Monthly Archives: March 2012

Don’t Even Blink

What did you see today? Your wife, your husband, a broken coffee cup, grass, a flattened bottle cap, co-workers? You get the idea. There’s no way you can take in or retain everything you see, although some of what you observe can be quite useful. One of the first things I saw  this morning  was something that God loves dearly…I looked in the mirror. A bit rough but it was me. (I got that from Max Lucado.)

Now, let’s dig a little deeper.  As an author when I look around I try to take things that I see at more than face value.There is a story or a character in many of the things we casually dismiss.  I remember several years ago the oak trees around my house had put out their leaves a little differently that year.  The lower branches looked like (at least to me) green, flying, shaggy baboons. So I immediately backlogged them into my brain until such time I could bring them into the story I was writing at that time.

The animal kingdom is full of beasts that can be restructured into  entirely different creatures.  One such creature I saw in my mind’s eye was similar to a meer cat with yellow eyes that wrapped around it’s head starting in front and ending on the sides so the creature effectively had one hundred and eighty degree  vision in both directions. This friendly beast ended up in a book also.

Check your yard especially during the summer.  The sights, sounds, smells and heat can all trigger fodder for your next story to consume.  The winter brings its own sinister side with the appearance of death in the local flora and fauna. And spring brings waves of yellow and green stuff that makes me sneeze a lot and my eyes leak. Regardless of the genre you tend to dabble in, the choices we have outside of that amazing organ we call a brain to inspire is practically limitless. Put environment and gray matter together and WOW! What an unbeatable combination. So go stick your head out of a window and write a bestseller!

Lynn

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under On writing

Beware the Black Hole

“A black hole,” you jokingly ask? What does a gravity dense vacuum cleaner based in outer space have to do with earth bound rows of letter shaped ink plops spread on sheets of cheap cellulose? Ah, since you asked, I believe I may be able to answer this all important question.

You see, as much as I hate to admit it, I have been sucked into this dark abyss of no return destined to reside there for all of bookish eternity.* As I floated in limbo not fully realizing my predicament a saving hand of reason reached in and snatched me from the jaws of the unmercifully mundane paragraphs of purgatory.

It’s something akin to writing three chapters about a warrior slashing his way through dragons and ogres down a mountain pass. The next three chapters the same warrior has made his way through the mountain pass and into a sunny meadow. In detail his exploits are chronicled. The exciting daisy plucking adventure, followed by a three paragraph nap. A daring dinner that was unmercifully hunted down and consumed raw, known as the ravenous wild blackberry. A rousing round of toenail clipping before an early night to bed complete with melodic snoring loud enough to vibrate earth worms from the ground.

My own journey into this realm went something like this: My cast of characters had just finished two hundred pages of adventure, near death experiences, physical and mental change, both good and evil. Just an all around good time battle with the supernatural. And then they sat around, made sandwiches, and talked about what might just as well have been about the weather for the next forty pages.

Needless to say that type of writing is a big, huge, large, No, No!  Talk about an instant death sentence and not your ordinary everyday run of the mill death sentence but one that can turn a possibly great selling novel to one destined for the fast track to the shredding pile.

You desire your readers to not want to put your book down being so enthralled with its content–not throw it down in order to use both hands to stifle a yawn. Simply remember, keep it interesting…oh and that hand that snatched me from the jaws of literary death…my editor.

Lynn

*When the novel is complete

Leave a comment

Filed under On writing

Turn the Page

When’s the last time a book held you spellbound? I mean a real page turner? The kind that tells you in that seductive voice, “just one more page and you can go to bed.” You embrace    the lie. Even though you see it for what it truly is you continue to read on turning page after supposedly last page. Or how many times have you fallen for this ruse– “Just finish this chapter and then you can go to sleep,”?

You finish the chapter and close the book. You pause and reopen the book, thumbing to where you left off.  “Hmm” you say as you gently whisper the number of pages in the next chapter.  “One, two, three, four…I have time for one more.” This parade of pages continues night after night until sleep deprivation causes loss of job, spouse, even the dog turns a deaf ear.

“Oh, had I only listened to my conscience when it wisely suggested sleep. It implored that nothing good could come from this.  I didn’t listen and now I’ve lost it all.” Or could there be another reason– a covert operation–a conspiracy where authors plant subliminal messages in their books that, much like that little bunny and the bass drum, keep us going and going and going.

I think “not” to either scenario.  What we have here is simply a well written novel that captures and holds you hostage until the last page and if it packs that one, two wallop you’ll find yourself fondly day-dreaming back to the nights when the crisp pages turned so fervently in your hand.

Now, let’s turn it around.  You are the writer and not the reader of this “novel to end all novels” novel (three “novels” in one sentence?…pretty snazzy, eh?)  The big question here is “how do you write such an instant classic?”…well…don’t look my way, I haven’t a clue. However, here are some of the things that I believe help me write a better story.

I immerse myself within the story and as I write, I try to portray each character from their expression’s to their mannerism’s and even how they speak or how they would sound in my mind’s ear as they deliver their lines.  Would they rub their chin or shuffle their feet or squint shading their eyes?  What are the surroundings like?  The reader requires detail but not so much as to drone along with the description.

Beware of unnecessary lulls within the story line else your audience become bored.  I like to write  action into my stories and even though there are times when the story must slow down, I try to keep the reader on the edge of their seat more often than not. Grab your reader’s attention early, preferably in the first page and don’t let up until the last page and if necessary the back cover.

Just remember, keep it moving, keep it interesting, don’t be shy. Write yourself into impossible situations– for once you find the way out you will have realized some of your best work.  If you find that any of this helpful, please let me know.  I could use a few good tips myself.

Lynn

Leave a comment

Filed under On writing

Publigents?

Who came first, the publisher or the agent?…wait!…I know what you’re thinking. He’s asking  THE question!…    You know…THE question that’s plagued mankind since the dawn of time, rearing its ugly head when the first stone chiseling cave man, Rocky Stoningway, tried to publish the gripping granite tablet, “The Old Man and the Cave,” and the riveting sequel “For Whom the Boulder Falls.” I will admit it was easier then, as there was only one author, (the aforementioned Rocky Stoningway), one agent (Cenozoic and Sons Tablet Chiseling Agency L.L.C.)  and The Big Bang Publishing Co. Ltd. (the only publisher).

Today there are hundreds of agents and publishers to service thousands upon thousands of writers. The problem, other than the shear number of writers to publishers, is that most publishers will not accept unsolicited manuscripts. Which means…drum roll…enter the agent. Agents would rather represent published authors… Talk about a rock and a hard place. It’s more like a catch twenty-six and a half or something.

The conundrum in all of this is that all three parties have valid concerns. Writers want to be published and certainly should be if their work warrants it, as many do. Agents have to be particular about who they represent  else they lose credibility with their publishers. And publishers stand to lose a lot of money if they take a chance on a book that doesn’t sell. I’m not trying to pass myself off as some all knowing authority on the subject–I’m just relaying my personal experiences and what I’ve learned along the way.

It’s a tough business if a business is how you care to look at it. I prefer to embrace the passion I have for the written word, work tirelessly (but not if it truly becomes work) in order to publish, and go to all ends marketing the book. If your novel is the greatest book ever written that won’t be known if it’s never read. The one thing you’ll have to learn to accept is refusal of your work. Just never give up. (My therapist says in another year or so I should be able to handle rejection again.)

If you take anything away from this let it be this…work hard, develop thick skin, marketing is essential (no one’s going to sell your book for you) and above all, have fun…gotta run I’m late for my therapy session.

Leave a comment

Filed under On writing

How to Write a book…or not…but maybe…I don’t know

How to write a book…hmm. The title of this post (while trying to interject a bit of humor) is not that far fetched. I have no doubt that for every author still breathing and for those who no longer do so, that there are as many ways to pen a novel. Some start with a rough idea while others adhere to a strict outline starting with the first letter of the preface and ending with the “d” in “the end.”

To more understand my approach to writing I need to share a little of my personal makeup with you. I am the most organized person with an unbelievable knack for disorganization. The only thing I don’t procrastinate doing is procrastinating and writing. That being said it should come as no surprise as to my style of writing.

To put it into context, imagine it’s nineteen sixty-five. I’m sitting patiently at my writer’s desk, my ink stained fingers gingerly tapping away nearly thirty words each and every minute averaging a mere eighty mistakes.  I make sure that I double space between sentences and swoon at the satisfying ding as the carriage slides to the left, awaiting its next command.

A basketball sized spiral of not used but destroyed typewriter ribbon lay on my desk. It mocks me in the fact that its residue covers nearly as much of my skin as not. I raise a hand to swat the glistening ink mass and then think better of it. Remembering the last confrontation with my smudge empowered nemesis I lower my hand, not caring to add to the carnage already inflicted upon  my person. I sense a menacing leer as my hand touches the desktop. (I’m talking about the real top of a desk.)

A mound of trash begins to gather in a circular pattern on the floor after pieces of paper are repeatedly ripped from the typewriter carriage, crushed  and tossed into the waste paper basket until it spills over the edge…and this is just the first chapter!

That would have been me nearly fifty years ago. My twenty-first century equivalent would push a button and stare at a blank screen, with a vague idea, and begin to type letting the story write itself.  Of course my ultra efficient thirty words a minute with only eighty mistakes is still an important part of my proficient writing style. (Thankfully without the mess.)

The way I write is as comfortable as an old shoe, as I hope yours is for you. Ya know, for every work I could have completed in nineteen sixty-five I bet I could have managed five or six today.  I guess that makes me a novel writing machine.

Happy Noveling!

Lynn

2 Comments

Filed under On writing

A TAIL of TOO Cities

Rooted in the English language, American English, is a double conundrum, wrapped in an enigma, smacked around by a paradox, and allowed to mildew in an abandoned well for an undetermined amount of time. We’ve been hooked on phonics, regaled with ebonics (which by the way is spelled phonetically not taking into account that phonetically is not spelled fonetically.)

According to infomercials if you are a studious infant you can learn to read shortly after exiting the womb. I have yet to determine exactly what advantage this will afford but maybe it’s got something to do with being able to say dog three years before you actually get one. You can read the book that you just read or wind your watch in the wind. You can produce produce in your garden or record a record in a studio.

You can pull someone’s leg or jump in a lake without getting wet. You can float like a lead balloon or shoot the breeze.

With two (or three) letters you can entertain yourself for hours during the next rainy day.

Example:

Directional:  I am going to the store.

Inclusive:  I am going to the store, too.

Plural:  I found two others to go to the store, too.

Finish with class:   The first two I found, found two more to go to the store also.

When I continue writing, I’ll no doubt have a new found respect for all the little idiosyncrasies in the language of the greatest country in the world but I can’t help but wonder what Noah Webster would have thought had he known that the word “ain’t” would one day be added to his hallowed publication.

1 Comment

Filed under On writing

The Final Chapter

How do you want the book you’re reading to end? Take a moment and think about it. If you could write the last chapter, would the hero and heroine ride off together into the sunset, living happily ever after? Or would it read like a Scorsese film having every character with any redeeming quality die a horrible death in the final pages? Perhaps you would leave the story hanging, primed for a sequel?

How ever you decide to conclude the story, I think matters a great deal. After all it’s the taste you’re leaving in the mouth of your readership. I’m working on a series that has now grown to four books. Since I’ve passed what you would call a trilogy, I suppose I could call it a quadrilogy. If the series continues to a fifth novel, then sencrilogy would be next in line according to my reckoning.

Inventing new words has become a favorite pastime of mine and since Microsoft Word has the “add to dictionary” option it’s now perfectly legitimate. Just like words, there are so many different ways to end a book. The storyline, along with a consideration, or two aimed toward a good finish will go a long way in making the reader continue to think even after the last word is read. Otherwise a great story becomes mediocre with a lack luster conclusion.

Here are some rules I end by. If the book stands alone with no sequel the ending can be anywhere from a twist that no one expected to a simple “the end” where everyone say’s their goodbye’s and goes about their business. I’d rather mine end a bit more thought-provoking,  raising a question or two, yet not with so much fanfare as to cloud the story.

With a series, I like to complete the story and then in the last chapter leave the reader hanging by a thread as a segue into the next book. Ya know… the more I think about it every book has its own challenges when it comes to crafting a suitable ending.  So in conclusion, I’ll end my books; you end your books; and I’ll consider this posting a rhetorical question.

Happy endings…..

Lynn

Leave a comment

Filed under On writing