Even an Old Dog Can Learn Some New Tricks!

I am finally coming out if a long and difficult editing process which, I have to admit, has really helped me grow as a writer. I really think my next book will be leaps and bounds ahead of my last. It makes me appreciate how much of what we do is a personal journey which is really never completely fulfilled. It also feels great to apply what I’ve learned on my next WIP which is fully under pen (so to speak) at the moment. Some day, I’ll be actually pretty good at this whole writing thing. 🙂
I know a few will ask me what I learned, so here goes.
1) Sometimes what you really need is to cut entire sequences, chapters, and possibly characters. Maybe, the very thing that is wrong is what you tried to do right.
2) Challenge yourself to do things differently. I tried to do something different and it crashed into a large ball of flames. But … I learned a lot in the process. I may have also, unintentionally, sent my editor a few more paces closer to his destiny as a “client” at the funny farm. Sorry bout that …
3) Never underestimate the value of having the annoying Word robot voice read back your entire manuscript to you. If it sounds wrong when he reads it back to you then chances are that the reader will read it wrong as well.
  • Actually, I kind of like his voice. Someday, when I have a robot butler, he’ll sound just like that.
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4) I, Bryan Scott Nowak, am nowhere near as clever as I think I am.
AND… I, Bryan Scott Nowak, am way more clever than I think I am.
5) Even if your editor is the greatest editor to ever edit anything editable, you’re not going to accept all of their suggestions. The reality is that I use different words and phrases based wholly on my experiences in life and I am going to use them.
6) Process … process … process. You need to have a process. Writing the first draft is non-formulaic. You’ll do it different every time. However, everything after that point needs to follow a specific and repeatable process. Everyone’s process is different and it is specific to you, but if you find something repeatable and thorough, then you stick with it.
*BTW, I wish to apologize to my OCD friends for posting a six point list. I know it’ll drive you crazy that it is not five points or ten.
And now, back to my current WIP. It is so much fun to be able to turn back to my first draft and be totally in the writing mode again!
-Your Humble Servant,
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Will the Humans Get Off the Planet?

I’m going to do something I normally would never do. I’m going to apologize right out of the gate. You see, I’m certainly going to anger a few of you. If not, maybe irritate you a little. Lately, I’ve been watching things happen around me that struck me as mildly disturbing. I have come to the conclusion that the animal, known as human, is inherently stupid. I mean really stupid. If there were a competition made up of all of the species on planet earth called “Earths Got Talent”, we’d likely be laughed off the stage in the first round.

Name me another species that willingly goes to work eight to ten hours a day and only takes two weeks off a year … if ever. And that is not just it, there’s more.

When you tell people you are a horror writer they insist on telling you what televisions shows you should be watching. Really? Didn’t you hear me? I am a writer. I don’t have time to watch shows. When you are a writer people will instantly tell you that they could be a writer too if they only had the time and ambition. Really? By that logic, I could be an Astronaut.

People will tell you that they would love to read your book … if you give them a free copy. That is like going to a cupcake store and telling them you’d be willing to like them on Facebook they give you a free cupcake. Or going to J.C. Penny and telling them you will put in a good work for them if they give you a free shirt. No people, it doesn’t work that way!

My own personal examples aside, you see the rampant stupidity in all walks of life. For example, when people announce they are having a child, people who have no children feel it’s their duty to give advice on child rearing. Or when your computer isn’t working and tech support tells you that they’ve been trying to get a hold of you through e-mail.

Consider the lion. The African lion lives in relative harmony. It sleeps where it’s comfortable. It eats only what it needs to survive. Pretty much just does its thing. With the exception of humans, it has a pretty good life. The same can be said of giraffes, elephants, and meerkats.

The American river otter has a pretty good life.

“Hey, Tom Otter, what do you want to do today?” Jack Otter said.

Tom thought this over for a moment. “Well, Jack, I think I want to eat fish or maybe a clam.”

“You know, I was thinking the same thing,” Jack Otter said. “But after we eat, we should play. Then maybe nap.”

Tom stopped grooming his fur and looked at his friend. “Oh gosh Jack, you always know how to have the best kind of day.”

You’ll notice that in the American workforce today you never see a single otter putting in a 10 hour day. It just doesn’t happen. Seriously, otters just don’t do that kind of thing. The same thing could be said of the elephant, giraffe, lion or even the lovable beagle.

And we are the most evolved species on the planet? I don’t know guys, I think anecdotal evidence might not really support this thesis.

-Your Humble Servant,

 

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Exhausted to the Point of Excitement

There are times in the life you cross the finish line of a race and are so completely spent that you think you have nothing else to give. Even though you think you are exhausted beyond the point of exhaustion, you feel an overwhelming sense of excitement and accomplishment. A smile breaks out across your face that you can’t erase, even if you wanted to. You accomplished your goal and it’s your moment to bask in the glory.

On Saturday I had the good fortune to attend the Suffolk Mystery Authors Festival in

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Suffolk Rolled Out the Red Carpet!

Suffolk Virginia. This was unique as it is an event specifically designed to bring authors and readers together of a specific genera. While I‘m not primarily a mystery author, there are always elements of mystery to my work and that’s what makes this venue interesting. Also, I feel there’s a lot of crossover between people who read mystery and those who read dark fantasy and horror.

It’s literally about six hours of me talking about my books. A topic, I’ve been told, is one of my favorites. But what really got me was the chance to meet new fans. We talked and laughed about all things under the sun. People walked away with some new books to read. This made me smile.

But what really broadened my lips and exposed my pearly whites was the chance to talk with a couple of teens. The first girl, see photo below, read the back of No Name and a few pages in the front. She made a preliminary sweep through the room, selecting her choices and marking them down on a piece of paper. When her mother arrived, she dragged her to various tables with her choices for the day. And then she came back to me with a huge grin on her face. They bought both books.

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Meeting New Fans!

Another boy, maybe thirteen, came to our table and we talked about his desire to be a writer. I believe in telling what I know. Granted, I’m not Stephen King, Dean Koontz, or John Grisham but I’ve learned a few things. So I told him what I could, but I also encouraged him to get active and work on his writing skills. I told him that creativity was something built on a life of experience and he needed to build that to give himself a good base. He was a sponge, taking up what I would give him. He bought No Name.

Talking to those young people was definitely the highlight of the show for me. I sold well, but that wasn’t the point overall. It was the interactions I had which made this show so incredibly special to me. More importantly, it left me exhausted, but thirsting for more. It was a taste of another world for me. A wonderful world where I came to take something away, but ended up willingly leaving a part of myself there too.

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Suffolk is Beautiful!

For those of you who’ve never done an event like this, I highly encourage you to do so. I guarantee you will walkway with more than just a few extra book sales. It’s a deeply satisfying experience, in many ways.

Overall the event was pretty amazing. I got to meet lots of people and talk with many other authors. It was a great experience. You can bet that I’ll be back at the SMAF next year.

-Your Humble Servant,

 

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P.S. Special thanks to my wonderful wife Tanya Nowak for helping out. I couldn’t have done it without you honey!

Top Five Personal Changes

As I continue my writing journey, I’ve noticed I see myself differently. Not just in a specific sense, but in a more holistic way. Writing makes me look more introspectively at myself and my own abilities. I’ve seen people post their own top five lists and I thought it might be fun to do my own. So here goes. Top five changes I’ve noticed since becoming a serious writer.

  1. It takes me about a bazillion times longer to write anything these days. It may sound counter-intuitive, but since I write more, it takes me so much longer now than it used to. I no longer find myself plunging through any old thing and hitting the ‘send button’. Now I have to go back and analyze every little word and letter. Every sentence needs to be read and re-read to see if I got my meaning right. And even then I find I’ve missed something here or there.

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    How dare you question my manuscript? Off with your head!
  2. I find my interest in the arts has grown dramatically. Although I have never been able to keep my Crayola’s inside the lines, I have always been interested in arts. But as I grow as a writer, I have learned to slow down and enjoy the works of art far more than I’ve ever done in the past. Last year I had the pleasure of seeing the Mona Lisa in Paris. While there were hundreds of others trying to take the obligatory ‘selfie’ with her, I was more content to sit there and enjoy the image on the canvas. I thought about what was going through da Vinci’s mind as he painted it. I wondered what the subject thought about the process and how long it took for him to get the painting done. Of course, the Louvre has so many wonderful works of art and I could have just spent a week in the art galleries alone.
  3. I have become my own worst critic. It’s true, writers are always one step away from self-doubt. I’m no exception. One moment I am convinced I’m a literary genius and the next moment I am convinced I should really take up a less demanding hobby. Maybe I should take up crocheting or bird watching? Perhaps bowling would be a better fit for me. Maybe … oh wait, the moment has passed. I guess I should get back to writing.
  4. I am in constant awe of others. I suppose this goes hand and hand with number three. I am constantly looking at other people’s work and being amazed at their skills. But, along with that, I am often amazed they would choose to associate with me. I recently attended an event where I was sitting next to two fellow authors who had far more successes than I even dream about at this point. It was like being a kid and being allowed to sit at the big people’s table.
  5. My ability to accept my own failings is growing. Anyone who is getting into writing learns that your ability to take criticism is critical to your life as an author. You have to be willing to read feedback with two ideas in mind.

One: This person isn’t out to hurt you. In fact, they want to help you. That’s why they’re giving you feedback that stings a little. They are showing you your own failings. A mirror in front of you hurts only because it shows you things that only you can change.

Two: You don’t have to take it! Okay, so your beta reader gave you a laundry list of things you should change in your manuscript. Even if that beta reader is a well-respected author, I’ve learned to keep a sense of perspective. Because, at the end of the day, it’s my name going on the title page. Since that’s true, then the final say is mine! Granted, you ignore advice at your own peril but that advice is advice and not law. If you don’t agree with a suggestion, then don’t use it!

That being said, I usually do take about 85-95% of the advice my beta readers give me. Ultimately it’s good advice and I picked them to beta the manuscript for me because I trust their counsel.

 

So, that’s it. My top five list of changes I’ve noticed since becoming a serious writer. Hope you enjoy it!