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THE THRILL OF A PUBLISHED BOOK

December 12, 2018

You spend months, maybe even years pouring your imagination and maybe even soul into writing the “great American novel.” I’d never EVER call anything I wrote that, but for some of you, so be it. To me, there’s no such thing. For another, the great American novel sounds not only pretentious, but literary, which to me, means boring. I’d rather say, the best latest and greatest. I say latest and greatest because as soon as you start on the next one, it will become your new latest and greatest.

All the effort on your current novel culminates into a book contract, or, if you’re so inclined, doing it all yourself and going the self-publishing route.

In either case, you go through the editing, proofing, book cover design, back cover blurbs, thank you’s, dedication, author bio, photograph, publicity packets and such. Before you know it, you’re doing publicity packets, which even if you’re self-publishing, you should do.

CRUNCH TIME

There’s a last-minute check of the galley, whether it be a printed copy or a .pdf, then it goes to the printer.

Someone is going to post it to all the usual spots on the internet like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords and maybe even Wal-Mart.

Before you know it…

SHOWTIME

You’re a published author!

You can now go to Amazon, type in your name and maybe your book (or list of books) will come up. Depending on how you’re entered into the system, it might take some digging to find your book. Will it pop up under your name, or do you have to type in the title? Will 500 different things come up, even if you select the correct category (books)?

Is your book title unique enough that your novel will show right away?

Or, do you have to type in your name AND the title to get it to display?

Will this be the same deal with other sites?

Once you get the search, how easy will it be for others to find it?

THE THRILL

If this is your first book, how do you feel knowing you can go to whatever web site, and see your name in lights?

How does it feel to hold a physical copy of your book in your grubby little hands?

How does it feel to be able to tell other people you’re not just a writer, but an actual published author with a book (or more) under your belt?

For most of us, it feels pretty good!

Does the thrill wear off after a while?

For me, not even a little. It’s not like I hold the book in my hands, jump up and down and scream “I did it, I did it!” I’m just not that guy.

However, I still get a thrill every time I see my name up there with a new release. That means I accomplished something. That means my publisher believed in me enough to follow through with the effort to edit, design a cover and put out a book in MY name, written by ME. My creation (along with help and support of others to get it there, of course), all in the hopes of making a few bucks for both of us.

SUMMARY

My number one goal is to write for pleasure. My number two is to write the most enjoyable work I can, which means the writing shouldn’t get in the way of the story. My third is to sell as many books as I can. In a way, these goals are interchangeable.

I’d write whether I was publishing and selling books or not, and did for twenty years. However, the thrill of seeing all that effort out there for the world to enjoy is priceless.

How about you?

Happy writing!

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RULES – WHY BOTHER?

December 5, 2018

I’ve talked about rules quite a bit here at Fred Central. In fact, I’ve pretty much beat them to death. They’ve become my mantra, so to speak. Yet again, throughout all that, I’ve still maintained that they CAN be broken on occasion. It’s not all rigid. Nothing is completely set in stone. However, there are limits.

The other day (as I got this inspiration, anyway), another forum friend, Richie Billing, had a blog article about which are your most hated rules and why. It was quite an interesting article and generated a lot of feedback and he just published the results.

My reply was to go back to why we have rules in the first place. So the writing doesn’t get in the way of the story. It was a bit more elaborate than that, but that’s what it boiled down to. Here, I want to re-emphasize that again.

Thank you, Richie Billing for the inspiration to tag onto your article to go on about rules again!

RULES DIDN’T JUST COME FROM THIN AIR

Many rules of writing came from feedback from readers, consensus amongst scholars, and just plain what makes sense. It’s taken centuries for it all to coalesce into what we accept as the current gibberish we call the English language. It’s been refined and refined, adjusted and tweaked, and styled and processed to become what we see when we open a book today.

The best books do it right.

The worst books suck.

This has nothing to do with whether the stories within said books are great.

It has to do with whether the author is able to convey that story the best way possible.

There are great stories that are almost unreadable.

There are mediocre stories that read great.

There are plenty of “classics” that are almost unreadable by todays standards.

There are also great stories that read great.

Why?

It’s all in the writing.

RULES REFINE THE WAY WE WRITE AND WHAT READERS READ

You wonder why we bother with rules?

Some rules may seem stupid, are annoying, or don’t make sense. There IS the possibility someone just threw a rule out there “juss cuz.” Maybe it’s an industry pet peeve, maybe it’s a bias of a certain editor, or even a writer. Maybe it’s just a random thought.

These arbitrary rules are almost universally shut down by scholars and the writing industry.

The hard-core rules, on the other hand, are the ones that keep writing on track and make it easier for readers to read.

As I said above, they didn’t just come out of a vacuum, they were developed over time.

WHAT ARE THE RULES?

You may have noticed I have not cited a single rule yet. I’ve been talking in general.

I’ve deliberately done that because the main purpose of this article is not to go over them specifically, but to suggest that there ARE reasons to comply with them.

I will give a brief list of a few.

Point of view.

Passivity.

Show not tell.

Grammar.

Prologues and epilogues.

Yup, all the usual stuff, and more.

SELF PUBLISHING IS GOOD AT DESTROYING THE RULES

I have nothing against self-publishing and know a few that have done quite well with it. However, I also know that self-publishing has done no favors to the quality of writing. This is the realm of rule breaking, and it shows.

The prime example is horror. I very rarely get horror in the bookstore, so I’m forced to buy this genre on Amazon. Hence, most of the books are self-published.

Folks, it shows. This is where the authors like to break the rules.

Many of the works have horrendous writing and follow few rules because there’s nobody to monitor them. While the stories may be great, outside of picking third-person, past-tense, which is all I’ll read, many of these authors follow few, if any of the basic rules of writing. The works are poorly, if at all edited. They’re full of just about every rule blunder imaginable. These authors not only don’t follow the rules, they throw them down the toilet.

The writing is not supposed to get in the way of the story.

You’re not supposed to be relieved to get the book overwith, you’re supposed to close the book with a smile on your face, wanting for more.

CONVENTIONAL PUBLISHING ISN’T IMMUNE TO RULE BREAKING

There are some very popular book series out there that aren’t immune to rule breaking, either. I could cite some that have even been turned into movie series, especially in the young adult and sexual categories. The writing is horrendous. These are the types of novels where I can’t even get past the first page, let alone an entire novel.

These books are with big houses and because they hit hot button topics, they get a free pass. The writing is absolute crap, but to get cheap thrills, they get published for the quick buck, with no integrity whatsoever.

Sure, it happens, but do YOU want your name associated with that?

I GUESS IT DEPENDS ON WHERE YOUR HEAD’S AT

Rules don’t have to be rigid. They ARE there for a purpose, though. The idea is so that the writing doesn’t get in the way of the story.

They should not make it a struggle for the reader to get to the point!

Many readers don’t consciously even realize they’re struggling with it, but they DO struggle.

When it’s done right, the reader can put down the book and don’t even realize they were reading.

Folks, THAT’S when you’ve done your job.

THAT’S what the rules are for.

The rules can be fudged a bit, but to be completely ignored, or even abused, burdens and forces the reader to work for your story. You shouldn’t be abusing your readers like that.

SUMMARY

Do your readers a favor and learn to use the rules the right way.

Happy writing!

EXPERIMENTING WITH STYLES

November 28, 2018

It comes up quite often on forums and in discussions where writers like to experiment with styles. You’ve all probably heard the old mantra “write what you feel.”

Let’s look at that loaded statement.

WHAT DOES WRITE WHAT YOU FEEL REALLY MEAN?

I write what I feel, every day, every time I sit down to write. There’s an infamous Hemmingway quote where he agonizes over a single paragraph. I don’t, not even an entire chapter, which is what I usually write when I sit down at a session. I don’t even agonize over an entire short story, sometimes, which I also write in its entirety in one sitting.

I just write it.

Why?

Because I feel it.

Others interpret that Hemmingway saying as meaning they feel different styles of writing. This is as well as whatever it is they want to say.

Not only do these writers have something to say, but they have certain barriers, lack of, or burdens thrust upon them where their writing (or lack of skill) is getting in the way of putting it all down. So, they feel like experimenting with styles to see how it all comes out.

What’s the result?

EXPERIMENT RESULTS

There are wildly varying styles of writing out there, partially because the author is experimenting with “what they feel,” what’s easy for them to write because it suits them, or because they’re too lazy to learn to write correctly.

There, I said it.

What’s the result?

The readers suffer.

Some readers are more tolerant than others. If the story is really good, they can overlook bad or awkward writing, to a point, to enjoy a good story. Some suffer to get to the point. Others may finish this “experiment” and go on to another book from an author that’s learned his chops and breeze through it without the writing getting in the way. It’s like a breath of fresh air.

Okay, you had your experiment. Maybe your book sold well, maybe it didn’t. Your legacy is now out there. Are you going to continue in that vein or are you going to wake up and try not to keep punishing your readers?

THERE ARE LOTS OF CRAPPY BOOKS OUT THERE

I read a LOT. An average of a book a week. I find a startling difference between certain authors. I have favorites because they know how to write.

I like to try new authors.

What are the results?

Once in a while, I discover a great new writer. Most often, they have a series which sells well. Sometimes they’re one-off.

Quite often, I get real duds. Why?

The writing sucks.

The writer experimented and it didn’t work. Either they had no oversight or their publisher took a chance and let the writing slip through. Most of the time, I never hear from these authors again, or if I do, I often see a different style with the next book. OR, their next book sells just as bad.

WHEN TO EXPERIMENT

It’s okay to experiment with a short story, to hone your chops and get a feel for how to write. However, when it comes to a full-length novel, people are investing time and money into your work. You’d better have your stuff together by then. You’d better be done with your experimenting around, your “feeling it,” and be ready to make the reading experience as easy and transparent as possible.

You’d better be ready to make your writing not get in the way of the story!

If you’re of the notion that it’s you’re writing, and if the audience doesn’t like it, well tough, get ready for a garage full of books. It’s hard enough even with great writing to get noticed.

If the whole point is to dazzle readers with your writing skills and chops, nobody cares. They care about what you have to say, not what gymnastics you can do with point of view, grammar, and tenses.

SUMMARY

Get the experimenting out of your system with writing exercises and short stories. Save your great novels for your best writing, for the writing that will hook our reader and keep them absorbed in the story, NOT stumbling over your writing gymnastics.

Happy writing!

WHAT’S THE MUSE, ANYWAY?

November 21, 2018

I had an interesting conversation the other night at the writer’s group meeting. I got there relatively early. I mean relatively, because I’ve been working overtime and I was later than usual. Yet to my surprise, our guest speaker beat me there and we were alone in the room. We’ve met before and got to talking about writing (go figure!). During the conversation, he mentioned that he doesn’t have a muse. If I got what he said right, he doesn’t believe in the muse. To him, it’s an excuse not to write. It’s a made up “flowery” thing that says if you’re not in the “zone,” you just can’t make your story happen.

I asked him what he does for inspiration. He takes the mercenary approach and writes for money. He writes for whatever is hot, to make money. If someone asks him to write something, he does. No muse, he just does it. To me, this was kind of like technical writing.

INTERESTING OUTLOOK

I had to ask if he even enjoyed writing, and his response, was “of course.” He went on to explain that he just focuses on what makes money.

While I admire his tenacity and drive, my motivations are different. I certainly don’t fault him for it. In fact, I believe that’s pretty much the same philosophy of Lee Child. Lee writes the Jack Reacher series and they’re great. He seems to love what he does, but he writes strictly for commercial purposes, from what I’ve read about him.

EVERYONE HAS THEIR REASONS

We’re all doing this writing thing for a reason. Whether it’s strictly artistic, for money or a bit of both, we’re still doing it.

I’m a bit of both, though I can’t deny my artistic side. Whether anyone agrees with that, is up to my readers.

How about you?

SO, WHAT’S A MUSE, ANYWAY?

Is the muse your inspiration to sit down and write?

Is it just something to blame writer’s block on when you can’t get it done?

I can only speak from my personal experience.

Muse is inspiration, the drive to create, at least to me. It’s that deep well within my soul that my ideas spring from. I don’t derive it from a person, like some infamous movie makers of late. It’s nothing physical. It’s, to put it blunt, my imagination. It’s always with me. It has been since the fifties with the polka-dot sewer back in kindergarten in Lakewood, California. Probably before that, but I just didn’t have a name for it. It’s only since 1995 that I finally had a true outlet (writing) to channel it.

Now, going back to the guest speaker. He’s a mercenary writer. He writes for trends. He writes for what’s hot, based on the market or what his publisher wants him to write. He doesn’t guess what’s going to be hot or write to temporary hot items that’ll die off by publication time. He writes to stuff that stays hot (we went over that too).

As I said above, he scoffed at the idea of a muse and said that was just a phony excuse to blame for writer’s block. If he needs to write something, he just sits down and writes it. Case closed (or words to that effect). He alluded to another famous writer, who’s name I didn’t catch, that touted that philosophy.

DO WE NEED A MUSE?

Do we need a muse? As I’ve defined it, it’s inspiration.

If you want to get all artsy fartsy about it, some of you maybe DO need a muse to create your art.

I call it my muse when maybe all I’m really talking about is my imagination. Plain and simple.

Why?

When I sit down to write, I get the inspiration (muse?) for a story. So, now I figure A and B beforehand. That may take a few minutes to a few days. Once that’s done, I start writing and it all just falls into place. Whether it’s muse, imagination or channeling, it’s out of my hands. It just happens and I no longer worry about it. I don’t get stuck, I don’t fret about the next step. I don’t freak out because I can’t figure the plot twist or whether character A is violating something to do with character B.

I just write. Simple as that. I don’t have a person, object, place or whatever to inspire me. It comes from within.

I’m also not a mercenary writer, so I don’t get orders from a publisher to “write this,” or “write that.” I have been in those type situations, or have put myself in them before. I can do it, but I much prefer not to.

Do you let the thing like muse get in your way? Do you let the IDEA of the muse get in your way?

Do you let writer’s block, imaginary or otherwise (like the story), bog you down?

Is it just excuses, as this writer said it was?

SUMMARY

The muse is a nice flowery, literary term, one I’ve used freely and liberally throughout this series of articles. Maybe what I’ve meant all along is something that has never failed me because it’s never got in the way of me getting the job done. Inspiration and drive.

Happy writing!

SHORT STORIES – AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL OR EDITORIAL?

November 7, 2018

I ran across a situation recently when I wanted to submit to the latest short story anthology for my writer’s group. I submit something almost every year. Though I’ve been featured in many of them, I still get rejected often enough. For some reason, I seem to do better with autobiographical and editorial/op-ed pieces lately. While I have plenty of short stories stocked up, the batch of judges we’ve obtained to screen the stories apparently doesn’t favor icky bug (horror), which is what I usually write when it comes to short story fiction.

On the other hand, I’ve had good success with both autobiographical (as in Galf), and editorial (as in Orange Orange Orange). There are others as well.

On the fiction side, maybe literary is their thing, so my action-based get-to-the-point style isn’t what they like. I’ve noticed that on the critique sheets I’ve received. When I submit something reality-based, that usually resonates.

APPEALING TO HOT BUTTONS

Submitting to a short story anthology can be tricky. You, of course, have to have the writing chops. On the other hand, no matter how good your writing is, if you piss them off at the outset, it’s all downhill from there, which is what I did with my last story. I spotted a UFO in Spain. It was half real and half fiction. Because I mixed it, I hit a hot button that set me off on the wrong foot with the judges. It was downhill from there.

My most recent successful submission was the story before the UFO one and dealt with road construction. This was a hot-button topic I KNOW the judges could relate to, though at the time, I hadn’t made the connection and wrote it because I felt it. In this case, it worked.

This time, my submission is a mix of autobiography and editorial, dealing with my military service. It resonates on many levels, but at the same time, may piss some people off. A lot depends on the background of these judges. If I piss them off on the first page, I’m sunk.

HOW DO YOU DECIDE?

Many of you write more than novels. If you’re like me, you can step back and if a particular muse hits, you find the time to pour out something spur-of-the-moment. I know I do. When my military story idea hit me, the initial idea was an op-ed. However, there was no editorial to rebut, so I approached it different. I needed real life examples, and what better example than myself. Why? Because I was feeling it in the first place. So, it became an autobiographical editorial.

On the other hand, Galf, was an autobiographical story about my father. I had another one called Dye-no-myte about almost blowing up Lompoc, California. That was pure autobiographical.

It’s always better to do an editorial when you have lived the example. In the case of Orange Orange Orange, I have, and still live it every day. In fact, today, as I write this, I dodged orange cones going out to do several tasks earlier today.

SUMMARY

An autobiography is your story. An editorial is basically complaining about something. An op-ed is a rebuttal to an editorial you have issues with. If you’re going to complain about something, it’s best that you lived it rather than complain about it second hand. Therefore, the editorial is best a mix of autobiography and opinion.

Happy writing!

WASTED WORDS

October 31, 2018

I’ve talked plenty about tautologies, redundancies and writing tight.

The other day, we were driving home from the bookstore (hey, isn’t that a coincidence), and we were in the turn lane. This was an obvious turn lane with no other option. I had to wonder why everyone had their turn signal on. Even though I suppose it’s a state law, it made me wonder about the redundancy. We obviously can’t go anywhere else, so why do we have to let everyone know where we have to go anyway? We can’t change our minds and go somewhere else.

Redundant info.

Then I thought of the most common tautologies.

To remind you, a tautology is saying the same thing twice.

Stand up.

Sit down.

MYRIAD OF WAYS

There are a myriad of ways we waste words. Though I like to rag on literary writers, as much as they’re in love with words and like to ramble endlessly about description and feelings and inner thoughts, even they have to get to some kind of point eventually. As long as it takes a literary writer to get from A to B, there’s still some sense of word economy they have to adhere to.

On the other hand, if you’re a genre writer, or even a mix of literary/genre, you still have to get to the point eventually. To me, the quicker the better. I want description and characterization as well. However, I believe it can be done in as few words as possible, so the story moves, not at a glacial pace, but with reasonable speed.

The hazard for any writer, no matter how practiced you are, is that those wasted words inevitably creep into the story in a myriad of ways.

You can’t help it. Unless you’re a very slow and rigid writer, when you spit out your verbal diarrhea in a spurt of inspiration as the muse hits, you’re going to throw in wasted words. Your mind doesn’t always translate to the page what your fingers type (or hand writes, or mouth speaks). There’s a certain disconnect between what you’re thinking and what you actually write.

It’s natural, it’s inevitable. It’s why we have editing.

WEEDING OUT WASTED WORDS

This can be tougher than it seems. Tautologies are a good start. However, some of them are so naturally occurring, you may not even be aware of them.

Then there’s the turn signal in the turn lane. While it may be state law in the real world, in the literary world, it may be automatic, but reads poorly. Is it supposed to be there?

A blatant example.

“I think I’m going to get myself a cup of coffee.” Amy stood up, walked to the counter and poured a cup of coffee. She took a sip, sighed, then sat down in the chair at the kitchen table.

Oh…kay.

How about this?

Amy poured a cup of coffee, eased into the chair, leaned her elbow on the kitchen table and took a sip. “This tastes great.”

From 39 words to 24 words, eliminated two tautologies, removed an obvious and unnecessary statement and made it all simpler. Plus, I made it more active.

Here’s another one for you.

Of all the things Scott hated, none was worse than coffee. When he took a sip, his face screwed up, he spit it out, and said, “Aaagh! I wanted tea.”

How about this?

Scott took a sip, gagged and spat it on the ground. “I can’t stand coffee. I’ll take tea instead.”

Cut to the chase. No need for the turn signal when you obviously can’t go anywhere else.

One more.

“Loren, do you want to go to the movies?”

            “I can’t stand going out in the traffic, the heat, the dust and wind. The movies are so expensive. The popcorn smell gets to me, and the crowds close in on me. I don’t like the sticky floor in the aisles and around the seats. Oh, and did I ever tell you about the seats? Are you crazy? Why would I want to go to the movies?”

How about this?

“Loren, do you want to go to the movies?”

            “No.”

SUMMARY

You have to think of your blathering and rambling and how much color you really need and how much of it is relevant to the story. How much of it moves the plot.

Fluff you don’t need, whereas key elements you do. Color is fine. You do need to add life to your story, but not at the expense of wasted words. There’s a way to do it without bogging down the narrative.

Happy writing!

 

GRAMMAR LESSON SIX

October 24, 2018

We’re back with another set of similar sounding words with entirely different meanings.

Our illustrious former Henderson Writer’s Group el-presidente, Linda Webber, used to present grammar lessons each week on the back of our meeting agendas. The gist of them were the improper use of words.

As a reminder, I’ll add the standard intro below before I get into the word list.

BACK IN THE DAY

I once wrote a screenplay with my bud, Doug Lubahn, a famous musician. During our correspondence, I once told him I was waiting with “baited” breath instead of “bated” breath. He’s never let me live that one down.

The proper use of words is something a lot of (especially) new writers don’t always get. So, for your reading pleasure, below is a list of words and how to use them properly.

The list is not near complete, so that’s why this is called Grammar Lesson Six.

Once again, my many thanks to Linda Webber, who has gone through the trouble to compile these words all in one place for me to steal and present to you here at Fred Central.

These are common words that are often used out of context. They can be a quandary for a writer, and warrant a quick trip to a dictionary, or on line.

COMMON SIMILAR SOUNDING WORDS (WITH ENTIRELY DIFFERENT MEANINGS)

Forbear                      To refrain

Joe could not forbear a smile.

Forebare                    An ancestor

His forebares were early pioneers to this territory.

Foreward                   An introduction to a book

The foreward to Cindy’s book was elaborate but unnecessary.

Forward                     Onward, ahead

It’s time to move forward with our plan.

Freeze                         To turn to ice

If you leave it outside today, it’s going to freeze.

Frieze                          A decoration along a wall

I attempted to strip the paint from the frieze without damaging the detail.

Grisly                          Gruesome, revolting

The horror movie was full of grisly scenes.

Grizzly                        A type of bear

It’s a good idea to avoid the grizzly bear in the woods.

Hoard                         A store of items

The homeless man guarded his hoard of cans jealously.

Horde                         A large crowd of people

The Mongolian horde stormed the castle.

Imply                          To suggest indirectly

Are you implying that I’m guilty?

Infer                           To draw a conclusion

Without any evidence, his testimony inferred that Roger was guilty.

Pole                             A long, slender piece of wood

She used the pole to push the boat along in the canal.

Poll                              Pertaining to voting in an election

We polled the democrats and republicans in the district to see who had the edge.

Pour                            To flow or cause to flow

She poured the milk into the pan.

Pore                            A tiny opening: To study something closely

Stephanie pored over the document to see if she could make sense of it.

Practice                      The use of an idea or method: Work or business of a doctor, dentist, etc.

The doctor’s practice is in that building over there.

Practise                       To do something repeatedly to gain skill: To do something regularly

(NOTE: This is also the British spelling of the word. American English usually uses the C instead of the S. It covers both definitions.)

We went to band practise but spent most of the time partying.

Prescribe                    To authorize the use of medicine: To order authoritatively

The doctor prescribed ampicillin in a very small dose.

Proscribe                    To officially forbid something

The council proscribed dancing on the holiday.

Principal                     Most important: Head of a school

The principal shut down the school in order to address a gun threat.

Principle                     A fundamental rule or belief

A fundamental principle of drumming is the paradiddle.

Sceptic                        A person incline to doubt

There are true believers who go on faith, and sceptics who won’t believe it unless they see it.

Septic                          Infected with bacteria

The leg wound went septic because it was left untreated.

Elusive                                    Difficult to find, catch or achieve

The fish made elusive targets, especially with the wrong bait.

Illusive                                    Deceptive, illusory

The magician used illusive movements to fool the eye.

SUMMARY

Once again, thanks to Linda Webber for her hard work putting these original words together!

Happy writing!