Header Image - Getting the words out by any means possible.

What Artistic Growth Looks Like

by Jonathan 0 Comments

Check out these two videos from Nathaniel Rateliff, one from 2010 and one from this year.

They’re both pretty damn good, right? That first one, though, Shroud, it’s pretty raw. Now, truth be told, I love music like this, but you can only get by on raw for so long. For an artist (writer, painter, musician) to endure, evolution is key otherwise the same old same old is just that. No matter how talented an artist might be, trotting out the same stuff year after year will eventually get stale.

Watching the second video, there’s still that rawness, but there’s a whole lot more going on, there’s showmanship, a true stage presence that wasn’t there before. Rateliff owns the stage. He’s gone from singer songwriter to full on entertainer. The music itself is testament to that fact as well. The song’s a complete effort by the band. And it’s glorious.

The beauty of growth is that not everyone’s going to like it, but it’s critical for the artist to keep on keeping on. Think of the Beatles or Bob Dylan or U2. Love ’em or hate ’em, they kept the flame alive by exploring their medium. Look at Picasso or Van Gogh or Rothko over time and you’ll see their work changing on different scales.

I’ll leave you with this quote from Rothko:

The progression of a painter’s work…will be toward clarity; toward the elimination of all obstacles between the painter and the idea, and between the idea and the observer…to achieve this clarity is, inevitably, to be understood.


Synopsis Writing Resources

by Jonathan 0 Comments

Thought I’d catalog some of the resources I’ve looked to for guidance on writing a synopsis, that much dreaded act of distilling your beloved work into an ounce of awesome.

Back to Basics: Writing a Novel Synopsis

How to Write a Synopsis of Your Novel

How to Write a 1-Page Synopsis

How to Write a Synopsis: FAQ

Synopsis Examples and Resources From Writer’s Digest

Be warned, these articles may not always agree with each other.

There’s lots of good info here, but unfortunately you still have to write the beast.


Five reasons you can’t let your first novel go

by Jonathan 0 Comments

Moving on by z0h3 over at Deviant Art (click link to visit page)


You believe in your first novel. You know it’s the best it can be right now.

And yet it is still raw in a way that cannot be undone no matter how much you revise.

Maybe the premise is a bit off or has lost its luster.

Maybe, just maybe, it’s not good enough.

And that’s fine.

You run it through the query process, get critiques, even get some feedback that it’s good, well-written, “market-ready.” And at last you send it out there and get little response other than form letters. You wonder if it’s the work itself, the query letter, the synopsis (all six versions of it), the agent or whoever is reading the query letters. You revisit all of it and try to make it better while worrying that you’re making it worse. You revise, identify the now-obvious boring parts, trim it down, make it leaner. And get ready send it out again.

And maybe this time should be the last. You’ve got other ideas, other word sculptures to make. So what’s holding you back?

Could be one of these:

  1. You’ve invested a ton of work into your novel and you can’t imagine it just sitting there on your hard drive unappreciated by anyone but you and the handful of people who’ve read it (well, some of them, anyway). 
    Think of it as writing pushups or squat thrusts or something. It’s not the endgame, but something you do to be better. It wasn’t a waste. It was inching up that learning curve. Do it enough and you’ll find it a little less steep.
  2. You are afraid you might not be able to get down that road again, build a novel from scratch and get it to the point where you actually like it. 
    You did it once, right? You’ve learned some stuff along the way. Hell, it might even go a little easier next time around. You’ll exercise writing muscles you forgot you had and you’ll get to re-experience the joy of everything coming together at last.
  3. You’re not sure you could go through writing another novel that may not see the light of day. Sure you love writing, but most of us do it with the intent of sharing the story, not to fill up a digital trunk.
    Hmmm, I see I’ve listed this twice. That’s probably because it’s the one that we (me) fear the most. Take note, see 1., above).
  4. You think maybe you’re not good enough. For Pete’s sake, have you been on Twitter? There must be a jillion authors out there. Who are getting new book deals. Who are landing agents. Seems like everyone but you.
    This might be true, but there’s only one way to be good enough and you already know what that is. Right? Right?? Look at your work with a critical eye. Be honest with yourself and find those places that can be better. If you can’t see it, find someone who can. Keep going, keep improving. Build a method of dealing with this feeling because this won’t be the last time you experience it.
  5. Giving up on your first novel feels a shit ton like failure. 
    Maybe it does, but if see 1., above again. Think of your first novel as a means to an end. Maybe this time around keep your progress and your aspirations on the down low. Keep your head down and get after novel number two, or a short story. Just finishing another work will ease your mind. Oh yeah, one more thing, if you can take the long view, there is no failure, only steps along the way. If other people are telling you that you’re a failure, move on from them, too.

No doubt there are stages of remorse for this sort of thing.

Ultimately, the decision is yours to make, but the question you must ask yourself most is, “How badly do I want this?”

If your answer is, “meh, too hard,” then roll over go back to sleep instead of getting up at Oh-Dark-Thirty to write. Watch Dynasty reruns instead of carving out an hour of cranking out a few hundred words. Hell, maybe Candy Crush Saga XIX is calling and you just can’t say no. That’s okay. The only thing that will die will be a little part of your soul.

It’s more about endurance and getting a little better with each page. It’s about understanding how your write and what drives you. Me, I’m going to keep on going and try my damnedest to tell a ripping good story and hope that somewhere down the line–my second, my fifth, my tenth novel–someone will say, “people will want to read the hell out this story.”



On Queries and Being Sold Advice

by Jonathan 0 Comments

Snake Earl

It’s been over five years since I started on my first novel. As with any endeavor, I’ve done a ton of research on the various parts of the process from writing to publication. I’ve gotten workshop feedback, beta reader comments and query critiques.

I just attended a webinar on avoiding rookie mistakes in query writing — it was one of those things where I thought,  “why not, maybe it’ll help.” If anything, the webinar reinforced that the only thing consistent in the materials I’ve covered in that time is the inconsistency of advice and information. Dig long enough and you’ll find advice that directly conflicts, leaving you scratching your head and clenching your teeth in frustration.

I can’t help but see that so much of what we pin our hopes on is merely produced ostensibly to help the writer, but is simply nothing more than a for-profit business designed to tap into our desires to “make it.”

Not that it’s overly surprising, but it’s safe to say that so much of the publishing industry is based strictly on human preference. I think we all know this is the case on some level, but it doesn’t keep us from looking for “insider info” or a leg up. Ultimately, we must bust our butts writing, synopsizing, querying, putting ourselves out there and failing more often than not and pray for that sweet, sweet nexus where what we produce catches the imagination of someone willing to go to bat for it.

In the end, we can shell out as much money as we want, but no one is going to write our books for us, no one is going to hold our hand and make sure our queries are perfect for each agent to whom we submit them.

Eh, so be it. I guess the key is not to be in a rush, to enjoy the ride and keep on keeping on. Maybe that’s the only consistent bit of advice worth paying attention to.



Three Rip-Roaring Good Reads

If you’re looking for a few books that beg to be plowed through, here are a few that fit the bill. I had almost forgotten what it was like to tear through page after glorious page staying up late to find out what happens next.

The best part? There’s more to these books than just compelling story lines. Each is a reflection of our current existence and the oddities/frustrations/questions that go with it.

But rather than me trying to tell you, here’s the list. Go and read for yourself.


Under the Empyrean Sky

A lovely story of the heartland set in a world of genetically modified crops and wealth inequality gone horribly awry. Part of the Heartland Trilogy by Chuck Wendig. The second book, Blightborn, just came out today.




Unease. Insidious. Lingering. Strange. Annihilation conjures all these feelings and more. The first book in the Southern Reach Trilogy by Jeff Vandermeer. The second book, Authority, is already out and the final book, Acceptance is out this fall.




Max Barry’s novel about the power of words hit the mark for me. Inventive, disjointed and fun. Bonus: Once you’ve read Lexicon, go take this quiz. It’ll leave you … well, wondering.

So get out there. Read. Have fun.