A path lit by words

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Start at the beginning

the beginning

So it turns out that the editors at The Quotable nominated my story, “Dementia,” for the Pushcart Prize. I’d already “lost” by the time I found out, but I’m thrilled with the nomination and grateful for the reminder that, in addition to my carefully laid plans, there is action going on behind the scenes that I don’t control. Knowing that there are forces at work on my behalf, keeps me working on my behalf.

Lately I’ve turned to books about writing to help me improve my novel. I’ve focused on the beginning, based on the unassailable truth that you’re toast if you don’t get that right. Agents don’t keep reading your book until they get to the good part. They move on to the next one.

Of course, I’ve read tons of books since I started writing. In fact, I read so many that a frustrated friend begged me to stop reading and just write, for God’s sake. Back then, I was imagining the day my first novel would emerge, whole and perfect, just because I’d read Ron Tobias’s 20 Master Plots and Vogler’s The Writer’s Journey. Fascinating, illuminating, and invaluable; I go back to them–and the other twenty-five books on my writer’s shelf–from time to time.

But it’s a whole different ball game when you’ve completed a manuscript you think is pretty good, and you’re trying to figure out why agents don’t agree. Two books I’d recommend, thanks to my writer friend Martha, are Jeff Gerke’s The First 50 Pages and Les Edgerton’s Hooked. Next up is Bickham’s Scene & Structure. I’m reading my opening scene, checking for the ten core components. I’m pruning backstory best saved for later. I’m raising the stakes and I’m strengthening my villain.

Now I know that when my old friend, Bill, said, “Stop reading and write,” it was only one stage in the process. I did what he asked; I wrote. Now I’m reading again, to make my book better. I’m  “going to school” on my scenes, my structure, my words, and my characters, and it’s helped me learn in a deeper way than the excellent examples included in the books above. Not to mention the fact that when I get the next request for pages, I’ll be that much farther ahead!

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Guest blog at The Quotable

I’m excited to be posting a link to my guest blog at The Quotable literary journal. My story, Dementia, will be published in The Quotable’s Issue 11, with the theme Memory. In the meantime, they asked me to submit a blog, as they do all of their upcoming authors. I wanted to do it–desperately!–but I had no idea what to write about, until I picked up the Sunday newspaper. It was a very cool reminder where inspiration comes from.

While you’re on The Quotable website, look around. It is a well-regarded journal published on-line and in print, featuring short stories, essays, poetry and artwork based on a specific theme and quote. Submissions for Issue 13, Luck, open December 1.

“The only sure thing about luck is that it will change.”
– Wilson Mizner

Follow this link to my guest blog : http://thequotablelit.com/blog/characters-and-convertibles-2