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1901, 2021

Editing, pitching, and publishing my new novel during a pandemic

January 19th, 2021|

Since the summer, literary agent Paula Munier has been working hard to pitch my new novel to traditional publishers based in New York City. Publishing is always a long process. And yet this past year has proved extra hard as editors are working from home while also juggling so many other responsibilities like everyone else during a global pandemic.

But Paula is a senior agent at Talcott Notch Literary, a veteran agency that has an impressive list of bestsellers with the New York TimesWall Street JournalUSA Today and Amazon. She has worked at Talcott since 2012 and is also a USA Today-bestselling author of the Mercy Carr Mystery series.

Not surprisingly, Paula has already received numerous bites for REAL GIRL from well-known editors who are currently reading my full science fiction thriller about a lifelike robot who tries to escape from an augmented reality competition where people can hunt and kill her for sport. One editor Paula pitched recently requested a synopsis—one of the hardest materials to write. Like a good movie trailer, synopses must distill hundreds of pages down to just one or two that make people want to learn more.

Thanks to the help of publishing expert Jane Friedman, I submitted a powerful synopsis of my main plot and characters that Jane edited through her professional consulting services. Jane was the second editor I hired to review my materials for REAL GIRL. I also received some incredible feedback from a professional developmental editor with Writer’s Digest 2nd Draft critique service. The editor assessed my full manuscript, which he described as “Ex Machina/Blade Runner atmospheric science fiction with a Pygmalion twist.”

“This is one of the best unpublished manuscripts I have ever read,” that editor wrote. “This is a science-fiction novel with a lot of heart in addition to the action. It has a strong female character and a man who becomes a better person as a result of his relationship with her—even though she isn’t a ‘real girl.’ This should appeal to everyone who enjoyed Ready Player One plus those who enjoy a coherent future world populated with empathetic and realistic characters.”

Working with these professional editors and a literary agent like Paula is a dream come true for me. Fingers crossed that 2021 proves to be the year we sell REAL GIRL to a publishing house!

 

2011, 2020

Writer’s Digest publishes 3rd article in 100th anniversary issue

November 20th, 2020|

Writer’s Digest just published my third article in the 100th anniversary edition of their magazine, which reaches about 70,000 subscribers across the country. The magazine also published my first article last year about how to craft the perfect media pitch and my second article in April about how to create successful book media kits.

My new article appeared in the November/December issue, specifically in the regular IndieLab column that follows trends in the self-publishing business. This article focuses on my experience conducting journalistic research for both The Black Lens and my upcoming novel, Real Girl, which my agent is currently pitching to publishers. Here’s the full story:

How to Research Like a Reporter

Too many writers start their stories without any research. Even those who do a little “research” barely scratch the surface, sticking to what they can Google. While the reasons vary, some authors find the word itself intimidating. Others assume research only applies to scholarly nonfiction works or autobiographies. But many writers don’t even know where to begin, especially when they’re still trying to figure out the direction of their story.

This can lead to a lack of focus that grinds the story—and ultimately readers—to a halt. Research can help give you that focus to guide the story, because it opens your eyes to those little details that will immerse readers in your world and propel them from beginning to end. This column will teach you how to research like a reporter so you can enrich your stories, whether you’re writing fiction or nonfiction.

Why You Should Research

Research grounds writing in reality. Every story must be believable—even the most speculative work—and research helps readers feel immersed in the world you have created for them. That is essential for nonfiction, but even crime thrillers and sci-fi novels need to remain grounded. Lisa Gardner, a No. 1 New York Times bestselling thriller novelist, says that “Research should meld seamlessly with the tightly woven fabric of your fictional world, giving the reader a satisfying feeling of being simultaneously swept away, while remaining anchored to a world they know and understand.”

Three Ways to Research

Research can involve many strategies, but here are three of the most helpful:

  • Interviews: Start by identifying the people who know about your subject the best, then ask them the seven main questions of any good story: who, what, when, where, how, why, and so what? For my crime thriller The Black Lens, I interviewed survivors of human trafficking, along with police officers and social workers who try to help them. For my sci-fi thriller Real Girl, I spent hours talking with cybersecurity experts, virtual reality coders, and even manufacturers of artificially intelligent robots. Each interview took my fictional story to a whole new level of reality.
  • Exposure: Personal exposure helps your readers focus on the five senses that are sometimes missing from books. Start by reflecting on your genre. If you are writing historical fiction, tour old sites and read ancient records. Maybe you’re drafting a mystery that involves a murder by shooting but have never fired a gun in your life; sign up for a gun class and learn what it feels like to load, discharge, and clean your weapon.
  • Travel: It doesn’t matter if you are writing a young adult novel or an autobiography—every story needs a strong sense of place. Travel remains almost one guaranteed way to give your story that sense of place, but it doesn’t have to be an expensive trip overseas. For The Black Lens, I drove to some of the grittiest streets of my own city to see how social workers help sex trafficking victims at night. For Real Girl, I flew to another state to tour a manufacturing center of lifelike robots that people can interact with through virtual reality. Think about where you could go to make your story even more real, immersive, and ultimately believable.

How to Use Research

Whatever you do, don’t dump research into your story through blocks of text with technical jargon that explain everything. Show, don’t tell. Weave your research in methodically throughout your plot, characters, and setting, remembering that less is more. Always ask yourself: Does this information advance the story, or just show off how much you learned?

“A writer cannot do too much research, though sometimes it is a mistake to try and cram too much of what you learned into your novel,” says George R.R. Martin, bestselling author of A Song of Ice and Fire series, which was adapted into HBO’s Game of Thrones. “Research gives you a foundation to build on, but in the end it’s only the story that matters.”

Take the Next Step

Learn more about my research for The Black Lens here, buy a copy on Amazon, or book me as a speaker.

3009, 2020

Writing gives value to the story I am living

September 30th, 2020|

How do you find time to write?

That’s one of the most common questions I get from family, friends, and fans of The Black Lens. It’s a crucial question, especially since my wife and I are both working from home full time with three children under the age of six in a small Ohio home.

Each day, we must somehow balance our own jobs while home schooling, changing dirty diapers, and trying to keep our house at least somewhat clean. I don’t have time to write, at least on paper. Between working and parenting, no extra hours exist during the day. As I write this blog post, I’m holding my 11-month old daughter on my lap while scarfing down a late lunch and trying to help my wife calm down our two other children who are screaming.

But I must write. I can’t help it. Writing helps me survive each day, and that’s what gives me the passion I need to find the time.

British author C.S. Lewis once said that “Art … has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival.”

Writing is a form of art, so it too has no survival value. But it gives value to my survival—especially during an unprecedented year like 2020. Between a global pandemic, economic recession, racial injustices, extreme weather patterns, and my own personal struggles, I have never felt so anxious in my life.

I’m not alone. A third of Americans were showing signs of clinical anxiety or depression by May of this year, according to a profound and almost poetic article I just read in The Washington Post. I am one of those statistics. I’ve never shared this before publicly, but I have struggled with anxiety for as long as I can remember. While counselors have taught me some helpful techniques for managing my symptoms over the years, writing is one of the few constants in my life that has helped me survive.

As The Post article states: “Everybody’s truth is shattered right now. It’s like the ground has been taken away from you. Where do you find refuge?”

Writing is a refuge for me. I love it, long for it, and look forward to it. When I write, I feel alive. As Eric Liddell says in Chariots of Fire: “I believe God made me for a purpose, but He also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure.”

Like my family or my faith, my writing is not perfect. I struggle to get up at 5 or 6 a.m. every day to put pen to paper while sipping a strong cup of steaming coffee. Some days I don’t get up early. Some days I only write a few hundred words. But like my family and my faith, writing keeps beckoning me back because she gives value to my survival. In a world that constantly feels out of control, writing is the one of the few aspects of my life that I can control, at least on some level.

I can’t control whether an agent or publisher will want to read my work. But I can choose to get up before the kids awake—that one precious hour or so during the day when it’s still dark and quiet in our little house—to write.

And when that sun finally rises, the story I am writing gives value to the story I am living.

 

3108, 2020

Writer’s Digest to publish 3rd article in 100th anniversary edition

August 31st, 2020|

 

Writer’s Digest just agreed to publish my third article in the 100th anniversary edition of their magazine, which reaches about 70,000 subscribers across the country.

My article will appear in the November/December issue, specifically in the regular IndieLab column that follows trends in the self-publishing business. This article focuses on my experience conducting journalistic research for both The Black Lens and my upcoming novel, Real Girl, which my agent is currently pitching to publishers. Here’s just a brief overview of the piece:

Too many writers start their stories without any research. Even those who do a little “research” barely scratch the surface, sticking to what they can Google. While the reasons vary, some authors find the word itself intimidating. Others assume research only applies to scholarly nonfiction works or autobiographies. But many writers don’t even know where to begin, especially when they’re still trying to figure out the direction of their story.

This can lead to a lack of focus that grinds the story—and ultimately readers—to a halt. Research can help give you that focus to guide the story, because it opens your eyes to those little details that will immerse readers in your world and propel them from beginning to end. This column will teach you how to research like a reporter so you can enrich your stories, whether you’re writing fiction or nonfiction.

Writer’s Digest published my first article last year about how to craft the perfect media pitch and my second article in April about how to create successful book media kits.

I can’t wait to see the 100th anniversary edition!

807, 2020

Literary agent will represent my work to New York publishers

July 8th, 2020|

 

After more than three years of writing, editing and pitching my new novel, literary agent Paula Munier has agreed to represent my work to traditional publishers based in New York City.

Paula is a senior agent at Talcott Notch Literary, an agency that has an impressive list of bestsellers with the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today and Amazon. She has worked at Talcott since 2012 and is also a USA Today-bestselling author of the Mercy Carr Mystery series.

I met Paula virtually last year through one of the Writer’s Digest University Literary Agent Boot Camps. Paula provided some excellent edits of REAL GIRL, along with this overall assessment of my science fiction thriller about a lifelike robot who tries to escape from an augmented reality competition where people can hunt and kill her for sport:

“I have every confidence you will find representation,” Paula wrote. “This was a fun and easy read. There’s a lot to recommend this: a likable heroine in Evaline, intriguing world-building, an interesting cast of characters, a well-drawn setting, cool technology, good action, and the promise of more to come. You have a good grasp of the elements of fiction. You know what you are doing, and it shows.”

Working with an agent like Paula is a dream come true for me. She is well-connected to editors in the industry, so I have every confidence she will find the right publishing house for REAL GIRL.

1806, 2020

New novel now a Top 25 finalist in competition

June 18th, 2020|

My new novel just advanced to a Top 25 finalist in the 2020 Launch Pad Manuscript Competition.

Now in its third year, this manuscript competition searches for the most impressive, cinematic and captivating prose from emerging writers. It has resulted in over 40 projects set up and 12 books published in collaboration with Inkshares. The winners will be announced July 16.

Set in a near future Midwest city, REAL GIRL is about a lifelike robot who tries to escape from an augmented reality competition where people can hunt and kill her for sport. I conducted more than a year of original research for this story as a former reporter with a master’s degree in journalism. That includes interviews with cybersecurity experts, virtual reality coders, and even manufacturers of artificially intelligent robots.

This is now the second competition REAL GIRL has placed in. My manuscript also beat out more than 1,000 other books to become a quarterfinalist in the ScreenCraft Cinematic Book Competition. While it did not advance to the next round, I was encouraged that my still unpublished science fiction thriller even made it into their top 10 percent of submissions. It also reiterates this feedback I received last year from a professional developmental editor through Writer’s Digest:

“This is one of the best unpublished manuscripts I have ever read,” the editor wrote. “It also has strong movie/tv potential and should be pitched to movie agents as well as book agents. The strong vision of a coherent future world that is interesting and unique, coupled with enormous heart and emotional impact, could make this an attractive media project.”