Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Dean Koontz Shares His Secrets

I ran across this Dean Koontz interview by Brad Crawford in 2008 and just had to share. I was amazed at Koontz's writing techniques, particularly the way he hides poetry. And I can't believe how he edits! I always race through my first draft then go back several times and add in all the special details, but after reading this, I think I might slow it down. What do you guys think? 
Dean Koontz: "I like prose to have hidden rhythms; I like prose to have a music beneath the surface. It’s almost never recognized by the reader in a conscious way, but it is recognized unconsciously. It’s why readers feel the prose flow, why it speaks to them. A poet once reviewed one of my books and recognized that entire passages were written in iambic pentameter. I didn’t think anyone would ever notice that. Different poetic meters affects us emotionally in different ways. It’s not anything anyone’s going to see, but it’s one of the great techniques to suck a reader right into the heart of the story."
I don’t write a quick draft and then revise. Instead, I write 30 or 40 drafts of each page before moving to the next. When they hear this, other writers ask me how I keep my excitement about the story when I’m taking so long to move through a scene. I take tremendous joy in the use of language. That’s as exciting to me as a plot development or the quirky edge a character may acquire. If all you’re excited about are twists and turns of the suspense plot, you’re not opening yourself to the full joy of writing. Besides, when writing a quick draft, it’s the rare writer who goes back and polishes to the degree that he or she ought to do.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Imago Reborn

Second Campaigner Challenge

I expected it to be hard. I expected a challenge. But I didn't expect to feel like a dummy. The rules? Use the word Imago in the title, and in 200 words or less use the words miasma, lacuna, oscillate and synthronicity. No, that wasn't word vomit you just read. Those are real words. And I'm about to spray them all over. Here I go, in exactly 200 words:


“Her lacuna’s changed,” Jed said.

“Huh?” Lilly continued to scribble on her math homework, hoping an answer would find its way through the doodles.

“The librarian. Her lacuna’s filled with something I don’t recognize.”

Lilly looked up at him. “You’re so lame. You don’t even know what that word means.”

“It’s in her bones. The change has begun.”

Lilly laughed. “I get the game now. Um, is the line from Aliens?”

“I don’t play games.”

Lilly tossed her pencil at him, but noticed that it didn’t quite hit him the way it should have. “Hey, creep face, we only have ten minutes left and then we can bolt. Think you can stop trippin’ for that long?”

“A miasma of darkness is coming, but everyone’s too busy oscillating to notice.”

“Do you hear yourself?”

Jed finally looked at her, or through her, she couldn’t be sure which. Either way, his blank expression prompted fear to close its cold fingers over her spinal chord and give it a good hard tug.

“What’s wrong with you, Jed?”

Jed spoke, his lips more blue than red now. “A synchronicity has occurred, splitting time. And I’m not your friend Jed. Jed is dead.”

** If you like this entry, please go here and click "Like" under number #125. You have to scroll down a ways. ** 

Friday, September 23, 2011

My Book Cover is Here!

Just received this from my publisher. So bizarre... not the cover. The cover's very cool, but to see my name on a professional cover and not one my five-year-old drew is...honestly, I'm at a loss for words. Years of writing and studying the craft, months of going to bed at one in the morning and waking up at six, two previous unpublished novels, and several others half completed, and then, finally, publication. 

Deep breath.


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Five Tips to Great Writing

For the next couple of weeks I will be researching and sharing writing tips given by published authors. It's always good to remind ourselves of what makes a writers work great. 

1. The secret of good writing is to strip every sentence to its cleanest components. Every word that serves no function, every long word that could be a short word, every adverb that carries the same meaning that's already in the verb, every passive construction that leaves the reader unsure of who is doing what--these are the thousand and one adulterants that weaken the strength of a sentence.
(William Zinsser, On Writing Well, Collins, 2006)

2. For a man to write well, there are required three necessaries: to read the best authors, observe the best speakers, and much exercise of his own style.
(Ben Jonson, Timber, or Discoveries, 1640)

3. For a man to write well, there are required three necessaries: to read the best authors, observe the best speakers, and much exercise of his own style.
(Ben Jonson, Timber, or Discoveries, 1640)

4. Remember gonzo journalist Hunter Thompson's advice that the secret of good writing lies in good notes. What's on the walls? What kind of windows are there? Who's talking? What are they saying?(quoted by Julia Cameron in The Right to Write: An Invitation and Initiation into the Writing Life, Tarcher, 1998

5.  The best writing is rewriting.
(attributed to E.B. White)

My favorite is number one. When I first started writing I thought I had to use big words and describe every noun to sound like I knew how to write well:

"The sophisticated, sexy man with brown, curly, lustrous hair walked quickly up the marbled stairs, smiling suspiciously."

You know, that kind of crap. Since then, I've learned to write:

"The man crept up the stairs."

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Epic Contest Over At YA Confidential

The thing I love about this contest is it's for writers AND readers. There are a plethora of prizes including query and first pages review by two amazing agents, plus the chance to win several new YA books. All you have to do is follow their blog and comment on what prize you want to win. Check it out here.

The Case of the Missing Movers (update)
I finally got in touch with my movers who have, wait for it, gone out of business. However, there is a small glimmer of hope much like the shimmer off Edwards bare chest. A dude told me that I was their final delivery and my stuff should be here in ten days. We'll see.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Mistakes We've All Made

A couple of weeks ago I met this amazing fourteen-year-old girl who loves to write. I agreed to read her first chapter and offer advice on how she could make it stronger. For fourteen this girl wrote very well and is a natural storyteller. But she made the usual mistakes all of us have made at one point or another.

Some of which were having the main character look in the mirror to describe what she looks like, using the passive voice, and over using the prepositional phrase that begins with "as" to describe an action. For example, " she walked" or "as we turned around".

This made me think about my own mistakes. I've always been horrible at creating a setting and I used to use the word "that" a lot.

What are some other common beginner mistakes you've made?

Sunday, September 11, 2011

When in doubt, leave it out.

For the last week I've been editing my current WIP, and I just wanted to share something I learned over a year ago. It's the "When in doubt, leave it out" rule.

Before I learned this golden rule, I would spend way too much time on a particular section, paragraph, or even a sentence that I felt wasn't right. I'd agonize over how to make it better, wonder why I couldn't make it better, and complain that it would never be better. This constant doubting was a time-suck.

As soon as I realized this, I vowed never again to fall into the time-suck black hole. This is when I came up with my rule. From then on, whenever I'd cross paths with a time-suck sentence, I'd cut it, sometimes even whole scenes, just so I could focus on the rest of the story that I knew worked.

So next time you're hung up on a particular part of your manuscript, remember the Rachel Rule - When in doubt, leave it out!

***Update on my personal life***

I'll start with the good news. We finally moved out of hotels and into our home a week ago. Bad news - the moving truck still hasn't shown up with all of our belongings and I can't get the company to return my many messages. Do you think I should start looking for my things on eBay???

Monday, September 5, 2011

The Door Swung Open...

The first campaign challenge is to write a 200 word flash fiction story that begins with "The door swung open..", and props if you can write it in exactly 200 words. I managed to do just that. All luck, though, no talent.  

Here is my first ever flash fiction story. (It's been a crazy last two weeks and this story reflects it. :) ) 

The door swung open behind me even though I had just closed it. No one followed me in but I knew It was there. I felt its’ presence as cold as the winters breath blowing in from beneath the principal’s window.

“I asked you to close the door, Ms. Jane,” Mr. Atkins said.

I nodded my head. “I did.”

Mr. Atkins stood up. “That’s the problem with you kids. You don’t know how to follow orders.” He walked around his desk and closed the door.

I backed away. “I wouldn’t do that if I were you.”

He turned around and smeared his moustache with his thumb and forefinger. “This is precisely why you are here. St. John’s is used to dealing with threatening teenagers.”

A black mold appeared on the wall behind him.

“Please, sir, open the door,” I said and glanced to the open window, wondering if I’d have enough time to escape. 

Mr. Atkins raised a finger. “You will not tell me what to do, do you understand?”

A spider-like appendage broke free from the wall and crept towards him.

“I warned you,” I whispered and then closed my eyes before the spray of blood hit my face.