WRITING A NOVEL? PART 4

WRITING A NOVEL? PART 4

Ready, Fire, Aim: Getting it wrong When I asked someone in a writing group what her story was about, she said she didn’t know. Said, “I simply start writing. Eventually, I find out the direction the story is taking.” Huh? I think that’s wrong. What about you? Do you know what your story’s about? Have you ever started a road trip, route planned, map ready, car fueled, only to find a detour along the way? What if we never make it to the destination? I’ve had some happy memories visiting unplanned places. But to the best of my knowledge, I’ve never started the car, heading down the road with absolutely no clue where I’m going. Okay, that one time might be blamed to too much . . . I think writing’s like that. That first sentence is pointing to the last, the finale. My characters take detours, often ending up in unplanned places, but they always seem headed toward that last sentence. If the story-line takes a detour and doesn’t get back to the map, it may require taking an editorial knife to it. Skip the editing, and you’re sure to get it wrong Informed that Beat leader Jack Kerouac never rewrote…

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WRITING A NOVEL? Part 3

WRITING A NOVEL? Part 3

If you read part one, aren’t intimidated by the sheer volume of competition, and still writing, congratulations. Telling stories is what writers do. Set aside dreams of fame and fortune. Those are byproducts for the lucky few. They’re lucky because they kept writing, improving, writing, improving, writing . . . Well, you get my drift. Part two was the starting point. “I never metaphor I didn’t like,” said Mardy Grothe. I agree. So, here’s mine for today. Writing is like swimming naked in a crowded pool. It takes madness or courage to strip naked like that. Yet, writers do that metaphorically. Some have the self-confidence to do it. If you don’t, the criticism will be embarrassing. Part three is about commitment and perseverance. How many times have I had some tell me they would love to write a book or story, but they don’t have the time. Balderdash. We make time for the important things. When I hear someone say that, I know they’re wannabe writers. It sounds glamorous to say, “I’m an author.” Hah, the dirty secret is . . .  Drumroll please, time commitment and sweaty work. Do I mean ignoring family and friends? Do you skip your…

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WRITING A NOVEL? PART 2

WRITING A NOVEL? PART 2

Part Two in the series. In part one, I wrote about the million books that will be published in 2018, seven-hundred and fifty thousand of them self-published. The bad news? Competition, going up against the sheer volume of new novels. The good news? We can get a slim toe-hold in the marketplace. There are three things we can do: have a good story, have a worthy cover, and make sure the interior supports your work. This part of the series is about step one in getting the story right. We’re told to follow the rules. After all, writers spend years getting degrees in the fine art of writing literature, learning the arcane terms describing what a novel must have. They should have the following eight components: concept, plot, story spine, character arc, protagonist fatal flaw, antagonist fatal flaw, setting, and voice. I’m not saying we should ignore the rules of writing, most are well tested. In addition to the eight mentioned above, we’re advised to know the end before we create a beginning. Each sentence should entice the reader to read the next, and so on. It still comes down to you writing your story. How do you want to…

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WRITING A NOVEL? DO THE MATH

WRITING A NOVEL? DO THE MATH

Part one in a series One million books will be published next year in the U.S. Seven hundred and fifty thousand will be self-published. The average length of a novel is estimated to be 60,000 and 70,000. I decided to thread the needle and use 65K, coming up with 48,750,000,000 words self-published each year. That’s 48 in billions. My 89,342 words face a daunting challenge. Who wants to be a writer? Justine Goldberg, writing in Publishing Perspectives, claims 200 million Americans say they want to publish a book. Wow. Talk about competition. I sometimes feel like Forrest Gump when he decided to stop running. Is it time to stop writing? No, it can’t be That can’t be. I can’t stop. Writing is hard-wired into my DNA. It’s nothing to do with competition. It’s not about how many words I’m up against. I’m not finished telling stories! Get it right Even if 750,000 books are published next year, most will be third-rate, at best, according to Joseph Epstein in The New York Times. In the Publishing Perspective article, Deb Werksman of Sourcebooks said, “Self-published books are uniformly badly published.” Tom Dever, TLC Graphics and Narrow Gate Books, added, “If a book…

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EXECUTIVE ORDER #17,342 ~ 0001 HOURS, JANUARY 1

  Stuart, Florida “Zup, Billy? “Did you see it, man? All those cool army trucks?” “No. Where?” “The fairgrounds. I’m on my bike. There must be a hundred. They’re still coming.” “No way.” “Yeah, way. You gotta get down here and see for yourself.”   ~ ~ ~ ~ ~   Cedar Rapids, Iowa   Sitting in his office, Dan was daydreaming—woolgathering his grandmother would have said. The smartphone on his desk began to vibrate. He kept the sound off, a courtesy to his cubical mates. Yawning, he picked up the phone and looked at the screen. There was a text from his girlfriend. SARAH: “Military trucks driving past.” DAN: “What? How many?” SARAH: “I quit counting. WTF?” DAN: “What kind?” SARAH: “Big ones what do I know.” DAN: “What direction?” SARAH: “Looking. Somebody got out of one. OMG, looking up at me. They are all turning in at—” DAN: “What?” Dan tried to call Sarah. Voicemail, he sighed. After several more tries, Dan disconnected. It doesn’t make any sense. Finally, he took a jacket off the hanger. Trying not to be concerned, Dan knew Sarah wasn’t given to speculation. Something about the text ending the way it did was…

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Ready, Fire and then Aim? Huh?

Is it even possible to break through the algorithm barrier and make your book discoverable? I’m still on a learning curve, but I wanted to share something you don’t want to do, fire without aiming. Ready? Writer’s write, it’s what we love doing. Editing is sweaty, the part most writers would like to skip. Fire? That’s rushing a book into print without a marketing plan. Aim? What happens if we are ready and fire before we aim? What’s wrong with that order? Book marketing strategy begins by asking your inner writer a simple question.  Why do you write?  What feeds your writing journey?  Are you looking for fame, awards, and accolades?  How about the money?  Are you looking for a way to finance an order for your new Lexus with your royalties? I remember a conversation. “I’m not making any money.  In business school, they teach about return on investment, ROI.  I do not see a return on my writing investment.  Why should I continue writing?” There is nothing wrong with earning money, don’t get me wrong.  I would love a large royalty check, and I have just the luxury car in mind.  But I ask myself why I write?.…

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A MAN AND A WRITER GO INTO A BAR

    A man walked into a bar. “Writing a novel is easy, right?”  he asked. “I have this story I want to write. Tell me where to start?” Okay, maybe it wasn’t a bar, but a table at a book fair. I gave him the advice I heard from someone once.  “The beginning is easy. What comes next is hard,” I said. “Huh,” he said. “First, you need to get a license. Do you have one?” “I had no idea,” he said. “Where do I get one.” “The Department of Creative Writing,” I told him. “Each state capital has one, or province if you live in Canada. You have to pass a test. The written part is the hardest,” I added. “I had no idea,” he said again, starting to sound repetitious. I’m sure he didn’t get my joke about the written part. OK, the conversation didn’t go exactly like that. Still, we’ve all had one close to that. We’ve been asked where we get our ideas. Is it hard? How long does it take to write a novel? I did have a woman tell me she would like to write but didn’t have an imagination. I would be…

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EXECUTIVE ORDER #17,342

EXECUTIVE ORDER #17,342 By Chuck Waldron   FAKE? IT COULD NEVER HAPPEN HERE, RIGHT?       Stuart, Florida “Zup, Billy? “Did you see all those cool army trucks?” “No. Where?” “At the fairgrounds. I’m on my bike. There must be a hundred. They’re still coming.” “No way.” “Way. You gotta get down here and see for yourself.”   ɸ ɸ ɸ ɸ ɸ   Cedar Rapids, Iowa Sitting in his office, Dan was daydreaming, woolgathering his grandmother would have said. The smartphone on his desk began to vibrate, keeping the sound off, a courtesy to his cubical mates. Yawning, he picked up the phone. There was a text notification. SARAH: “Military trucks driving past.” DAN: “What? How many?” SARAH: “I quit counting. WTF?” DAN: “What kind?” SARAH: Mostly big ones. DAN: “What direction?” SARAH: “Just looked. Somebody got out of one of the trucks. OMG, looking up at me. They are all turning in at …” DAN: “What?” Trying several times, Dan turned off his phone. It didn’t make any sense. Finally, he took a jacket off the hanger. Trying not to be concerned, Dan knew Sarah wasn’t given to speculation. Something about the text ending the way it…

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TOMB OF THE UNKNOWN WORD

With military-straight backs, guardians of words march back and forth at the tomb of the unknown word. You may have seen it, the tomb that is, not the unknown word. It may be hard to locate . In an area rarely visited, the tomb stands at the gate of a graveyard where words go to die. Words are like people. Words are born, live productive middle years (if they survive adolescence), and fade away in the last chapter of their life. On life support, words are sometimes rescued by crossword puzzles and other word games. In their dotage, however, they are often ridiculed by young words, eager to push old, weary words aside.  They do have their own struggle. Meh was born in 1992 and took almost twenty-five years to reach adulthood. I enjoy walking through the graveyard of words. The tombstones are monuments to expressions full of richness. One day I stopped at one that said, “here lies (or was it lays) Gobsmacked.” I took a deep breath, feeling amazed, astounded even. There were adscititious headstones. Some of the words on the gravestones were even sesquipedalian. I walked up and down rows feeling quite vagarious. Sad, too. You may…

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BUILD THAT WALL! BUILD THAT WALL! BUILD THAT WALL!

A loud chant, or a quiet poem? “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” In those few precious, well-chosen words Emma Lazarus captured the essence of what I like to think of as the ‘heart’ of my country. I’ve always thought it ironic, that the woman who wrote those words, a woman born into a large Sephardic-Ashkenazi Jewish family, would likely have been turned away trying to escape the horrors of Nazi Germany in the late 1930’s. At the same time a plaque with her words was being placed on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty, the Immigration Act of 1903 was being passed, sometimes called the Alien Enemies Act. It was intended to keep out Anarchists, revolutionaries, and radical labor unionists. The lamp beside the golden door that was a welcoming beacon was now used to show the way out. That applied to foreign-born troublemakers, and the act allowed the use of administrative procedures without that pesky due process detail. We can go all the way back to 1798 and thank the men…

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