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

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Posts Tagged ‘writing process’

A Sense of Setting

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on January 16, 2014

A Sense of Setting by Sally Wright

Why is a thing I do, that some readers say they like, so hard for me? Descriptions of landscape and setting, I do those passages over and over before I can get them even close to being right. And what I mean by “right” starts with, “Is it clear? Can it be interpreted any other way? Could a reader really visualize what you’re describing?” – even before I get to “Is it interesting prose?”clip_image002

Part of my difficulty probably comes from having an overactive visual memory that demands unattainable perfection. For instance: I can still see a tiny arched wooden bridge over a miniscule shivery stream edged with wild watercress, beside a dark forest, in front of a wood-beamed cottage in Connecticut I haven’t seen since I was four (and only saw five or six times then) – and I rewrote that description more times than I’ll admit, even though it’s nothing special now.

And when settings hand you your stories, you can’t just blow by. Several Ben Reese mysteries popped into my head because of a particular place – in Scotland, England, Tuscany, Georgia and the Carolinas, Ben’s small-town Ohio home – and I’ve spent countless days revising and polishing and choosing details to try to describe them well.

Breeding Ground, the first Jo Grant mystery, got into my blood years ago when I spent time in Lexington, Kentucky researching a Ben book. I stayed in beautiful old farmhouse B&Bs, surrounded by pastureland and fast running creeks, and as I grilled the owners about the houses’ history, and local characters as well, it made me want to write a new series immersed in that lush green world where Thoroughbreds graze the hills.

If I’m working at a real place, I take a ridiculous number of photographs. I use travel books, novels, reference books and magazines, even biographies and journals, if the scene takes place at an earlier date. Movies too, if they exist. If I wanted to place a book in Kenya, I’d certainly watch “Out Of Africa,” once I’d read the book.

I use maps, real and imagined by me, depending on whether the setting exists, or I’ve altered something real, or made it up entirely. I draw floor plans and elevations and arrange furniture on the plans, because unless I can see it myself in incredible detail I’m not going to describe anything so someone else can picture it.

That’s a big part of why we write – right? To draw people in to our created worlds – in, on so many levels, and to such a degree that they can see and feel and care about what happens to the people they meet.

And when we’re writing, caught up in that world ourselves, it’s one of the great pleasures in life – at least for me (even if I write the blasted description another hundred times).
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Sally Wright is the Edgar Allan Poe Award nominated author of six Ben Reese mysteries, as well as Breeding Ground , the first Jo Grant mystery. Sally lives with her husband in rural northwestern Ohio.

Book Blurb:

clip_image004“To borrow a beautiful phrase from her own work, Sally Wright’s Breeding Ground is a story that is as small as a wren’s nest and as wide as the world. There’s murder along the way, but Breeding Ground aims at a larger target and hits home remarkably well.  It’s a tale of families and the ghosts that haunt them, of heroes and horses, of the age-old battle between those who value honor and those who do not.  The prose is gorgeous, and the setting—the stunning horse country of Kentucky—has never been more beautifully rendered.  This is a book you will absolutely be glad you’ve read.” — Kent Kreuger

Buy Links:

Amazon, http://www.amazon.com/Breeding-Ground-Sally-Wright-ebook/dp/B00G69OF3M/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1386626608&sr=1-1&keywords=breeding+ground

BN, http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/breeding-ground-sally-wright/1117272099?ean=2940148839170

Follow Sally Online:

Website: http://www.sallywright.net/

Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/SallyWrightAuthor

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Sally_Wright5

Posted in The Writing Life, Writing Craft | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Advice for the Floundering Writer

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on January 7, 2014

Are you procrastinating about your writing career because distractions take you away from your work? Do self-doubts inhibit you? Are you unsure how to get started? Do you take too much time rereading your work and never moving ahead?

writing

Assuming you’ve determined your characters and setting, follow these steps:

  1. Write a complete synopsis of your story. This will be your roadmap, and you’ll see if you have any plot holes to fill in. Include your protagonist’s personal angst and character growth. Each scene should have a purpose, whether revealing character or advancing the story. Don’t worry about how to get from Point A to Point B in detail. This is where story magic comes into play.
  2. Now set yourself a writing schedule, whatever works for you, even if it’s one page a day.
  3. Sit down in your chair and write, sticking to your quota, until you finish the first draft.
  4. Give yourself permission to write crap. You can fix what’s on the page, but first, you must write it.
  5. Focus on one book at a time. Don’t get distracted by other projects. If you get fresh ideas, jot them down for later. Concentrate on completing this particular work. If you’re unsure which project to develop, do the one that sings to you and ignites your fire.
  6. Keep moving forward. Don’t second guess yourself. If your synopsis is detailed enough, it will show you where to go. How your characters get there is up to them, and they may provide detours. That’s a good thing, and you can revise your synopsis accordingly, either along the way or when you finish the story. Why do you need a synopsis at all? It’s a sales tool. You may have to present it to your editor with the submission or later to the art department to help in creating your book cover.
  7. Make a firm career decision. You’re either going to become a professional writer, or it’s a hobby for you. If your decision is serious, treat novel writing like you would any career. Get some training, i.e. attend workshops and conferences, join a critique group, and participate in professional writing organizations.
  8. Learn the business aspects because it’s not all about writing the book, it’s also about marketing.
  9. Follow the 4 P’s: Practice, Professionalism, Pursuit, and Perseverance. Keep writing every day or several times a week to fulfill your quota. Always be professional and courteous to others in the industry. Pursue writing as a serious career choice. And never give up your dream. Persistence pays, and eventually you will call yourself a published author. Remember the BIC-HOK motto: Butt in Chair, Hands on Keyboard.

Contests

Enter to win “A Taste of the Virgin Islands” cookbook or 1/2 decks of tropical recipe playing cards. http://nancyjcohen.com/fun-stuff/contest/ Deadline: January 25

Enter to win a $25 Amazon/BN giftcard or 1/5 free ebooks, including a copy of Keeper of the Rings, at Booklover’s Bench: http://bit.ly/13qZ4oF  Deadline: January 18

Posted in Fiction Writing, The Writing Life, Writing Craft | Tagged: , , , , , | 15 Comments »

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 »

 
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