“Do the Work:" a Guest Post by Jonathan Raab, Author of 'Flight of the Blue Falcon'

When I got serious about writing, I was just as focused on getting published as I was on developing my craft.

Alright, well, maybe I was more focused on getting published.
I thought that if I could get one story out there—just one—that I’d have made it. I’d be a professional. The floodgates of publication would open, and my career would take off. Goodbye, nine to five day job. Hello, sleeping in everyday, spending my mornings and afternoons in front of a word processor, making a living telling stories.
I was a college student, and I was naïve. I also had my priorities wrong (and not just about writing, either!). While I spent huge amounts of time reading and writing (good), I spent an awful lot of time trying to figure out the secret to getting published (not so good). Blame it on youthful impatience, sure. But the truth is, I spent a lot of time focusing my energy on this, when I could have been writing. When I could have been reading. When I could have been in writers’ groups, getting feedback, developing my craft. When I could have been doing the work.
Now, I know that for many writers without publishing credits, that seems like a cop-out. I know had I read someone telling me just to focus on my writing as the best way to get published, I would have dismissed it. But it’s true. It’s the only advice to give, really. Getting your work in front of editors and agents is actually relatively easy. There’s a number of good resources out there that list markets looking for unsolicited work. (I’m in horror fiction these days, so I spend a lot of time looking at the listings at DarkMarkets.com and HorrorTree.com—check those sites out.)
Putting together a good pitch letter for your short story, novella, or novel is as easy as spending some time reading the market’s guidelines online and getting some feedback from a friend on the materials you’re about to send out. Sure, there’s skill and craft involved in assembling and developing your pitch letter, outline, and manuscript format—but what counts the most is the work itself.
In 2014, I started my own small press (because why not?) called Muzzleland Press. For our first project, Spooklights, we opened up submissions to the general public. Were the pitch letter and formatting of the manuscripts sent in important to me? Absolutely. But what really mattered was whether the stories were engaging, well-written, and polished. Let me say that another way: it was very easy to get me to look at the submitted work. That wasn’t an issue for most of the writers who submitted. The story—the craft, the work mattered most. And it was very easy to tell who was serious about their writing, and who just wanted to get something published, damn the torpedoes.
So, if you’re unpublished, or in a dry spell between new credits, don’t freak out. I know there’s a drive to get your work recognized, to get some acclaim, to build your c.v.—or even to make some money from your work. I get it. We all have that drive. If we didn’t, we’d never show our work to anyone else. But, as much as it is a cliché, focusing on the work is the quickest way to get you those things. Developing your craft is the surest path to success.
I know Do the Work isn’t sexy, and it sure as hell ain’t a shortcut. But that’s the best I got for you. Keep at it.
Title: Flight of the Blue Falcon
Genre: Fiction – Adult
Author: Jonathan Raab
Publisher: War Writers’ Campaign, Inc.
Watch the Trailer
Purchase on Amazon
About the Book:
“Jonathan Raab is not only a genuine advocate for veteran causes, he is a preacher of their tales; both fiction and nonfiction. His writing will immerse you into a combat environment that parallels the imagination of those who have never had the pleasure.”
—Derek J. Porter, author of Conquering Mental Fatigues: PTSD & Hypervigilance Disorder
“Jonathan Raab uses his experience to illustrate the raw world of the common soldier. His masterful use of edgy humor and intellectual commentary creates a space for discussing the military culture.”
—Nate Brookshire, co-author, Hidden Wounds: A Soldiers Burden
In FLIGHT OF THE BLUE FALCON (War Writers’ Campaign; July 2015; PRICE), a chewed-up Army National Guard unit heads to a forgotten war in Afghanistan where three men find themselves thrust into the heart of absurdity: the post-modern American war machine. The inexperienced Private Rench, the jaded veteran Staff Sergeant Halderman, and the idealistic Lieutenant Gracie join a platoon of misfit citizen-soldiers and experience a series of alienating and bizarre events.
Private Rench is young, inexperienced, and from a poor, rural, broken home. He’s adrift in life. The early signs of alcoholism and potential substance abuse are beginning to rear their ugly heads. He wants to do right by the Army, but doesn’t quite know who he is yet.
Staff Sergeant Halderman has one previous combat tour under his belt. He got out, realized his life was going nowhere, so re-enlisted to serve with the men he knew, and to lead the inexperienced guys into combat. He is manifesting the early signs of post traumatic stress, but is too focused on the upcoming mission to deal with it. He sees the Army for what it is—a big, screwed up machine that doesn’t always do the right thing—but he doesn’t think all that highly of himself, either.
Second Lieutenant Gracie is fresh, young, excited to be in the Army, and trying to adjust to the new to the military and his life as an officer. Although he faces a steep learning curve, he is adaptable and has a good, upbeat attitude. As he tries to forge his own path, he nonetheless turns to the experienced NCOs in his unit for guidance and support. He must continually make tough decisions that have no “right” or textbook answers. Yet these decisions are catalysts enabling him to grow in maturity, experience, and wisdom.
Preparation for combat is surreal: Rench is force-fed cookies by his drill sergeants. Halderman’s “training” is to pick up garbage in the blistering heat of the California desert for four days straight. Gracie contends with a battalion commander obsessed with latrine graffiti.
Once they reach Afghanistan, things really get weird.
FLIGHT OF THE BLUE FALCON is the story of three men who volunteer to serve their country. It’s about what it means to be a soldier, to fight, to know true camaraderie—and to return home.
This is a war story. This is their story.
Only the most unbelievable parts are true.
About the Author
Jonathan Raab is a veteran of the Afghanistan war, where he served as an infantryman assigned to a combat advisor team. He is the editor-in-chief of Muzzleland Press and an editor for the War Writers’ Campaign. His work has appeared in The New York Times’ At War Blog, CNN.com, the Military Success Network, Literati PresentsThe Stars and Stripes, and many others. His second novel, The Hillbilly Moonshine Massacre, will be available in late 2015. He lives in the Denver metro area with his wife Jess and their dog, Egon.
Connect with Jonathan Raab on the Web: Website Facebook /Twitter 

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