Thursday, 15 April 2010

I'm leaving the blogosphere

 Due to some issues arising in my family. I have to leave this blog. I will leave it up for awhile but will not be posting anything new. I'm sorry.

To my blog readers:

I was suppose to blog about back-story today but I decided to put that off until tomorrow. I need a mental break. So instead:  I want to start today's blog with an apology.

I don't feel I'm giving my blogging community my all. Why? I'm exhausted.

I'm currently editing a manuscript (for a friend) that needs to go to publication in a few weeks and so I'm focused on that. I have a few deadlines of my own that I'm trying to tackle. I have so many projects and stories that my mind is muddled. I want to take a break but I can't. So, if you've noticed I'm not commenting on your blogs, it's just time constraints. I promise to get back to them soon.

On a happy note: I finally got my copy of Martin Edward's Novel: The Cipher Garden and I can't wait to read and give it a review. I have enough books to keep me reading for quite a while.

Also, I received my copy of the Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary. (I know, only geeky writers get so excited over a dictionary.) This dictionary is amazing! It comes with a CD.

 Look at how thick it is...duh, which dictionary is not thick. And it has colored pages in the middle that give the British and American names for items - and there is a big difference between the two. (You can click on the pics to enlarge them.)

The CD ROM that is included is cool. It has the British and American pronunciation of every word! It also has a built in thesaurus. Can I just say, one of my favorite tools on my computer is the lovely 'SNIP' tool.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

You want back-story? I'll give you back-story!

Today, I'm planning to discuss some ways to add back-story.

First, the easiest way: have the narrator tell it. Doing it that way is easy and effective.
From The Bat by Mary Roberts Rinehard and Avery Hopwood
That's it, the writer then moves on. So the back-story did its purpose - it explained why he was called the bat and then continued. She didn't go on about he night hours or why he didn't go out in the day... only what she needed.

The problem with adding back-story this ways is clear. It's not exciting or original - it lacks drama.
Let's look at another way to make it more dramatic and original.

Disclosure through dialog:

Here's an example from Careless in Red by Elizabeth George:

The key is - never let the back-story sound forced in dialog. Don't bring up things in the past if they wouldn't be uttered otherwise. When we're asked questioned about our past, we won't start at birth and explain our lives and what happened until this point... in fact, most won't disclose more than a line or two unless prodded. Do the same with your story.

Tomorrow, I will disclose other techniques.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Let me interrupt the action to tell you about my life...

This week, I want to talk about my biggest peeve as a reader/editor/reviewer...etc. In one word:


I review and edit a lot of unpublished work and one of the common beginner mistakes is what I said above: back-story. 

Here's an example of back-story: A woman is running for her life through the woods, her stalker close behind, she finds a house in the clearing that looks like a cabin where she used to camp as a child. Now, instead of keeping the flow going, the writer decides to stop the action and instead, write about the camp and how her family went to the lake every year.

What!? Why would the reader want to know about that? And then?

Back-story is vital in a novel. We want to know the background of the main character, we want to know why a character drinks a lot or why they chose to be a mortician. But, don't stop action to write paragraphs of unrelated narrative. You WILL lose the reader. 

Here are some things to remember about back-story:
  • Don't bring in back-story until the novel's action is underway. I don't like to add more than two sentences of back-story into the first chapter.
  • Layer in the back-story as it arises but let what happened in the past effect what happens in the story. For example, in the story above, the woman comes across the house in the clearing and instead of running inside for help, she keeps going. Why? Because - as you write in the back-story - her abusive grandfather lived in a cabin similar to that one and she has bad memories there. You don't need to go into all the memories but knowing a bit about her past will explain her current actions.
  • Tell the back-story in a variety of ways.

Over the week, I will discuss how to layer back-story into a novel in a variety of ways.

Monday, 12 April 2010

Jane Eyre and Cirian Hinds

Jane Eyre (A&E, 1997)Genre: Classic Movie

How I watched it: I own it.

What attracted me to the movie: I admit, I snatch up all classic movies when they come along. Especially, British ones and especially ones with Ciaran Hinds. He's one of my favorite actors. Not the handsomest but one of the best.

What it worth the money? Yes.

Who should watch this movie: If you've read Jane Eyre, then watch this version. There are some other versions (also good) but this one, the chemistry is wonderful between Morton and Hinds. IMHO.

Summary (from amazon): The fascinating British actress Samantha Morton stars as the titular heroine in this provocative version of Jane Eyre, based on Charlotte Bronte's oft-filmed, 1847 novel. The familiar contours of Bronte's story are all here: Jane, the unhappy orphan, grows up to become governess at Thornfield, a gloomy estate owned by the imperious and worldly, but curiously desperate, Mr. Rochester (Ciarán Hinds). While the latter's grasping attentions stir the inexperienced young woman, the gothic goings-on at Thornfield suggest layers of unwholesome secrecy in Rochester's life. Most productions of Jane Eyre carefully reflect Bronte's absorbing balance between romance, horror, and Jane's psychological passage to adulthood. But this 1997 television movie is interesting for its near-reckless emphasis on Jane and Rochester's mutual obsession and galloping jealousies. The dramatic strategy throws off the story's overall tone, but such problems are worth it to see Morton and Hinds explore Jane Eyre's darkest possibilities. --Tom Keogh

My thoughts: Have I said I love this movie? I think that nicely sums it up. This is one of the best scenes in the movie, it's the proposal scene. The chemistry is wonderful. I like how they cut some of the boring parts of the book out in the movie.You can watch the bit below.

Bottom Line: Don't watch the movie if you haven't read the book, but if you have, what are you waiting for?


I have received a wonderful gift from Marce at Tea Time With Marce. She was giving away books to some who took her button. She has a wonderful writing blog and so you should check her out. Click her button below.

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Shakespeare's Sonnet Sunday - Sonnet 14

Not from the stars do I my judgement pluck;
And yet methinks I have Astronomy,
But not to tell of good or evil luck,
Of plagues, of dearths, or seasons' quality;
Nor can I fortune to brief minutes tell,
Pointing to each his thunder, rain and wind,
Or say with princes if it shall go well
By oft predict that I in heaven find:
But from thine eyes my knowledge I derive,
And, constant stars, in them I read such art
As truth and beauty shall together thrive,
If from thyself, to store thou wouldst convert;
Or else of thee this I prognosticate:
Thy end is truth's and beauty's doom and date.

1. I don't get my knowledge of the future (discernment) from the stars
2. And yet I think I have Astronomy (a way to see into the future),
3. But not to tell of good or evil luck,
4. Of plagues, of food shortages, or how well the crops will do.
5. Nor can I be accurate as to what your fortune will be,
6. Whether you will be hit by bad fortune (rain, wind, thunder),
7. Nor say if princes will have a good life
8. by often predicting the stars.
9. But from your eyes I find my knowledge,
10. And, in your bright shining eyes (constant stars) I can predict
11. that inner truth and outer beauty continue to conquer,
12. if you will turn your mind to (convert) keeping this truth and beauty (through children)
13. Or else I can predict (prognosticate) this:
14. The date of truth and beauty death (doom).

Saturday, 10 April 2010

Saturday's Writing Quotation Examination

I think the first duty of all art, including fiction of any kind, is to entertain. That is to say, to hold interest. No matter how worthy the message of something, if it's dull, you're just not communicating.
Poul Anderson

I think as novelists, we consider ourselves artists and many claim to be literary writers. Many write poetic lines or use big words in the hopes of sounding brilliant, winning a prize or acclaim. However, if the reader spends more time with their dictionary or on Google or if the reader needs to re-read passages over and over, they aren't really developing attachments to character or plot. Will your story have the same affect if the reader believes you're trying to sound smarter than they are?


Friday, 9 April 2010

Writing Feedback Summary

So, what is good feedback? 

While gushing is nice to receive once and awhile, if you're asked to give feedback and all you're giving is praise, you're not being helpful.

Praise then raise. Tell the writer what you liked about the piece then raise the bar a bit higher. Be specific. Cut and paste examples.

Here are some things I like to receive as criticism:
  • How are the opening 3-5 sentences?
  • How is the dialogue?
  • Mechanics – Grammar, spelling and punctuation
  • Are the characters real to you or cookie-cutter?
  • Are there problems with my time line or plot?
Here's what you should not write:
  • Don't attack the writer! Writing is art. Writing is free speech. People can write about what they want * and if you don't like to read it, that's your right. I believe the concentration camps of WWII existed but not everyone does. That doesn't make the writer a Nazi. They may write about homosexuality, that doesn't make the writer gay. NO NAME CALLING ALLOWED!
  • Don't lie to the writer. If the writing is really bad, don't tell them that it's good. Be nice about it. Suggest they take a course on grammar or buy writing books. Explain a writing rule to them.

*The only exception I may make to the rule above (and as of yet, I've never come across this) is if a writer frequently (over many poems or stories) promotes terrorist ideologies, pedophilia, or violent hatred towards a person or group of people (because of religion, color, gender, or race), or if I feel he's crying out for help (suicide). I don't know what I'd do in that situation but I may ask them to get help. What would you do?

Here's a good quote from Toxic Feedback by Joni B Cole: 

Picture source: here

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Writing Feedback - taking critcism

Today I want to discuss bad criticism. We've all received it... well, if you've ever had a group read your work. Even highly popular authors will receive bad reviews on their books.

For instance, one of my favorite authors, Elizabeth George, received these reviews on her latest best-selling book - Careless in Red (Amazon Reviews):

1) 600 pages! Elizabeth George is not Tolstoy. She desperately needs an editor with a CTL-x button.

2) Like a lot of people, I eagerly awaited George's latest creation but this book is so b-o-r-i-n-g! The plot goes on and on, with many superfluous characters, not many of them likable, so by the time one is halfway through the book one has resorted to skimming. Who cares about Dellen? or Ben? or Santo? or Madlyn, etc. etc. Daidre was interesting. Her friend whose name I have already erased from my memory was not. I couldn't care less about most of the characters, they ALL deserved to fall off cliffs as far as I was concerned.
Here's two examples of bad critiques I've received:
1) The subject of the story is a little dark for me. While no babe in the woods, I have a difficult time with murder and cold-blooded response to anything. Your writing is, of course, brilliant, but I didn't like your character. Hard to reach out to someone, or identify with another who is in the act of murder, regardless of the reason for it. I loath abusive people, whether they are male or female, and the act of depravity that drives people to this level of emotional response is beyond my ability to comprehend. Perhaps as the story unfolds, I will warm up and understand better, but right now, I'm not sure if I would continue.
2) Unfortunately, I do not believe I will be able to offer anything really constructive to you. As for the fact is is formatted as a transcript.
Though very sparse and at times difficult to read as there is little to picture, the dialogue is both
solid and believable. Angie is more like the typical "Stupid American" who is blissfully ignorant to the world outside her own.   (...)
Ordinarily, I would like to know more about where this will lead to, but I will not be able to even
struggle through the format. Sorry I could not be more helpful . . .
So, when you receive criticism like this, what do you do? Go to your local gun shop? NO! Don't do that.

Instead, count to ten and calm down. Along with those two brutal reviews, I received many more encouraging ones. Ask yourself, what do the majority think?

There are reasons people give bad feedback:
1) Perhaps they feel they need to be harsh because that's what you're expecting.
2) Perhaps they're having a bad day.
3) Perhaps they're jealous.
4) Or, perhaps what you wrote is bad.

This may come as a surprise to some, I never started out as a good writer. Most of my first novels I destroyed because I thought they were rubbish. But, I improved because I took the cricism to heart and tried harder.

I also think all writers need bad feedback. It's vital. Here are my reasons:
1) If all you've ever receieved is pats on the back, you won't be ready for the publishing world where rejection and criticism is handed out by the truckloads.
2) Without bad feedback once in a while, you may never believe you need to keep improving your craft.

SO tell me, I spilled my guts, tell me what types of criticism you've received over the years?

Read a wonderful post today from Women of Mystery about how to find overused words in your manuscript: Use Wordle.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Helpful Writing Feedback

 Today, I'm going to discuss feedback again -  helpful and honest feedback.

Here are some examples of good feedback:
I felt a bit lost in the first four paragraphs because I can’t tell the killer is in a car, can’t figure out if he actually just killed someone, and don’t get much visual on Lorna. Is she his ‘kindred spirit’? I have absolutely no idea, and while the vagueness might stir me to read on later in the story, opening so ambiguously, without grounding me in a real scene, leaves me restless.
Why is it good feedback? It's because as a reader, they explained what they didn't understand. What didn't make sense to them. 'Vagueness' and 'ambiguous' are things you want to change in your novel.

Here's another:
‘A friend recommended this book to me,’ - I thought it odd she explained it this way, given the text in the books would be the same, wouldn't they? Maybe if she came up with something on the fly that distinguished that particular copy from the others, it would be less apt to garner attention from the library worker. She is going through such a series of events to get to the appropriate copy, I'd expect her to cover better.
Why is this helpful feedback? If a character does something out of character and your readers pick up on it, that's wonderful. You don't want the people who buy your book to make the same complaint because it will cost you money and readers when it counts most.

How can we give good feedback?

1.) Explain what you liked about the piece. Be specific. ("I liked the monologue on page three," "I liked the way the main character handled the situation," etc.)
2.) What elements of the story did you like and would like to see more of? In other words, what parts can be expanded for your enjoyment and/or understanding? ("I think the mother's dark sense of humor is really intriguing, and I would like to see more of that," "The relationship between the father and son has some good conflict, and I would like to see more of that," etc.)
3.) What confused you or what didn't you understand about the piece? ("I'm confused about when this story is supposed to take place," "I don’t understand why he walked back in the room when he said that he wasn't," etc.) This includes perceived technical/logistical problems. ("The war that your main character is referring to was in 1812, not 1813," "One of your characters looks out at the sun and comments on it, but earlier in the piece someone says it's midnight," etc.)
These are some of the things important for the writer to hear so that they can improve.

Source:  How to Give Feedback to Writers

Sidenote: Right now Harley D. Palmer from Labotomy of a Writer has been doing a series on Characters. She has had some really interesting posts.
1) Epic Character Questionnaire - A 253-question interview you can ask your character. It's extremely in depth.
2) Character Development Before and After - How your character has changed over the course of the novel.
3) Character Details - showing little things about your character.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Wonderful Critiques

I think I'm going to discuss readers a bit this week. Every writers wants them, every writers needs them, if you don't have them now, you soon will. I want to talk about readers that help you along your writing path.

We get different types of reviews/critiques/edits (whatever you want to call it). Some are gushy (full of praise), some are mean, some are honest, some are silly. Today I want to talk about the gushy ones, the nicest ones to receive. They can be about a book not published or a book published. They are the ones that keep you writing.

I think we should keep the gushy ones in a place where we can look at them every once and awhile. Especially when we're feeling down on our writing.

Here are some reviews I've received over the years... the ones that have touched my heart. The ones that made me feel my writing was important.
"There is so much great insight in this novel, and it is a really important story you are telling on a lot of levels... but that may be the deepest, most important level of all."
"I am going to be lost when the story ends... it is so good."

"Your book has given me a reason to stop and think about several issues, some private and that makes your story special.

"Congratulations on writing this poignant and wholly original novel. I won’t forget it for a long time."
"Oh my goodness! This is the most beautiful thing I have ever read. Ann, you are truly gifted. I started to read it to myself, then I read the whole poem out loud and it gave a whole different feeling and meaning. Before I finished there were tears in my eyes, those feelings you put in your words came through loud and clear. You are a very gifted writer and I don't know when I have ever enjoyed reading anything more. "
I don't post these to brag but I think I wanted to leave these here to remind myself why I write. Why I need to keep trying harder to improve my writing.

Tomorrow I'm going to post some more good ones, but not gushy. The ones I post tomorrow will be honest and helpful to the writer.

What are some of the most memorable reviews you've ever received?

The Moon Looked DownNow to some other important matters:

First of all, I want to thank the wonderful people at Renee's Read for award me a wonderful book - THE MOON LOOKED DOWN . I can't wait to read it and review it.

Also, I wanted to ask my readers a question...I cut out the word verification on my comments, does it make a difference to my readers. Does it make you want to comment more? Does it make it easier to comment?

Monday, 5 April 2010

Book Review: A Great Deliverance by Elizabeth George

A Great Deliverance (Inspector Lynley)Genre: Psychological Suspense Mystery

How I read it: I own it.

What attracted me to the book: I admit, I saw the Lynley mysteries on TV before I actually picked up one of her books. But, when I read this book, I wanted to read all of them.

What it worth the money? Yes.

Who should read this book: This is another psychological suspense. I don't know why I pick some of the most gory books but this one is another. She doesn't describe in detail the gore but the scenes are disturbing nonetheless.

Summary (from amazon): Roberta Teys, a silent, obese adolescent, is accused of killing her church-going father with an axe. The detectives sent by Scotland Yard to investigate are a mismatched pair. Inspector Thomas Lynley is smooth, attractive and utterly upper-class; "stubby, sturdy" detective-sergeant Barbara Havers, conscious of her plain appearance and lower-class origins, considers Lynley a "sodding little fop." Thrown together, they weigh the general conviction in the village that Roberta could not possibly have wielded the bloody axe against mounting evidence that damns the now catatonic girl. In sifting slowly through the ashes of the past, the detectives find enough horrific skeletons in every closet to lead them to a climax unexpectedly loaded with fire and fury. While Lynley seems rather bland despite emotion roiling beneath the surface, it is Havers' painful secrets and driving rage that encourage one to overlook decidedly uneven passages in this essentially intriguing psychological thriller.

My thoughts: When I write, I don't add a lot of details and descriptions, in the first of this series, neither does George. I can't say that about her future books. I found she became more and more wordy as the years went on. But, let's not focus on her later novels but her first.

What do I love best about this mystery? The character Havers. She's such a wonderful off-the-wall character. She's the opposite of her partner. Lynley's a handsome, titled detective and she's poor, not good-looking and kinda mouthy.

I have to say, the story is wonderful, Haver's is wonderful but some of the characters (Helen and Deborah) I found annoying. Perhaps it's because we want the two main characters to get on more but Lynley seems so distracted by those in her personal life.

Bottom Line: If you haven't read a George novel yet, start with this one.


Sunday, 4 April 2010

Shakespeare's Sonnet Sunday - Sonnet 13

O! that you were your self; but, love, you are
No longer yours, than you your self here live:
Against this coming end you should prepare,
And your sweet semblance to some other give:
So should that beauty which you hold in lease
Find no determination; then you were
Yourself again, after yourself's decease,
When your sweet issue your sweet form should bear.
Who lets so fair a house fall to decay,
Which husbandry in honour might uphold,
Against the stormy gusts of winter's day
And barren rage of death's eternal cold?
O! none but unthrifts. Dear my love, you know,
You had a father: let your son say so.

1. O! I wish you could stay as you are; but, love, you are
2. only going to be here for as long as your life.
3. You should prepare yourself for death,
4. Give your beauty to your children:
5. So that your beauty which you only have for a few years
6. will not end; but there will be a copy
7. of yourself, after your dead,
8. When your child, who likes like you, is born.
9. Who lets a beautiful house (lineage or family) fall to pieces,
10. when you could, as an honorable husband, prevent,
11. old age
12. and death stopping the family line?
13. Only the irresponsible husbands, that's who. Dear my love, you know,
14. You had a father: let your son say he's had one too. Have children already.

Saturday, 3 April 2010

Saturday's Writing Quotation Examination

Ink surrounds me all the time
On my bed sheets, recorded in rhyme
Quills ever scribbling in my head
Sometimes damnit I forget what they said.
Ink has settled into my fingerprints
But to keep the words I fear to rinse...
~Terri Guillemets

I found this poem and thought it a great writing quote for the week. As writers, our creativity is strong and powerful. We try to capture all the wonderful words and lines and stories that enter and sadly, exit our minds. I find that my best lines come to me in the dark as I am about to sleep. I can never remember the exact brilliance when the sun shines the next morning.

Does that happen to you?

Friday, 2 April 2010

Writing journal: Do I hear an echo in here?

Today I was sitting the car with my husband and he said, 'I'm glad you're getting on with -----(name omitted). The two of you seem to be good friends.'

I replied, 'Yes, it would seem that way, wouldn't it.' I met this person about a month ago and she likes me, she really does. However, for me, to spend time with anyone (and that includes those I view as friends) is a real trial for me. It drains me. Even sitting with my friends at a coffee shop, I'm counting down the minutes until I can be alone. I will have dinner parties (mostly to appease my family) and take mental breaks in the toilet.

The thing is, most people would describe me as confident, funny, loyal, and smart. (They probably wouldn't describe me as humble though.) I am liked by many. I would say it's because I'm a listener and very confident - qualities that most people would like to have. Over the past twenty years, I have learned to cope in public. I have learned the proper things to do and say to appear friendly and nice all the while dying inside for solitude.

I enjoy people... from afar. I never seek friendship. Friends I have had as a child, I no longer see or speak with. High school friends, the same. If I knew you and I met you on the street, I probably wouldn't approach you but if you approached me, I would be extremely polite and friendly. I would agree with you that yes, we should keep in contact but I don't think I would be the first to make contact.

In fact, I would probably admit that I'm a terrible friend. I will never call you or email you without an important reason and when I do, I will never chit chat with you. I will never ask you to coffee or to go anywhere with me  - especially shopping malls.

Why am I saying these things?

Well, it was the comments on the post I wrote yesterday. As sad as I may seem from what I wrote above, I would suspect there are many that feel the same. But, I enjoyed the way some described what I felt.

Jim Murdoch from the blog The Truth About Lies made this comment yesterday:
...I’m not shy and I have no problems talking in public (yes, I get nervous but so does everyone); I just have no real interest in promoting me – the writing, yes but me, no. I recognise that I have to present something publicly which is why the website is so good because I can exercise a fairly high degree of control over what goes up. I find as long as you open up a bit then people leave you be. It’s those who don’t have a real name, won’t provide a photo and tell us nothing about themselves that make us wonder, What are they hiding? The answer is probably: nothing. Let’s face it, most of us lead boring lives, nothing’s ever happened to us that’s not happened to hundreds of other people and the only thing we have going for us is a facility with words. And aren’t there hundreds of people who have that gift too?

The thing is we can’t have our cake and eat it. Recluses don’t get famous for anything bar being reclusive. What’s good about the Internet is that you can attempt to find a balance between the private-you and the public-you, one that everyone can live with. You’re still never going to be famous but I’m not sure I would like being famous. I want to be read. I am being read. By hundreds of people. And that’s all it’s about. When I think about all the poems I published back in the seventies and eighties I wonder how many people ever read them. I bet dozens at best. This is better. It’s not fame but it is better.
Jim has it right. I don't want to be famous, I want to be read. That's why I write. I find blogging (also, Twitter, Facebook, and my online writers group - The Next Big Writer) the perfect combination of  publicity without the... publicity. People can read my writing, comment on my writing, ask me questions about my writing and I can still be in solitude. Ahhh... silence.

Jaydee Morgan sums it up well:
I definitely could live the life of a reclusive writer - and just use the Net to stay in contact/promote/etc.
My day job forces me to be public and social. Given the choice though, I'd rather spend most of my time alone ...
 Please, understand me. I'm a really nice person. I'm It's just nicer when I'm alone.

Picture source: here

Thursday, 1 April 2010

I wish to stay in the closet... with a flashlight... and some cookies.

I was reading Karen's site (Coming Down the Mountain) about reclusive writers this morning and it got me thinking. (Not that the other blogs don't make me think or that I don't think in general...) Anyway, I think of myself as quite a reclusive writer. I tell no one I write. I don't use my real name. One photo of me and I had to skew it in order to put it on the site.

Then I thought about my books.

What am I willing to do to promote my book? I know I could never stand in front of people and read my book ...but, I could record my book and post it online. I don't know if I could go to a library - not that there will be many left in the future - but I could enter a forum to discuss my books online. I don't think I could do a book signing but I will be willing to sign copies and send them out.

I have never met any famous authors in person. Jane Austen, Brontes, Agatha Christie are all dead. Val McDermid, Elizabeth George and many other British authors live too far away to visit. I still love their books.

Val Mcdermid has a website and she regularly comments there.
Elizabeth George has a website too.
In fact, I visit many sites and blogs belonging to published authors.

I have a website. You're reading it. So perhaps, I'm not reclusive after all.  Are any of you reclusive writers?

Picture source: here

Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Problems with my writing

I finished my last WIP the middle of February and in the two months I leave it to sit and rest, I decided to work on another book. It's an Agatha Christie- like novel. Shorter, simple, plot-based novel.

I came up with the plot of this 'locked-room-puzzle' a few years ago and wrote the whole book. However, that was before I took any sort of writing/grammar classes and when I re-read the manuscript, thought it absolute rubbish!

So, I decided to re-write it.

Although, I love the premise, I've been having trouble getting into it again and it's left me with a sort of writer's block. I couldn't figure out why until a couple of days ago.

When writers write mystery novels, it's not all suspense and chasing the bad guys around. My detectives have to do investigating - asking the suspects questions, chasing false leads. I know who the killer is and how he/she did it and why. The culprits are fascinating characters and chapters that include them are interesting to write.

However, the other minor characters  -the ones the readers don't spend much time with - are less interesting to the writer and chapters that include interviews with them are somewhat boring to write and sadly, somewhat boring to read. But, that can't be! I have to make even those chapters interesting for my reader. My wonderful reviewers won't put up with drab chapters!

Hence the writer's block.

So today, I have to fall in love with my characters again. I have to find each and every suspect interesting to talk with. I have to find a motive for each and prepare alibis and plain and simply, know them.
For instance (and without giving much of the plot away), one suspect (not the murderer) my detective is interviewing next is having an affair with the beneficiary of the victim's estate. She seems suspicious because she's secretive about the affair. Boring! Been done. But, I have to make her interesting somehow. So, I began to think more about her background. Why did she marry? Why did she start having the affair? Why did she name her pet Mongoose Bubbles? I make her seem blond and flighty at first but she's not. I make it seem like her marriage is down the toilet but I have moments where it's clear to the reader she cares about her husband even though he's addicted to online gambling.

I have to continue talking with her, find out more about her but I believe that if I can get to know each character better, I can find the book interesting to write and interesting to read.  Writer's block - gone!

What do you do if you find your writing boring?

I found Margot's blog Confessions of a Mystery Novelist really interesting today. She wrote about variety in the mystery writing genre. Check it out!

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

My First Draft

What makes a great novel? A complex, dynamic, seamless piece of work. A theme, a mood, and a style of writing that lasts the whole story.

However, one thing I've noticed when I edit my first draft is, because I write over a period of time, the writing takes on various moods. Mainly because I'm a moody person. One second I'm happy, the next I'm yelling. My husband has a saying: 'Wait ten minutes and her mood will change to grim.'

Well, actually, he doesn't say that, and if he does, it's not to my face. And rarely do I yell. More likely, I'll probably ignore you.

Kidding aside, you will notice that after watching a romantic movie, you'll be more likely to write romantic lines into your scene...even if it's a mystery novel. Or, if you've had a fight with your kids or spouce or mother-in-law, you'll tend to be more testy with your writing.

Also, even if you have an outline or a way you think the novel is headed, as you write, you discover new links and connections and you learn more about the characters as you go along.

If you like improving your writing skills as you write, you will find the ending in better form than when you started. That's why if writers want a solid, uniform piece of work, writers need to edit.

Does anyone else notice that their mood affects their writing?

Monday, 29 March 2010

Review: One Last Breath by Stephen Booth

One Last Breath
Genre: Psychological Suspense Mystery

How I read it: Kindle for PC

What attracted me to the book: This series of books has been on my list for awhile. I first came across the series in a book store in Saskatoon, SK, Canada and have been wishing for the books ever since. I finally bought my first book on Kindle. Finally.

What it worth the money? I didn't pay much for it on amazon, so I guess so. It's exactly what I've come to expect from my British mystery writers and haven't been disappointed with this one.

Who should read this book: If you're into books by Val McDermid or Ian Rankin, you may like this book

Summary (from amazon): British author Booth's fifth crime novel (after Blind to the Bones) is as dark and winding as the labyrinth of caves below its Derbyshire setting. In 1990, Det. Constable Ben Cooper's father arrests Mansell Quinn for the brutal murder of his lover. Thirteen years later, Quinn disappears upon his release from prison, his ex-wife is immediately slain, and another murder soon follows. Convinced they're facing a revenge spree, the police mount a manhunt, probing physical clues and the messy web of relationships that Quinn has not quite left behind. The deeper Cooper and his colleagues probe, the more convinced Cooper becomes that Quinn was innocent of the original crime, a belief that deepens his sense that as the son of the arresting officer, he's personally at risk. Though the pace and focus falter slightly toward the end, this is intelligent, suspenseful reading that should continue to build Booth's U.S. audience. A master of psychological suspense, Booth hauntingly evokes the ambiguities of place and the enduring complexity of human relationships.

My thoughts:This book scared me at times because of the many scenes in the cave. I'm terribly claustrophobic. Even now, just the thought of some of the scenes sends shivers down my spine. In the book, there is a very haunting story told - it's not true (or so I hope...) but, it will stay with me for months.

Now, about the main characters.s: Detective Constable Ben Cooper and Detective Sergeant Diane Fry. Though, I related more to Cooper than Fry, I wanted to love Fry. I wanted Cooper and Fry to fall in love, I wanted them to express that love but I closed the book not quite understanding Diane. That could be an annoying point for some but I think it has to be that way or the series might not go on.

The plot, I think, was the weakest point. I think the writer tried to focus on two cases in the book and both didn't seem to resolve well enough for me. We think we know what happened but you're left with doubts. The first chapter opened in such a thrilling manor, I guess I was expecting that momentum to last to the last page. Not saying that the story didn't have great moment - it did - but I wanted more from the end.

Did I figure out who the murderer was before the main character(s): Not sure I could say yes to this. Not quite sure when the main character found out if ever... oh dear, I've said too much.

Bottom Line: Though I love Val McDermid more, I think I will give this author another read. Visit the author's blog: here



Sunday, 28 March 2010

Shakespeare's Sonnet Sunday - Sonnet 12

When I do count the clock that tells the time,
And see the brave day sunk in hideous night;
When I behold the violet past prime,
And sable curls, all silvered o'er with white;
When lofty trees I see barren of leaves,
Which erst from heat did canopy the herd,
And summer's green all girded up in sheaves,
Borne on the bier with white and bristly beard,
Then of thy beauty do I question make,
That thou among the wastes of time must go,
Since sweets and beauties do themselves forsake
And die as fast as they see others grow;
And nothing 'gainst Time's scythe can make defence
Save breed, to brave him when he takes thee hence.

I have been doing a sonnet a week for twelve weeks. When I started, I knew nothing of Shakespeare. When it came to Shakespeare, I considered it beyond my comprehension. Throughout high school , when my teachers would say to me, this is how this line is to be understood, I thought they were ridiculous to assume to know the poetry. How wrong I was. After about ten weeks of trying to decipher the sonnets, I can truly say, I'm beginning to understand the writer.  

Here's the twelfth sonnet and from what I understand, Shakespeare talks about time and clocks. Fitting then it should be the 12th sonnet(12 hours on a clock), don't you think?

1. When I add up the years that have gone by (count the chimes a clock makes - more chimes the bells make as time passes)
2. And see youth turn old;
3. When I behold the violet(spring) past prime(turn old and die),
4. And the dark hair of youth, turned white with age;
5. When lofty trees I see barren of leaves (fall and winter...time again past),
6. A tree that used to cover the herd in shade,
7. And summer's green (wheat or barley in the summer) all tied up in bails(harvest - which happens in the fall),
8. Put on the bier (cart drawn by a horse) with white and bristly beard (see picture - wheat has a beard called an awn when ready for harvesting) Note: The horse and cart also used to carry coffins.
9. Then I think about what will happen to your beauty,
10. Eventually time, will make your beauty fade and die,
11. Just like all things sweet and beautiful
12. that die and become replaced by other things sweet and beautiful;
13. There is nothing that can fight against time's weapon
14. Except for children to continue to fight against time when you die.

Saturday, 27 March 2010

Saturday's Writing Quotation Examination - Where do you Write?

Rudyard Kipling

Rudyard Kipling spent the second half of his life at Bateman's, his solid Jacobean home in the Weald which had been "untouched and unfaked" by Victorian "improvers". Each morning he went to his study to write or to pace up and down on his Indian rugs while he worked out the rhythms of his verses.

As he was short, he had his English walnut chair placed on blocks so that he could sit comfortably at his French walnut table. Around the blotter are cherished objects, a pewter ink pot, a tin box for pins, a lacquered canoe-shaped pen tray for the ink brushes he used to obliterate redundant words.

After lunch Kipling tramped across his fields, slashing at nettles with a walking stick, before returning to his study and sprawling on the oak day bed with a book. He described himself as a "hasty and gluttonous reader", and the bookcases (opposite and to the left of the windows) still contain the works of favourite authors such as Jane Austen and Walter Scott.

But intruders were usually discouraged by Carrie, Kipling's bossy and restrictive wife, whose portrait hangs above the fireplace. It was painted by another of the writer's cousins, Philip Burne-Jones, son of the pre-Raphaelite artist.

In a previous home, the house they built in Vermont, Carrie had installed her desk in an ante-room outside her husband's study. His room at Bateman's was not so physically protected, but the portrait is a reminder of her determination to keep him at work and under her control. Her attitude was mistaken as well as unnecessary. As PG Wodehouse observed, Kipling's work "depended on messing around and talking to people", but his wife "kept him rigidly excluded from the world". The study, beamed and beautiful as it is, was a bit of a prison.

Philip Hensher

I don't have a writing room, and don't want one. I've never written successfully at a desk - whenever anyone tries to give me a desk, it always fills up immediately with old bits of paper, and, after a week or two, I go back to writing on the end of the dining table, clearing it all up before dinner. Or, more often, just on the arm of the sofa.

This is the tatty old sofa in my sitting room in Topsham, in Devon, where I wrote most of my last novel, The Northern Clemency. I write in a hardbacked A4 notebook, usually with a rollerball pen or just an old black biro - text on the right-hand page, corrections and additions and aides-memoires on the left. You don't need a plug or a battery or anything like that, and if your pen runs out, then another one only costs 25p or something.

There are no disturbances - I don't have a phone there, or a computer, or a television. Nothing but a radio, really. I like to have a few pleasant objects around me, without ever really wanting to aspire to the Room Beautiful. There are some of Charlotte Jones's lovely ceramics, some Darfur amulets and an 18th-century Rajput miniature. That hanging on the back wall is a batik rendering of the Bengali delta, where my partner Zaved comes from - he's not that bothered about it as an object, but I can look at it for hours. The carpet he acquired in Afghanistan during the Taliban time - there's a terrifying stain on it, which I always tell visitors is blood, but I think it might really be red wine after some NGO party. Is it Baluchi? I can never remember these things.

I just find it easier to sit and stare and think, then reach for the pad and start writing in a setting like this, which is just like a space for living in. I know perfectly well that if I ever found myself with a grand study with a view over the trees - if I ever started retiring to my study after breakfast to perform my daily 1,000 words - that would be the end of it. A sofa, a notebook, and the promise to yourself that in a couple of hours you can put Radio 4 on - that's just the ticket.

Jane Austen

Not long before her death, Jane Austen described her writing as being done with a fine brush on a "little bit (not two inches wide) of ivory". Her novels are not miniatures, but she did work on a surface not so much bigger than those two imagined inches of ivory. This fragile 12-sided piece of walnut on a single tripod must be the smallest table ever used by a writer, and it is where she established herself as a writer after a long period of silence. Her early novels had been written upstairs in her father's Hampshire rectory, and remained unpublished when the family moved to Bath in 1800, where writing became almost impossible for her. Only in 1809, when she returned to Hampshire and settled in the cottage on the Chawton estate of her brother Edward, could she devote herself to her work again.

Chawton Cottage was a household of ladies - Mrs Austen, her daughters and their friend Martha Lloyd - all taking part in the work of the house and garden. But Jane was allowed private time. Having no room of her own, she established herself near the little-used front door, and here "she wrote upon small sheets of paper which could easily be put away, or covered with a piece of blotting paper". A creaking swing door gave her warning when anyone was coming, and she refused to have the creak remedied.

From this table the revised manuscripts of Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice went to London to be published in 1811 and 1813. From this table too came Mansfield Park, Emma and Persuasion. Here she noted down the encouraging comments of neighbours - Mrs Bramston of Oakley Hall, who thought S&S and P&P "downright nonsense", and "dear Mrs Digweed" who volunteered that "if she had not known the author, she could hardly have got through Emma".

Austen died in 1817, and after Cassandra's death in 1845 the table was given to a manservant. Today, back in its old home, it speaks to every visitor of the modesty of genius.

Michael Morpurgo

I used to write longhand at a table in any room, anywhere so long as it was quiet. But I found that the more intensely I wrote, as the grip tightened on the pen, the smaller the writing became and the more my wrist and arm and shoulder began to ache.

One evening I asked my neighbour and friend Ted Hughes how he wrote. He said he'd had some trouble and now wrote standing up at a lectern. What's good enough for Ted Hughes, I thought ... so I tried it, but my feet hurt.

I was reading a biography of my great hero-writer Robert Louis Stevenson and discovered a photograph of him towards the end of his life, lying on his bed in Samoa, propped up on a pile of pillows, a writing book resting on his drawn-up knees. So that's how you write Treasure Island, I thought. I went up to my bedroom, piled up all the pillows I could find and began to write. Everything was supported and relaxed. It was wonderful for dreaming up a tale, weaving it inside my head, wonderful for scribbling in an exercise book. (I still don't use a word processor. I did try. I lost five chapters seven or eight years ago, probably the best chapters I ever wrote. They're still floating around up there in the ether.)

For many years, I wrote on our bed in the house. But there were complaints about ink on the sheets, dirty feet on the bed, and we felt we should try to create somewhere else, a storyteller's house. Clare, my wife designed it - it's based on the Anglo-Saxon chapel of St Peter-Ad-Murum at Bradwell-juxta-Mare in Essex, where I grew up, but it has a Devon thatched roof, a Japanese garden and an uninterrupted view of the countryside, looking towards Dartmoor.

So there I have made my writing bed. With flowers in the window - these a gift for our 46th wedding anniversary last weekend - and with Clare sitting at the computer, trying to make sense of my scribbly script as she types it up, it has become a perfect writer's hideaway.

Louis de Bernières

Anyone who works at home needs a refuge from the rest of the household, as far from the house as possible, and definitely without a phone. Mine is in one corner of the garden, overlooking a vegetable patch and young orchard, and I feel great happiness in it. I am hassled only by the cat - a catflap would reduce the inconvenience.

I installed a solar panel behind the shed, which supplies two enormous 12-volt batteries wired in parallel. The lights run off the 12 volts, but I have a magic box that converts it to 220 for my laptop and my little low-fi, with another that stops the current from reversing and discharging into the panel. I did this all myself, and was amazed at how much I remembered from physics classes at school with Mr Milner. Heating is by gas bottle and caravan heater - I got all my gadgetry from a caravan park near Great Yarmouth. I have to empty earwigs out of the lights and fittings, and spiders thrive even though I completely sealed the building with silicon bathroom sealant. Out of sight are a camping stove for brewing up tea, a music stand, a box full of croquet mallets and hoops, a CD rack and a bookshelf for reference books.

The clock is for reminding me how little time there is before lunch. The chair, inherited from my grandfather, has had my backside in it as I wrote all my novels. It is so comfortable that the cushion is superfluous. The table is from a junk shop. I like to write to music, hence the low-fi and CDs. I make notes and write poetry in longhand, in notebooks. The paraphernalia on the table concern a play I was writing about Handel, except for the dried-up daisies, which are the remains of a daisy chain that my son Robin made for me when he was three.

It is nice to look up and see the pheasants strutting about outside, but the best thing about the shed is its absolutely quintessential smell of sheds.

Source: Writer's Rooms

Recently, I won the Silver Lining Award and I have to give it to other worthy bloggers. It's so difficult to find bloggers without these awards but anyone who commented on my post yesterday that doesn't have the award, gets one. Here goes:

1) Jaydee Morgan
2)Carol at Under the Tiki Hut
3)I don't know if Laura accepts awards but Women of Mystery
4)Audrey at holes in my brain
5) Multicoloured Imagery
6) Confessions of a Mystery Novelist
7) Talli Roland
8) Journaling Woman

Also, Harley from Labotomy of a Writer gave me the sunshine award. She's a new blogger and I'm sure would love your support. Check her blog out!

And, Nicole from One Significant Moment at a Time gave me the Creative Writer Award. Thank you and be sure to check out her blog, everyone.

Friday, 26 March 2010

Why won't that character shut up!?

As I stated yesterday, I thought I would blog on a couple of complicated voices often found in dialog.

Stutterers / Lisps -Currently, I'm writing a mystery where one of the suspects stutters. In fact, I'm reading a mystery where one of the suspects stutters. So, I guess it's common to add stutterers to novels. However, do not get carried away. A person in real life may stutter over almost every word but your dialog doesn't need to.
What can you do?
Perhaps write one or two words in the speech as stuttered. Or, write correctly and add a tag: he stuttered.

People with accents/dialects - Have you ever read 'The Grapes of Wrath'? (See below) After reading that book in high school, for a month I spoke with a Southern accent.

Often writers tend to get carried away with writing in dialect. Can you imagine reading this for a whole novel? "Ah reckon ah don' haff ta go dowan tuh th' rivuh tuhday, 'cawse we gots awl th' feeush we gwine need." Yikes!
What can writers do? Well, if you're insistent on writing in the dialect, only use select and common words such as 'ya' for 'you' or 'an' for 'and'. Or, write in proper English but add 'she said in a strong Russian accent' somewhere. Most people know what a British or Russian or Southern accent sounds like, they don't need phonetic spelling.

Thank you, Charmaine from Wagging Tales
for your award. The Silver Lining Award.

Tomorrow, I will give it to three others...

Hmmm, also, if you're following me and for some reason I am not following your blog, let me know. I will correct that error immediately.

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Listening to the Voices

One of the blog posts I read this morning was about characters. She asked her blog readers how they go about making each character have a distinctive voice. It made me think - long and hard - until I remembered something I read somewhere  - learn to eavesdrop!

In the modern world of technology, the next time you get asked to a party (and it may be sooner than me because of my cheesy salsa incident) take along a voice recorder. Discreetly place your cellphone (mobile) or other listening device on the table amongst the chatty Cathys and press the record button. At the end of the night, go home and listen to the recording.

Write down each person's name and their dialog. It will surprise you (or maybe not) that you will recognize each individual just by the sound of their voice. You will also notice that each person has their own speech pattern and special phrases.

That's distinctive voice.

Now, just because people have distinctive voice doesn't mean we want to write like we speak. Why? Because most of our conversation (I would say at least 50%) is filled with babble and small talk. Whereas dialog in a book should 6 elements:
  • 1)It should always move the story forward
  • 2)It should make sense to the reader
  • 3)It should end. Who wants to read an hour's worth of conversation?
  • 4)It should have a point.
  • 5)It should tell us more about the character
  • 6)It should be interesting and meaningful
Tomorrow I'm going to show some distinctive voice traits and how to write them so they don't irritate the reader. Enjoy the rest of your day! See you later...

 Picture Source: here

Great post about descriptions at Random acts of Writing.

Elizabeth at Mystery Writing is Murder lists six really important questions you should ask about your plot.

Rayna, uses a great example to show how important it is to know your readers.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

I would like to introduce you to...

How often have you read a novel where, when a new character is introduced, all time and plot freezes and we need to read a paragraph or two into the life of this new character?

It happens so much in novels that I'm sure many writers believe this is the only way to introduce their characters. True? I hope not because that sort of writing drives me mad.

That being said, when introducing your characters to the reader, try to do it like you would in real life.

1) A person you meet for the first time will NOT approach and hand you a list of his or her main characteristics. "Hello, my name is Gary. I'm six-two, smart, witty, handsome, a Christian Scientist, my mother's a truck driver, my father tap dances for exercise, I only graduated high school, and recently I had my wisdom teeth extracted."

2) A person will NOT stand there for five minutes while you inspect and measure them for height, hair color, eye color and style of dress.

So, don't do this to your characters.

What can you do instead? Do what happens in real life, we get to know people gradually and through what they do and say.

Do this:
1) Write down the character's name on a sheet of paper.
2) Write down five things you think are interesting about the character.
a) 2 physical characteristics
b) 2 personality traits
c) 1 thing about his past or social role
3) Now, write five scenes where you SHOW instead of DESCRIBE (TELL) the characteristic through either dialog or narrative. For example, lets say Sarah dresses for looks rather than practically. How can  you show and not tell this?
When Mark left the room, Sarah reached down and slipped off her four-inch heel.
'Agh,' she said as she separated her crushed toes.
What about through dialog?
Mark turned around and placed his hands on his hips. 'Sarah, will you hurry? We're going to miss my brother's float.'
'It's these stupid shoes,' she replied.
'I told you to wear your trainers. Why would you wear four-inch heels to a parade?'
Source: The Writer's Way
Picture source: St. Johns Booksellers

Here are some great blog posts I've read today:

Emotional Challenge from Fairway Fiction

Charmaine at Wagging Tales talks about Premise.

Karen from Coming Down the Mountain...Interviewed with e-publishing author Simon Kewin and it was interesting...check it out.