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Author Nancy J. Cohen discusses the writing process and life as a Florida resident.

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Posts Tagged ‘suspense’

Am I Ready To Publish?

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on January 29, 2013

AM I READY TO PUBLISH? By Terry Ambrose

A new author recently asked me what steps she should take to publish the book she’d just finished writing. My first reaction was to wonder what draft number she’d completed. How much editing had she done? Then, how many independent readers had she found?      Terry AbroseBio

It was more than 25 years ago when I wrote my first book. I thought it was really good…my wife thought it was good…at least, that’s what she said…and, yes, we are still married. Then, I joined my first critique group, a small band of seasoned writers who’d been writing and traditionally publishing mysteries for many years. Did they dislike it? No, they hated it. Adverbs, adjectives, too much exposition, not enough action…I thought the list would never end. Undaunted, I went back and rewrote again and again because there were no other options. At one point, I became desperate to better understand their critiques and used three colored highlighters to mark my draft. Blue was for exposition, yellow for dialog, and pink for action. Imagine my surprise when my page turned into a sea of blue with smatterings of yellow and pink. It was time to rewrite—again.

Over the years the need for those highlighters gradually faded, however, my need for solid critiques from tough readers hasn’t lessened. One of the best things writers can do is to join a critique group. But, assuming you’ve already done that, how do you get that completed manuscript read and edited?

Pay for an editor

There are thousands of “editors” out there who will tailor their services to what you’re looking for. A good editor is worth every penny; a bad one, a waste of money. One option for checking out a prospective editor is Preditors and Editors (pred-ed.com). Another option is to just ask other writers, get a name, then call or email the editor and conduct an interview. After all, this is a job and you’re the boss. If the editor tells you that she worked with someone on a particular book, go find a copy and look for an acknowledgement.

Manuscript swap                                 Terry Ambrose

If you don’t have the money for a professional editor, or if you want others’ opinions before you start spending money, think about a manuscript swap. The easiest way to find people who would be willing to swap manuscripts is to go where they hang out. Today, that can be as simple as joining a writing organization such as Sisters in Crime or Romance Writers of America. Recognize, however, that a swap is a swap. It means you’ll be doing a lot of editing of other people’s work, which is good because seeing other people’s mistakes makes it easier to spot our own.

Find beta readers

The most difficult challenge of all will be to build a network of people who will read your work and critique it before it goes to publication. This network doesn’t include your mom; she’s going to love what you wrote. It doesn’t include your best friend because only one of two things can happen: you’ll lose a friend or you’ll just get a “nice job” for feedback. I’m not sure there is a best way to find beta readers. It seems to be one part pure luck and one part perseverance. However, I recently discovered a friend who has read both of my books and considers herself an excellent proofreader and critic of crime fiction. Guess what? She’s getting the next manuscript to review before publication and a signed copy of the book afterwards as a thank you for helping me out.

One of my favorite questions lately to ask writers is, how do you want readers to remember you? Do you want to be remembered as a writer who put out lots of mediocre books or a few good ones? I’d rather be in the latter group. In the end, I think the extra time is worth it.

How do you feel about the quality of books being published? Is it going down? Do you have tips about how to get a manuscript reviewed that I haven’t covered here?
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About Terry Ambrose

Terry started out skip tracing and collecting money from deadbeats and quickly learned that liars come from all walks of life. He never actually stole a car, but sometimes hired big guys with tow trucks and a penchant for working in the dark when “negotiations” failed.

In Terry’s new release, License to Lie, a criminologist and a con artist learn that with $5 million and their lives on the line, you can never trust a soul…even your own. T. Jefferson Parker, author of The Jaguar and The Border Lords said, “License to Lie is fast and well written, almost sure to satisfy discerning readers of thrillers.”
Learn more about Terry on his website at terryambrose.com or on his Facebook author page at facebook.com/suspense.writer.

Posted in Business of Writing, The Writing Life | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 24 Comments »

Being An Earnest Researcher

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on May 15, 2012

The Importance of Being Earnest Researcher by J.H. Bogran

The truth is that you never know who may end up reading the works you publish, so the best course of action is to be sure of what you write is accurate.

Last year I was reading a story where the main character took his toddler to Disney World and made a point of mentioning the kid had enjoyed a particular attraction. I was immediately surprised because when I took my own kid to that same attraction, he cried his heart out; he freaked out in the dark environment. After calming my five-year-old I took a closer look at the program and indeed it had a warning stating the attraction may be frightening for small children. So, don’t ask me what happened in the immediate chapters because I fumed about the tiny little thing for the next following pages of the novel.                  JH Bogran cover

For my novel in Spanish—Heredero del Mal or Heir of Evil—I had short prologue where I show Adolph Hitler smoking a cigar when it’s a well-known fact that he didn’t smoke nor drink. A keen observer brought this fact to my attention just before the book went into print. After a self-imposed and much deserved slap on the face I went to correct that detail.

There are other examples like people telling they made sure the safety is on when they have a revolver. Revolvers, wheel-guns, six-shooters, whatever you want to call them, don’t sport a safety. They are very secure weapons because they are reliable, durable, and overall very cool. A revolver plays a very important part during the climax of my novel Treasure Hunt.

K. L. (Karen) Dionne wrote an ecological thriller titled Boiling Point. The climax was atop an erupting volcano. She had the opportunity to travel down to Chile and visit the Chaiten Volcano there. She saw the aftermath, the ashes, smelled the sulfur, and heard the chirping birds or the lack of them. It was an eye opener experience for her and Boiling Point is a much better book because of it. Karen wrote a bit about her adventure in Chile.

Of course, not everybody is lucky enough to visit intended locations. However, you can contact people who have been there, get maps, or read the almanac.

The internet is one of my most valuable tools for research. One bit of advice, though, is don’t believe all you read online; search for secondary confirmation. Another fabulous research tool is a questionnaire. Search through your network of friends—remember Six Degrees of Separation? It works—and find a person in the profession or field that you plan to write about. People generally like to talk about their day job so it’s not like pulling teeth.

When it comes to names, they must also be researched thoroughly. My main character in The Assassin’s Mistress uses the alias of Robert I. Prescott, or R.I.P. His thinking is that once he takes a contract, his target goes to Rest in Peace. My research struck gold when I discovered the French name Chantal means “stone.” I had just found my female lead character and Robert’s love interest’s name.

In the end, the knowledge the author acquires before the final draft goes great lengths to improve the story. The details seep through the page and they even help with the suspension of disbelief. If you read all the way to the end of this post, I guess you know what my favorite part of penning a new novel is.

JH Bogran Author

Author Bio and Links:

J. H. Bográn, born and raised in Honduras, is the son of a journalist. He ironically prefers to write fiction rather than fact. José’s genre of choice is thrillers, but he likes to throw in a twist of romance into the mix. His works include novels and short stories in both English and Spanish. He’s a member of the International Thriller Writers where he also serves as the Thriller Roundtable Coordinator.

Website at: http://www.jhbogran.net
Blog: http://www.thetaleweaver.blogspt.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/jhbogran
Twitter: @JHBogran

Blurb for The Assassin’s Mistress

A random encounter leads to deception, love and murder. While vacationing at a ski resort, professional hitman Robert Prescott meets a strange and beautiful woman. They discover passion and embark into a dangerous game hiding their relationship from her powerful husband. Then a further twist of fate makes Robert’s occupation collide with his new found love.

Buy link: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B007BOC0OW

Posted in Writing Craft | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 10 Comments »

Sleuthfest: Dennis Lehane

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on March 8, 2011

Bestselling Author Dennis Lehane gave some great writing advice during his luncheon speech on Saturday at Sleuthfest as the rapt audience hung on his words.

Disclaimer: Any misinterpretations are mine alone. This is what I heard to the best of my ability. The words were flying so fast, it was sometimes hard to catch them.

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Bestselling Author Dennis Lehane

So here is the essence of the speech which was full of wonderfully practical advice:

A story or a novel must have action, i.e. a character doing something in pursuit of a goal.

Motive does matter when it comes to writing.

If you’re a writer to make money, you’re insane. Why do you write?

We want to seduce, enlighten, engage readers and make them wonder What Happens Next.

Story is about engaging the reader and illuminating the human condition.

Don’t become a comedian if no one has told you you’re funny. Similarly, don’t become a writer if no one has said you’re a good storyteller.

You have to have a reason to tell the story and the reader must have a reason to read it.

Ten Tips on Writing:

1. Does the story begin on page one?

2. Does the main character act soon enough? Stasis in a novel is death. Someone must be doing something in chapter one.

3. Does the main character have a recognizable want? Want leads to action which leads to the inner life of the character. Want is plot.

4. Does the main character have a recognizable need? The writer may not know what this need is at the outset. Need is theme.

5. Does the main character’s action come across as authentic?

6. Does the main character go on a journey that results in an epiphany? The story is a journey. A plot shouldn’t call attention to itself. Anyone can write Act 1. Act 2 is where you discover who you are as a writer.

7. Do events in the story have dramatic inevitability? By the end, the reader should feel a universal truth.

8. Is something at stake in the story? Preferably what’s at stake is a piece of the main character’s soul. Otherwise, the story is just an amusement ride.

9. Write the book you want to read (and not the Great American Novel or you’ll write a pretentious piece of crap).

10. When in doubt, just tell the damn story. Try to transcend the genre in which you write. Never stop learning.

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Sue Peek, Sharon Hartley, Cynthia Thomason (standing)

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Sandra Madden, Carol Stephenson, Nancy Cohen

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Auctioneer Cynthia Thomason

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Britin Haller & Neil Plakcy

Posted in Business of Writing | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

 
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