Sunday, November 27, 2016

The Mixture

A couple of months ago, I changed jobs. Perhaps one of the most difficult parts of the transition to my new role was leaving behind the writer’s group that I led. For two years I was able to connect with this dedicated gang every other week, sharing stories in progress and offering my tidbits of guidance.

But thanks to the wonders of modern technology, I’m still able to keep in touch with several of them. 

This week I got an email from Annette, who is diligently working on her story. But she’s having difficulty mixing dialog with the narration.  “How do you do it? Is it magic? Pixie dust?” she asked.

My response?  It’s like cooking. Sometimes you follow the recipe. Sometimes you improvise. There’s no perfect formula that you can follow. Like anything else, it takes some practice, weaving in a mixture of narration and conversation to keep your readers interested.  And sometimes you can even inject humor into the most unexpected places to break the tension of a scene.

I encouraged her to read any book and pay attention to how the writer mixed narration with dialog.  And I offered her the sample from “Fleeing Beauty” that you’ll see below.

This was going to take some time to sink in. That was one thing about this project that I knew was the right way to handle it. We were not going to rush through the storeroom, ripping open every crate in ten minutes time. These were works of art. Peter’s legacy was in this room. I intended to give each piece its due. Malone sensed this and I think Ian did too.  After a while they folded the burlap and put it back in the crate. Together they carried it over to a far corner and flipped it upside down.  Then they rolled the worktable next to it. Carefully they lifted the sculpture and eased it down on the center of the inverted base.
            “This is going to work,” Ian said with delight.
            “Two down, a hundred more to go,” Malone said.
            “That’s fifty-six to go.”
We both looked at Ian. He shrugged. “I counted the crates yesterday. There were fifty-eight all together. We opened one yesterday and this one.”
Malone nudged him with an elbow. “You ever consider there might be more than one item in some of these bigger crates?”
“But it is a possibility?”
Ian flashed another grin. “I suppose, but we still have another fifty-six crates to open. That means at least another fifty-six sculptures.”
“Nobody likes a smart ass,” Malone muttered.
I cleared my throat. Being a smart ass was one of my most redeeming qualities. At least, I’d always thought so.
“Let’s look for the next crate,” I said, handing Ian a slip of paper with the code number on it. Malone leaned against the wall and winked at me.
“Nice way to change the topic. And you are the exception to the rule.”
“What rule would that be?” I asked innocently.
“That would be the smart ass rule. You can get away with it. At least, you can with me. But don’t encourage the kid. He’s not as cute as you are.”
I rewarded him with a kiss. Hey, he said I was cute.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Rewriting: It's Painful

“When your story is ready for rewrite, cut it to the bone. Get rid of every ounce of excess fat. This is going to hurt; revising a story down to the bare essentials is always a little like murdering children, but it must be done.”   Stephen King “The Horror Writer Market and the Ten Bears,” November 1973 Writer's Digest

Sounds painful doesn’t it?   To a writer, this can be as trying as a root canal, or spending a week’s vacation with your least favorite relatives.  Yet it is an essential part of being a writer. We all want our work to shine, to be the very best. That means slowly, methodically, carefully studying each sentence, right down to the punctuation. 


You bet your ass.

I know a few writers who don’t even like to share an early draft of a manuscript until they’ve gone over it countless times. M.S. Spencer does this and then proceeds to kick the wall, or maybe the cat, when a trusted beta reader points out an error. But she’s striving for perfection. I can’t blame her.  I’m the same way.

Right now I’m in the midst of editing the galleys for “Why 319?”.  At this stage, I’ve already worked with an editor for a couple of months, going over the manuscript, tightening it here, shaping it there, making it perfect. Trouble is, perfect is elusive.  So I find myself once again, pen in hand, slowly noting tiny changes to the manuscript.  Because not only does the publisher want the book to be its very best, but I do too. And readers should demand nothing but the best work for their time and money. 

So I’m following King’s advice and murdering my little children. It’s painful. But in the end, it’s well worth it. 

And if you want to check out some great writing, take a look at M.S. Spencer's site.  

Sunday, November 13, 2016

A Change Up

Writers can get complacent. That leads to routine stories, which become boring for readers. 

Sometimes it’s a good idea to change things up. Maybe that means having a character who started out being nice and sweet and in reality, they are the demon from hell, the last person you want to cross, the one you always want to keep your eye on. Or maybe it’s just looking at things from a new perspective.

The same thing can be said for promoting. It’s definitely not my favorite part of writing. But it’s absolutely necessary if you want to let the world know about your work. Unless you’re on the bestsellers lists, chances are few people have heard about you. 

I’ve put copies of my books in the local libraries, done press releases, giveaways and attended book fairs.  I’ve also talked to independent bookstores about carrying my novels. Unfortunately, I haven’t had much luck there. Yet.  

But a few weeks ago at a book festival, I met Lori, the owner of a jewelry store. Lori became intrigued with my stories, especially the fact that they take place in Michigan.  She offered me the opportunity to display my books at her stores.  So we kicked it back and forth, ironed out the details and voila! Lori may host an event to feature the books in the near future.  Imagine that: A Michigan author with stories set in Michigan. How’s that for buying local!

If you’re in West Michigan, here’s your chance to check out a great store with some beautiful jewelry.  And some pretty good mysteries too!

As Jackie Gleason used to say, “Away we go!”