Sep 182014

At every writer's conference I am invited to, I participate in a few panels, take pitches, and do critiques. As for the panels, it is usually made up of editors and agents, but occassionally just editors. Regardless, we get some commonly asked questions. I am going to tackle a few here.

Why do I need an agent?
If you are hoping to be published by the big New York houses, you need an agent to get in the door. And for me, I no longer accept unagented submissions unless I have requested your manuscript after meeting you at a conference.

As an editor, I expect submissions from agents to be polished. Sure, I am going to ask for some revisions, but a good agent will have tightened and tweaked your manuscript. You agent should be shaping that manuscript/series and managing your writing career.

Finally, the agent deals with all the business crap that comes with publishing. He or she will negotiate the contract, which means better terms for you. And if something comes up, I can work with agent on the problem, rather than muddying my creative relationship with the author. There is much more to the author/agent/editor relationship, but to me, these are the biggest points.

Will you publish a book I have already self published? Will you pick up book three in my series (first two were self published or traditionally published)?

There is no absolute yes or no answer here. But it definitely leans toward probably not. If a book is published in print form, there will be sales numbers attached to the book. If those numbers are low, it's a risk to pick up that series. If it's only pubbed in ebook, there is no central reporting place, so the publisher may ask you to supply statements showing sales, otherwise we are blindly trusting the author. Publishers are far more comfortable with new work. BUT, this is an ever evolving situation. The answer to this might be completely different in six months from now.

Do I need a platform?

In non-fiction, yes. In fiction, no. But about six months before publication date, I want the author to at least have a clean website and a facebook page. You don't need to be hyper active online - you have to find the balance between social media, writing, and living the rest of your life which probably invovles a day job, kids, pets, family. So figure out what you are comfortable with and go from there.

What trends do you see?

Don't write to a trend, write the story that is inside you. Paranormal is waning. It will never go away though. So if your story is about Valkyries and vampires, write it!

What is your day like? How many submissions do you get? What makes you reject manuscripts?

see my previous posts for that

How do you feel about indie publishing vs traditional publishing?

I think the smartest authors are ones that are following the hybrid model. There are advantages to both indie and traditional publishing. As an indie author, it's difficult to get media exposure (Publisher's Weekly, Kirkus, Library Journal, Booklist, etc.) As a traditional author, you don't get to control the process and your royalties are significantly less. So do both, and let the two paths build on each other. And if you are traditionally published, it also gives you greater security to publish with two different publishers. Putting all your eggs in one basket is risky, no matter who holds the basket.

And one last note -

If you are going to self publish, please hire an editor to make sure your manuscript is solid and clean. Pubbing a book filled with errors will do you no favors. Consider this your business - everything you put out needs to look professional and polished. This also goes for submitting to agents and editors. My time is valuable, and if you send me a manuscript filled with typos and errors, you will not get the benefit of the doubt. Your manuscript will be automatically rejected. And I will remember that if you submit again.

What other questions do you have? I would be happy to answer them in the comments section or in a future blog post. Have a happy Thursday!

Sep 162014

Danielle Burby 

When Josh asked me to take over his blog for today (because he is still recovering from shoulder surgery), I couldn't, for the life of me, decide what I wanted to write about. Foreign rights? The vote for Scottish independence and the power of the historical narrative to impact life today? Why I love stories that tackle social issues? Nah. But there is something people have been asking me about a lot recently and that I'm never sure quite how to handle. It's something I love discussing, but feel a little bit strange talking about with people who know me in my publishing life. My experience as a junior agent/playwright. 
For those who don't know, I am a produced, and agented, playwright. It's a big, crazy, adventure that I never explicitly planned to take, but that brings me some of the greatest pride and joy I've ever felt. 
Ultimately, I see my two careers as very different, but complimentary, parts of my life. I strongly believe that being a writer myself makes me much more sensitive to the needs of authors, especially when it comes to communication on the editorial side. I, too, have had people tell me, "I love your work, but please tear up the entire thing and rewrite it." I have been given editorial advice I didn't agree with and stood my ground, defended my choices. On the flip side, I have also learned to hear criticism, no matter how painful it may be, and to accept when I need to make changes. I honestly don't want to tell you how many times I rewrote my first play. I actually changed the ending midway through the play's run, if you can believe it! Now, although the play has already been produced and reviewed, I know I'll have to go in and make more changes if I want it to move up in the production ranks, as I hope it does. 
What this means for the writers I work with is that I understand exactly what I 'm asking of them when I write a big fat editorial letter and say, "So look...we need to completely rework the structure here," or, "That character that we both love actually doesn't belong in this particular book," or even, "You might want to consider changing genres." I give my notes with all the empathy in the word and I have the battle scars to prove it. 
Working on the agenting side also gives me a very clear perspective as to what it's like out there for writers. It shows me how important it is to be polite and professional at all times, whether you're a writer, an editor, or an agent. I've learned the importance of email tone and how to develop relationships. I think every writer should make a real effort to understand the business side of the industry because sometimes, when wrapped up in the creative side, it can be hard to remember that that's just what this is: a business. 
However, it is a business that revolves around creativity. One of my favorite parts of my job is looking into the heart of a narrative and figuring out, with the author, how to bring it to the surface. I love talking to authors about their visions and working as a team to strengthen their ideas and take the book another step forward. As a writer, I know that there's only so far you can bring a story on your own. As a publishing professional, I like to be the person, or one of the people, who helps someone take their novel one step farther. 
Ultimately, I'm a fiction junkie and I love being part of the conversation, whether as a reader, a writer, or a junior agent/assistant. So yes, I am both a person who writes and a person who works with writers. I love those duel roles because they give me a broader perspective, and by understanding both sides of the same coin, my love for each is cemented and my ability in each is strengthened. I wouldn't have it any other way.
Sep 152014

Jeff Cohen

SPOILER ALERT: If you don't want to know E.J. Copperman's true identity (and I'm guessing that category applies to no one at all), don't read any further. I wouldn't want to disillusion a reader. Or a non-reader. Or anybody else. 

So here's the thing: As was discussed in some detail last week, HeadTHE QUESTION OF THE MISSING HEAD, the first Asperger's mystery featuring the fictional Samuel Hoenig, will be published by our very own Terri Bischoff's Midnight Ink in just a hair over three weeks, on October 8. It's a mystery involving and told by a man who has a high-functioning form of an autism related disorder, and it involves, as one might expect from the title, a missing head, in this case a frozen one.

It's also the first official collaboration between myself and E.J. Copperman, and that's sort of an interesting situation.

That's right, friends, it's the first book I ever wrote with myself.

The cover of the book clearly states the authors' names as, "E.J. Copperman/Jeff Cohen," as if that clears anything up. But the fact is I was alone in the room when it was written, although that's hardly a definitive indication that anyone called E.J. Copperman didn't write the book. E.J., after all, is me, and nobody's tried to keep that a secret for quite some time.

In and of itself (which is an expression that doesn't mean anything, but whatever), the fact that both of my names are up on the cover of the book is somewhat irrelevant. If you enjoy the book, it could be written by GruberHans Gruber and it wouldn't matter. If you don't enjoy the book, it could be a work of Pg-02-shakespeare-g_175920tWilliam Shakespeare (who as far as I know never knowingly wrote about Asperger's) and that would be equally unimportant. 

But sitting down to write the book a few years ago (it took a while to find a home, and thankfully Terri liked it), I honestly didn't know if it was going to be a Jeff book or an E.J. book, and I do actually approach the two differently, even if I'm not conscious of the effort at the time. So in writing THE QUESTION OF THE MISSING HEAD (which had another title back in those days), I was sort of channeling the E.J. side of my brain even while the Jeff side was poking his nose into it just to keep things on an even keel. So it really is a product of both.

I got the idea when Evan Hunter and Ed McBain (both of whom were actually Salvatore Lombino) wrote a book together. Now, that seemed like a great idea! You get two author names on the book for followers of either previously published writer, and you don't have to split the royalties! What's not to like?

It does irk me when (as a number of review sites and an online retailer or two) some people consider HeadTHE QUESTION OF THE MISSING HEAD as strictly an E.J. Copperman book and leave my birth name off it entirely. I mean, I worked as hard as E.J. on it--harder even, since I was doing the typing--and I think I deserve a little credit, don't you?

Having just sent off the draft of the second Samuel book, whose title has not yet been confirmed (and I've learned to keep my mouth shut about such things), I can say the second time around it was more of a total collaboration because now I was aware both names would be on the cover. There was more give-and-take, but either way, I got or gave because there wasn't anyone else there. Except our new dog ImageGizmo, who is adorable but chews things a lot.

So I can tell you something I never knew before: Collaborating with yourself can be fun and rewarding. But the best part, without question, is writing the authors' acknowledgments, when I got to thank myself twice.


P.S.: Our sincere wishes for a quick and easy recovery to our own Josh Getzler, just now starting toward getting his shoulder back the way it should be. We want you back here ASAP, sir, so get to work!

P.P.S.: While we're on the subject of Josh, he has informed me that HSG Agency, of which he is the "G", will match my total donation to ASPEN, the Autism Spectrum Education Network, when we tally it all up from the MISSING HEAD CHALLENGE (announced here last week). Remember the rules: Buy a copy of THE QUESTION OF THE MISSING HEAD and have it in your hands on its publication day, October 8. Take a picture of yourself with said book (or e-reader title page thereof). Post said picture on Facebook or Twitter and make sure I see it. I will donate (and now Josh will match) $3 for every picture posted up to 100 pictures that day. Don't miss your chance to donate to a very worthy cause without spending any extra money! And thanks, Josh and everybody at HSG! 

Sep 102014

To begin, a huge apology to everyone. Lynne asked me to take her place for two weeks while she’s on holiday…and I forgot the time began last week.

In July, the new novel by a good friend of mine appeared. It’s not crime fiction, it’s an historical. But she’s an established author who, under her real name, has published two historical crime series. And her first historical, under a pen name, had done well.

But when she submitted a proposal for her new book, which actually continued the life of the (real) character in the just-published novel, it was rejected. Why? Because sales had been disappointing. At that point the book had been published for five weeks.

I understand that publishing is a science these days, rather than an art, and that pre-orders can determine sales. But five weeks? They’d put some money behind the book – not a fortune, but still some…and the initial reviews had been very good.

What happened to word of mouth? What happened to give a book time to find an audience? These things take time to percolate, don’t they?

I realize that I’m an author. My point of view is different; I’m down at the sharp end. But I’m lucky in that my publisher has taken a chance on a new series from me, and accepted the second book before the first even appeared (called Gods of Gold, it was published in the UK two weeks ago – obligatory advertising). What’s happened with my friend has really made me appreciate them.

But I’m interested in opinions from the other side. How do you feel about a decision like that?

Sep 082014

Jeff Cohen  E.J. Copperman

Much has been made of the truly impressive campaign for ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease) this summer that raised (according to some reports) as much as $100-million by getting people to pour ice water over their heads. Others here have posted about this, and it is not my intention to discuss it at all other than to say that I was one of the people getting ice water poured over their heads, and while I am glad to have done it, I would greatly appreciate it if you would never look at the video of it happening, ever. Or at least until I lose 40 pounds.

In the light of that campaign, however, I am offering a challenge of my own, and as with the ALS Foundation, mine will benefit (although certainly not to the tune of 100 big ones) a very worthy cause and simultaneously will serve an interest of my own--namely, getting people to buy one of my books.

Exactly one month from today, on October 8, Head
THE QUESTION OF THE MISSING HEAD, the first Asperger's Mystery by E.J. Copperman and Jeff Cohen (and there will be more on that match-up in coming weeks) will be published by our very own Terri Bischoff's Midnight Ink. It concerns a man named Samuel Hoenig who answers questions for a living and, as it happens, has a condition called Asperger's Syndrome, which until fairly recently was a disorder and now is... something else, according to the geniuses who classify such things. (Don't get me started.)

Hopefully interested readers will have seen the reviews by Publishers Weekly and Booklist, who very much enjoyed the book, and Kirkus Reviews, which... I honestly don't know, but they reviewed it. And I read the review. And I still don't know.

But we're drifting off the point. Because THE QUESTION OF THE MISSING HEAD does discuss Asperger's and it is central to the series--Samuel narrates the tales himself--I'd like to benefit an Asperger's-related group as well as drawing some attention (hopefully) to the book itself.

So here's the deal: THE QUESTION OF THE MISSING HEAD has a publisher's suggested retail price (Terri will tell you) of $14.99. It can probably be found for less. (It's a trade paperback.) So if you buy one, you're not spending tons of money. But you'll be benefiting some people with Asperger's Syndrome and their families.

How? All you have to do is this: Buy a copy of THE QUESTION OF THE MISSING HEAD on the day it's published, Wednesday October 8. Take a picture (or have someone take a picture) of yourself with the book--or if you buy it as an e-book, a picture of yourself holding your reader with the title page of THE QUESTION OF THE MISSING HEAD showing. No PhotoShop allowed.

Then post that picture to your Facebook or Twitter account. Make sure I see it by friending me on Facebook or following me (in either guise) on Twitter (@jeffcohenwriter or @ejcop). For each person who posts such a picture that I get to see--and that all your followers on either or both social networks get to see--I will donate $3 to ASPEN, the Autism Spectrum Education Network, an excellent support group for those who have family members with AS related disorders, based in my home state of New Jersey, where the Asperger's Mysteries are set (and where the incidence of autism-related disorders is about the highest in the U.S.).

ASPEN was one of the first places we contacted when our son was diagnosed with Asperger's back when nobody had heard of Asperger's. And we found help, information, support and programs that were all incredibly useful and are paying dividends with our Josh (not Josh who blogs here) every single day. I even used the president of ASPEN, Lori Shery, as a character in one of the Aaron Tucker novels. She was really helpful then, too.

So by buying the book and posting your picture, you'll be getting a book that hopefully you'll enjoy and ASPEN will get $3. That's up to 100 people, and only on publication day of Wednesday, October 8. I'm not made of money. (And even if I were, it'd be weird to send pieces of myself to pay for stuff, wouldn't it?)

That's the deal. A fun mystery about a guy with Asperger's trying to find a missing frozen head and you get to feel good about helping a very worthy cause without having to spend extra money. What's not to like?

I'll be reminding you about the MISSING HEAD Challenge over the next few weeks. If you want to pre-order the novel at your local bookstore to make sure you'll have a copy in your hands on pub day, I'll be they'd be happy to help. But those are the rules: Up to 100 people, pictures proving you have the book (no fair sharing the book with friends--make them get their own copy!), posted on Facebook or Twitter, on Wednesday, October 8. 

Do you think we can hit the 100 people? I'm hoping to have to write a $300 check!

Sep 032014

Josh Getzler

I’ve been having the funny feeling the last couple of weeks that I’ve been regressing back to high school. It’s not simply that I ALWAYS feel nostalgic this time of year, as the kids get ready to return from the summer. But this summer vacation has been filled with reminders of my days with big hair and long overcoats and bright yellow Walkmen.




  Photo (9)

First I read Eleanor and Park on the advice of the 12 YO, and it took me back to the Smiths and the Replacements and XTC (and bright yellow Walkmen); then last night we watched The Breakfast Club with the kids, and between the layers and overcoats and the Molly Ringwald Dance and Simple Minds I was back to Junior Year, wondering if I would also lose my soul when I grew up.


Tomorrow I’m going to Washington, DC for a couple of days of meetings and the launch of Todd Moss’s Golden Hour (had to get that in!), and I’m back to being a Congressional Page at 17, watching Live Aid and running around the Capitol Building in the roastingly hot DC summer. Then in the fall I’ll be seeing Sting’s new musical The Last Ship, and I’ll be back in my very enthusiastic high school band trying (enthusiastically!) to play So Lonely. And I just looked through the musical offerings in DC Thursday night. The Buzzcocks are playing a little club. The last time I saw them it was around 1988, and I was in college. And I just got my 25th Reunion notice. My son just finished watching Weird Science while my daughter was listening to Marlene On The Wall.

  9780399168604.jpg Solonely Liveaid

All we’re missing is a Soviet Premier threatening to use Nukes…oh.


Sep 012014

Jeff Cohen

If you're hoping for crime fiction stuff, I'm taking the day off. It's Labor Day. So while I know no issue is one-sided, I offer a question:

Given the demonization of labor unions that is the current rage in the U.S., is it hypocritical to have a holiday honoring labor?



Play nice, children. Answer any way you like. But if the discourse gets unruly, I will indeed exercise my right as editor and delete anything I feel is personal or impolite. All opinions are welcome. But not all tones.

Aug 252014

Jeff Cohen

UnknownMy home state of New Jersey has something of an image problem, and it is one that can teach us all something about first impressions, images, perception and memory. In other words, you can learn a lot about writing a story and promoting it if you think about New Jersey.

Yes, I'm serious.

The thing about my beloved home--and no, I don't mean that ironically--is that it is a Activity_2006compressed version of the United States. Very compressed. We're the third smallest state, and yet we have the most densely packed population per square mile. There are almost 9-million people here, and you have to figure at least some of them are not being held against their will.

In New Jersey, one finds some of the most famous beaches in the country. We have lovely suburban areas sitting right to some very accessible and cosmopolitan cities. Great restaurants, hiking, historical areas, theme parks, skiing (if you're into that sort of thing), Aerial-view-of-atlanticprofessional sports teams, casinos, performing arts centers, cultural events, theater, swimming, fishing, music, comedy, film, nature, and one-of-a-kind sights like Lucy the Elephant, which I will not picture here because you just have to see Lucy to believe it.

But there's a problem with the state's image: we are seen, for the most part, as a toxic waste dump run by the mob. Yes, there's political corruption in Pinelands_bridgeNew Jersey and guess what--there is wherever you're living, too. We actually seem to be better at uncovering and dealing with it than other places, so it gets more publicity.

I believe the problem with New Jersey's image is much more basic, and much simpler to explain than a perception of politicians who close down bridges as forms of retribution or gangsters who somehow aren't quite good enough to work in the big city.

It's Newark Liberty International Airport.

To be more specific, the problem is that most people who don't live in this area come to New Jersey through the airport, which is mostly in Elizabeth, if the truth is told. You get out of the airport, and no matter which way you're headed--onto the train to get to Manhattan or south on the NJ Turnpike--you have to pass through the area surrounding the airport to get to any of the other lovely images I've posted today. And this is what you'll see:


That's the first impression you'll get. So people come to New Jersey--admittedly they're usually on their way to New York or Philadelphia and too cheap to fly into those airports--and when asked about the Garden State, their minds will flash onto the image above. (And we're not even discussing the smell.) When they could be seeing something completely different:




o what's the lesson to take away? If you're writing, make sure you start off at a gallop. Get something into your first chapter, preferably your first page (bookstore browsers are notoriously fickle and have short attention spans) that will grab the reader's interest and make your book a must-buy.

And consider the first words anyone will see online about your book. Think about how you want to introduce it. As Terri's post last Thursday points out, cover copy is written well in advance of the pub date. Be involved with your editor, the publicist on your book and anyone else on the team that creates the final package. Make the right first impression.

Be the Pine Barrens. Be Met Life Stadium. Be the Jersey Shore. Be Atlantic City, if you must.

Don't be Newark Airport.

Aug 182014

Jeff Cohen

A recent conversation with a certain agent we all know is leading me to address an issue I should have looked at years ago, to be honest. So add that to the roster of things for which I'm grateful to have such a good agent looking out for me.

Like all authors I keep an 4cbMBbepiemail list. In fact, I keep two email lists--one under my actual name and one for E.J. Copperman, who never checks email and forces me to do it. These lists are comprised of people who have shown interest in books I've written and might want information on upcoming events or releases, which authors know now to classify as "news". 

Cognizant of how I feel when deluged with emails from some business hoping to encourage my patronage, I send out emails very rarely. Extremely rarely. Don't expect to hear from me unless there's a new book about to be released.

When two of the Haunted Guesthouse books were sold for translation into Japanese, E.J.'s list did not get a notice. I'm guessing not that many of them were going to buy the Japanese versions anyway, and I figure most of them have already read the books in English. Call me crazy. It's not that I wasn't excited about the sale--I think it's incredibly cool--but I didn't want to bother people who probably aren't as interested in me as I am.

So it's possible that the lists are a little less hefty than they might be if I were a real email list hound. I know authors whose lists go into the tens of thousands. And I admire their dedication and skill in compiling all those names and addresses.

I just haven't got a clue how one does that.

It's true: I have actually tried to grow the lists over the years. I've mentioned them on various listservs. I've mentioned them here. I bring a sign-up sheet to any event I attend (most of the time). I offer free autographed bookmarks to anyone who asks via email, and if you think I don't add each and every name to the email list, you're adorable, but wrong.

And still my lists are, let's say, not incredibly muscular. Remember the commercials about the 98-lb. weakling who needed somebody or other's fitness program to impress girls on the beach? My email lists would lose a fight to that guy. BEFORE the fitness program.

As it happens, I have two books about to be released before the end of this year. THE QUESTION OF THE MISSING HEAD, the first Asperger's Mystery featuring Samuel Hoenig, will be on its way from Midnight Ink in early October. The sixth Haunted Guesthouse novel, INSPECTOR SPECTER, will follow from Berkley Prime Crime in early December.

My email list members WILL be hearing about those. Trust me.

But I'm trying to ensure that there will be more of them. Many more. As many more as I can possibly list. So if you're not already on the list, please get in touch and let me know, and I'll add you. If you know someone who might like to hear about the Guesthouse books or the Asperger's novels or anything else my twisted little mind might conjure up, please tell them to get in touch, and I'll add them, too. If by chance someone you've met might find an autographed (by either me or E.J. or both) bookmark enjoyable, by all means have someone get in touch. I've got bazillions of those things cluttering up the house.

Let's get the lists to look less like the Before picture of the 98-lb. weakling and more like the After picture. I promise I won't clog your inbox with "news" that doesn't really have any information in it, and I hope you'll find the (very) occasional pieces interesting.

Because if you don't, you can let me know and I'll take you off the list. I don't want to be a pest.

Aug 112014

Jeff Cohen

Just as a side note: Publisher's Weekly said The Question of the Missing Head (coming October 8) is "delightful and clever," and that was just for starters.

Now, on to business: I'm currently writing two books. I've done it before, and have posted about the practice here; there's good and bad to it, which I recognize. This is not about freaking out. Not yet.

What's interesting is the contrast. Since I knew there would be deadlines within a couple of months of each other, I started the second Samuel Hoenig Asperger's mystery (after the aforementioned Question of the Missing Head) early, in June for an October deadline. So by the time I started the seventh Haunted Guesthouse book, I was over 50,000 words (a little sort of 200 pages) into the Asperger's book.

So I'm essentially writing the ending of one novel while beginning another. And that creates the noticeable contrast between starting and finishing, since I get to see both at the same time.

Take it from me: Endings are way easier.

Yes, you still have to work hard at the end of a story. As a crime fiction writer, one wants to avoid the cliches, make sure the solution to the mystery makes sense, close up any plot holes, leave no threads dangling and leave your character(s) in a different place than where they were at the beginning of the book. It's a lot of balls to juggle, and often requires a good deal of rewriting.

But it is definitely the easier of the two tasks: An ending is the product of all that has come before it. That means there's been a trail blazed. Clues have been discovered. Suspects identified. There is forward momentum, and that helps when writing the last few scenes. Sure, you have to make sure the ending lives up to or exceeds expectations, but at least you know where you're going. And there's that comforting word count down at the bottom of the page to remind you that you've gotten this far, so you can certainly get to your goal. You have much less to write than you've already written.

Beginnings, on the other hand, have no safety net. You're starting from scratch, there is no word count at the bottom of the page at all, your characters haven't even shown up, let alone started on a path, and that plot idea you had doesn't seem all that clever anymore. For a pantser like me, with no 3x5 cards bearing scene ideas, no outline, no roadmap, beginnings represent nothing but uncertainty. Maybe this time they'll figure out what a fraud I am.

The Guesthouse books now have a certain familiarity and they include a feature that helps me start: In the first chapter of each novel in the series, I have to explain the premise, which is not really as simple as it used to be. That takes up a good few hundred words. So I have that security blanket: All I have to do is set up the scene, and then take a moment to write the most comfortable words I include in each Guesthouse novel:

Perhaps I should explain.

This is not to discount that explanation at the beginning of the book. It's necessary, especially for new readers who have just picked up the book because the cover is so pretty. It's been a year or so since the last one, so even devoted readers might need a refresher course on all things Harbor Haven. No, the "perhaps I should explain" moment is definitely a need, not a luxury.

I don't just plug in a canned recap there; each "explanation" is fresh and reimagined, if for no other reason than that the rules tend to change with each book and I need to continually revise to include new information. But that gets me through the beginning, and I have some words on the screen before I really have to do the heavy lifting that represents the plot of each book. Suspects. Clues. Motivations. Logic. 


So endings are easy (ish). Beginnings are hard (er). With this many books under my belt (and you can see every one there, alas), I have at least a little confidence that I can end a book well, and some enthusiasm that the latest great idea for a plot will get me through a beginning.

But middles? Oh, man. Don't get me started.