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F is for Finish What You Start

The other day I mentioned how I tend to start a post, delete it, then start over. And eventually, end up with nothing getting posted. So, while looking for inspiration for the next blog post, I scrolled through the posts I’d written to see what drafts I’d started and not finished – just to see if anything was there that I could use.  And guess what I found…F is for Finish What You Start.

Seems like a while back, a long while, that I’d started a series on writing short stories from A-Z and had made it to F.  So, since it’s a good series and I have most of it planned, I’m going to continue with it.  I’ll post links to A-E below so you can catch up.

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“Finish the work, otherwise an unfinished work will finish you.”
― Amit Kalantri

One of the saddest things is an unfinished story. And believe me, I know. I have quite a few of them laying around waiting on me to get back to them. Some are short stories, some are the beginnings of a novel, and some are just bits of ideas or a scene that came to me.  I have them on pieces of paper in a drawer, on the puter in an “idea” file, and even named and in a “novel” file. And one day, I do plan to get back to them.

How you ever noticed though, how you will be writing along on a project and all of a sudden, the idea for another story pops up? For me, this happens about the time I get to the middle of a project and am not sure exactly what happens next. I was told to expect this and when it happens, to just write it down and save it for later.  Then, every so often, go back through them to see what strikes you, demands to be written.

Here’s the thing. If you don’t finish the started project, you are just spinning your wheels and wasting time. And cheating your readers.

I believe stories are given to us to be told. Someone out there needs our story. They need to laugh, or cry, or escape, or just be entertained. And that is really what we as storytellers do.  We entertain and allow our readers to escape into a different world through our stories. We give them a chance to share emotions with our characters. When the bad guy in our story gets what he deserves, our readers cheer. When good triumphs over evil, our readers triumph too.

G. Chesterton said, “Fairy tells do not tell children the dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children the dragons can be killed.”

While I don’t approve of killing dragons, I like this sentiment of this quote. Stories inspire, teach, entertain, soothe, comfort, and so many other things. Don’t cheat your readers by not finishing your stories.

Here’s the links to the rest of the series.

A is for Antagonists & Adverbs

B is for Brainstorming & Beats

C is for Character

D is for Dialogue & Details

E is for Editing

Now, go out and finish something.:-)

 
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Posted by on June 9, 2016 in Blogging A-Z

 

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Backstory & Info Dumps

Doesn't have anything to do with the post, I just love this shelf.

Doesn’t have anything to do with the post, I just love this shelf.

One of the things I see most often as an editor is the story started with backstory. You know, all the stuff about the character and why he is the way he is and how when he was ten this thing happened or that other thing. We get why he is still single or divorced. Or why he’s angry at his boss. The author rambles on for pages and pages telling the reader things that don’t matter to the story at hand, that the reader doesn’t need to know at the beginning. Things that tend to bore the reader so that they don’t finish the first page much less the first chapter.

Then there is the info dump. Paragraphs or pages of information about the world the character is in. Which usually involves some backstory as to who is in charge and how they got there. Again, stuff that the reader doesn’t really need to know at the beginning.

What is needed at the beginning of any story is something that will hook the reader, drag him into the story, and keep him there even when he really needs to be doing something else. This usually takes the form of action or suspense. It’s something that shakes up the main character, starts the ball rolling on the adventure, so to speak.

Yet, many times, I see people standing around talking about things that don’t matter, or the author will describe the setting, or even start with something that doesn’t move the story forward.

And it’s not always a newbie problem. I did the same thing not long ago. In fact, I sent an entry in for a contest and  had to delete about a page and a half of “stuff” that didn’t move the story forward. It was good writing, but just not needed at that start. It didn’t hook the reader so had to go.

Here’s the thing. The author needs to know all that backstory and info. And some of it is important to the story. But, it needs to be woven in. A bit here, a bit there. A sentence over here, and another over there. Same thing with info dumps. The reader may need to know the information sooner or later but she doesn’t need it all in one big glob. It has to be woven in also.

Writing is hard work. Someone once said something to the effect of “easy reading is damned hard writing” and that is so true. I tried to find who said it but came up with several different answers.  But, whoever said it, knew what he was talking about. We don’t become masters of our craft overnight. I like to compare it to  a master wood carver. The master didn’t become a master overnight. He studied his craft, practiced, made mistakes, started over, practiced some more. It took years upon years to become a master.

Writing is the same. So, I encourage you to grab some of your favorite books and check out the beginning, see how the author hooks you. Then look at your own writing. See if you can do it better.

 
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Posted by on June 8, 2016 in Writing

 

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Write, Delete, Repeat

Not long ago, well, a while back, I said I planned on blogging on a regular basis.  And honestly, I intended to.  It’s just sometimes I have a hard time coming up with something I think y’all would be interested in reading.  I’ll start a post, get about a paragraph written, read it, and then delete it.  After doing this about three times, I figure I might as well give up. So I do and nothing gets posted.

This is how it feels most blogging days.

This is how it feels most blogging days.

Anyone else have this problem?

I’m not sure what the answer is either. And it’s hard when no one comments on posts. I totally understand though, I read several blogs and seldom leave a comment.  I hearby pledge to do better about leaving comments.

It’s the same thing with book reviews. I read quite a bit but seldom leave a review.  Which lead me to this…  If you have read Dragons of Jade, I’d really appreciate it if you could click over to Amazon and leave a review.  I’m trying to do some different kind of advertising and some places require a certain amount of reviews.

Also, need a good book to read? Then check out my book blog, Under the Troll’s Bridge. You never know what you’ll find there.

 

 

 
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Posted by on June 7, 2016 in Misc.

 

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Sorry, Barnes & Noble

nope

The other day I received an email from one of the writer’s groups I’m a member of with info about a young adult book event at a nearby Barnes & Noble.  Seems they are having a big event at their store geared toward young adult readers and want authors to come in, sign, and sell their books.  Cool, I have a young adult novel…with dragons. Everyone likes dragons.

So, I call the guy, leave a message, and wait for him to return my call. Which he did yesterday.  After we got over the “No, it’s not self-published.” hurdle and the “No, you can’t order it from the publisher and return unsold copies.” hurdle, things were looking up.  I have copies here which I could bring.  They’d have a place for me to sit, sign books, and I wouldn’t even have to worry about the money because the books would be paid for upfront and B&N would send me a check.  For 40%.

He was in the car, but took my book info and promised he’d get back with me real soon so we could start the paperwork and get everything in place.  Awesome! I was going to be a featured author at a B&N event.

But then I got to thinking…40%??? Really?  They were going to get 60% just for setting up a table, doing a bit of advertising, and what???  I got my calculator out and did some figuring…..

Since I’ve already paid the printing costs on my books, at 40%, I’d be getting about $1 a book.  And B&N would be getting almost $10.  Then I figured in a tank of gas, the two hour drive time, plus the two hours there, and I’m really in the hole. I’d have to sell a LOT of books to even come close to breaking even.

I emailed the guy, told him I wouldn’t be taking part, and why. I haven’t heard back yet and I really don’t expect to.  But, my time and writing are worth more than that.  I’m kind of sad because I’d really love to take part in a “big” event such as this, get my book out to new readers. But, I have to realize the true cost.

Sigh…I need chocolate.

 

** Just a short update…  He never called back. Or emailed. Guess he didn’t like my reasoning.:-)

 
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Posted by on May 20, 2016 in Writing

 

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Tick, tick, tick…

It’s funny what you get used to. There was a time when I needed silence to write. And I mean no TV, no radio, no one talking to me. It was hard to find that kind of silence in a house with three kids so I learned to write amid the chaos. TV on, kids playing, and so forth. It got to the point they could come ask me something and I’d answer then about 15 minutes latest I’d have to go find them and see what they asked and what I answered ’cause I had no clue.

As they got older, there isn’t as much chaos but there is still noise and distractions. Especially with two Dobermans who need attention along with a crazy cat. Beth and I sometimes go to the library to write to get away from it all… and it’s really nice. Quiet, but not too quiet. And the brain seems to know it is writing time.

Tonight though, I’m sitting at the kitchen table of the “host” of our critique group. We decided to write tonight. Thing is… it’s SOOOO quiet.  I can hear the clock ticking that’s about 10 feet away. Across the room, someone is turning pages. And of course, there is the clicking of keys on the keyboard of those typing.

I’m not really feeling inspired tonight. Too much distraction I think.  But, I did get a blog out of it so you never can tell. I left the magic fedora at home so that could be part of the problem.

So, what about you? Do you need quiet or can you write in the noise? Do you have a special writing hat or totem? Do tell… enquiring minds want to know.:-)

 
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Posted by on May 4, 2016 in Misc.

 

Once upon a time…

Do you remember when those words stirred your soul, caused you to shiver with excitement?

Beginnings are so important to a story. They introduce the main character, set the scene, and give us a problem. They make us want to read the next line, and the next, and the next. That’s a lot of work for a sentence or two.

I’m working on several projects now and just started another last night.  One, I had to cut off almost a page and a half because I started in the wrong place. One beginning I have to tweak a bit, my character needs better identifying. The one I started last night, I think I did good on.

It’s going to be a mid-grade chapter book, mystery series.I was inspired by a fedora my daughter bought me. It’s magic.:-)  The series is the “Magic Fedora” series and the first book is “The Will That Wasn’t” – I just love that title. We have some other cool titles picked out too.

Stay tuned. I’ll share some here and there.Words-Have-Power

 
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Posted by on May 2, 2016 in Misc.

 

Throwing Rocks

DSCF0001“The writer’s job is to get the main character up a tree, and then once they are up there, throw rocks at them.”
—Vladimir Nabokov

I read this quote a long time agon and had sorta forgotten it. My editor, (in a roundabout way) reminded me of it. But have you ever noticed this? A great example of this is the movie Dante’s Peak. Especially the last half.

The volcano is about to erupt, ash is falling like snow in a blizzard and the mayor’s kids have taken the truck and gone up the mountain to bring stubborn grandma to safety. Personally, I was with mom, if grandma doesn’t want to come down…then stay up there and get lavafied. But now, mom and our manly hero Harry, “have” to go up the mountain also. We see them headed up the mountain ash falling so thick they can hardly see.

A helicopter crashes right in front of them; rock slides threaten to knock them off the road. Trees are falling left and right. They barely make it through a rock and tree slide that blocks the road behind them. Grandma is upset, mom is upset, and the road behind them is blocked. What will they do now?

Moments later, lava starts pouring down the mountain and into the back of her house. They run out the front door, lava flows around the trucks so they run to the boat that just happens to be there. Motoring down the lake to safety, they notice the dead fish. Seems the lake has turned to acid and has started to eat the metal boat. Talk about throwing a rock. Here they are, in the middle of a lake of acid, surrounded by dead fish…in a leaking boat. What could be worse than this?

Again, the writer throws another rock. The propeller on the boat motor has been eaten away and no longer is useful. And to make matters worse, the water in the boat is rising fast. Grandma saves the day by jumping into the lake and towing the boat to safety. As they run down the dock to land, it crumbles beneath their feet but they do make it to shore. Naturally, Grandma dies before they reach the ranger station and another truck. But at least she’s redeemed herself.

As our characters drive cross country, things seem to have swung their way. Until the lava blocks their path, front and back. Driving through is the only way to go. As they head into the lava, the truck tires begin to burn and then, the writer throws another rock. They get stuck. Lava is heading toward them, tires are on fire and they are stuck. Heroic effort gets them out and going again when what do they see, Grandma’s dog on a boulder. They can’t leave him…

Eventually, they make it to town and the safety of a mineshaft. As they settle in to rest, Harry realizes he forgot to turn on the NASA GPS device that will tell the world they are alive in this mineshaft. Returning to the truck, Harry is injured in a tunnel collapse but manages to struggle onward. Climbing in the broken windshield, the tunnel collapses more, crushing the top of the truck. Finally, Harry is in the truck, broken arm and all. What else could go wrong? The roof is creaking and groaning and sinking lower and the GPS, won’t turn on. Eventually, he gets the GPS turned on and they are rescued.

Our characters need to be challenged also. The reader needs to care about what happens to our hero or heroine. If they don’t, the reader won’t finish the book. When you are writing, think about what could happen next. What rock can you throw and increase the risk or raise the stakes for your main character? Then, let it happen. Let your character be tested and have to struggle. Put him/her in a situation that causes them to grow and change, to test their limits and moral fiber.

I need to throw some rocks at my characters. Hope they can dodge.

 

 
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Posted by on April 29, 2016 in Writing

 

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