Writing Mentoring

Next class runs 1-29 June 2022

You are a fabulous teacher. – Parsippany, NJ

Let me save you some time before reading this post by starting out as I did with Critiques: Online or via Email; Do you want to improve your writing? Are you willing to pay to improve?

If the answer to either of those is No then read no further, this post isn’t for you.

Answered Yes to both? Read on.
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Writing Critiques: Online or via Email
(paying subscribers get an automatic 50% off regardless of subscription level)

Who’s my hero? Joseph Carrabis. Just finished an edit consult where he kindly, constructively, and expertly ripped my book blurb to shreds! LOVE IT! ‘Atta Boys do you no good. Find someone who will give it to you straight!! Thank you! I owe you. Mine felt soulless. Now I see why. It is humbling to be such a novice at something. I appreciate your help. – Augusta, GA

Let me save you some time before reading this post; Do you want to improve your writing? Are you willing to pay to improve?

If the answer to either of those is No then read no further, this post isn’t for you.

Your critique of my novel was priceless. – Hudson, NH

Answered Yes to both? Read on.

Your drive for improvement is inspiring. – Houston, Texas

  Continue reading “Writing Critiques: Online or via Email
(paying subscribers get an automatic 50% off regardless of subscription level)”

Mystery Writers of America “Mystery Writer’s Handbook”

Another book purchased years ago and finally read because a work-in-progress, Search, had mystery elements and I wanted to know ahead of time what I should be doing and what to look out for.

Mystery Writer’s Handbook, like most of the writing books I’ve reviewed on my website, is a worthy read for all authors, writers, and writer-wannabes. It’s focus is mystery and its view is broad. Romantic suspense novels fall into the mystery fold. I didn’t know there was such a genre, but I do now and surprise! my work-in-progress with mystery elements is more a romantic suspense novel than not.

Like all writing books, it discusses character, scene, POV, dialogue, description, and the like. Its real power is in both plot – because good plot tends to drive most mystery and the plot techniques are gems – and editing – the chapter on revising and editing is truly a standout. An extra bonus is a short section on contracts. Many of the books I’ve read mention contracts, Mystery Writer’s Handbook provides a roadmap of potholes and things to avoid.

Strongly recommended.

Two Pieces for a Workshop

I mentioned back in Four pieces for a workshop that I’m taking an online writing course.

I’ve taken a few courses from this provider since then. It is a fascinating experience. A few of the students are worth the price of admission. I can’t stop thinking of them as characters – truthfully, more like caricatures – and wonder if their behavior is how they believe auteurs should behave or how they genuinely behave.

Some of the other students are also worth the price of admission, and differently; they’re witty, forthcoming, enjoy a good laugh, … I’ve engaged a few of them out of the class. Good folks, all.

Anyway, I’ll be sharing more of the exercises from the class in this and subsequent posts.

Here we have the same story told through Character and then via Description. Fair warning; I didn’t take this particular class too seriously.

Bob sat calmly reading a story about a woman in a barn watching a neighbor drive a car by. It didn’t occur to Bob how amazing this was, nor did Bob’s owner, Frieda, seem to notice.

But Sylvester and Carmine, Bob’s two kits, were incensed.

“Yo! Momma!” they mewed. “Roll over! Give us those teats!”

Frieda looked down at the kits plaintive cries. “Oh, my. Bob. You’re starving your children.”

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“Bob’s not feeding her kits.”

“You know this how?”

“I watched her. She sat curled on a magazine. Sylvester and Carmine practically knocked her over to get at her, poor things.”

“You watched our cat not feed her kits. How long did you watch our cat not feed her kits?”

“Must have been a half, three-quarters of an hour.”

“Were they quiet through all this?

“Wailing like tiny banshees, they were.”

“You sat and watched all this, listened to the kits crying, but did nothing?”

“What would you have me do?”

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Ansen Dibell’s “Plot”

First, Whoa!

The book’s entitled Plot and it has immediately useful (to me) techniques and examples on

  • Plot (duh!)
  • Story
  • Structure
  • Setting
  • Description
  • POV
  • Exposition
  • Scenes

and it does it all in 170 pages (which includes a seven page index)!

I’m blessed because I purchased most of my writing texts in the 1970s-early 1990s, long before anybody with a mobile could claim expertise and back when people had to demonstrate their abilities repeatedly to make any kind of claim.

One such demonstration was (duh!) getting a book published on a subject in which you demonstrated expertise. Publishing books cost money and took time. Honest-to-god real editors (line, copy, proof, continuity, …) actually read through a manuscript before sending it on to printing. Publishers weren’t going to put money into a project just because someone said they were an expert, that someone had to demonstrate they were an expert. Often.

And let me add, most people didn’t claim themselves to be a guru, maven, jedi, rock star, queen, genius, leader and last but not least, expert. Other people claimed it for someone once said someone proved their guruness, mavenhood, jediability, et cetera.

And usually it took a lot to prove.

How I long for the time when people’s expertise was actual expertise and not a vacuous claim because, by god, they’re going to get their fifteen minutes if it kills them.

But I digress.

Dibell’s Plot is comparable to sitting in a writing intensive. There are examples throughout, and she picks her examples wisely. Each example demonstrates several techniques but she never throws them at you all at once. She starts by demonstrating how someone is a good story/novel opening then cycles back to show how the exposition reinforces the nascent plot elements then cycles back again to demonstrate how the character reveal points to plot elements yet to come.

As I wrote above, Whoa!

Want more? How about Dibell’s explaining alternative plot structures (beyond traditional western 3-act, conflict oriented plot) back in 1988? (I’ll admit I missed these in my first reading.

Plot is one of several Writer’s Digest books I bought way back when. As a working author, they are revealing in so many ways. Most of these authors are recognizable by work if not by name, and all were full-time authors.

What causes a full-time author to write an how-to-write book? All the Writer’s Digest books I’ve read are wonderful learning tools. These authors definitely know their craft and are able to share it.

But writing an how-to-write book took time away from their writing their stories. I know I loathe anything which takes me away from my crafting (save posts such as these, were I relax my authorial muscles, stretch my imagination tendons, and basically take either a necessary or welcomed break from being creative (being creative is work. Ask any woman who’s gotten pregnant and delivered a child)).

But writing an how-to-write book is another creative process. Was this their relaxation?

Perhaps it was their way of testing their own knowledge? Of encapsulating it? I critique other’s writing and learn as much about my own craft as I do helping them with theirs.

And such musings are largely irrelevant. Plot is an excellent learning tool and strongly recommended.

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