Thursday, May 26, 2016

Self Doubt

I suspect every writer suffers from self doubt on occasion. I had an episode the other day when I read a Writers Digest article, “Countdown to a Great Chapter 1,” by Gabriela Pereira. This well written article got right to the heart of things – “…you need to make the first chapter unputdownable.”

She goes on to say, “If your whole book is an A, then Chapter 1 must be an A-plus.”

That’s when the doubt crept in. I’m trying something different with my next book, but will the planned first chapter, a prologue set in the past, pull readers in? Or will they be disappointed that I couldn’t keep the promise. I'm still debating.

Gabriela provides some helpful guidelines:
Character: “Without a central character, you don’t have a story – you have a newsreel.” This made me reevaluate how I’d plan to introduce my main characters. The way I have it written now, will readers be confused as to whom they should be rooting for?

Voice: “Voice is your writing DNA.” I figured this out for my first book. That’s what makes each author different, and according to my readers, I did a few things right!

A World: My first readers commented that they needed more descriptions of not only my characters, but of the geographic location in which my story was set. I am constantly reminded to add more details, though I admit this is a challenge for me.

A Problem:  Whatever conflict you present in Chapter 1 doesn’t have to be the main conflict, but has to relate to it in some way. That’s the challenge for writers. Keeping all those threads going towards the climax, and then being able to tie them all up in a tidy knot at the end.

An Event: No matter what genre something has to happen in Chapter 1 to keep the reader turning pages.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Pixie Dust

My four year old grandson is into Peter Pan and Tinker Bell at the moment. After much thought and consideration, he told his father one morning that he didn’t think there was any pixie dust in the town where they live. I guess that could be up for debate.

Writer/agent Peter Maass talks about pixie dust as that magical substance that makes a story delightful. He poses the question: “What are you putting into your work in progress that will provide that kind of delight for your readers?” What will your pixie dust be?

A few of his pixie dust suggestions include: What foods delight you; what music transports you; what was your greatest adventure; a moment that tugged your heart. Put these emotions, tastes, smells into your writing. It is they that provide the magic.

Mr. Maass’s post has given me a lot to think about as I strive to make my next book even better.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Writing Journal

While writing my first book I used a lined pad next to my computer where I tracked my progress for each writing session. For the second Caitlyn Jamison mystery I’m doing something similar, but my notes are in a journal. I keep track of what I’ve accomplished in each writing session, as well as ideas for plot lines and character development. The book is easy to take along wherever I go, so if I see something or think of something, I can make a quick note.

In today’s writing session I rewrote Chapter One. The reason is because the characters and plot lines have developed to the point that how the characters were originally portrayed in Chapter One is no longer relevant. I had to rework them to fit into the expanded plot line and in that process I ended up splitting the chapter into two.

Today’s entry reads: “Rewrote Chapter One to better reflect story development. Split Chapter One into Steve’s thoughts; Chapter Two is Caitlyn driving north; Chapter Three is Tracy’s POV.” I then note the page number in which to begin my next session.

The journal also allows me to easily go back to revisit early notes and ideas – items that can easily be forgotten as the story line progresses.

I’m excited to have reached the halfway mark in the story! Back to writing.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Character Development

A lovely honorarium for my book talk to the Falls Run Del Webb book group

As a first time author I remain humbled by the reaction to my book, An Unexpected Death, its plot lines and characters.

I have a neighbor who has wagged her finger in my face more than once telling me she was so glad I “took on fracking.” I never meant to, really. You might call that an accidental plot line. As a writer, there are times in the process when the characters take over. They develop their personalities and sometimes that leads to plot line development.

The environmental issue came about because I needed to have Nick doing something. And then all these articles started to appear in the Economist and in the local Upstate NY newspapers about fracking. One thing leads to another, and I was able to share information about that process – never meaning to come down on one side or the other. But apparently my characters did.

I gave a book talk to a neighboring active adult community on Wednesday evening. A few women arrived early, so we were able to chat in an intimate setting. It was apparent these women were involved in the story and with the characters. They care (are concerned) about what happens to Caitlyn and Ethan. One woman asked, fearfully, about Abbie and Tim. Is she all right? The answer is yes. I was going to have the couple play a minor role in the next book, but hearing this woman’s concern about Abbie’s health, I may have them play a larger role.

I am frequently asked if I have always written.  The answer they don’t expect is no. Except for genealogy writing, this was my first attempt. I have not taken the traditional writing path.

From the questions asked on Wednesday, I will be reworking my Keynote presentation to include answers to those questions and concerns at my next scheduled talk at England Run Library on October 1.

Thank you, ladies.