Thursday, May 24, 2012

'No One Owes You a Reading'

Crisis Magazine has a an interesting and encouraging article titled "On Being a Catholic Writer." The author is Ralph McInerny, who's generally best known as the creator of the Father Dowling murder mysteries. (The article's a reprint of a 1995 piece. McInerny died in 2010.)

He has some solid advice and encouraging words for writers:

The difference between a serious writer and a dilettante lies in their contrasting attitudes toward technique. The dilettante writes to amuse himself, an easy task, but the serious writer seeks to interest a reader. Over my typewriter I pinned the legend: No one owes you a reading. It has to be earned. The old-fashioned way — with plot.

A good novel tells a good story.

Just keep writing.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The View from the Keyboard

Earlier this month the family rented a house and spent four days on the Washington state coast. This was the view from most of the rooms.

Even more amazing, we had four consecutive days of warm, cloudless weather.
At one point I was staring out the window and thinking how great it would be to have my desk and computer right there so that every time I glanced up I'd see...

I knew I was kidding myself. The view would be great but it would just be one more excuse not to write. One more distraction.

That had a familiar ring to it so I rummaged through How to Write Your Novel in Nine weeks and sure enough Little Willie pointed out:

In the same way, you can write a great book without having that “cabin by the lake”—your holy of holies, your retreat, your sanctuary—in which to write it. That’s good news, isn’t it? I assume you’re not at that lake right now. Not looking out the huge picture window to gaze on a vast expanse of lake and forest and . . . . No! Wait. French doors. Looking out those french doors, which are open just a few inches so you can feel the breeze, take in the pine-scented fresh air, listen to the . . .

Blah, blah, blah. If you did own that “perfect” cabin, you’d have to worry about taxes and insurance and a leaky roof and . . . . Does that cabin have indoor plumbing? No? Then you might end up doing some suffering there on a cold, dark night when nature calls and you have to head for the outhouse.

Writing a novel (beginning, middle, and end) means overcoming a lot of distractions. Day after day.

You can do that. And get better at it, day after day.

Just keep writing.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Nausea and the Novel

Many thanks to Bob ("Robert P.") Lockwood for a great review of The World's Funniest Atheist in Our Sunday Visitor newspaper. It means a lot when an old -- that is, longtime -- colleague and friend says your work is good and that person is a good enough and knowledgeable enough colleague and friend not to lie about that. In print.

Bob confesses he often likes novels that begin with someone throwing up.

Fortunately for me, that was the opening scene.

It's high-class literature.

Obviously not.

It's a good story.

I hope.

And I hope that's your goal, nine-week novelist. Tell a good story!

Just keep writing.

(Hmm. I realize now Pope Bob begins with someone throwing up and O Father: A Murder Mystery has someone going winky-tink in the bushes. Fortunately, my two novels for kids open at a baseball game and in a bedroom with a young fellow just kind of hiding from his family. G-rated material.)

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

A Lovely Review of 'Atheist'

Thanks, Elu Oberon, for the great review of The World's Funniest Atheist on

This was a fine read. The chapters were almost shockingly short to me, but I would not call this bad, just different. Possibly even better, reading on my Kindle or iPad, at work and on the go. Heavily weighted towards dialogue, but in a quick paced and vibrant way, rather than being plodding or tedious. The characters drew me in, to the point where I felt the triumphs and losses of the protagonist. I recommend this as a fun, fast read, and a good value.

The chapters are between 500 and 600 words. I wrote it that way so I could complete one chapter each day. (You know . . . daily word count.)

Dialogue, as you may have read in How to Write Your Novel in Nine Weeks, is what I love. Putting two characters together and just listening to them talk is a delight. And, often, surprising.

Try it.

Just keep writing.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Cover Art That Says It All

"It's all right there: the odd and unrelated Shakespeare quote, the crazy looking old man - grinning like a fool - and the athletic sock on his hand."

It's wonderful when the cover art comes together.

(And captures the true essence of the book.)

Thank you, Emilie, for the plug.

(It was that gave Little Willie top billing. He must know someone there.)

Just keep writing.