About John Rogers

I have thought of myself as a writer for most of my adult life. In 2011, I became a fiction writer full time. I studied creative writing as an English major in college. Then came family and career. I worked in finance and biotech and did a wonderful stint in Vienna. Now, I have the opportunity to use those experiences as the substrate for my stories. My first novel takes on the world of Big Data and the very timely issue of cyber war. The second uses the manipulation of financial derivatives as impetus for attempted murder during a trip from Vienna to Budapest on the Danube. I have taken writing instruction at the Cape Cod Writers Conference and from The Loft in Minneapolis. I am finding writers’ groups to be very helpful as concept editors, as well as practical advice from the published authors. I am in three such groups. I have taken writing instruction at the Cape Cod Writers Conference and from The Loft in Minneapolis.

Hope, adjusted but not dashed

I got a couple of requests for ‘fulls’—the full manuscript of a novel—from agents. Really exciting, because word has it that agents won’t ask for a full unless they’re interested.

Time passed. A week. Four weeks. Two months. Of course, I knew to expect that delay. Finally, a really nice rejection. Encouraging. Fine writing but just ‘not in our wheelhouse.’ (Apparently, many agents have somehow acquired tugboats.) But still, it was encouraging.

Then I read a newsletter from Lawrence Block, one of our preeminent mystery writers. Block noted:

“When a good agent sends you (a publisher) a manuscript and makes it clear he has high hopes for it, you don’t tell him it’s crap. You say it’s not quite for us. You insist you think very highly of the writing and the writer, but cite the book’s problems of theme and content. You give it high marks for artistry while faulting it for being insufficiently commercial. And you might even say what publishers in your position have been saying for upwards of thirty years: Gosh, five years ago we would have jumped at this, but the way the business has changed—” Lawrence Block, writing in Mystery Fanfare

Yeech. Well, there are still a couple of fulls out there. Hope springs eternal, but more  queries seem to be the order of the day.

Reading For the Sake of Enjoyment

A question I hear often in critique groups is, “Is this moving the story forward?” An ancillary question is where to insert backstory … the events before the time of the story that contributed to its direction or, more often, a character’s development.

And we writers are told by a thousand how-to books that we need to grab the reader in the first line. Get things moving. Bottom of first page is too late.

I have been reading two stories in my critique group from gifted writers who work humor into every line. I keep feeling pressured by conventional wisdom to suggest moving the story forward.

Then I began reading Deacon King Kong, by James McBride. Literary fiction, to be sure, so anything goes by way of structure, but the book starts with the obligatory precipitating event—but then gives the reader twenty pages of double-over-laughing backstory. Which brings up the question: Why do we read, anyway? For pleasure, right?

I guess I’ll cut back on the cookie-cutter critique and just enjoy my friends’ prose.