Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Writing, Promotion, Life

All of the above battle for my time.

I'm in the process of writing my next Rocky Bluff P.D. mystery. I try to work on it every day--but things like laundry, making arrangements for a trip to promote a book, coming up with promotions, planning a blog tour, etc.

While writing a police procedural there are times that I have to do a bit of research. I'm fortunate to belong to PSWA and it's easy to get on the listserve and ask any question about police procedure that I need to find out. The answers will flood in from many law enforcement professionals.

Though not an outliner, I do have a good idea of where I'm going with the mystery--though at this point, I only have a vague idea of the outcome. Because this will be #11 in this series, I have continuing threads about the characters that I need to address.

As thoughts come to me, I always jot them down, because if I don't I might forget.

I was overdue with my Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery. I don't really have due date with the publisher, but I was so late sending in a manuscript, I got an email asking if I had one. I've turned it in and it's been assigned to an editor with a possible launch date at the end of September.

And of course this means I must get busy with planning the promotion.

And then there's life.

My husband does like to spend some time with me (and I with him) so we do take off and go to the movies and out to eat. He usually  comes along with me on any promotion trips and we turn them into mini-vacations.

We have a huge family--and many live nearby, one daughter, a son, five adult grandids, and 7 great-grands.We see them a lot and enjoy spending time with all of them. One daughter lives in Southern CA and two of her kids live with her. We try to get down there when possible.

And our eldest daughter is farther away also, Southern CA, but about a 6 hour drive. Her two adult kids are there with their families--and five more great-grands. And yes, we go there when we can.

There you have it--a busy life for this old lady, and I wouldn't have it any other way.

Marilyn aka F. M. Meredith

Monday, August 18, 2014

Thoughts from the writer's family

Hi gang!

I'm out filling the well this week, so the post will be a little short.

I'm visiting with my family this weekend.  I've been writing as a second job for about two years now. Or actually, a published writer,so it counts in their eyes.

Introduced to one of my nephew's wife, she had the best response of all - "Oh, you're Lynn Cahoon, the writer?"

I think I adore this tiny addition to our family. She's a tattoo artist and has a creative side.

My sister said she didn't want to be the murderer in one of my books. I told her if I was really mad, she'd be the victim.

Family fun.

We were sitting around the table laughing at something and one of the siblings popped up, "You know this is going to show up in a book."

And they're probably right.

If you haven't tried the Tourist Trap Mysteries, GUIDEBOOK TO MURDER is available for $2. And MISSION TO MURDER is already available (digital and paper). IF THE SHOE KILLS, the third book in the series will be coming November 10th.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Learning to Read like a Writer

By Linda Rodriguez

A serious writer should be reading all the time. Buy books so you can reread and mark them up, figuring out how they do the incredible things they do and how they made the mistakes they made that you want to avoid. Read the first time the way any reader does—for enjoyment and delight, to find out what happens next. Then, read over and over—very slowly. Read and ponder. Read like a writer reads—for technique. These writers are your teachers—for the cheap cost of a book, $40 at the max for a big hardback. Learn everything you can from them. Learn from the best. Then go practice some of those good techniques in your own work. You can do this quietly in bits and pieces of time without having to go away anywhere. You’re a writer. Think on paper.

There are lots of areas in our life where we need to step out of our comfort zones in order to grow and achieve our goals. It can be difficult to do this because it feels so weird outside of the spaces where we’re accustomed to spending time, and that leads to discomfort. Most of us, however, have learned that we have to stretch ourselves at times. But we seldom do this in our reading. Teachers may have made us read things we didn’t care for, but on our own—if we read at all!—we read only what we’re comfortable with.

Writers must read. We must read for enjoyment and delight and relaxation. We must read to stay up with what’s going on in our field. Above all, we must read to learn—and that involves sometimes leaving the warm cocoon of blankets and stepping out onto the cold floor of books and authors we might never choose for enjoyment.

We tend to read people who write like we do, who believe what we believe, who have the same style. It’s natural and normal—like looking in the mirror. I write accessible poetry with a narrative behind it. When I turn to poetry, won’t I read the same thing? I did. I still do. Reading Mary Oliver is like looking in the mirror at myself—years younger, many pounds thinner, and much more beautiful, it’s true—but an idealized self. My favorite kind of crime novels tends to be novels that focus on character, complex plots, and fine writing. I could recognize the artistry of good comic, pulp hardboiled, and puzzle crime novels, but I tended not to read those except when I had to because they weren’t “my” crime novels. But there were things for me to learn from these writers who didn’t write “my” books—exactly because they wrote a different style of book that required different skills. I could learn things from them that I couldn’t learn from someone just like me.

This is not just applicable to novels, either. You may only want to write fiction or narrative nonfiction, so why would you read poetry? As a matter of fact, many acclaimed writers of fiction, including some bestselling authors of commercial fiction, start or end their days reading poetry because they want to learn the skills of precise word choice, compression, verbal musicality, and many others they can learn from poets who’ve worked for years to be masters of those skills. The prose writers believe they can use those skills profitably in their own novels, stories, and narrative nonfiction.

Will all writers offer examples of all of these skills? Of course not. You must search out the best in each style or school. You always want to learn from the best. Where else can you as a writer turn to learn from your reading? Well, what do you want to learn?

Is narrative structure and plot your weakness? Do you never have any conflict in your stories or books? Look to the best of mystery fiction. These are the masters of narrative structure and plot. A good mystery has to have the plot of what really happened and then the plot of the unraveling and discovery of what really happened. Good mysteries have to have dramatic structures that are tied into strong characterization, motivation, lots of conflict, and suspense. Good examples can be found in authors like Nancy Pickard, Julia Spencer-Fleming, Margaret Maron, and Louise Penny. (Also, many of our Stiletto Gang members!)

Are you unable to build a believable, engrossing background for your characters? Do your characters wander in a void? The best writers in science fiction and fantasy excel in world-building—making a fictional world so believable in its details that it will draw the reader in as if it were a real place. They must make worlds that never existed outside their heads into places that readers can see and believe in. Game of Thrones, anyone? Good places to start here are C.J. Cherryh, Ursula K. LeGuin, Octavia Butler, and N.K. Jemison.

Need help with writing action scenes, check out men’s action adventure and technothrillers with an explosion a minute. Can’t deal with emotion or relationships on the page? That’s the romance writer’s specialty. Look to them for techniques. (Again, see some of our Stiletto Gang members.)

Reading as a writer can help you with any writing problem you have (except the constants of procrastination and lack of confidence). If your current problem is transitions, find writers who write fabulous transitions, even if you don’t like the rest of their work. They may be literary writers or writers in some commercial genre, but they write transitions that really work. Learn from them. Take apart the way they write transitions. Identify their techniques. Then practice them. This kind of reading to identify and break down skill and technique is a valuable tool for any writer. Good writers have books that are underlined, highlighted, and have notes scribbled in them.

REPLY TO COMMENTS (because Blogger hates me):

Linda will reply to comments later; a doctor's appointment today turned into a little more than she expected.

Jan, lots of women writers have problems with physical action scenes when they start writing fiction, and action/adventure and techno-thrillers would be very helpful because they're usually non-stop action. Those marked-up books are helping you to learn.

SuperB, I can still read for enjoyment, though I'm ever pickier, the more experienced a writer I become. But after reading through once for enjoyment and to become familiar with the story, I go through marking examples of the technique I want to learn and make notes on how the effect I want was accomplished.

I have a few writers where I do that, also, Ramona. Though I have started to take apart some of their older books to see how they made them so great.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Creativity vs. Time

By Bethany Maines

When I was in college there was a hierarchy of artsy-ness. The fine artists looked down on the graphic designers, who looked down on the production people, who had to make do with looking down on people outside the art department. Web designers and Illustrators had to float around the edges and hope that no one eliminated their department before they graduated. I could never figure out why the fine arts students were so high and mighty - they were at a state school studying painting. It seemed wildly clear to me that their degree was a complete waste of daddy's money. Graphic designers were just as creative as fine artists; we just happened to be practical enough to want jobs after graduation. Such sentiments were far to mercenary for the art department where creativity only had to serve it's own purpose and things like deadline's, client needs, and money were all too, too pedestrian to be considered. Which seemed silly to me since even if you became a wildly successful painter you were going to come up against deadlines (we need 12 paintings for your gallery show in September!), client needs (the White House says the portrait can't be a nude), and money (don't worry your pretty little head about money!), why not learn how to manage these everyday things?  Wouldn't that make you more successful?  The resounding answer from the art department seemed to be that such thoughts would stifle the creativity.

And when it came to art, I had no problem shaking my head at their silliness. The only place I allowed myself that kind of indulgent largesse was in writing.  I would be out tip-toeing through the tulips of my imaginary worlds for months at a time. But as I have gotten older and more experienced in the craft of writing I have discovered two problems with this.  One - the product frequently is not what is needed.  Too much wandering down unprofitable by-ways and I come back to the main plot of the story with about 100 pages of random stuff that don't serve the story at all, but because I've just spent months on them, I love them too much to cut.  Two - I don't have the time.  I now have a husband, a daughter, and a business to attend to and they all have a legitimate claim to my time.  And how is the dog supposed to get any attention if I'm off typing… again? (He has to look really, really cute.) 

So, my solution?  Schedules and outlines.  Those two foes of creativity have now become my friends.  With a strong outline my writing is faster and more productive than the days when I sat down at the computer wondering what to write today.  I'm not sure how anyone else manages (and I'd love to hear other people's experiences), but I'm hanging my hat on a schedule and an outline.

Bethany Maines is the author of the Carrie Mae Mystery series and Tales from the City of Destiny. You can also view the Carrie Mae video or catch up with her on Twitter and Facebook.