Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Ask the Novelist #4


 

Dear Bill,
You haven't written anything on your blog for over a month. How come?
--I've Got My Eye on You

Dear IGMEoY,
Getting a manuscript in shape and proofed for a fall 2014 publication. But that doesn't help you as a fellow writer, does it? When someone asks you what you've been doing on your novel. A convenient truth (but pretty much a lie) is to answer "research."
Nothing wrong with that unless... you start to believe it.
To write a novel you gotta write a novel.
--Bill

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Dear Bill,
Do you just make up these questions?
--Bill

Dear Bill,
And just wing the answers. The blog's about fiction, right?
--Bill

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Dear Bill,
I came across this video of Donald Westlake. What do you think?
--Web Surfer

Dear WS,
I like his books very much so it was interesting to hear him talk about characters and such. (Around 2:20, about writing in a genre but making it his own.)
Then, too, the interviewer -- God bless her heart -- demonstrates why it can be best to stay a few steps back from the cutting edge of fashion and style. Donald, on the other hand, could have bought his clothes thirty years earlier. (And, it seems, he wore the shirt for many more years. Compare the video with the photo in this piece.)
--Bill

Just keep writing.


Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Ask the Novelist #3




Dear Bill,
Now that marijuana is legal in your state are you going to have a little . . . something . . . as you work on your book?
--A Fan Says "High"

Dear AFSH,
Chocolate and coffee. Dance with the one what brung you.
--Bill

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Dear Bill,
What do you think about MFA programs for writers?
--Still a Student

Dear SAS,
If it helps you become a better writer, that's great. If it's a stall tactic, might not be the best plan. In school or out, if you want to be a writer -- if you are a writer -- write. Daily.
--Bill

----

Dear Bill,
Is it easier or harder to be a novelist now compared to forty years ago?
--Just a Kid

Dear JAK,
Yes! Easier because of computers and the Internet. Harder because there weren't as many of us all those years ago. Typing (you know, typing?, with a typewriter?) and then retyping discouraged a lot of would-be writers. And then there were trips to the library to go through card catalogs and reference shelves. (Ask your grandparents.)
--Bill

Just keep writing.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Ask the Novelist #2


Dear Bill,
What's the one rule I have to follow if I really want to be a novelist?
--Rebel with a Laptop

Dear RWAL:
Write a novel. (And you might want to ease up on the italics.)
--Bill

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Dear Bill,
Should I just start writing my novel or should I make a detailed outline including coming up with back stories for all my major characters?
--Chapter One

Dear CO,
Either way or a combination of both or something completely different. Whatever works best for you. At some point you have to leave the outlining and--eek!--actually write the book. Unless you want to be an outliner, not a novelist.
--Bill

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Dear Bill,
What are your thoughts on all the vampire/dystopian novels these days?
Zombie Fan

Dear ZF,
I'm going to assume you mean you're a fan of zombies, not a fan of mine who is a zombie. I have no problem with vampire novels and such. I don't read them or write them because they just don't appeal to me. But neither does Jane Austen or Philip Roth or J.R.R. Tolkien or many, many others. Read what you like to read and write what you like to write! God has given you free will. Well, maybe not so much if you are a zombie.
--Bill

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Ask the Novelist



Dear Bill,
What's the difference between a writer and an author?
--Wanna-Be Writer/Author

Dear W-B W/A,
Most simply put, a writer steals material from a variety of sources while an author plagiarizes material from a variety of sources.
--BD
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Dear Bill,
I have the soul of a poet. What do I really need to live my dream?
--Gifted

Dear Gifted,
A trust fund.
--BD
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Dear Bill,
Two quick questions. Will you read the manuscript of my novel? It's just over 1,200 pages. And how can I be sure to make some money with it?
--First Draft Done

Dear FDF,
No, and take it to your local bank, hit the teller in the head with it, grab some cash, and run.
--BD

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Five Reasons Your Loved Ones Lie to You . . .



 . . . when it comes to critiquing your writing.

  1. Your mother loves you and doesn’t want you to feel bad. Again. (She’s never forgotten that little “incident” back when you were in grade school. The look on your face! Sigh.)
  2. Your friends are being (kind of) honest when they say what you wrote is great. (It is, compared to what they would write. It may not be, compared to what a professional would write.)
  3. Your family may not have actually read what you wrote. (You: “Did you like it?” Them: “It was awesome!” You: “What was your favorite part?” Them: “Buh . . . everything!”)
  4. Your good buddy/dear, dear friend fears jeopardizing your good buddy-ness/dear, dear friendship.
  5. Family and friends, less skilled in language than you are, may struggle for a polite way to say “stinks” or “blows” and so may just give your piece a hearty thumbs up. (A thought which now gives this author pause because his family and friends have given some of these blog items a hearty thumbs up. But they meant it. He can tell.)

A family member, friend, editor, or fellow writer who will offer you an honest, intelligent and informed opinion is worth more than his or her weight in chocolate-chip cookie dough.
 
Writers or not, we all need to cultivate the delicate art of telling a loved one the truth . . . gently.

Just keep writing.