Welcome to my blog, Write To Live. This is a blog dedicated to the literary works of Michael Beers as well as an informational blog about writing.

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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

To self publish or not to self publish

Okay, so I have been away for a while, thanks to graduate studies, but I am back and wanted to leavea  tidbit of information before the end of the year (or world if you're into that 12/21/12 stuff).

I keep on hearing many people asking if they should self-publish their works, namely in the modern times when publishing on e-readers is so easy.

But, how do you know if you're just putting stuff out there just to put it out there and how do you know if you're actually putting out something good for people to read?

Thankfully, I'm here to give you a few guidelines as to what to look for.

1. Has it been published yet?  You can't just put something straight to e-reader expecting you'll get a milion sales right away.  It takes a lot of effort for a writer to get those out there and then promote them, but what if someone could do that for you.  AHA!  That's where slush piles come in.  If it's good enough to get sold, it's good enough to get electronically published.  But, typically, that means you will also have it in print form as well, reaching a wider base as well as other opportunities for promotion.  And some of those will be set up by the publisher, taking some of the legwork out of your end and leaving you more time to write.  But, if they find it good enough to publish, then it's obviously good enough to have e-published later.

2. Has it gotten more than one personal rejection?  Understanding there are limits to publishers, though, in how much they can produce, you may not get published right away even though you have a good story.  However, editors' time is valuable.  If they are taking time out of their busy schedule to give you a short note on your story, then your story is doing quite well.  However, one editor's comments is merely a taste thing.  Two editors' comments is the sign of something good.  Three editors' comments and you should keep that story on market to get it to sell.  Four editors' comments...well, you get the idea.

3. Has it been on the market for longer than 1 year?  Again, there are limits to publishers, but you cannot give them a fair chance on reading your work.  Once you get two personal rejections in two months, you shouldn't be rushing out to your e-reader publsihing software and format it for Kindle, releasing it the next day.  You should keep on having that story out at market and try to have it sell.  Remember, if you sell it, you're on your own.  If you sell it to someone else, they do it all for you.

4. Has it been peer reviewed at least once?  Finding peer groups to peer review your works is a good way to keep your skills in good shape.  If you constantly get rejections, though, you may be missing something the readers are not.  Therefore, it's imperative to find a good group to peer review with and find the areas you need to work on so you can get a more finished product.  You do not want to self-publish a work and have it full of weak characters.  It leaves a bad taste in people's mouths.

5. Have you been writing seriously for two years?  Seems odd, I know, that I said one year earlier, but you need to have time to improve and dig into the recesses of your mind to find the gold.  Detroit Ex Nihilo was a story I never thought would sell, but I wrote it anyway.  And it sold.  I wrote Zion first and it received over ten rejections on the story.  Still, it sold to an anthology.  It took me nearly two years to get that story sold and it was one of the first entries I put in for Writers of the Future.  It takes time to become a better writer.  You will always improve, even in revisiting some stories you wrote when you started writing.  You will have those "A Ha" moments when you are writing, but you don't want to have them when you're reading your work on a Kindle.

If you have any other guidelines you use, please feel free to post them in the comments.  Until next time.
Hello everyone,

Wanted to let you know that I have another story which is now available in print and e-book format.

For All Eternity: Tales of the Seven Deadly Sins is an anthology based around the seven deadly sins and how they can be represented in different senarios, mostly with science fiction and fantasy.  My story represents the sin of gluttony in the tale "Zion," a futuristic prophet named Propet who leads people to a "new" paradise.

You can find this story available at Amazon.com, especially now because I know it is available in its 4 for 3 promotion.  This anthology is always a good holiday gift for anyone who loves to read.

You can find the link down below.

Amazon.com - For All Eternity: Tales of the Seven Deadly Sins

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Character Development: Yin-Yang Theory

Sorry I haven't posted in a while.  The end of my Undergraduate career took a lot of my time and I couldn't get blogging as much as I wanted to.  But, now that I'm back, here's a good writing tip for you gusy.

As I have been submitting my writings for critiques/submissions, I'm coming to a conclusion about characterization.  The current theory which pleases editors is where you have multi-faceted characters.

Now, I'm betting you're asking: Great, now how do I do that?

Well, it's not as hard as you think.  All it takes is a bit of pre-writing.

The Yin-Yang Theory

Fold a piece of paper in half and write Yin on one side and Yang on the other (or Light and Dark, or Good and Evil, or whatever you feel like you need to get the job done).

On the Yin side, write all the good qualities of a character.  Noble, Loyal, Devoted, etc.

On the Yang side, write all the poor qualities of a character.  Lazy, Untrusting, Greedy, etc.

Now, try to write a paragraph on the back side of the paper as to how these qualities work on the character.  If a person is Loyal, but Untrusting, perhaps it's he's untrusting at first to new people, but loyal to few after they've met his standards (which may be unobtainable).  Or if you have someone who's devoted to someone in a marriage, but greedy enough they ignore their needs when they work a lot.  A good way to do this is to write it in the character's voice, as it will help you later on for how the character needs to act in certain areas (beginning, meeting new characters, etc.).

I haven't been doing this long, but I've found it's really helped in creating some multi-faceted characters in the past (I'd say more, but they're pending sales, so you may be reading about them soon enough).

Anyways, keep your pens to the paper and fingers to the keyboard, writers.

One-Liner (formerly First Line Writing Prompt)

It seemed like forever since Stella was able to gaze at the stars shining in the night sky.

Monday, March 26, 2012

First Story Out

Well, after a long year and many nights spent in front of the computer searching for markets to send stories, I am pleased to announce the first story which has hit the public market.

Detroit Ex Nihilo is now available for your reading pleasure at AE: The Canadian Science Fiction Review.

Please visit the link below to view the story on their website.

Thank you and enjoy.


Monday, February 13, 2012

Submission Guidelines: What To Do

Over the past year, I have discovered a few things about submitting stories and the guidelines they post on their website and, sometimes, in their rejections.  Here's a few tell-tale signs to keep in mind.

1. Beware the "Buy our magainze to find out what we like."  You should be able to tell from one reading what they like.  Don't think because they have a pirate issue they want to see pirate stories.  Normally, this means they seen a lot they like, but are tired of them.

2. So, what are we supposed to gleen from what they like?  Well, ask yourself questions about the structure of the story.  Namely, what is the character doing?  Are they growing?  Is this something where they are coming to some sort of realization?  And so forth.  The more you learn about the structures of selling stories, the more you can learn about what they want to see in a story.

3. If a market says "dark fantasy," unless you know what that means, submit anything "Dark" and anything "Fantasy."  Some publishers may have different areas for Fantasy and Sci-Fi.  Others may have a lighter publication they can refer you to if they like it enough.  Or, they can like it enough to buy it.

4. Submit Everywhere.  Yes, I know, it sounds strange, but trust me, submit everywhere.  Sometimes, you are the worst judge of your own work.  You may think you have something for Market A when Market B is interested.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Things I Learned from Writing for One Year

As an active member of the Writers of the Future Forums, newcoming writers are always flooding in to share and learn.  I, too, was one of them long ago, wondering when my next story would sell or win.  However, I notice a lot of them are doing the same mistakes I used to.

So, since I'm not a pro writer giving pro tips, here's a rookie writer giving rookie tips.

1. Submit Early, Submit Often - I often finish off a story and send it out to publishers as soon as I could.  The more I sat around not having it working, the more I wanted to work with it.  There are times when touching it up can ruin a story.  Get it out there so it has the most potential to get sold.  No one sells a story sitting on their flash drive.

2. No Limits - Okay, so the publisher says "We like dark fantasy" and you have this great fantasy work you want to submit.  What do you do?  Submit it.  It may not be dark, but one of two things can happen.  Either your story will wow them enough they will overlook their conceptions and buy your story or they may like your writing talent, but want something more to what the market is targeted for.  In either case, you will get the "send us more of your work" response, urging you to submit to them.

3. Set Goals - I set a goal for myself to have 25 stories out to market at one time.  I also set a goal to receive 100 rejections or to sell a story this year.  8 days left in the year and no story sold yet, but I do have 100 rejections and had 25 stories out to market.  It pushed me to write better stories and to write a lot of stories.  Trust me, it may do you good in the new year to set those kinds of resolutions.

4. It's All in the Timing - Okay, you want to know "When should I revise a story?"  The answer: When you feel like it.  But, don't do it every day or after every rejection.  You may end up revising it way too much then.  The best advice I give is to revise when you feel the stories you are writing are better than the stories you have out at market.  Then, go back and see if you can rework the story.  If you still think it's not half bad, stop.  You can only make it worse.  Go back to it when you say, "My God, no wonder the slush readers couldn't get through it."  The difference between the two can save you time.

5. Write to Live - Yes, I know, it's corny.  But, follow Asimov's addage: "I write for the same reason I breathe.  If I didn't, I would die."  That's the kind of drafting you need to do.  I'm not saying let writing take over your life.  I'm saying write when you have the time to write.  And, if you don't have the time, make the time.  I'm writing this at 3 in the morning because this is my creative time for that very reason.

6. Jot it Down - We've all been there.  Working on the job, taking care of the kids, driving somewhere, shopping, when suddenly, BAM, the greatest story idea comes into your mind.  If you have the opportunity, that's the time to jot everything you get in your mind about it down.  Character development, themes, ending, and everything inbetween.  Then, when you get back home, you can recall that vision and start the drafting process.  There have been times I've stopped watching TV mid-show to get writing.  Didn't care about the ending of the show, just about how the story was going to end.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Thematic Theatrics - Are you doing it right?

I was reading a story for critiquing the other day and I came across a problem I commented on regarding a theme using imagery.  They're great to use for a writer as it is a creative way to get your point across.

However, there is a fine line when writing out your stories with them.  Too little and the theme fails to get the point across.  Too much and your story is oversaturated.  Granted, many would say it's better to be oversaturated and remove as you go along, but how do you know you're removing too much...or removing the wrong part.

Therefore, writers, you need to follow these simple rules.

1. KISS - Keep It Simple, Stupid.  The more involved you make your theme, the longer your work will get.  If you're writing a novel, that's great.  But, if you're writing a short story and try to go into depth about the sunset, chances are you're going to lose you reader somewhere in the mix.

2. Through and Through - Your thematic device should be used throughout the story.  So, if you want to have a recurring line come into the reader's minds, you should use it...over and over again. (hense the name recurring).  Don't drop your theme anywhere as it helps to keep the reader tied into what you mentioned before.

3. The Big Finish - Denouement should be when everything (at least) feels completed.  But, are you making sure to use your thematic device at the end as well?  This is a point where if you wanted to really hammer the image home, you should.  Show why the image is especially relevant at the end.  If you don't, you fail to grab the reader's attention.

4. Keep it Light - Don't try to overfill your story with tons of images (unless that's your theme like the modernists of the early 1900's).  If you bombard your reader with too many images, it will become a sensory overload.  Granted, you want a touch of sensory overload, but don't shoot at them from multiple sides.  Chances are they'll just surrender.

Random Sentence of the Blog
I have always kept to myself...that is, until I saw her.

"All of this stress gave me something to write on
While pain gave me something to set my sights on"
Linkin Park - "Nobody's Listening"