BIG WORDS VS. LITTLE ONES

One of the beta-readers for my forthcoming novel, FIREWIND, took me to task (which is what I expect beta-readers to do) for using several “big” or “obscure” words when more common words would have sufficed.  He pointed out, correctly, that readers get annoyed if they have to constantly refer to a dictionary.  In truth, novelists are taught from the get-go to avoid complex words when simpler ones work.

PRESUMPTUOUS?

As I touted the Southeastern Writers Association annual workshop (June 16-20 on St. Simons Island, Georgia) to a fellow writer recently, he interrupted me by saying he thought it “presumptuous” to assume that a professional author could “teach” writing to someone.

That took me aback, but in way, I suppose he was correct.  I’ve listened to enough writers over the years to know that no single author has all the answers.  In the end, each of us who has become professionally published has learned the craft by “putting our butt in a chair and fingers on a keyboard”—to repeat what one of our 2017 workshop instructors, Debra Dixon, has often said.  Writing, for most of us, is a trade learned by doing.  And doing and doing.

I JUST KNEW SOMETHING BAD WAS GOING ON IN THERE

It’s kinda cool when someone remembers specific scenes from the books you’ve written . . . even if that someone is your brother.

My brother Rick and I were chatting a few weeks ago about novels and movies, and he brought up a particular scene he remembered from Plague.

“That building with no windows,” he said.  “I just knew something bad was going on in there, but I didn’t wanna know what.  I was sure it was gonna be something I didn’t wanna hear about.  But I kept reading.” 

WHY I DIDN’T ADDRESS “COUNTING THE DEAD” IN CASCADIA

earthquake-damage-1CASCADIA isn’t totally a novel.  By that I mean it’s not completely fiction.  The event the novel is set against, a massive earthquake and huge tsunami in the Pacific Northwest, is something that’s really going to happen.

In my previous novels, EYEWALL, SUPERCELL and BLIZZARD, I depicted major weather events that, while certainly possible, are not highly probable.  In other words, I stretched, maybe to the ripping point, the envelope of meteorological likelihood.  (In case you’re wondering, SUPERCELL was likely the least “stretchy” of my tales.)

THE FIRST ONE-STAR REVIEW OF CASCADIA

FullSizeRenderStormy, our five-year-old Shih Tzu, pads into my office and sits next to me where I’m working at my desk.

“Hey, Storms, what’s up?”

He doesn’t respond, just looks up at me with his big brown eyes the size of shooter marbles.  I notice he’s sporting a tie.

“What’s with the tie, dude?  Haven’t seen you in one of those before.”  I remember that Valentine’s Day is nearing.  “Lookin’ for love, maybe?”

“I’m neutered,” he growls.

“Right,” I say, and change the subject.  Quickly.  “So why the GQ look?”

PERPETUALLY AROUSED ZOMBIES?

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I got an email recently from the VP of my publishing company, Belle Bridge Books, detailing the marketing challenges faced by smaller presses, like Belle Bridge, and relatively unknown authors, like myself.

The VP, Deborah  Smith (a New York Times best-selling author, BTW), harbors a great deal of wisdom and a laugh-out-loud sense of humor.  Her comments are worth sharing.

The email from Deb was in response to a question of mine about ARCs, Advance Reader Copies.  ARCs are sent out prior to the publication of a book to get endorsement blurbs, the brief quotes you’ll often see on the front or back cover of a book proclaiming what a great read it is.

ME AND STEVE BERRY

SteveBerry-Media-200x300Steve Berry is an international, mega-best selling thriller novelist.  According to his website, he’s sold 19 million books in 51 countries. Me? Another 18.9 million copies and I’ll be right there with him.

I’ve met Steve several times, but let me make it clear, we aren’t necessarily BFF.  If we were to meet again, he might recognize me, but might or might not remember my name.

He probably doesn’t realize it, but he’s been an “encourager” of mine, always, whenever we met, urging me to keep writing and reminding me–as he has many others, I’m sure–that “if I [meaning himself] can do it, you can do it.”

GRABBING THE READER

imagesI preach it all the time in my critique group, so I don’t know why I have such a struggle doing it myself: grabbing the reader in the opening few paragraphs of my book; embedding him or her immediately in the drama.

Eventually, I always get things sorted out, but I usually have to get “slapped upside the head” before I do.

Maybe it’s because, as a friend who had an artistic bent once told me, “Buzz, your thinking is too linear.”

SLICING AND DICING MY “BABIES”  

 

imagesRewriting.  It’s not my favorite part of the writing process, but it is integral to it.  Movies often depict authors as being finished with their work when they type THE END.  Time to celebrate, right?  Nope.  In the real world of writing, that’s probably only half way home.  Any experienced scribe will tell you writing is rewriting.  And rewriting.  And rewriting.

Different writers approach the task in different ways.  I like to toss my first drafts out to a cadre of three or four trusted readers and let them have a go at it.  They’re good at what they do because they tell me what needs to be fixed, not how great the story is.

How I Almost Blew It With BLIZZARD

images-1You’d think after three novels I’d know the “rules.”  (Actually, as NYT best-selling author Steve Berry likes to say about his ten rules of writing, the number one rule is “There are no rules.”)  So let’s just call them guidelines.

I actually do know the guidelines, but I managed to ignore one of the most important as I pounded out the first draft of Blizzard, my work-in-progress.

Something kept bothering me about my opening chapter.  I just couldn’t pin down what it was.  There were two scenes in the chapter, and I kept switching them back and forth.  Alas, neither one seemed like the kind that would “grab the reader by the throat and drag him or her over the threshold into the drama.”  (Paraphrased from author Elizabeth Sinclair.)