The War of Art, VI

From David Mack's Kabuki: The Alchemy. (Read Parts I, II, III, IV, and V). This is an idea I'm not sure I understand completely yet. Maybe I'm not a true artist, but when I get in the zone it's usually because I already know what needs to happen. Sometimes ideas just come to me, but it's rare. More often than not, even when in the zone, I'll have to stop at some point where I don't know what happens next, or the protagonist is seeing an airship for the first time and I don't know what it looks like, or he is escaping out of a window ledge and I need to figure out what's there and how (or whether) he can possibly escape.

Usually I brainstorm at this point, and one or two of the things I end up thinking of will be kind of good. Maybe I'm defining "in the zone" differently. Or maybe I get distracted too easily (that's not hard - I'm usually writing in a room with 2-3 other kids that are sometimes vying for my attention in ways ranging from respectful to naughty).

Part VI of VI:

Pressfield cites
the other secret true
artists know that
wannabe writers don't:
"When we sit down each
day and do our work,
power concentrates
around us".

What Pressfield
calls professionalism
others may call the
Artist's Code,
or the Warrior's Way.
It is an attitude of
egolessness and

When you get
in the zone, don't
second guess it. Your
ideas are smarter
than you are.

A natural principle
of organization channels
through you, even if you
cannot initially comprehend
its larger implications.
are made.

Dedication and
concentration put
us in touch with our
natural talent.
Our genius.

The Romans
used the Latin
word genius to
mean an inner

guides us to
our calling.

The Pain of Querying

Writing a query letter is a skill. It's one I don't have yet, and I'm not as committed to acquiring that skill as I am to the skill of writing. Probably because somewhere in the back of my mind I think that if I can get past the query just once, then the book will sell itself, and then I won't have to write queries anymore. Wouldn't that be nice?

Part of the difficulty is that nobody agrees on what a good query is. Everyone agrees that they are short and to the point, professional and not annoying, but beyond that it seems like there's no consensus. Some suggest the body should be a mini-synopsis, others say it should be a pitch selling the book. One agency says they want to know your influences, another website says to include nothing of the sort as it might sound arrogant. A number of examples have rhetorical questions as their opening tagline, and a number of agents are sick to death of them.

So? I just keep on revising the letter and sending it out. I take some solace in the fact that I have yet to hear from any of the agents who asked for 40-50 pages with the query. Maybe it means they're considering it?

You've seen my original mini-synopsis. That was my first trial, where I was trying to explain what the book was about rather than sell it. It's okay, but not terribly clear and, in most places, not very exciting. It really is a synopsis, in that it tells what the story is about just without giving away the ending.

Below is my second attempt. One of the agents in the batch this was sent to asked for "sales material" along with the query - a promo sentence, back cover summary, etc. It got me thinking about the query in a different way and this was the result.

How can you stop a tyrant older than the oceans and faster than time?

In the mid-22nd century, the Earth is all but destroyed. The survivors live under the heel of a man named Arad who, if the rumors are true, is something more than a man. They say he can dodge bullets, turn invisible, and kill with a prayer. Some believe he is the savior prophesied before the war began, but others call him the devil.

Only a small group of rebels remains to oppose him, and they are quickly losing hope. There is a young girl that can save them, but they are as afraid of her as they are of Arad. And when the girl is hurt and hopeless herself there is no one to believe in her, except for a father and son who are strangers themselves – travelers from the past, trapped in a time that is not their own. Can Alex and his son convince the rebels they should help this girl? Will the girl’s powers be enough to stop Arad?

And when Alex’ son betrays the rebellion, who is left to save them?

Better, but it still doesn't get directly to the point. Part of that is that I don't know what the point is. That attempt was closer to the original seed of an idea I had for Travelers, but that seed has evolved so much since then, I can't say that it's the same story anymore.

Below is my current draft. A couple of days ago I found agents saying they hate rhetorical questions, so I tossed it. The pitch didn't need it anyway - not if I got to the point fast enough. This is the version that will go out with the third batch. Will it make any difference? I don't know. This whole thing is just a learning process for me anyway:

Arad rules the future with a mixture of persuasion and fear. He is not a man; he dodges bullets, turns invisible, and kills with a prayer – if the rumors are true. There is one who might be able to stop him: a young girl with equally strange powers, but because she cannot control them, the people are as afraid of her as they are of Arad.

Enter Alex and Thomas Gaines – father and son, accidental travelers from our time trapped in this post-apocalyptic struggle. They want to help the girl, but can they help her gain control of her powers before it’s too late? Will it be enough to stop Arad?

And when Thomas betrays them so he can go home, is there any hope left at all?
Looking at it again, the middle paragraph needs work. Or maybe that entire aspect of the plot needs work, but I can't toss out Alex and Thomas anymore. The last sentence, which I really like, is the main reason why.

The War of Art, V

From David Mack's Kabuki: The Alchemy. (Read Parts I, II, III, and IV). Here the conversation between Kabuki and her mentor ends, and she acts on what she's learned. That quote from Ghandi is just... the most universally applicable truism I can think of.

Part V of VI:

I turn Pro.

You imagine what you want to be
and you act as if you are that.
Ghandi said, "Be the change you
want to see in the world".
If I want to create, I must
treat it with the respect and
dedication that a pro would.
Do it every day the best I can.
I don't know if it is any good
or not right now. I don't
have perspective for that
at this time.
All I know is that for
this day, I have overcome
the worst parts of me.
I have overcome

Now I understand
The War of Art.

The Quiet

Just moved everything. Still no internet at the house. Not much time for writing yet. Got two more rejections, though the quality of them seems to be getting nicer (maybe it's the new query letter?).

And as soon as I get internet at home I'll start working on the third transport. Ever hopeful.

The War of Art, IV

From David Mack's Kabuki: The Alchemy. (Read Parts I, II, and III).

When I first read this, I thought I knew what it meant to "consider yourself a pro." I thought it meant that I needed to have the self-discipline to just write, even when I didn't feel like it.

While that's true, I've learned going pro is even more than that. Ever since I sent out my first queries, I've been doing tons of research into the publishing world, and I've been reading the blogs of other authors - especially SF/F authors. In a sense, I've been living in the world of the pros, and I've discovered that I want it.

I think that sudden, unexpected desire is part of why I've written more in the last two weeks than in any given month previously. That desire is what has helped me go pro, at least for now.

Part IV of VI:
The pro knows that if you do the work, the muse will show up. You don't wait for the muse to show up first.

"Someone asked Somerset Maugham if he wrote on a schedule or only when struck by inspiration. "I write only when inspiration strikes," he replied. "fortunately it strikes every morning at 9:00 sharp."

That's a pro.

There is a secret that real writers know that wannabe writers don't, and the secret is this: It's not the writing that is hard. What's hard is sitting down to write".
Read part V.

Calculating Speed

I can type over 100 words per minute. That means, in theory, I should be able to write 6,000 words per hour and 48,000 words in an 8-hour work day.

While that's technically true, it's completely impractical. In order to write that many words in a day I'd have to think as fast as I type or plagiarize word for word. And to handle 8 hours a day, I'd also need superhuman finger strength and the sitting endurance of a tree sloth.

Physical typing speed is not what slows me down. In real life, I can write 500-1000 words per hour on a good day. That should mean I can write a full draft of a novel (80-120,000 words) in less than 3 weeks, but the problem is that most days I'm unable to write for even one hour. The rest of the time, I'm plotting, outlining, parenting, revising, teaching, parenting, brainstorming, playing Sudoku, blogging, decompressing, parenting, and parenting.

That's still just a theoretical rate anyway. In real life, it took me about 3 years to write the first draft of Travelers at 76,000 words*, a rate of about 100 words/day.** I started the first draft of Air Pirates last September and in 6 months wrote 16,000 words (130 words/day). The crazy thing is, after taking a break to do a bunch of querying for Travelers, I wrote another 7,000 words in the last two weeks, which is like 700 words/day!

Shoot, if I could keep that rate up, I could write a draft in 5-10 months. If only life were that simple. If you'll excuse me, I have to move the worldly possessions of eight people from one house to another, while simultaneously ensuring that the kids get to school and back, do their homework, obey Mom and Dad, go to sleep on time, and (in some cases) have a clean diaper and learn to classify a direct object.

* When I say word count, I mean only words left in the final draft. I don't count revisions, notes, outlines, brainstorms, or previous drafts. When the draft is done, I just ask MS Word what my word count is and record it. It's the simplest, most honest way to count, but it's not the most useful statistic if your question is, "When will the book be done?"

** Assuming 5 work days per week, 50 work weeks per year.

The War of Art, III

From David Mack's Kabuki: The Alchemy. In parts I and II, Kabuki is expressing her thoughts to a friend. In this part and the next, the friend responds. The War of Art, mentioned here, is an actual book that I nearly bought once, but I think everything I want to get out of it is already in these excerpts from Kabuki.

The Art of War is also a real book. My brother and I used to read it as kids. I think everybody should read it, even if you only use it to excel at Settlers.

Part III of VI:
Have you read The War of Art?

You mean The Art of War by Sun Tzu.

No. The War of Art by a writer named Pressfield. It names that force that distracts you from your calling, "Resistance".

"Most of us have 2 lives. The life we live and the unlived life within us. Between the 2 stands resistance".

Pressfield explains that the only way to combat resistance of something you must do is to put in the time & due diligence daily. Consider yourself a pro beforehand.
Read part IV.