Thursday, July 4, 2013

Becoming a Starving Writer

Becoming a starving writer isn’t easy. The odds of getting your first novel published are approximately 200 to one.

First of all, you need to know something about the structure of a novel. Almost without exception, a novel can be broken down into three distinct segments: the setup, the conflict and the resolution.

The setup starts with a hook, something exciting or mysterious or bizarre or profound or whatever to entice the reader to continue. Plus, the opening line must entice the reader to read the second line.

The setup goes on to introduce the main characters and the basic premise of the story. The setup ends with the first of two plot-points that changes the direction of the story, thrusting it into the next segment, called the conflict.

The conflict is usually the biggest of the three segments, the meat of the story.

Somewhere along the line, a second plot-point changes the direction once again, this time into the resolution, which wraps everything up and often ends with a climax.

Once you have developed the structure of a novel, the next step is to write it.

It should contain wisdom and wit, and flow like a river of poetic nuance. But above all, it must have some elements of originality. No publisher wants a re-hash of what has already been written by others.

A novel should be a minimum of 55,000 words. Some of the gothic romance novels can run up to 125,000 words. My novels are all about 70,000 words.

Once you have written the first draft, don’t bother to celebrate too much. Your work has just begun. You must rewrite and rewrite and rewrite until you bleed.

You’ve got a 200 to one shot of getting published so it behooves you to make it as impeccable as possible without going insane. One of the hardest decisions is to know when to quit because it will never be as perfect as you desire, but you'll have to cut it off at some point.

When you’re finally done writing, you’re ready for phase two -- getting it published.

You have three options -- find a publisher, find a literary agent or self-publish it yourself.

Finding a publisher or agent will require great fortitude, patience and persistence.

Don’t bother sending a first novel to a publisher. Most mainstream publishers will only accept submissions from reputable literary agents.

Most literary agents will not accept unsolicited manuscripts. Agents prefer a query rather than a complete manuscript. Some literary agents will take unsolicited queries and others won’t. A query to an agent usually consists of a 1-page letter explaining your project, a 5-page plot synopsis and the first three chapters of your proposed book. Make sure everything is double-spaced with a quality appearance. Although literary agents frown on multiple submissions, ignore them. Send out lots of submissions at a time because agents take many weeks to get back to you. Almost all agents will respond, usually with a form rejection letter.

Don’t ever give up. I could literally paper my walls with rejection letters.

Once you have signed with an agent, don’t get too excited -- your odds of getting published have been reduced to about 12 to one. Even if you get lucky, it may take years. By the time my agent finally matched me with a publisher, I had written four novels, all of which were then published over a ten-month period in 2000-2001.

Bret Burquest is the author of the following 4 fiction novels (published by Random House imprint Xlibris) -- available at Amazon and many other on-line booksellers in paperback or e-book format.

THE ELEVENTH SAGE -- metaphysical mystery -- A journey of the mind of an amnesia victim into the reality of a famous past life in the Old West, while simultaneously creating the destiny of a precise future being pre-lived subconsciously

A BAD RUN OF FATE -- psychological mystery -- An enigmatic serial killer stalks modern-day prospectors seeking a lost treasure in central Arizona.

GOOMBA IN MONTANA -- suspense thriller -- A young man discovers that his widowed mother's new suitor is a dangerous federally protected witness and is forced into a life-or-death struggle for survival.

THE DOGMAN OF TOPANGA -- suspense thriller -- A newspaper woman seeks seclusion in a remote bohemian village near Los Angeles to write a story exposing a vast conspiracy whereupon her nearest neighbor is a mysterious man who lives in a cave with dogs and someone wants her dead.

Ten year later, I compiled 5 nonfiction books consisting of articles I had written (wrote a weekly newspaper column for 8 years, plus some published magazine articles) and countless blogs (see Rather than scramble to find another publisher, I self-published these 5 volumes in 2011-2013.

Bret Burquest is the author of the following 5 nonfiction books -- available at Amazon and many other on-line booksellers in paperback or e-book format.

THE REALITY OF THE ILLUSION OF REALITY -- 44 articles on topics such as parallel dimensions, collective consciousness, intuition, UFOs, Edgar Cayce, St. Germain, Carl Jung, Albert Einstein, Isaac Newton, End of Days, the White Buffalo, Jesse James, Noah's Ark, JFK & MLK assassinations, Dead Sea Scrolls, Lao Tzu, Illuminati, New World Order, Bilderbergers, Hitler after WWII, reincarnation, Near Death Experience, Mayan calendar 2012, ancient wisdom, the Purpose in Life.

1111 HAPPY TRAILS ROAD -- 48 humor articles on topics such as dogs, cats, talking fish, dragonfly tattoos, Bronko Nagurski, lightning strikes, rednecks, chiggers, blondes, armadillos, hurricanes, fallen beings, amazing synchronicities, world's deadliest animals, relationships, Hollywood, Valentine's Day, Catch-22, confronting bullies, Toad Suck, Monkey Run, big bad women, banana slugs, flying queens, the secret of life.

ORB OF WOUNDED SOULS -- 48 articles on topics such as happiness, failure, anarchy, haunted places, Burning Man, Time Travel, Dogon Knowledge, philosophy, medal of honor, Indiana Jones, John Lennon, George Carlin, Paul Newman, Bob Hope, Kinky Friedman, chocolate, best places to live and die, leap seconds, the Secret, moose attacks, depression, manifest destiny, mystical numbers, memories of past lives.

PATH TO FOURTH DENSITY -- 44 articles on topics such as Geronimo, Skull and Bones, World War III, Mothman, Battle of New Orleans, Vice Presidents, superstitions, Leonard Peltier, Majestic-12, planets in retrograde, Bureau of Indian Affairs, New Madrid Earthquake, daylight savings, UFO truths, Alternative 3, Islamic radicalism, spiritual beings, abiotic oil, reptilian shape-shifters, TWA Flight 800, United Flight 93, hashing, next ice age, ascension to 4th density.

11:11 EARTH TIME -- 44 articles on topics such as communicating with spirits, coup d'etat of the USA, Nostradamus, Princess Diana, ancient giants, moon structures, Hunter S. Thompson, Carlos Castaneda, Marlon Brando, Milton Friedman, Jane Fonda, West Memphis Three, Obama strategy, G.I. Jurdjieff, Emanual Swedenborg, Pythagoras, North Korea, Military Industrial Complex, Vince Foster, reptilian shape-shifters

After all that work, I can now call myself a writer, albeit a starving writer. Statistically, only one in 25 published writers actually makes a living at it. So far, I’m not the lucky one in 25, but at least I can go to my grave knowing I gave it my best shot.

Quote for the Day --"The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug." Mark Twain

Bret Burquest is the author of 9 books. He lives in the Ozark Mountains with a dog named Buddy Lee and where being a starving writer is a pleasant passage through life.

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