Go Go Gato Publisher Revisions

I just completed the first round of editing/revising for Go Go Gato.  The publisher and editor notes were helpful, and I (hopefully) strengthened the narrative and the character development. I’m hoping I’ve written an engaging mystery with memorable characters, settings, and dialogue.  Put another way, my goal as a novelist was always incredibly simple and ridiculously ambitious: I strive to write the kind of books I enjoy reading.  Not to sound big-headed, but I enjoyed reading my book, which was kind of weird and sort of cool at the same time.  I actually stopped a time or two during the revision/reading process and thought, “That’s good writing. I wrote that.” I’m of the opinion that all writers have to be at least a tiny bit arrogant to believe others should spend time and money to read something they wrote, to believe what they have to say about the world, albeit a fictional one, is worthwhile.  That said, I believe my book is worthwhile.

Arrogance aside, I must confess to feeling a range of emotions, most of them brand-spanking new for me, an emotionally-suppressed introvert who tends to dwell on the negative. First, I’m feeling grateful my work will be out there in the world soon. Writing is a vocation for me, and now that I have the opportunity to do what I love, and, possibly, hopefully, earn a bit money doing it is gratifying.  Second, I feel inspired to keep writing (and reading).  Honestly, there are countless books available nowadays, and not long ago that fact would have depressed me, but now it invigorates me, motivates me to keep working, keep doing what I love to do.

Okay, I’ll stop now before I start to sound too much like the “sentimental geek” Ryan Adams sings about.

 

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Writers I Admire: Video with Ace Atkins

This is Ace Atkins talking about his latest Quinn Colson novel The Broken Places. Atkins, a former Pulitzer Prize-nominated journalist, is, in my humble opinion, the best crime novelist in America. In this video, I love what he has to say about American heroes, Mississippi, and, best of all, the craft of researching and writing. If you haven’t read any of the Colson books, you should. They go in this order: The Ranger, The Lost Ones, and The Broken Places. 

http://www.aceatkins.com

 

 

 

 

Advice for Writing a First Novel, Part 3

Congratulations!  You have a completed rough draft of your very first novel.  You deserve a bit of a celebration.  Grab a gluten-free muffin and a decaf.  Do a couple of deep knee bends, and put your butt back in the chair because now the real fun begins.  (Actually, I’m quite serious about the fun part; I really dig the revision process, but I am, admittedly, OCD.)

  • Read the entire manuscript and make notes only on plot issues. As a mystery reader and writer, I am obsessed with plot.  The narrative is what keeps a reader turning pages, so make sure your plot a) makes sense, b) creates tension and suspicion, c) moves at a moderately rapid pace, and d) provides a surprising, yet inevitable and satisfying ending. And the only way I know to achieve a, b, c, and d is to revise, revise, revise, revise, and then revise some more. A quick tip on revision reading: assign yourself no more than five pages per day.  Moving at this glacial speed, while tedious at times, will ultimately make your reading sessions more productive.  After you’ve identified the plot issues, make any and all necessary corrections.
  • Read the entire manuscript again and make notes only on tone.  Plot is important for mystery readers, but we also read for the voice.  Bottom line, we want an engaging, lively, and unique narrative voice, so take the time to make sure your first novel has one. Too, make sure the tone is consistent throughout. Characters, of course, can evolve (or devolve), but the tone should not. Think of it this way. I’ll bet if I  copied and pasted a passage from one of your favorite author’s books into this post, you’d be able to tell me right away who wrote it. And how would you be able to do that? Because the author created a distinct tone, a unique voice. After you’ve identified the tone issues, make any and all necessary corrections.
  • Read the entire manuscript again and correct any mechanical errors. Like I tell my students day in and day out: proofread for grammar, spelling, and punctuation.  An abundance of typos, misspelled words, and rambling sentences is just sloppy.
  • Have an astute reader read your manuscript.  This must be someone you trust to give you honest feedback.  Me, I give my manuscripts to my wife, who is a voracious reader and highly critical (in the good way). Quick story: I gave my wife my first Nick Suits novel, and she flatly told me the plot was all over the place, the voice was off-putting, and the dialogue was wooden.  This criticism, while difficult to hear, was, in a word, spot-on.  Even better: it was specific. My point is find someone who can do more than just say, “I enjoyed it,” or “It wasn’t my cup of tea.”
  • Put the manuscript in a drawer for a month…and then read it again. Honestly, I think all writers get too close to their work, so this break is very important. One other thing: during this break, start a new writing project. After all, writers write.quote-every-writer-is-a-frustrated-actor-who-recites-his-lines-in-the-hidden-auditorium-of-his-skull-rod-serling-167422

Advice for Writing a First Novel, Part 2

Now that you’ve not only read and applied the advice I outlined in Part 1, but you’ve also vowed to name your firstborn child after me for providing such sage-like wisdom, it’s time to do the hardest part of writing: apply ass to chair and write. But because I teach for a living, I will try to be more specific. Hope the bullet list below is helpful.

WHILE WRITING THE NOVEL

  • Stick to your writing routine…no matter what.  In Part 1, I suggested that every first-time novelist should create a writing schedule, a set time and place where and when he or she writes every single day. The trick to this is sticking with it…because there will be days when the words come easily and days when they don’t. Either way, keep writing. And don’t take days off to go fish. Or to the movies. This is a job, so treat it as such.
  • Eliminate distractions. By this I mean do not listen to music, watch TV, or have any electronic device in the room while you write. At most, have your laptop and your beverage of choice. (I’d advice against alcohol; too distracting). I also recommend getting rid of the Internet on the computer you write on; this will limit the temptation to check Facebook or Twitter.  If you prefer to write your stories out by pen, that’s cool, but make sure you store your manuscript in a safe place. For anyone out there who likes to work in a coffee shop or other public location, I suggest you try my solitary approach and see how much more efficiently you write.
  • Have your detailed plot summary and character bios handy. If you want, you can condense these documents down even further to make it easy to keep track of scenes and basic character information. Try putting the condensed character bios on index cards and taping them above your work station. Ditto the scene by scene plot outline. Again, this level of organization is incredibly helpful, and it pacifies my OCD.
  • When not writing, read! More specifically, you should read novels in the genre you write. This will provide you with an idea of what’s being published, and it will serve as inspiration. And remember: good writers borrow; great writers steal. My advice: dare to be great.
  • Carry a journal with you wherever you go.  Throughout your work day, you will undoubtedly think about your novel, so keep the journal handy to record any ideas. This might include images, descriptions, plot points, settings, etc.

Below are links to excellent websites for mystery writers. In them you will find information on writing, revising, editing, marketing, and promoting your novel.  Check them out.

http://www.poisonedpenpress.com

http://bobandjackswritingblog.com/jack-remick-fiction-nonfiction/the-weekend-novelist-writes-a-mystery/

http://margotkinberg.wordpress.com

http://mysterywritingismurder.blogspot.com

Advice for Writing a First Novel, Part 1

If time travel was possible, I would go back to 1999 and give my younger self some advice on how to go about the business of writing a novel. And, time permitting, I might tell him to never again dye his hair blonde and wear sport coats with shoulder pads. But that’s a post for another time.

Being that I’m older now and fanatical about organization, I’ve learned that all battles (and writing is a battle, albeit a fun one) are won or lost before they are ever fought.  With that in mind, this is the first in a series of three posts about penning a first novel. Learn from my many, many, many, many mistakes.

BEFORE WRITING A NOVEL

  • Make a detailed plot outlineI write a scene by scene summary of the plot on over-sized artist sketch paper, labeling each scene by number from beginning to end. Handwritten, these summaries are no more than five or six sentences in length.
  • Write detailed character bios. Include a physical description as well as some backstory on every character you plan to use in the novel.  Don’t forget to include full names, ages, and any memorable traits. For you mystery writers like me, don’t forget MMO (motive, means, opportunity).  Remember you want a lot of detail on these characters, especially the protagonists and antagonists.
  • Designate a specific time to write and a specific place…everyday! For me, this was in my tiny home office from 2pm to 4pm, no exceptions. I stripped the walls of said office of everything but my detailed plot outline and character bios, and I removed the Internet and all games from my laptop to really focus on writing. And of course: no cell phones, music, or TV. Humans aren’t cut out for multi-tasking, despite the rumors.
  • Write a contract for  yourself.  Perhaps this seems extreme, but I found it necessary to actually write down my goal, which was to complete a rough draft of my novel by a specific date. In addition, I wrote down vows, which were actions I swore I would take to reach my goal. Once I wrote these goals and vows down, I printed out several copies and posted them in my home office, my work office, my refrigerator, and half a dozen other places I would see them everyday. Call it an accountability thing.  (See the picture below for what this contract looked like.)

    Discipline trumps talen.

    Discipline trumps talent.

Writing Mystery is Murder

For anyone interested in reading or writing mystery, this blog is excellent. I especially love the most recent post entitled “Success and Writing–What Keeps Us Going.”  You can also find great articles on the ins and outs of writing, editing, and promoting your mystery books.  I recently began following Writing Mystery is Murder and haven’t come across a single post that wasn’t well-written and insightful.  Check out the link below.

http://mysterywritingismurder.blogspot.com/2013/11/success-and-writingwhat-keeps-us-going.html#more