Sunday, October 26, 2014

Editing – learning the tricks of the trade give me, and readers, a treat

The act of writing books is broken up into separate tasks…you have an idea for a story, you use that idea to write a book, and eventually you publish your novel for others to enjoy.

But there is so much more to writing than that!

The ideas are the easy part, at least for me.  They hit me at various times, day or night, and I just have to pay attention, write them down, and use whichever idea is the most persistent.

Writing is the fun part.  You learn about your characters and make discoveries about the plot you thought you already knew as the story unfolds and provides you with exciting surprises.

Before a book can be published, it must be read, reviewed, tweaked, reviewed again, added to, taken away from, read and reviewed again before it’s finally ready for publishing.  The trick is to know when it’s finally ready. 

And that’s not always an easy trick to learn.

I’ve dealt with the editing part of writing a few different ways…I’ve used proofreaders, beta readers, my own reviews and a professional editor.  All are good but I’m learning as I go and I agree with the consensus out there…it’s better to use all rather than only one.  Doing so is the best way to reassure the writer that the book may actually be ready for publishing.

I hired someone new to edit the third book in my mystery series and I have to say this…it has made the editing part of writing less stressful than ever.  I enjoyed her feedback, the tips she shared, her insight as a first-time reader of my work and her professionalism when it came to how to make the story read better.  It still takes time, and I still have to keep my patience when it comes to this process, but this time around my patience was tested less because the editing process was much easier and also more beneficial for me in the long-term.

I’m learning more this time around, and that’s a good thing.  The tricks I’m learning from the editor with this book will help me as I move on to the next.  The difficult part, I think, is that I want to go back to my earlier books and use these tools to make those stories even better.  Maybe, someday I will. 

Until then, I’m going to continue to write more books and I’ll continue to use the tricks and tools I’ve learned to make each book better than the next.  I’ve had so much fun with the third book in the series, not only while writing it but also while reviewing it again as I complete the edits, and I can’t wait to share the story with everyone.  I know I keep saying it’ll be published soon…so now I ask for your patience.  The word “soon” is a relative term, I realize, and in the publishing world, doesn’t quite mean the same as it might in the real world.  So bear with me…rather than using the word “soon,” I’ll say the date is near and the book will be ready as soon as possible given the remaining tasks at hand. 

A bit ambiguous, I know.  So here’s something with less ambiguity…I hope you have a wonderful week! 

Sunday, October 19, 2014

What’s your scare threshold?

Halloween is now less than two weeks away and the stores are filled with candy, costumes and all the decorations you can imagine that will turn your Home Sweet Home into a Haunted House of Horrors.

Or not.

Some can do without Halloween, whether they don’t enjoy it, don’t have kids to beg them to go out trick-or-treating, or they just don’t believe in it.  And that’s okay.  It’s not a season everyone has fun with.

Personally, I enjoy Halloween.  When my boys were little, we had a lot of fun carving pumpkins, decorating, dressing up and going out trick-or-treating.  I also love scary movies, although I really don’t care for really gory films.  You know the ones…no real plot, cardboard characters and plenty of gore for shock value.  I can watch scary movies anytime I want all year long but it’s just much more fun during this time of year, especially when a few cable channels give me plenty to choose from with their 30 days of Halloween fright fests. 

Besides the movies I can choose from if I feel the need to watch a scary flick, I also enjoy watching two of my favorite shows which both started a new season recently and are perfect for this time of year.  We’re talking about The Walking Dead and American Horror Story.  Zombies…that’s a given when it comes to what might frighten people, real or not, but my new favorite scary character?  I’ve never had a fear of clowns but the clown character in American Horror Story beats them all, hands down, even Stephen King’s clown from his novel, It, and that was a clown that kept some people up at night.   

Of course, if I enjoy scary movies, I also enjoy books of the horror, thriller or supernatural genre.  Stephen King and John Saul are two of my favorite authors.  I can’t count the number of novels by both authors that I’ve read more than a few times.

While mysteries are actually my favorite genre when it comes to reading, and writing, I decided to take a chance and write my own ghost story, 1313 Psycho Path.  It was a story I wrote for my boys for Christmas last year and because we liked it so much, we decided to publish it for others to enjoy.  For me and what I’m used to reading, it’s not all that scary.  But I really enjoyed writing it.  And so far, others have enjoyed reading it; except for the few I heard from who couldn’t make it past the first few chapters.  I have to admit, it makes me feel like I accomplished a great trick when I discovered I can write well enough to actually scare readers, even if their scare threshold isn’t as high as mine.

So what’s your scare threshold?  Do you enjoy Halloween?  Do scary movies and books thrill you or do you avoid them because they keep you up at night?  Whatever your threshold, I hope you are enjoying the season, whether it’s bursting with Halloween delights or completely fright free! 


Sunday, October 12, 2014

Projects are getting close to completion!

We’re nearing the end of another year and I’m about to publish not one, but two more books…the third book in the series and another short story.  It can be such a slow process, both for myself and those who look forward to reading my books, but I know I’m doing well considering what it takes to complete a novel and the amount of time the day job consumes.  By the end of this year, I’ll have written and published three novels and two short stories in three years and these are accomplishments I am very proud of.

I’ve heard the question from many over the past two years since my first novel was published…how do you find the time to do what you do?  It’s a simple question but not always easy to answer.  Sometimes I can’t believe how much I’ve accomplished in just a few years but sometimes I wish I could do more. 

And I will do more…it will just take time.

So how is it that I find the time to work, raise a family and write books? 

There really is no easy answer other than that I just do it.  It takes finding the time, staying focused and having strong goals.  Like others who start a new business, train for a marathon, vow to lose one hundred pounds, save every penny they can for their dream vacation or decide to go back to school to gain a degree, I have a passion to do something more for myself. 

The idea behind it is so easy and yet difficult at the same time.

The easy part is the idea.  What is it you really want to do?  The hard part is making it happen.  But it doesn’t have to be difficult if you stay focused when it comes to your goals and just take it one step at a time.  Long-term goals are great but you can only reach those goals if you also focus on completing the short-term goals first, one after another.  And that’s what I continue to do…I can think ahead to where I want to be ten years from now, and I will strive to make that dream happen, but it will only happen if I continue to reach the short-terms goals I have set for myself. 

And I’m about to reach another short-term goal to add to my list of what it will take to reach my long-term goal.  Even better than that, rather than one book, I’m going to publish two books to share with readers.  Both have been edited and are going through some final revisions and then I’ll be working on the covers and book blurbs.  I can’t wait to get them published…it really can’t happen soon enough but, as I said, it is a process.  And then, very soon, once those books are published I’ll be working on another story.  That’s what it takes and how I do what I do.  I just take it one step at a time!

Sunday, October 5, 2014

When books become movies, do we love them any less?

I remember seeing an article recently about books making it to the big screen.  It’s quite the process, sometimes a long time in coming for some authors and very quick for others.  And, I’m sure, it might seem like a dream come true for anyone who eventually sees their story on the big screen.

But what must it be like, to pour your sweat, blood and tears into a project only to have someone else look at your creation with a critical eye and then change whatever they want before it’s put out there for a whole new audience?  It would be like someone taking your child for a few months, only to return them with a new look, new mannerisms and even an accent.

I also recently read an old interview of one of my favorite mystery writers, Mary Higgins Clark, where she was asked how she felt about film adaptations of her work.  What she said makes sense, that it’s like giving up your child for adoption and while you wish it well, you lose control because it’s a different medium and there isn’t any way someone else can take your book and reproduce it exactly as it was written. 

The Lord of the Rings
The Return of the King
Producing a movie adaptation of a book gives the author’s work a whole new life, and hopefully it’s a good version rather than a bad one.  Because it’s a different medium, it is likely to draw a whole new audience and that’s not a bad thing, especially when a new audience might become interested in other work created by the author.  A movie adaptation will also thrill fans of that author when they get to watch one of their favorite stories come to life.  I especially love the movie adaptations of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, as these movies bring a fantasy world to the tips of our fingers and the recesses of our imagination in a way that I believe is better than what J. R. R. Tolkien would have
ever imagined.

But what about the readers who completely dread the idea of movie adaptations because there’s rarely a movie that completely follows the story they fell in love with on paper in the first place? 
I can understand where they might be coming from.

My youngest son and I both read The Maze Runner series and, as with The Hunger Games series and Harry Potter, as well as The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, the idea of seeing these worlds come to life on the big screen is something we always look forward to, even if the movies don’t quite follow along with the whole story created by the authors. 

I only recently finished The Maze Runner series and my son and I just recently watched the first movie based on that series in theaters.  While I do enjoy watching another series come to life on the big screen, I have to admit it is difficult to follow along with a movie based on a book series after having just read that series, especially when some of the changes the director made aren’t minor.  I think, moving forward as a reader and a movie-goer, I’d prefer to let some more time pass between reading a book or a series and watching the movies based on those books.  It just makes for a better experience, in my opinion, because I don’t want to leave the theater wishing that the director had just stuck to the original script.

So what if one of my books became a movie?  I’ll admit it’s something I’d love to see happen but it’s a dream that’s somewhat like winning the lottery…and it also takes putting out the right breakout novel to get you noticed.  As an author, you just never know when that might happen or what story will finally draw that sort of attention.

But authors are inspired by dreams because it is the idea that motivates us in the first place - - the idea of a story, the idea of new characters, the idea of a setting or a whole new world, the idea of others enjoying our stories, the idea that this (writing) is what we’re supposed to be doing because we’ve seen evidence from so many others about how much they appreciate what we’ve created for them.

So even if the movie-version of our books never happens, all the other ideas that motivate authors are certainly enough to keep us going!