Kootenai River in NW Montana, near Canadian Border

Kootenai River in NW Montana, near Canadian Border
photo by Gene Tunick of Eureka, Montana

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Tip O'Day #43

Dixon says, "Make your first paragraph carry some weight."

One of the most helpful things I’ve learned from my critique group is to start each chapter with a paragraph that makes it clear (1) where the action takes place, (2) which characters are present, and (3) which one is the POV character.

For those who use omniscient POV, this last aspect may not seem so vital. As a reader, however, I sometimes feel cast adrift if I can’t answer this question pretty quickly – “Whose story is this?” I remember reading a paragraph from a Tom Clancy novel. It starts in the mind of a Secret Service agent, jumps to some thoughts by the President, takes another jump to the mind of a wannabe assassin, and ends up back in the head of the Secret Service guy. Clancy is a great storyteller but maybe a bit undisciplined. (I should be nice, though, since he’s never said an unkind word about me. Fact is, he’s never heard of me.)

I originally wrote a scene for MONTANA IS BURNING where Paul Longo, my detective protagonist, and another man are having a conversation in a sparsely decorated room. Halfway through the scene, the reader learns Paul is confessing to a Catholic priest. Trouble is, nobody who read the scene enjoyed it. They all felt I was being sneaky. Yeah, they were right. As a literary agent told me at the first writers conference I ever attended, “Dixon, don’t be so damned subtle. Sometimes you just need to come right out and say what’s what.”

So I have come to believe that suspense comes from a well-plotted story, not hiding the facts from my readers. (They both get cranky if they can’t figure out what’s going on.) One last point - when writing your opening, keep in mind you’ve got a whole paragraph to work with. There’s no need to cram everything into that first sentence.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Saying for Writers #27

Another Quotation which Might (or Might Not) Inspire You to Write:

“A goal is a dream with a deadline.” - Zig Ziegler

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Tip O'Day #42

Two writer friends I've gotten to know on Facebook deliver advice that's "short but sweet."

Samantha Kane: As for getting published, perseverance has gotten more writers published than brilliant prose and a great hook.

You can check out romance author Samantha Kane at http://samanthakane.us/

Along the same theme, from Conda Douglas: Write, edit, submit, repeat!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Saying for Writers #26

Another Quotation which Might (or Might Not) Inspire You to Write:

“This book is one of the worst books I have ever read. I got to about page 3-4.”

From an anonymous reviewer on Amazon.com regarding the re-release of TROPIC OF CANCER by Henry Miller.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Tip O'Day #41

Claudette Walker says to protect your eBook rights.

On Amazon and Pubit you have a one-time choice when you launch an eBook to select "Manage My Rights." I chose it. What this means, as far I can tell, is that no other eBook publisher/pirate can copy from their eBook format and resell or give away your eBook. So far we have been safe. Only those two locations have my eBooks – Nook & Kindle.

Claudette blogs at http://abacusbooks.blogspot.com/

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Saying for Writers #25

Another Quotation which Might (or Might Not) Inspire You to Write:

“Writing is like prostitution. First you do it for love, and then for a few close friends, and then for money.” - Moliere

Friday, March 25, 2011

Tip O'Day #40

Barbara Pugh suggests we use writing to keep sane. Although she has “never tried to get published so I've never written specifically with that aim in mind…” she still has suggestions for fellow writers.

Writing can be very useful for keeping your mental equilibrium! Hate your boss? Write about it, and let your imagination go bonkers. Want him boiled head first in a vat of fudge sauce by mutant zombie law students? No problem. Mother-in-law revealed to have been working for years as a cold heartless russian spy/assassin? Yep we can do that.

Hate your boyfriend and want..well keep that one to yourself, maybe.

Sometimes just using your writing to enjoy and sustain yourself is a goal in itself!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Saying for Writers #24

Another Quotation which Might (or Might Not) Inspire You to Write:

“The difficulty of literature is not to write, but to write what you mean.” - Robert Louis Stevenson

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Tip O'Day #39

Dennis Foley on becoming a better scene writer:

We can learn something from the Cold War Soviets. They often created weaponry from reverse engineering weapons the US and NATO invented in the 60s and 70s. They'd start with reconnaissance photos of something and then work backwards until they had a similar weapon.

As writers we can use a variation on the same technique to become better scene writers. Scenes are the basic increment of the novel, the heart of everything we write and not an optional skill to master.

Improve your scene writing skills by watching a favorite DVD or recorded TV program and paying attention to one scene. Watch it, turn it off, go write what you just watched. Then play it again and see if your prose was complete and effective at what you see in the scene. Doing this often, and with favorite scenes, will sharpen your skills as a scene writer. Good scene writers become good novelists.

Novelist/screenwriter/producer/writing instructor Dennis Foley blogs at http://dennisfoley.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Saying for Writers #23

Another Quotation which Might (or Might Not) Inspire You to Write:

“Money is better than poverty, if only for financial reasons.” - Woody Allen

Monday, March 21, 2011

Tip O'Day #38

Today's guest post is from novelist Gary Williams: Writing fiction is a full-time job.

"I don’t mean in the literal sense that I’m writing 8-12 hours a day. What I mean is that, in everything I do throughout the course of the day, I’m looking for story ideas. It doesn’t matter if I’m in the middle of developing a storyline, working on a manuscript, mowing the grass, watching TV, or driving. I always look for the next idea, that special seed that will germinate into a great book. I’ve found that the best thing to do is keep a document for rough ideas so they’re not forgotten. Then, when the time comes to start a new project, you’ll have a head start. It’s far easier to develop a story when the idea is already waiting for you as opposed to forcing it to emerge."

Along with co-author Vicky Knerly, Gary Williams is signed with Park Literary Agency in New York City, NY. Their first novel is expected to be released in 2012.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Saying for Writers #22

Another Quotation which Might (or Might Not) Inspire You to Write:

“Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read.” - Groucho Marx

I've seen this many times, occasionally attributed to Mark Twain. Sooner or later, anything humorous is laid at the feet of the immortal Twain.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Tip O'Day #37

My FB friends "Crimespree Cats" keep the advice simple: Be patient and read every day in your genre.

Dixon says: Man, I keep forgetting about that last part. Life is so frenzied with meetings, deadlines, networking, keeping in touch with friends and family...

But when I squeeze in some time for reading, the craziness seems to slow down a bit. It doesn't go away but it's a bit more manageable. And when I sit down to write, my Voice comes more readily. I'm not copying Robert B. Parker or Dutch Leonard or Richard Price or whoever I'm reading at the moment - it's my own unique narrative expression - but the Voice is more accessible when I've been reading within my genre.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Saying for Writers #21

Another Quotation which Might (or Might Not) Inspire You to Write:

"Almost anyone can be an author; the business is to collect money and fame from this state of being." - A. A. Milne

Milne doesn't seem to be channeling Winnie the Pooh with this statement. Despite the fact many of us write for our own enjoyment, this is a good reminder that publishing is a business.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Tip O'Day #36

Be Professional, say writers Stella Deleuze and Devyn Quinn.

First, Stella Deleuze from her blog http://synopsisandbookfactory.wordpress.com/ (used with permission):

If you decide to join an online forum for writers, Facebook, twitter or if you own a blog – any public forum, in fact - you should keep it professional. Agents and editors are scouting for new writers and if they see the author of this good and publishable book is behaving like an idiot, constantly arguing, posting all sorts of things that make them look bad, there’s a great chance of him or her walking away. Opportunity missed.

Nowadays, everything is trackable; Google yourself and you will find a lot of proof for that, especially if you are active in online communities. Agents/editors/potential employers who receive your e-mail and like what they see, might be put off as soon as they search your name in Google, if they are confronted with foul language and online-fights, you calling others names.

Publishing houses don’t want difficult. They want easy-to-get-on-with authors, employees. Yes, you can be a square-thinker, but be professional about it. One can have a good discussion without getting personal.

In the end, if you are invited to an author-interview you won’t start yelling at the interviewer just because he asked a question you don’t like, would you?
I have heard of authors who have been ‘released’ from their contracts before their book went into print, because they have shown a different side to them after signing.

Being a paid author has to be considered a job and therefore, to be taken as seriously as one. Your online presence is your personal reference, make the best of it.

Along the same line, here is author Devyn Quinn:

The thing is, there are no "tips" for getting published. It's a business and you approach as such. It's like showing up to an interview in shorts and sandals when business attire is expected. Agents and editors expect to work with authors who know what they are doing, not simply guessing how the business works.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Saying for Writers #20

Another Quotation which Might (or Might Not) Inspire You to Write:

"The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug." - Mark Twain

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Tip O'Day #35

Guest blogger Mike Pettit says: Consider Print on Demand.

My story is like so many other authors today. Months and months spent trying to get an agent, with rejection after rejection. Publishers won't talk to you without an agent, if then. The mainstream Agent/Pub crowd is sticking with proven moneymakers. They don't want to invest the time or money in new authors.

I finally gave up and took my career into my own hands. I found a P.O.D (Print on Demand) publisher, iUniverse, and now have four novels out on Amazon, B&N and several other sites. Sale are okay, but I'm not really in it for the money. I enjoy the notoriety of being a published author. It's a daunting task to be your own marketing, sales, and PR person but you have to do it. The mainstream guys are in a panic because of all the e-book action.

More and more authors are going this way. Depending on your goals, you need to decide what is best for you.

Mike writes the John Locke series of suspense thrillers and blogs about thrillers and other topics at http://johnlockethriller.blogspot.com/

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Saying for Writers #19

Another Quotation which Might (or Might Not) Inspire You to Write:

“A book is like a garden carried in the pocket." - Chinese Proverb

Our prayers go out to the tsunami and earthquake victims in Japan and throughout the Pacific Rim. Haven't heard about casualties in China, and perhaps they were shielded from the worst damages.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Tip O'Day #34

Faye Rapaport DesPres, today's guest blogger, shares thoughts on dealing with critiques.

I think you have to find the right middle-ground between being confident in your own work, style, and ideas, and being open to constructive critique.

Early on, it's good to drink in all of the critique with an open mind (and without taking it personally), especially from more experienced writers. Accept and work with what feels right to you, and let go of what doesn't. There is no "right" or "wrong," because readers and writers have different tastes or sensibilities. But if your teachers or readers are finding and pointing out similar issues in your work, it's a good idea to pay attention to what they're saying.

It takes time, but eventually you will find that there are certain aspects of your writing, or a of a particular story or essay or poem, that you simply can't or don't want to change because those words or sentences or structures feel right to you, and you have good, solid reasons for sticking with what you have. At the same time, you will know in your heart when someone is pointing out something that could be improved in your text. In those cases, for me, it's best to be open to hearing it, and to think of it as a gift. Generous teachers and readers want your text to be as good as you want it to be.

Comment from Dixon: Great advice. I belong to a wonderful critique group and get pretty good feedback from the members. However, there's sometimes one or two who want to write my book for me. Until I reach those magic words "The End" even I don't know which scenes and characters are going to survive. So I'm very open to advice on logical inconsistencies, bad grammar or spellings, lazy language and so on, and pay not so much attention to critiquers who seem to have a different vision for the book as a whole.

If one person has a problem with a certain aspect of my writing, I take that with a grain of salt. Maybe she's just having a bad hair day. But if I hear the same criticism for several members, then I know there's a problem I need to deal with.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Saying for Writers #18

Another Quotation which Might (or Might Not) Inspire You to Write:

“Confidence is the feeling you have before you understand the situation.” - Unknown

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Tip O'Day #33

Thoughts from writer Claudette Walker:

Are you a great storyteller? Can you take your reader on an unforgettable journey? Does your work tell a remarkable, true, or believable story? If you can say yes to these questions, file numerous copyrights during the creation process of your book – one for each significant revision of your work. Find the best editors you can (I prefer at least two editors). They do not need to be the most expensive; check colleges for candidates. Have them sign a confidentiality agreement before they begin to look at your work. Bring one editor on board early for proof reading, content, and editing. Then bring in the most technically trained editor on board for the last few edits for grammar, punctuation, and the like.

Read more about Claudette's work at http://abacusbooks.blogspot.com/

Monday, March 7, 2011

Saying for Writers #17

Another Quotation which Might (or Might Not) Inspire You to Write:

"A house is not a home unless it contains food and fire for the mind as well as the body." - Benjamin Franklin

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Post O'Day #32

Guest post from writer and funny guy Gary Williams: Don't force it.

When you’re writing a section and it’s not working, come back to it later. Sounds simple huh? What I mean is, don’t force yourself to write a section if it becomes a grueling endeavor.

I’ve spent an hour writing one paragraph because the words and phrases just wouldn’t mesh to my satisfaction. Sometimes it’s because I’m in my “dead zone” but other times it’s simply brain fatigue, hunger or my concentration is off. Instead of getting frustrated and writing bad material, walk away from your PC and take a break. Often, a 5-minute pause is all it takes. Other times, you may need to break away for a day to clear your mind.

You’ll be surprised how a temporary disconnect will be rewarded with satisfying prose which you could never have achieved otherwise.

Gary Williams (along with co-author Vicky Knerly) is signed with Park Literary Agency in New York City, NY. Their first novel is expected to be released in 2012.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Saying for Writers #16

Another Quotation which Might (or Might Not) Inspire You to Write:

“Always read something that will make you look good if you die in the middle of it.” - P.J. O'Rourke

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Tip O'Day #31

A short but sweet tip from writer Ruth Dupre:

The biggest tip I have is to open up the file and write. Every day. Even if it'd horrid. Even if it stinks like three day old desert highway road kill and the vultures are circling over your computer-- write. You can always fix it in rewrites.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Saying for Writers #15

Another Quotation which Might (or Might Not) Inspire You to Write:

“A new idea is delicate. It can be killed by a sneer or a yawn; it can be stabbed to death by a quip and worried to death by a frown on the right man’s brow.” - Charles Brower

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Tip O'Day #30

Similar writing tips from two awesome ladies - Get an outside eye.

Multi-talented Jessica Knauss: "A tip that has made a huge difference in my writing has been stepping out of typical writer's isolation and seeking critique partners. An outside eye can do wonders for how one considers one's own work. For anyone who lacks literary acquaintances, www.critique.org has a workshop for every style and genre."

Laura Schultz, one of founders/directors of the Writers Etc group on Facebook: "I usually don't submit a piece unless I have someone I trust read it aloud to me, so I can hear it versus just reading it myself. Another voice and pair of eyes always helps to see what I cannot."