“God, she’s younger than my daughter!”

My HarperCollins novelist uncle was messaging with me on Saturday. He’d just spoken to my mother (his sister) about my father’s pending heart surgery. He also dropped in yet more authoring advice:

Engaging with a writer uncle on Facebook Messenger about writing when he doesn't know you have already written one book and are nearly finished with the second. [Screen capture by me, 2014.]

Engaging with a writer uncle on Facebook Messenger about writing when he doesn’t know you have already written one book and are nearly finished with the second. [Screen capture by me, 2014.]

On Facebook, as you can see, he’s not always exactly, ummm, a wordsmith.

His first novel appeared in the early 1980s; and he has also written short stories, screenplays, and, recently, a stage play. “I’m why they have editors,” I vaguely remember him once saying. I also recall some years ago how, when one of his books was being edited by “some 21 year old” woman and evidently feeling his age a bit, he shook his head and harrumphed to me, “God, she’s younger than my daughter!”

Free Stock Photo: A pair of glasses with an open book.

Free Stock Photo: A pair of glasses with an open book.

Yes, life is indeed endless “fictional” source material. ;-)

I started this “I think I’d like to write a novel” tease with him. I admit this little game is entirely my fault. But now he won’t stop offering me advice.

So now I just have to figure out how to get out of this “literary” corner into which I’ve painted myself. :-) Hope you have a good day. Happy Monday [grumble, grumble].

It’s So Profound, It Should Be Shown On BBC 4

In working to finish Frontiers once and for all, I’ve vowed not to spend too much time on the net over this weekend.

I have had quite a few new followers in recent weeks. [Hello!] If you’re interested in what on earth “makes me tick,” and haven’t seen it, a couple of months ago I posted an interview I conducted…. errr, with myself. Let’s call this, here, an encore presentation. ;-)

Free Stock Photo: Illustration of television screens with commercials

Free Stock Photo: Illustration of television screens with commercials

Seeing those posts initially in September, some close to me were sure I had finally, uh, come authoringly unglued.

I assure you I hadn’t, and I haven’t. Writing requires determination and dedication of course. But we also need a sense of humor and to laugh a bit occasionally – including especially at ourselves in having chosen to write. :-)

Hope you have a good Sunday.

Have Desk, Will Finish

As I noted yesterday in a comment, yes, the desk’s finished:

Done! Self-assembly desk... assembled! [Photo by me, 2014.]

Done! Self-assembly desk… assembled! [Photo by me, 2014.]

Now, two things of immediate importance need sorting out, although not necessarily in this order:

1) Thomas Jefferson needs a picture hook.

2) Frontiers needs finishing!

I’m a borderline obsessive about a “perfect book.” Of course, we all know there’s no such creature. But I’ve now reached the horrible point where I was about a year ago – when I was finishing Passports…. before the creation of this site (in December) provided me a handy platform to go on and on with you about finishing it!

I’m tinkering with a word here and there, etc. And, worse, now I have a brand new desk on which to do that too! ;-)

I know, I know: at some point, one just has to call it a day, term it “complete”…. and move on to the next book.

Have a good Friday! :-)

Marketing, Uh, Explained

Emma Suleiman shared this silliness yesterday on Twitter. It’s so good, I can’t not share it here too. Click here, or on the photo itself, to follow the link to the full, “9 point, explanation”:

image

Women work in marketing too, of course. Leaving aside that “his take” is decidedly, uh, “man-sided,” it may still make you smile. And if you work, or have worked, in marketing, it may ring all too true. ;-)

Anyway, I’m shortly about to begin the battle of the desk.

Later, I will continue trying to finish Frontiers entirely. I’m at that point where I feel I’m getting stuck in ever deeper thick figurative mud with every page I proof. [“Oh, I hate that sentence…. God, and that other sentence after it doesn’t work…. “Oh, and I’ve used that word three times in two paragraphs… Arrgh!”] But it’s almost done.

Have a good Wednesday, wherever you are reading this. :-)

A Birthday Remembrance

As you know, I didn’t get Frontiers finished in time for publication today. I had fought to make today (which was slightly earlier than I had planned) in memory of one of the real-life inspirations for my novel(s) – although I never told her that (and never would have). However, she’d known I was writing the first one, Passports. The last time we saw each other in person, in mid-2013, she’d urged me on to do the best I could and said she was sure it would be great.

Free Stock Photo: A mixed flock of waterfowl flying in the sunset

Free Stock Photo: A mixed flock of waterfowl flying in the sunset

She died back on February 2. I wrote a post about her eight days later. If you’d like to re-read it, click here.

Today would have been her 46th birthday.

Have a good Sunday, wherever you are reading this. And thank you for reading, following, and sharing my novel-writing site. :-)

“Delays, delays, delays”

For some reason, among all my London commuting on trains or in traffic I clearly remember one episode years ago of being stuck on the Underground’s Piccadilly line in north London. As the train waited motionless for what seemed like interminable minutes just outside a station (it was probably Arnos Grove), the driver came on the public address system and explained there’d been a problem at the station moments before and that he had to wait for verbal confirmation to proceed. We all heard him sigh and mumble, “Delays, delays, delays….”

Free Stock Photo: Illustration of a subway train

Free Stock Photo: Illustration of a subway train

What does that have to do with this post? It’s that I won’t get Frontiers published tomorrow. And I’m thoroughly annoyed at myself over the “delay.”

Yesterday, I found several more “tiny errors,” including the word “talking” where it should have appeared as “taking.” I’ve only read that chapter about, oh, half a dozen times recently. And I’ve also run it through Word’s grammar check? I don’t understand….

Not exactly something to put me in the best frame of mind. I desperately wanted it out for Kam’s birthday, which was November 9th. But I also thought to myself what she might say if I could tell her. With her warm smile, she would probably observe something like, “Rob, it’s soooo nice of you, but don’t release it for me if you’re not happy with it. Get it the way you want it. C’mooooon, now….” (She often softly drew out words for emphasis.)

So I will “scrub” Frontiers a bit more for a few days. I feel better finally telling you all. I had become increasingly grouchy as I realized I would not make my self-imposed deadline.

I’ve been at this since January. A few days more to “make sure” is neither here nor there. Everyone, do please try to control your eager anticipation for a little while longer. ;-)

I’ll Do It My Way

Currently, I’m seeing lots around WordPress about something called “National Novel-Writing Month,” also known by its hashtag #NaNoWriMo. I have to admit I’ve paid scant attention to it. I’ve never been a “contest type,” and I’m wary of distractions.

I finally looked at the web site, and realized quickly enough I didn’t need another writing “challenge.” I have one already. For over 10 months, I’ve been up to my eyeballs completing a second novel.

Free Stock Photo: Illustration of a quill pen

Free Stock Photo: Illustration of a quill pen

Understand, I’m not arguing one shouldn’t join in the #NaNoWriMo. It’s a personal choice. If you lean that way, go for it.

I seek on this blog to share various of my novel-writing experiences. I would never presume to tell anyone else how to approach their books…. other than generally to urge anyone desiring to write to stop thinking about it, stop discussing it, stop planning it, and just get on with it. Write the novel! Feel free even to write about, uh, vampires! ;-)

image

The last observation above from Béatrice in that Frontiers excerpt speaks to my aim in novel-writing. I believe a book should make us think, immerse us, take us elsewhere, introduce us to those we’ve not known before, and even perhaps lift us emotionally and spiritually. Above all, it should entertain us.

All of that is, at times, perhaps contradictory, which is why there is no “magical formula” or “template” for producing a novel. There are a gazillion ways to do it. Writing is – and always has been, and always will be – an intensely personal, daunting challenge.

It has taken me since January to produce the 95,000 words that make up Frontiers. I wrote pretty much daily – adding, changing, altering, fine-tuning, detailing, cutting out, etc. The only lengthy slowdown was for much of February – shortly after I’d really gotten going – when I’d totally lost heart after the sudden death of our girlfriend and considered giving up on the entire project and throwing my computer out a second floor window. Her death so early in the writing profoundly influenced the overall tone of the tale. Like I said, writing is “intensely personal.”

I didn’t hit “50,000 words” until almost June 1. It’s November 7, and I’m still tinkering with a word here and there in the final draft. Passports is about the same length book, and also took me a similar time to write in 2012-2013.

So when I saw this “National Novel-Writing Month” goal of encouraging a “rough draft” of 50,000 words in 30 days, my reaction was someone is having a laugh. Talk about setting up aspiring writers for disillusionment right out of the starting gate. For given the incredible difficulty in producing a novel to begin with, the last thing anyone new to writing needs is to be urged to churn out a major part of one at warp speed.

I’m underwhelmed. Not my thing. In the immortal words of one Frank Sinatra, I’ll do it…. my way.

Happy Friday! :-)

“Woman’s name omitted”

Given what my uncle had messaged me recently about my perhaps writing a “cozy mystery” novel, I’m now really pleased I’d soldiered on with that Frontiers chapter I’d struggled with getting “right” for months. Whew. Apparently it was worth the effort. One proofreader has emailed me that she was floored by it:

Wow!…. (Woman’s name omitted)’s dilemma certainly holds the reader’s attention….

It is, shall we say, something of “a shocker.” Naturally I don’t want to give away too much. The only hints I’ll drop here are, uh, alcohol, a razor sharp knife, and a scarf, are all involved. ;-)

I was privately quite full of myself over her take. (As you see, I deleted her mention of the character’s name.) And I’ll admit, yes, I couldn’t wait to share it here. After all, that’s what novel-writing is essentially all about: wowing readers and holding their attention. [#fistshake]

A cozy.” Ha! Take that Uncle! I can do…. a bit of “thriller!”

The “Frontiers” proof open to where I am now as I do final corrections. I wasn’t a big fan of the Microsoft Surface Pro 3, but it has grown on me. Aside from the keyboard (sold separately by Microsoft) being hypersensitive – which can be annoying at times – it’s excellent as a combination tablet/PC. [Photo by me, 2014.]

Now back to polishing off Frontiers. I’m almost across the final corrections’ finish line. I may actually get there today. :-)

Have a good Tuesday, wherever you are in the world….

Beware Too Many Cooks

You may recall I posted recently about a Messenger exchange I’d had with my uncle in which he’d suggested to me that I could write “a cozy.” When he did, I almost split my sides laughing. I wouldn’t know where to begin with a crime novel of any sort.

I’ve always suspected he sees me as a gentle type, and could never imagine me producing, say, a “stalker, slasher, serial killer, blood everywhere, horror thriller,” or some such. And in that, he would be right. (Although I’ve got stuff in Frontiers which might surprise him! Hey, I can do “thrilling!”) Still, as a crime novelist, he sees the literary world first and foremost from his perch as a crime novelist.

Although they are “thoughtful” (perhaps even, uh, “gentle” in some ways), I suspect the novels I’ve written would stun him. (The romance and sex especially!) Yet I also suspect that, after he’d thought about it a bit, he wouldn’t be nearly as stunned. So even those who know us well (even a long-published novelist) can’t always give us decent writing advice.

It is worth bearing that in mind. Seeking out too much advice and too many critiques has its own pitfalls for any novelist. As the saying goes, too many cooks spoil the broth.

Free Stock Photo: Hispanic women preparing food By: Rhoda Baer acquired from National Cancer Institute

Free Stock Photo: Hispanic women preparing food
By: Rhoda Baer acquired from National Cancer Institute

Because novels aren’t written by committee. Any five people out there will share their takes on your writing from their own five, entirely personal, perspectives. Other novelists chiming in are similarly biased, as my uncle demonstrated unwittingly to me. Indeed whenever I see authors “judging” and “helping” other authors, I can’t help also but recall my uncle’s bemoaning aspiring writers sending him manuscripts, and his noting he doesn’t really have time to read them (and I sense doesn’t even really want to): he is merely another writer, he says, struggling to get on with his own latest project. (Although, obviously, he’s a HarperCollins published one.)

Consider this too: if those “five” people have their varied opinions about your work, how do you think “100 readers” (likely mostly non-authors), or even 10,000 or more (should you be so lucky), will react to it? There are those who will open (or download) your novel and adore what you’ve produced. Others will roll their eyes that you haven’t quite nailed it. Still others will scoff that you write like you are still in high school and hate it.

Even Shakespeare had – and has – detractors. I had a laugh a few months ago on here also imagining Washington Irving having to cope with disparaging comments on Twitter. Bottom line: you will NEVER satisfy everyone, so don’t even try.

Above all, no one can write your book(s) for you. Yes, you may ask for the views of numerous others, and even a dozen other authors, but what you write is rooted ultimately in your unique background, your interests, your experiences, your outlook, and what you know. In the end, it’s all on you. :-)

November 9 is getting here way too quickly. Now back to polishing off Frontiers. It is entirely mine. No one else is to blame for it! ;-)

Have a good Monday, wherever in the world you are reading this!

Customer Experience

In proofing Frontiers, I am re-discovering that qualitative reading “difference” between print and e-books. Both versions have their pluses and minuses, and I still maintain I would not chuck out print books in exchange for e-books. E-books have their role, but they are not everything.

Free Stock Photo: Illustration of a stack of books and reading glasses.

Free Stock Photo: Illustration of a stack of books and reading glasses.

I do final corrections by reading the paperback proof, scribbling in the margins, and simultaneously have the PC (currently, a Surface Pro 3) open on the desk (currently, post-move, that’s the dining room table) to the manuscript. If I see a word, or phrase, or typo, or punctuation I want to change, I insert the revision as a “comment” in Word at that spot in the PC manuscript. Then it’s back to re-reading the print book.

I hope to get through the proof that way within a few days. I’m fanatical about the text. Every word. Every letter.

Because I absolutely haaaaaaaate typos and sloppiness. I get a sense from what I read on the net that some indy authors – eager to make their, uh, fortunes – rush to print having missed obvious errors or, worse, don’t seem to care about them. I don’t think either is acceptable from the perspective of you expecting people to separate themselves from their hard-earned money to buy your book. By making your book the absolutely cleaniest you can (I’ve seen major publishing house books with typos too and don’t think that’s acceptable either), I believe you show readers the respect that is their due in their choosing to buy your work ahead of others. It is standard good “customer experience” stuff that applies to any business.

Free Stock Photo: Close-up of the word business in the dictionary.

Free Stock Photo: Close-up of the word business in the dictionary.

In terms of craft, the tale is written as it is for reasons of my own. It’s personal. It’s mine. It’s like a painting or poetry (for me). I’ve often agonized for hours over the style and flow of a few paragraphs.

Indeed how it “sounds” not just in one’s head is important to me too. I tend to proof read, at times, out loud. (Naturally, that is helped immeasurably when I am alone in the house. And, no, you don’t want to hear my English-French or English-Russian accents! ;-) ) Doing an impersonation of an “audio book” I find greatly assists in tightening the story flow and reading experience.

Overall, what might appear to be a “typo” in a conversation is almost certainly not. I write conversation in the manner of “real chatter,” so it is often ungrammatical in the manner in which we all sometimes speak. I also write non-native English speakers’ accents in English….carefully. I am fully aware it can be dangerous to venture into that realm in case one accidentally drifts into caricature, but I believe it is vital for my story and characters. (I’m told I succeeded in that with Passports, so now feel more confident in continuing that style.) It’s always a case of knowing where to draw the line. (I’ve reached the point now that my characters are so familiar to me that I know whose English is better than whose!) So an awkward delivery by a non-native English speaker is presented that way deliberately.

Yesterday, I was able to finalize about 150 pages out of the nearly 390 of the full story. Not bad that. The day whizzed by.

Although it may not be possible, I would love to get Frontiers published on November 9. On that exact day. It would have been our friend Kam’s 46th birthday.