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Ordinarily I avoid New Year’s Resolutions, for the obvious reason that they never last. If I want something that will never last, I’ll make a list of campaign promises.

Resolving to lose weight? Yeah, right – this is the time of year when we need that layer of fat. In fact, that’s the biggest problem with most resolutions – the timing. In the middle of winter we need all the comfort we can get, and most resolutions involve cutting down on the things that comfort us.

By the time we get our tenth winter storm warning of the year, you’ll have to pry those potato chips out of my cold, dead hands. Or at least, my cold hands.

But this year I’m making a resolution.

I’ve been writing fiction for 35 years. I decided as a teenager, three decades ago,
to become a full time fiction writer. I sent my first short story to a publication 25 years ago. I completed my first novel manuscript 20 years ago.

I remain unpublished. I have given up trying to sell my writing, in disgust and despair, 128 times.

About five years ago I landed an agent, a Very Big Deal for writers. We came heartbreakingly close to making sales, but in February, 2007, he decided to leave the business.

Feeling like my efforts had been set back a decade, I went into an emotional tailspin, a depression that lasted the better part of two years. Well, I’m done whining, and I’m back in the game. My New Year’s resolution is to get published.

Not that I ever stopped writing. I love it – might as well tell me to stop breathing, or taking in nourishment, or drinking Mountain Dew. But all jobs have their bad parts, and for writers the bad part is selling our work. The problem is pretty basic: If you want to sell your writing, you have to send it out. No manuscript ever gets bought if it stays in the desk drawer.

I’ve produced numerous stories, and some are even readable. It’s been said that every writer has a million horrible words in him before he finds something good; I’m at two million and change right now, so I’m ready.

In 2009, I’m going to ignore everything else: House work, yard work, television – well, maybe not all television, let’s not get crazy. But does the roof really need repaired? I maintain a plastic tarp will do just as well, and be safer. Do the bushes need trimmed? They’re bushes – what are they if not bushy? My kids? Perfectly capable of cooking for themselves, and I’ll keep a large knife on my desk in case they dare commit author intrusion.

The first priority is to get my office ready. I have to be able to research markets, and keep track of what manuscript has been sent where. I’ll need a secret drawer for my editor slush fund – they don’t get paid well, so who knows what a little palm greasing will produce? I’ll connect my old printer to my older computer, and hope they both hold up. I’ll need envelopes, labels, printer paper, and a steady supply of beverage. Don’t worry, the bathroom’s just down the hall.

Then there are the stories, of course, and I’ve decided to diversify. I have a few older science fiction short stories that survived my review and can be sent out again. My criteria was simple: If reading them made me cringe, they hit the trash can. Of the three dozen short stories I produced in the 80’s, five could be salvaged – and one of those is iffy.

Meanwhile, I have three romantic comedy novels, ready to go. Yep – a man, writing romances. Hey, we’ve got a black guy as President, don’t we? Welcome to the 21st Century. One is the story of a storm chaser, imaginatively entitled “Storm Chaser”. Another was invented at a drive-in, and is about a drive-in. the third is set in Michigan, and involves a radio personality; I plotted it out while on vacation in Michigan, at a time when I was a part-time DJ. The words “write what you know” are never far from my mind.

Those will hit the mail, with a prayer to the publishing gods.

But as I said, diversification is the key. I already have the first draft of a humorous (well, I hope) story about a father and daughter who team up in what will surely be a mystery book series, if I can ever sell the first one. See – optimism! My youngest daughter and I invented the storyline together, which means she gets a line in the acknowledgements.

I also have a half completed work about firefighters, which is tentatively titled “They Must be Crazy”. I suppose some author with firefighting experience has already used that title, so I have a backup: “You Have to be Crazy to Have This Job”. It’s just a working title.

Finally, my girlfriend and I have been kicking around an idea for a comedy about zombies.

Seriously. Well, I mean funny, I hope, but I’m serious about being funny. Surely nobody’s written a comic zombie novel, have they? The “Twilight” books have already stolen some of my thunder, as one of my original thoughts was to have a “vegetarian zombie”, and they have vampires of the same ilk – maybe great minds think alike, but some think faster than others.

Of course, none of those ideas means anything if they’re not turned into a good story, and if that good story isn’t then sold. That’s the challenge. Anybody can write a short story, or even a novel – selling is the problem. Since I’m not a celebrity or a criminal, I have a long path to travel.

But I’m ready to start down that path again. In these hard times, all we can really do is take on the challenges with hard work, even though that light up ahead might be nothing more than some other aspiring writer, using the glow of his laptop screen to follow his own path.

That’s okay; I can type in the dark.


( 30 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 26th, 2008 09:25 am (UTC)
Now that's a great resolution! Good luck!
Dec. 26th, 2008 11:42 am (UTC)
Thanks! *whispers to avoid disturbing the sleepy Christmas cat*
Dec. 26th, 2008 10:39 am (UTC)
Best of luck with it! A comedy zombie novel really should do well - Shaun of the Dead did really well - at least in did in Britain - I've put the link in case you don't know what I'm talking about - although the silliness and humour of it all is not all that clear from the Wiki entry.

Edited at 2008-12-26 10:40 am (UTC)
Dec. 26th, 2008 11:43 am (UTC)
I've certainly heard of Shaun of the Dead, but I haven't had a chance to watch it. I should treat it as important research! :-)
(Deleted comment)
Dec. 26th, 2008 11:42 am (UTC)
thanks -- I'll need all the help I can get!
Dec. 26th, 2008 01:31 pm (UTC)
I should join you in that resolution...if I only knew how to go about sending out queries, finding agents, etc. I suck at trying to pare down the story for 'what's it about' in any concise manner, lol!

Best of luck and I'll help if I can :D
Dec. 27th, 2008 07:38 am (UTC)
Go to http://www.writersmarket.com/, and look for the link to the Writer's Digest Store. There are, in addition to general books about writing, all sorts of books covering specific topics, such as query writing, agent hunts, approaching publishers, and how to outline. I've bought dozens of books from them, and have yet to waste a single dollor on my purchases there. In fact, I bought two copies of 2009 Writer's Market this year -- one for me, and one for Emily to take back to Missouri with her. There's even a guide to query letters: http://www.writersdigeststore.com/store/Get_Published___The_Writer_s_Digest_Guide_to_Query_Letters___Z2703?Args=

I suck at paring down my stories, too, but I studies and practiced, and even though I hate doing it, I'm getting better!
Dec. 26th, 2008 02:25 pm (UTC)
1. Twilight did not come from a great mind, your writing style is far better from what I've read online.

2. I'm sending happy thoughts to the publishing gods for you! I would love to be able to go buy your books!
Dec. 27th, 2008 07:39 am (UTC)
I had a feeling some people would feel that way about Twilight. :-)

Thanks much! I hope you get a chance to buy my books, someday!
Dec. 26th, 2008 02:41 pm (UTC)
Go for it!!

And a tip

Treat yourself to a new copy of a good Writer's guide and follow all the tips for making your submission stand out!
Dec. 27th, 2008 07:42 am (UTC)
I have a book from Writer's Digest called "How to Write Attention Grabbing Query & Cover Letters", and I also pay attention to articles about querying in my Writer's Digest magazine. There are also great articles in Writer's Market, which I get every year. Actually, my query letters have gotten me some good responses in the past -- just not quite a sale, just yet.
Dec. 26th, 2008 03:21 pm (UTC)

Good luck Mark! I personally think your particular style of writing lends itself very well to romantic comedy- even the combo of romanance/ mystery comedy a la Evanovich or Donna Andrews. (And if you still haven't read anything by Andrews yet, get thee to a library for her Meg Langslow series- call it research LOL).

Dec. 27th, 2008 07:44 am (UTC)
I'll check out Donna Andrews! If she's half as good as Evanovich, she's pretty good.

Actually, Evanovich is one of my inspirations for the father/daughter story I mentioned. My writing style isn't the same, but I like her quirky type of humor.
Dec. 26th, 2008 09:59 pm (UTC)
best of luck, that is something to work towards!
Dec. 27th, 2008 07:44 am (UTC)
We all need some goal to work toward, I think. Thanks!
Dec. 26th, 2008 11:07 pm (UTC)
Good luck mate.

Next year Stephen King will be asking YOU for a loan for a change.
Dec. 27th, 2008 07:45 am (UTC)
I'll get back to you, Stephen
I'm not sure how I feel about the idea of becoming *that* successful!
Re: I'll get back to you, Stephen - keith5by5 - Dec. 27th, 2008 09:26 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: I'll get back to you, Stephen - ozma914 - Dec. 27th, 2008 10:53 am (UTC) - Expand
Dec. 26th, 2008 11:46 pm (UTC)
So what would a vegetarian zombie eat? Fake brains made out of cauliflower?

Good luck, by the way!
Dec. 27th, 2008 07:51 am (UTC)
In Twilight, the characters call themselves "vegetarian vampires" because they don't drink human blood -- they stick to animals, instead. My idea was that my main character was a vegetarian in life, and grossed out by the idea of eating humans; she's searching for something that will nourish her so parts don't start dropping off. I'd come up with the term "vegetarian zombie", and then watched Twilight where the same kind of term was used. *sigh*
(no subject) - vovat - Dec. 27th, 2008 02:24 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - ozma914 - Dec. 28th, 2008 05:42 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - vovat - Dec. 29th, 2008 01:57 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - ozma914 - Dec. 31st, 2008 09:49 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - vovat - Jan. 1st, 2009 01:08 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - ozma914 - Jan. 1st, 2009 10:00 am (UTC) - Expand
Dec. 31st, 2008 01:38 pm (UTC)
I hope that 2009 really is the year you keep your resolution and that you get successfully published - you deserve it.

I shall be here with encouragement along the way.
Jan. 1st, 2009 10:00 am (UTC)
Thanks so much! If I get enough talk like that, I'll have to get published to avoid disappointing anyone! :-)
( 30 comments — Leave a comment )

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