Friday, June 23, 2017

Writing: Quotes About Writing

When I looked over the archives of this blog, I discovered these quotes I posted five years ago. I've added comments in one or two places, in addition to the ones already there. And there's one at the end that I didn't put in the original post. Enjoy.

"I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by." (true, sadly it's true)
- Douglas Adams (he was a humorist who wrote Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy)

"Most writers can write books faster than publishers can write checks." (and all the authors in the audience said, "amen.")
- Richard Curtis (Readers can read them faster than we can write 'em, as well.)

"Writing is easy; all you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until the drops of blood form on your forehead." (especially when your brain says, "I got nothing.")
- Gene Fowler (this is also attributed to other writers, including a variant by sportswriter Red Smith, who supposedly said, "Writing is easy. You just open a vein and bleed.")

"Writing is an occupation in which you have to keep proving your talent to those who have none." (obviously written after a particularly bad review).
- Jules Renard (And the more I write, the more I remind myself not to read reviews--but keep writing them, anyway).

"A blank piece of paper is God's way of telling us how hard it is to be God." (and now it's a blank computer screen).
- Sidney Sheldon (Satan is supposed to have told God one day that he could create a world, too. When told to go ahead, Satan scooped up a handful of clay, but God said, "Oh, no. Make your own clay.)

"There are three rules for writing. Unfortunately, no one can agree what they are." (but when we finally agree on them, Jim Bell will write a book about it).
- Somerset Maugham (Jim, you're written so many books--and I have them all on my Kindle--but still waiting for this one).

And I'll add one of my favorites: "Many people hear voices when no one is there. Some of them are called mad and are shut up in rooms where they stare at the walls all day. Others are called writers and they do pretty much the same thing.”  
-Meg Chittenden

What are your favorite quotes on writing? I'd love to hear (and maybe steal) them.

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Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The Rotary Four-Way Test

I hadn't thought of these principles for years until I recently re-read one of Ross Thomas's novels. I can't find the one he wrote that includes this, but I'm sure it was one of them. I still remember these precepts from my days as a Rotarian. Maybe we should remember them when we go to post a remark to a story or blog post on social media.

In case you wonder, the questions are:
  1. Is it the truth?
  2. Is it fair to all concerned?
  3. Will it build goodwill and better friendships?
  4. Will it be beneficial to all concerned?

I'm writing this after the terrible shooting that took out several congressmen and aides as they prepared for a charity baseball game. Today I heard a news anchor (the station doesn't matter) say that we should be free to disagree and to express our opinions without fear of repercussions or retaliation. I agree. Whatever happened to that principle? Perhaps a return to the four-way test is a good first step.

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Friday, June 16, 2017

Writing: Book Categories

Regular readers of this blog know that I get a lot from reading what the author Lawrence Block has to say about writing. For years his column on this activity appeared in Writer's Digest, and those columns were eventually collected in several books. I have most of them, but only recently acquired a print copy of this one--Spider, Spin Me A Web. And in it I found this gem about something I recently had to deal with.

In the book, Block refers to the contention by another of my writing heroes, the late Robert B. Parker, that categories of fiction are useful to everyone but the author. In other words, although an author may write the book they feel they must pen (for one reason or another), it is editors, people who work in bookstores, readers (or judges of contests) who then put that book into a category. It's useful to classify books that way, but the author sometimes doesn't think of it that way.

I found my own niche writing medical mysteries. I started out calling them "Medical Suspense With Heart," although after looking carefully at my writing I've changed that to "Medical Mysteries With Heart." The "with heart" refers both to God's love as well as that between characters, but since my work doesn't fully fall into the thriller/mystery/suspense category (certain not enough to compete with those who currently dominate it in either secular or inspirational fiction), I slid into the "romantic suspense" class. But not all of my books fit that category.

This was brought home to me rather forcefully when an editor (rightly) pointed out that the next book after Cardiac Event has co-protagonists who are already married. For some reason, although there are many examples of male-female interaction in this one, it didn't fit their template. So I could either rewrite that book, write another, or move forward with self-publication. I chose the third option.

I'll keep writing "Medical Mysteries With Heart" so long as you, the public, keep underwriting this activity with your encouragement (thanks for every email) and your patronage. And you know what? It seems sort of freeing to take Block's advice and write the book I want to write, rather than writing one to order so it fits into a particular niche.

What do you think? Do you put more stock in a book's category than the past history of the author's work? I'd like to hear from you.

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Tuesday, June 13, 2017

"The Good Old Days..."

For some reason, when I read the paragraph I'm about to share I thought of Billy Joel's song, Keeping The Faith. In it he says, "The good old days weren't always good. Tomorrow's not as bad as it seems."

As some of you may have noted from my tweets, I'm reading one of Lawrence Block's books on writing, this one entitled Spider Spin Me A Web. I'd read all the other books in this group (taken from his columns in Writer's Digest), but somehow had missed this one.

Toward the end of the book, he quotes from a communication he received from a fellow writer. Realize this is about writing, but it could just as easily apply to any profession. The writer refers to "hard economic times." She says that writers (about whom this is written) who could have been published ten years ago, even five, aren't getting contracts. Things are tough. What struck me was that this letter was in a book that saw the light of day thirty years ago!

Admittedly, there has been a revolution in publishing, and I predict that "traditional" publishers will eventually change. There have also been changes in other industries and professions. I'm currently writing about a surgeon who refuses to adapt to the newer techniques in his field, and I identify very much with this man (even though he's not the hero of the story). Keeping up with these changes is tough, and although I don't know about you, my crystal ball is cloudy.

As Billy Joel sings, "The good old days weren't always good. Tomorrow's not as bad as it seems."

What do you think? Have the advances in every field made them worse or better for the practitioner?

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Friday, June 09, 2017

Writing: The Long Road to Book Publication

Some of you with good memories may recognize this book cover. Facebook has reminded me that it was a year ago that I signed a contract with what I termed "a new publisher with experienced people." My first book due out from them was this one, Cardiac Event. Through a series of circumstances that we need not detail, that publication date was first delayed and then delayed again. Finally it became apparent this wasn't going to work out for that publisher, who very kindly reverted the rights of my book back to me.

Since that time, my agent and I have worked diligently to find a home for this and subsequent books of mine, but nothing seemed to work out. So this week I decided it was time to move full-bore into indie-publication of the two books I have waiting.

Since I've already indie-published three novellas, this wasn't unknown territory for me. And because I've had ten novels released by traditional publishers, I fit the mold of "hybrid" authors. Does this mean all my future novels will be indie-published? Or will I sign with a traditional publisher for future books? There's no way to tell. Stay tuned.

What I can tell you, though, is that Cardiac Event will be out fairly soon. How soon? My guess is another month or two. And, just as was the case with my last novella, Doctor's Dilemma, subscribers to my newsletter will hear about it first, and have the opportunity to get the Kindle version at a pre-release price that will be lower than the ultimate one. If you don't already get my newsletter, go to the right margin of this blog and scroll down until you find that sign-up tab.

Meanwhile, here's my question for you. How far do you go with a book to get it published? At what point would you put it aside and work on another? I'd like to know.

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