Tag Archives: Novel Writing Tips and Techniques

How Not To Write A Novel by Sheila Deeth

The problem with being a published author is that friends sometimes assume I know what I’m doing. I don’t. But I am learning. So here is a list of things I’ve learned about how not to write a novel:

  1. Don’t write what you don’t know. My first novel, written in elementary school, included a woman getting pregnant and giving birth six weeks later. I suspect if I’d had any readers they might have said this couldn’t be true.
  2. Don’t tell your characters to go away. In high school and young adulthood I still wanted to write. But every time I started a novel this character, someone awfully like me, demanded I let her take over. I didn’t want to write about her. I wished she’d go away, but of course, she wouldn’t. Characters rarely obey.
  3. Don’t write about yourself. Hoping to dispel my intrusive stranger, I tried my hand at autobiography. It didn’t work. She  was there again, complaining, “No, that’s you. It didn’t happen that way to me.” I gave up and wrote her story instead, and learned a lot from her. Later she introduced me to someone else, a character in my first-ever published novel, and at last she stepped aside. Thus Infinite Sum was born.
  4. Don’t forget the timeline. But that was later. Before then I gave up on writing novels, assuming they’d need too much time. I stuck to short stories–tons of them–where the same set of characters kept reappearing and meeting over again. One of these turned out to be a murderer, much to my surprise (probably his as well), at which point I decided to stick the stories together into a novel. All went well until my wonderful editor pointed out that one sister aged two years while the other didn’t change. Time for a timeline! Lesson learned.
  5. Don’t expect it to sell. Still dreaming, I still hope that first novel might turn into the start of something spectacular. It’s called Divide by Zero. It’s a tapestry of small town lives woven around a small town singularity. It’s moderately invisible on Amazon. But…
  6. Don’t stop writing, because the more novels you have out there, the better chance you have that one might sell. (That’s the mathematician in me, checking out the odds…)
  7. Don’t write in first person. They told me that long ago and it was easy when I wove Divide by Zero together. With so many characters each chapter clearly belonged to someone else–first person would have been hopelessly confusing. But my second novel was different. My character wanted to tell her tale her way, which meant I had to make sure I wrote in her voice and never mine. Harder work than I expected.
  8. Don’t write from multiple points of view. I didn’t hear this instruction until too late. Divide by Zero was inherently created from multiple points of view. But Infinite Sum enjoys just one narrator (yes, first person), so it’s more straight forward. Then comes my third novel, with two viewpoints warring, and a cat. It’s called Subtraction, and it due for release on August first.
  9. Don’t try to change the time and place. With Subtraction speeding toward release, I’m working on novel number four. In its first life this one was set somewhere else with different characters living in a different time. Now I’m reworking it for the Mathemafiction Series. I have to check up when people started using cell phones, computers, reading online, wearing different clothes… Whatever possessed me to think I could do this? (The characters, of course. They insisted I’d got everything wrong first time.)
  10. And finally don’t rewrite before rereading. Sadly, I needed that piece of advice before Imaginary Numbers took over my life. I don’t even remember where the plotline is meant to go. But the characters aren’t concerned. They assure me they’ll take the right way this time, implying, of course, that I got it so terribly wrong before. They’re bossy, my characters. And they really don’t care one jot about my flagging self-esteem.

So those are my ten don’ts. And now for my dos.

  1. Do read.
  2. Do write.
  3. Do listen.
  4. Do let someone else read what you’re writing.
  5. Then listen well to their advice. It’s sure to be better than mine.

Sheila Deeth is the author of the Mathemafiction Novels, published by Indigo Sea Press. Her first novel, Divide by Zero, weaves a tapestry of small town lives around a singular death. The second book, Infinite Sum, presents the story of a wounded woman finding a path through the infinite sum of troubles in her past. Book three, Subtraction, will be released on August 1st. It tells how a man who’s lost everything might seek a missing child and find himself. And in Imaginary Numbers… Who knows? The novels explore guilt and forgiveness, and Sheila begs your forgiveness for her inability to tell where Imaginary Numbers will go.

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Novel Writing Tips and Techniques From Authors of Second Wind Publishing — Excerpt: Weather

Novel Writing Tips and Techniques from Authors of Second Wind Publishing is the 100th book published by Second Wind.  The book is dedicated to everyone who made this accomplishment possible: our authors, our readers, our friends, and our followers. Thank you!

EXCERPT FROM NOVEL WRITING TIPS AND TECHNIQUES FROM AUTHORS OF SECOND WIND PUBLISHING

IMPLEMENTING WEATHER AND ATMOSPHERE

By
Deborah J Ledford
Author of:

Staccato, Snare, and Crescendo

Atmosphere is a captivating way to introduce a scene. Try featuring weather to enhance the tone for a setting.

During one of the last chapters of STACCATO, Nicholas confronts the man he always thought of as his closest friends—who turns out to be the co-conspirator in the death of his love. The end of the scene takes place outside the morgue. A storm is brewing in the North Carolina night:

“Why? Nicholas shouted. “Tell me, you bastard. Why did this happen?”

Sampte kept his chin tucked to his chest, refusing to look at Nicholas.

A flash of lightning lit the area, halting all action for a moment. A deafening crack, followed by a train-like rumble resounded through the trees.

When Sampte raised his head, Nicholas searched the man’s eyes for any clues. Instead, he recognized the flat, resolved gaze, rivaling a look only Alexander could brandish.

To Nicholas, Sampte’s silence seemed louder than the thunder.

In SNARE the implication of a storm is introduced when Steven Hawk takes in a vision as he arrives in Taos, New Mexico. The danger for Katina remains and he has no idea what he will encounter in the days ahead:

As the vehicle approached the airport exit, Hawk noticed a massive billowing white cloud high in the air that encompassed a third of his vision. The formation reminded him of a natural Hiroshima bomb mushroom. He hoped the duality of beauty versus tragedy wasn’t an omen of what was to come and pushed aside the troublesome thought.

***

Novel Writing Tips and Techniques is available from Second Wind Publishing, Amazon (Print & Kindle), Barnes and Noble (Nook), Smashwords (all ebook formats including palm devices)

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Novel Writing Tips and Techniques From Authors of Second Wind Publishing — Excerpt: Settings & Mood

Novel Writing Tips and Techniques from Authors of Second Wind Publishing is the 100th book published by Second Wind.  The book is dedicated to everyone who made this accomplishment possible: our authors, our readers, our friends, and our followers. Thank you!

EXCERPT FROM NOVEL WRITING TIPS AND TECHNIQUES FROM AUTHORS OF SECOND WIND PUBLISHING

Captivating Settings

By
Deborah J Ledford
Author of:

Staccato, Snare, and Crescendo

MOOD TO CONVEY SURROUNDINGS

At the top of chapter 22 in STACCATO the lead investigators witness the surroundings where Nicholas’s vehicle is found:

Hawk and Stiles arrived to a scene bathed in generator-driven white-blue spotlights. County vehicles were parked on U.S. Highway 74, resembling a young boy’s scattered toys. The cruisers’ revolving red and blue lights added to the eerie glow.

One hundred yards below the roadway, officers milled about on the muddy bank of the Nantahala River. They searched the area around the crushed vehicle, barely recognizable as a black Porsche. The sports car sat precariously on the riverbank, suspended by a cable attached to the rear of a tow truck.

White-capped ripples rushed past, glinting in the moon’s light. It had been hours since the Porsche had been discovered, but the scene still buzzed with activity.

This is an example of mood conveyed within setting at the top of chapter 57 in SNARE:

Hawk’s shoulder throbbed. Shooting pains that ripped to the bone brought tears to his eyes. The smell of fresh coffee and baking pie would normally be inviting, but instead, his stomach churned in a cataclysm of nerves. Every sound seemed amplified. Even the clock over the stove ticked louder than he thought possible.

***

Novel Writing Tips and Techniques is available from Second Wind Publishing, Amazon (Print & Kindle), Barnes and Noble (Nook), Smashwords (all ebook formats including palm devices)

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Novel Writing Tips and Techniques From Authors of Second Wind Publishing — Excerpt: Foreshadowing

Novel Writing Tips and Techniques from Authors of Second Wind Publishing is the 100th book published by Second Wind.  The book is dedicated to everyone who made this accomplishment possible: our authors, our readers, our friends, and our followers. Thank you!

EXCERPT FROM NOVEL WRITING TIPS AND TECHNIQUES FROM AUTHORS OF SECOND WIND PUBLISHING

Foreshadowing

By
Nancy A. Niles
Author of:

Vendetta: A Deadly Win

Foreshadowing is one of those techniques that seem to come naturally and effortlessly to most writers. It is something that happens often in real, everyday life and can be blatantly obvious or so subtle that it can easily be overlooked.

Foreshadowing has been described as being hints of what’s to come. These hints can be delivered by the author through narrative. They can be spoken by the characters. They can take the form of thoughts in the POV character’s mind. They can be symbolic. They can come through the sense of smell, the sense of sight and hearing. Usually a writer’s imagination is the limit when it comes to foreshadowing.

Verbal Foreshadowing is when the hint is said through dialogue such as one character asking the other if so and so still carries a gun, or as subtle as asking if so and so is still taking medication. These examples leave the reader wondering if that character is going to shoot someone or wondering what would happen if he/she stopped taking the medication, or if the medication could somehow make her/him change in some way, maybe become violent, or at the very least, unpredictable. The reader then expects something to happen from this foreshadowing and it cranks up the suspense. These gems can be interspersed throughout the novel to bring interest and a bit of intrigue to the story.

Foreshadowing Through Inappropriate Responses. This is done through having one or more characters react to stimuli in an inappropriate manner, such as, in a fearful situation, the character, instead of showing fear shows amusement. What is going on? Has the character set up the other character for a downfall? Has the character been scared into insanity? This type of foreshadowing tells the reader that more is going on and prepares them for the unexpected.

Foreshadowing Through Thoughts in the main character’s mind can give hints of what may be coming. Such as, “I wondered where he had been. Some said he’d been away on a vacation. But I could never find out where exactly he’d gone. Camp Fed? Or the Good Shepherd Home For The Silly? Wherever he’d gone he seemed to have gotten a new lease on life. He seemed more determined, more purposeful, as though he had plans. But for what? Revenge? Did he have murder on his mind or was my imagination working overtime?” Well, you get the point. The main  character can lead the reader anywhere through her thoughts and a little paranoia is always called for especially in the PI genre.

Foreshadowing Through a Character’s Fears is closely related to foreshadowing through the character’s thoughts. However, the fear factor makes the foreshadowing more ominous. And again, in the PI genre the detective is usually cynical and expecting the worst, not believing anyone or anything.

Symbolic or Paranormal Foreshadowing can be something that the main character brings to the reader’s attention. In the horror genre I’ve noticed many times the author will tell the reader of legends surrounding certain animals. Such as, crows are the harbinger of death. They supposedly carry the dead person’s spirit to the other side. And then lo and behold a flock of crows appears just as the main character is setting out on her journey. Or make it one crow who is hunched on a fence post, its beady obsidian eyes tracking the main character. In that instance, less is definitely more. Actually, the author can make up their own legends and feed them into the story. Or the more subtle approach could be an icy touch of wind on the back of the main character’s neck when they look into the eyes of the antagonist.

Which leads me to another type of foreshadowing: Bodily Reactions in Foreshadowing. Who hasn’t read a book where a chill goes down the spine of the main character, or the main character experiences a shortness of breath at the mention of a name? It is both a subtle type of foreshadowing and also rather obvious. It tells the reader to be warned, something is not quite right, and who among us has never felt a chill at certain times that turned out to be a warning?

Foreshadowing Through Smell, Sight and Hearing. This is also called setting the stage, or using setting as character. In the PI genre the setting is usually as haunting as the haunted main character. The PI is in the streets that teem with the smell of fear, violence and decay. You just know the main character is in an unsafe place and violence is expected. Sounds of people fighting, guns going off, etc., also foreshadow danger. Smell can let the reader know someone is smoking marijuana, or the stink of whisky, or even the copper smell of blood can lead the reader to expect certain things to come.

This is a great way to foreshadow. Especially with the sense of smell since smell is so closely connected to memory. The author can have the main character smell bodies being burned and then find out that it isn’t bodies, but it’s the Fourth of July and there are barbecues happening. The main character interpreted the smell from a memory that still haunts him of the Vietnam War and witnessing people being burned alive. This type of foreshadowing gives the reader a window into the main character’s mind and past experiences. It can foreshadow a tenuous grip on reality and make the reader nervous for the main character.

Foreshadowing Using the Weather and Dreams, Or Through Finding Something Out Of Place. An impending storm or natural disaster is a good way to foreshadow a possible upcoming suspenseful event. Dreams can warn the main character and the reader of something coming and finding an article out of place can foreshadow mischief. And who among us hasn’t seen that solitary shoe out of place on the highway and wondered what happened to the owner?

I’m sure there are many more ways to foreshadow. In my novel Vendetta: A Deadly Win I used foreshadowing throughout the book.

***

Novel Writing Tips and Techniques is available from Second Wind Publishing, Amazon (Print & Kindle), Barnes and Noble (Nook), Smashwords (all ebook formats including palm devices)

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Novel Writing Tips and Techniques From Authors of Second Wind Publishing — Excerpt: Organizational Tools

Novel Writing Tips and Techniques from Authors of Second Wind Publishing is the 100th book published by Second Wind.  The book is dedicated to everyone who made this accomplishment possible: our authors, our readers, our friends, and our followers. Thank you!

EXCERPT FROM NOVEL WRITING TIPS AND TECHNIQUES FROM AUTHORS OF SECOND WIND PUBLISHING

Organizational Tools: Name Charts

By
Coco Ihle
Author of:
She Had to Know

As a reader, quite often I find in my hurry to get into a new book, I race over character names and then get confused later about who is doing what. When character’s names start with the same letter, the confusion is compounded. I’ve had to discipline myself to take my time learning the names as they are introduced, thus avoiding backtracking. My reading experience is also enhanced by investing my thoughts in these people from the start.

As a writer, I decided to make it as easy as possible for readers to meet my characters in a way they would remember. To accomplish this, I introduced married people as a couple, gave some distinguished description for the lone individuals and made sure names were not similar. I also wrote out a background profile for characters who appeared, both major and minor. That way, their names fit their personalities and thus are easier to recall for the reader.

A really handy tool I used early on was a chart I made, divided into two vertical columns. The left heading read: “First Names of Characters.” The right, “Last Names of Characters.” I started with the letters of the alphabet on the extreme left, A-Z down the page and did the same for the right column. Next to the alphabet letters I filled in my character names, first names in the left column and last in the right column. This gave me a visual of what letters I used for my names. It’s quite easy to repeat letters unconsciously and this is an easy way to catch those repetitions. I had to change character names as a result of this exercise, but it has eliminated problems for my readers. I even included page numbers (in parenthesis) next to a name of a lesser used character in order to find him/her later when rewriting or editing.

***

Novel Writing Tips and Techniques is available from Second Wind Publishing, Amazon (Print & Kindle), Barnes and Noble (Nook), Smashwords (all ebook formats including palm devices)

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Novel Writing Tips and Techniques From Authors of Second Wind Publishing — Excerpt: Interior and Exterior Settings

Novel Writing Tips and Techniques from Authors of Second Wind Publishing is the 100th book published by Second Wind.  The book is dedicated to everyone who made this accomplishment possible: our authors, our readers, our friends, and our followers. Thank you!

EXCERPT FROM NOVEL WRITING TIPS AND TECHNIQUES FROM AUTHORS OF SECOND WIND PUBLISHING

Interior and Exterior Settings

By
Deborah J Ledford
Author of:

Staccato, Snare, and Crescendo

BE CONCISE IN DESCRIBING INTERIOR SETTINGS

Let the reader become comfortable. Show them the room or area your characters will inhabit. For instance, in SNARE, the reader learns quite a lot the first time we meet Katina’s nemesis, her father who has just been released after seventeen years in prison after killing her mother:

In a flophouse off 37th Street, Karl Brandt lay on the thin mattress in his third-story room studying a discolored splotch on the ceiling. The quiet made him uneasy and restless. Muffled street sounds urged him from the bed. He wrenched the window open and sat on the radiator beneath the glass to watch the strangers below. Accustomed to seeing only prisoners’ orange jumpsuits or correctional officers’ bland uniforms, he still had difficulty taking in the brightly colored clothing of the passersby.

 

In STACCATO, this is what the unofficial mortician of Swain County, North Carolina, finds in his morgue:

Once inside the morgue, he wedged a straight-back chair under the knob. He flipped on the light switch and the fluorescents hummed and flickered, then bathed the room in its flat, blue light. Henri’s mouth dropped open. He froze, gaping in disbelief. Six, black plastic-covered bundles seemed to swallow the light.

TAKE YOUR READER “THERE” WITH EXTERIOR SETTINGS

 You have the opportunity as a writer to take readers where they may have never visited before. This is a perfect way to show exactly what you wish to convey.

In SNARE, Hawk experiences Katina’s upbringing when he sees the traditional structures on the Taos Pueblo Indian reservation:

Two massive structures bookended a narrow creek. He counted five stories of staggered, uneven rooflines covered in more of the smooth mud, the levels stacked on top of each other like twin rectangular tiered cakes. Doors the color of turquoise marked openings in the walls.

***

Novel Writing Tips and Techniques is available from Second Wind Publishing, Amazon (Print & Kindle), Barnes and Noble (Nook), Smashwords (all ebook formats including palm devices)

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Novel Writing Tips and Techniques From Authors of Second Wind Publishing — Excerpt: Captivating Settings

Novel Writing Tips and Techniques from Authors of Second Wind Publishing is the 100th book published by Second Wind.  The book is dedicated to everyone who made this accomplishment possible: our authors, our readers, our friends, and our followers. Thank you!

EXCERPT FROM NOVEL WRITING TIPS AND TECHNIQUES FROM AUTHORS OF SECOND WIND PUBLISHING

Captivating Settings

By
Deborah J Ledford
Author of:

Staccato, Snare, and Crescendo

One of the most important elements for any writer is to establish a “voice”—one that is recognizable, and somewhat expected by the reader as you continue to present more works. The ideal way to imprint your particular voice, cadence, tempo, tone is by setting your scenes. Once you truly place the reader at the location, whether it is a city, neighborhood, store or house, they become comfortable and willing to take the journey with the characters you present.

I write psychological suspense thrillers, therefore ominous settings are crucial in my novels. In this chapter you will find examples from STACCATO and SNARE to give you an idea of my personal writing voice when it comes to settings.

It is important to put the reader at ease and to give them a visual at the beginning of each chapter, especially the first time the location is presented.

The first scene of STACCATO, our hero, the twenty-year-old world-class pianist Nicholas Kalman discovers his father’s journal hidden away in the music room of the mentor who has raised him for a decade:

Compelled by the words, he found it impossible to re-shelve the book, or to dismiss the pages as utter fiction. He wondered what the written implications meant for him. Reading his father’s recollections, he had fallen under their spell. His father warned of the seductive elements to be cautious of—things that had already ensnared Nicholas.

Looking around, he recognized what his father had described as cunning manipulations of deceiving comfort: first edition books exhibited within walnut cases surrounding him in a ritualistic circle, the ebony Steinway grand piano that sat regally upon a platform in the middle of the music room, exactly as the writings stated. The details even noted how flames from the fireplace bathed the Pakistani rug in an amber glow.

In the introduction scene, first pages of SNARE, we meet eight-year-old Katina Salvo and within a few paragraphs discover the life she is burdened with in 1995:

She wished for a radio or record player, anything that might drown out the sounds. She wondered how long this fight would last. There had been so many in the past few weeks. They seemed to get worse each time.

Streaked ivory wallpaper peeled near the heat register in the cramped bedroom, furnished only with a twin-sized bed and scuffed desk. The room displayed none of the comforts the few kids she knew took for granted. A tattered, handmade quilt, passed down from her father’s mother, offered the only color in the room. Its unraveling edge brushed against the frayed braided rug on the floor.

Both of these examples provide setting information for the reader, and the details show insights to what have formed these characters as people.

Every element you introduce must be used somewhere within the novel you are writing. Think of this as foreshadowing what will come. Make certain that each prop (such as furniture) introduced is instrumental and will be used later in the novel. The point is not to introduce anything that will not be useful to the reader. Be careful of “info-dumping” when it comes to creating your settings.

For instance in SNARE, this is the description of the stage where Katina Salvo will perform live for the first time—where chaos soon ensues:

Stage lights were now set for a mere amber glow and soon she could make out a knot of people near the stage opening at the farthest end of the wings. As she moved to them, she noticed someone had closed the main curtain and she realized the effect would add to the mystery. It would also provide a much more dramatic entrance than if the drape were already open.

In STACCATO, Nicholas’s nemesis, Alexander Boden, is described in the setting Nicholas always thought of as home, where terror now reigns. This passage is described within the journal by Nicholas’s father that the son has discovered adds to the suspense that follows:

Lips holding an easy smile. Clothes flawless and crisp, shoes polished like mirrors, cufflinks gleaming in tailored shirts. The cane tapping.

Tap. Tap. Tap. You hear it approaching, but you can’t escape.

***

Novel Writing Tips and Techniques is available from Second Wind Publishing, Amazon (Print & Kindle), Barnes and Noble (Nook), Smashwords (all ebook formats including palm devices)

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Novel Writing Tips and Techniques From Authors of Second Wind Publishing — Excerpt: Writers Block

Novel Writing Tips and Techniques from Authors of Second Wind Publishing is the 100th book published by Second Wind.  The book is dedicated to everyone who made this accomplishment possible: our authors, our readers, our friends, and our followers. Thank you!

EXCERPT FROM NOVEL WRITING TIPS AND TECHNIQUES FROM AUTHORS OF SECOND WIND PUBLISHING

Overcoming Writer’s Block

By
Mairead Walpole
Author of:

A Love Out of Time

We’ve all been there. Two hours go by and all you have written is “Chapter One” and you’ve changed the font type twice and the size once. You have developed a severe case of Writer’s Block. Don’t panic, don’t toss your computer out the window, and don’t write yourself off as a writer, this too will pass. And, when you least expect it, it will happen again so find some strategies that work for you.

A creative writing professor of mine in college told us that the best way to overcome Writer’s Block was to write your way out of it. Write your way out of Writer’s Block? Er, really?

Yes, really. When I am dealing with a bout of that wretched state, I write. I will admit that most of what I write is absolute dreck that will never see the light of day, but just like a walk on the beach after a storm, amid the sea foam and debris one can find the occasional treasure. On occasion, what I write about evolves into a blog article or a completely new storyline. On other occasions, the only response is to hold down the backspace key or use the highlight CTRL X combo.

I limit the amount of time that I will spend writing my way out of the block. Usually 15 to 30 minutes a day. (I don’t want to develop any repetitive stress injuries from the deleting or highlight CTRL X maneuvers.) Some folks may need more than that, but this time frame works for me. I also allow the Muse to lead me down creative paths that weren’t in my original storyline. Writer’s Block can be a good thing. It can help you see a plot that has stagnated or a character that you originally thought was a minor one should be expanded.

One of the first things that I will do is go back to my original notes and any outlines I put together. I tend to do an analysis of the basic plot. Does it make sense? Do the characters seem flat or unbelievable? I look at the outline from a reader’s perspective to see if I can find any gaps or flaws in the logical progression. Then I re-read what I have written. If still am not getting anywhere, I will ask a trusted friend or critique partner to read what I have done thus far and give me some feedback. And, I continue to write. Eventually, the block will lift and I am back on track, perhaps with a different story than the one I started out with.

 

***

Novel Writing Tips and Techniques is available from Second Wind Publishing, Amazon (Print & Kindle), Barnes and Noble (Nook), Smashwords (all ebook formats including palm devices)

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Novel Writing Tips and Techniques From Authors of Second Wind Publishing — Excerpt: Style

Novel Writing Tips and Techniques from Authors of Second Wind Publishing is the 100th book published by Second Wind.  The book is dedicated to everyone who made this accomplishment possible: our authors, our readers, our friends, and our followers. Thank you!

EXCERPT FROM NOVEL WRITING TIPS AND TECHNIQUES FROM AUTHORS OF SECOND WIND PUBLISHING

Finding Your Style

By
Dellani Oakes
Author of:

Indian Summer, and Lone Wolf

A good friend made a comment after having read one of my books. She said, “You have two styles of writing. You write like a writer and like an English professor.”

Ouch! Admittedly, I do have a fairly good vocabulary—not that I always use it. I used to teach Advanced Placement English, so I know about antecedents, subject and verb agreement and the correct use of semi-colons. Until she said that, I had no idea that there was such a difference in style until I went back and re-read the first few chapters. What I saw surprised me. The difference was startling, making the text difficult to read.

When I taught high school English, the students had to read The Scarlet Letter. What a tough book. I had to sit and read it with a dictionary by my side. My poor students were really suffering! I found some sections in my own writing that were nearly as difficult. Grant you, I was not incorporating words like physiognomy, but I did use ephemeral, supererogatory, and geosynchronous.

I think I was trying to make every word count, not use fluff words which mean little to nothing. By incorporating bigger, better words, I hoped to convey my meaning more forcefully. Apparently all I did was cause a mad rush for the Webster’s. I never intended my books to be hard work. If I want to make my readers sweat, I’ll put in a hot love scene! My novels are purely for entertainment.

A day or two later, my daughter told me, “Mom, your sentences sometimes confuse me. They go on forever, and I lose track of the beginning when I get to the end!”

After a brief moment of remembering William Faulkner’s nine page parenthetical sentences, I decided perhaps I should change that too. I found myself going to the other extreme—Ernest Hemingway. His short, choppy sentences always got on my nerves. I don’t deal well with it. I don’t like it. It annoys me. It worked for him. It does not work for me.

What’s my point in all this? Write to your audience, not down to them. Give them a little mental exercise, but don’t make them work too hard. Reading is for expanding the mind and titillating the imagination, not making the reader’s mind turn to slush.

If I want to be completely confused, I’ll read James Joyce! In the meantime, I think I’ll continue to search for my place somewhere between “Moby Dick” and “Peter Pan.”

***

Novel Writing Tips and Techniques is available from Second Wind Publishing, Amazon (Print & Kindle), Barnes and Noble (Nook), Smashwords (all ebook formats including palm devices)

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Five Lessons for Publishers by Mike Simpson, Second Wind Publishing

The excitement of being a publisher, I’ve discovered, is not unlike the rush a writer feels upon having his or her first book published. There is an almost other-worldly thrill when the first proof arrives and you realize that you are helping someone achieve a long-held dream. That first book was Norm Brown’s Carpet Ride and I had a photo taken of me holding the proof; I sent the picture out to all the authors with whom Second Wind had contracted. I still have “euphoric recall” thinking back to that moment.

Of course, like every important achievement in life, both getting published and becoming a publisher turn out to be much more beginnings than completions. I’ve found that the ecstatic bliss an author feels upon opening a book and reading text that she or he wrote lasts between thirty minutes and twenty-four hours. Somewhere in that fleeting period, the writer begins to notice things about the book that aren’t right, begins to wonder what sort of critical and financial acclaim it might receive, and, somewhere in there, begins to wonder if the publisher shouldn’t be doing more.

Don’t pity the poor publisher. He wonders the same thing. In fact there has not been a moment since the first fifteen minutes of holding Norm’s proof that I haven’t been absolutely certain I should be doing more for our authors, learning more about the industry and making brilliant literary and business decisions. Progress in my case has come in fits and starts. For the better part of an entire year I was sidelined with a health crisis, which meant having to turn a lot of the work I had been trying to accomplish myself over to coworkers—who turned out to be much more capable, creative and dependable than I ever was. There have been marvelous accomplishments right along with the lessons as well. Recently we published our official 100th title, the wonderful anthology of Novel Writing Tips and Techniques. And, because I’m even more committed than I was five years ago when the first dozen books appeared, I’m continuing to learn how to be a worthy publisher.

So maybe you want to be a publisher too (like I didn’t know you’ve been thinking you could do it better?). Allow me to pass along some wisdom to you, a handful of lessons that will be confirmed again and again as you proceed in the splendid insanity of the publishing business:

Lesson #1: You cannot make every writer happy. Or let me say it the other way—you will very likely make every writer, those you publish as well as those you reject, unhappy at some point. Clearly you’re going to upset people when you turn down their work. Because I’ve had my own share of titles turned down and I never forgot how that felt, I made the commitment early on never to take the standard, cop-out route of the impersonal rejection letter: “We’re sorry, but your manuscript does not meet our current publishing needs” (there’s a special place in hell for the jerk who came up with that one sentence soul-deflator). Thus, regardless of the quality of the piece that’s submitted to us, we always try to explain why a book doesn’t work for us. So far I’ve never said to anyone, “Please, God, stay as far away from a word processor as you can for the rest of your life,” although I have been tempted.

And once you publish authors, you’re still going to let them down and make them unhappy too. That’s partly because you can’t do everything an author wants you to—you can’t even do everything you want to do! I’ve learned the only way to atone for my shortcomings as a publisher is to keep learning the trade and try not to make the same mistake twice. Observable growth and the acknowledgement of your shortcomings seem to be the qualities that allow your authors to bear with you as you try to move forward in the publishing craft.

Lesson #2: The publishing industry is changing with astonishing rapidity and no one knows exactly where it’s going. We knew when we started Second Wind that e-books were a coming force to be reckoned with and we rose with the tide when Kindle, Smashwords and Nook emerged. While lots of folks presaged the direction of the market, I haven’t read anything yet about someone gloating because they knew that, in three years, digital books would outstrip print books by a factor of four. Here in the fourth year of the online, digital book revolution, we are already in the “third phase” of e-books. We know that 1) digital publishing has drastically changed both reading habits and the publishing business model, 2) literally millions of people are self-publishing with very mixed results, 3) the playing field has dramatically leveled for independent publishers like Second Wind. Ironically, with all the folks who are self-publishing, the legitimacy of being published by a legitimate press has never been more significant.

Lesson #3: If you stay with the process of growing as a publisher and try to be patient, marvelous things will begin to happen—things like watching a book go viral, like achieving national distribution, like having titles you publish nominated for national awards, like having people you don’t even know write nice things about your company on Facebook or Editor & Predators.

Lesson #4: There is very little in life more spiritually nourishing than working with an author as she or he takes a pretty good manuscript and transforms it into something truly unforgettable; it’s like watching an orchid grow, bloom and blossom out of another person’s soul. There is very little more rewarding than coming to the end of a book you’re editing and being truly sorry the story was over. There is little more humbling than being trusted by truly creative people expressing and growing in their art right before your eyes. The lesson is, publishing is spiritual garden: mostly you stay out of the way, pluck a weed here or there, fertilize, turn some soil, and then sit back and watch the miracle.

Lesson #5: A day comes when it suddenly dawns on you that the dare you took, the dream upon which you acted—it was worth it a hundred times over.  –Mike Simpson, Second Wind Publishing

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