On Becoming an Author – Part 3: Why Write?

Route66RoysA personal question if there ever was one. Let’s start with my writing career and hopefully that will cause you so examine your own motivation to write (or not!). I had written a short story the summer after seventh grade. It was about a girl and me driving cross country in my favorite car like my idols did on a TV program called Route 66. Even though the show had two guys, I had a girl for a partner and our adventure began as we cruised across the prairie of Nebraska and came upon a huge multi-car pileup.  We learned that we could be great partners who rescued people, had the ability to be up to our elbows in intestines, and were therefore destined for medical school. I remember I loved writing and rewriting the story until it had the emotional impact I wanted. I gave it to my mother to read. I remember she read it, stared at me for a while, and then reread the story.

“This is great,” she said. Coming from my English major mother, that was excellent praise indeed.

“You should try writing it again without the female character. You’re too young to be writing about girls.”

I had no interest in rewriting the story so it sat on a shelf in my room until I needed a short story for an English class the following year.  As English class usually bored me to tears, my grades in that area were terrible. The teacher called my home and accused me of plagiarizing someone else’s work. My mother confirmed that it was my original work that I had written the previous summer. With what I suspect was considerable regret, the teacher did give me an A. I was fascinated by math and science so writing didn’t become part of my life for many years. When my mother found my letters from college and Vietnam fascinating to the point she thought I should polish them and try to get them published. I never did.

Man TypingWhen I retired from a super techie career of mathematics and firmware engineering at age 61, I was looking for something to do in retirement. I decided to see if I could write a novel, the first of which relied heavily on personal memories. That accomplished, I wrote two more and realized that anytime I sat in front of a keyboard story lines would come rolling out of my head. For all you would be writers out there, let me caution you… the ideas are only about 3 percent of the effort needed to complete a novel. Maybe you’ve heard that a writer agonizes over every word. It’s true. Each of my novels goes through at least twenty revisions before I think it’s ready to send to an editor which of course means more revisions after she looks at it.

Why go through all this? I live for the challenge of refining and polishing a scene until it has the emotional impact I’m looking for. In one sentence; that’s why I write.

What motivated you to write? When did you know you wanted to write?

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February is for Lovers *Giveaway* Reminder

roses

*** ONLY ONE DAY LEFT TO ENTER ***

It is early February and everywhere we see hearts, flowers, candy, and valentine cards. This month raises our awareness of our boyfriends, girlfriends, spouses, and life partners. As we  all share the love, my gift to you is the opportunity to win copies of my books.  (details below)

I write novels about relationships, love and life in my series called Meant to Be. They are about finding that person who we are meant to be with for the rest of our lives.  Our soul mate, our partner in all things. If I may pick my own classification, my novels’ category is >contemporary fiction/family saga/love/relationships.

GooglePlusCover copy

Meant to Be book 1, The Life of Meyer is told from Meyer’s  point of view. The reader is invited to follow the events that shaped Meyer’s, his family’s, and his friends’ lives. As Meyer tells us, “…no one’s life is just a single strand of thread. On the contrary, each of our lives are a tapestry, woven intricately with the lives of those with whom we share history and destiny. In these pages you will find the strands that  make up  my tapestry, my history, my life – and the  journey that led me to my soul mate.”

Scissors and Paper HeartsMeant to Be  book 2, The Couples is about people who may belong together and how the world around them helps them, or sometimes defeats them in their search for a life partner. It follows the lives of couples, their friends, and their support systems, as they explore their relationships. The Couples continues to follow the lives of people we met in The Life of Meyer in addition to new friends and families, although the book may be read as a stand alone.

Meant to Be book 3, Finding Each Other is a heartfelt continuation of the family saga that began with a young Meyer and his journey to find his  one true love. Mystery and miracles, sacrifice and soul-searching, the ties that bind this group of people to each other are strong. The bond of family is not about blood – it is about taking care of each other. Mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, cousins,  neighbors and friends – they will all have a part to play in each other’s lives and the lives of total strangers. These incredible families endure and thrive.

heart candyI hope I have whet your appetite for some heartwarming romantic stories. To enter to win copies of my novels CLICK HERE –>  Rafflecopter Giveaway.

Do you have any special plans for Valentine’s day? Does love inspire you to write?

Good luck and Happy Valentine’s Day!

 

February is for Lovers *Giveaway*

roses

It is early February and everywhere we see hearts, flowers, candy, and valentine cards. This month raises our awareness of our boyfriends, girlfriends, spouses, and life partners. As we  all share the love, my gift to you is the opportunity to win copies of my books.  (details below)

I write novels about relationships, love and life in my series called Meant to Be. They are about finding that person who we are meant to be with for the rest of our lives.  Our soul mate, our partner in all things. If I may pick my own classification, my novels’ category is >contemporary fiction/family saga/love/relationships.

GooglePlusCover copy

Meant to Be book 1, The Life of Meyer is told from Meyer’s  point of view. The reader is invited to follow the events that shaped Meyer’s, his family’s, and his friends’ lives. As Meyer tells us, “…no one’s life is just a single strand of thread. On the contrary, each of our lives are a tapestry, woven intricately with the lives of those with whom we share history and destiny. In these pages you will find the strands that  make up  my tapestry, my history, my life – and the  journey that led me to my soul mate.”

Scissors and Paper HeartsMeant to Be  book 2, The Couples is about people who may belong together and how the world around them helps them, or sometimes defeats them in their search for a life partner. It follows the lives of couples, their friends, and their support systems, as they explore their relationships. The Couples continues to follow the lives of people we met in The Life of Meyer in addition to new friends and families, although the book may be read as a stand alone.

Meant to Be book 3, Finding Each Other is a heartfelt continuation of the family saga that began with a young Meyer and his journey to find his  one true love. Mystery and miracles, sacrifice and soul-searching, the ties that bind this group of people to each other are strong. The bond of family is not about blood – it is about taking care of each other. Mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, cousins,  neighbors and friends – they will all have a part to play in each other’s lives and the lives of total strangers. These incredible families endure and thrive.

 

heart candyI hope I have whet your appetite for some heartwarming romantic stories. To enter to win copies of my novels CLICK HERE –>  Rafflecopter Giveaway.

Do you have any special plans for Valentine’s day? Does love inspire you to write?

Good luck and Happy Valentine’s Day!

 

Becoming an Author – Part 2: Criticism: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly, and The Worthless

One of the not so happy aspects of being a writer is that everyone who has ever read a book has advice for you. Here are some of my thoughts on the types of advice I’ve received.

The Good

UpwardGood criticism comes from someone who is knowledgeable about writing and editing. It can be about one line, one chapter or an entire book. It consists of specific suggestions that improve my writing. That means a suggestion that mentions a specific problem and a solution that would correct that problem. I’ve written what I think are some excellent chapters for my books but when someone else reads them, they realize that they don’t help move my story along. When you’re busy in your role as a wordsmith, sometimes it is hard to see the forest for the trees. Good criticism can also come from someone who enjoys your genre, and is a potential reader of your efforts. This usually isn’t as specific but may help guide your story to your intended audience.

The Bad

TheBad_BrokenDownCarHow many times have we been told that someone has an idea for the world’s greatest piece of literature but just hasn’t gotten around to writing it?  Why do these people then give us their idea of sage advice on how to improve and what we should be writing? At least half of these people have trouble speaking in complete sentences let alone communicate a coherent thought. I smile and listen patiently to these well intentioned mental litterbugs. When I was in my career as a mathematician, I didn’t run into these types of people but now that I’m writing they seem to be coming out of the woodwork.

The Ugly

Mud Dancer Wearing a MaskAs soon as criticism becomes personal attacks, it’s time to excuse yourself and walk away. I sent a manuscript to an editor who must have been awfully angry with the world because he attacked everything short of my manhood in describing the problems with my manuscript. And I paid big money for his insults. I don’t mind negative critiques that I can learn from; but angry rants have no value.

The Worthless

When someone says my novel was cute, sweet, or nice, I find they didn’t like it but don’t want to tell me why.

~~~

TheGood_ThumbsUpThe best critique I have received from my readers:

“You write female characters better than most of the authors I have ever read.”

“It brought tears to my eyes when she lost her parents.”

“This is one book I will keep.”

Each of these indicates my success with my most important critics; my readers.

What do you find helpful in critiques? What has been your best and worst advice from readers?

Happy Writing!

On Becoming an Author – Part One: The Struggle

writing blog, authorBack when I was in college, if I had difficulty with a mathematical proof, I would ask an upper classman for help. Invariably their answer would be, “That’s trivial!” Of course it was trivial for them; they had already put in the time and struggle to learn the material.

Writing is like that. It is simple for me to write down a story.  I either define some characters or a struggle of some type which I populate with characters and story lines pop into my head and I write them down. If I’ve defined the characters carefully enough, the writing process will consist of the characters telling me the story. Once that’s done the hard work begins. I truly agonize over every word. I’ve had many occasions where I’ve re-edited a single sentence fifteen or twenty times. My fourth novel went through 15 iterations BEFORE I sent it to my editor. I’ve removed so many carefully crafted stories, (even entire chapters!) that didn’t precisely fit the story line, I’m attempted to turn out a book of short stories which would be filled with the chapters or subplots that didn’t make it into my novels!

story outline, writing, author

I’m also mystified by authors who tell me they write from outlines. I attended a seminar on writing a synopsis and the presenter said she writes the synopsis before she writes the novel and uses it as an outline. My writing process is completely serendipitous.writing checklist, story outline, author

My current project is a novel (book 5 of the “Meant to Be” series) which starts in 1834 in Cork, Ireland and ends a few years later in Independence, Missouri at the gateway to the Oregon Trail. That previous sentence was my “outline” as I began writing. I certainly didn’t know I would be writing a mostly humorous scene of a birth with a six year old girl helping her Mother deliver a baby! The Native American woman and French trapper who meet on a mountain top near present day Chelan, Washington, weren’t any part of my story until I had many other characters and their stories on paper. Their story entered my imagination when I needed a character to teach a five year old how to throw a spear! That five year old character inspired such a vivid story of a romance when he became an adult, I wrote and polished his romantic adventure even though it won’t be used until my seventh book which I plan to start six months from now.writing outline, story outline, author

So, is writing “trivial?” Thinking of a story is trivial.  Turning it into a finished product that someone else would like to read is not. It is always a struggle; an “every word on the page must be analyzed” type of struggle. I work ten hour days on average. I usually try to take one day a week away from writing but usually write at least a half day on my so-called day off. Since I’ve become an author, I’m astounded how many people have told me that they have an idea for a great book but haven’t gotten around to writing it. I have a feeling they don’t want to deal with the struggle part of becoming an author.

Like any other profession, it takes hard work to learn this craft and hard work to transform a story line into excellent work.

frustrated author, writing outline, storyline

Part Two of this blog series will be entitled, Criticism: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly, and the Utterly Worthless.

Part Three will be entitled, Why Write?

HAPPY NEW YEAR

New Year Clock

As I complete my third year as an author of fictional accounts of a family’s saga, I want to take a moment to thank some of the people who have helped me develop this career.

None of this would have been possible without the encouragement and hard work of my wife and partner, Carolynn.  She creates the covers, listens carefully to my ideas, does the marketing, and provides a sounding board for the stories within the main story that are so crucial to my novels.  She’s the one who finds writer’s conferences for me, scans websites for writing tools and books, and still finds time to make a nutritious and delicious dinner for us each evening and a proper beginning to the Sabbath each Friday night. As we approach our golden years, nothing elevates my spirit more than the knowledge that she is my life partner. Firecrackers In The Sky - Sunset

My editor, Lisa Martinez, provides thoughtful criticism and crucial feedback as she edits my work. Much more than providing grammatical corrections, Lisa has insight into my writing style that helps bring a sense of realism and continuity to the situations that my characters find themselves in.  Much of the readability of my novels is due to her input.

I also would like to thank all the authors who took the time to write about their craft. The knowledge gained from two books in particular, have provided a solid foundation for my writing efforts. Steven King’s book “On Writing,” recommended by my son David, and Sol Stein’s book “Stein on Writing.” King’s book taught me that my creative process wasn’t as unique as I had imagined.  Stein’s book, among many other concepts, demonstrated that the non-fiction I had written during my firmware programming days wasn’t that far from my present day fiction writing as I had imagined. Those books are worth far more than their cost. In addition, I have found “The Emotion Thesaurus” by Ackerman and Puglist a fine addition to my writing tool chest.

I wish you all a Happy, Healthy, and Prosperous New Year and Great Reading in 2013.

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Special Give-a-way

Avoid Last Minute Gift Panic

December 21 – 23, 2012

Did you just realize that since the world has not come to an end, there are gifts you need to buy?  Don’t panic.  Here is an easy solution – give the gift of reading.  You can gift all three eBooks for $6, or purchase them individually.  Not bad.

  1 The Life of Meyer, Book 1 in the Meant to Be Series is $0.99 from Kindle from December 21 -23.

2.  The CouplesBook 2 in the Meant to Be Series is FREE from Kindle December 21 – 23.

3.  Finding Each OtherBook 3 in the Meant to Be Series is $4.99 on Kindle.  

~~ Amazon Prime Members may borrow these books at no charge. ~~

Click to purchase Kindle eBooks

Your friends and family will thank you!!!

All of us from Village Drummer Fiction wish you a Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, Happy Holidays and a wonderful New Year.  We pray 2013 will be a happy, healthy, and prosperous year for all of us.