Monthly Archives: February 2015

How movies changed fiction writing

Anyone who has read 19th century and early 20th century literature knows there is a stylistic change in writing before movies were born and post cinema fiction.

In short the narrative before movies was lengthy. Writers like Herman Melville were paid for the word, something that always made me suspicious in “Moby Dick” when Melville left the fictional narrative and went into a long non-fictional account on whaling. In a word, or I should say three-I was bored. I like the stories of Edgar Allen Poe, but some of his stories are a bit cumbersome.

The point is the pacing is slow, at least compared to todays fiction where narrative is less wordy. In the days before movies there was not much thought to pacing and it was not considered slow, because the pace of life was slower. There was no TV, no movies, no radio. Reading was entertainment and nobody was in a hurry.

But movies tell stories quickly and writers adapted. Pacing changed. In fact writers adapted movies jump cuts and other editing devices to the art of writing. Read the works of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett and you see q quickened pace, the scenes visual, as if coming from a movie script. Fiction writers were making us see rather than making us think, at least think in 19th century terms.

This is a broad statement of course as there were still writers who succeeded without adapting to the new style, but change is evolutionary and the genre of thriller where the action is fast and furious is certainly derived from the movies. Writers began to write in ways that made their books easily adapted for movies and that meant a faster pace.

And there is a change of late called flash fiction, which is neither short story, novella, or novel, but as a flash it captures a moment in time. This is because of computers and an audience who want something brief and to the point. The question is whether this is the next evolutionary step in fiction, or just another addition.

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What is a writers platform especially mine and yours

Every writer knows, based on what he/she reads in writing blogs and advice from the pros, that a writer needs a platform.  Do you know yours? Or do really know what ‘platform’ is?

When I wrote my first e-novel “Loonies in the Dugouts” I did not intend to have a platform. I did not know what one was. I know there is platform diving into swimming pools. I know there is a platform for my computer. I know a platform is proposed by political parties, the platforms of each being to enhance the rich and distance the poor. I once stood on a platform at a train depot. But what is a writers platform?

When I decided to Google ‘what is a writers platform’, an article from Writers Digest written by Courtney Carpenter from 2012 Googled up on my screen. She said it is an authors visibility. It is comprised she wrote of who you are (I am Terry Nelson, nice to meet you); any media you use to sell books (I have two blogs, Twitter, Google Plus, an Amazon page, a website); and finally personal and professional contacts you have. (I have no idea why personal contacts are helpful. I know a cat, but she is of no help. As far as profession, they are few and far between. As usual, it is who you know and I know a cat.

But there is more.

1. The building blocks are a website and a blog-I have both. 2. Newsletter and mailing list-I need to do this. 3. Column writing for the media-Huh? 4. A guest on successful websites, blogs, and periodicals- I was a guest twice-but again see answer to #3. 5.A strong track record of past book sales. (If I had a strong sales record I would not need a platform). 6 -10 is about public speaking, social media, being interviewed and so on. In other words when she says building blocks, while it is true, it is also hard to build a platform if you are an indie e-novelist.

It is hard to be visible when you are an invisible writer. I have done much that has been recommended. I can do more. But what comes first is the Word. The best thing to do is write, keep writing, and enhance visibility. It does not guarantee success. Luck plays a big part. I would say good writing will prevail, but as anyone who has read “Fifty Shades of Grey” knows, bad writing can succeed beyond the realm of logic.

After my first book, I decided I liked my two lead characters so much a wrote another book for them, “Loonies in Hollywood” where they solve the murder of William Desmond Taylor. I enjoyed writing a mystery so know I am working on another murder mystery with Chet and Eveleen. And a fourth is warming in my tea kettle.  Perhaps having a platform is having a niche, though my debut novel doesn’t fit.

But I will continue to build, not a platform, but visibility. To break into column writing, be someone who is sought for interviews, being a public speaker, have a strong track record of sales, are things the article does not tell you how to achieve. That is because what she lists are the characteristics already attained. Now if she could tell how to get there we would have something, wouldn’t we.

My Amazon page is: Terry Nelson. For some reason the link may not work despite my following what WordPress tells me to do. But my website works better. http://terrynelson.net/

 

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Can you hear writing advice through white noise

Giving advice about anything is both free and cheap. And in today’s e-world filled with e-books from new writers, even ones with a few books on Amazon, such as this writer, we are bombarded with advice. It comes through Twitter, it comes through blogs, it comes through magazines, it even comes from my cat meowing about advice columns in her liter box (she is an avid reader).

The question of course is how to listen through the jibber-jabber of white noise. It is not that there is too much advice, but that for every well intentioned suggestion there is another person with a well balanced counterpoint.

Tweet about your book. You can get thousands of followers from those who can make that promise and you have all those followers as potential customers. But as a well established writer, one who sells tons of e-books said, “When is the last time you bought a book because of a Tweet?” Just because you may have 5,000 followers does not mean they are actually reading your Tweets everyday, if at all.

There is a woman who is a best selling e-book writer and she has no Twitter account, is not on Facebook, and does not write a blog. There are many roads to success, some times you are just lucky. That can not be ruled out. Many people use every form of social media and they spin their wheels.

So what should you do, to whom should you listen?

What you should do is take everything at face value. Then research and analyze what is being put forth. It is not that people are dishonest, but some are rewording or resaying the things that have been said before. And anytime someone says this is how I achieved my success, following the same road is no guarantee. That same road may be littered with those who did not finish the path, or got there and found nothing. One persons road to success does not work for everyone. In the end each of us must find out own path. Like Lewis and Clark you need to blaze your own trail.

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Spell Czech the writers worst enemy

Most writers believe their worst enemy is a bad review, but it is  not. I have one bad review-the person had trouble reading the last chapter, but no matter. I went to new Orleans and found a Cajun voodoo priestess who took care of that person for me.  I will not reveal her name or what she did. I am sure you understand why. The real enemy is spell check. We know the problems with spell check, but it can not be stressed enough.

The computer is smart, but not smart enough to know what you mean and the grammar is suggests is sometimes laughable. I bring this problem up because even professional writers in their Kindle eBooks have misspellings.  It is easy to miss certain words when you don’t see the obvious red squiggly line underneath a word when you look at the screen. Even during an edit words can be missed. Two words ‘there’ and ‘their’ can be a problem and ‘are and ‘our’ are another. And in the first paragraph above I found the word ‘stresses’ and it should be ‘stressed’. I found it when I proofread.

The problem during an edit is that the eyes read faster than the mind can process and ‘there’ can be missed for ‘their’. During an edit it is easy to scan. You know what you wrote so the mind is familiar, it does not give it a second thought-just like a programed spell check. I hate to point this out, but the only way to catch some of the misspellings is not to read, but proofread and that is a pain in the hemorrhoid.

In proofreading you do not read the word, you look at the letters. It is a slow, and I do mean slow process. Slugs move faster. But in the end you do want the work to look professional, so you take the pain.

I read the paragraph first, then a second time a read a sentence, then read the word. If you have a method, a process, you find yourself inching faster just a wee bit. I would also point out that regular books published by New York publishers sometimes have errors in them. That means the author, the editor, and the proofreader, all missed the word. Mistakes happen, but we should work to eliminate as many as we can. Readers will catch those darn things you know and we need not subject them to that. And yes, I am sure I have made some. If you find any in my books feel free to point them out to me.

http://www.amazon.com/Terry-Nelson/e/B00EEVHN38

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The dangers of research for fiction writers

It matters not if you write period fiction or contemporary there is research to do. The two e-novels I wrote were period, one set in New York of 1911, the other in Los Angeles of 1922. I used period maps of the cities to make sure the streets were the same, and also to make sure where the characters were headed was the right direction. If say, I want a man to go from the Braddock Hotel north to the Polo Grounds, I must be sure where everything is. When I write a car chase in Los Angeles, I needed to know the streets so as not to muck things up.

That sort of research is easy, as is researching for night clubs, restaurants, and speak-easies in 1922 Los Angeles and Hollywood. I can also research costume, cars and so on. But one thing  a writer can not do is fall in love with research. I find it fun because I love culture and history and the 1920’s is a fascinating time.

I am mistaken of course. A writer can and should fall in love with research, but do not include everything you find. Do not make it stand out like a BiG tYPo.

What you uncover should be used to give verisimilitude to the story and characters. The characters and story are in the foreground, the research in the background. Of course there can be an exception. In “Loonies in Hollywood” a flapper by the name of Clancy picks up a friend from the police station. She has a new car, an expensive and rare car. Her friend Chet admires the automobile and Clancy points out all the salient things about the car that anyone with such a fancy rig would do. But her prattling on about the car and the way she talks is character revelation. It has been mentioned that she is the daughter of a rich banker, a bit spoiled, but a lovely carefree flapper. So by her talking about a Heine-Velox costing $25,000 that her father bought her as a bribe to go to college I am showing character, not love of research.

Remember a writer creates a picture with words; a writer does not create a mini-Wikipedia to impress.

This is a link to my books on Amazon. http://www.amazon.com/Terry-Nelson/e/B00EEVHN38

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Hog Lane Murders and Stephen King

Opposites attract, then they flock together. I have no idea what that means but I know writers can gain much from reading a “The Hog Lane Murders,” a new eBook on Amazon and from an older book from Stephen King, each providing an insight into writing, though by opposite approaches.

Amazon has “The Hog Lane Murders for the low price of 99 cents and is worth it for two reasons. The story takes place in London of 1598 and involves the murders of four young girls. It is well written with strong characters with about four suspects. It works as a quick read, but also offers something else. The author, John Yeoman of England, is a writing teacher and in the book he has 15 footnotes. So you can either read the story and then check the footnotes to see the writing tip for that passage. Or, like me, read  until you see the footnote, click it on, read it, then  click back to the story. Either way you will discover what works in a story and why.

Stephen King in his book “On Writing” is a must for every writer. If you are unfamiliar with the book, King talks about his beginnings as a writer, talks about writing (he does not like plots) and at the end of the book he shows a first draft of a page or two, then shows the editing in the second draft. He also explains why the cuts were made. Writers can always explain the why, but seeing it in print is a visual aid that writers can easily understand. It is show and tell time and expertly shows and tells.

You can’t go wrong with either book, even if you are not a writer. A reader’s appreciation can be enhanced by learning more about writing-and seeing the mistakes other writers make, one of which I am sure is this writer.

If you are a reader I hope you will read the blog of one of my characters from two eNovels I have written. Just because he is fictional does not mean he can’t write for himself. So stop by and encourage the lad. https://myrealfictionallife.wordpress.com/

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Suicide by maple bars

I tried to work on my book, both yesterday and today, but was unable to get to write, indeed, could not get on with my life.

Why?

Because I am a member of the 12’s. When Russell Wilson passed from the 1-yard line at the end of the Super Bowl and the ball was picked off by a Patriot (they are not really patriots, they are redcoats) my hear sank. I was shocked, devastated,  disheartened, discombobulated; my spirit crushed, my heart broken. Monday I got up after a sleepless night in a depressed state.

I considered suicide. I don’t have a gun. I can’t cut my wrists-too messy-and I don’t want to see my blood oozing out. I have thought of different methods and the best I could come up with was suicide by maple bars. Eating them until my stomach exploded. It seemed a good way to go. Who doesn’t love maple bars. Then I realized maple is associated  with the New England area. Vermont may be the maple capital of the world. I would not give those redcoats the satisfaction.

Glazed doughnuts won’t work. My fingers get too sticky.

So I listen to ESPN radio in Seattle where the sports jocks listen to callers who rant and rave, dissecting the PLAY, and the entire game in general. It is called therapy. I need to hear others pain, hear their anger, sympathize with their moans and groans. It’s not working. Dreams of maple bars fill my head.

There are two positives out of this. One, any writer needs an excuse to not write and now I have a good one. A second is that a writer needs to see stories and now I have one. Playing the ‘what if’ game I can write a short story about a writer devastated by the loss of a Super Bowl and decides to commit suicide by eating maple bars.

I am now heading to every grocery store I can find to buy maple bars. I call it research.

In case I accidently die by maple bars you can find my finished e-novels at Amazon here: http://www.amazon.com/Terry-Nelson/e/B00EEVHN38

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