Category Archives: novels

Writing Process Blog Tour – My Part!

Many thanks to my friend and fellow fictioneer, Jerilyn Dufresne, author of the charming and funny Sam Darling mystery series. She tagged me in her recent blog post (Read it here). Thanks, Jer! I enjoyed the challenge.

What are you working on now?

Lately, I’ve been emulating a scattergun – I’m working on four books. In addition to researching and writing the sequel and prequel to Memory’s Child, I’m also updating and revamping a mystery/suspense novel (Dying to Meet You) and a romance/adventure novel (Trial Run). Both of the latter are set in Florida.

How does my work differ from others in its genre?Memory's Child

Well, how many books do you know of that were generated by a can of tuna? Seriously, I found myself in a small, neighborhood grocery store one day, staring at an entire shelf section packed with cans of tuna. I thought about all the grocery stores in my city and all the cans of tuna they stocked, then all the stores in the country and so on. The idea of all those dead fish was staggering, and I wondered how long the ocean could continue to pro
duce so much fish if the population keeps growing.  You see where that kind of thinking is likely to go.

Memory’s Child is more than a cautionary or post-apocalyptic tale about humanity outgrowing the resources of this planet, though. The idea of prejudice as a fundamental part of humans’ makeup is another of the book’s premises, and it’s an important one, I think. In Memory’s Child, the circumstances of the past have changed the focus of prejudice. As Shelana, the protagonist says, humans no longer have “distinctions of color or collar or cash,” but have replaced that with another kind of prejudice – against intellect. “Hate what you do not comprehend, wage war on what you fear, and destroy what you cannot have. Prejudice is as old as mankind,” she says. I thought that idea was unique enough to explore.

Why do I write what I do?

Good question, and I have no idea. Much of the story in Memory’s Child simply erupted shortly after the tuna incident. I was not planning a novel, had not thought about this story, and had no idea it lurked in my pen, waiting to attach itself to paper. I wrote the word “aberration” on a blank page in my notebook, and from that point forward, I just went along for the ride. If you can imagine trying to write, longhand, every word of a book as it is read to you, that’s what it was like getting Memory’s Child on paper. I wrote as fast as the pen would move, terrified that I would miss something important, eager to read what would happen next.

Over the cpen_nib_with_reflectionourse of about four days, I learned the story as it appeared on the page. I only stopped writing when I fell asleep, pen in hand. I still have the original manuscript with odd little squiggles marking the page. My husband, Randy, brought me food and made sure nobody bothered me with visits or phone calls.

Those were among the very best days of my life. Later, typing the manuscript from those handwritten pages, I added descriptions and other details that weren’t in the original narrative. The story came first, the details later.

How does my writing process work?

Sadly, no other stories have flowed from my pen the way Memory’s Child did. Writing would be so much easier if they did! Instead, I write more than I should, adding and subtracting scenes as I go, until I find what works. I still write longhand and I do not outline as many authors do. Once I tell the story, I’m done, and an outline is, to my odd brain, the same as telling the story. The book would never get past the outlining stage. Instead, I start at the beginning and just keep going to the end. When the story is written, I add in transitions and descriptions (I prefer dialogue and action to writing description). This is my first edit. The whole thing is put away for at least a month to let the story steep. Then I pull it out and edit, edit, edit until I’m happy with it, which can take months. I still itch to edit Memory’s Child as ideas continue to occur to me.

What are my writing plans for the future?

Once the prequel and sequel are finished, I plan to complete the rewrite of Dying to Meet You, then Trial Run. I have a couple more novels in the very-rough-draft stage: Fair Warning and Katie Enigma. My goal is to finish at least the first four this year, if recent health issues allow. After that, I’d like to take my time on Fair Warning, especially, since the plot of that one is quite intricate.

I haven’t warned them, but I’d like to tag Allyson K. Abbott, author of the Mack’s Bar mysteries, a unique new series, and Lauren Clark, author of Dancing Naked in Dixie, Stay Tuned and Stardust Summer.

Link

Writing Process Blog Tour

Writing Process Blog Tour

My friend, Jerilyn Dufresne, author of the wonderful new mysteries featuring the inimitable Sam Darling, posted an interesting description of her writing process. Check it out, and check back here tomorrow morning when I’ll be posting my own experience in response to Jer’s tagging me. Enjoy.

Murder on the Rocks by Allyson K. Abbott

Murder on the Rocks by Allyson K. Abbott. #Kindle #Amazon #murder #mystery http://ow.ly/nG1z4

Description

description wordleIt’s a badly-kept secret that I prefer writing dialogue to writing description.To me, description should be brief but substantial, so that it delivers plenty of information to the mind’s eye without blathering on and on about the color of someone’s shirt or going into painfully explicit detail about the way the setting sun strikes the forest floor through the tree canopy.

The sunlight is dappled, okay? I don’t need to know that the light is pale lemon yellow as it stabs through the pine needles, or dark and rusty looking as it weaves its way from the sky to the scattered carpet of brown and crispy oak leaves on the forest floor. I really, honestly don’t care. The sunlight is dappled. That’s enough for my mind’s eye to conjure up a crisp carpet of leaves below and a lush canopy above.

I once spent weeks studying character descriptions in novels. I didn’t look at descriptions of the main characters, because those should occur frequently throughout the book.

What I found was that in nearly every case, the author used around 100 words of description when introducing other characters that may or may not reappear in the story, and around 50 words to describe a character’s clothing, gestures and facial expressions if they did reappear. Secondary characters sometimes required more detail than lesser characters, especially if they were doing something like washing a car or firing a weapon as a chapter opened.

That’s what I learned from studying books that I liked to read. It’s not a formula, but I do use that information as a guideline when I write. Many times, trying to write a good description succinctly has forced me to work harder at using that small block of text to its greatest advantage.

My informal research also turned up the fact that, other than character descriptions, detailed descriptions of setting and action sequences such as gunfights and autopsies could go on for pages. I understand that describing the pathologist’s movements and the tools he uses in dissecting a corpse lends authenticity to the book (and thus, the author), but books I love give me a vivid snapshot without showing me the whole movie. Please stop describing Stryker saws to me every other chapter. I already know more about them than I ever wanted or needed to. There’s that dappled sunlight, again.

I force myself to write description, because although I know what everything looks like, the audience does not. However, I skim or skip overly long, descriptive passages when I read other peoples’ work. Too many novels have more description than story. It’s like wearing full arctic gear in Miami in June.

If you condensed all that narrative, you might wind up with a lovely, highly readable short story or a novella. With the minute details of descriptive passages gone, most readers will conjure up their own visions.

Why don’t authors trust readers to employ their own imaginations anymore? I’d read every word of a book with less description, because it would be jam-packed with the important stuff. The story.

Royalties from Memory’s Child sales to be donated

Royalties from all February sales of Memory’s Child go to All About Animals. Read a book, save a life. Priceless! Plz RT http://ow.ly/hWmVR

Kids Corner Interview: Author of 5-Star YA Mystery, Vickie Johnstone, Talks About Kids Corner Book of The Week, Her Love For Ronald Dahl & Never Giving Up Her Dream of Writing | Kindle Kids’ Corner

Read the interview and check out this book.  It looks like a winner!

Kids Corner Interview: Author of 5-Star YA Mystery, Vickie Johnstone, Talks About Kids Corner Book of The Week, Her Love For Ronald Dahl & Never Giving Up Her Dream of Writing | Kindle Kids’ Corner

Guest Post: Top 10 Tips for a Stellar First Chapter

Today’s post is a gift from author Lauren Clark, whose book, Dancing Naked in Dixie, I reviewed earlier this week. The advice she offers here is the kind of “thank you” we writers can all appreciate.

Click on the book image to read my review of DANCING NAKED IN DIXIE

If you’re a writer … in any stage of the game … you’ve likely stressed out about that ominous and all-important first chapter. It’s easy to get stuck on page one, but these tips should help get you thinking and planning your way through it. With some effort, you’ll soon be on your way to chapter two, then three, and beyond.

Here goes:

1. Open with action – Have your character doing something that matters (not drinking tea, taking a shower, or doing the dishes!)

2. What’s the problem? – Your hero or heroine should have a dilemma right away. It can be something that he or she created, an issue that someone else incites (revenge, grief, hate. love, obsession, etc.) an accident, or even a natural disaster.

3. Why should I care? – The main character’s problem should matter, in a small sense or a large one. The hero doesn’t have to be saving the world, but the crisis or issue at hand should be enough to upset the balance of life as he or she knows it.

4. Inject some empathy – Make certain that you show your character (on the premise that your hero is not a serial killer) demonstrates caring for others. It doesn’t have to be rescuing a baby from a burning building, but even a small act of kindness goes a long way with readers identifying with your protagonist.

5. Don’t overload the chapter with secondary characters – When you meet someone new, it’s tough enough to remember that person’s name. Don’t throw a dozen characters at your reader right away. It’s too confusing.

6. Light on the description – Don’t weigh the story down with too many details about the setting, every blade of grass, or the character’s eye color – there’s plenty of time for that later.

7. Skip the back story – Readers don’t need to know everything about the character right away. Save the details for why and how for at least a few more chapters — and later in the story if you can manage it. Remember, offer ‘crumbs’ along the way…don’t throw down the entire loaf of bread!

8. This is my personal preference, but keep the first chapter between five and ten pages (double-spaced in a Word document). Much more than that and you chance losing a reader.

9. Leave the reader hanging at the end of the chapter. Don’t explain everything. Ask a question. Pose another dilemma. Put someone in danger. Give the reader a reason to turn the page and go to chapter two.

 10. Put chapter one away for a day or two. Get it back out, re-read it. Make notes, do some light revisions. Let a trusted friend read it. Let a book-loving acquaintance read it. Make more notes, do more revisions as needed. IMPORTANT: Go on to chapter two. Write the rest of the manuscript.  Then, Go back to # 1 on this list and double-check that you’ve included everything needed for that stellar first chapter.

Looking for examples of stellar first chapters? Pick up a few of your favorite books. Try answering the questions above using those novels. What makes them special?

 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Lauren Clark

 Lauren Clark is the author of Stay Tuned and Dancing Naked in Dixie. She writes contemporary novels set in the Deep South; stories sprinkled with sunshine, suspense, and secrets.

A former TV news anchor, Lauren adores flavored coffee, local bookstores, and anywhere she can stick her toes in the sand. Her big loves are her family, paying it forward, and true-blue friends. Check out her website at www.laurenclarkbooks.com.

 

 

Smart, Sassy Fiction with a Southern Twist

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Stay Tuned

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