23 April 2010


  1. Write bravely.
  2. Write to get it written.
  3. Write to polish your talent.
  4. Write about nothing—it’s the only thing you’re truly expert at.
  5. Write until someone pays you to write, and then write some more.
  6. Write to make sense of nonsense and nonsense of sense.
  7. My secret of writing? Butt to chair; finger tips to keys; mind to the matter at hand.
  8. My story must have ideas bigger than a few hundred 6x9 pages sandwiched between a glossy cover.
  9. I never find answers in my stories—when I write, I continually find more questions.
  10. I’m elated when a reader is angry with what I’ve written—at the very  least I’ve elicited an emotional response. My worse nightmare is a reader who shrugs his shoulders and declares, “Eh.”
  11. I’m like a duck on the water when I write: You see me cool and calm on the surface, but what you don’t see is me paddling like hell underneath to keep afloat and to keep going in a certain direction.
  12. Most writers have a moral compass. The problem is  they are turning in every direction trying to find a directional point that helps them feel comfortable rather than simply following true North.
  13. I breathe; therefore, I write.

See you on the bookshelves.
Larry Mike Garmon

20 April 2010

Old Adventures Lead to New Insights

My creative writing students have been working in the school's library the past few weeks.  As I was working on my grading and such, I noticed a small plastic container with several scraps of paper next to my computer. Always curious, I pulled out the scraps. Most of the scraps were old cards from the library card catalog.

Intrigued, I flipped through the cards. Most were duplicates.

Card CatalogOur high school library still has a card catalog, but it's in a dark corner where few students dare to venture. Most people just use an electronic database to find the books for which they are looking.

For many of us, the card catalog was where we began our adventures in literature and research, spending hours flipping through the cards looking for a subject or a particular author, writing down the book number, and then searching through the stacks to hunt down the books we were seeking.

And we would be quite disappointed once we found the spot at which the book was supposed to be and discovered it was missing.

Now, we just sit at a computer, type in an author and/or subject name, and the computer gives us instant feedback with suggestions, even telling us if the book is checked in or out and what other libraries in the area has a copy of the book we seek.

Well, as I read the discarded cards, I noticed something interesting about the section our high school librarian calls the "annotation".

Card with annotation
The "annotation" is the "pitch"--that buzz word du jour for the editor/agent meetings at conference and the opening line of that ever-important query letter.

The "pitch" is also referred to as the "log line" and the "elevator pitch".
Here are three annotations. See if they don't fit the "pitch", "long line", "elevator pitch" formula.

The Rookie Arrives by Thomas J. Byard, Puffin Books, 1989:

Cocky Ted Bell moves from being star of his high school baseball team directly into playing in the major leagues and finds that he was a lot to learn before becoming the world's greatest third baseman.

Kisses by Judith Caseley, Knopf, 1992:

Eleventh-grader Hannah, talented in music but lacking in self-confidence, comes to realize, after several unsuccessful encounters with boys, the importance of being true to oneself and of looking beyond outward appearance.

Handsome as Anything by Merrill Joan Gerber, Scholastic, 1990:

Pulled in different directions by her sisters and the three men in whom she is interested, fifteen-year-old Rachel struggles to find her own identity.

They all fit Donald Maas's requirement (and all the other editors' and agents' requirements) for the pitch line he likes to read at the beginning of query.
I've told the high school librarian to save me a few discarded card catalog cards so I can study them.

Card CatalogCollecting the discarded cards and studying them is a lot cheaper than buying a book about how to write a pitch line.

Plus, I've got a souvenir of a bygone era when the card catalog was the beginning of a library adventure and not just some dusty forgotten relic sitting in a dark and lonely forgotten corner of library.

See you on the bookshelves.

Larry Mike Garmon

17 April 2010

My 10 Writing Virtures

The following sounds rather pompous and bombastic, but a writer's words should exceed his grasp, or what's a Heaven for (to paraphrase Browning). 

This actually came about from a list I made when thinking about what traits a character should possess--then I thought, "If Character should have virtue, so should Writer."

1. Morality—My personal code of conduct by which I choose to create Story and by which I live the Writing Life in the face of others’ laughter, mocking, derision, and jealousies. To build the Ark with the sound of derisive laughter in a cloudless sky.

2. Courage—My ability to confront pain, fear, and intimidation of rejection; facing and then charging into barriers of fire set by others to intimidate me; I insist to continue to create Story even in the face of certain defeat and with no guarantee of reward.

Helping Hand3. Benevolence—Giving of my talents, time, and knowledge to those who ask or need help as well as receiving the gifts of others who possess talents and knowledge I need to be successful.

4. Respect—Far exceeds my mere tolerance for another Writer’s work, genre, conduct, and success. My moral appreciation of and acknowledgment of the contribution and value of another Writer. By accepting the work of another Writer without prejudice, I place intrinsic value on my work, genre, conduct, and success.

5. Honesty—Truth not as a weapon but as a door through which Reader chooses to enter because of, rather than in spite of, my words. Truth is the foundation of Virtue and from which all other Virtues stem; for, even a truthful statement can have dishonest intentions.

Honor6. Honor—A harmonic imbuement of Words and Actions, of Discourse and Deeds; a condition of Love that establishes and grounds my personal dignity and character.

7. Loyalty—Devotion to the craft and art of Writing more than the merits and rewards of Writing itself; Faithfulness not only to Story-Making but to my own skills, craftsmanship, talents, and desires.


8. Patience—A serenity I achieve in the face of the most strenuous circumstances in which I endure and overcome self-defeating doubt, long-term difficulties (both within and with out), and ignore the provocation of others without anger or annoyance.

9. Forgiveness—Giving up all claim to the offenses and shortcomings of others and, more importantly, my own offenses and shortcomings.

Hard Work
10. Knowledge in Action—Relying on the day-to-day, hard-working experience of application rather than vicarious experience of others to acquire expertise and skills as a Writer to better achieve practical understanding of Story-Making. Persistence, determined, and dedicated hard work is knowledge in action.

See you on the bookshelves.
Larry Mike Garmon

07 April 2010

Unblurring My Religion

Pablo Picasso said, “There are painters who transform the sun to a yellow spot, but there are others who with the help of their art and their intelligence, transform a yellow spot into the sun.”

Right now, I'm in the process of unblurring spots--the jargon is "pre-writing", "outlining", "brainstorming", "fleshing out the story", "freewriting".

I've reached a point in my YA fantasy Barmaglot where the story has taken over the writing, and I'm little more than the fingers ticking the letters on the keyboard. Although I like the story very much and am quite pleased with the story, I'm pretty much done as far as the "writer" aspect is concerned.

This happens to me as I complete a project.

And my mind begins to grasp at the straws of creativity because it's doing little more than perfunctory work at this point.

And any straw will do, really.

I'm never at a loss for ideas. I stub my toe in the dark of morning, and before the pain reaches mid-throb, a whole novel flashes through my head about a guy stubbing his toe in the dark of morning and what kind of day he is about to experience.

But, straws of inspiration do not bricks of Story make. And I know this. Ideas are ideas and not Story.

Sometimes, though, a blade of straw stabs me as if it were thrown by an Oklahoma tornado and impales me with an idea that just won't let go.

That's where I'm at now. As Barmaglot heads to its destined conclusion, I'm impaled by an idea for my next Story.

And I don't call this phase of my writing "pre-writing", "outlining", "brainstorming", "fleshing out the story", "freewriting".

For me, it's unblurring my religion.

It's not a question of talent or determination or desire or even time.

It's a question of faith.

Story first appears to me in blurry visionary form with only crumbs of character here, snippets of scene there, and smidgens of story everywhere all floating around in the amniotic fluid of creativity.

All these little yellow spots dancing and swirling around me. Little yellow spots that require my art and my intelligence to be transformed into Sun, into Story.

One Story focuses itself into crystal clarity and another Story starts to focus itself, to unblur the spot into Sun.

John of PatmosAnd I'm at my happiest because this is where Story is revealed-- a process of discovery and revelation in the truest senses of those words. I am John of Patmos sitting in my lonely cave with the vision of the divine wrapping itself around me.

The genius of Story is not in how much a writer does, but in how little. The work of a sublimely confident writer is not to include a single word to simply keep the reader's attention. He reduces each scene to its essence, and keeps the reader there just long enough for the reader to contemplate it, to inhabit it in the imagination. Story is not concerned with thrilling the reader, but with inspiring the reader with awe and wonder.

To turn the yellow spot into Sun.

See you on the bookshelves.

Larry Mike Garmon

03 April 2010

Who Really Benefits in the Growing Ebook/Epublishing World?

Not you. Not me.

Unless we're already successful published writers.

I've had 14 books published, but I'm still struggling to produce what Donald Maas calls the "breakout novel".

J.A. Konrath is a successful mystery writer. He has recently blogged about his experience in ebook publishing. He's made some serious cash at publishing his backlog. Enough cash that if it were me, I'd quit my day job over it.

A few years ago, horror and fantasy master Stephen King experimented with publishing a story on line. Interested readers had to pay $1.00 to read a story called "The Plant". He wrote the story in installments. He made over $100,000 on the venture. He never finished it (at least as far as I know), and I don't think he's doing this any more.

Stephen King

I recently read an article about a successful writer who is self-publishing all his new work through Lulu. I can't remember his name at this moment.

Ah . . . . do you see the rubs in the above paragraphs?

"J.A. Konrath is a successful mystery writer."

". . .horror and fantasy master Stephen King . . . ."

". . . successful writer who is self-publishing . . . ."

And that, boys and girls, is the secret to being successful in the fledging ebook publishing market--at least for now.

J.A. Konrath can do it. Stephen King can do it. That other guy whose name I can't remember can do it. Dean Koontz can do it. Lois Lowery can do it.

Edgar Allen Poe

Hell, even Edgar Allen Poe can do it, and he was dead 160 years before e-publishing even entered the English lexicon.

Highly successful traditionally published writers will be highly successful published ebook writers because

  1. they already have a fan base;
  2. they have instant brand name recognition;
  3. they have a backlog of previously published material they can offer that fan base in a new format--like when LPs gave way to 8-tracks,8-tracks to cassettes, cassettes to CDs, CDs to iPods, et cetera;
  4. they are full-time writers who have had great success in their careers and that success gives them time to do the heavy promotion necessary to be successful in the ebook publishing arena;
  5. AND, they usually have a BIG PUBLISHING HOUSE behind them, providing them with professionally designed texts, artfully designed covers, and professional editors to re-edit their works--and all that valuable and indispensable help COSTS THEM NOTHING!

So, when you and I read about their successes, that they made enough money from ebooks that would allow most of us to quit our day jobs, we salivate.

And we think, "Why not me?"

Why not?

Because most of us haven't "arrived" yet, that's why.

Sure, I know what you're thinking: Ha, I can show that Garmon some success stories of unknown writers who went on to be successful ebook writers!

Really? Off the top of your head? Or, must you do a Google search first? And just how many? In the digits, the tens, the dozens, the hundreds, the thousands?

Yeah, right.

Here's a good article to support what I'm talking about: Tick Here.

You and I have the same ancient desire of all writers throughout the history of the written language: to be published and to be read.

With the advent of Lulu, Authonomy, Booklocker, BookRix, Awe-Struck Ebooks, Tate Publishing, and a multitude of other POD and epublishers, "publishing" has never been easier for those of us craving "publication".

Of course, what is the very definition of "being published"?

Is being able to upload your opus with a simple tick of your Enter key or left mouse button to one of the hundreds of epublishers really "being published"?

Is garnering a few reviews from fellow writers, friends, lovers, and/or children the mark of a "successful" writing career?

For better or for worse, whether I like it not, the model for being a "successful" and a "published" writer still lies with the model that has existed since the 18th Century:

A reputable publishing house (micro, small, or large; regional, national, or international) buys your novel, pays you an advance and (hopefully) continuous royalties, puts your book cover on its own website, Amazon, et cetera.

Why is this still the best and only real measure of a "successful" writer?

Because each traditional publishing house--Random House, Penguin, Crickhallow, 4-RV, Simon & Schuster, Knoft, et al--operates FIRST as a BUSINESS and never as a STROKER OF EGOS, which is what Lulu, Authonomy, Booklocker, BookRix, Tate Publishing, and the hundreds of other PODs and self-publishing epublishers do.

More years will have to pass before the as-yet-discovered great writer is discovered solely through epublishing and such a model is the norm rather than the exception.

And when I am, it won't be through one of the hundreds of ego-stroking PODs and self-publishers (i.e., vanity presses), but through the epublishing divisions of Random House, Penguin, Crickhallow, 4-RV, Simon & Schuster, Knoft, et al.

See you on the bookselves.

Or, perhaps on the Kindle!

Sign My Kindle

Larry Mike Garmon

01 April 2010

Lucky Agent Contest #4 w/Regina Brooks

Chuck Sambuchino is sponsoring the 4th Luck Agent Contest with Regina Brooks once again providing valuable advice for the luck winners.

Tick HERE to read the rules and guidelines.

Regina BrooksRegina is the founder of Serendipity Literary in Brooklyn. She has edited, written and agented books. She is the author of Writing Great Books for Young Adults.
Although I haven't won, YET, this contest has helped me to tighten up my first 150-200 words of my novel.

Chuck has a great blog. Tick on the banner below to read and subscribe to it.

Guide to Literary Agnets
Remember: A writer writes in the same way a golfer golfs--you're going to have some divots some times, but, man, aren't those double eagles just great when they occur!

See you on the bookshelves.

Take care,
Larry Mike Garmon