sessions were outstanding, although my favorite was Maass. And since I was sitting at a table up front, he sat there too for about fifteen minutes ahead of his presentation. I’ve pitched to him at previous conferences, and he just oozes the desire¬†to help writers. A¬†young fellow next to me had never pitched anything to anyone before (and I think this is his first conference). After a couple of questions from the young man, Maass¬†just instinctively and automatically asked him to give the pitch and then began giving him suggestions. Maass¬†used his last-minute prep time for his own presentation to help an aspiring novelist instead. And that just might turn out to be the most impressive event during these three days. We’ll see.

As an update, I’ve decided that I will pitch my nonfiction project tomorrow. Passing up the opportunity to receive input from a bunch of agents would be fairly stupid, I’ve concluded. Unlike last year, I have absolutely no expectations other than to learn something. You will naturally be updated.

Meanwhile, this weekend¬†is definitely not going to be disappointing. I can already tell. Stay tuned for my early Saturday¬†morning post on today’s sessions. Then there will be four more sessions ahead of the three-hour Pitch Slam in the afternoon. My energy is low but happily uplifted by the inspiration and motivational charge I always get from this conference. Can’t wait to share the details after a little sleep.

Have a good night! I’ll take some pictures of the snow during lunch. Sweet dreams to all!

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… With a New Perspective on the Concept of Strength

Since I launched this blog on November 4, 2009, my routine (until recently) has been producing¬†a new post approximately once a week. Sometimes the posts have only been separated by a few days–and I think the most time elapsed between any of the posts, in a worst-case scenario, was two or three weeks. Now, however, we’re sitting at almost two months since my last post, and I feel as if I owe an explanation to those of you who regularly follow my blog.

Of all the elements stitched together to create my own version of a social media process/network,¬†this blog has been (and remains) my favorite–the little niche of the cyberworld that I somehow managed to create (unknowingly, at the start) to house the soul of my writing and the diagram of my dreams.¬†And because the posts are published¬†rather than held secret and close to the chest,¬†I’ve tried from the beginning to strike a chord of familiarity, kinship, and the sharing of information with other writers on their own journey.¬†Happily, that connection does, in fact, appear¬†to have developed, as I’d hoped, although I’ve probably lost some of you lately. But I’d obviously like to increase the scope of readers reached (a goal shared in common, I’m sure, with just about every other blogger on the planet). Perhaps that will be easier once this post is finished and there’s an understanding between you and me of what’s been going on.

There’s a clearly defined mission here in this blog–not just for me but for anyone who simply stops by, or who follows me with a fervor, or who falls somewhere in between. My objective¬†has been to create a place where everyone who’s on some sort of writing/publishing journey–no matter how fresh or seasoned the journey, no matter what level of complexity might be inherent in the writing¬†projects–will find at least one item of immediate value¬†(and hopefully a couple points of interest) embedded within each post.

In order to accomplish this plan, my blog posts needed to be published with a predictable, dependable regularity. And I believe that most bloggers would agree with me when I¬†say that, of all the areas we might neglect from time to time, the regularity/dependability/predictability of blog posts is the last one we want to ignore. So, I’ve really¬†been beating myself up over the distance between the ever-moving “today” and my last published post. There have been many posts drafted but not completed, and even more constructed fully in my head but never transferred to the computer during this long stretch of silence. Of course, none of you could possibly have known that.

One reason for this frustrating development is that I’ve¬†been very careful about muddying up this blog’s clear mission through the inclusion of personal stuff.¬†That pattern was broken¬†a couple of times–once when the “hurricane without a name” hit our part of New Jersey in March 2010, sending me and my family (and thousands of others as well) out of our homes and into¬†a hotel for several days.¬†Pictures on those blog posts¬†justify (for me, anyway) the momentary diversion from¬†my publishing journey intricasies¬†to a focus on basic shelter and food. Another brief detour from this blog’s mission involved intermittent references to¬†my breast cancer (diagnosed on April 1, 2010) and the subsequent¬†treatment. Prior to diving into the creation of¬†my third novel, I’m in the process of writing a book inspired by the breast cancer experience. The book is intended¬†for a target audience of¬†women who are newly diagnosed with breast cancer,¬†along with their family members and friends. My hope has been to have that book available to help those women and the people close to them by the end of this month (August¬†2011).

But that date is slipping,¬†which brings me to (a) the reason for my extended posting absence,¬†to (b) the heart of this post, and ultimately to (c) my re-evaluation of what we, as writers, might view as¬†“strength” from time to time. Here’s the situation:¬†For some reason that the good folks at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in Manhatta can’t yet figure out, I have now been diagnosed with¬†three types of cancer in the last eighteen months.¬†None of the three¬†cancers is¬†a byproduct of any of the others, and they’ve tested me for the potential immunodeficiency things that might be making me vulnerable to a situation like this.¬†Those tests have all been negative. I’ve had six surgeries in fifteen months, the¬†most recent¬†two of those occurring since June 30. And there will be another major surgery required in September. The latest pathology isn’t back yet, but my surgeon suspects that this one is also being discovered very early, as the others have been. And, if his suspicions are correct,¬†any¬†subsequent treatment should be¬†fairly easy to manage and work into my life. So, assuming the pathology (due early next week) ends up being what we anticipate, I’m actually very blessed. In the past many months, I’ve met a lot of wonderful people who are in a lot worse shape than I am.

Needless to say, the whole¬†story is sort of long (perhaps the understatement of¬†the decade) and¬†will be addressed¬†as an addendum in the new book I’m writing rather than as a¬†blog post. But there are a couple of relevant points I do want to make here as I wrap this up. The first point is on the subject of strength. Until recently, I’ve been feeling immensely “un-strong,” concerned beyond words about readers of this blog and the fact that¬†I was letting them down–concerned about the beautiful fans of my two novels who will be waiting for some time yet for the next story from me that will hopefully transport them again into the worlds I create filled with mystery, messed up families, illicit love, suspense, survival, and surprise plot twists.

The truth has been, though, that I haven’t really known what to write in the past few months, especially in this blog.¬†I have lots of updates to share about the two novels I’m trying to market, along with a collection¬†of¬†writing tips I’ve been gathering as¬†I craft my nonfiction project and my next¬†novel. And yet none of those words would come together for me in a blog post, despite the many¬†hours I spent thinking about them. Furthermore, because I’d been so adamant (to myself) about not bringing elements of my personal life into this blog, I didn’t feel comfortable reaching out to explain why I haven’t been writing to you.¬†Consequently, what you’ve been receiving from me is nothing–and that hasn’t been making me feel very strong at all. Quite the contrary!

Over the last couple of weeks, however, I’ve started to¬†acquire a different perspective on the concept of strength. Now I’m beginning to¬†believe that, as writers, we’re stronger sometimes if we don’t say anything. Instead of “don’t just stand there, do something,” turn that around to say, “don’t just do something, stand there.” Perhaps simply publishing a post with a bunch of words because we’re “supposed” to publish a post with regularity isn’t nearly as strong as waiting a considered amount of time until the words we’re going to write are the best we can make them, designed, above all, to be of help to someone else.¬†Sometimes we’re stronger if we fight back a little against the the guilt of not adhering to the crazy schedules we often set for ourselves. Perhaps strength sometimes means pulling inward¬†for a little while rather than spreading ourselves all over the blogosphere¬†like shapeless, directionless¬†amoebas. And I’m convinced, in retrospect,¬†that any blog post I might have written during the last six or seven weeks¬†would have, indeed, come across as shapeless,¬†absent of any direction, and of absolutely no value to anyone else. My prayer is that the post I’m writing¬†at the moment¬†is turning out to be at least a cut above that bleak description. ūüôā

The second and final point I want to make¬†as I¬†wrap this up is that I¬†am going to be just fine! I’m in great hands, in a great place–and the good people at Sloan-Kettering are not only going to figure this out, but¬†I believe we’re all going to learn things from my situation that will eventually benefit others down the road. And now that I’ve explained things to you,¬†I’ll be¬†more comfortable about updating you regarding my health progress as well as my publishing progress–because¬†I now understand that, from here on out, at least, the two elements have become, and will remain, inexorably entwined.¬†(They’ve undoubtedly been that way all along. But I must have been thinking¬†subconsciously that keeping them segregated would enable them to operate independently. If one wasn’t working, the other one still would. That might, in fact, be possible, with plenty of practice. I’ll let you know.)

A couple of additional¬†blog posts will follow in close succession to this one, so I can update you on my promotional activities/accomplishments/status and share¬†a few of the tips and ideas I’ve been collecting¬†for you as I’ve been working on my new projects. After that, we should be¬†rolling again on some sort of posting schedule that will remain undefined but certainly frequent enough to be of value.

I’m very happy to be back with you again, and I’m looking forward to hearing from you, if you feel like responding.

Hope you’re all having a fabulous summer and that your own writing Journeys are perfectly on track!

All the best to each of you. –Cheri

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Re-Edited Second Edition of The Truth About Cinnamon Now Available in Digital Format

Hi! First, let me tell you how¬†sorry I am for the scarcity of¬†my posts over the last few weeks. All medical stuff is now finished (as of last Friday),¬†except for the final surgery coming up on February 8. So the old (or even better) blog rhythm will now be returning–and I’m very anxious to get going again!

“Getting going” will really begin revving up as we approach and go through this upcoming weekend, when I’ll be attending the long-awaited second Writer’s Digest Writer’s Convention in New York City (Friday afternoon the 21st through mid-day on Sunday the 23rd). I’ll be blogging in every session I attend.¬†You’ll probably get posts from me from everywhere else too, since I now have an iPad with 3G. I know! I can’t believe it either.

The amazing little thing was a Christmas gift, and I’ll be writing a post comparing the iPad with my mini netbook, which I thought was the bee’s knees (and published several posts about in this blog)¬†until a couple of weeks ago.¬†So, my iPad (the cover has a supplemental keyboard, making blogging a lot easier) and I will be¬†sharing with you every possible tidbit throughout the conferece that I think will be of use/value/interest to you who are plotting out your own journeys in pursuit of¬†“the dream.”

Meanwhile, this quick post is to let you know that the re-edited Second Edition version of The Truth About Cinnamon (my first novel) is now available electronically and can be purchased quickly and inexpensively on Scribd.com (http://www.scribd.com/doc/46985533/THE-TRUTH-ABOUT-CINNAMON), among other electronic venues. The early success of Separation of Faith (my second novel, released in September 2010) has begun moving readers to take a look at Cinnamon, which I’m very excited to see happening. Some long-time Cinnamon fans who’ve also read Separation of Faith still tell me that Cinnamon¬†remains their favorite.

If you’re a reader who loves a long meaty saga with lots of intrigue, suspense, love disasters, and flashbacks¬†transporting you¬†through Irish and Italian immigrant life in New York, I invite you take a look at the re-edited version of The Truth About Cinnamon. Please let me know if you do. I love to hear your input, whatever that might end up being. ūüôā

Now, Stay Tuned for a Week Full of New Information & Experiences to Help Us All Navigate Our Publishing Journeys! I’ll do my best to make you feel as if you’re at the conference along with me. ‘Bye for now.

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Checking In

Hi! Although I’ve been commenting on other blogs and doing a little tag surfing, I haven’t published a new post since a week ago yesterday. But I have been doing a huge amount of reading, and there are a number of things I want to share with you today. First, though …

Copyedit Update–Separation of Faith

On Monday (the 12th), I received the copyedited manuscript (returned to me electronically, with the edit done using Word’s edit tracking) and a letter from the editor. This edit is a lot easier to manage since the issues highlighted are no longer addressing structural issues in the novel, or point of view, or any other storytelling elements. Instead, the editor went line by line to ensure the manuscript’s adherence to publishing standards printed in key references such as The Chicago Manual of Style (CMS), the primary source of correctness for publishing professionals.

My own (and seemingly endless) editing of the manuscript had produced a fairly clean copy. But my specialty is developmental editing rather than copyediting.¬†I wouldn’t even pretend to have anywhere near the level of knowledge and recall as this copyeditor with respect to what’s inside the nearly 1000 pages of the CMS. So I’m finding the review of her edit to be extremely valuable in terms of this novel’s quality. My future writing will also benefit from the new information I’m picking up.

In addition to CMS issues, the copyeditor rearranged my words in a few places to either meet a standard or provide clarity. And in her letter to me, she pointed out a small but important plot “hole” that can easily be filled by my adding a few sentences.

She’s the first one who’s noticed that little plot blip, and I’m very grateful that she did. Some voracious fiction reader (or perhaps a lot of them) would certainly have noticed the issue as well, but that would have been after the book was printed, and nothing could have been done at that point to fix the problem. Just one more reason why we need to submit our work to an experienced, professional editor before we start sending things out through queries or moving into the final production stage of a self-publishing process.

Here are several examples of the comments she made in the manuscript margins using Word’s edit-tracking:

  • CMS 8.21: Civil, military, religious, and professional titles are capitalized when they immediately precede a personal name and are thus used as part of the name (usually replacing the title holder‚Äôs first name). Titles are normally lowercased when following a name or used in place of a name.
  • Switched [these words] around to avoid passive construction.
  • A word, abbreviation, phrase, or clause that is in apposition to a noun is set off by commas if it is nonrestrictive‚ÄĒthat is, omittable, containing supplementary rather than essential information. If it is restrictive‚ÄĒessential to the noun it belongs to‚ÄĒno commas should appear. CMS 6.43 My older sister, Betty, taught me the alphabet. but My sister Enid lets me hold her doll. (I have two sisters.)
  • CMS 7.63: Individual letters and combinations of letters of the Latin alphabet are usually italicized. I need a word with two e‚Äôs and three s‚Äôs. He signed the document with an X.

Traditional publishers (who will be taking a look at this book if this Journey is successful) put every single one of their titles through this sort of meticulous copyediting. Consequently, they not only understand the importance, but they recognize the quality level of the editing the moment they see it.¬†¬†So we need to do everything in our power to make sure that our manuscripts (if we’re trying to pursue the traditional route) or our printed books (if we’re taking an alternate path) measure up to the standards expected in the traditional publishing arena.

Once¬†Separation of Faith is¬†in the final stage of production, I realize now that I will also need to use a professional proofreader prior to signing off on the end product. Traditional publishers put their titles through several rounds of proofreading before the book is printed–and as we all know through our own reading, there are still typos and other mistakes that manage to show up in books by even the most prolific and highly paid authors.

As I’ve been saying since I began blogging about the steps of this Journey last November 4, the first priority for all of us is to create the highest quality book possible, regardless of what that takes.

Writing Competition

Entering our work in competitions is a great way to collect feedback, grow in our writing craft, get noticed, and add to our following. And there are boatloads of competitions out there. But Writer’s Digest sponsors several that have a high level of legitimacy.¬†They have one that includes a wide variety of writing categories, and the deadline for that competition is May 14. Here’s the link that will also show you WD‘s other contest:¬†¬†http://www.writersdigest.com/competitions. Hope you find something that inspires you. (See later in this post for more on Inspiration.)

Building a Following/Web Presence before You Have a Book

There is so much more being written on this subject every day that keeping up with everything is tough. But here are a couple of links to articles/blogs that I found of particular interest while reading the past week:

  • http://robinmizell.wordpress.com/2010/04/10/awp-panel-discussions-and-lesprit-descalier/¬†I found this comment by Ms. Mizell to be especially interesting: “In considering whether to work with authors, I prefer to see they’re already capable of handling themselves in what can be contentious online conversations. Without an existing Web presence to examine, I can’t rapidly assess how a writer will behave publicly, online, or in an interview, particularly in the heat of the moment. My clients need to be better at it than I am!”
  • http://www.calebjross.com/awpblog/2010/04/08/320/¬†At the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) Annual Convention earlier this week, a panel of agents and editors answered questions about the importance of an author platform. This link takes you to a summary of that panel.

A Few Other Highlights

These are links to articles that touch on other issues we’ve discussed through this blog:

Journey Update

Separation of Faith: As soon as I go through the copyedit and accept/reject each of the changes/notations, the manuscript will finally enter the production phase. I’ll let you know when that long-awaited moment arrives. (You’ll probably be able to hear the cork pop!)

The Truth About Cinnamon: News flash! I’m still working on the reduction edit. Target for completion now: late May.¬†

Stats: This blog–1947 (last posting 1796)

Diagnosis Update

My surgery will be on May 4, and I’ll be in the hospital overnight. I sense a new use for my mini coming on … ūüôā

Seriously, this has been found very early, and even though the next couple of months will be a bit bumpy, the prognosis is extremely positive, taking me way out into my 80’s. Hopefully, I will have found my way out of publishing obscurity by then …

Have a great weekend! I’m looking forward to hearing from you!

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Hi!¬†I’m popping in quickly with a¬†link to a great article that someone just forwarded to me from today’s New York Times. As I work through the latest edit of Separation of Faith, I know I’m guilty of some of this. Perhaps you’ll find something of value in the piece as well.

http://topics.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/02/09/tangled-passages-4/?emc=eta1

Later …

Cheri

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4th Serialized Issue of Cinnamon Available for Downloading

Monday is here again already, and so is the 4th issue of The Truth About Cinnamon‘s free serialization for your downloading and reading pleasure. ūüôā http://www.filedby.com/author/cheri_laser/2721580/documents/25379887/

There are a number of other things I’d like to talk about today, but I’m trying to finish up the final edit of Separation of Faith so I can check off that part of the plan by submitting the manuscript¬†to the publisher by tomorrow or Wednesday, at the latest. As soon as I complete the edit, I’ll be back here to add to this post and to do some tag surfing, which has become one of my new favorite things.

If you’re fortunate enough to have a holiday today, I hope you’re having fun with the extra time. Later …

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Third Free Issue of Serialized The Truth About Cinnamon Now Available for Downloading

Hi! This will be very short, just to let you know that the third issue of Cinnamon is now ready, as promised for today, for those of you who have decided to give the story a try:  (http://www.filedby.com/author/cheri_laser/2721580/documents/25083389/). Remember that this will become a 1st Edition when the newly edited version goes into production in February.

I will write a longer post in the morning, with updates on how The Plan is progressing with respect to Separation of Faith, the stats, etc.

Hope your 2010 is off to a terrific start! Later ….

Cheri

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The Move

Although I’ve been minimizing the impact of my impending move in previous posts, I’m here to report that this is being written at five-thirty in the morning because I’m surrounded by boxes and haven’t had time for anything except a few comments since last Fridayl (This is now Wednesday).

But my new office (where I’m sitting in the dark at the moment because all of my lamps are still packed) will be a lovely and inspirational place to proceed with the steps in my Journey from Publishing Obscurity. So I’m thankful for that blessing and for the knowledge that, in another week, all these boxes will be gone.

Plan Update

  1. The first seven chapters of the original version of Cinnamon are now ready for the free serialization. At first I thought I’d release eight chapters, but there seemed to be a better breaking point at the end of #7. Next, as soon as possible after Thanksgiving, I need to figure out the best way to upload the chapters (one per week) so that interested/curious readers can easily download them. My goal was to announce the serialization by December 1, and I think that target is still possible.¬†Stay tuned for the announcement.
  2. All¬†but one¬†of my beta readers for Separation of Faith have finished the manuscript and have completed the questionnaire I gave them. Their incredibly valuable input has highlighted a few areas that either need tweaking or a little more development.¬†This has been quite interesting for me, because several issues they pointed out clearly stem from my paranoia about writing another novel that’s too long.¬†¬†In my last edit before giving the book to the betas, I actually cut out a bunch of stuff that now needs to be put back in. So, I guess the lesson to be learned here is that we need to tell our stories the way we instinctively feel they need to be told, and then wait for a publishing professional to tell us when/where something needs to be cut. With my beta readers’ input in my head, I will now perform one more edit on Separation of Faith, which I anticipate will take me about two weeks.
  3. Then I’ll submit the manuscript to¬†iUniverse, where the book will¬†immediately enter¬†a professional editorial process that will take¬†another two or three weeks. While that process is ongoing, I’ll go back to the re-edit of Cinnamon, which actually does need to be cut.¬†My goal will be to have that job completed by the time the Editorial Evaluation on Separation of Faith is returned to me. There will most likely be the need for one additional edit on the new book when I receive that report.
  4. Consequently, my objective of having both books released by April 2010 is probably going to slip a little but should still be feasible within the second quarter. I’d rather take a little longer and make certain that the products I’m putting out there represent my absolute best effort.

Tag Surfing

One way I’ve been meeting a lot of you is by surfing around to find writers blogging on topics that line up in some form with what I’m trying to do here. But the surfing process takes a lot of time, and the move to my new place has consumed that slot of late. By the beginning of next week, I should be able to start actively surfing again, and I’m looking forward to getting back to that part of this plan, which has introduced me to so many wonderful writers out there, who are¬†struggling along the same path.

Stats

  1. 568 hits on this blog as of a minute ago. Last posting was 409. So, I guess that’s not too bad, considering the fact that I haven’t been doing anything to drive the number up since the end of last week. One thing is certain about the social media element of this Journey from Publishing Obscurity: No one is going to come looking for us. We have to be out there every single day, finding and talking to people. And on those days when we don’t give anything, we’re probably not going to get anything either.
  2. The numbers for both my website and Cinnamon on Amazon have been fairly static since the last posting, although Amazon got a little worse … ūüė¶ …¬†But again, I haven’t been doing anything that would compel¬†readers to go there. Hopefully, the release of Cinnamon’s free serialization will produce a positive change in both of these stats.

Happy Thanksgiving!

With all my heart, I wish a happy,¬†peaceful, and safe¬†Thanksgiving holiday to everyone reached by my words. And I pray that blessings will begin to flow on those less fortunate among us, including those whose idea of a move is from one shelter to another on a good day, or from one bridge or underpass on a day that’s not so good. Lots of families with children are falling prey to this plague in our present economic crisis, and we need to keep them in our hearts, prayers, and volunteer commitments as we celebrate with gratitude¬†all the gifts we’ve been given in our own lives.

And when I complain about the boxes stacked like highrises throughout my house, I need to remind myself that there are people out there who actually live in these things. That visual sort of puts a whole new perspective on Thanksgiving, doesn’t it?¬†

Peace and love.

Cheri

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Headline Change

Since I won’t realistically be able to add updated posts on daily basis, I’m changing the headlines to read “Post #” rather than “Day #” from this point forward.

Further Update: One comment after I published this post (from a gentleman far more experienced with¬†blogging than I) wondered why I needed the¬†“post #” at all in the headline, since all posts are automatically sequenced by date. Given his good point, I’ve removed the additional heading designation. As I go forward, I’m sure things will be modified again–and I would welcome any suggestions about the post heading from others who’ve been at this awhile.

Connections

In an effort to find writers “out there,” one of the features I’ve been exploring is the Tag Surfer. As a result of comments I’ve been leaving on various blogs, there are a number of interesting people, of like mind, who’ve responded to me. For this I’m very grateful, and I’m looking forward to the expansion of those associations as they pursue their goals and as my journey unfolds.

Each day I will continue to find others whose own journeys are unique, amazing,¬†and fascinating. I can’t believe I’ve been missing out on this for so long.

Query Tips

A few of the comments I’ve received have come from writers who are just beginning to enter the dreaded query process. Although this is probably information that everyone knows already, here are a few important points if you are planning to query.

If you are writing fiction, you need to have your entire book completed prior to sending out any query letters. This is really critical!¬†If you are fortunate enough to find an interested agent, but you have to delay submission because your book isn’t finished, you’ll never get another shot at that agent again.

If you are a non-fiction writer, you’ll need the first three chapters, an outline of the rest, and a book proposal. Since this isn’t my area of expertise, here’s a good reference to start: How to Write A Book Proposal by Michael Larsen. There are plenty of other references as well, but this one is pretty comprehensive.

The good news about non-fiction is that you don’t have to finish the book before starting your query process. The bad news is that you have to finish a bunch of other stuff instead. Read and study to make certain you know what that “other stuff” entails.

Whether you’re a novelist or a non-fiction writer,¬†the required elements¬†of your work need to be completed in full before you send out a single query letter.

Agent Tips

Then, once you’re ready to start, you’ll want to target specific agents rather than editors to maximize your time (unless you can¬†cite someone¬†an editor knows who has referred you to him/her).¬†Only a teeney number of editors in publishing houses will accept “unsolicited queries” that have come in without an agent referral.

As you target the agents, narrow your list down to those who accept queries from new/unpublished writers, if you’ve never been published through the traditional path. Even though alternative methods of publishing are gaining legitimacy, agents in the business still don’t consider us “published” unless our book(s) have come through a traditional publishing house.

Also target agents who either say they specialize in the¬†type of book you’re querying about or who have a track record of closing deals for those types of books. And, if an agent wants any money from you up front, run. Legitimate agents only get paid after they have placed your book with a publishing house.

A great source of how to do all of this is the 2010 Novel & Short Story Writer’s Market (www.NSSWM.com). You can also check out www.WritersMarket.com for information pertaining to categories other than novels and short stories.

Again, as I said, everyone probably knows all this stuff already. But just in case, I thought the information might be helpful.

Plan Update–The Truth About Cinnamon¬†

While waiting for the beta readers to complete my new book, my first task is to prepare the original version of The Truth About Cinnamon for the free serialization I hope to launch soon. I will be releasing the first seven chapters which, for my existing Cinnamon readers, will take people through the section on Amelia and three chapters into the section on Cinnamon. Depending on the interest, I might decide to go a little further. We’ll wait and see.

But the effort to get the chapters ready is substantial. First I’m cleaning up some of the formatting that got out of whack in the process of transferring the manuscript from the publisher to me. Once that is done, each chapter will need to be placed in a separate document that will become a pdf. And then I will need to figure out how to set things up so folks can download the chapters as I release them.

Once the chapters are available, the next trick will be to let people know there’s something interesting–and free–to download. If I can have all of that done by Thanksgiving, I’ll be happy.

The other Cinnamon task will be to edit the original version down by 100 pages, before the end of the year.¬†Every now and then, as I write all of this down,¬†I stop and ask myself what the heck I think I’m doing.)

Plan Update–Separation of Faith

Two of my six beta readers have notified me that they have finished reading the manuscript, and I have forwarded to them the eight questions I’d like them to answer. Those questions were designed to help me understand what changes I need to make to the book and also to help clarify the target audience for the book’s promotion.

Once all six of the beta readers have returned their questionnaires, I will begin the editing required to finalize the manuscript for submission to iUniverse. My goal is to have that task completed by mid-December. Getting the new novel through the production process will take longer than the 2nd edition process for Cinnamon. But we’re going to bring out the new version of Cinnamon ahead of Separation of Faith.

Sort of reminds me of Thanksgiving dinner preparations where a million things are going on at once, in order to ultimately serve a massive meal in three or four different courses.

As I said, sometimes I ask myself what in the world I think I’m doing. But I guess that’s what experiments are all about.

Quick Stat Update

Just checked the blog hit count, which is now at 251. At my last post, the number was 100. So at least we’re moving in the right direction … ūüôā

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Logistical Expectations

After only a few days into this endeavor, I’ve already learned that forcing my blog posts into a pre-defined schedule isn’t going to work. By the time I’ve completed the tasks I want to blog about in a given day, and then factor in the critical elements of family along with various other commitments that consume the balance of time, the day is over. Finding even more time before I go to bed to write about what I’ve done and learned that day is not going to be¬†a realistic goal¬†on a consistent basis.

So, in order to lay a workable foundation for my posts, my commitment will be to blog about what’s happened as soon as possible after the fact. Hopefully that will be at the end of the day most of the time. But if there’s a little distance between blog posts, please know that I will be reporting soon.

Now, Back to Business

Regarding the social media elements of my plan, I’m beginning the process of seeking out other blogs on relevant topics, which is helping me get my feet wet with blogging in general.¬†That process also¬†affords me the opportunity to introduce my blog to others. Comments are beginning to come into my blog, and replies are being left for me on the blogs I’m targeting, so a sense of familiarity is starting to develop.

I think there’s probably a rhythm to this whole thing, but plugging into that cadence is going to take some time.

Progress on the Plan–2nd Edition of First Novel

A key element of my publishing plan will be to unveil a re-edited version of The Truth About Cinnamon (www.TheTruthAboutCinnamon.com) several weeks ahead of¬†my second novel’s release (Separation of Faith, targeted for release by April 2010). Toward that end, my publisher (iUniverse) returned the original Word document of Cinnamon to me yesterday. My goal is to cut 100 pages of length from the original book without impacting the story. Cinnamon readers/lovers need not fear. If I’m successful, you won’t even know anything is missing.

The reason for this objective is simple: the first version is too long, which is not unusual for debut novels. But lengthy novels are difficult (and expensive) to sell, even if the author is well known (which I’m not and thus the obscurity thing). I began freelance editing full time after Cinnamon was published, and for years now I’ve been itching to get back in there and cut things down. At last that is now¬†going to happen.

Until the new version enters the production process, however (at least a couple of months away), we’ll still be able to sell the original version through all avenues. So anyone who has a copy of the existing The Truth About Cinnamon will be the owner of an official 1st edition in 2010.

The Truth About Cinnamon on Amazon Kindle

In order to make the ownership of that 1st edition easier, The Truth About Cinnamon is now available on Amazon Kindle (http://www.amazon.com/TRUTH-ABOUT-CINNAMON-Novel/dp/B002R5B0UU/ref=sr_oe_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1257616028&sr=1-1&condition=used) for $9.95, including wireless delivery on Amazon Whispernet.

Those already familiar with Cinnamon will notice that the wrong cover was used, but that issue should be rectified shortly.

The Truth About Cinnamon–Free Serialization¬†

Another thing I’ll be doing now that I have the manuscript back from the publisher will be to release, for free, a substantial portion of the front part of the original book, in serialized form, chapter by chapter. Readers will be able to download the chapters (once I learn how that’s done) from this blog as well as from my website (www.eWritersRUs.com). I’ll make sure there’s a headline announcement everywhere as soon as the chapters become available.

This will give readers another way to secure the 1st edition prior to the release of the 2nd.

Opening the Kimona Further with Stats

Here comes the really painful part as I begin this petri dish process. There are a number of ways to measure how effective my plan is/will be, but the easiest and most visible statistics are my book’s Amazon ranking and the hits/activity on both my website and this blog.

All of those numbers are painfully low (or high, depending on the perspective) at the moment, which is again in keeping with my current obscurity. I’m told that the Amazon ranking is the product of a complicated algorithm, which isn’t exclusively tied to book sales. But that number seems extremely important when an author is on top of his or her game, so I’m going to start publicly tracking mine. My website hits aren’t complicated at all, and they will be openly shared as well.¬†The same is and will be true for this blog.

Okay, here we go–the starting points:

  • The Truth About Cinnamon (soft cover)–Amazon Ranking as of 11-07-09: 2,621,585. Yikes, you say! I know. I didn’t think the rankings even went that high (keeping in mind that “high” is not a good thing here). However, I see that the hard cover version of Cinnamon is ranked at 7,159,276 today–so I guess I don’t feel so bad now … ūüôā
  • My website hits (www.eWritersRUs.com) as of 11-07-09: 34,195. That’s not a terrible number for an unknown obscure person, but movement has been sort of stagnant for the last year. Seeing that ticker rise again will be significant.
  • Hits on this blog were 100 the last time I looked about an hour ago. But I’m not going to be too hard on myself with that one yet since I’m just getting started.

These stats won’t be updated daily because I don’t believe in torture. But I’ll post the numbers often enough to track my progress as this experiment unfolds.

Progress on the Plan–Second Novel

Manuscript copies of my second novel, Separation of Faith, are still in the hands of six beta readers. When they finish their reading, they will answer eight questions for me that will help me understand what I need to change/fix in the story prior to submitting the manuscript to iUniverse.

Once in the hands of iUniverse, the manuscript will be put through the rigorous editorial process for which iUniverse is so well known. (You can check out the details about that at www.iUniverse.com.)

But until I receive the manuscripts and answered questions back from my beta readers, I will be focusing on my Cinnamon tasks and this blog.

Target for the Rest of Today

  • Begin breaking the first third of the original version of Cinnamon up into separate chapters that can be turned into PDFs for the serialization.
  • Explore more relevant/related blog sites, introduce myself,¬†and leave comments.
  • Update my mailing/email listing for Cinnamon so I can notify everyone of this blog/plan.

Hope everyone has a great weekend! ‘Bye for now.

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