Writing Narrow or Writing Broad? Write on the River Notes

Do you write narrow, broad or both?

I’ve been struggling with my work in progress, Chasing the Son, and about 4 in the morning I realized a problem I’m having is I’m writing too narrow and linearly on a story that is actually broad and spread out over place and time.

Here’s what narrow writing is:


-action oriented

-real time

-conflict driven

Here’s what broad writing is:

-character focused

-slower paced

-multiple occurrences at the same time

-conflict driven

Note both are conflict driven, but in broad writing, the conflict is more character based, while in narrow writing, it’s more action based.  (all conflict should actually be both)

Neither are wrong. And a good book usually has both. In fact, I started this book out broadly. I begin by describing the low country around Charleston, then go into some history and by page three get to a character, then finally show character in action. Some would say not the greatest opening, where there needs to be that great hook on the first page and action. But I’ve written plenty of books like that. My subconscious obviously feels differently about this book and I have to trust it. Of course, that was my subconscious. The key is to move it from there to my conscious which is what I think finally happened at 4 in the morning. I’d gone from broad to narrow and it was bothering me.

We’re running a Write on the River workshop this weekend with four people attending and the key to it is focusing on process. What each writers process is and how their minds work. I really focus on this now after a quarter century of writing. I constantly surprise myself by not really understanding my process and having to work on it and refine it. So today I have to dive back in Chasing the Son and expand the story rather than move it forward as I’ve been doing. I need to add more texture and characterization so the reader understands the motives of the characters and why the action is happening.

By the way, Jen has been working on covers as we rebrand the Green Beret series. We’re breaking the books apart. The six original Dave Riley stories are one subset. But the books where Horace Chase comes to the forefront, will now be another subset. Even though Dave Riley is present in Chasing the Lost and Chasing the Son, these books are somewhat different. To brand them differently, we’re redoing covers. What do you think?

Chasing covers




Best Way to Sell Books? Write Better— Craft Tuesday at Write on the River

Yes, we all say it, but a perusal of blogs, articles, and conference schedules show a focus on eBooks, social media, marketing, promotion, formatting, cover design and much less on learning the craft of writing. Everyone is asking “How, in this flood of content, can I sell books?” And the answer is indeed: Write Better Books.

The key to being discovered is to have readers searching for you. Gather a fan following. That doesn’t happen by having a ton of followers on Twitter or Facebook. It happens by having a ton of readers, eagerly anticipating your next title to come out. Ultimately that is going to be what separates out those who succeed as writers and the vast majority who won’t over the long haul.

In light of that, I’m introducing Craft Tuesday. I will blog about various aspects of writing and also discuss examples from media, both print and screen. I will present a classic form of the novel, but also talk about how I view story telling to be changing. I’ve really seen a change in this in the last decade, especially in terms of narrative structure, timeline, and point of view. I’ve always believed in rule breaking, but I have three rules of rule breaking:

  1. Know the rule. Breaking a rule we don’t know is just being dumb.
  2. Have a good reason for breaking the rule. When I run Write On The River workshops here, I never say “You did it wrong.” There is no wrong. What I ask is “Why did you do it that way?” Often I get a blank stare back. It means the person just did it, without a good reason. Have a good reason for breaking a rule.
  3. Take responsibility for breaking the rule. If it works, you’re a genius. If it doesn’t, you’re a mere mortal. Failure is the start point for future success.

Great writing is an art that comes out of craft. Which can be learned.

Toolkit_TNSome of the material presented comes out of The Novels Writers Toolkit. I started writing that over 20 years ago and have been updating it ever since. In this blog, I will be updating the excerpts for the next edition of the Toolkit.

Something I’ve picked up in the last several years is that a writer must study, refine and perfect their own process. This is the creative and practical way in which we write. It’s rooted in our psychology. I often tell writers that since we sit in a dark room by ourselves and write, we need therapy. It’s a given. But it’s true. We must understand our own thought process; and how we funnel that into our creative process.

I know a #1 bestselling writer who has the imagination of a rock. That’s not to say she’s dumb. She’s actually very, very smart. Just not imaginative. So part of her process is to compensate for that lack. She spends a lot of time studying her setting, but beyond her setting, she spends a lot of her time interviewing people and listening to their stories. And her story comes out of their stories. I don’t judge the right or wrong of that; it’s her process. It’s worked well enough to propel her to #1 on the NY Times list.

I tell people I can plot anything. What I mean is I can take a bunch of pieces and pull them together into a coherent plot. So I don’t overly worry about knowing exactly what will happen down the line. The longer I’ve written, the more I trust my subconscious. It means putting things in that manuscript that I really don’t know why they’re there. But I leave them. I’ve learned in my process to not edit those things out. Because later, down the line, it’s probably a piece I will need to build my story and make it tighter. So that’s a part of process I’ve taken something out of my subconscious and work with consciously. The more our process becomes conscious, the better we will work.

Process also includes point of view, which we will discuss. Another key to process is knowing what part of writing is our weakness, and then working to make it much stronger; I believe our book is only as good as the weakest part.

So let’s start there. What is your process as a writer? The following questions will help define it:

  1. When I start a story, what is the moment of conception? I call this the original or kernel idea. Is it a person? A place? A theme? A story?
  2. Do I understand my theme/intent for what I’m writing?
  3. Why am I writing about this theme/intent? Why is it important to me?
  4. Why is it important for me to write a story others will read?
  5. What point of view do I write in? Is it the POV that supports my best writing? What POV scares me to write in? Might that be the best for me?
  6. How do I research a story? What does that say about my imagination and my process?
  7. What’s the weakest part of my writing? How can I make it better? Compensate for it?
  8. What’s the strongest part of my writing? What is it compensating for and hiding from me? Remember, our greatest strengths are built around our greatest weaknesses.
  9. How much outlining do I do? Do I outline plot? Character? Both? Neither?
  10. How much rewriting do I do? What is the focus of my rewriting?

backgroundDon’t worry if you can’t answer all of these. I’ll be blogging about all of it as the Tuesday’s go by. And if you’re in a rush, buy the Toolkit and Write It Forward, and they’ll give you insights into the answers to these questions. Feel free to answer some in the comments and I’ll do my best to also comment.

The Write on the River workshop coming up this weekend was sold out a while ago.  The next one is 27-28 June; or if you can gather three friends we can schedule a special weekend.  Check out Write on the River.

I’m looking forward to this journey with you over the next months! Nothing but good times ahead.


Publication Day: Nightstalkers– Time Patrol

TimePatrolYes, today is the day Nightstalkers: Time Patrol is live.  This book marks a turning point because the Nighstalkers transition in this story into the Time Patrol and from here on out that will be their mission.  The next book will be out in August and it’s Time Patrol: Black Tuesday.  I’ve already picked the dates for the next two books after that:  Time Patrol: Ides of March and Time Patrol: Valentines Day Massacre.

Time travel has always fascinated me, especially if you accept the premise that if its ever invented, then it exists now.  I’m merging the world and theories I invented in my Atlantis series into the Time Patrol:

Hidden deep beneath the Metropolitan Museum of Art is the Time Patrol, a secret agency charged with protecting the world’s timeline from the evil forces who wish to alter it. When the Patrol disappears without a trace, only twelve short hours are left before all life on Earth ceases to exist.

Enter: the Nightstalkers. Summoned to find the Time Patrol, the Nightstalkers’ elite covert operatives begin to notice rifts in their own worlds. And when they realize one of their colleagues has vanished into thin air, the mission gets personal.

From battling krakens and Valkyries to breaching the mythical Bermuda Triangle, the Nightstalkers must risk everything to defeat the malicious forces manipulating time itself. But if they lose, it won’t just mean the end of the world—it will mean the total destruction of the past, the present, and the future.

Brimming with sci-fi action, Time Patrol continues bestselling author Bob Mayer’s pulse-pounding Nightstalkers series.

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Finally: When It Changed– Atlantis?

When It Changed.  From Nighstalkers: The Time Patrol published tomorrow!

It had changed for Foreman, closing in on 70 years of service, in February 1945 in an area called the Devils Sea, off the coast of Japan, in the waning days of World War II. The event was after he and his pilot were forced to ditch because of engine trouble. Minutes later the rest of their squadron simply vanished into a strange mist in that enigmatic part of the world. No trace of the other planes or crews were ever found.

Then it was reinforced in December of that same year, the war finally over, on the other side of the world, when he begged off a mission because of the same premonition he’d had before the Devils Sea flight, and watched Flight 19 disappear from the radar in an area called the Bermuda Triangle.

He’d determined then and there, that he had to know the Truth.

So he’d gone from the Marine Corps, into the short-lived pre-cursor to the CIA, the Central Intelligence Group in 1946, then morphed with it into the CIA, where he moved upward, and, much more importantly inward, into the darkness of the most covert parts of various branches whose letters and designations changed over the years, but their missions grew more and more obscure, to the point where he’d outlived and outserved all his contemporaries so no one in the present was quite sure who exactly he worked for any more or what his mission was.

If he worked for anyone at all.

Not that anyone really cared.

They should.

He was now known as the Crazy Old Man in the covert bowels of the Pentagon and by some other names, associated with bowel movements.

How crazy he was, some people were about to discover.

Chapter One

Cleopatra’s Needle pierced the sudden downpour with the relative indifference of granite, having faced the many depredations of time in its 3,500 some-odd years of existence. However, just one hundred years in New York City’s weather has done more damage to the hieroglyphics on the four faces of the obelisk, particularly the southwest corner, than over three millennia in Egypt’s much drier climate. It wasn’t the rain as much as the acid pollution rising from the city, some of which came back down in the rain.

Edith Frobish hated the rain, for more than just the damage it did to the Needle. Still, she paused, as she always did, to look at the ancient Egyptian monument set, strangely, in Central Park in the middle of Manhattan, in the middle of New York City, far from its origin. The fact the obelisk had nothing to do with Cleopatra VII (yes, there were six before that one, but none had achieved her fame/infamy so only the historically finicky who added the number—count Edith among those who did) was a trick of historical ‘publicity’, more notoriety, that Edith would never understand. Why name something for someone who had had nothing to do with it, other than ruling briefly a thousand years after the Needle was commissioned by the 18th Dynasty Pharaoh, good old, Thutmose III? He was considered the ‘Napoleon of Egypt”, expanding the Empire to its widest breadths, but did anyone remember his name? Nope. But they remembered Cleopatra, seventh with that name. Plus, few knew or cared there had been six Cleopatra’s before the one who’d bedded mighty Caesar, then not-quite-as-mighty Marc Antony, and then had a date with a snake.

Was it just because she’d snagged and shagged two notable Romans? Edith found such an idea misogynist in the extreme. Which shows that despite her brilliance and degrees, there was much she didn’t know about the real world.


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