Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Walter White Wednesday 9

. . . in which I digress from talking about the show to talking about the project.

As readers of this blog know, "Walter White Wednesday" is being done to support the upcoming book Wanna Cook? The Unofficial Guide to Breaking Bad.  A question I get asked a lot is some variation of "So how do you get a book published?"  Here's at least part of the answer.  Actual mileage may vary.

1. Everyone will tell you that it's all about luck.  It's not.  What it IS about is hard, grinding work done consistently.  Since it involves hard, grinding work done over a long period of time, for the love of all the angels, pick a topic you absolutely LOVE - you're going to be living with it for a long time.
2. For my first book, I became fixated on finding the answer to the question, "If  Joss Whedon's a hard-core atheist, how come he cares so much about redemption?"  Seriously - that one question got the whole ball rolling - and the answers I found surprised me.  I then started reading what other people had written, making notes on what I agreed with and where I thought people ignored the overall evidence to support only their own ideas.  Read the show sites, but also read the critical sites - trust me, there's a critical site (which features more academic writing and fewer straight recaps) for everything.  Whedon, science fiction, film, soap operas, commercials - everything is someone's darling to study.  Go find it.  Read, comment, and when something truly clicks for you (for me, it was the fact that I couldn't find the stuff I wanted to read, so I thought, Well, I'll write it myself.), it's time to start writing.  Writers write.  They don't sit on the couch and whine about how great they'd be if they only had a publishing contract.  You start writing without one.
3. Now you start presenting and getting your work out there into the world.  Regardless of what you're writing - fiction, poetry, non-fiction, criticism, you name it - you need a reader.  This is someone who will read your material critically.  Warning - they will, very occasionally, bruise your feelings.  But, if they're any good at all, their comments will make you a better writer.  Maintaining a blog or writing some sort of online column is also a great idea, but you have to be consistent about it (I think once a week is the absolute minimum yet you have to also be careful about how much you give away.)  
4. With a few posts and pages under your belt, it's time to see how your work stacks up.  Get on the list for a conference that caters to your area.  There are conferences for writers of romance novels, academic criticism, sportswriting, and so on.  I found popular culture conferences and I haven't looked back.  Go, meet people who write what you want to write, and go hear people who write in other areas, too.  When you're ready, present your own work - it'll usually be a 20 minute reading, so you don't have to have an entire manuscript done.  Ask questions.  Collect business cards.  Have coffee with people.  Go have dinner.  Grab a sandwich between sessions.  Most people are friendly and quite willing to talk about their work.  Also, in my experience, most of these people are funny and it's never a bad idea to spend time with such folk.
5.  Conferences also have publishing reps.  Look over the book tables and see what they brought with them.  Chat with the reps, who probably have a "so you want to send us a proposal?" handout with them.  You can get this information online, but it's good to wander and see who's publishing what.  Also, having ten minutes to just chat with someone in publishing about you and what you're interested in writing about - that's gold.  Thank them for their time and after you get home, drop anyone who was generous with their time or whose work you especially liked a quick note.  No - this probably won't fling open the doors of the publishing house; it's simply good manners.
6.  Now you write a proposal following the guidelines.  You make it strong, you make it pretty, and you accept that you probably won't get asked to the prom right off.  My first book, Faith & Choice in the Works of Joss Whedon (you've got that on your bookshelf, right?) came about with some major tweaking on the proposal.  It's a academic book - I'll never get rich off of it, but I wrote (or so I believe) a solid, well-researched, yet still readable book about a subject I cared a great deal about.  Further, the book has opened doors for me - as people read my work and heard me present, they kept me in mind for other projects.

It's not luck.  It's work and setting deadlines and making them and turning in work that doesn't have to be salvaged by an editor.  Learn the basics of grammar and don't be so sensitive to criticism that you don't let anyone read your work before you seek a wider audience.

I'm really enjoying co-writing the first part of Wanna Cook?  With the fifth and final season not airing as one unified season, I don't know what that's going to do to publication date - I imagine it's pushed back a bit, especially if the second half of Season 5 doesn't air until early (or, heaven forbid, mid-) 2013, but we'll have to see.  That's the other thing about writing - you have to roll with the punches, because - oh, boy! - there will be some.

Now go write!

1 comment:

Shimon said...

Thanks SO much for this. Very helpful indeed.
Actually now that I think about it, kinda similar to pushing Meth
1) Love the Chemistry
2) Go out there and cook.
3) Put some samples out on the street
4) Meet up with Gus
5) Get him to respect you.
6) Become a millionaire (you forgot to include this one in your list!)