I grew up among middle-class everyday folk. Language was one thing that separated groups of people as I had come to know them. When I was young, every once in a while I’d hear someone say, “Oh my! She talks so uppity!” Read More
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“Repetition Offends Your Reader” Let Me Repeat, Okay, You Get the Point! Another Writing Advice Article By Mary Deal
When descriptive words are used repetitively in writing, it makes the reader wonder why they have to be told something they’ve already learned earlier in the story. Repetition can kill your reader’s interest. Read More
When we writers select a topic on which to expound, chances are, we choose that topic because of its emotional impact on ourselves. We feel something strongly and want to let the world know our opinion. If we felt nothing, what’s to write?
Once the essay or story is finished and we’re feeling good about having gotten our brainstorm on paper, the next step is to decide if what we’ve written is important enough to send out to get published. Or have we simply committed a lot of weak personal opinion and gibberish to paper? Read More
In order to make that story linger in the memory of the reader—which will make them yearn for your next book—your characters must not only have differences but they might be irreconcilable. Certainly two people in love and having those kinds of problems ache inside. You as the writer must ache with them. You must write that story so that you feel all the pain. If you do not feel the pain, you have not presented a plausible enough reason to keep these two people apart. More importantly, you probably haven’t written convincingly enough for your reader if you cannot convince yourself.
If you can write so that you ache for your characters, then can come up with a solution that alleviates your own pain, your reader will feel that same duress and subsequent relief for your characters. You will have raked the reader’s emotions over fiction’s fire, presented a viable solution, and enticed your reader to remember your byline. Read More
I am excited to post — with permission, of course — an article that Mary Deal has put together with her perspective on foreshadowing. I told her when she sent me the article that I love this particular literary device, and I’m pretty good at spotting it when I read. Because I can spot it so well, when I write my own stories, I try to use it with great subtlety. In fact, I like to sprinkle foreshadowing dust in my books, and then pull the foreshadowed hints together like a bunch of threads at the climax to the story. Read More
MA: I am pleased to welcome to my blog today, Dr. Louis P. Solomon. Louis founded Life Echoes, a Family Legacy Book Publishing Service. In addition he founded Pearl River Publishing (PRP), a publishing house. He spent most of his career in the military-industrial community in government and industry. He continues to be a consultant on business, technical, and financial issues. He is technically trained with a PhD from UCLA in Engineering in 1965.
Louis has written several books including five novels: The Third Legacy, Gotcha!, Unknown Connections, Library of the Sands, and Instrument of Vengeance, and several nonfiction books: Transparent Oceans: Defeat of the Soviet Submarine Force, Teleworking—A Complete Guide for Managers and Teleworkers and the Solomon Haggadah.
You have a fascinating background, especially in the technical realm. Please tell us more.
LS: I have substantial academic technical training. I have had a varied career, covering multiple disciplines, both in government and in the private sector. I received a PhD in Engineering from UCLA in 1965, specializing in Fluid Mechanics, Applied Mathematics, and Electromagnetic Theory.
Prior to entering government service I was one of three founders of a very successful consulting firm, Planning Systems Incorporated (PSI) which grew from three to over 400 people located in several states. PSI primarily supported the United States Navy (USN) during the Cold War. After ten years with PSI I went to work for the Department of the Navy for nine years as a member of the Senior Executive Service (SES). As the Associate Director of Naval Ocean Research and Development Activity (NORDA) for Program Management I was responsible for the Long Range Acoustic Propagation Project (LRAPP).
Subsequently I worked with the DoD National Security Education Program (NSEP) in placing within the federal government over 3,000 NSEP award recipients (graduate and undergraduates in all academic fields) who lived and studied throughout the world and learned less commonly taught languages and cultures. I also served as a subject matter expert in developing The Language Corps for the Department of Defense (DoD) as a national entity to support government agencies in times of national emergencies.
In addition to PSI, I am a founder and chief executive of several firms: LPS Collaborative Group, (a very unusual technical and management consulting firm), Pearl River Publishing (a book publishing firm) and Life Echoes, (a Family Legacy Book Publishing Service). In addition, I sporadically write a blog: The Wisdom of Solomon, which focuses on subjects which are of interest to me.
MA: I can understand the technical writing you’ve done, but how did you end up writing novels?
LS: In a single sentence: My Mother made me.
I wrote many technical reports and refereed technical papers. I eventually lost interest in discussing and writing about detailed technical issues. That is work for people beginning their careers.
I had no interest in writing fiction until my Mother came to me one day and told me that she had a fiction story she wanted me to write, based upon an actual event. Being a dutiful son, I said that I would write the story and promptly did nothing. But she was a tough old lady, and nagged me about it, regularly. I continued to put her off. But I was then invited, as part of a family outing to celebrate the 80th birthday of my mother-in-law, to go on an ocean voyage for a week. I find cruise ships the height of boredom, but as a son-in-law, I was obliged to accept the invitation with good graces. I then realized this was a heaven sent opportunity. I took my Mac Power Book laptop, and spent every day from 0600 to 1800 in the ship’s library. It was a nice little quiet room, which was never visited by another single soul during the entire trip. I wrote all day long, and by the time the cruise was over, I had completed the first draft of the book. My Mother loved it, and I found it a very interesting tale. This story, The Third Legacy, was edited by Linda Jenkins, who has edited not only all my books, but used to edit all my technical documents and refereed journal articles which I wrote while I was associated with NORDA. She is a superb editor, and I always accept follow her suggestions about making changes to the documents I entrust in her editorial care.
MA: Did your professional career inspire your writing? Are any of your characters based upon real-life people with whom you’ve interacted?
LS: My professional career did not inspire my writing. It had an effect on how I write my novels, just as my technical training influenced how I write. I focus on relatively complex stories, which fit together in order and sequence. All parts of my stories hang together. The problem that I have is that I do not focus on the characters of my books. I like them all, and would associate with them in real life, if they, in fact existed. But I don’t emphasize the emotional part of my novels, nor the character interactions. To me the story is one that I tell, in detail, in what I would characterize as a somewhat laconic voice. This is, I believe, the major drawback to all my novels. If I continue to write novels, and I probably will, I will be searching for someone who is very good at constructing characters who are lovable, hate able, etc. My coauthor will probably be sought as a budding playwright.
All my characters are based, to a greater and lesser degree on people I know, or knew. The skills and capabilities of my characters are based upon real people. However, I should add that I do not pay much attention to the human characteristics of real or imaginary people. They are what they are, and that is how I deal with people in real life. I like them, or do not; and friendships develop or not. I assume they think the same about me, but this may be an inaccurate assessment. I have many long term, close friends, in many fields and areas of endeavor, but I never think about them purely in an emotional way. They are wonderful in that sense that they have great enjoyment to me, but I never analyze them.
MA: Tell us more about your novels.
LS: I have already mentioned my first novel: The Third Legacy. This novel, written at my Mother’s request and prodding, was based upon the historical fact that Hermann Goering, Reich Marshall of the Third Reich, was sentenced to death for War Crimes at the Nuremburg War Crimes Trial at the end of World War II. He died a few hours before he was to be hung. How he died, and who helped him was never discovered or explained. This single event allowed me to develop a tale which explained all the facts, and hopefully was interesting as a novel.
The second novel, Gotcha! was based upon the Enron scandal and the terrible effects on the people who worked for Enron. The entire story of the Enron scandal was part of a Pulitzer Prize article from several Washington Post writers. I was infuriated by the way Enron executives handled themselves and decided that I could write a story which would have the characters, originally part of a fictional corporation who underwent the same series of events that Enron encountered. Once I had the idea of wrecking vengeance, the story was easy to develop.
The third novel, Unknown Connections was a little different. I have just finished a nonfiction book: Transparent Oceans: The Defeat of the Soviet Submarine Force. This book was written for a very select professional group of people who were familiar with the issues of naval submarine warfare during the Cold War. But several people suggested that I take the same information and create fictional characters and retell the story as part of a novel, using the same information. I did, and Unknown Connections is the result.
The fourth novel, Library of the Sands, is based upon the factual event of the destruction of the library at Alexandria in the 7th Century by the invading Arab armies. The library was itself about 1,000 years old at that time. It was the largest and most complete library in the Western Hemisphere with collections dating back 1,000 years from many sources. The librarians had a long and wonderful history in developing and protecting the collection. It was, and remains, my contention that the men and women of the 7th Century were emotionally no different than the men and women of the 21st Century; but the technology is different. If I were the Chief Librarian of the Alexandria Library at the time would I let my collection be destroyed by the invading armies? Absolutely not. So, how would I protect the collection which was in my care and my responsibility? The novel, Library of the Sands, is in fact, devoted to telling the imaginary story about how this was actually accomplished.
The most recent novel, Instrument of Vengeance, is due to my enjoyment of the assassin which was told about in the series of novels by Lawrence Block. I enjoyed them, and then, as is my habit, I asked myself how someone becomes an assassin, and how can a business which offers assassination as a service, exist in the modern world? How do you find clients? How do you stay free and not get caught by the law enforcement services? After thinking about it for a little while, and with the technical background I have, it was easy to solve the problem. So, I wrote a novel about how it could be done. All the technical details are correct, and plausible.
MA: How would you characterize the antagonists in your stories?
LS: My bad guys are really not people, but events and organizations.
MA: Will you keep writing fiction, or are you going to concentrate more on your technical writing?
LS: I will continue to write novels as ideas and events appeal to me. I can’t predict what they will be, or when they will occur. But my current focus on my firm, Life Echoes, I expect will have me encounter some interesting historical events and stories which I will use as a basis for a new novel, or series of novels.
MA: Thanks very much, Louis, for being my guest-blogger today. I encourage my readers to learn more about Louis Solomon by visiting his many websites:
www.tumblr.com/tumblelog/louispsolomon Read More
When you write your first draft, perhaps you simply write whatever comes out just to get the ideas onto the page. You know you’ll go back time and time again to get it polished just right. Maybe you polish your sentences or paragraphs before going onto the next one. Then, after all your editing, you feel something is still lacking. Maybe it’s the way you phrase the action. Maybe it’s a simple matter like your choice of words.
To help you make your prose as descriptive as possible without sounding flowery, read your composition again and look for specific words that could be replaced with descriptive VERBS that zero in on the exact action taking place.
I’m no stranger to getting the first word out that comes to mind and then needing to go back and clean up my grammar. Here are some samples from the novel I’m presently writing. I first wrote this:
Afterward, she went on her way.
If you write a sentence like this, ask yourself, How did she go? Instead of went describe her movements or gait:
Afterward, she sauntered away.
Afterward, she slipped away
Read this phrase:
Danced across the floor
Danced is a descriptive word, but it’s also a little common and could refer to many, many ways of dancing. How about…
Did a two-step across the floor
Waltzed across the floor
She felt around the floor of the car, trying to find the cell phone
Felt is also quite common.
She groped around the seat and on the floor of the car…
She slid her hand between the seats
Although a lot of emotion can be stirred just reading certain words they, too, can be made more descriptive. Replace this:
The thought of dying came to mind.
…with something like this:
The thought of bleeding to death came to mind
The thought of succumbing to coma, never to wake again, came to mind.
The above has two words to watch. We could have used:
The thought of slipping into a coma… instead, succumbing is more dramatic than gently slipping into a coma. Slipping hints at the character gently fading. Succumbing tells us she would put up a gallant fight to stay alive until, perhaps, more powerful forces overtook her. It’s more dramatic.
Here’s another sentence with two words:
The fireman holding up her head managed to get his upper body through the open windshield space.
The fireman supporting her head managed to squeeze his upper body through the open windshield space.
All of the words replaced above, and many, many more, are common words. The actions need to be exactly defined, made more exciting with better, more descriptive verbs and adverbs if your grammar is to stand out.
Your prose must sing and dance off the page. Anytime you describe what a character does, always check to see if a more descriptive word might apply. Using words that better show the exact actions that your character performs helps your reader become the character. That’s exactly what great prose does.
Please visit Mary Deal’s website for more wonderful articles like this one: Write Any Genre. Read More
Choosing a Subtitle
Sometimes you can conjure what you think is the best title ever for your book. No one has used that title and there is nothing close to it in all of literature. Then, after a while, you begin to wonder if your great title covers all that your book entails. You search for a new title but always return to the one you first chose. It is that good!
So you begin to wonder if you should also use a subtitle. Subtitles used to be seen as a way to enhance a weak title. However, at the writing of this article, the consensus is that if you want to utilize a great chance to tell more about your book, use a subtitle. Keep in mind, however, that some titles will never need a subtitle.
What subtitle would you add to Gone with the Wind or The Old Man and the Sea?
Peruse book selling sites and notice any recent books that have no subtitles. Notice those that do use subtitles. You will get a “feel” for when to use and when not to use.
Usually a title will tell the overall feeling or story without giving away any exact details. Using a subtitle allows you to hint at more of the detail.
Subtitles must be as short as possible. I have seen books with eight to ten words in the title alone, and then a subtitle with the same number or more words is added. This represents not only a misuse of a subtitle but shows an overall title not well thought out.
Your subtitle should give the strongest clue as to what the story is about. If you choose a subtitle because your title is not necessarily weak but is broad inclusively, then your subtitle will draw the reader in. Think of it. The title is unique and catches the reader’s attention. Then the subtitle tells more of what they can inspect of the prose. I use prose here because nonfiction, even books like cookbooks, sometimes has subtitles.
The reader will need to learn something about the book from the subtitle. Never use a subtitle with the intention of keeping the reader’s eyes glued to your cover. It doesn’t work that way. Every word must offer the reader something to learn about the book. A lackluster subtitle leaves the potential book buyer with a ho-hum feeling.
Your title can be anything from plain and simple to quirky. Whatever it represents will be enhanced and enticing through the subtitle.
Please visit Mary Deal’s website for more wonderful articles like this one: Write Any Genre.
MA: Folks, help me welcome today’s guest-blogger, Sylvia Ramsey. Growing up in a rural area of Missouri and being the child of a father born in 1898, she feels that her interpretation of life spans several generations. This influence can be recognized in both her poetry and her short stories. She has experienced life at many levels. One of her most prized possessions is a personal letter that was written to her by Rosemary A. Thurber giving her permission to adapt her father’s short story “The Last Clock” to be used for Readers Theatre.
Sylvia is presently a Communications professor and the Academic Resource Center Coordinator at GMC Community College in Martinez, GA. She describes herself as a determined scrapper who will wrench all the very best from life that she is capable of conquering. Her philosophy of life is reflected in her poems. “Armor For Survival” and “A Tired Vagabond.” More about the author can be found on her website or on the authors den website. http://www.authorsden.com/sylvialramsey1.
Her novel, An Underground Jewell, was a labor of love. She explains, “The ideas for stories all come from my life experiences and knowledge I have gained along the way. The book, An Underground Jewell, spawned from a short story that was written about a Christmas Eve in the distant future when life on earth had changed drastically. That story was written in 1989.
Where did the idea for the novel come from?
SR: The idea to create a novel originated because I let imagination loose to wonder about the possibilities of this story. I first began by creating a character who would write the story, and the reason why she wrote it. At that point, I began to develop other characters and a plot. I finally began writing the book. At one point, I had to stop writing because my husband became very ill, and I became his caregiver. At the same time, I was diagnosed with T3 bladder cancer. To add to the delay, my computer crashed and I had to start over. I was lucky that I had part of it printed out. After my husband died, I began writing again. Finally, 20 years later, it was finished and published. “ An Underground Jewell and my other two books are available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble websites.
MA: How did you develop the character of your protagonist?
SR: Elizabeth Jewell is a very unusual woman in many ways. My best friend says that she is me, but I think her character has the traits of both my mother and paternal grandmother. Both of these ladies were strong and independent. I do not think either one of them would have left their future up to fate, because they never did. Elizabeth is like them, she sees a threat and does what she needs to do to help clear herself of the accusation. I can see where my friend would identify with me because I share some of the same traits. I wanted her to be unique in her world, and have enough foresight to see things around her that others may not see. She is intelligent enough to know that she needed help to clear herself, and because of her connections, she knew who to ask to help. There are several heroes in the novel, and there are many mysteries to solve other than clearing Elizabeth’s name. Some are solved along the way, and others are not revealed until the end. I have had people remark that I have revealed the outcome in my description, but they are only getting privy to the story on the surface, because it is much more complex than that.
MA: So who is your antagonist in the story?
SR: The “bad guys” are members of a group who have aspirations to control the society of the Western world. They have managed to infiltrate various agencies of our government to do so. Their underlying motive is control. They have an excellent understand of how language influences thinking and perceptual reality, so they have launched a long-term scheme to achieve their goal to control the people’s perception of reality.
MA: When did you start writing?
SR: I began writing when I was nine years old. I was the reporter for our 4-H club, and a new reporter at the local paper took me under his wing. He encouraged me to write feature article in addition to community news. By the age of twelve- years-old, I was getting bylines and a small paycheck each month. I have been writing something ever since. I do not remember thinking, “I want to be a writer”. It was just a part of who I am, and what I do.
I am always writing something, but not as a “profession”. I do a lot of writing at the college, blogging, and on my Facebook page. Currently, I am doing a blog series on Living with Bladder Cancer for the Healthy Women website. I am a sixteen-year bladder cancer survivor, and even though it is ranked fifth in prevalence over all, ranked fourth in males and as prevalent as cervical cancer but deadlier in women, it is very underserved. There is little awareness in the public sector, and even the medical community as a whole is basically under educated. I have a new blog that I just launched, Thoughtful Reflections, on which I hope to feature a variety of people in the field related to the publishing world.
MA: What type of professional writing do you do?
SR: In the everyday world at my “job”, I write lesson plans, reports and various types of writing that is done within the field of higher education. I have had research articles published in professional journals. In the mass media area, I have written news and feature articles for newspapers and magazines. In the creative realm, my love is poetry. Over one hundred of my poems have been published in literary journals. In 2004, my first book of poetry, Pulse Points of a Woman’s World, was published; in 2009 my first novel, An Underground Jewell, and in December of 2110, my first children’s book, Merchild Land was published.
MA: What projects are you working on now or plan for the future?
SR: There is a novel in the works that is a fantasy titled the Dark Crystals of Miradirth, and a collection of short stories titled, Squirrel Tales. I have several web pages, a blog (Thoughtful Reflections – http://wwwthouhtfulreflections.blogspot.com/), and a Facebook page called Ramsey’s Sacrificial Metaphor. I hope to do many more articles on bladder cancer as well as a collection of survivor stories. As far as An Underground Jewell is concerned, I have thought about doing another book that features the main character, but right now, I have other stories to tell.
MA: Sylvia, thanks very much for blogging with me today. I want my readers to know a few things about Sylvia, some of which she’s mentioned in passing, above. Sylvia is a 16-year survivor of bladder cancer, and looks at the experience as another learning peak in life. She is very much aware that even though this is the fifth most common cancer in the United States, it is very much underserved. She serves as the Vice-President of the American Bladder Cancer Society because she knows how important to provide support to those who have experienced this cancer, and how important it is to create more awareness around the world. That is why all of her royalties go to the American Bladder Cancer Society, www.bladdercancersupport.org. In March of this year, she sent them checks for close to $600 from her book sales. Her books are available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
No one likes rejection, but rejection is just a word – a word on which too many writers place too much emphasis.
When you understand the process of submissions and rejection, that word will hurt less if at all. You’ll see it as just another step in your progress.
The process includes you wearing your fingertips down to nubs as you get your prose written. Before you send your submission, what you need to know is that many factors become involved in acceptance or rejection. Here are only a few:
1) Did you follow the Guidelines perfectly?
Every publisher has different guidelines because they all have varying publishing formats and processes, from the type of story they accept to the format in which they require you to submit. Do you know how to switch your story from a .doc (in Word) to .rtf (rich text format)?
So you have followed all the guidelines? Next…
2) Did you read a copy of the magazine or some of the publisher’s novels or books to understand the type of stories they accept?
Are you submitting blindly, thinking your plot is so good they will accept it? No matter how good your story, someone else has written a better one.
3) Another factor may be the mood of the person on the receiving end.
You have no control over that, but if your story doesn’t ring bells with a literary agent or editor, no matter how good, you’ll get a rejection. The agent or editor could have recently been slapped with a divorce suit, or suffers from PMS that day. You have no control and human frailties do play a part in the process.
4) Have you submitted your manuscript all over the place, especially when guidelines call for “no simultaneous submissions,” and irritated a bunch of professionals you had hoped to impress?
Agents and editors all know one another. They talk. They tell each other of their negative experiences. Once someone associates your name with a really negative experience – C’est la vie!
5) Did you meet the deadline?
Did you wait till the last possible moment to submit? Most editors will choose favorites from the early entries because they can’t depend on what’s coming in with the slug of last minute arrivals. That’s not to say they won’t change their minds when a late arrival is so good they feel compelled to share it.
People find themselves in a rush when they wait till the last minute to finish their manuscripts. When they do, it’s thrown together haphazardly. An agent or editor can’t be blamed for picking favorites early. I believe all stories get read, but it would be difficult to displace a favorite. Submit early. Show you are ready to do business.
These are just some of the reasons for rejection, both in your control and out. If you know the process and still feel depressed over a rejection, your issues are not with the word “rejection” but, perhaps, you feel you’re being slighted. That just isn’t so.
I keep records of all my submissions, acceptances, and rejections. You should do that from the beginning. I have so many rejections that, knowing the process, rejections bounce off. My response is, “Hmmm… didn’t fit in that agent. I’ll try this new one.” That’s all the thought I give to it. That’s if I followed all the guidelines correctly.
Agents may send rejections, but editors won’t tell you if you followed the guidelines. You’ll just get a standard rejection. Sometimes it’s a form letter on their office memo; other times they may hand write a note on your cover letter and return it. In the case of magazines, you may never hear from them again, maybe not even get a rejection, just… nothing. But times are changing.
One of my biggest lessons of rejection was that I forgot to transfer my manuscript into .rtf format. I sent it in .doc. I knew I’d not hear from that editor again. I submitted the story elsewhere and got it accepted. To this day, I have never heard from the first editor, nor will I send a follow-up email since the story was accepted elsewhere. The first magazine was my first and greatly favored choice. I paid for my mistake.
Please visit Mary Deal’s website for more wonderful articles like this one: Write Any Genre. Read More