All hat and no cattle

All hat and no cattle

April 11, 2017

This is a little hard to admit but yeah, I do feel that at the 2016 Writer’s Digest Annual Conference, held in NYC, this past August?  I was all hat and no cattle.  If you are like me and I really hope you aren’t, you have heard this expression any number of times.  It wasn’t until the other day that I truly understood what it meant and it was like a grand kick in the teeth and the groin at the same time.

Before I forget, my tagline “Writing stories that steal your imagination” I’m supposed to make sure to put that in every blog post.   That is from my SEO blog post.  OK, back to the blog.

I should start off by saying the Writer’s Digest Annual Conference is AMAZING.  Seriously there are panels, keynote speakers, time to buy ‘stuff’, and many amazing people that are there to help you become a better writer.  I of course barely touched the surface because I’m a huge DUFUS.  I try to use words like DUFUS as to keep my language in the PG range of things but any 4-letter word would also fit.

I did meet Gabriela Pereira, and she was as nice as she could be which is good because I’m a curmudgeon.  I am sure that if you have read any of these blog posts before you have seen Ms. Pereira’s name mentioned.  It isn’t because I’m a stalker or anything, I read her book and I found it quite helpful in focusing my writing and reading.  Just in case you missed it the book is diyMFA which is do it yourself, Master of Fine Arts.  I highly recommend it.

So back to the all hat and no cattle.  I have been an active participant or user you might say of the NaNoWriMo website or facilities, whatever you might want to call them for a number of years now, at least three and to me that is a number.

I have completed three stories, sure let us call them novels, and I felt that after doing that?  I was an author, a writer, I had my stuff together.  OK, fine, I also use five letter words.

I had finished a story, The Unintended Spell, having wrote it, then reviewed it, then edited it, then added to it again to get it above 80k words.  I got my stuff done.  I signed up for the conference and I was ready.  Here I come NYC, be ready, I am so going to kick your…. Butt.

I had signed up for the Pitch Slam on the website, but I had NO idea really what the heck I was doing with that.  I still though had my big boy pants on and I wasn’t going to allow something like not knowing what I was doing slow me down.  So, I listened, took notes Chuck Sambuchino spoke at the conference, now to be prepared, how it worked.  I was like, ‘I got this now’.  I then wrote out what I wanted to say and practiced, practiced, practiced my pitch slam.  Baby, I got this.
I went into the room, having no real clue what I was doing, I was nervous but was I going to let that get in my way?  I can public speak like no one’s business. I was a public-school teacher, taught adult education, went to college, graduated, I did training for Starbucks, can I talk?  Baby you best believe I can talk and I don’t even need to know what I’m talking about!

I found my chart, who was sitting where, and I found the agents that were looking for stories in my genre.  OK, let me stop there for a minute.  That is a really hard question for me to answer; “What genre are you write for?”  Yeah, like I know?  I’m supposed to know that?  I write, I don’t worry about pigeon holing where my stories fit.  I write for people like me, old farts that remember reading stories by Michael Moorcock, Lin Carter, J.R.R. Tolkien, David Butcher, Glen Cook, David Weber, Eric Flint, David Eddings, and Ed Greenwood.  Hmm, I seem to read more than a few stories by guys named Dave…  I should add Ursula Le Guinn, C J Cherryh, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Mercedes Lackey and Lynn Abbey so you don’t think I’m some sort of sexist.

I like to think I write fiction for adults, I suppose there is an argument that I write for myself, or the myself I was between the ages of 16 to 29?  I don’t know?  That doesn’t seem to be young adult to me and I still read the above authors book’s multiple times because I enjoy them.  I don’t know about you but I know I have read the Lord of the Rings over fifteen times.  So, I guess that does mean I’m more than a little geeky, right?

Back to the topic.  I went to my first agent and pitched my book and she looked at me for a moment, I was thinking ‘OK, I’m a fraud…’  She says “So, it is something like Thor?”  I grasp onto that like a life raft and I’m in the middle of the ocean… “Well, yeah, kind of?  I mean Thor comes to earth, and my guys, sure yeah it is a LOT like Thor.”  She hands me a business card and says send her a query letter and put in the title that I met her at the Writer’s Conference.  I am on Cloud 9.  I mean, seriously, that means she wants to sign my book, I’m on my way, I’m going to get published.  Woot!!!!

I go to twelve other agents and I get varying degrees of “That sounds interesting, send me a query” From another seven or so.  Five of them, including one guy that just annoyed me after the high I was coming off from my high of ‘I am of course going to publish you’ moment, to his “What is your story like, tell me another book that was published that was like your story?”  What the heck, my story is pretty original, in my mind, how DARE you ask me what my story is like!  You think I’m walking around ripping people off or something?

Just in case you're curious, I have had some time to think about this and ‘The Unintended Spell’ is akin to Joel Rosenberg’s ‘Guardians of the Flame’ series except in reverse, sort of.  A group of table top role players get sent into their gaming universe.  ‘The Unintended Spell’ is the characters meet the players in our world along with the bad guys from the gaming world.  I hadn’t realized that until I read the book and went "oh, yeah, OK… my story is a little like that, not really, but yeah maybe."

So, there I am, all excited that I am going to get published and reality sets in.  I start reading about editors, type of editors, agents, how a story goes through a process to get published.  I then realize that my story is no way NEAR ready to be looked at by a publishing house, editor, or agent.  It isn’t ready.  What do I do?  I freak out, I would like to say a little but I freaked out, a LOT.

So, this is the part where I realize I am ‘All hat and no cattle’.  I say I’m a writer, I have the fedora hat and everything if you’re curious, but I really have a bunch of half done, barely legible stories, no cattle.  What am I going to do?

You don’t know me but I don’t do well with self-pity.  I might get down a bit but I don’t get all wallowing in my problems, I look for solutions.  I am known to some as ‘Mr. Fixit’.  When I’m told a problem, I rarely can feel emotion or empathy over the issue.  I want to fix the issue.  So, I wondered how would I fix this?  First, I was going to remember I am fairly intelligent.  I do have original ideas, and the people I have shared this stuff with, and have actually read it, have told me they enjoy it.  I also realized that because I wrote something in thirty days, doesn’t mean that it is a novel.  It is a story, but that doesn’t mean it’s ready for publication.  I have read how many times something has been rewritten, revised, edited, etc.


It is time to go buy some cattle I guess to go with my hat.  Any suggestions?  My email and twitter addresses are on the website.  Thanks for reading.

I am using Pro Writing Aid for grammar checks, think it’s working?  

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