Archive | August, 2013

What kind of writer variety are you?

27 Aug

No, this is NOT about genre, it’s about HOW you write. There are probably as many styles of writing as there are writers, but – I’ll bet that most of the more successful writers are one of these types. Do you — ?

Write fast, don’t re-read, don’t edit until it’s done. THEN, sit down with the entire thing, and have at it with machete or whatever other sharp instrument is handy!  This style is typical of the person who has an idea, and if it isn’t captured immediately, might lose it in the trivia of everyday living.

Write fast occasionally, or sometimes slower, lightly re-read and fix the day or week’s work, then get on to the next segment. Every now and then, maybe once a month or so, print it all out, read/edit the (new) work to that point, make the corrections, and get on to the next chapters. Repeat as needed until the work is done, and you think it’s ready for prime time.

Write slowly, with the occasional burst of speed from an instant inspiration. Eventually, you’ll have enough to take up an evening’s reading, marking changes, etc., as you go.

Write really slowly, polishing each word as it gets put on paper, or screen, and not moving on to the next one, until you’re 100% positive this latest word and all the others that preceded it are totally perfect!

All of these are acceptable methods. They just may not be YOUR acceptable method. You need to do what’s right (my first time around that was spelled write!) for you. But you must be willing to accept that you may never get through a book, if you can’t let go of it, and move on.

A famous writer once told a group of us at a writer’s conference, about another conference she’d once attended. A woman approached her and asked how this writer could be so prolific. (Her middle name should have been Prolific, believe me!) A discussion ensued about the style of writing. Ms. Prolific said she never re-read anything until the book was done – two months or so – and then gave it a careful going over, making any needed changes or corrections, and then sent it off to her editor. It was, of course, accepted, but by this time she was already well into the next book!

Personally, I doubt this lady would ever have considered the possibility of ‘writer’s block’ but her imagination was capable of keeping up with her writing skills and speed, so all was well.

However, the woman who had approached her explained her own style. Every night, she’d read what she’d written. and edit it thoroughly. The next night the same thing, only of course, she’d have to first re-read the previous night’s edits to be sure she’d kept everything straight. Ms. Prolific asked if this was her first book, and the answer was yes. The next question was ‘how long have you been working on it?’  The answer blew everyone away. ‘A couple of years.’  And how far into the book are you?’  ‘Not quite half way. I just started Chapter Eight.’ Ms. Prolific was virtually speechless.

A great friend of mine is the NEW Ms. Prolific – she  wrote 3 [THREE] books of 120,000 words in the first six months of this year. They’re all on a publishing schedule for next year. Her method is yet another variety – one that I cannot even begin to comprehend, but hey! It works for her, so why not! She writes historical fiction, and does immense research before she ever puts finger to keyboard. When she is finally totally engrossed in her time frame and characters, she sits down and begins typing. From there until the end, it’s a whirlwind of activity, during which time she NEVER reads any of her work (Warning: Do not try this at home!) until she reaches the end. Then, she reads carefully, maybe even twice, before entering the edits into the computer version. Sometimes, it’s a major overhaul.  After that, however, it’s off to the editor.

Considering that she’s up to 80+ published titles, this system certainly works for her. One caveat, she says. As she’s writing new content, if something jostles her, she’ll go back to wherever it was earlier in the WIP, (thanks much to FIND) highlight it in yellow and maybe write a paragraph to identify what needs to be fixed, then, she ‘dashes’ (her word) back to where she was and keeps right on going.  I don’t understand how, but I do know it works!

I had a friend who was a marvelous editor, who confessed to me one day that she had several book-length manuscripts in her desk. “Have you ever sent any of them out to an editor?” I asked, in my naïveté.

“Oh, no!” she exclaimed. “I couldn’t do that!”

“And why not,” I asked.

“They might want to change something, and I could never let that happen!”

I picked my chin up off the floor and said, “But don’t you want to see your words in print?”

“No. Not if they’d want to make any changes. I like them all the way they are, and no one is going to change even one word of them.”

Okay.

Needless to say, while she was an excellent editor, her writing credits were invisible! I don’t know if there is any correlation or not, but her dog was the most ill-mannered, stupid creature I’ve ever encountered. The word ‘no’ was simply not part of the dog’s vocabulary. Once, in a frenzy of barking at something out of doors, the foot-tall dog went through a glass storm door, all the while my friend was screaming “No, NO!!! Stop that! ” from the other side of the room.  She might as well have been talking to the wall. Nothing changed, either, when the dog came home from the hospital.

Onwards, right?

Do you have questions about writing a book, or how to get started? Ask me! I might have an answer or two.  Cheers!

A box of time-travel . . .

13 Aug

Last Saturday, I decided to do something about an empty space in my home. (Heaven forfend there should be such a thing! An empty space, that is. Quick! Fill it up with something now!) Anyway, a new HVAC unit was installed over the winter (as a matter of fact, the process STILL isn’t completed ten months later, but that’s not your problem) and the resulting empty space (where the baby possums were last month?) said, ‘do something with me’ every time I walked by it. It’s an odd shape – approximately 28 inches deep and 19 inches wide, and maybe 6 feet high. The old chimney vent comes down in there in the middle, and when the weather gets itself wound up, some soot occasionally filters through. Not much, however. I did think, however, that shelves in there would be just dandy.

So I went out to the patio to see what I could find – and right there, in front of my face was the perfect thing! It’s only 18 inches deep but otherwise perfect! And most of the shelves were empty – I dimly remember having to move it for the above-mentioned unit to get to its present location. The one rather large box that was there didn’t look at all familiar, but the back end had a sign. “Office – near the phone.” That didn’t ring any bells either, but then the penny dropped. Could it really be unopened since the fall of 2001? Bingo! That was indeed it.

So after I managed to get the shelf thingie in place, I brought the box in. Actually it was too heavy to carry in, thus it came in two installments. Then I started to investigate. Believe me – the title for this piece is only too accurate! Most of these papers dated from 2000 backwards to about 1993 or so. That was the year my first published book Secret Shores was released. It’s a historical romance, set on Mackinac Island, Michigan, between 1861-64. (Note: it’s currently available through bookstores in print (regular or large) or as a Kindle. (I’m working on the NOOK version.) Ten months later, the prequel, Windsong, came out – same setting, but 1837, as the main characters here are the parents of the hero of the first book.  (This one should be released before the end of the year. It’s really close!)

These were not the first books I wrote, just the first published. In this box were various mementos of those experiences; reviews, publicity stuff and letters about other things. There were pieces of other books, some of which were not readily identifiable. I suspect they may have been contest entries. But without knowing what they were, exactly, I couldn’t just throw them out.  Could you? Of course not. I do have to say, however, it’s very interesting to read something and think – ‘gee, this is pretty good!’ and then realize it’s your own work! Duh.

Mainly, I sorted stuff into different stacks. (I ended up with a keeper file of about 3 inches thick—not too bad!) My stack of recyclable printer paper, however, grew by more than 4 inches! (Any page used only on one side goes back in the box to be used again – but not for good things, just practice, etc.) There was a smaller box of stuff to be shredded.  I do NOT need to keep 25-year-old bank statements – even  if I do still have that very same account still active 14 years later.

What I found to be the most interesting of all, however, were the myriad newsletters in the box. At various times in my life, I’ve belonged to several organizations, each of them with a newsletter! I’ve certainly done more than my share of the things. Plus, I’ve dabbled in free-lance magazine writing, in addition to the novel writing/editing. I’ve done several different things on the web on various topics, including classical music, photography, history and travel and sports. I think that’s about it – but each of these individual topics has a newsletter or magazine, and I think I tried at least one from each category, and sometimes more.

These things were a total revelation! Unless you consciously think about the last 13-15 years, and ALL the changes in our world during that time, you cannot imagine the shock of reading about sending off a check in order to receive something.  And then you wait – for the check to clear, and for the entity to process the order, put your name into their typewriter files, etc.,etc.  If you were very lucky – and they were very conscientious about handling their orders – you might get your first whatever within a month. Or not. Most small firms did not even accept credit cards, only checks or money orders. They did NOT do business over the internet either, although it did exist then. But barely.

Stop and consider —  Amazon was founded in 1995. And it was NOTHING then like it is now, except perhaps in Mr. Bezos’ dreams. No CreateSpace, no Kindle, no NOOK. Actually, not everyone even had a fax machine! And even fewer folks had a computer!

That was the most amazing part of reading these old newsletters. NO internet location, NO e-mail address.  Everything then was done through the mails. No wonder our post office is now in such difficulties! Yes, there were phones, but not cell phones as we know them. What we had then were big bulky things, barely within the concept of portable. And land-line phone service was expensive, even if you weren’t in the habit of making international calls. Domestic long-distance was at least a dollar for the first three minutes, even if you only called the next state over. Unless, that is, you waited until after 8 pm to place the call. For a great number of years, I worked from home making phone calls (not SPAM and not robo-calls, either!) If my phone bill wasn’t between $300. and $500. a month (or more!), I felt like I must have not done anything much during that time frame. Near the end of that job in my life, e-mail was just getting started, but until then, it was all by phone or the occasional fax.

Originally, I thought this week’s topic would be about observation and/or perception. And to be honest, I think it is – just not quite the way I’d originally intended. But stop and think for a moment – if you were to find a box of papers from nearly fifteen years ago, what would you find?  I would hope you’d find—and enjoy!—a treasure trove like I did!

By the way. Last time I told you about my contemporary novelette: The Writing Class which is now available through all the Amazon  sites– including international everywhere!  – for Kindle. Last week, I published a Regency novelette: The Elegant Runaways, under my Regency pseudonym – Hetty St. James. Neither of these had ever been published previously. Each of these shorter pieces are complete as they are; they were never intended to be other than what they are, a self-contained, hopefully enjoyable reading experience. And guess what? They’re only 99¢ USD each! I hope that if you try either/both of them, you’ll be happy that you did!

Please do comment, if you feel like it, or write to me at bookmechanic@gmail.com. Until then —  Happy writing – and reading!