Writing a Book

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How did I ever get started writing a book? What made me think I could do it? Now that I’ve done it several times, how do I feel about it?

I honestly don’t know why I wrote a book. I love writing, but mostly my writing involved short stories that evolved from sending emails to friends telling them about  funny things that happened to me on outings like trout fishing or mushroom picking.

I suppose the stories got longer and longer until one day I had to tell the story of a woman who lived in a remote cabin with a man who turned out to be mentally unstable. He was like the little girl with the curl, right in the middle of her forehead — remember that poem?) Like her, “when he was good, he was very, very good, but when he was bad, he was horrid.”

This woman and her captor had a story to tell, so I thought, Why not? I could tell this story.

That was when my education began, about how to write a novel. It was so much more complicated than just dashing off a magazine article or a blog post. So much  to learn.

I was lucky. I joined the local writers group, found a good friend and author, Darlene Jones, who became my best ever writing buddy and critiquer, and another good writer friend, Kathleen Price, who is a great substantive editor and understands how to prepare a novel for the paperback layout.

With the help of these two good writer-friends, and a supportive husband who has all the commercial fishing background to fill in the gaps in the setting of my coastal story and check it for accuracy, I was able to write The Wind Weeps.

When I got to the end of the book, I had a dilemma. I couldn’t decide which of the eight possible endings to use. Each one left some readers unhappy. No way could I please everyone.

There was only one solution. Write the ending that I liked, and then write a sequel. In a few weeks that  sequel should be available to readers. I’m so glad because it has been a long, hard journey to get it there. Between The Wind Weeps and its sequel, I wrote two other novels (Orion’s Gift and Julia’s Violinist). But get ready, Reckoning Tide is coming your way soon.

You can find my books on amazon.com and on smashwords.com

Please leave a comment and tell us how you got started in writing.

Rewriting. What to do and when to stop.

I love rewriting better than writing the first draft of my novels.

  • First I’m much more relaxed because I know the hard work of getting the storyline on “paper” is done.
  • As I rewrite I find mistakes and have a feeling of satisfaction when I fix them.
  • I find little treasures like a paragraph that I can rewrite using dialogue rather than boring narrative, and I’m pleased with myself for figuring that out.
  • I can’t believe I fell for the use of other words as dialogue tags instead of “said” and “asked” and I fix those, reaffirming that I can make the dialogue do the job of expressing the emotion rather than relying on the dialogue tag to provide it. Fancy words like “inquired” and “replied” just slow down the action. “Said” and “asked” are more like punctuation—necessary, but meant to be glossed over. This is also the place where I look for “ing” words and get rid of them if possible. (For example: “I’ll be right there,” she said, putting down the phone.) If she was putting down the phone when she was speaking into it, I wonder if the other party even heard her.
  • I look for repeated words and try to avoid using the same words or expressions in one paragraph. Repetition becomes obvious immediately when reading your work out loud.
  • Speaking of repetition, character names are often overused, especially in dialogue. Have you ever noticed that when you’re talking to someone, you rarely speak their name? The other person knows you’re talking to them and you and that person both know his or her name. Why would you keep on saying it? So for natural conversation, use the other person’s name sparingly. I often have to take out names in dialogue, and in narrative sections I replace them when possible with he or she.
  • In dialogue, the sentences should be fairly short. I need to check for long sentences that give a lot of information. People just don’t talk that way. Often they use only one or two words or phrases. Besides, short, snappy dialogue heightens the tension and that is what every author is striving for.
  • In the rewrite, I can also add little tidbits of description of people or places, but I try to be careful to do it in small doses. Long descriptions have a huge “yawn” factor.
  • When someone speaks, they may have some physical or emotional reaction that should be added, usually before the quotation. This is a good time to add that information.
  • As I reread my first draft, it’s important that I remember which point of view I’m in. I’ve made some awful POV mistakes that my critiquing buddy or I have found. For example, if I’m telling the scene in Andrea’s POV, I can’t write a thought that is happening in Jim’s head. Andrea has no way of knowing what he is thinking. I’m so thankful to have the opportunity to fix POV problems before publication and save myself some embarrassment.
  • Now that I’ve mentioned my critiquing buddy, I have to say that my writing efforts are made so much easier because of her. I try to do the same for her and it makes us a great team. If you don’t have a writing buddy to exchange files with and help each other out, it’s very much worth your while to try to find someone who is willing to work with you. I find my buddy’s help invaluable! Oops! She’ll say not to use exclamation marks unless it’s for a one- or two-word expression, but in this case, I do want to stress that her help is invaluable!

 Most authors are perfectionists and they tend to rewrite over and over. I’ve heard it said that an author can tell that they’re finished rewriting when they end up with what they originally wrote in the first rewrite. I wouldn’t go quite that far, but sometimes you wonder ….

Writing Groups

My guest today is Darlene Jones, author of five “must read” books. Darlene is an excellent critic and editor for those who need advice in the structure of their novels. Please feel free to contact her through her web page which is listed at the bottom of the page.

For the writers out there who don’t belong to a writing group, Darlene has offered to share her thoughts to help you decide whether you should join one. Each group is slightly different with its own strengths and weaknesses, but after reading this, you may have a better idea of what to look for in a writing group.

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Why join a writing group?

Chances are, if you’re a newcomer to writing, you won’t be admitted to a group of experienced writers. They are looking for colleagues who are equally experienced and talented to help them hone their writing skills.

Your only option then, is to join a group of fellow beginners. They may know a little more than you. Then again they may not. So what’s the benefit?

I joined one such group early in my writing career. We were all eager to write that blockbuster novel. With initial guidance from the leader of another group that had been operating for some time, we set the parameters of our monthly meetings.

  • Each member would read two to three pages of their work in progress. The others would take notes and then, one at a time, make their comments. Once they had spoken, they were to remain silent.
  • The one who read was also held to a vow of silence. They were not expected to comment or try to defend what they had written. They were to take note of the comments and accept or reject as they chose. The final decision on their writing was theirs alone.

How could a bunch of amateurs be of any help in the above described scenario? Amazingly we all learned a tremendous amount. After all, we were avid lifelong readers. We knew what we liked, what flowed smoothly, what jarred. A couple of members were conversant with proper grammar and punctuation and willingly helped with that aspect of our writing. A bonus with this particular group was that every member genuinely wanted to help the others and that desire shone through as honest comments were made with no malice.

With the second group I joined, each member emailed their piece of writing ahead of time so that we could print it out, read it, and make notes. At the meeting the author read his or her piece before we critiqued. Listening often afforded a new perspective on the piece and we added more notes. Then we each commented verbally and passed our copies to the author.

The method worked well, but this group wasn’t quite so pleasant. Some members asked pertinent and insightful questions and offered constructive criticism. A couple of members were spiteful, making harsh comments. One, who was far from being a professional writer, told me I wasn’t learning. That was my last evening with that group.

I’ve moved on to work with a writing partner, but would happily join another critiquing group. Why? A group forces you to write to have something ready for the meeting, and to polish what you have written to present your best possible work. A group offers insights that you don’t see yourself as you are too close to the work.

And, most importantly, a group offers encouragement and camaraderie in this quest for the blockbuster that will hopefully come one day.

*****

 If you want a treat, check out these books by Darlene Jones:

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Find out more about Darlene at http://www.emandyves.com

Why not tell us about your experiences with a writing group. Was it a good thing? Tell us how? Does your group do anything special you’d like to share? Please leave a comment and tell us.