About JES Hays

JES Hays is the author of the Devon Day and the Sweetwater Kid stories: Down the Owlhoot Trail and the upcoming Outlaw Security.

How to Avoid Being Published

Here are 10 ways NOT to get published – unfortunately, most of them are tried and tested.

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  1. Stick to your first draft. After all, your writing is perfect as it is. Who needs an editor?
  2. Revise, revise, revise, revise. It’s just not 100% perfect yet. Chuck Sambuchino from Writer’s Digest suggests changing one word at a time, then rereading the entire novel aloud to see if that actually improved the book.
  3. Get creative. Cut your manuscript into a cute bunny shape. Include plastic spiders if your manuscript is a horror tale or rainbow glitter if it’s a romance. Try adding a chocolate bar bribe – especially if you’re sending the manuscript to a publisher in Florida in mid-Summer.
  4. Ignore the market. You don’t have to read in your genre. So what if the average first novel runs around 80,000 words? Yours is 500,000 words and every single one is essential.
  5. Hand-deliver your manuscript. Editors really aren’t busy. They love personal visits, especially if you show up unannounced.
  6. Blast the competition. Leave horrible reviews for every other book in your genre. Bash other writers on your Facebook page. After all, they’re the enemy, right?
  7. Get defensive. Be like The Donald and defend yourself vigorously against every critique. After all, you’re an artist. They’re just not intelligent enough to understand you.
  8. Threaten the editor. If you do get a rejection, immediately lambaste the fool who couldn’t spot your genius. Let him or her know you’re not going to stand for such humiliation.
  9. Ignore your audience. After all, everyone is your audience. Grandmothers and toddlers both will love your book. Your gun-toting Uncle Bob will give a copy to pacifist cousin Willy. Middle school kids will adore you. Who needs to specialize?
  10. Keep it to yourself. Nobody can hurt your feelings if you just shove that manuscript into a drawer and sit on it. Those nasty editors and their rejections? Who needs them?

What are some un-helpful things you’ve seen writers doing to sabotage their careers?

Gifts for Writers

What do you get for that writer in your life?

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Here are some great gift ideas for you:

  • Software: Scrivener is one of the best writing platforms out there in my humble opinion – it’s $45 (unless you won NaNoWriMo and got the discounted price) and it’s fantastic. It’s like a virtual cork board where you can post not only your scenes (and move them around however you want), but research ideas, websites, photos, character sketches and settings.
  • A spa day: check out your local spa and get your writer away from the keyboard for a couple of hours of relaxation. They’ll thank you afterwards.
  • A new notebook – Here’s a great Top 10 List of the sorts of notebooks out there today. I like Moleskine myself, but there are lots of different types available. Pick something your writer would love.
  • A keyboard for their iPad – I’ve got one of these and it’s great. You can type just like a laptop, but you’ve got the portability of the iPad. Plus, it comes in a nice leather case.
  • A laptop bag or general tote bag – there are so many choices out there that I’m not going to pick just one. Browse your local leather store for a high-end bag, or just check out Amazon or Cafepress.
  • A magazine subscription – get your writer a subscription to their favorite magazine, whether it’s Writer’s Digest or Poets & Writers.
  • A writing conference – for this, you’ll have to either consult with your writer or be super-sneaky because you have to know which conference your writer wants to attend. Either pay the entire fee or contribute toward the total. This might make a good group gift.
  • New pens – you can spend anything from a few bucks to several thousand, depending on what sort of pen you’d like to gift.
  • Free time – arrange for your writer to have the time they need to write. Do the chores for a day. Take the kids to the zoo. Give your writer a day at a local hotel. Whatever it takes.

NaNoWriMo – What Now?

So you hit 50,000 words in November — or maybe not quite so many. Now what?

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Once you’ve got your first draft down — or at least gotten a good start on one! — what should you do now?

  • Put the blasted thing away – you heard me. Put it into a drawer and forget it for a few weeks. Close the file (remember to save your work!) and start something else. You need a bit of time before you can start editing your draft, so you’ll see it with fresh eyes instead of overlooking things because it’s old and tired to you right now.
  • Start something new – edit an older draft. Start a new project. Do something completely different. You’ve been cooped up with that draft for 30 days now, and both of you need some space. Shake things up and do something else for a bit.
  • Focus on the holidays – did you forget it’s December? You’ve got decorating to do and gifts to buy and traditions to uphold!

How to Win NaNoWriMo

I’ve finished a day early – 50,000 words in 29 days.

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Here’s how to do it:

  • Write every day – this isn’t an option during November. Even if you don’t make the 1667 words a day goal, you need to get something down daily.
  • 1667 words per day is more of a guideline, not a rule – aim for over 2000 words a day on days when you have more time. That way, when you’re busy, you can slack off a bit and only write a few hundred words.
  • Don’t wait for the muse – this is a first draft, after all. Write crap. Write anything. If you’re stuck, have your characters make out your grocery list for you, or give one of them a newspaper article to compose. Just write.
  • Turn off your editor – during November you cannot edit your work until you’ve hit your daily goal. This is also not an option. If you start erasing and changing things, you’re never going to get to 50,000.

Did you try NaNoWriMo this year? Did you win?

NaNoWriMo – Pantser or Plotter?

Current word count: 30,433 …

and I’ve just come up with a major subplot for the lads

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Thought I’d discuss the two basic types of writers this post. Well, actually there are three, because I believe you can be a combination.

Plotter:

A plotter is a careful planner, a writer who outlines the entire novel ahead of time. A plotter sometimes writes such a thorough and detailed outline that it’s practically a novel in itself. Some plotters outline down to the scene level, while others simply write rough ideas for each chapter.

If you’re a plotter, you know what’s going to happen next. This helps prevent writer’s block and gives you a target. However, if you get stuck or decide to change something, you often find that you must redo your entire outline.

Pantser:

A pantser is a writer who writes “by the seat of your pants,” without an outline. Pantsers just like to start writing and see how it goes, letting the characters loose to do as they choose and to pick the direction of the story.

If you’re a pantser, you have the freedom to change anything at all, at any time you so choose. However, not knowing where you’re going sometimes means you get stuck. Many pantsers have strings of unfinished projects trailing along behind them.

Plantser:

I believe that you can be a combination of both extremes, and NaNoWriMo agrees with me, for it’s come up with this designation this year. A plantser is a writer who has a basic idea where the story is going, but likes the freedom to explore tangents. Plantsers usually have a rough outline of some sort, or at least a vague idea of the plot.

I think this is the best of both worlds. You’ve got the road map, but you’re giving yourself the opportunity to try different routes along the way.

Blathering: Reality Interrupts My Virtual Life Once Again

As with all of my creative friends, I spent yesterday in a state of shock. It’s still hard for me to believe that a doctrine of hatred, bigotry, racism, name-calling and pomposity actually carried the popular vote. As long as I’m putting my politics on the line, I can admit that neither candidate had my total support, but I was willing to take a chance on Hillary rather than go with the hate ballot.

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Based on what we have seen this past year or so, America is now in for four years of fear and loathing, with occasional rants and tantrums and massive propaganda campaigns against … well, pretty much anyone who isn’t a white male.

Not being a white male, I feel it is only natural that I feel trepidation when faced with this new regime. Being friends with so very many non-white males and females, I feel it is only natural that I fear for their safety as well. I fear for everyone in this country who is different, for that is what Trump and his Trumpettes are afraid of.

We are entering an age where the dumbing down of America has reached its climax, where it is no longer admirable to seek to better your education, your mind, or anything other than your wallet. In our new America, it is better to be ignorant and afraid of anything you don’t understand — and since you’re ignorant, that will be pretty much everything in the universe.

Even though I am not Jewish, the Holocaust has always terrified me because it is so very easy for ignorance to be stirred to horrific acts against others. It is so very easy to fan the flames of fear and hatred, to turn human against human.

I have no good advice for getting through these next four years because I just don’t understand their fear-based thinking well enough. My reaction to fear has always been to learn as much as I can about whatever it is I’m afraid of, so that I can conquer it. Their reaction is to destroy whatever they suspect might be causing their fear.

Keep your heads down, my friends. Act dumb and go along with things so long as nobody is getting hurt. But if the violence starts, we’re going to have to stand up and get hurt rather than step back and let someone else take a beating. Don’t stand aside as they come for someone else, because it will end with them coming for you. Stand up for the true American values: freedom to be who we are, love for all humanity, and a sincere desire to better yourself in all ways.

I hope I’m wrong. I hope Americans are not going to degenerate into violence against Americans. I hope Trump does a 180 and becomes, if not a wise leader, at least one who listens to his advisors before acting. I hope we can love one another as Americans have always tried to do before. I hope everyone lives through this.

Be safe.

It’s That Time Again!

No, not the holiday season – though it is getting to that point as well.

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No, I mean it’s National Novel Writing Month – NaNoWriMo!

NaNoWriMo is an event where you pledge to write 50,000 words in 30 days. There’s a website, local live chapters, and lots of inspiration and help.

If you manage to reach your goal, not only do you have what’s technically a novel (even though mine run more to 90-100K), but you get some nice virtual prizes as well.

So if you don’t see me as often this month, it’s because I’m trying desperately to reach my 1667 daily word goal.

Organization

People have asked me how I organize my work. Do I use a stack of index cards? A cork board? Computer files?

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The answer is yes.

I do have a cork board where I keep the really important stuff that will never change for the series, like a map of the city in the 1800s and a “blueprint” of their house and offices.

I used to use index cards – until I discovered Scrivener.

This is a software program that is designed for writers. You specify whether you’re writing a fiction novel, a nonfiction book or a screenplay – and the program gives you different tools for each one.

For the fiction novel, I have a cork board with all my scenes on it – I can arrange these by chapter, or combine several scenes in one chapter, or move them around however I want to.

There’s a section for research, and you can even “pull in” websites so you can find your source material immediately.

You have another section for character notes and one for places.

Scrivener also allows you to attach a note to a section of work, like a word or phrase. The notes show up in the margin so you see them whenever you go to that scene. For example, if you want to name a character, but don’t want to bother now, you could put down “John Doe” and link a note to that saying “Look up a good old-fashioned European name for this dude!” That way, when you’re working away, you don’t constantly interrupt yourself trotting off to do research – and the notes are immediately visible when you go to that scene, so all you have to do is pull it up and the note’s right there.

What sort of organization do you use in your writing?

The Mind Wanders

As you may already know, the state is under the eye of Hurricane Matthew this weekend. I’m hoping everyone who chose not to evacuate will survive. They’re predicting something equal to, if not greater than, Hugo.

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Having been through Hugo, I can barely imagine anything worse. The Lowcountry looked like it had been hit by a bomb – acres of trees downed, all lying in parallel lines; debris and flood water everywhere, making it hard to walk safely; homes destroyed outright or damaged beyond repair. We were without power for about two weeks, and we were lucky it was that quickly repaired. We were also lucky to be inside a brick building, so we had less damage than others around us, and we were about 30 miles inland, so we missed the storm surge from the surf. It took weeks to clear the roads entirely, though, and many downed trees were just sawn through and left beside the road instead of being cleared completely.

At this point, Matthew is still Category 2 (Hugo was 4 and 5), but is expected to strengthen before it hits South Carolina. Our hotels here in the Upstate are already full of evacuees and late-comers are having to travel further in search of shelter. We’ll be keeping a close eye on this storm – I’ll post anything significant on my Facebook account.

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I’m also dealing with the death of a friend’s mother. She had Alzheimer’s, but was a funny and loving woman. My friend made her last years happy ones, and that’s always a comfort.