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Monday, May 16, 2011


I haven’t been blogging for awhile because I’ve been writing like crazy. However, I’ve been feeling the tug of getting back to it, reaching out to all of you—my friends in the writing world--somewhere out there in cyberspace.

I'm sure you're asking, "What have you been writing?" I'm writing novels and that’s what I want to share in this next series. It'll be quite different than my Writing Non-fiction series. That was drawn from nearly thirty years of writing experience.

This time I'm sharing where I am now--looking to what I want to be publishing in the future, specifically romantic suspense and YA (Young Adult—which in my opinion is way more adult than it used to be).

Have I published in either of these genres?

Yes, my YA novel The Fledglings was published by Delacorte Books for Young Readers in 1992 and reprinted in paperback by Boyds Mills in 1998. Happily, it won two awards. So I’ve tested the waters and long been interested. I simply haven’t had the opportunity in my career—or taken the time, depending on how you want to look at it—to jump in and swim.

I’m telling you this because I want you to understand that I’m going to be sharing with you what I’m discovering myself about the craft of writing fiction. Make no mistake, it is a craft and like any other it takes practice and effort. Above all, it requires a passion to succeed that will carry you past the rejections with the courage to revise or start fresh, but definitely to keep on writing.

So I've learned there are rules to writing fiction and that's what I want to share first. Let's start at the top.

Rule #1: To write it you have to read it.

Each genre has its own specific style and certain aspects of “what’s expected.” That has also changed over time.

You only have to read a Dashiell Hammet mystery, such as his famous Maltese Falcon, published in 1930, and a book by a current mystery writer like Lynda LA Plante’s Blind Fury to see what I mean.

Pick your favorite authors for your favorite genre and read, read, read, read, read. Let it be fun, but pay attention to things like: how was the story set up to hook you into the book, when and how were the protagonist (hero/heroine) introduced, when and how was the antagonist (bad guy/gal) introduced, how did the plot unfold.

This is a good spot to stop and make a list of your favorite authors in your genre. And by the way, pick one genre. It’s like non-fiction where publishers won’t buy a book that can’t be plugged into the Dewey Decimal System categories.

You have to be able to tell a publisher your book is romantic suspense or paranormal or dystopian, sci-fi, or whatever. Looking down the road, that will also help you know what publishers are likely to be interested in publishing your work when you're ready to pitch your book.

Different publishing imprints only publish certain genres. And don’t worry there are plenty of on-line sites that will tell you which genres each publishing imprint features.

There we have Rule #2: Choose a genre and focus on it.

One more rule for today and it’s a big one.

Rule #3: Come up with a big idea for your book.

It’s best to be able to put that idea in the form of a question.

For example, “Will a group of adults and two children be able to survive until a storm passes and they can be rescued from an isolated island that’s been overrun with all kinds of living dinosaurs?”

Did you recognize this as the idea for Jurassic Park?

You need an equally fresh idea and one that’s likely to capture the attention of a lot of readers.

Make lists of the blockbuster books that have become movies, such as The DaVinci Code, Pirates of the Caribbean, Fatal Attraction. Let your list grow and grow. Then analyze it. What were the big ideas?

Next, start a list of your own. What's out there that grabs your interest and could capture an audience?

Could you spin a story around that idea? One with characters readers can care about?

By the time you--and I--get that far, we'll be ready to roll on to plotting. That part of writing fiction has rules of its own.

I've got to go write because I hear my characters talking to each other in my head. Which goes to show, if you hear voices, you're not crazy, you're a fiction author.

I'll be back soon.

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