1 of N does not equal N—Craft Tuesday at Write on the River

Thumb_Nail_Novel_WriterArrghhh. Math. Sorry, but it’s the best way I can explain this concept. What this formula means is that just because you can buy a best-selling book written by so-and-so, the famous writer that does not mean you can write a similar book and get it published.

What I’m talking about is those people who sit there and complain that their book is just as good as such and such and, damn it, they should not only be published but have a bestseller. Also, those people who look at book number 5 from a best-selling author and complain about how bad it is. Yes, there are many book number 5’s from best-selling authors that if they were book number 1 from a new author, would not get published. But the primary thing that sells a book is the author’s name. I’ve always said Stephen King could write a book about doing his laundry and it would be on the bestseller list. Stephen King earned being Stephen King and to misquote a vice-presidential debate, I’ve read Stephen King and you ain’t no Stephen King. Neither am I.

Another thing people do is they see a technique used in a novel and use the same technique, and then get upset when told it doesn’t work. They angrily point to the published book that has the same technique and say, “SEE.” Unfortunately, what they don’t see is that that technique is part of the overall structure of the novel. It all ties together. I’ll discuss book dissection to study various aspects and techniques and I still stand by that; however, I also remind you of the story of Frankenstein. Just because you can put all the pieces together, that doesn’t mean you can necessarily bring it to life. There are some techniques that only work when combined in context of other parts of the novel; thus using it in isolation can be a glaring problem. You can’t take the beginning of one bestseller, tie it in with flashback style from another, and have a similar flashy ending as another and expect the novel to automatically work.

Every part of a novel is a thread connected to all the other parts. Pull on one piece and you pull on them all. Tear apart a novel or a movie and see the pieces, but then be like a watchmaker and see if you can put them all together again as the writer did and if you understand why they go back that way.

For example, Quentin Tarrantino ignored the classic three act screenplay structure with Pulp Fiction. Yet the movie was a great success. So therefore, a number of new screenwriters decided they didn’t need the three act structure. However, what they failed to see is that it was not so much the unique story structure that made Pulp Fiction such a success, but rather the intriguing dialogue. Tarrantino’s structure without the Tarrantino dialogue would have spelled failure.

It is also more important to figure out what is working and why, rather that what you feel didn’t work in a book you read. An attitude that will serve you little good is the there’s so much crap on the shelves in the bookstore. I admit that there are times when I am looking for something to read, and I stand in the local supermarket looking at the paperbacks, that I really can’t find anything I want to read or that sparks an interest. But that doesn’t automatically mean it’s all crap.

I had to do this many times. I’d read something I might not like, but it seems to be selling quite well. Instead of dismissing the rest of the world as stupid, I try to find what it is about the book that people like. That doesn’t mean I’m going to do the same thing, but it does broaden my horizon.

I don’t think there is anything wrong with a little fire burning deep inside believing you are better than those people getting published, but I think that’s the sort of thing that should be used to fuel your writing, not expressed loudly so everyone can hear it.

John Gardner once said that every book has its own rules. Remember that when you examine a book to see what you can learn from it. Look at the parts from the perspective of that book’s specific rules.

backgroundBlack Tuesday finalThe Novel Writers Toolkit, Write It Forward, How We Made Our First Million on Kindle, 102 Writing Mistakes, and Writer’s Conference Guide.

And coming 24 August and available for pre-order: Time Patrol: Black Tuesday

 

Summer Sins by Jennifer Probst Pre-Order Price only .99!

Please welcome NY Times Bestselling Author Jennifer Probst to Write on the River!

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I love summer vacation.

Honestly, I live for summer. The beach, the sun, the sand, the endless lazy mornings and the excitement of going away somewhere. As a NY girl born and bred, I visited Long Island several times to visit family and hit the beach. Maybe a concert at Jones Beach. Wine tastings. Great shopping. But I’ve always been intrigued by the mystery and coolness of the Hamptons.

The Hamptons is THE summer place to go for the rich and famous. Or the bored and wealthy. Expensive shops and mansions and long stretches of beach. Bars and restaurants to party all night.

When I decided to join two author friends to create a series of three best friends spending the summer together revolving around a big wedding, immediately the Hamptons became the perfect setting. Each new adult novella features one of the girls, leading up to the wedding that may or may not occur. They are all standalone – but are more fun to read together, especially for some extra bonuses.

For a limited time until release day – August 4th – all three books are priced at .99.

HITH_Preorder

Here’s a quick blurb of Summer Sins to wet your appetite.

HITH_SummerSins

Summer fun before my wedding…
I have one goal this summer. Hang with my besties for some much needed sun, sand, and relaxation while I put the final touches on my idyllic wedding. I didn’t count on meeting a smart-mouthed, bad boy biker whose gaze burns hotter than a beach bonfire. I never planned to lose myself, body and soul, and question my entire future. Now, I have to make a choice that’s tearing me apart, and could shatter the lives of the two men I love…

Turns into summer sins…
I have one goal this summer. CHILL. Do nothing. Nada. I need simple before I have to head into Manhattan to take on a high powered position on Wall Street. I didn’t count on a dark haired, inky- eyed spitfire who’d spin my world upside down, or make me burn for things I never thought I wanted. I vowed to make her my summer fling, but had no idea she was claimed by another. And now that she possessed not only my body but my soul, the stakes are too high for me to lose her…

Love burns hotter in the Hamptons. Come play.

The Hot in the Hamptons Series:

Summer Dreaming by Liz Matis | Amazon | iBooks | Nook | Kobo
Summer Temptation by Wendy S. Marcus | Amazon | iBooks | Nook | Kobo
Summer Sins by Jennifer Probst | Amazon | iBooks | Nook | Kobo

Three separate novellas. Three different authors. One summer to remember.
Read them all, or just read one. It’s up to you! But when read together, you’ll find extra story scenes to enhance your reading pleasure. No matter which route you choose, these standalone novellas will make you burn.

I hope everyone is enjoying their summer!

More on Point of View– Craft at Write on the River

Toolkit_TNYou have to consider point of view before you begin your book and before you write every scene, much as a movie director has to. You have to determine the best point of view to get across to the reader the story you are trying to tell. Decide where are you going to place the camera to the best advantage of the story.

Say you are going to write a thriller about a female FBI agent tracking down a vicious serial killer. You want to open your book with a scene that will grab the reader and set the stage for the suspense of the novel so you decide to open with a killing. What point of view will you use? Now, remember, no point of view is wrong—you just have to understand the advantages and disadvantages of your possible choices and make a knowledgeable decision. And remember, you will most likely be stuck with that point of view for the entire manuscript.

First person might be a bit difficult. After all, this would most likely mean your narrator actually witnesses the scene. This isn’t impossible, but it could be awkward. Perhaps you use first person from the protagonist’s point of view and she witnesses the murder but is not in a position to take any action? Using first person from the POV of the victim means the book is rather short, unless the victim survives the attack and swears vengeance. First person from the killer would make for a dark book, but it has been done.

You can decide to use third person from the point of view of the victim. This can build tension well, but also means the chapter will end abruptly.

You can use third person from the point of view of the killer, but remember that the killer knows who he or she is and therefore you have to be careful how much insight into the killer’s head you allow. A technique some use to overcome that limitation is to have the killer think of himself in different terms than his reality. The killer is Joe Schmo, but when he’s in killer mode he thinks of himself as Captain Hook, thus hiding his identity from the reader in third person insight.

Or, you could use omniscient, placing your ‘camera’ above the scene. Here, though, you have to be careful not to show too much and give away the killer’s identity. Much like a director might choose a dark basement where the viewer can’t see the killer’s face, you will do the same.

Another example of considering how to write a scene is if you have two characters meeting in a pub for an important exchange of dialogue. They sit across from each other. How are you going to ‘shoot’ this scene? From third person of one of the characters? That means you get that character’s thoughts and you describe the other character’s reactions—i.e. the camera is on your POV character’s shoulder. Is it important that the reader know one character’s thought more than the other’s? Or is it more important to show one character’s reactions than the others?

Or, do you keep switching the camera back and forth across the booth, going from one to the other? If you’re Larry McMurty and won a Pulitzer Prize you might be able to do that, but for most of us, such a constant switching of POV is very disconcerting to the reader. Or do you shoot it omniscient with the camera off to the side and simply show actions and record dialogue?

Consider this scene like a date. If you were out with someone and you knew exactly what they were thinking, and they knew what you were thinking, would there be any suspense to the date? Taking too many points of view can greatly reduce your suspense.

Black Tuesday finalI’ve written in all the above points of view. I tend to go with omniscient now as it’s the voice that works best for me, but it took me almost forty manuscripts to figure that out.

Coming 24 August: The Time Patrol: Black Tuesday

Six missions on 29 October to six different years, from 999 AD to 1980. Each operative has 24 hours to maintain our timeline or else everything snaps out of existence.

 

Moving Out of the Comfort Zone – The Author as Activist By Susan G. Weidener

high res_front-2As a cadet at West Point, Jay Scioli, the hero in A Portrait of Love and Honor, challenges and confronts his demons . . . and his naive notions of honor and glory.

Later, as a cancer victim, he questions the medical establishment, which often treats patients like statistics, not human beings. By writing his memoir, Jay moves toward a greater understanding of himself and impersonal systems, including the military establishment that tarnished the dream he once coveted – a career as an officer in the United States Army.

Jay’s questioning of the war in Vietnam; indeed, the honor code at West Point during that era may not be ‘popular’ with some, but it does offer insight and an important historical record of the challenges and the tragedy of that period in our history.

A writer has a larger obligation to stand for something – something ethical and true. Moving out of one’s comfort zone, finding our voices and our “truth” are integral components of creative expression. As writers, we must continue to challenge ourselves and our readers.

Accepting the status quo often seems at odds with the writer’s lot in life, or, if it isn’t, it should be. We write that which is the unspoken, the unmentionable . . . challenging ourselves and our readers to dig deep, and in the process, take away life’s lessons; whether or not our book has “marketing potential,” isn’t the point.

Our work, as Ursula K. Le Guin, fantasy and science fiction writer, says, often lies in realizing the difference between the “production of a marketable commodity and the practice of an art.”

And yet it is almost impossible to move beyond our books’ rankings on Amazon, how many reviews and “stars” readers have awarded them on any given day.

“Sales strategies, in order to maximize profits, are not the same thing as responsible book publishing”; authorship is not “letting commodity profiteers sell us like deodorant and tell us what to write” . . . Le Guin says.

In that regard, I am an activist. I have written three books – two memoirs and A Portrait of Love and Honor: a novel based on a true story. Together they form a trilogy dedicated to and inspired by my late husband, John M. Cavalieri, Class of ’71 USMA. My books reflect what I felt offered readers life lessons and a message that some may not always feel comfortable in wanting to hear; by standing up to the system and not taking the easy way out, there is a price to be paid.

In our 17-year marriage, John and I often challenged the “status quo” both in the workplace and as members of our church before his death from cancer in 1994. As a journalist, it was my job to dig deep and seek answers and truth for readers.

In A Portrait of Love and Honor, Ava Stuart, Jay’s editor and the woman he falls in love with, moves beyond disillusionment in her own life to hope and renewal. She finds the connection and intimacy that comes when we fully love another person. Together, Ava and Jay find meaning and honor in a world that is often not very honorable.

About A Portrait of Love and Honor: A Novel Based on a True Story

Newly-divorced and on her own, 40-something Ava Stuart forges a new life. One day, at a signing in the local library for her novel, a tall, dark-haired man walks in and stands in the back of the room. Jay Scioli is a wanderer – a man who has said good-bye to innocence, the U. S. Army, and corporate America. His outlook on life having changed, his health shattered by illness, he writes a memoir. In his isolation, he searches for an editor to help him pick up the loose ends. Time may be running out. He is drawn to the striking and successful Ava. Facing one setback after another, their love embraces friendship, crisis, dignity, disillusionment. Their love story reflects a reason for living in the face of life’s unexpected events.

Based on a true story, A Portrait of Love and Honor takes the reader from the halls of the United States Military Academy at West Point during the Vietnam War to a moving love story between two people destined to meet.

Susan Weidener photoAbout the Author:

Susan G. Weidener is a former journalist with The Philadelphia Inquirer. She has interviewed a host of interesting people from all walks of life, including Guy Lombardo, Bob Hope, Leonard Nimoy, Rubin “Hurricane” Carter and Mary Pipher.  She left journalism in 2007 and after attending a women’s writing retreat, wrote and published her memoir, Again in a Heartbeat, a memoir of love, loss and dating again, about being widowed at a young age. Two years later, she wrote and published its sequel, Morning at Wellington Square, a woman’s search for passion and renewal in middle age. Her novel, A Portrait of Love and Honor, completes the trilogy, inspired by and dedicated to her late husband, John M. Cavalieri, on whose memoir the novel is based.  Susan earned a BA in Literature from American University and a master’s in education from the University of Pennsylvania. An editor, writing coach and teacher of writing workshops, she founded the Women’s Writing Circle, a support and critique group for writers in suburban Philadelphia. She lives in Chester Springs, PA.  Her website is:  www.susanweidener.com.

https://twitter.com/Sweideheart

http://www.susanweidener.com/

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B004G7AXQY

https://www.facebook.com/susan.weidener

 

 

 

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