The Demands of the Paper: A Writing Update

Stack of PaperA blank page of white paper is everything.

All possibility lies there and it can be a joy for an inspired writer, a dreamer. In A Jane Austen Daydream I have a holiday scene where I describe a snow-covered land as a fresh sheet of paper, just waiting for a new story to begin.

It’s hard not to get too romantic around the art of writing and creation. But there is a dark side to that white sheet as well. It demands attention, it makes you question everything, and it is always there. Never forgiving when you don’t create. And the longer it stays blank, the more it makes you question your own ability.

Why aren’t you writing? What are you waiting for? You say you are a writer, write! 

These days I have a love-hate relationship with that blessed piece of paper. I have so many ideas and things I want to do, but… But I am holding off, because I am uncertain of what the right direction is to go. Yes, the best piece of advice for any writer is to write for yourself, I preach it all the time. But there are moments when a person should stop and take a few seconds to consider the direction of one’s career. That’s where I am right now. I’m just trying to figure out which snow-covered path is the best one for me to walk and I hinder… I hinder.

The blank page of paper doesn’t see it that way, of course. It is weakness, it is hesitancy. Something I have never really had in my career. So while I still feel the thrill of all possibility, I can’t help but feel like I am letting that piece of paper down.  Continue reading

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Working The Audience: A Very Useful Writing Trick

On the StageI am a little bit of a helpless romantic.

For those who read my novel A Jane Austen Daydream that is not at all surprising. And before I met my wife I thought of my writing as a gateway to the heart.

I was one of those fools that bought into the lie of the romantic novels and the romantic comedy films. You see this plot twist all the time! That grand gesture that makes a person reconsider another in a different light. Oh, it is a great idea in a story, but we all know, honestly, it goes against how people are wired in the real world.

Short stories with hidden messages (and not so hidden ones), books, and I still squirm to remember the poetry. I have admitted a lot of embarrassing stuff on this site, but this is one of those few memories I still want to crawl into a cave and live out my remaining days because of. Yup, just the hint of it makes me want to become a hermit.

I, Scott Southard, was the creator of bad love poems. And I have sent them, strategically left them around, and even mailed them once anonymously in the hope that it would make another stop and see me as hotter (as some kind of light rock classic kicks on in the background like in a bad movie). In the end it never worked… and, by the way, the recipient of the anonymous love poems didn’t even figure out they were from me until I said something! Ouch!

All those bad memories aside, there is something to be said for the importance of an audience. I’m not just talking about the readers all writers dream to have, I mean that more enigmatic dream of a reader. The one we hope will find our work, the one in the back of our mind that drives the creation forward. They demand the story. What many don’t realize is that dream reader can be a tool, and can help over many different steps in the creative process if used right. Just be sure to leave the poetry at home… Continue reading

Looking for a Literary Agent…

Empty StageSometimes being a writer can feel like being a designer at a fashion show. (Well, that is what I imagine, I’ve never been a designer. Some would laugh at that idea. I’m slightly colorblind which wouldn’t help, that is for certain.)

You spend so much time preparing your “look” and then suddenly the model needs to take the walk in front of the crowds. And you wait, terrified, seeing what reactions you get.  Are there gasps or moans?  It’s all stressful, with highs and lows, but we all have to do it. It’s part of the gig.

In the next few months I’m going to start to query different literary agencies about my new novel Permanent Spring Showers. Yup, I’m pushing my new book onto the catwalk and I will stand backstage with my fingers crossed not daring to look.

Preparing my query letter, synopsis and excerpt has gotten me thinking of my experiences and also some of my writing posts about literary agencies. Below, after the jump, are links to some of those posts as well as new helpful insights on them. Some of these writing articles are the most popular things I have ever done on this site.

I’ve had the pleasure of working with literary agencies on other books and I hope that Permanent Spring Showers gets the same chance. I’m really proud of it. Permanent Spring Showers revolves around an artist named Vince who is about to create some of the most important and groundbreaking contemporary art.  Inspired by an affair, his creations will affect all around him in this multi-cast tale about relationships, academics, art, authors, and lies. You can learn more about the book on this page and read the first chapter exclusively here.

Now about those agency articles… Continue reading

Tackling The Problem of the Agent Query Letter

I agree Charlie, I completely agree...There are no guarantees in the world of writing.

You may feel after completing that dream novel that you are standing in a packed football stadium ready to kick the field goal. And this should be an easy one! You already did the hard work bringing the ball this close down the field, right? That was those hours writing and outlining and planning until late in the morning. And in all of your dreams, this part of the writing career was easy. It always is. The field goal is right there!

The sad thing is that in reality the holder with the ball is a little bit like Lucy from Peanuts. Which makes you something akin to Charlie Brown.

Now before you lose hope with that analogy, let me remind you that Charlie Brown actually did get to kick the football once or twice. Granted, one of those times was in a TV special and he was invisible thanks to Snoopy and some happenstance magic. But that is how things sometimes work in the world of literature as well. Sometimes you need that bit of luck… or a dog with a magic wand.

The first step to achieving your dream, the field goal, is getting that agent. They are the gatekeepers to the big publishing houses. Here are some suggestions to consider before you start running up to the ball.

Continue reading

Redefining Writing Success: Learning to Fly in Today’s Congested Writing World

IcarusI was an innocent dreamer when I arrived in Los Angeles.

I had big plans and it all felt like the beginning of a movie to me. I was about to start studying in one of the best writing program in the country (University of Southern California. Go Trojans!) and I could feel the destiny thick around me like cigarette smoke. I could smell it on my clothes and in my hair; I could taste it on my tongue. In my mind I was certain that this moment, this arrival, was the true start of any future and inevitable biography that someone would write about me.

The stuff of legends.

That first night I had to stay in a hotel. And I practically skipped (already wearing my USC sweatshirt) as I approached the front desk. Behind it was an older, somewhat heavy, bored-looking woman and, noticing my sweatshirt, casually asked if I was a student. Oh, the can of worms she just unleashed!

I quickly talked about the writing program and the professors I was going to study under, about my books, about my scripts, and about my plans, etc. The words (and dreams) flooded out of me. I could have gone on all day.

And when I finally stopped to take a breath, she casually interrupted and said, “Yeah, I’m a writer too. Here is your key.” Continue reading

Writer’s Corner: A Query Letter for Jane Austen

I always seem to be overtaken by a feeling of apprehension whenever I begin to consider the idea of contacting agents and publishers again. To begin with, it’s not like I feel like I am “selling out” myself or my books, but I am definitely doing something that makes me feel a little dirty.

See, when you are writing a book you have all of the best intentions. You want to tell a great story, maybe do something groundbreaking or new in your artform; but when you start to contact agents and publishers you have to forget all of that. The best intentions are fine for writing tables; agents and publishers, typically, want to know the bottom line.

Could this book sell?

More established authors have their name to help sell a new work, but when you are unknown you are a member of the ever-growing faceless mass. And by that I mean, the daily struggling army of want-to-be authors that fight in query letters and e-mails for attention for their work. And that army is growing each year as more and more people graduate from English programs and writing programs, or simply decide they want to write a book… growing and growing… Continue reading