Friday, July 26, 2013

Four Steps to Writing a Novel

There are four major steps to writing a novel, the first being inspiration. If you have to ask, ‘how do you get your ideas?’ you are probably not a writer at heart, you may be in love with the illusion of writing. The reality is—days and days and days of f…g hard work, not hard like a construction worker but hard in the invisible place between your two ears which is often more exhausting.

This is #wanafriday when I join with other writer friends to write on the same theme, today’s theme is quotes that inspire us.

I have chosen some quotes from well known writers to express these four steps:  

1. Inspiration: Anything and everything around you is fodder for a story.

“Plot is people. Human emotions and desires founded on the realities of life, working at cross purposes, getting hotter and fiercer as they strike against each other until finally there’s an explosion—that’s Plot.”
—Leigh Brackett, WD

“The writing of a novel is taking life as it already exists, not to report it but to make an object, toward the end that the finished work might contain this life inside it and offer it to the reader. The essence will not be, of course, the same thing as the raw material; it is not even of the same family of things. The novel is something that never was before and will not be again.”
—Eudora Welty, WD

“I think the deeper you go into questions, the deeper or more interesting the questions get. And I think that’s the job of art.”
—Andre Dubus III, WD (this quote is from 
an interview with Dubus in our July/August 2012 issue)

2. Getting it down: Write:

“One thing that helps is to give myself permission to write badly. I tell myself that I’m going to do my five or 10 pages no matter what, and that I can always tear them up the following morning if I want. I’ll have lost nothing—writing and tearing up five pages would leave me no further behind than if I took the day off.”
—Lawrence Block, WD

3. Refining it: Show – Don’t tell:

“If you tell the reader that Bull Beezley is a brutal-faced, loose-lipped bully, with snake’s blood in his veins, the reader’s reaction may be, ‘Oh, yeah!’ But if you show the reader Bull Beezley raking the bloodied flanks of his weary, sweat-encrusted pony, and flogging the tottering, red-eyed animal with a quirt, or have him booting in the protruding ribs of a starved mongrel and, boy, the reader believes!”
—Fred East, WD

“When your story is ready for rewrite, cut it to the bone. Get rid of every ounce of excess fat. This is going to hurt; revising a story down to the bare essentials is always a little like murdering children, but it must be done.”
—Stephen King, WD

“If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.”
—Elmore Leonard

You do not have to explain every single drop of water contained in a rain barrel. You have to explain one drop—H2O, The reader will get it."
—George Singleton

“The difference between the almost right word and the right word is … the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.”
—Mark Twain

4. Letting it go: Your writing will never be perfect. You can spend the rest of your life on perfecting it, for there will always be another improvement to make—but then you will have written only one book—and probably unpublished, still waiting for perfection.

We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.
--Ernest Hemingway

Which step are you on? (or stuck on)

Join other writers who are writing on the theme of inspirational quotes and see what subjects they have chosen. Different strokes for different writer folks.

Ellen Gregory--Your Stories Matter

(more bloggers will be added as they post today & tomorrow)

(Quotes above were found at:  72 of the Best Quotes About Writing)

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Recipe for Murder

What if you had a story that needed a recipe before it could be published? That was the situation I found myself in many years ago.

So, when today’s #wanafriday blog post challenge was chosen: Give your favorite recipe and story to go with it, I had to be a bit vice-versa, (because that’s the way I tend to be anyway) and start with my favorite story that needed a recipe.

When we started our local chapter of Sisters-in-Crime  a long time ago we also started a short story contest called The Coveted Dead Bird (emphasis on the coveted part for who wouldn’t want a fake, upside down, Poe-like black bird on a trophy?). It was to encourage our budding writers to start writing and submitting—me being one.

Long story short, I wrote a short story for the contest. I didn’t win but re-submitted that story to a German branch of Sisters-in-Crime who was putting together an anthology of short stories. The catch was, it had to have a recipe to go with it—which was perfect because poison was my means for the murder (means, motive and opportunity being the necessary aspects of a murder mystery). It was accepted for publication.

The story takes place in the restaurant where we Sisters held our meetings, the now-defunct Daily Planet which we all loved for its art deco interior (with booths and velvet curtains on them for privacy), an ideal setting for a murder (heh, heh, she cackles and rubs her hands together).

I found my method of poison while researching the effects of the Jimson Weed which grows wild along the highways (Datura). The plant puts out little black seeds that are deadly.

I read an article about a family that had gathered some of these seeds and left them to dry on the window sill above their stove (it has a pretty, trumpet-like white flower and I can only guess they wanted to plant them around their property). You can see where this is going—the seeds fell into the food cooking on the stove but the mother picked them out of the dish and served it anyway.

Deadly decision—they all died.

But, a perfect means for a murder, don’t you think? 

All I needed now was a recipe that disguised the black seeds. My protagonist waitress at the Daily Planet had to be able to sprinkle them on her two-timing (motive) husband’s favorite dish that he always ordered when he came in with his ‘bimbo’ girlfriend—opportunity.

What dish has cracked black peppercorns liberally sprinkled on top that could hide the Datura seeds? Steak au Poivre (Peppercorn Steak). Not exactly a favorite of mine—but it made for a good story.

If you want to try it (minus the Datura seeds of course) here are a few recipes:

Have you ever written a short story or murder mystery? What was your inspiration?

Now go visit the other #wanafriday writers who are participating in this theme on their blogs and see what they have come up with.  (They will be added as they put up their posts on Friday and Saturday.)

Ellen Gregory - gives the most yummy sounding recipe for chocolate pudding.
Janice Hall Heck - and how about another chocolate dream dessert?
Kim Moser Griffin - meatballs and what?
Liv Rancourt - a recipe you can't eat
Seth Swanson - awesomesauce
Tami Clayton - favorite soup from Fez medina