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The Motive Center Below are the 10 most recent journal entries recorded in the "Steve Kelner" journal:

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March 30th, 2008
12:00 am

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Oh, well. Facing rejection
My novel The Last Damned Vampire was rejected -- albeit kindly -- by the agent who read it. It was an extremely nice rejection (he said he might have taken it 12 years ago when he was hungrier), but nevertheless it was rejected.

Now how to handle this? I'm disappointed, but not devastated. Age and confidence do matter. I know perfectly well that taste matters. I'm probably more annoyed that I have to do more work to pitch it than I am questioning myself. He also provided a comment that I think is a good one, which I may have to tackle. Sigh. Rewriting is fine, and actually I often enjoy it, but having just done a major one where I wound up adding 12,000 words (let alone all the existing ones I changed!), I'm not looking forward to that. i just don't have time and headroom for that right now.

"Right now" is, of course, a critical phrase to use. The great thing about writing is that there is no time limit. Mathematicians and gymnasts peak in their teens. Writers never have to peak at all! There's also a practical point here, which is about attributional style. I think I've posted on this before, and I know it's in the book (Motivate Your Writing!, that is, not LDV), but it's worth restating. How you attribute the causes of failure and success have a lot to do with how you respond to it.

Failing for the momentCollapse )

Current Music: Think It Over - The Cars

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March 22nd, 2008
11:41 pm

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Conflicts
As mentioned previously, I've been grappling with conflict on the Sisters in Crime list. For those who don't know, Sisters in Crime is an organization dedicated "To combat discrimination against women in the mystery field, educate publishers and the general public as to inequities in the treatment of female authors, raise the level of awareness of their contributions to the field, and promote the professional advancement of women who write mysteries." It is open to everyone, and the Internet Chapter even more so in some ways. We have periodically had a debate, if you can call it that, between those who self-publish, who are "traditionally" published, and who belong to small presses, complicated by the introduction of "Print on Demand" technologies, which are not a publishing technique but a printing technique. The debate has been annoying and overwrought, but generally manageable. Then several organizations started defining what counts as published and what doesn't, including Mystery Writers of America and several well-known conferences. Now the debate has exploded.

I reject your reality and substitute my own...Collapse )

Current Music: 06 Sweetness Follows - Sara Quinn featuring Kaki King

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March 21st, 2008
10:09 pm

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Update - Waiting for Godot
Been so long I don't know how this works anymore! Seriously, I've not posted for two reasons. First, I've been flat out so much at work that I've devoted more time to writing than blogging; and more importantly, I didn't feel like I had anything substantial to add beyond my book and what I've posted thus far, though if people disagree, I'm open to suggestions. Besides writing myself, I've just ended a two-year stint as president of the Sisters in Crime Internet Chapter, which ate up more time than I had anticipated just riding herd on the conflicts, especially between self-published, POD, electronic publishing, mainstream publishing, etc.

However, one person kindly posted a question, which was if there was any more, and I thought I'd take the opportunity to post on what's up with my novel. It is now at another agent, from whom I expect to hear next week. (This agent is a friend's agent who expressed interest earlier, which is why I am confident about dates.) I have rewritten it from first to last, emphasizing a couple of elements that I think are distinctive but which I didn't see previously, also leveraging a fair amount of commentary, including people here. It's now much bigger, too -- 75K to nearly 89,000 -- which fits the emphasis, which is thrilleresque. I have continued to work on the second book, too, and have ideas for the next two or three!

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September 4th, 2006
11:32 pm

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Waiting for Agents
I am currently waiting to hear from an agent on my novel. It's worth noting why agents are important, if only to keep myself motivated!

I should note that I've have terrible luck with agents, but I still think they are well worth the 15% commission, not to mention the work to get them. This is despite the fact that I sold Motivate Your Writing! without one.

Boy gets agent, boy loses agent...Collapse )

Current Music: Jimmy Olsen's Blues

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August 29th, 2006
12:19 am

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Outline of Motivation at Work book
After a few bouts of work, summer, contractors (we're building an extension for our books), and so forth, I've got an outline for a new nonfiction book, working title:

Great Passion for Great Work: Motivating Yourself and Others at Work

from a quotation by Denis Diderot: Only passions, great passions, can elevate the soul to great things.

I'm putting up the short outline behind a cut; comments are welcome!
Here we go!Collapse )

Current Music: Does It Really Happen

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August 5th, 2006
11:46 pm

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Arrrgh!
I swore not to get too personal on this list, but I had a catastrophic problem with my operating system and have had to reinstall -- after several hours of false starts, followed by a careful backup of everything (I already had documents backed up, but not all applications).

Unfortunately the reinstall didn't work right and I lost all my settings. Anyone familiar enough with Mac OS X (Tiger) to tell me how to move over my Library (which I did copy) to restore?

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July 16th, 2006
02:13 pm

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Final draft complete!
Just finished a spell-check on the fourth and hopefully final draft of The Last Damned Vampire on Earth, my novel I've been documenting work on. I did two chapters of editing a couple of nights ago, two more last night, and hit the end. Now I've sent a note to my agent to confirm that she still wants to see it (it's been a few months on this draft), and it's off!

For those who like these things, the manuscript worked out to 320 pages -- 20 more than the previous draft, but a significant chunk of that was just formatting, like spacing for chapter heads. Final word count was 73,116, a solid length, not too long.

Toni did something very nice for me, which was a line-by-line edit to the same standards she does for her own work. In practice, this generally meant 2-5 edits per page, ranging from word shifts and insertions to questions about plot. (She just turned in Without Mercy, the first book in her new series, about six weeks ago or so.) This process is very illuminating on one's own style, and reinforces a view I've always held, which is that editors are useful!
He chuckled at his word usage...Collapse )

Current Music: It Just Won't Quit

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July 9th, 2006
12:39 am

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Oops, forgot
Up to Chapter 19, page 225 of first manuscript, meaning almost precisely 75% of the way through. Hit a big and slow chapter, and had a two-day trip to Germany, so it may be slow going for a while!

Current Music: Together

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12:35 am

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Adventure versus Mind-Blowing
My wife and I were discussing different types of fiction, and she commented that she never really wanted to write (as she had seen in a blurb) "mind-blowing" works. She had nothing against them, but she didn't even see how to begin writing something like that.

Knowing Toni, I returned that that was because she's always loved adventures rather than mind-blowing fiction. I realized that "mind-blowing" is often associated with far-out science fiction -- things that are so bizarre and strange that it makes you shake your head and wonder how they could ever come about. (Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next novels are one example.) But it is also about being inventive, sometimes at the cost of humanity. Thus, I suspect that "mind-blowing" is often (not always) appealing to the Achievement motive, aiming at the intellectually new and different, whereas "adventures" are about Power/Influence motive, where you are having a dramatic impact on others. Arthur Clarke's Rendezvous with Rama was mind-blowing, as was Niven's Ringworld, primarily because of idea and scope. Some people have referred to these as "travelogue" books because the plot consists of: (1) find strange object, (2) explore strange object, seeing many strange things, (3) go home. Characters and plots sometimes fall by the wayside, but in SF, that doesn't always matter if the idea is big or strange enough.

Adventures, on the other hand, are normally about someone coming into conflict with society, enemies, etc. Swashbuckling stories, be they pirates, Robin Hood, Musketeers, or space opera are usually on a big human scale: taking on the king, the emperor, the Boskonians, whatever, preferably in a dramatic way. Note they are also often about class issues. All about the influence.

Really good writers, of course, can sometimes combine the two, and this is really awe-inspiring. One writer who seems to do this consistently is John Varley. His Titan trilogy, recently reprinted in paperback over here, is both mind-blowing and rip-roaring, swashbuckling adventure -- and sometimes ironic satire of swashbuckling at the same time. I know it sounds impossible, but he does it, and he manages to have characters you care about, who change in reasonable but substantial ways from book to book, based on what has happened between books.

I'm telling you, these motives are everywhere...

Current Music: Broken Boy Soldier

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July 4th, 2006
12:28 am

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Transitions
Up to Chapter Seventeen, 69.8% of the way through the manuscript. Still liking it, which is good, but getting itchy to work on the second book already!

Which brings me to the subject of transitions. Truman Capote once said that, "Finishing a book is just like you took a child out in the yard and shot it." This kind of feeling can stop you from finishing, because you don't want it to end. Or you have to wait while your book is going through the slow process of agenting, publishing, etc., and you are essentially helpless to affect it, which is a bad feeling in general, but worse for someone high in the power motive (as most published writers are). One way some writers get past that is to start the second book.

Series writers have an advantage here, because you can lay groundwork for the next book. I chuckled when my wife asked me about points of detail in my first book ("how does this vampire get to the store to get bottles of blood if he lives out in the country?") which I had already answered in the second, which is about 20,000 words long. As I mentioned, in this case I worked on the second while I waited for Toni to finish editing the first, but there's no reason why you couldn't pause between drafts, for example. For the record, I deliberately did not choose to explain everything in the first book, or it sounds too much like a "first book." Things I didn't need to explain, I didn't. I wouldn't have been able to do this fifteen years ago -- there are some advantages to age...

When you don't write series, it might be trickier. If you are the kind of writer who likes exploring a certain issue or type of conflict, you could use a second book to help focus the first -- answering the question both ways.

In brief, linearity is overrated!

Current Music: It's Nearly Africa

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