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INFLUENCES PART 2

December 24, 2019

Since I originally wrote this article in 2014, it’s time I brought it up again, plus there have been some updates I want to add to it.
Since I read a book to a book and a half a week, I keep my eyes open for the best writers. While I’m always seeking new voices, I also like to stick with what I like. These writers become influences on my own writing. Whether minor or major, they reflect what I’m doing in some way. As I’ve said over and over again, the best stories out there are the ones where the writing doesn’t get in the way of the story. It’s not just the story that counts. That’s total bull. While that lame excuse works for some hot button topics (which I won’t name), when it gets down to it, for the long run, the authors that endure do it the right way from the onset.
There’s a big difference between influences and inspiration. Inspiration is coming up with ideas, where influences are people that you model your writing after, in some big or small way. I’ve talked about both, but not so specifically about influences. If I have, I don’t apologize because most of you probably weren’t reading this blog the last time I did talk about it in 2014!
THEY’RE HARD TO IGNORE
Since I’m a failed musician and music lover, I’ve read a lot about certain bands and musicians, lately in the metal world, that refuse to listen to either the radio or other records (well CDs now or USB sticks) because they don’t want other music to “pollute” their muse. They’re afraid of someone thinking they’re copping licks or ideas from another band or musician. They want their sound to be purely their own. Bull. Total bull.
Richie Blackmore, former lead guitarist for Deep Purple once said that despite being considered one of the top guitarists of the era and a supposed trend setter, he wasn’t afraid to admit that even he copped licks off other musicians. Then there’s Jimmy Page and his whole band Led Zeppelin who’ve been sued numerous times, and continue to get sued for flagrantly copping licks from others, even decades after they stopped recording.
It’s almost impossible for a musician to lock themselves up in a cave and come up with un-influenced music.
The same for a writer.
TIME TO ACKNOWLEDGE AND EMBRACE
It’s time to stop being silly and pretentious and accept the fact that you didn’t grow up in a vacuum. You gained your chops somewhere. To be a writer, it stands to reason you probably started as a reader, right? If that’s the case, you’ve read something, somewhere that inspired you to take up writing on your own. Maybe you loved an author or authors so much you wanted to emulate them in your own way. On the other hand, maybe you felt you could do better than any schmuck out there. That’s still an influence. You doing better than anyone else means all those “crappy” writers influenced you to do them one better.
Why not acknowledge these people?
ACKNOWLEDGE DON’T COPY
Some writers get accused of copying their influences. There can be a fine line between an influence, a clone and borderline plagiarism. It just doesn’t happen in legitimate publishing. No publisher worth their salt is going to let an author write a clone of another author. That manuscript would never get that far. That might not be the case with self-publishing, where there are no controls like that, but it’s still not likely.
There’s nothing wrong with emulating a genre or general style of your favorite author, but the best thing, which I believe is what we all do, is make it our own. We don’t want to ghost write another author’s story…well not unless we’re asked. We want to be acknowledged as our own self. Just because we love an author doesn’t mean we want to be them.
MY INFLUENCES
I make no secrets about my influences. The following authors all inspired me in overt to subtle ways and include: Carol Davis Luce, Rhondi Vilott Salsitz, Clive Cussler, James Rollins, Lester Dent (Kenneth Robeson), Dean Koontz, Andre Norton, Ron Goulart, R. Karl Largent, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Bentley Little, Franklin W. Dixon, Carolyn Keene, Jack DuBrul, F. Paul Wilson, Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child, Lee Child, David Baldacci, plus a few others I’m probably forgetting at the moment.
Every one of these people played a part in the development of my style, yet my particular brand of wordsmithing is all my own. It’s none of those authors, all of them, and all Fred Rayworth.
I may or may not write in their genre. However, something about their writing caught me, inspired me, and helped me along the way. I wouldn’t be here today if not for them.
How about you?
Happy writing!

TOEING THE LINE

December 18, 2019

Because of a personal experience, not mine, but one I witnessed, I thought it was time to bring up this subject.
What I mean by toeing the line, is that say, you get accepted by a publisher. However, once you get turned over to the editorial staff, it’s nothing but grief.
Maybe the agent or publisher never did their due diligence when they accepted you in the first place. During this time, they not only look at your work, but should talk to you about writing philosophy, and what they expect out of you. What are their standards? What are yours? You all should meet somewhere in the middle, at least, if not totally agree philosophically as to how to do things.

IT ALL GOES DOWNHILL FROM THERE

The next thing that happens is that you’re turned over to the editor and you two constantly butt heads. You can’t agree on anything. You become a source of grief for not only the editor, but the publisher.
Say, you get through the initial editing.
It gets to the final stages, yet you’re not satisfied and start demanding changes.
However…
You’re under contract, and while the publisher would love to publish the book, because they think it has potential, they’re also in the camp that you’re looking less and less like it’s worth the hassle.
You make demands.
The publisher pushes back.
You two reach a compromise.

DUE DILIGENCE

The thing about avoiding all of this is that the writer and publisher have to come to an agreement on writing and editing philosophy, BEFORE ever signing a contract.
Getting a publishing deal can put a lot of stars before the writer’s eyes. However, if you let that blind you to the details, you may be in for a rude awakening.
From the publisher’s side, the last thing they want is a pain in the ass. That’s a quick way to find a reason to drop the author, contract or no contract.
The publisher SHOULD do their due diligence, but you as the author, need to step back and be honest with the publisher. You need to rein back the enthusiasm and excitement and listen to what they’re saying.
Once you’re committed, you need to toe the line.

TOE THE LINE

Keep in mind that they (the publisher) invited YOU to be part of their team, not the other way around. Therefore, you’re only in a limited position to make demands. You can only push those limits so far.
They see a potential in you, and you DO have some power in that you have a product they want to sell. A potential profit making machine. However, THEY have to develop it, and it’s up to you to go along with their sage advice and make it work.
Now, does this mean, compromising your integrity and changing your story, or re-writing it?
Of course not. We’re not talking that at all. They never should have accepted you if that was the case.
However, editorial tweaks, cuts, grammar, etc., are all reasonable things to expect from an editor. That’s normal editing.
Major re-writes are not. Completely re-writing the plot are not.
The publisher is supposed to do their due diligence with the synopsis before they ever except your story in the first place. However, let’s make it clear that you have to be very honest with your synopsis in the first place. It needs to match your story and not try to glorify and try to sell it on some false pretense!
However, to argue every little comma, every dotted i or crossed t, change the plot in mid-course yourself, change your mind constantly, be a general pain in the ass, that’s what I mean about toeing the line.
Everyone is going to have philosophical discussions about certain things. That’s what they are, discussions. However, you need to go by house rules. Plain and simple. If you don’t like them, tough. You signed the contract. You need to toe the line and not make yourself a pariah.

SUMMARY

If the publishing of one book ends up being nothing but misery, stop right after that one and find another publisher. However, if you’re able to toe the line, it could turn into a productive relationship.
Happy writing!

OVERCOMING WRITERS BLOCK

December 4, 2019

This subject came up on one of the forums I attend on Facebook.
My immediate answer was that I couldn’t relate to it because I’ve never had it. EVER. However, I have to say that with a caveat. I’ve never had it since I took up writing seriously in 1995.
Before that time, when I not only didn’t have the muse, but didn’t have the mental or technical tools to take on the task of writing much, writers block was only a natural.
Once I found my muse, discovered I had the skill, it only came natural and I never had writers block again. I just had too many ideas to ever worry about it again.
I also write so linear, from A to B that I don’t write myself in a corner, or get off on sidetracks that veer far away from B.
That’s not to say I don’t run across hurdles and errors in my writing that I need to fix. Sure I do, but that’s not the same as writers block. I never get to the point where I stop, put the brakes on, or simply can’t think of anything to write.
I’m not like many of you out there.
TOUGH LOVE
Another author I know takes the tough love approach. His opinion is that there’s no such thing as writers block. When a writer blames it on their muse or whatever, they’re just being lazy and are procrastinating and making excuses for hitting a difficult area. They need to suck it up and think through the hurtle.
I don’t abide by that philosophy, but it works for him, as he’s a mercenary writer and gets paid for what he does. In fact, he won’t write anything unless he gets paid for it.
I write because I love it. That’s one of the keys to why I never get writers block.
WHAT TO DO?
While I’ve never had the issue myself, I’ve heard and seen methods others have used to get out of the rut, to break the cycle.
Probably the best thing to do is stop what you’re doing and walk away from it for a bit. Not just a few days, but weeks, months, maybe even a year or more. Whatever it takes to give you a fresh take on what you were writing.
What do you do during that break?
Maybe you write something else.
Maybe you just read.
Watch TV or movies.
Maybe you do nothing at all.
Research.
When you feel the time hit you (or muse), go back and re-read what you wrote, get a feel for what the issue is, if any, and pick up from there. The key is to forget about it during your time off. Take that time to reset your brain.
There’s nothing worse than stewing over that stumbling block which gave you the problem in the first place.
ALTERNATIVES
Seek out similar stories and read them. See how others did it and determine if you can work your story that same way. Maybe seeing how others did it can give you the impetus to do your own twist in a different fashion.
Maybe those similar stories will inspire you to take up an entirely different project, setting this one aside for another time. There’s nothing wrong with that. At least you’re writing!
Then again, there are those of you with drawers or hard drives full of half-finished stories. Yeah, that happens. You can’t complete anything.
Then there’s the inspiration. During your time away, planned or unplanned, you find something that sparks you back into the story. While you intended to give it a break for a set time…say a year, six weeks later, you’re driving down the freeway and pass a truck and something written on the side sparks your imagination.
BAM!
There’s the end to your writer’s block.
You never know.
All those plans down the toilet and you’re back in the game again.
SUMMARY
Sometimes, you just have to shut down for a while and reboot. Other times, you need to wait it out for a bit until something comes along. The key is don’t let the frustration build until it becomes the main issue.
Happy writing!

KEEPING YOUR READERS ENGAGED

November 27, 2019

I recently posted a sarcastic piece on Facebook about how they constantly badger me that I haven’t posted anything recently. Well, it isn’t true. I post something on each of my two dedicated book Facebook pages once a week, as a minimum, unless unforeseen circumstances get in the way.
What Facebook is trying to do is badger me into PAYING for their pretty much useless advertising, which is something I’ve talked about before here at Fred Central.
Facebook advertising is all about them taking your money and trying to engage NEW FANS. The return on your investment is almost always ZERO. However, I do have fans already. What about them?
TIME BETWEEN BOOKS
It doesn’t matter that you still haven’t come out with your first, are writing your second, or are well off on your journey with several in the hopper.
You need to keep your fans engaged and let them know you haven’t “fergotted” about them.
To do this, you keep them engaged with periodic posts about something.
The old trend was to have a web site and post things to do with whatever your platform is. That’s something I do with these articles here at Fred Central. My web site also contains stuff about my other interests for those so inclined. However, book-wise, there are sections dedicated to those aspects in-particular.
There can be long stretches between books. No matter what kind of impression your first or second or whatever book made on your audience, you need to let them know your still around and still working on the next one.
There’s nothing wrong with throwing them a bone once in a while.
WHAT DO YOU DO?
Some authors have a barely functional web site, no social media presence, and become those media hermits that readers never hear from until BAM! A new book shows up on the shelf.
The reader just has to forget all about them and be surprised when a new story appears one day.
That method works just fine for some, but when you’re not exactly a number one best-selling author, it’s a lot better to expand your horizons and engage your small fan base. It’s better to be more approachable and do a bit more marketing because frankly, you need all the help you can get, especially if you don’t have a budget to let some big publicity machine do it for you when your book comes out.
WHAT I DO
At the risk of repeating myself, which I’m not at all ashamed to do, I approach this several ways.
I have this web site, with which I post my weekly articles every Tuesday.
I also post a notice of these articles on Facebook and Twitter.
On the weekends, I post a little article about each book or series on the dedicated page here at Fred Central for my two series, Meleena’s Adventures and Detach And His Search For Gold. I then post the notices on the dedicated Facebook pages.
Twice a week, I engage my readers.
Apparently, this twice a week doesn’t count for Facebook because they keep sending me these bitch notices that I haven’t posted in a while. Why? Because I didn’t pay for their useless advertising!
Why should I when a bunch of strangers are going to just ignore my posts anyway.
Yet, my readers, like you will see them.
That’s what these things are for. YOU.
ENGAGEMENT
This may all seem like a lot of writing and posting to do each week, but the only thing it is for me is a few minutes to dream it up, about fifteen minutes to write, then actually posting it. The thing is that I keep my readers constantly engaged so they always have my books and my series in mind. Plus, because I post to several open forums, I DO get the word out to strangers, I just don’t have to pay for it!
SUMMARY
You can engage your readers in all kinds of ways, and it doesn’t necessarily mean you have to pay for it with annoying ads.
It also doesn’t mean you have to spend hours and hours at the keyboard.
It’s up to you.
Happy writing!

WRITING MAGIC

November 20, 2019

This has nothing to do with writing about magic, or magick, or about the fantasy genre. This has to do about a subject near and dear to my heart. This is something I’ve covered many times here at Fred Central.
This is when the book is close to (or is) perfectly written.
That’s right.
This is when the writing does not get in the way of the story.
This is when what’s on the printed page is merely an avenue in which you’re grabbed, and you never let go until THE END.
When you sit down to read, before you know it, you’re absorbed into the story. You never get jerked away, are never stalled, never hesitate, nor have to flip back to re-read something. You never have to slow down to slog through a spot, or skip something. You never have to dread coming across “one of those spots again.”
You read a scene or chapter, get to the end, and cannot wait to start the next chapter to find out what happens next.
This is called writing magic, and maybe it’s not a common term, but it’s mine, at least for today.
WRITING MAGIC
There’s no experimentation with voices. There’s no endless narrative. There are no long passages of italics.
The story doesn’t bog down with backstory.
The author doesn’t foretell.
The point of view is solid, and doesn’t jump around every sentence or paragraph.
GRABBING YOU
No matter how fascinating a story might be, if not done right, the writing can get in the way. Clunky writing is a story killer.
There’s always the “artiste,” out to throw their values on the unsuspecting world. I suppose they need to be out there as a counterbalance for those that want to actually sell a book, or those that just want to get people to actually read them. These artistes will garner fans in the intellectual crowd, but for the general masses, well…
Do you want to grab your reader?
I know that as a reader myself, that’s what I seek in every book I pick up. I read a lot, and when I fork out the bucks for a book, and invest the time to sit down and read it, I expect that author to grab me and take me away to another world. Most of the time, it beats television. The reason I read in the first place is to escape.
You won’t see me reading much non-fiction. That’s just not my thing, and it’s not an escape. I see enough reality in the world as it is. I DO keep informed. When I read, I read for pleasure, therefore, I expect the author to present it to me in the best and most efficient way possible.
I’d expect most people are the same way. Not all, but most.
I also know some people’s tolerances for bullshit are different than mine.
I’ve had over sixty years to experience and analyze what does and doesn’t work best. I KNOW it doesn’t fit everyone, but I also know by sales numbers that I’m right a good bit of the time.
The books that possess that writing magic always do well because they grab you. Period.
SUMMARY
There are plenty of books out there that grab you by subject matter, yet the writing has no magic at all. The writing is pure crap. Unfortunately, because the subject matter becomes so popular, other imitators copy the writing style and more crap churns out.
In other words, there’s even less magic out there inadvertently, because of a hot subject matter. It’s written like crap, but the style becomes popular because people are not only imitating the subject matter, but the horrific writing.
Happens all the time.
There are no absolutes.
Oh well…life goes on.
Happy writing!

RAMBLING

November 12, 2019

In January, 2018, I had an article called Rambling On And On. In this article, I’m revisiting it because this is a subject near and dear to my heart and it recently came up on a fantasy forum on Facebook.
The question was about what sub-genres or how much fantasy do you read? I’m paraphrasing here.
My answer was that I hardly ever read fantasy, even though I write in the genre.
Why?
Many of the authors tend to ramble on and on too much and I find it a real slog to get through all of that to get to the point. Once again, I’m paraphrasing myself, but that’s the gist of what I said.
While I expected some flack from that, I was quite surprised to not only get several likes, but written responses with like-minded words to the same effect.
ONE LITTLE THING…
My most glaring example is an un-named author, who I struggled through four books in his series of thousand-word tomes. He would take one hundred pages just for one little thing to happen. I’m not kidding.
His books were a real slog.
I completely lost interest in the series, and cringe every time I see those thick books on the shelves.
Whenever I see a six-to-nine-hundred page fantasy novel, I automatically skip it.
Why?
The authors can’t seem to get from A to B in an efficient manner.
SOME PEOPLE LOVE IT
Undoubtedly there are many fans of these writers, otherwise what publisher would want to invest in these endless tomes which apparently sell enough to keep the publishers in business?
However, there are plenty of readers like me who would rather spend their time and money on a story that gets to the point.
There are two sides to this coin.
GETTING TO THE POINT
If you go to the bookstore and browse the fantasy/science fiction shelves, you’ll notice the majority of books are quite thick. The majority.
There are thin ones out there.
I guess for some fantasy readers, they feel cheated if the book isn’t at least five-hundred pages.
On the other hand, I’ve deliberately selected a thin one or two just to see the difference and ran into another issue. So far, they were all either first-person or present-tense!
I still haven’t found a thin fantasy novel that’s readable by my standards of third-person, past-tense yet, at least at the bookstore!
Once I do, I’ll let you know how it turns out.
I’M NOT DONE YET
I wouldn’t be fair, simply restricting myself to the bookstore.
I have read thin fantasy novels that never made it to the bookstore shelves because they were traditionally published, but by a small publisher.
I could list them, but I’m not here to plug any particular author.
Let’s just say they were great! I mean that sincerely because I not only loved them, I reviewed them to let everyone else know. These stories were true fantasy. They got to the point, told a great story, and didn’t need five-hundred plus pages of rambling to do it!
They’re written in solid third-person, past-tense, and are all available on Amazon. I wish they were available in the bookstore, but oh well.
A GREAT FANTASY (OR ANY) STORY ISN’T JUST ABOUT WORD COUNT
I’ve never bought into this idea that you have to describe everything including the kitchen sink. You don’t have to delve into ever characters inner thoughts and feelings, ad nauseum.
Give enough of everything to make the story come alive and absorb the reader, but get to the point. Your book is an escape, but not a prison!
Happy writing!

FOOD IN YOUR WORLD

November 7, 2019

It’s the little things that color your world. Some you never really think about but just do. When you’re world building, whether in a fantasy world, science fiction, or in the real world, one way or another, your characters are eventually going to eat or drink something.

How’re you going to handle it?

Not everyone is going to buy off on McDonalds.

USING REAL-WORLD FOOD

Even in a fantasy or science fiction world, there’s nothing wrong with using real-world food. This is a case where maybe you just give this real-world food different names and slightly altered the descriptions.

Also, you probably shouldn’t take a modern-day, current recipe and use it in a fantasy setting. On the other hand, in a science-fiction world, maybe you could use it but call it an antique or ancient dish of some kind.

The last thing you want to do is jerk the reader out of your world because you use some meal that doesn’t belong.

On the other hand, steak is steak. Chicken is chicken. However, in your fantasy world, maybe you’d call it cow or bird or some other variation to keep it a bit isolated from the real-world. If it were science fiction, maybe make it synthetic, or make it real but rare, because in the future, real meat is a rare and valuable commodity (though this seems to be a trope nowadays).

Then again, there’s nothing wrong with world building real steak and chicken right into your fantasy world along with…

MADE-UP FOOD

In world-building, part of the fun IS world-building. In other words, you’re making this all up. That includes the minor details that bring it alive. Food is a good example. Exotic to mundane dishes dredged up from your imagination (that you’ve cleverly disguised to seem more than they really are) make for great dressing (ha ha) for your meals.

My only suggestion is that you don’t make these dishes either too complex, or too revolting so that they turn off the reader. At least keep them less revolting for the main characters, or at least some of them. Then again, it would be kind of fun to see some characters eat stuff that is completely revolting. They’ve done this with science fiction and fantasy. The point is that you don’t want the food to distract too much from the rest of the story. It should enhance the story, not give the reader nightmares!

REAL-WORLD FOOD

There are no restrictions on what you can do here. You can go for simple, snooty exotic, to anything in-between. That’s entirely up to you, and the character of your characters. In fact, food can be a key part of your character’s character. It should be an enhancement though, and not a distraction.

SUMMARY

We don’t eat, we drop dead.

Therefore, it’s a critical element in any story, whether real-world, fantasy or science fiction.

How you use food in your story is up to you, but it should enhance the experience and not be a distraction.

Happy writing!