Friday, December 04, 2020

Writing: R.U.E.

Anyone who's taken a writing class or attended a writing conference has probably heard the initials R.U.E. I learned "resist the urge to explain" at my first real conference, when I sat in a group taught by Gayle Roper. She had each of us read a section of our work in progress, but didn't let us answer questions about it. The reason, of course, was because we wouldn't be present looking over the reader's shoulder to explain. We had to make it self-evident, and if it wasn't, we should rewrite it. The author should give just enough information for the reader to draw his/her own conclusion, but not so much that the person looking at the book bogs down with explanations. It's a fine line that we have to walk, and some are more successful than others.

Maybe your heroine is Amish, and she does something that those of us unfamiliar with their practices would find unusual. How do you work it into the story? Perhaps you use a word that isn't familiar. How do you explain its meaning without sending your reader scurrying off to look it up?

As a writer of mystery novels that have a medical component, I have a dual task. I have to sprinkle any necessary clues into the novel without being obvious about it. I also have the task of making it possible for the reader to follow along and understand any technical jargon--any "doctor talk" if you will--without being obvious about it. Thus far, I've been fairly successful, but every once in a while I find myself going too far. That's when I have to back off and tell myself, "resist the urge to explain."

Have you found this to be a problem in some books? Any tricks for hitting the middle ground, not going too far in either direction--not explaining enough or too much? I'd like to know.

Tuesday, December 01, 2020

Facebook...or Not?

I'm faced with a dilemma. Not what to write about. I've already got a WIP (work-in-progress) with about 15,000 words written and the rest in my head--I'm just not motivated to write, with everything else that's going on. No, my dilemma is the social media sites. Should I continue on Facebook and Twitter, or jump to Parler and MeWe? 

On one hand, I'm used to the "old standards." But on the other, I've really gotten tired of some of the "rules" and algorithms these sites have put in place. Do my posts and tweets really reach the same audience as they once did? For that matter, will they reach anyone at the new sites?

I find myself going back and forth, without making a commitment. Maybe I should post on both the "old" and "new" sites for a while. What is your opinion?

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Thanksgiving, 2020

 It's different, this year. But despite the changed situation, we can still find things for which we are thankful. When I looked out this morning, I saw the American flag flying, as it always has, from the stanchion attached to the front of our house. There may come a time when we can no longer fly our flag, but until that day, Old Glory will be displayed, symbol of the freedom we enjoy.

Our Thanksgiving Day meal will be a bit different, but we'll still eat it in gratitude--gratitude for our family (near and far), gratitude for enough and more when there's so much want around us, gratitude for the freedoms we take for granted. The political climate, the changes necessary because of the "plague" that surrounds us, the situation in general--all these things affect us, but we can still find things for which to be grateful. I hope the same applies to you all.

See you next week.

BTW--the Kindle edition of my novella, Silent Night, Deadly Night, is priced at 99 cents for the next month. Happy holidays. 

Friday, November 20, 2020

Writing: Memoirs

I was asked recently for some suggestions and help in writing a memoir. Since this is a type of writing I don't ordinarily do, I honestly haven't thought much about it. But, since the request came from one of my relatives, I didn't just blow it off. Instead, I researched the subject a bit, and thought I'd share the information with you.

It's amazing how much "research" we can do by just entering "writing a memoir" in the search engine of our computer. I did, and the first page was filled with suggestions (plus not a few "pay me and I'll publish it" sites). Putting those sites aside, here are my suggestions.

1. Decide the purpose of the memoir. A "memoir" differs from an autobiography in that it simply focuses on one theme or event of a life. So, what's your theme? What's the central truth you want to convey? Settle this in your mind before you start typing.

2. Is this written for publication, or just to get the words down on paper, perhaps for yourself or for your family? There's nothing wrong with the latter. I've often said that if only one person reads what you write, be it a novel or a non-fiction book, perhaps you're the only one who needs it. If the audience is wider than that small circle of yourself and perhaps your family, keep this in mind as you write.

3. Start with something that will pique the reader's interest. For goodness sakes, don't just tell it chronologically. Start with something that will get your reader interested. Then add scenes, both long and short, that illustrate your point. Diagram your life--or the parts you want to emphasize--and choose what will be the opening scene, what will continue the reader's interest, and what will be the concluding scene and truth you want to convey.

4. Be prepared to start over, again and again. It's not easy to write something knowing it will be read by others, and you'll be tempted to shine it up a bit and make yourself look better than you are. But folks aren't going to read the perfect story...they may start it, but tell them about yourself, warts and all.

I haven't said anything about finding a publisher or getting involved with the writing world. That comes later. It's enough to start. If you finish, then you can get into that part of it.


Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Just Thinking

 Random thoughts--don't make more of them than that.

I'm glad I left the practice of medicine when I did. There was a time when a physician cared for the whole patient, even when our complaint was outside his/her field. When those situations occurred, we got the word that such-and-such a doctor would be best for us to consult. And out increased knowledge is great (Yes, I keep up, even though I'm retired), but there are too many times when I've run across things I know the physician is doing because "the regs require it."

None of us knows what's ahead. The President has every right to contest the election--and the circumstances are suspicious (although the network crawl still refers to them as "unsubstantiated" even as the person being interviewed substantiates them). We don't know what's ahead, and that's tough. Whatever happens, I have to trust that I'll get through it, the same as I have for so many years. 

I'm still working on my next novel, but mainly in my head. I'll probably sit down and finish writing it one day, but then again, I never thought I'd have one published, much less a bunch of them. Right now, though, I'm going to take it one day at a time.

It seems that a number of my friends and colleagues are voting for free speech without censorship by going to new apps such as Parler. I have a presence on Parler and MeWe, but honestly, it's taken me a long time to get used to Facebook and Twitter--don't know about the newer ones. What do you think?

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Veterans' Day, 2020

 Tomorrow is Veterans' Day. It had its beginning as Armistice Day or Remembrance Day, commemorating the armistice that was signed to end the first world war--at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of the year.

Veterans Day celebrates the service of all U.S. military veterans, and should not be confused with Memorial Day, which honors those who died while in military service. I'm proud to have served, and always feel a special thrill when someone recognizes that I'm a veteran and thanks me for my service--even though it was quite a while ago.

We'll fly our flag today, as we do every day--even amidst the election day confusion. Because brave men and women fought for our right to do so. When you see a veteran today, thank him or her for their service. It will bring a smile to your face and theirs.

Friday, November 06, 2020

Where Do We Go From Here?

 For those checking in, expecting to see a post on writing, let me explain--this election is going to end up in the courts, and however it's decided, we'll still have a divided country. I'm not sure where that leaves us...or me. So for now, I'll just say "I'll be back...I think. I just don't know when or in what form." 

Tuesday, November 03, 2020


 If you haven't done so already,  please vote. Some, myself included, live in states where early voting is allowed, and we did just that. If you see the length of the lines, don't be discouraged--remember, rather than the "scrunched-together" ones we're used to, they include people who are observing social distancing. And if you're tempted to give up, recall what's at stake. Vote!

We live in a republic (so far) that depends on the votes of the people to choose the leaders, That means that each vote--including yours--is important. And if you don't want our system of government to change, vote!

We'll watch the results this evening as we always do, although this year is totally different from years past and we may not know the final results for anywhere from a short time to a long one. No matter the outcome, remember what my parents taught me--if you don't vote, you can't fuss about the result. I hope you'll heed that advice. I did. Vote!

Friday, October 30, 2020

Writing: Getting Started

Everyone will be posting Halloween-themed material today--except me. We don't expect many trick-or-treaters tomorrow night. So I thought it appropriate to post this instead, since it answers questions that I sometimes get.

As we used to say in medicine, "Although you may not be able to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear, you can nevertheless make a better-looking, more acceptable sow's ear." In writing, probably there are people who are born with a talent for putting the words together, and they may turn out better products than those of us who don't have the natural ability they do, but those of us in the latter group have learned to write by reading, practice, and paying attention to advice. In other words, I learned to improve on the sow's ear--and sometimes got a silk purse out of the deal.

Mine is not advertised as "sure-fire" advice, but it's the way I learned. First, I attended a writing conference. Actually, I attended several of them. This may be too expensive for some of you, but if you really want to learn writing, go to one. It's not necessary to attend a large one. There are many good ones out there. If you go, you'll develop relationships with others of the same bent. Writing, like algebra, will eventually start to make sense for you. And you'll pick up small tips that you'll incorporate into your writing until they become automatic.

Notice that I don't mention editors or agents in the above paragraph. If you go to your first conference expecting a contract, prepare for disappointment. If for some reason you do get one, count yourself fortunate. But keep learning anyway.

While you're deciding about a conference, start reading. Learn how to plot, with books like James Scott Bell's Plot and Structure. Learn how to catch the attention of the reader by reading Noah Lukeman's The First Five Pages. There are too many books to mention--I have a two-foot shelf of them in my office--but read to learn how to write. And also read books by other authors. Read the good stuff, and imitate it. Read the bad stuff, and avoid it.

This isn't sure-fire advice. It's just the way I got into it. There was a lot that followed, but this is how I started.  Eighteen novels and novellas later, am I an expert? Not at all. But I hope you'll be on your way with this advice. What would you add?


Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Will Trick-or-Treat Be Different?

 Admittedly, it's not as easy as it once was for me to pause the TV and pry myself out of the recliner to answer the door, but I used to actually enjoy doing it on Halloween. My wife and I got a real kick from the little ones in their costumes. I enjoyed dispensing candy. (Admit it--you, like me, give out the stuff you don't much care for first, saving the things you like for last and secretly hoping you'll get some).

But this year promises to be different. Not just because it falls on a weekend (glad it's not on a Sunday, which calls forth a lot of comment, which I won't get into here). But because of the specter of Covid-l9. Is it really worth catching it to get some candy? What about costumes plus masks? And some "experts" are even saying that both Halloween and Thanksgiving should take on a new look, and be celebrated in splendid isolation. If you're the type who really looks ahead, what about Christmas?

I know what we'll probably do--prepare with a bit of candy, mainly things that we'll have around the house for our own enjoyment, but not be too disappointed if the doorbell doesn't ring. And as for the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, I'm sure my wife has plans. Personally, I'll take it one day at a time. How about you?