When I moved back to mid-coast Maine, my life seemed perfect. I’d slammed the door on my not-so-recent past and left my troubles behind. Or so I thought until my mechanic shattered that illusion. She told me there was a global positioning device mounted inside my Jeep’s left front wheel well. Apparently someone was tracking me.
Suddenly the strange things that had happened to me over the past few days—and that I’d dismissed as coincidence or just plain bad luck—didn’t seem so random. The GPS was intentional and personal.
Ginny Mihalik, Academic Counselor/Professor, Schnecksville, PA: “I loved “Beware the Sleeping Dog”. Loved it! Please keep writing. You have a special talent of storytelling, of building characters, and describing scenes so carefully that I can smell the cold, feel the sting, and hear the slightest breeze move the branch. Thank you. What a treat it was! I can’t wait for the next one.”
We’re never too old to become a best-selling author. But there will be many bumps along the way. There will good days and there will be bad days. But our skill improves with the 3 imperatives of writing: read to learn from other authors, develop your process, and write. And write. And write. Writing about people requires a study of human nature, an understanding of what your character would do next if s/he were real instead of fiction.
There are seasons in the process. Spring bursting with hope. Summer filled with inspired writing. A fall in leaves and temperatures and confidence and the deep chill of winter. And then the spring of hope again and a summer of fruition.
The secret to success: Persevere.
To quote Stuart Horwitz,
Keep your ears tuned for what resonates, keep looking for inspiration, and give your project room to surprise and challenge you.
In this picture I’m a dot amidst the golden glory of fall. For me it represents my progress on my second novel. Pedaling along. Stroke by stroke. Like my manuscript: A sentence. A scene. A chapter at a time.
And I say to you, my fellow authors, every word moves you closer to your goal. And sometimes your downtime is as important as your writing time. A challenge is how to make that non-writing time serve your writing time. I do it by reading in my genre and by embracing nature.
I write about the State of Maine and its people and its environment. Thus when I return from a visit there I am energized and ready for a fresh restart on my current novel. I traveled there and back with Wayne and his camera.
I have two vignettes to share with you that capture the hold which Maine has on my heart. The first is a rare up close and personal osprey moment at Wolf’s Neck Woods State Park. While Wayne clicked the shots, I stood in wonder watching the show. A parent osprey came bearing a gift for the family. Then one of the nestlings tested his wings with a hop and skip midair on the nest edge. He decided against fledging at the last minute. But I’m betting he took flight before the day was done.
That testing and reconsidering is somewhat like the debut author considering submitting her/his novel. I’m ready! I’m ready. But not today. A worthy novel is like a good wine. It needs time to age to its full bodied flavor. And often a little more editing and refining is required to reach that point.
The next vignette: Walking far out on the low-tide shoal in that sweet spot between Spinney’s and Popham Beach. Wayne captures me in a moment of bliss at the edge of the Atlantic … actually surrounded by the Atlantic. No one else in sight. Alone. Inspired. Much like writing. Sitting at my computer. Alone. No one else can write my book for me.
There were other moments as well–not documented but seared in my memory. Precious time spent with my sister and brother. Welcome visits with my nieces Rebecca and Karen. A Lexi manicure–I could see the woman-to-be in the graceful lines of her thirteen-year-old-face. A boisterous lunch with some very special members of the Libby clan. Aah. Maine.
I regularly read and enjoy the wisdom of Brian Klems in his The Writer’s Dig. His words and those of his guests are a source of inspiration and edification for me. The following is my interpretation of his “7 Reasons Writing a Book Makes You a Badass” column.
1. It’s hard. Very, very hard. Period. I’m writing my second novel and I’ve hit a wall. But because I succeeded once, I have confidence that this wall can be breached. I’ll keep picking (or pecking) away until I’m through it and on my way to a good (great?) finish.
2. Editing woes. It’s laborious. Necessary. Painful. Deleting. Refining. Finessing. Again and again and again and again. Phew.
3. To end or not to end? Never an easy decision! Any manuscript can always be made better, but at some point if you want closure, you need to say, “Done.”
4. “Cold-querying agents is scary.” I have yet to do that because I am self-published. But I can imagine that submitting my coup d’etat to a critic for judgment would be gut-wrenching.
5. Aah. Rejection. It’s not about failure. It’s about daring to try. Again and again.
6. Compensatory payment. No one can possibly compensate me monetarily for my time and effort. My compensation is knowing that I have completed my task and that it is a ‘job well done”. But I joyfully embrace any and all kudos! Thank you to the kind and generous souls who not only bought and read my book but also spoke well of it. I.e.: On Amazon.com for “Beware the Sleeping Dog” by K.A. Libby:
My posting today is about the guest column for the May 21st issue of The Writer’s Dig by Brian Klems. The column is written by Frederick Pinto and he calls it “5 Tips on Making You a Tough (& Better) Writer”. His words resonated with me and herewith is my interpretation of Pinto’s message:
1. My first drafts will be embarrassing. And they are!
2. If I particularly love a sentence or paragraph that I’ve written, delete it. It probably doesn’t belong.
3. Writing is cathartic. Indeed.
4. Good writing is equal parts obsession and technique.
5. I write because I must. I am driven by my obsession to write.
Mavis Walker struggled with the question of whether or not she would actually pull the trigger on a living target, but after today, not using the pistol would be a conscious choice. She realized with a twinge of regret that she’d blurred a line in her ethical thinking.
When I was writing the chapter for Mavis at the firing range, my husband bought me a Model 39 Smith & Wesson like the one I gave Mavis in “Beware the Sleeping Dog”. He packed me, the S&W, and a magazine of nine millimeter Luger cartridges into his Montero and drove me to the Game Lands for a lesson on handling and firing a gun. (Rule #1: Become your character.)(Rule #2: write authentically.)
That’s what I call spousal support! (Thank you, Wayne.) After the hands-on lesson, I wrote the chapter with a truer sense of realism and confidence in its accuracy. (Rule #3: consult an expert.)
Mavis didn’t even like the idea of handling a gun. Actually, she was afraid of guns. And she had no interest in shifting her anti-gun philosophy at all. Or it least she hadn’t until Thursday evening. Finding a rogue GPS unit attached to her bumper was changing her ideas about a lot of things.
(Rule #4: write what you feel.) Her heart thudded against her ribs, and a door slammed on an old attitude. The slight kick was immediately followed by a faint puff of smoke. She imagined drawing the muzzle up to blow the smoke away. The spent brass tinkled on the gravel.
A Dick Frances quote came to mind, “Never attack anyone unless you have counted the cost of winning.”
From the Writer’s Digs by Brian Klems, Guest Column | March 16, 2015, Helga Schier, PhD: So you’ve got a great idea and you want to write a book. Go for it, I say, because these days, anyone can publish a book. Self-publishing empowers the writer in all of us. Nonetheless, quality still matters. Why? Because we don’t just want to publish, we want to publish successfully; we want to publish books people want to read. And that takes more than a good idea. That takes craft.
I’ve listed the headings of her ten elements below and offered my interpretation of how to apply them to my writing. If you are reading this, your input is welcome. How would you apply her 10 elements to your writing?
Dr. Schier says: Aim for High Readability (i.e. High readability books are “polished, refined, sophisticated, and mature” in “surface structure, style and voice, and content.”
[Did you know there are 7 reasons writing a novel makes you a badass? Read about them here.]
I haven’t reached my hoped for sales levels on my kindle book offering of “Beware the Sleeping Dog”. Cassandra Becker in Goodreads wrote of my mystery: “Really liked the character development as well as the writer’s descriptions of scenery, conflicted emotions, and untangling of old business.” I loved her comment but her 3 stars out of 5 tell me I have work to do on my current manuscript. But where do I focus? How do I apply the unspoken? Continue reading →
Today is the vernal equinox. The first day of spring, 2015. It’s snowing outside my window. But inside at my computer the sun suddenly bursts forth when I discover the January 12, 2015 “Writer’s Digs”. Somehow I missed that email in January and February and much of March. Its timing today is auspicious. I’ve been mired in that much-bemoaned author’s slump. Now Brian Klems’ guest columnist Elizabeth Sims has energized my writing with her 21 Fast Hacks to Fuel Your Story with Suspense.
I’ve identified 16 of her tips that I can apply to my plot thus far. Some of the threads already exist in my manuscript “Unbearable”, but her catchy phrases in this column reveal ways to enhance and intensify the effect. Thank you, Elizabeth Sims and Brian Klems, for rescuing my manuscript.
Several of the highlights for me:
1. Ms. Sims says ‘build an oubliette’ and ‘plant a hazard, then wait’. Early in my book the chasm introduces itself as ‘the forgotten place’ and continues to tease characters to the brink of disaster right up to the final twist of plot.
2. She says ‘pull a false alarm’ and ‘fake ‘em out’, squeezing out suspense through the ‘rules of three’ philosophy. My character-a teeters on the brink of disaster, then character-b is jerked back from death’s door at the last instant, and finally character-c screams a revelation all the way to the depths.
3. ‘Stash someone’ and ‘put a mask on it’ per Elizabeth Sims. Is my character-b really who he purports to be? Is character-d a red herring or the perp? Or is it perhaps character-e?
4. ‘Put a symbol to work’. She says look to nature for ways to incorporate this technique. Thank you, Ms. Sims, for validating significance behind my symbol. I can’t tell you how I use this because that might reveal too much.
5. ‘Isolate ‘em.’ She says characters in close proximity will fight eventually. In my case the ‘stuck elevator’ is a cabin in the middle of Northern Maine’s One-hundred Mile Woods; a campsite in the shadow of Mt. Katahdin; and cliff-side in the Debsconeag Lakes Wilderness.
6. And finally she says ‘get your head into it’ … you must live and breath your writing if you want your reader to stick it out to the end of the story. I feel like a stage actor as I write my 70,000 word mystery. I get into the head of each of my characters—to become them—to fabricate what they do and understand why they do it.
The prize at the end of today’s snow bow: Inspired writing thanks to Elizabeth Sims and Brian Klems. To risk a cliché: Let it snow. Let it snow. Let it snow. But please don’t squelch the daffodil sprouts.
I am sharing a posting I just read on Brian’s Indie Hero blog. He captures Kurt Vonnegut’s philosophy on writing a book worth reading. I’ve read various forms and parts of this elsewhere, but Vonnegut captures it succinctly and with humor. Thank you, Brian for sharing this with your followers.
Kurt Vonnegut: Creative Writing 101
1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.
2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.
3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.
4. Every sentence must do one of two things—reveal character or advance the action.
5. Start as close to the end as possible.
6. Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them—in order that the reader may see what they are made of.
7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.
8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To heck with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.