Shameless Plug

May 22, 2009

This is what comes from being too sore, sick, and lazy to do any real work.

I’ve done shined up that thar fishin’ pole…

February 8, 2009


I’m done. Finished. Complete. Finito. The Writer’s Essential Tackle Box is now sporting a “The End” on its hiney. Anyone who writes understands how good it feels to complete a project. We live with our words every day while the ideas pour through our cerebral cortex like mulled wine, until one day the words stop, the story is done.

I’m especially proud of this work because so many people asked me to write it. Its genesis began at writer’s conferences, when authors told me how no one talks about the other side of the desk; how we see things, why we think the way we do; putting to rest the myth that we don’t think at all. There are a couple great books out there that reveal what it’s like to be an editor or an agent, but all of them have a different twist from mine. And that’s what this is all about, right? Education. It’s what makes for great, savvy writers.

I’ve placed it into the very capbable hands of trusted, brilliant beta readers, who will now rip, tear, shred me apart in manners I’m sure I didn’t know exist. In the meantime, the engine is started, the gas tank is full, and the background stuff is now being set into motion. Wish me bon chance!

Organize that tackle box!

January 19, 2009

I so enjoyed this excerpt from How Not to Write A Book, posted in the Times Online because it mirrors many of the types of writing that cross my desk. They’re important additions to what every writer should add to their tackle box…oh the shameless plugging…

One of my biggest bugaboos is where the author begins his story. What authors Howard Mittelmark and Sandra Newman call The Long Runway. This cracks me up because it’s so true. It’s like the literary plane is rolling down an endless runway and the pilot refuses to launch into the sky toward his/her destination. Unless the characters’ histories and backstory are vital to the integrity of the plot, then I don’t need twenty five pages of how they got themselves to this particular place. Launch the beast already.

Where to begin: Like authors Mittlemark and Newman, I like the idea of beginning in the middle of some type of action because it’s an instant attention-grabber. I’m not talking about scenes where blood is drawn or some car blew up in the middle of a drive-in theater (gee, how I miss those) because we don’t all write those kinds of stories. It can be something more low key, but just as attention grabbing:

She tore up the rejection letter, her fifteenth that week, and downed the last of her Harvey Wallbanger. She’d used up the last of her inheritance to buy cheap vodka, and it burned all the way down her throat. “Screw this,” she thought, while tossing her glass into the roaring fire, “I’m going to start my own publishing company!”

The reader is immediately immersed in the character’s dilemma while outlining the general drift of the story. And this segues into another problem I see all to frequently

Space/time continuum: The timeline of where you begin the story has to make sense. I’ve seen lots of cases where it was obvious the author was looking for that big bang beginning but dropped the ball on transitioning it into the rest of the chapter. For example, let’s use the bit I wrote above. The misfire happens when the author then launches into backstory about how the character inherited her money, the manuscript she’s writing, and how she’s on her last buck. Who cares? These niggly details can easily be dumped in here and there with little references. It’s not the story, so you don’t need to give it so much importance. It’s filler that rounds out the character development, nothing more.

Making the jump to light speed: Pay attention to chronological order. I just rejected a story because it kept jumping around. The beginning was in one decade. The second chapter jumped to fifteen years earlier, then popped to the present before taking quickie side trip to ten years prior. My thrusters don’t fire that quickly, and I quickly became so confused about what era I was in that I was tempted to drag out my old disco sweat socks and poof my hair. Organize your story so that you don’t jump to light speed without a proper transition that’s easy and logical to follow. Time-jumping has to make sense. If you find yourself firing the thrusters too many times, consider reorganizing your story so it follows a chronological order.

The Gum on the Mantlepiece description in the article made me feel as though the authors had tromped through my submission pile. The first chapters of a story are setup, right? That means we’re paying attention to every little detail the author drops. If something seems significant, we file that away with the idea it’ll play an integral role in the plot. So an innocent action, like sticking gum on the mantlepiece and having it cleaned up by someone else later in the chapter, can seem like an important detail. Same goes for characters. If you intro a character, then we believe he’s there for a reason. If he plays no role in the story, then axe him. Be mindful of your casual movements because it can mislead the reader. Only do it if that’s your intent. We’ll love you for it.

In the end, we are willing participants in your fictional world, so you have to treat us with care. A misstep can create confusion, boredom, or a book tossed across the room. ‘Tis a good thing to avoid, dontcha think?

*Gold stars to Rosy Thornton for making me aware of this article.

%d bloggers like this: