Saturday, April 20, 2013

Stop Thinking and Start Writing!!!

Well, I’m back from my trip to Washington DC and my three weeks of chaotic traveling is finally over!   Yeah!!!!

They were all good trips; however, I’m glad to be back to the joys of writing!! FINALLY!  Over the past three weeks, I haven’t been able to workout much or write at all. So I’m feeling a bit out of sorts.

I’m also a bit out of sorts because Riddle in Stone’s momentum seems to be stalling a bit.  I haven’t had a new review on Goodreads, Amazon, or for a while.  Sooooo…if you have friends or colleagues who enjoy fantasy novels, please mention my book.

I’m sorry. I know that is horribly self-centered and selfish of me. But…WON’T SOMEBODY PLEASE THINK OF THE CHILDREN!!!   My children that is.  I have to pay for their college!   At any rate, if you can encourage people to read the first chapter of Riddle in Stone available on my website (, I’d GREATLY appreciate it! 

And if you’ve already read my little story, PLEASE post reviews wherever you are able…Amazon, BarnesandNoble, Goodreads, G+, bathroom walls, wherever!  Thanks so much!

Anyway, today I want to address something people always ask me when they find out that I’ve written a novel, specifically—“How do you start writing your story?”

It seems that a lot of want-to-be writers feel paralyzed when they start a story because they don’t know “everything” that’s going to happen.  They feel that they need to know every character’s backstory and how each scene is going to end up and so forth prior to writing.  As a result, they never start. 

I don’t know how many times would-be writers have said to me, “I’m going to start writing (insert name of story here) as soon as I get the feel for the characters.”

I suppose that’s fine.  But it seems that several of them have been getting a “feel” for their characters for months, if not years. 

So to them, my advice is: STOP THINKING AND START WRITING!!!


Just start writing and see what happens.

This probably sounds a bit crazy, but I don’t have a clue who my characters are or what’s going to happen to them when I start writing the first draft.   I just start typing—usually with a general location and a vague character in mind—and then I just see what happens.

To me, characters develop during the writing process.  Sometimes characters pop into a story and steal the show!  Or they pop in and fall flat, in which case I cut them out.  No biggie! That’s what the delete button is for.

Writing is a journey just as much for the writer as it is for the reader.   I begin with a vague sense of a situation and a couple characters and then I sit back and watch them develop and mature.  I honestly don’t know how the story is going to end or what my characters are like until well into the third or fourth drafts. 

That’s what drafts are for…polishing the characters and the story!

How boring it must be to sit down and painstakingly consider every little nuance of a story before actually writing it!  Seriously! I’d get bored and never finish it.  Why should I?   

Would you read a new book if you already knew everything that’s going to happen?? NO!  It’s the same thing with writing.

I like to write because I want to see how things are going to develop.  I want to see what’s on the next page.  If I already knew, I might as well just sit here and daydream!

So my humble advice to those of you who never start because you don’t know EVERYTHING about your story is to…relax.  Sit down.  And write!   Characters and stories will develop themselves—if you let them!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Notes from Norway: What Impresses Publishers Most

Well hello, everybody!  Or perhaps I should say “hei hei!”

I was pleased to get an e-mail from one of you asking when I was going to post again. It's nice to know some of you care and are interested in my ramblings.  So here's my latest!

I’ve been a bit busy lately with my “day job.” I just spent about a week in Norway and learned good bit about writing in the process.

What does Norway have to do with writing, you may ask.

Well, not Norway, per se, but traveling in general.  Let me explain.

Traveling exposes us to other people, cultures, climates, environments, and so forth.  The little nuggets that you pick up from travelling make our writing appear more real. Let me give an example.

While in Norway, I visited an old fortress. One of the things I noticed about the castle was how the stone stairs were rutted from feet marching up and down them for centuries. 

I put that detail in my writing. It makes my imaginary tower more concrete. Can you see the cracked stone stairs rutted by the invisible feet from people now long since dead?  It adds so much to the scene—visual details, texture, even a sense of what had occurred in that location in the distant past. I wouldn’t have thought about that detail without having experienced it myself. And I wouldn’t have experienced a thousand year old tower in Cleveland.

Also, my story, Riddle in Stone, is set in a northern climate.  Being in Norway gives me ideas as to how people in such climates deal with the cold and so forth. 

So, in addition to the old adage “read a lot and write a lot,” I’d like to add “travel a lot.”  Traveling exposes us to other realities that we can put in our stories.

There was something else I learned about writing on my trip to Norway.

Thanks to the wonderful people at Scandinavian Airlines (United Airlines, sucks by the way), I was bumped up to “Economy Plus.”  Honestly, you haven’t flown until you experienced seats that are actually wide enough to sit in!  I don’t think I’ll ever go back to “coach.”

Anyway, on my trip back to the States, I had the pleasure of sitting next to a professional writer.  AN ACTUAL WRITER WHO MAKES MONEY AND EVERYTHING!!!!  I won’t tell you her name.  Let’s just call her “17B.”
17B and I spent much of the 11 hour flight talking about the craft and something she said really struck me.  She said that most new writers don’t realize what impresses publishers most.

“What?” I asked, literally taking out my notepad out of my backpack to jot down her words of wisdom.

“Marketing plans,” she said. “Most publishers won’t even look at a manuscript if it has a weak marketing plan.”

I found this to be the case when I was pitching my manuscript to publishers.  Many of them asked my agent “how big is his following on twitter?” and “how many hits does he get on his blog each month?” And so forth.

Being an author is no longer just about writing.  We have to market our work.  We have to have blogs and facebook accounts and so forth.  To be really honest, that’s why I write this…to help meet people and promote my work.  Did I mention that I have a book out called Riddle in Stone???

Think about it.  Would you know about Riddle in Stone if you hadn’t read my blog?  Probably not.

Now, I realize that I’m not going to become a best seller because I blog or have a facebook page.  But, at this point in my writing “career,” I’m not worried about becoming a best seller.  I’m worried about selling enough books so that I can get my second manuscript published.  And a few hundred people here and there could tip the scales in my favor.  So, to me as a new writer, marketing plans are HUGELY important.  You might want to think about them if you want to get published.

17B said something else that caught my attention.  She laughed and said that most new writers refuse to think about marketing plans. She said that writers often see themselves as “artists” and that worrying about marketing their work was somehow “beneath them.”

I have to admit, I felt that way at first.  When my agent told me to start blogging and becoming active online, I really grumbled and dragged my feet.  But I have to say, blogging and facebook have helped. 

Riddle in Stone is selling reasonably well for the likes of me.  My publisher wants a sequel to it.  I’ve gotten a bunch of publicity because of my blog.  And, perhaps most importantly, I meet a wonderful group of people who are supportive of me and my work—which is something all new writers need.

So travel and market.  You’ll be glad you did!