Written by John Edward Betancourt
So this past weekend, Shae and I headed up to the historic Stanley Hotel, source of inspiration for Stephen King's The Shining in the hopes of getting a little inspiration thrown my way as well. So much as to give my second novel a little bit of a jump start and to also follow tradition at the same time. After all, the first few tender pages of Fallen Angel were written in this beautiful location and quite frankly, it wouldn't be right to get the second one going without knocking out a few pages up there.
After all, tradition is important to me when it comes to work like this. I don't have many traditions when it comes to writing, you won't find me going all Paul Sheldon and smoking a cigarette and drinking champagne when I'm done with the story, but there are a few that I believe in and writing in places that inspire or energize is one of them, which is why this hotel is at the top of my list of wonderful places to write, and the calm this hotel provides allowed for me to turn out some quality pages in Fallen Angel, so by virtue Dawn of the Dead needed to receive the same respect and treatment. But, in order to properly get a little bit of work done, a clear mind is always wise, so this trip also served as a fantastic weekend getaway/mini vacation as much as it did for an opportunity to get some work done.
Because when staying at the Stanley Hotel, one cannot simply lock themselves in a room. You have to explore the history, see the wonder on the people's faces as they step into the lobby and feel the wonder of inspiration as well. So since Shae and my beagle Kewa came along for this adventure, we all did just that. We ate some outstanding food. We walked the perimeter of this beautiful location and Shae and I even took in the Ghost Tour, wherein a few suspicious and eerie things happened, and well...I suppose that's a different blog for another time, because the whole point of enjoying these fun little moments of relaxation was to clear one's mind, since in all honesty, my mind has been muddled. I've been focused on what comes next for me. How I get where I want to go and that doesn't exactly fire up the old creative juices...but relaxation certainly does.
Which means that I'm happy to report, that work did get done, maybe not as much as I would like, but that's okay. It's always about quality not quantity and while fifty or sixty pages didn't quite pour out of me, the handful that did come out I'm quite happy with, and what shocked me most, was how surprisingly easy it was to put together. After all, I've spent a lot of time working on screenplays over the past few years, and that format is quite dry and restrictive when it comes to exposition, so part of me worried about being rusty or potentially struggling to find the right words and well, it pleases me to no end to say it was just like riding a bike. The words came quick and free and it was great to reunite with my old friend James Brigman and quite frankly, when the typing ended, the feeling that came from working on a book again simply left my sprit soaring.
In fact, I slept like a baby all weekend, something that hasn't happened in months, and that same calm has followed me back home, meaning one particular thing...this is a story that's been brewing for far too long in my mind and well, that's a good thing. When a story infects your brain, takes it over in its own special way and keeps you up from time to time...that means it's ready and ripe to be put onto the page, and well, I guess that means it's high time to keep plugging away on this one while we wait to hear back from agencies on Fallen Angel. Either way, I absolutely have to declare this past weekend a rousing success. Shae got some solid work done on her novel as well, and I found a new and refined focus thanks to the inspiration this hotel provides in spades and it was also a fine reminder, that what I've always wanted above all else, is to complete James Brigman's story, and that his tale needs to take a higher priority. Movies can wait, the novel is the key, and if you'll excuse me...I feel the need to fire off a few more pages, until next time.
Written by John Edward Betancourt
Truth be told, every time I get one of these writing blogs started as of late, I feel as though I've let all of you down, since I have such little news to report on the progress of either the novel or the screenplays I have floating out there because I've always enjoyed the fact that this blog is a celebration of the craft and of the wonderful moments that come with creative writing.
But, it truly can't be all sunshine and rainbows, it's a tough business where waiting is part of the game and that's precisely where everything still remains. Query letters continue to trickle out on my end and there's plenty of waiting involved with that and work continues on my producer's end out in Los Angeles to get a deal struck for Hurricane Kid. So, needless to say, I'm at a stage right now where I feel like I need to be doing something and well...the time has come to start another project and I finally figured out which one comes next, and how to get it started in proper fashion.
So, without further ado, I'm happy to announce that I've decided to get rolling on the second novel in the James Brigman franchise entitled Dawn of the Dead. Of all the stories I've written over the past few years, James' adventures have always been the most fulfilling and since I'm already actively shopping Fallen Angel, it would be wise to have the next entry in the series cooking along for when an agent says yes. Now, does that mean I'm saying goodbye to screenwriting since I've made mention of the fact that I have other ideas for films as well? Not necessarily, I'm simply going to take an extended break from that style of writing. Truthfully the market out in Los Angeles isn't hungry spec scripts, established franchises and tentpole style things are the rage right now so at this point, I'd rather just sit and wait for the market to shift back before I make a push to bang out a few screenplays.
But, I digress, because right now...it's Brigman on the brain again and well...the ideas are coming quick when it comes to assembling his newest adventure. In fact, the outline is done and I'm ready to start putting proverbial pen to paper. However, I am a man of tradition and habit, and if I were to start just slamming out the book at home, that wouldn't feel quite right, seeing as to how the first chunk of Fallen Angel was written in a special place full of inspiration...the iconic Stanley Hotel. Yes, the place that served as the inspiration of The Shining has always been a wonderfully conducive place for me creativity wise, and it only seems right to return there once again to get the second novel going.
So, next weekend, I'm heading up there with my outline in hand of course, to hide away for a day or two and knock out a few pages in this brand new novel and truth be told, I'm beyond excited to get going again. The room I booked has a nice little writing nook and if by chance that room doesn't fire up the spark immediately, well a simple walk around the hotel will take care of the rest. Every where you turn at the Stanley, there's something to inspire or ignite one's imagination and I'm not the only one who gets this feeling since Shae is joining me on this adventure for one good reason as well...she has a novel of her own she's been toying with and the last time the team went up there, she felt that creative vibe too, and hopefully the old hotel helps unlock the story from her mind as well.
Either way, I'm literally counting down the minutes to this trip, it is going to be simply amazing to get back up there again to do what I love the most and create and I'll be sure to recap how the weekend went and what kind of progress was made as the novel writing process begins again...until next time.
Written by John Edward Betancourt
It's been a few weeks since we sat down to talk about novel writing or screenwriting and well, there's good reason for that. When it comes to the book, I still haven't heard much back on the query letters that I've sent out and that's to be expected and when it comes to screenwriting...it's been an interesting few weeks to say the least.
Now I always try to keep these blogs as positive as possible, and will continue to do so because this is a fun experience a vast majority of the time, but recently there was a project that I was working on that turned out to be quite the professional setback and I'd be lying to you if I told you it didn't really hit me hard on a personal level. Now, I can't say much more than I'm about to for the usual legal reasons, but I've always promised to keep you all in the loop through the good and the bad and well, when all was said and done this turned out to be a quality learning experience.
What it all boils down to is, I was pitched a script to write and well...I loved the concept. This had the opportunity to be something new for me; so of course I said yes and banged this sucker out. I mean, I lost some serious sleep over this because of my enthusiasm and turned in my first draft with a sleepy grin on my face. However, clearly my involvement in this project was never meant to be. What followed next was not a quick greenlight for the project as I had hoped, what came next was a long disagreement about the direction of the story and long story short...the project is in the hands of another writer and I have stepped away from it at this point.
Fact of the matter is. I saw this as an unmitigated failure on my part and in many ways it was. I mean hey, I didn't get the gig. I clearly didn't write anything worthwhile and well, no one likes to fail, myself included, so this one REALLY got to me. But thankfully, I have an incredible support network with my family and friends and well...thanks to them, I didn't spent too much time feeling sorry for myself. Their sage advice helped me learn a valuable lesson. I needed this to happen. I've been in many ways lucky and blessed these past couple of years. I've seen eye to eye with publishers and other producers and enjoyed smooth working relationships.
But it won't always be that way. Sometimes it's pure business. Sometimes you just don't see eye to eye and that's okay, because by not getting this gig my eyes are opened to a couple of bad habits that I've developed. For one, as Scotty pointed out to me, I've prized screenwriting above all things and my constant pouring over the next project has put my mind in a business mode, instead of a creative one. By being worried about deals and budgets and everything in between, I've let that spark go the wayside. I've got a lot of other great things going. I need to focus harder on getting my novel out to more agents. I need to start another one because I miss that kind of writing and more importantly, I think I need to take a break from screenwriting and return to it when I have a wonderful story in mind that excites and inspires me.
All that really matters, is that I've learned that failure can sometimes be a wonderful thing. It allows one to take inventory and reflect on where you are and where you could be, and it keeps you honest and humble and days removed from the mess...I'm thankful the whole damn thing fell to pieces. It's given me a new focus and the next time we talk writing, I'll make sure to bring you news about where the novel is at in the agency process and what at last my next project is going to be. Because as Shae pointed out to me, (and this is that other bad habit by the way) what's done is done; and the longer I hang onto what's in the past, the less I accomplish for my future. So...it's time to get back to work. Until next time.
Written by John Edward Betancourt
I have to be honest with all of you and tell you that I feel kind of bad that this blog isn't quite as current as it used to be, but sadly that comes with the territory right now. Despite the fact that I'm making efforts to get published and snag myself an agent, we have entered an interesting place where all writers must eventually go...limbo. This is the dreaded waiting game that no one likes to play in the industry but one simply has no choice. After all, agents need time to read your work and make a decision and well, I thought I'd use today's blog as an opportunity to discuss where the book and a few other projects are currently at and what comes next while I keep one eye on my inbox for replies from agencies.
Now the good news is, I do indeed have a few query letters out in the market right now. I haven't done as well with my one-a-week goal that I was hoping to maintain but that's okay, progress is progress, and since I haven't had a chance to really do any teaching or informing in this blog for a while, what a great opportunity to explain why there is even a waiting game to begin with and I hinted at it a moment ago, agents need time. After all, there are a TON of new writers out there finishing their books everyday and hoping to get into the business just like me, which means agents are flooded on a daily basis with a massive amount of query letters. So many in fact I don't even want to guess at the number, which means it will sometimes takes weeks or months to even get back to you, and that's if they like what they see.
I also made mention of the fact that I have sent query letters to multiple agents and I'm sure that's confused some because a common misconception about this process is that you have to query one single agent at a time. That's simply not the case. To do so would slow down the process considerably and a vast majority of agents understand that you're searching for representation and allow your query to be in several places at the same time. Now does that make agents that don't support that bad and you should stay away from them? Absolutely not. If they're the right agent for your story and everything matches up and you're okay waiting to hear back...do it, the worst they are going to do is say no to you. So is that a ton of information? You bet, and I'm sorry if today featured a little bit of a download. But one of my goals with this blog was to educate those who are unfamiliar with any part of these processes because, there's a lot to know and any particular tidbit that can help someone be successful is worth writing about.
With all of that going on behind the scenes, the question then remains, what the heck does a writer do with all the downtime? Well the answer to that is simple, to me at least...quiet time means it is time to get back to work. It's never a good thing to sit around and wait for something to come to you, and writers need to write so that's basically where I'm at right now; preparing to get back into the thick of it. The only conundrum that comes with that however...is the fact that I am loaded up with ideas right now and truly have no idea where to start. At this point, I've got ideas for about four new books, and since I have had time on my hands, I've already taken the time to plot each and every one of them out. Heck, I've even got a couple of ideas for a screenplay or two for that matter as well while I wait for a movie project to hopefully find financing.
Or...there's even the possibility of getting back into the short story market. I have always loved the wonder of the short story and the precision that goes with putting them together, so it may be high time to bang out a few new ones and get them to market and dust off and polish the few that I found on my computer the other day. Either way, while the waiting game is indeed what you make it, the best thing to do is to keep busy rather than worry about things you cannot control and I am extremely excited to get back into the writing process and put together a brand new story. As for deciding which one goes first...the sequel to Fallen Angel; entitled Dawn of the Dead, is the first book that comes to mind, but who knows, I may just toy around and start several stories and see which one flows out of my fingertips with ease. Until next time.
Written by John Edward Betancourt
It's been quite a while since we sat down to discuss Fallen Angel and my quest for representation and publication and there's good reason for that, I've been quite the busy little bee. My radio silence was never intentional, it's just that this blog is a unique venture now. There are no more anecdotes or discussion of how I built this book from the ground up because we have arrived at present day in this tale and the only stories to share with you revolve around what I've been doing to achieve my goals and the good news is...a lot has happened in the past couple of weeks since I last posted about the book.
For starters, I revamped my query letter. I finally dug in, fine tuned the first couple of paragraphs to make sure my summary of the story was crisp and intriguing and then I made sure to add my shiny new resume into the mix as well before letting a few folks read it to make sure everything about this letter popped off the page. Shae, who actually has a degree in English and had to study query letters went through it and declared it one of the best she'd ever seen. I'm sure she's biased since we're pals, but hey...I was totally okay with receiving a compliment like that.
All of that meant one thing however, it was time to find an agent and get the process going. So it was off to my Writer's Market account to start the hunt and I made a simple decision as my search began. Find one agent a week and query them. That way I'm not just sending out a mass mailer, I can take my time, really make sure this agent could be the right one for me and the book and that approach helped me pick out an agent in record time. Everything looked like a good fit, so it was time to simply load up the letter and my three chapter sample and hit send, right? Yeah...about that.
I won't lie to you guys, I sat there, ready to send this thing out and I completely and utterly froze. It was so bad in fact that I had to save the email to drafts and walk away stunned, because after all these years and after all the work in my mind to rid myself of and silence my fear and doubt...it was back once again. I guess in the end I'll never really escape it and this time around I decided to try something different when it came to dealing with it. Rather than fight it or try to distract myself to give it time to cool off before returning to the task at hand...I let it wash over me completely.
I treated it like the flu quite frankly, and sometimes you need to let the flu run its course, give you a fever and burn itself out in the process and you know what? It worked. I just sat there, my mind gripped with the possibilities that everyone is going to say no. That I am going to fail miserably at this and have wasted my time chasing a silly dream. I'm glad I let it take hold. Because eventually it did burn out, quickly in fact and sitting there in a tiny panic allowed me to discover how to never let this happen again. I came to realize I, in a way, put this particular part of my life on a pedestal so to speak, and that puts undue pressure upon myself, my imagination and my psyche.
That means I had to treat this like an everyday thing. Ignore any significance I think it may represent in my mind and simply treat it as any other moment. That way when something good comes of this I can look on upon it fondly, but more importantly by letting go of the undue pressure...help myself move forward and achieve my goals. That little talk with myself and cool down period worked like a charm. Because it allowed me to sit down in front of my Mac, pull up my email, open up my drafts and hit send on that letter and let me tell you. It was like a weight instantly came off my shoulders. Whether or not this agency says yes, I got myself back into the thick of it and I couldn't be happier. After years of work, building my resume and toiling over a labor of love, Fallen Angel is heading back out into the publishing world, and I'm one step closer to living a life long dream. Until next time.
Written by John Edward Betancourt
I have always found it funny how life can sometimes be so incredibly cyclical. That doesn't mean we are about to get into some grand discussion about fate and destiny, but you have to admit, it's a little strange how we sometimes step away from a particular aspect of our lives for either good or bad reasons, only to find ourselves standing in front of whatever we walked away from one more time. To me it simply means you have unfinished business with said matter, and if it's back after all this time...you need to finish whatever it is you started.
From a career stand point, that's exactly where I was after several years of working on other projects. I had in essence forgotten about Fallen Angel while I spent all this time working on other projects to build my resume and that's okay. I wouldn't have traded any of the experiences we've talked about on digital paper here away for anything. But it dawned on me just how far this book had fallen by the wayside one fine morning when I was pouring myself a cup of coffee, pondering on what I needed to do that day project wise and coming to the realization...there was nothing on my list.
Hurricane Kid was out in Los Angeles where my producer Jon was doing his thing. The website was up and running and doing just fine and the anthology was out there on the web, garnering reviews. If anything I found it strange that I had a quiet morning to myself for a change and while I basked in that peaceful glory for a little while, my mind began to drift back to the novel and it didn't take long to remember that getting this book published was the end game all along and while life had taken me on a crazy trip the last couple of years, that goal still remained; but I also came to the realization that with a resume now in hand and with my schedule finally free...it was high time to get back to that goal, to finish what I started.
But before the query letters could flow once again, something inside told me I should probably give the novel another pass editing wise, just to make sure it was absolutely perfect for when the moment arrived and I'm glad I listened to that little voice in the back of my head. Because not only did I find a few places to fix, but I also discovered that for the first time ever, I was actually enjoying the editing process, I know, crazy, huh? But my joy from this process wasn't because I found only a few things to fix on this particular pass, it was because of the fact the book felt ready...and so did I. I felt confident in what I was about to do for the first time ever and that made the last few months of 2015 that I spent polishing this book extremely exciting.
Which means, we have come to present day. It's March 25th, 2016 and while I wanted to spend my new year sending out query letters, I was "delayed" for all the right reasons. I had a quick project that Jon needed help with in January that I quickly worked on and that's just fine, any opportunity that comes my way I will always jump upon...but that project is now complete and the query letter is rewritten and ready...which means it is time to find an agent, have them find a publisher and hopefully live my dream of becoming a published novelist.
That also means, this blog may no longer pop up on a weekly basis, simply because this story has come to a standstill...but thankfully not its ending. But on the plus side, this is no longer a history lesson or a discussion of the past. This blog now lives in the moment, and I'll now be keeping everyone up to date on the latest news when it comes to my hunt for an agent, and everything that comes with that. Please bear in mind, I won't be naming what agents I am looking at or communicating with, nor will there be any negativity if they say no. It's unprofessional to do those things and I'm not really one for negativity anymore, and besides, this has already been one incredible ride as it is, and I can't wait to share with all of you what exciting things happen next and I thank you so much for taking the time to come with me on this journey. Until next time.
Written by John Edward Betancourt
When it comes to the writing process as a whole, everything you do is all about getting you to that final goal of finding yourself published. The endless hours of planning, the long nights searching for that perfect word or sentence, the constant rewrites and carefully piecing together a query letter are the ingredients that go into seeing your name in print, and seeing your book in stores. It's really what every novelist dreams of and believe it or not...it's possible to find yourself published well before your novel is with an agency or a publisher.
Now I'm sure some of you are saying, duh John, it's called self publishing. But that's not what I'm getting at. I've said it before and I'll say it again, traditional publishing is where I have always wanted to be and well, I had the distinct honor of having my work put into print by a regional publisher and that's what we are going to talk about today. The wonder of getting an official credit under my belt and what the publishing process actually looks like, and all of this came courtesy...of the short story market.
In fact, I'm of the opinion that short stories as a whole are a lost art. It seems as though everyone swings for the fences for the novel and the novel alone and while that's not a bad thing, I've always found short stories to be wondrous to read. It's so amazing to see a complete tale come together in quick fashion and truthfully I am a firm believer the master of the short story in this day and age is the maestro himself, Stephen King. Now I had written a few and sent them out right before I settled in to write Hurricane Kid and honestly, I didn't bank much on hearing back from publishers on them. Not because I thought they were terrible stories, but simply because I wasn't sure there was much of a market left for them these days.
How wrong I was. In the middle of the first rewrite for Hurricane Kid, I heard back from one of the publishers; Evil Girlfriend Media. They were all about a horror short story that I had written entitled An Undying Love and well...they wanted to publish it in an upcoming anthology series, Roms, Bombs & Zoms. It took a while for me to process the fact that someone out there was actually willing to pay me for my story, but once it soaked in, I was over the moon. But me being the workaholic that I am, I saved the celebration for another time because there were quite a few things to get out of the way first for this story. Obviously, there was a contract to sign and all that legalese, but more importantly, there was going to be editing work done for this story, and this is where I fell in love with traditional publishing.
It wasn't a complex process, after all, this was a short story, but I was still enamored by all of it. Not only was this an up close and personal look at how an anthology novel comes together...this was a taste of the big leagues. There were deadlines to meet for going over the publisher's and editor's notes and those notes were fascinating. Each one was in no way negative, and while I know that may not always be the case, it was a great way to kick off my publishing experience as the notes questioned certain words that I had used or outlined what a quick edit of a sentence or two was going to look like. It was done in such a professional and clean fashion that there was little I was going to dispute or fight for, minus a few things here and there because these notes did something important...they made the story better.
It was crisp now, and it flowed all that much better and that was all thanks to the watchful eye of the brilliant folks over at EGM and I will always be grateful for this opportunity because those notes were filed away for a rainy day to continue to make me a better writer. But the magical moment, the time to celebrate came in the fall of 2013 when the book was finally released to the public. I got my digital copy and that was cool as all hell, but nothing compared to the moment when my author's copy arrived in the mail. Because in my hand...was the finished product and to be able to hold it in my hands and see the pages in front of me...well let's just say it was a special enough moment that I needed a tissue or two.
Because that moment was something far more important to me. It felt as though I had finally made a giant step forward, and the pressure that was mounting in my mind to do something, anything and make progress in my career had finally come and well...it made me hungry for more. It helped me finish those early drafts of Hurricane Kid and more importantly, I knew it was time to return to Fallen Angel and see this through to the end. But before I made it that far, I needed to give it one more thorough look before starting the querying process over again. So, armed with newfound confidence and knowledge, I cracked open Fallen Angel one more time, ready to give it one more pass, and that's where we will pick up next time. Until then.
Written by John Edward Betancourt
I think we often believe that a life changing moment if you will, comes to us exactly as it does in the movies. There should be a build up, tension, followed by that moment when everything around us transforms and suddenly we step forth with a smile on our faces and a Journey song rocking in the background. But the important moments are nothing like that. They are simply moments, no different than any other in our day and they don't become important or relevant until we take a little time later on to let it all sink in and reflect upon them. That's what happened to me when an old friend called me out of the blue and asked me if I was still interested in writing motion pictures.
At the time I hadn't written a screenplay in years, but apparently he knew a local author who needed help in adapting her book because she apparently had a producer lined up. This was my "in" if you will, to being able to work as a freelance screenwriter and well, it led to some amazing relationships and experiences. In fact, this particular period in my career ended up being ridiculously rewarding as a writer because screenwriting in my opinion, helped make the novel better and gave me invaluable experience in a slice of the creative industry. Now before we get too far into this blog, bear in mind that I'm going to breeze right through my film resume simply because I've outlined my experiences there in detail in another blog entitled The Story of Hurricane Kid. So for all the nitty gritty stuff, dig into the archives for more.
So, back to the story at hand. That magical phone call from a friend ended with me jotting down another phone number for the author in question and I gave her a call and set up a meeting to see if I was the guy to do this and well, at the time I was extremely nervous. I'd never set up a meeting like this and when all was said and done, I apparently did things right because soon we had ourselves a complete screenplay that I was able to hand over to an experienced producer. The next thing you know, since that first script never caught on with any financiers, he and I are working on a few pictures together that sadly didn't go anywhere but all of this led to me working with producer Jon Lee Brody and he and I currently have a couple of projects bubbling and brewing out there in Los Angeles, and even reflecting on this part of my life in brief brings an instant smile to my face.
After all, experience of any kind in the professional field is invaluable to a writer and I feel quite fortunate to have any at all but that smile also comes from the fact that it is an absolute blast to do and because my time spent writing these scripts has done so much for me on a personal level. That's actually another reason why I'm flying through my resume in Hollywood...because this blog series is about James Brigman and as I mentioned before, this experience helped improve the novel and it made me a better writer quite frankly in so many different and unique ways. For starters, screenwriting taught me a lot about deadlines and the need to meet them. We've all given ourselves goals as to when we should have something done but when a producer says they want it by the first of the month, you deliver by the first of the month. I quickly learned how to get work done in an efficient manner to make sure I met my deadlines and I apply that to everything I do with the written word anymore.
Screenwriting also taught me how to be concise and neat with my words. You don't have the luxury of embellishing anything in a screenplay. It has to be tight and clean since you only have 120 pages max to work with so one quickly learns to say exactly what they need to on the page. At the same time, writing a few films also improved my ability to write dialogue. Since you're spending little time on exposition, that means the only other way to fill the page is through what your characters say, and I learned quickly what worked and what didn't. But what screenwriting gave me that mattered most, was confidence. Writers as a whole are always wondering if their work is good enough and being able to get notes and feedback quickly and hear that what I was writing was liked, meant a lot and helped to push me to finish a script without question.
But my proudest moment to date when it comes to screenwriting, and perhaps the biggest confidence boost that ever came along is when Jon and I shared the award for Best Original Screenplay for Hurricane Kid at the 2014 Illinois International Film Festival. That my friends, was another magical phone call when I found out the news and well...it's a moment like that that reminds you why you do this and why you stay up late at night reworking a single sentence to perfection. It was purely a validation for me, and I am forever grateful and honored to have won this award and well...considering my battles with fear and doubt, this was the first time that I truly believed that maybe I could do this after all.
But, since I've broken this part of the blog up into industry specific sections, we did miss out on discussing another life changing moment, one that happened in the midst of this whirlwind and one that is extremely important to any writer. So the next time we sit down to talk, we'll go back in time to that moment, one that solidified my belief that I need to be traditionally published, and one so awesome, it brought me to tears. Until then.
Written by John Edward Betancourt
When we last left this blog, I was in a unique place...I was looking for a job. Not just any job mind you, but something that related to the written word and as I started my part time job hunt for a writing gig to beef up my resume for query letters...I found myself kind of lost. Hunting down a gig in the creative field isn't as simple as going on monster.com and looking it up like a regular job, it takes some creativity, networking and finesse. But when all was said and done, I did manage to find a way to put together a resume and that's really what the next three blogs, including this one are going to be about, the various ways I assembled my resume...starting with the odd jobs if you will.
Now the first thing I realized I needed to do, was earn some kind of actual publishing credit and to me, the easiest way to get that accomplished was by way of the short story market. After all, short stories are suddenly on the rise again and hey, they're a blast to write. So I sat down and just started cranking them out. I wasn't quite sure what would and wouldn't sell right away but I had ideas left and right for little stories and I figured now was as good a time as any to get them out on the page. Naturally after I finished my little writing binge for these, I only saw two or three that I found to be viable and commercial. Now these are a little easier to submit to publishers so off they went and well...bear in mind one of them was a zombie story that holds some significance to this blog series, so we'll come back to that one later.
In the meantime, I ventured off to earn some other credits under my belt and as it turns out...advertising is a great way to do that. I had the opportunity to enter a contest to write a 30 second commercial for Chuck and Don's Pet Food Outlet. The girl I was dating at the time thought it would be a cool way to test the waters and she was right. I won the contest and the commercial aired in the Denver and Minnesota markets a few years back. That of course led me to believe that maybe I should try my hand at copywriting, and thanks to a few film connections that we will get into later on...I actually managed to land a gig as a copywriter for Ultimate Electronics.
Now let me tell you this...I absolutely loved this gig. It was so cool to be able to work from 8-5, Monday through Friday on just writing. Sure it was a smaller company, and I'm not going to lie...a lot of the job was proof reading, but I'll be damned if I didn't love every single second of what I did. Sadly, the company went under but that's okay. This was some invaluable experience on deadlines, the need to be concise in one's work and how to make your words as compelling and powerful as possible. After all, advertising is about getting the point across in as short a time as possible and we did some great work in that office back in the day.
The last thing I did for the sake of today's blog was help start this site. For one, it's kind of an expectation that writers have some kind of digital presence on the web because that is the way of things these days and I have to admit web writing has been an incredibly rewarding experience. Not only have I been able to tell this story and talk about other passions in my life, but I got the opportunity to work with Denver Comic Con by way of Denver Comic Con TV thanks to this site and I've made some incredible friendships along the way. But most importantly, it's forced me to become a disciplined writer. To get into a daily routine and write on a regular basis.
But, while I'm proud of all the accomplishments I've laid out here today, I needed more. I wanted more. I wanted this to be a thorough resume to present to agencies and fate had a few other things in store for me. I received a phone call from an old friend who asked me if I was still interested in writing motion pictures and if so...he knew someone locally who needed help adapting their novel into a screenplay. Now we've all heard the stories about life changing phone calls over the years and guess what? This was one of them...because that call would take me places I never expected to go, and that's where we will pick up next time. Until then.
Written by John Edward Betancourt
Truly there are three genuinely unnerving moments when it comes to writing a novel. The first one arrives when you're just about to start because at that point you are looking into the abyss of the unknown and who knows what you will find there. The second is after you've finished your book and hand it off to someone you trust to read it, because that is the first time you'll get solid feedback about your story, and then there's the third...when you send off that first query letter to an agent, simply because hey, they're professionals and you have to sell your entire idea in a single page.
Now I am certain some of you out there reading this are unfamiliar with what I'm talking about when it comes to a query letter or you have merely heard of the term before. So before we get too deep into this blog, let's talk about what it is. The thing is, if you're planning to go the traditional publishing route, you're going to need an agent. I don't know of any major publisher out there that accepts your manuscript in unsolicited fashion since they have plenty on their plate and agents in the business are people they have worked with in the past and they trust their opinion. Once in a great while someone does sneak through the cracks and escapes the slush pile, but the odds of that are about the same as winning the lottery...so agents are really your best hope.
With that in mind, the query letter is designed to pitch your book, and yourself quite frankly in a single page. If you've done a fine enough job pitching your book in that letter, there's a chance the agent will want to see more of your work and request a few chapters and if they really like what they see, they will sign you to their agency and get to work on selling your book. So really, in a nutshell the query letter is a damn important piece of the process and it needs to be wonderful and precise and one hell of a pitch on paper and well...the querying process taught me a lot when I went through it the first time round. For starters, I learned that getting an agent isn't easy and that the word "No" comes up way more than expected.
In fact that was a word I really had to get used to hearing, because despite all the research I did to make sure the agent was the right one for the book, thank you Writer's Market, and despite all the effort I put into crafting what I thought was a quality query letter...the answer when it came to representation was no. Granted it was more professional than that, because every agent I dealt with was classy, but none the less it concerned me and I have a funny feeling that this is where a lot of writers give up and either self publish or walk away. But I am a firm believer that if something isn't quite working, you approach it from another angle and well, I took a step back to look at what could be causing me to not get noticed.
So to backtrack for a moment, a query letter is basically made up of three parts. The first is your introduction where you cover the basics of your novel. The word count, title and all that before moving into the second part, your pitch. This is where your story has to pop off the page and hook the reader, in this case an agent, to want to read and know more, and the last part is where you let the agent know a little about your career as a writer, including your credits. Think of it as a one paragraph resume and that's where it hit me. I had no resume to speak of. Does that mean you're disqualified as a writer and can never be published? No. It just means it's a longer road that you have to travel to get where you want to be.
So, to be 100% sure my resume might be the issue, I pulled in a favor from an ex girlfriend who had a cousin in the publishing industry, and had said cousin read my letter. It cost me a steak dinner with a gal I didn't want to have dinner with ever again, but the things we do for a story, because it paid off. I was told that the letter looked good, I just had little to say about myself, which meant one thing...I needed a writing resume. Now I once had a friend tell me that this was a silly idea because if the book was good enough it should stand on its own but I sided with the agents. There are a lot of folks out there who think selling a single novel is the answer to all their problems, and that's all they want to do. But agents aren't looking for flashes in the pan, they are looking for folks who want to make a career out of creative writing.
After all, this is a business as well and the commission from a single novel sale is not enough for an agent to pay all of the bills and unless it's a super smash hit, it's not exactly the answer to a writer's prayers either for that matter. So that meant one thing, I needed to show every agent I was going to query that I was serious about this. That I wanted to be a writer through and through who was willing to work his tail off to make a career out of this. So the querying process went on hold for a while as I settled in to ponder as to how exactly I would build my resume and well...this decision ended up being one of the best ones I've ever made in my life because it took me to some incredible places, and those wild adventures in writing are where we will pick up next time. Until then.