Words are Weird

Words are weird. Take the word periwinkle. It can mean at least four different things: 1) the color lavender-blue, 2) a flower that is lavender-blue, 3) a spiral-shelled mollusk, AND 4) to pry or drag something out from somewhere. So… you could periwinkle a periwinkle in a field of periwinkle-colored periwinkles.

And you thought writing was easy. I suggest you never write a story about periwinkles.

Now how about checking out my newest book. It’s number 2 in the Johns Falls clean small-town romance series and it’s titled A Very Black Cat because, as many of you know, one of the main characters is a small, black cat that may — or may not — be a familiar, a witch’s cat. Which do you think? (Hint — it’s a nice small-town romance but that’s no guarantee that strange things don’t happen in Johns Falls.)

In fact, wait for my next series of Johns Falls romances. I will call it a different series about the same town simply because these future books will be different. Not quite so lighthearted though still clean and wholesome because that’s what I write the most.

And Thursday, April 12, 2018 I’ll be a guest on Jo Huddleston’s blog so stop by and say ‘hi.’ I plan on dropping by myself every so often to see how things are going and answer any questions — and maybe ask a few myself.

http://www.johuddleston.com/p/blog-page_2.html

What are the best ways to improve writing skills as a beginner?

I’m sure you’ll get this answer from all kinds of writers, but it bears repeating:

  1. Read, read, read. But zero in on the kinds of things you want to write because, after a while, you’ll start seeing patterns that will hold true for that kind of writing. Pay attention, even start jotting down what you think you see and then start taking everything apart and figuring out how it was done.
  2. Write, write, write, and while you are writing, refer to those notes you jotted down to make sure you are doing the things those other writers did that was so appropriate for that kind of writing that it not only got published, but also was read (which is even more important in today’s world of self-publishing where tons of things are published but few are actually read).
  3. If you wish to hone your skills, read a book about the craft of writing (I wrote such a book but it’s just one of many that will do the job) or take a class. Or several classes. And find out what you have been doing right and what you might consider changing.
  4. Go back and read some more and write some more.
  5. Repeat steps 1 through 4 for as long as you are a writer because you’ll never stop learning.

Genre Fiction

I’ve been blogging about the craft of writing fiction for some time now.  I’ve been passing on tips learned from other writers and a few things I figured out on my own.  But I find that now when I sit down to write a post, the ideas no longer crowd each other in their need to be heard and read.  So I’ve decided to widen the scope of my blogs.  But how?  What else to say?

I write genre fiction.  Several genres, actually and often all are in the same book. Romance.  Sci-fi.  Small Town.  Paranormal.  Sweet.  Eco-fiction.  And probably a few more I haven’t heard of.  And I’ve learned that not everyone agrees on what belongs in which genre.  There are some generalities, but once you get beyond those general descriptions, genre fiction seems to be all over the place.

So I’m going to jump in head first and see what happens.  Okay, honesty compels me to admit that anything I jump into will more likely involve a belly-flop than a swan dive.  But you get the idea.

Any thoughts?  What genres do you read?  Which do you write?  Why?  Do you like cross-genre fiction?  What would you like to see done differently in the world of genre fiction?  Which genres would you like to see more of?  Less of?  Let me know and maybe we’ll get something going.

As a former first grade teacher, I know that sometimes when there’s  mud puddle in your path that calls out to you with a mesmerizing siren song, the best thing to do is hold your nose and jump in.  And enjoy the mud.

(Note:  It took me years to develop a tolerance for leeches, and guess where they live?  In the mud.  But that’s another story.)

Why Loglines?

There’s a spot on the wall above my computer where the paint has worn off.  Because there have been so many loglines stuck there over the years.  I pulled the paper with the logline off the wall when the manuscript was finished and often some of the paint came off too.

For those of you who don’t know what loglines are, they are those one-sentence descriptions of your story that are used to pitch your book or that become the beginning of the blurb on the back cover.

But there’s another reason for writing down a logline.  A reason that has to do with the process of writing.  You seldom see this reason listed but it should be.

Because …  a one-sentence description of your story taped to the wall above your computer reminds you what you’re supposed to be writing.  It keeps you from getting lost in the details.  It tells you how to slant a scene if you don’t quite know how to write it because it keeps you focused on the bare essentials.  In short, it tells you where you’re going and how to get there.

Most importantly to you as a writer, the process of writing the logline makes sure that you know what you’re writing.  Because if you don’t know … and know well enough to put it into one sentence … no one else will either.  And if your readers don’t know what you’re saying, they won’t bother finishing your book.

Maybe one of these days I’ll paint that wall.  Or maybe not.  I’m kind of fond of that bare plaster.  It reminds me that I’m doing my job.

TONE

There’s been a discussion lately among some writers I know about ‘tone.’  Specifically, the tone required by confession stories.  The discussion didn’t progress very far before I felt completely overwhelmed.  Because when I write, I just write.  I think about how to best tell the story and how best to convey that to the reader.  And that’s about it.  Maybe I’ve been lucky that I hit it enough of the time that people read what I wrote.

But tone is important, I know that.  Furthermore, I also know that it differs from one genre to another.  Read a couple high fantasy stories and you’ll know what I’m talking about.  If you didn’t understand the tone of high fantasy, you might think you were reading something by one of Chaucer’s contemporaries.  Which is completely different from the tone of a hard-boiled private eye novel.  Or a Regency romance.  Or a confession story.

So what is tone?

After the discussion, I did some thinking and realized that I’ve always known subconsciously what it was.  It’s what’s between the words of every well-written story.  It’s not actual description but it lets the reader know what the setting and characters are like.  It’s not dialogue but it can and often does dictate how the characters speak.  It doesn’t tell the story, but it’s in every scene, often unnoticed, complementing and explaining and interpreting but not interfering. with the actual story-telling

Its importance cannot be overstated.  Without it, readers will turn away in droves because, as much as the story… sometimes even more… tone is what readers want.  Why they really read.  What they are looking for.  Because it’s the feeling they will take with them after the story is finished.

Let me give an example.  Is a ghost story best told during a Sunday picnic in the middle of the day in the midst of a few hundred laughing guests… or around a campfire in a remote forest with no moon and dark clouds scudding across the sky tossing treetops awry?  If you choose that night-time setting and put it together with the creepy, softly scary voice in which campfire tales are best told, you have tone.  It’s the thing listeners will remember long after they’ve forgotten the story itself.

So that’s what tone really is.  Not the story.  Not the characters.  Not the description.  Not the dialogue.  It’s the way the writer puts all of those things together in way that makes the reader feel the story.  And isn’t that what we as writers hope will happen every time we write?

On to the next American romance novel with a gothic feel

On to my next novel and back to what I often enjoy, writing a story with a touch of the supernatural.  This time it’s something in a lake that’s been there for a long, long time.  Since before white people came to the north woods.  So the question will be, are the spirits friendly or not?  I’m leaning towards friendly but the thrust of the book requires that the spirits not be too nice.  So I’m trying to decide exactly what the spirits will be like.  Any suggestions?

WORKING WRITER TIP… THE EASY WAY TO ORGANIZE

Autumn has arrived in the north country.  It’s not the peak of the colors, that’ll come in three weeks or so.  But there’s enough color in the landscape to know summer is ending.  And the nights are sometimes downright cold, even freezing. 

You’d think all this praise for autumn would mean it’s my favorite season.  Nope.  Not true.  That’s reserved for winter.  Yes, winter, that white time of year when the temperature can and does drop below zero by thirty, even forty degrees.  Even more surprising, it’s my favorite season in spite of the fact that I’m allergic to cold.  (Yes, really, I break out in hives.)

Why so much praise for autumn, and why is my favorite season the only one in which I spend much of my time inside? It’s my favorite because I spend so much time inside.  Because life slows down then.  Because there are fewer social obligations. 

It’s my favorite because I can write in the winter.  And write.  And write.  And write some more.

So the question becomes… what to write during all those wonderful, quiet winter hours?  That’s where autumn comes in.  Because it’s the time of year when all things come to fruition, thus clearing the way for whatever comes next. 

Every autumn I take stock of the accomplishments of the past year and plan ahead to the next one.  It’s when I make course corrections or change course entirely.  When I decide what about my writing is working and what isn’t.  So that when winter and all those hours of useful silence arrive, I’ll be ready.

This is something every writer should do once a year.  Not necessarily in the autumn but sometime.  Most people instinctively know this.  The problem is, many simply don’t do it.

Do it.  Make the time.  Because it’s the easiest way I know to organize your mind, your work and your writing.  Once a year go wherever you go or do whatever you do when you need to think.   Don’t bring any pieces of paper, or lists because there should be nothing between you and your thoughts.  You’ll be amazed how things will fall into place and your career path will become clear. 

Then put the seat of your pants on the seat of your chair and see how much you can achieve.