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New Novel Synopsis: “What You Get”

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I’ve decided to dedicate nearly all of my writing time to this project. I’ve been working on this novel for over a year, but have not put all of the effort into it that I should. I’m now ready to make this book idea a reality. I have a diverse autism background in parenting, support, advocacy and education. This fictional story is a composite of many of the situations I’ve encountered, though I’ve thrown in elements of mystery, drama and murder that do not exist and are created strictly for artistic value.

I’ll be working on this book throughout the year, and expect to be able to send it out to agents and/or publishers by sometime in the fall. I’ll keep you posted on the progress, and would love for you to provide input, suggestions, comments or the occasional critique. That said, here is the synopsis for “What You Get.”

*** To most people, CeeCee is a perfect mom to two unique kids. Her beautiful daughter Skylar was a high school star athlete, and now attends Bay Path University on a full academic scholarship. Her adopted son David is a bright 11-year-old boy, but outsiders see that his autism is beginning to take its toll on CeeCee. Little are they aware that the troubles between David and his mom have been festering for years, and CeeCee now shamelessly admits that she hates David for being “damaged.” CeeCee shares with relatives that she feels adopting him was a mistake. Much to the alarm of friends, David’s mom complains, “You adopt a kid, and this is what you get.”

When David turns up missing, some residents of the shaken little Vermont town move in to comfort the distraught mother. Others easily and freely point fingers at CeeCee. Her once-perfect world comes crashing down when a neighbor find’s David’s body at the bottom of the village’s chilly waterfall. David’s mom insists that, though she and David were often at odds, she had nothing to do with her son’s death. Through the tragedy, a common theme stings the once-idyllic New England community: sometimes what you deserve is exactly what you get. ***

Are You the Type Who Focuses On One Writing Project at a Time or Are You Comfortable Taking On Several Simultaneously?

PedalBoatLast summer we rented a pedal boat at a lake in a small state park here in Vermont. Those are great if you want to take a calm but squeaky (I wouldn’t use one if I was trying to anonymously escape from an island-locked prison — wait, what am I doing in prison in the first place?) jaunt on a bright, sunny day. Get caught in a thunderstorm, though, and the fun melts away. Have you ever tried to outrun the lightning by pedaling one of those things faster? Never before was truer the phrase “the ‘hurrier’ I go, the ‘behinder’ I get.” It seems as though faster pedaling makes you go backwards. More effort makes for less (possibly even negative) progress.

My search for a career in writing has become that pedal boat. The lightning storm of rare and diminishing prospects (coupled with the fact that I may or may not be approaching 50 in a year and a half) has caused me to pedal faster, as I’ve started to take on too many projects. Now that my efforts have me sufficiently overwhelmed, I’m making less (possibly even negative) progress.

I manage two active blogs on WordPress: this one (obviously) and Our Journey, Our Way (by “actively manage” I mean “realize they are there, and update them sporadically”). I’ve also been chipping away at (“chipping away at” = “thinking about an idea, and promising myself I will start it ‘tomorrow'”) an article for Cracked.com. Also, I was working on interviewing the promoter of a writing contest (after my first round of questions, he never got back with me; I think it may have ended up being an exposé) and I have a pretty solid stage play script in the works (treatment is done, and I’ve finished the script through Act I, Scene 6). On top of that, I’ve been submitting to some short story contests and literary magazines (21 submissions; 2 rejections to date), along with looking for freelance writing work (I’m a Craigslist junkie). Through it all, I have been continually pushing an idea for a novel (my longest-living project) onto the back burner.

I believe my slow progress is a direct result of trying too hard to outrun the storm. Instead of picking one or two projects to give slow and steady quality work, I’ve been trying to amass quantity. I know part of me thinks exposure is the key. All that’s doing, though, is making me pedal faster and getting me soaking wet. So, I’ve decided to slow down the effort and concentrate on getting to shore, instead of trying to outrun the storm.

Since it has been the longest running effort, I’m going to plug along at the novel, “What You Get.” Of course, that will call for updates here every once in a while, so I will have to keep up with Read All You Want. Then, since I can’t stop feeding my kids (it’s not like I haven’t tried), I’ll continue working freelance writing projects (got one? jonthestoryteller [at] ymail [dot] com — just saying). Other than that, the other things will have to hold off for a while. Some people can do more; I don’t have the legs for it.

How about you? Are you a speedboat that can successfully work multiple projects at once? Or are you in a pedal boat, kicking along one or two things at a time? Please leave a comment and share some secrets for your success.

What If You Find a Grammar Error After You Send Your Cover Letter for an Editing Job?

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Most everyone knows the three most important things in real estate are (in no certain order): 1) Location; 2) Location; and 3) Location. Those of us who write know that there is an equally important trifecta for writing. The three this time, in order of importance, are: 1) Rewrite; 2) Rewrite; and 3) Rewrite. This goes for any piece of prose one plans on publishing, even if that manuscript is only an employment resume cover letter. And, especially if that cover letter is for a writing-based opportunity, such as a reporter or an assistant editor.

A big part or rewriting includes proofreading and editing. I like to think I cover that part pretty well, too. In fact, I recently sent a cover letter for, as coincidence would have it, a telecommute assistant editor position for a men’s magazine based in New York City. So, what I did was proofread, edit and rewrite that sucker no less than six times. I wanted it perfect. Then, confident that it was ready to go, I attached my resume and sent it off.

After shooting it off, I read the copy that went to my SENT: folder. I quickly realized that, what I did not do (what I should have done) was have someone else read it for me. And guess what — there in the next to the last paragraph, the paragraph answering the ad’s request for what I thought would be interesting articles, I saw this: “It would be nice to see an article about guys about imperfect who are comfortable in…” Wow.

I was hosed. No doubt about it. I followed up with a letter acknowledging my error, but I knew by then that I was sunk. I couldn’t expect to earn a job as an assistant editor if, throughout my entire cover letter, I espoused my attention to detail and careful editing. The employer would no doubt be going in another direction.

It happened. What can you do? Competition for writing and editing jobs is fierce. Even more so, I would guess, for telecommute opportunities. For me, that means I’ll present an even stronger letter next time. In the meantime, I’ll just keep rewriting.

How would you handle finding a mistake in a cover letter; especially one for a writing opportunity?
Do you think one grammar error is an end all for a cover letter?
Please add a comment and let us know!

Welcoming The First Rejections of My New Writing Journey

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A month ago I talked about making a career out of writing later in life (here’s that article). Since my “resurgence” I’ve submitted a couple of short stories to a few of the innumerable literary mags out there, both online and in print.

Today became the first step on that journey to becoming a legitimate writer. I received an email that graciously states, “Dear Jon Gilbert, Thank you for sending us ‘So Much Mightier’. We appreciate the chance to read it. Unfortunately, the piece is not for us. This does not necessarily reflect the quality of your work, but, more so, the large number of submissions we have received. Thanks again. Best of luck with this. Sincerely…”

Rejections are so much a part of the process of writing, and an actual response is a welcome and rare bonus. The writer says right in the body that this particular LitMag has tons of submissions. To comment personally (even if this might be a form letter) is appreciated (but never expected).

I expect many more of these…more of these than of the acceptance kind. I’ve gotten them before and I’ll get them again. To paraphrase: this isn’t a failure; it’s just one place I didn’t succeed. I have more stories, and I’ve submitted this one to multiple literary magazines. In fact, I’m working on a 2,500-3,000 word story now, one I’ve completed, but it needs serious surgery.

When that one falls into the “accepted” pile, I expect it, too, will have plenty of rejections to cushion its fall!

Please Leave a Comment with your rejection or acceptance stories.

Thanks!

Randomness: Disney/Pixar’s “The Incredibles” Hide and Seek Question

Image courtesy pixar.wikia.com

This is a plot hole I think about. I mean, I don’t lie awake at night pondering it, and we haven’t had deep suppertime discussions over this. Still, I think it’s worth mentioning.

We are all well aware, by the time Mr. Incredible has arrived at Nomanisan Island to battle the Omnidroid, that Syndrome has squirreled away some serious coin. He has jets that fly solely on autopilot (and dispense Mimosas at a passenger’s request, AND have personal mid-flight ejection pods), a monorail system that carries inefficient, single (or double; even so…)-passenger ball-shaped train cars, a gorgeous, well-appointed military-style complex inside a flipping volcano, zero-point energy prisoner containment system (both hand-held and multi-unit), single-person IMAX theater with non-lethal sticky-ball cannons (who couldn’t have used that at least once in their life?), rocket technology, and teams of soldiers and scientists to develop the most technologically-advanced rockets and mass-destruction robots ever seen, just to name a couple of things.

Then there are those wrist-launched combination drone/probe/who-knows-what-else thingies (they probably have a pocket fisherman feature, too; who knows?). You know the one thing it doesn’t serve as? It’s intended purpose! All that money and tech Syndrome dumped into his toys, and that one gadget couldn’t pick up Incred’s bio-signature behind a dead and dried skeleton? With all of Buddy’s technology and forethought (the Omnidroid was battling Supers in order to vet their weaknesses, after all), it could be assumed that he would have developed a probe’s technology to be able to discern between dead bones and warm flesh. Especially given that bones have spaces between them.

I know I’m being petty and there is likely an Incredibles Universe answer to the question. I just find that plot hole interesting. But, I guess it wouldn’t have made for much of a movie if The Villain dropped a new mini-depth charge and took another shot at blowing up The Hero.

So…never mind.

What Do You Write?

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I’ve always found short stories to be the most rewarding for me. I’m terrible about being committed to something until the end. My two greatest successes with that have been the Army, which I couldn’t leave, anyhow, and my wife and kids. When it comes to writing, though, staying committed through an entire novel is tough for me. I am better at finding a plot and getting to the conclusion as immediately as possible. I’m good for between 250 and 3,000 words, and then —- Ooh, look, a SQUIRREL! I don’t have a problem developing characters and a story in that short period, but get wordy and the story turns to fluff beyond 11 or 12 pages.

Those of you who have been visitors and commentors to this blog for some time may be familiar with my “Short Stories” section. From time to time, you may see a story or two disappear from the list. As I begin once again submitting to literary magazines, I will be pulling some of my best stuff from the blog for that purpose. Many titles cannot be published online and submitted simultaneously for potential publication, and I don’t want to infringe on that rule.

Others that I feel are good, but not “submission good,” I’ll be pulling, reworking and re-posting here on “Read All You Want.” I’ll do that, along with posting some new material for your — SQUIRREL! — critique.

Let me ask you this: has there ever been a story you wrote or wanted to write, but felt it didn’t need to be written or read? If so, was it something controversial? Or, do you say, “To hell with it,” and just write what you want? Do you have boundaries, or do you believe in the art of the craft? Even if you have no boundaries, is there a topic you would never write about?

Please leave a comment and I’d love it if you would click FOLLOW to the right.

Are You Entering Writer’s Digest Short Short Story Competition?

Image courtesy: Writers Digest

Writer’s Digest is holding their annual Short Short Story competition, so I’ve been polishing a short I had written a couple of years ago. It was posted here on Read All You Want for a while, but I took it down in light of the upcoming contest. The deadline is Sunday, 12/15, so I have to buckle down, That’s also just a short week before we go on vacation.

Are you thinking about submitting to this one? Let us know in “Comments.”

Either way, here’s hoping!

Thanks!

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