Tag Archives: writing

How to Write a Good Book in 17 Days

Way back before I set a moratorium on publishing my novels because of piracy, I set out to write at least two books a year. And did it. In fact, all three of my Montana Love Story novels were written in a month and under, with the second and still unpublished third book drafted in seventeen days and sixteen days, respectively. It was something which I hadn’t thought myself capable, that is to write a good book — one of my books — in shorter than a year. I proved to myself that I could …only to quit publishing in a fit of temper about all my books having been pirated, even those exclusive to Amazon.

Now, a full two years plus since my last novel’s release, an author friend’s needs prompted me to put my process down in an orderly, organized guide. Here it is:

February 15, 2017 – Diamonds in Experience

Frozen diamonds greeted my bare feet this morning. Refreshing to the toes and soles, I delighted in the sensation of those crisp, frozen water nodules crackling underfoot. It sleeted sometime in the night–just a little–and it coated the truck, the drive, the ground with glowing shimmers.

Experiencing what we, in zentao, call ‘moment’ keeps me vital and life enraptured. For me, that’s important for my writing, my artwork, and, yes, even for playing my husband’s music. It keeps me enthused and refreshed. Without those experiences, what would life become? Just drudgery and duty? I don’t know.

I do know that I’m never bored, never lacking passion. There’s always something fresh and new to me. For me, experiencing compounds a desire to learn more, and, then, to express anew in word, in sound, in imagery, through my art, my novel writing, my musical performances.  So, no, never lonely, never bored.

Life is full and sweet, full of delight. It’s also, of course, filled with hardship, toil, and danger, but, even inside the frenetic and the frantic, there lives ‘moment’–the play of light and shadow, the scent of soil, of wood, of sweat or blood or mud, yes, even muck, the sound of snapping wood and of the storm wind’s turbulence, the sting of frozen fingers thawing, the taste of terror fading on the tongue as panic eases. There’s always something to stimulate an awe in me.

I guess that’s why I’m flummoxed when acquaintances arrive, bemoaning loneliness and boredom. Even when I worked at a job requiring me to perform repetitively like some machine, I never experienced what they suffer, so I never know quite what to do or say. It’s not a shared experience.

Nothing There.

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I regularly read articles across a broad range of subjects.  Today, I read an article in Forbes about problems with mutual funds, another about scientists meeting at Oxford about climate change, and others, still, about varying subjects including writing, employment, the global economy, US job projections, space exploration, new scientific discoveries and theories…. Of those articles, only the scientific ones reported anything substantial. The rest were a bunch of words that simply stated and then restated the general issue, quoted a few “names” who said nothing more than, yeah, we may have an issue here, but no proffered solutions; not even a list of the issue’s problems-in-need-of-solutions.  They offered nothing.

Waste of time, waste of bits and bytes, and my main objection to most of what I find being proliferated across all the varied communication media available–audio, visual (including textual) and multi-media.

So why is content so lacking therein? I’ve come across five basic reasons:

  1. there is, as yet, no solution (The Halting Problem);
  2. exposing the solution destroys that solution’s effectiveness (marketing strategies);
  3. the communicator won’t share the solution unless you pay for it (any capitalist enterprise);
  4. the solution and consequences is/will be unpopular (Climate Change);
  5. the communicator doesn’t know of a solution, whether because of ignorance or laziness.

If you’re going to communicate about something, at least list the issue’s problems. If you are going to point out those problems, be up front if there are no solutions as yet or offer up potential solutions–those tried, those which have failed, those which have had some greater or lesser degree of success. It’s relatively easy, and it follows the same formula of all effective communication: opening statement (thesis statement), supporting evidence and arguments, conclusion (restatement of the thesis, summary of major points).

We really need to stop rewarding vacuousness. Really.

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Popular Misconconceptions Purposely Contrived and Cultivated

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I can be a controversial irritant. I know this. Still, I have a lot of people who, while afraid to admit it out loud, totally agree with me. And, privately, they applaud me for saying what they feel they can’t. That they won’t publicly support my saying it isn’t necessarily a sign of cowardice. It is a sign of fear–fear of crowd scorning, of cyber bullying, and of ruining their smiling, online, positive images purposely designed to try to gain market traction.

Yes, I do get groans from some of them, too, even the ones who agree with me. I get outright disfriending and snarling responses, private and public, from those who don’t. But you know what? The groaners and the muck slingers don’t bother me and don’t deter me. That I irritate them tells me that I cracked the plastic veneer.

Occasionally, I get a response that bears attending. One such came from my old publicist, who still, it seems, keeps tabs on me. Lately, he sent me applause with one hand while lecturing me about inadvisability with the other hand, admittedly typing with his thumb from his Smartphone, “so I’ll make this brief.”  Since I’m “in business” to sell my books, he suggests, “Wouldn’t it be prudent to rein in posting [my] opinions,” opinions that are, as he puts it, “often counter to popular misconceptions purposefully contrived and cultivated?”

That one made me blink. I immediately noticed the lack of qualifiers and quantifiers–normal. But for him to outright say what he did was astounding to me. This is a man who is, at all times, cautious in his every action, deed, and word.

‘Popular misconceptions purposely contrived and cultivated’–yes, exactly.

And why are misconceptions purposely contrived and cultivated in the public at large? Profit and power.

Sad, isn’t it? The public, the people, are being purposely fed artfully contrived misconceptions, and they swallow them whole. It’s ‘whole cloth’, completely fabricated and false, completely contrary to their best interests, proliferated by the blind who have been sold on the process. And I ain’t talking about U.S. or world politics, here, though the same applies. I’m talking self-promotion, the selling-my-book business, the World Wide Web, social media. and effective marketing strategies.

The sighted blinding the credulous.

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In the Span of a Rat’s Whisker Twitch

I can dream up plots and stories in the span of a rat’s whisker twitch. I can map that story out in a few hours. Writing up the draft, if I’m selfish and tell the world to take a hike, takes a few weeks. Then comes the rewrite, which can take another few weeks. I rarely get that far. I usually just park the concept in a folder on some storage media, put a printout in a groaning filing cabinet, and move on. Why? Because, honestly, most stories bore me. The ones that I may pursue, I pursue because their characters have depth and purpose, because they have intrinsic worth as individuals. I love to see them thrive.

 

Inevitability

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They float on surface tides, siphoning whatever they can harvest for free, never sharing, never giving back, never caring of those who they, in their lustful greed, are starving.  I watch them, safely protected from their undying appetites, and I marvel at their ignorance of the vortex soon to swallow them into extinction.

 

Canyon Forbes watched his streams, aware that, at any moment, he’d be told to shut them off, his duty station shifted to security.  Glad that he was ‘inside’, glad he wouldn’t be among those stranded, he wondered at the ignorance that had, decades past, permitted this kind of exploitation, and decided that he wasn’t smart enough to figure out that answer.

It didn’t really bother him that millions, even billions, would perish.  It was inevitable.  Leadership had known the consequences for a century…longer, if one believed interpretations of the organization’s founders’ writings.  And, logically, there could be no other outcome.

(To be continued…or not. I think this one is too dystopian for my liking.)

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Top Ten Novels get Nine ‘No’s from Me

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There was a shared around link in varied posts on G+ about readers’ habits that got some comments–some snide, some honest, some haphazard. In other words, normal levels and types of replies.  As the conversation moved forward on several of the iterations of the link share, I said this in response to one gentleman who said that he reads any book he buys all the way through, regardless, because he paid for it.  He also said that he’s very forgiving of editing errors.  This was my reply:

Hey, I’ll read books that have atrocious editing…and do, because the story is good.  Very good.  But I won’t sit through, even a well-edited, well-presented book that bores me.  Once my eyeballs roll up in my head three times, through boredom or disgust, I’m done.

And, now, because I think it’s pertinent, I’m going to take the top 10 best sellers from over on Amazon, and I’ll tell you why I either won’t even crack the cover or, having read all or part of the excerpt, why I would or would not read on.

Let’s start: (Numerical order of the top ten best sellers on Amazon was stable throughout the day and a lot of these books have been on the first page for awhile, now…but, by the time you check they could have since changed.)  RED and strike-through means NO WAY! White (normal text color to this interface) means, not interested, but I could recommend it to readers in search of that type of story. Green means “yes.”

1. The Next Always: Inn BoonsBoro Trilogy (The Inn Boonsboro Trilogy Book 1) by Nora Roberts — Nora Roberts is a good writer, always has been. I don’t read her, though I did manage two of her books during my time belonging to a book club. I cracked the excerpt on Amazon on this one and the novel starts out very well.  Then we get to the boring stuff — leading man and leading lady, with all the modern day trappings that so do not intrigue me.  So, nope.  But, were someone looking for a nice contemporary romance, yes, I might suggest it.  Nora Roberts can be counted on to deliver a good read for those who enjoy that kind and style of story.

2. Ghost Gifts by Laura Spinella — “The sky cartwheeled overhead.” <– first strike.  “Black spaghetti” <– second strike.  Read on…and, by the end of the second page in the Kindle version, my eyes dried up, which is my way of saying ‘my eyes glazed over because I was completely bored’.

3. The Last Girl by Joe Hart — Read the description. That sent off warning bells. So, I checked the reviews. First up on the page was the one star review by F. carillo, posted on February 2, 2016. Then came the 4 star review by Bill Anderson (TOP 1000 REVIEWER) on February 1, 2016. (That was a four star review? Read more like another one star review to me. And it went on that way. So I didn’t even crack the cover to read the excerpt. Auto-nope, mostly because it’s yet another dystopian-horror book that features the completely unrealistic.

4. Roomhate by Penelope Ward — NOPE. Won’t even look at the excerpt.  Here’s why: ” Due to …sexual content, this book is not intended for readers under the age of 18.” I’m over 18, but, sorry, not into explicit sexual content, and the reviews suggest that this book is more about heating up readers’ crotches than about delivering an actual story.

5. Some Sort of Love: A Happy Crazy Love Novel by Melanie Harlow — An excuse to deliver explicit, graphic sex. The whole focus seems to be the guy’s large penis. Nope.

6. A Shade of Vampire (New & Lengthened 2015 Edition) by Bella Forrest — I’m not a fan of teen fantasies or vampires, neither one. For this exercise, I did check out a bit of the excerpt and the story delivery seems smooth and well-written through the first few pages of the prologue and chapter one. But, no. Not into vampires and teenage love fantasies.

7. Winter Men by Jesper Bugge Kold — No, no, and no for several reasons — sex, historical fallacy about the SS and culpability, and dwelling in the horror of an era that makes me shudder, similar reasons of which you can find from readers in the one-star reviews.

8. Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances by Neil Gaiman — It’s Neil Gaiman. Of course it’s a ‘yes’.

9. Guarding His Obsession by Alexa Riley — Blatant erotica. Nope.

10. The Lie by Karina Halle — Nope. More erotica, this one with a warning: This book contains sexually explicit scenes…. Reader discretion is strongly advised.

What is most disturbing to me is the number of sexually explicit or erotic books that are top ten. And then there’s the dystopian, teen vampire romance, and Nazis-as-victims books, some also with graphic sex. Does NOT say good things about American tastes in novels. Not good things, at all.

No

Sorry, Charlie. People Want Tuna That Flips Their Switch.

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Had a discussion tonight that wound up with an author I support and admire pulling his post. I blinked, and it was gone, just that fast. So, I private messaged the gentleman, asking where our discussion had gone. He told me he’d deleted it…because, he said, his opening statement needed to be edited…and he didn’t want to make other writers mad.

Really? You don’t want to make…other writers mad.  I’m another writer, and I wasn’t mad.   I actually THOUGHT we were pursuing a lively, intellectual discourse.

Wrong. His post wasn’t meant for discussion. It was a ‘call-out’, a change-order.

But it was a good discussion. And I made good counter arguments to his points. (Unfortunately, I didn’t keep a copy of my replies, so I can’t replicate them when he replicates his…if he does.)

In the private messaging, I came to understand his underlying motive.  it’s the basis for a common misery I recognize exhibited by a LOT of writers/authors–depression and a sense of overwhelming futility, coupled with dogged determination to continue, despite all odds stacked against one.  Namely: there are so many books being published (now that independent publishing is coming of age), that getting any book noticed by masses of people is nigh on impossible.

Well, yep. That’s too true.

  1. It requires a LOT of lucky breaks (also called serendipity);
  2. it requires one to be an extrovert, when writers–good writers–are, by overwhelming numbers, introverts; and
  3. it requires an army of “connector” friends and fans who are willing and capable of effectively spreading the word about your book being the greatest thing since [enter your favorite title] to other readers of whichever genre you write.

But here’s the problem, even if you have all those things. People who read books, especially those who read novels, are a less than overwhelming percentage of the population. About a quarter of Americans don’t even read one book a year.1 Instead, they:

  1. play video games,
  2. hang out online,
  3. watch sports,
  4. watch the news cycle/talking heads, high drama, vitriol-driven world of politics,
  5. watch movies, TV series, game shows, reality shows, and,
  6. generally, do everything and anything exCEPT read…books.

Reading for them is Twitter or Facebook, not cracking open some made-of-paper or made-of-bytes tome filled with tens of thousands of alpha-numeric characters. I mean, really. 144 characters is about their upper limit. Of those who do read fiction (as opposed to non-fiction), the numbers are even less. …And, of course, of those who read a specific genre of fiction, you guessed it, even less than that–a lot less.

Interestingly, young people are reading MORE.2 Which is good. But I’m afraid the kind of reading that holds the Millennials are books they can personally connect with…which doesn’t include what a lot of writers shopping their books are writing. That limits certain genre novelists to an even smaller pool of potential readers, and that pool of potential readers tends to avoid spending money on books, so if it isn’t found at their library, isn’t free, isn’t available and at hand for cheap–very cheap–somewhere, you’ve got a hefty job convincing them to spare their dollars for your book. They’d rather spend their money on their grandkids. Or on their next vacation. And, yes, in fact, unless they’re an avid reader of more than eleven books a year, up into the book a week category, chances are the books they buy won’t be those you’ve written. And, in fact, even those who read a book a week won’t be buying your book. Why should they? They can sift through the thousands upon thousands of free books out there to find their next read and not spend one thin dime.

So, how do you get your book to the point that a whole bunch of somebodies crave to read it so much that, yes, they’ll shell out their cash to actually buy a copy? Well, you either write what sells–gore, sex, perversion–or write what sells–romance–or write what sells–your book promoted well and appropriately, marketed at just the right moment to just the right people when those people happen to be looking for just that kind of book.

And an aside (something mentioned in the above-noted ‘disappeared’ post): Does your book have to be well-written and well-edited?

Let’s look at the stats on that: Fifty Shades of Grey.  Nope. Does NOT need to be well-written or well-edited. Nope. Not, at all.

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Monsters Fighting Monsters

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Angeline Trevena posted a link on G+ this evening. A paying market is open to submissions for stories of monsters fighting monsters. Immediately, my writer’s brain spawns a scenario–a perfectly legitimate one. A creature wakens to find his home overrun with vermin, those vermin destroying the entire habitat his kind…all kind depend upon for survival. In his three thousand year sleep, what were seemingly insignificant irritants have grown from pesky to pestilence, and the damage wrought is all but irreversible. The world as he and his depend upon is in terminal throes.

What creature? Oh, I don’t know. Some stone mountain that wakes up to reveal itself a sleeping dragon, maybe, though I’ve used the dragon motif before.

The monster pestilence? Why, man, of course.

Will I write it?

No. No point.

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“A Great, Raging Bloodbath”

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“…A great, raging bloodbath….”–that’s what a reader gloated about in a review they publicly posted. Those were the first words of their review.

I blinked, a crinkle furrowing my brow. My brain did a cross between a ? and an !, not so much in surprise at the fact of it, (I know graphically depicted sex and gore sell very well, thanks.), but because it was a gloat–an adamant one. And not just by one reader. Many readers of the same book and the same series of books expressed those exact sentiments…just not quite as concisely.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Back to that one review that brought me pause.

The reader/reviewer only gave the book four out of five stars. Why? Because of “unbelievable scenes” and “too convenient” plot answers. Plus, the reader admitted that the end was a “cheat.” In other words, the story was poorly written, but that didn’t matter much–one star subtracted–because of the visceral satisfaction the writing delivered to that reader.

Reading other reviews of this highly popular book, both the positive and the negative, I found similar sentiments among those ranking the book three stars and above. The positive reviews outweighed the negative by far, and all of the positive ones had one common thread: the one element that drove readers’ ecstasy was what that one reviewer succinctly summed up as one “great, raging bloodbath” of a book.

Checking the rest of the novels in the series, I discovered that, yes, that one element drove all the books in that series to crest the best sellers lists, and the reasons given were that the books all satisfied readers’ tastes for pain and misery vividly and viscerally portrayed, fulfilling their fascination with the depraved, their obsession, even craving, to witness hate mercilessly enacted in the worst kind of viciousness and violence, all very graphically rendered.

The genre was Science Fiction, a genre I like to read a lot, but now find myself either avoiding or, at least, exercising extreme caution and care when choosing a next novel for reading.  …Because the genre is filled, first, with Sword & Sorcery dressed up like SF, and, second, because it is now laden with what I call ‘gruel’–gore and cruelty–and, of course, right with it, perverse sexual depredation.

These are not the kind of books I read. They are not the kind of books I write, either. But what makes my brow furrow isn’t that my preferred reading, that my own writing and published novels, can’t draw that same level of popularity among readers. (I’m not writing for those kind of readers.) No. What bothers me is what this signifies about where the prime time tastes of the culture of which I am a part has taken itself. I wonder about my fellow humans and my fellow citizens, a large majority of whom embrace this kind of ‘entertainment’ as preferred.

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