Thursday, December 21, 2006

A public reading

Last night was my first public event, a book reading and signing at the Branigan Library in Las Cruces. In addition to Mike from Coas Bookstore, there were nine folks in the audience, and they bought five copies of my book. It was great--I felt comfortable with a friendly audience, and they reacted quite well to chapter 1.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Check out Moni's Nook

My friend Moni from India asked me to send her remarks about When Pigs Fly so she could post them on her blog, Moni's Nook. She has interesting insights into life and writing, and you may enjoy checking them out.

Friday, December 08, 2006

An unexpected reader

I tend to be quiet among relatives and non-writing friends about my passion for writing. So when my former neighbors in Massachusetts heard that I'd published a novel, they seemed quite surprised. My wife's 101-year-old grandmother just called the other day, expressing delight and saying she intends to buy the book. We'll just send her a copy as a gift, my wife said. No, no, she said, she wants to buy it. Barbara and I have been acquainted for about 45 years, and she said she had no idea that I wrote fiction. If you write, you may know that squeamish feeling you get when you tell someone that you write novels but haven't been published yet. Oh, folks are nice about it, but no one ever seems surprised that I'm not fighting for bookstore shelf space with King and Grisham.

Barbara is a wonderful lady, a Holyoke College Phi Beta Kappa from the 1920s who recently told us she's surrounded by too many old people at her assisted living facility in Vermont. She is blind now, and one of her many friends will have to read the book aloud to her. This leaves me a little apprehensive; of course she has never heard me swear or utter anything inappropriate, so I hope my book doesn't shock her.

That is what happens when you put your work out for the world to see, though, isn't it?

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Notes from a writer's conference, part 3

The final session of the Pitch, Publish and Promote conference covered promotion, and Jerry Simmons of WritersReaders gave a fine presentation. Jerry is not a writer, but has been in the publishing and promotion business for a lot of years.

Publishing is a business. Think of it that way, and you'll succeed as a writer.

Key concept: Sell-through. This is the ratio of books sold versus books shipped, so if the publisher ships 1000 copies to retailers and 400 copies are returned unsold, the sell-through is 60%. A minimum acceptable ratio is 60%; a lower rate is very bad.

If the publisher ships 500,000 copies of your book, that sounds fantastic. But if you sell only 200,000 copies, your book is a disaster. You are far better off as a writer if only 50,000 copies ship and 30,000 sell. It may sound counterintuitive, but the sell-through rate is critical. A 50% sell-through will doom a writer's future, no matter how many copies actually sell. What a writer should want is a low initial ship rate. It's much better if the book requires a second printing.

Writers need to know this type of thing, because many publishers will cynically screw over the writers. But if you can speak the language of the publishing business, they are much more likely to treat you with respect.

You need to separate yourself and your book from everything else being published.

90% of revenue is generated from 10% of the titles.

At least 500 titles are published daily.

Develop relationships with decision makers who can help you sell your book. It helps to know someone in the publishing business.

If you are a self-published author, you will be sure to get publishers' attention by selling a few thousand copies.

Publishers also want to be able to sell your earlier published titles--this is the back list.

Visit and observe what's in book stores.

Write on a schedule.

Use small focus groups to evaluate what works in your writing.

Ingram and Baker & Taylor are big jobbers, or distributors.

Writers should look at these independents for possible distribution:

The market for audio books hasn't grown in 10 years, but the market still exists.

Best opportunities to focus:

  • Tap into online sales.
  • Specialty groups--organizations, groups, book clubs (Google this). This is bigger than the traditional marketplace. You might sell quantities of your book to an organization at a discount, and let them sell at list.

But don't neglect traditional bookstores.

Jerry Simmons has a free newsletter. See his website for this.

Ways to sell your book:

  • Advertising
  • Promotion--drawing attention to your book.
  • Publicity--by far the most effective--any attention you can get for free. This can be about the author as well as about the book. Find some kind of newsworthy tie-in.

The five biggest weaknesses of publishers:

  • They don't think outside the mainstream, so the specialty book market is growing at their expense.
  • They don't gather information on who is buying their books. Writers should do this--know who is buying their books.
  • They sell to the masses and miss the niche markets.
  • They don't sell on the Internet, because they are afraid of alienating Amazon and Barnes and Noble. The Internet is the next big platform for writers.
  • They tend to hit only the 30 biggest media markets.

Self-published authors should stay away from competition in the major markets.

An author should expect to make $0.60 or $0.70 profit from each sale of a book published by a NY publisher.

Publishers tend to dislike working with writers who write in multiple genres. If you do it, you should consider using a pen name.

Marketing success depends on persistence. 99.9% of authors don't know this stuff.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Notes from a writer's conference, part 2

Here are more of my notes from the Pitch, Publish and Promote conference. I've made no attempt to put these into a narrative, but I think they'll still convey worthwhile information.

The second part featured Bob Sanders, CEO of Mundania Press, which he co-founded to republish the works of Piers Anthony. They publish paranormal fiction. He says that to check the process, he has anonymously submitted work to his own company and been rejected.

It's critical for you as a writer to know your audience. What are their reading tastes? (Genre is a starting point.) What else does the market read? What kind of disposable income do they have? It's not enough to say your audience consists of adult males over 25.

A writer needs a business plan and a marketing plan. The business plan can be brief. Try to write it before finishing your novel.

A publisher looks for a reason to say no. The quickest way to get rejected at Mundania is to not follow submission guidelines.

You should have a critique partner, someone who knows the genre you're writing in.

Market like it's your last day on earth.

The publisher sells the book to book buyers.

The author has to market the book to the reading public.

Use Yahoo groups to set up a small focus group to test your work.

An author's business plan should encompass not just one book, but your writing career. Who will sell your books? Who is your fan base? What media will you use to reach them? What is your vision for your writing career? Answer the Who, What, Where, When, Why, How.

Set your expectations for a given time frame. How much time do you realistically have to write?
Think about why the audience should care about your books? Why should they enjoy them?

Your marketing plan deals with the individual books.

Set objectives--what do you want to accomplish? Three objectives you want to accomplish within a year, for example. Share this plan with friends and family.

Need to set measureable goals--describe the activity required, what will happen and when, and what is the expected financial impact.

An author needs visibility and mystique (referring to how the person appears to the public). Look the part for the type of author you are and the type of business personality that's appropriate for the kind of writing you do.

Where to find customers:

  • Workshops/associations
  • Newspapers/publishers/coalitions
  • Referrals
  • Internet/TV/radio
  • Trade journals

Considerations in thinking about your potential customers:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Location
  • Income/occupation/education
  • Purchasing loyalty
  • Hobbies
  • Social class/lifestyle

Think about how you'll promote to the top three categories of readers.

A question he posed over and over: "Is the juice worth the squeeze?" Always consider whether any given effort is worth the expected result.

Make use of Google and Yahoo. Leverage your resources.

List the problems you're facing:

  • What's the root cause?
  • What needs to change?
  • How will I measure results?

Hold online writing workshops, as does paranormal author Michele Bardsley.

Authors can coordinate group ads.

Find and develop a niche.


Plan on the specific actions you intend to accomplish, then do it. ("Plan the work, work the plan.") Say how you'll do something and why--specific tasks that will affect the bottom line.

Think about where your time and attention are going.

Regularly re-evaluate your plans. Treat your writing like a business.

Don't give the public too much information about yourself.

Mentioned: Fictionwise

Monday, November 20, 2006

Notes from a writer's conference, part 1

I just came back from the Pitch, Publish and Promote conference in Albuquerque, which lasted a day and a half and was organized by SouthWest Writers. Over the next few days, I will post some of my notes.

The pitching segment featured a talk by Katharine Sands, a New York literary agent who offered plenty of advice on how to approach agents. She tossed around lots of arcane-sounding terms such as "dysfiction," which I didn't find all that useful, so I didn't write them all down.

She distinguishes between a writer and an author; the latter is a published writer. Writing is solitary, while publishing is collaborative.

A manuscript does not become a book until it is published. Never refer to your manuscript as "complete."

When querying agents for non-fiction (I think she meant for fiction as well), don't just give the facts of your story. You should show your voice and provide a lens that lets us see into the book.

Don't pitch multiple ideas at once. Just one at a time.

A query is a one-page pitch. Nobody reads two pages. The query must "infotain," provide a spark, give the agent a memorable takeaway nugget.

In your query, lead with what is the most interesting. Don't waste your first paragraph.

Elevator pitch: about 25 words to grab the agent's attention.

Your pitchcraft becomes your jacket copy, your hook.

Agents are looking for voice, elements, alchemy.

Good news/bad news: The good news is that talent comes from everywhere, and agents are always on the lookout. The bad news is that the agents are flooded with queries.

Talk about your platform in your query letter, if warranted. If you are a recognized expert in the field you're writing about, for example, be sure to let the agent know. Also, tell how your other writing has been noticed, how you will get readers, or anything that makes your work interesting or different.

Agents do not log submissions. If you don't get a reply, sometimes you can get away with waiting a while and querying again.

Radio sells more books than television.

Categories of published books:
Front List
: Books by the very top authors, whose work automatically stands out in the market place.
Mid List: Where most work ends up. This is a very wide range.
Back List: Books that are not ordinarily marketed in bookstores except under special circumstances. They might be specialty books, or they might be earlier books in a series. So if the latest Harry Potter book comes out, bookstores might also trot out all of Rowling's earlier titles to try selling those at the same time. Those earlier titles have been back listed.

Booksellers don't buy books. They take them on consignment.

Book buyers frequently get to retitle a book if they think the original title won't sell.

A good query might wind up becoming the catalog description.

As an author, you must be an impassioned ambassador for your work.

Generally okay to query multiple agents at once.

You can often find the names of literary agents on the acknowledgement pages of recently published books.

The Preditors & Editors website is a good place to learn what some of the shadier folks in the business may not want you to know.

My novel is published!

My comic novel, When Pigs Fly, is published and available through my website, iUniverse and Amazon. Exciting stuff! I noticed that Powells has it as well, but their price looks too high, three bucks over list. Also, B&N doesn't seem to have the title yet.

Meanwhile, my friend Bev tells me she just received her copy in the mail. That makes it seem more real.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Free bookmark

Here's a promotional bookmark I created, now that I know the price and page count of the book. If you would like to have a free bookmark, send me an email ( with your name and address. I will gladly send you one, wherever you are in the world.

iUniverse ran into a couple of production delays recently, but they are working hard to get back on track. I'm still hoping for the book to be available by early December. We shall see.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

A reflection on duct tape

The online pub Laughter Loaf just accepted my short piece, You Can't Be Too Careful, a reflection on the importance of duct tape. It's on their docket for May 15, 2007, so we'll all have to hold our collective breaths until then.

Ready? Take a deep breath and hold it...

Seriously, I'm pleased.

Monday, October 09, 2006

An endorsement

The other day, well-known author Leslie Meier (The Lucy Stone Mystery Series) offered this praise of When Pigs Fly:

"Bob Sanchez hits all the right notes in this zany comedy that will keep you turning the pages -- and laughing out loud!"

Thanks, Leslie!

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Poetic lament

I entered a haiku contest sponsored by a Japanese organization, and months later received the sad news that they saw through my lack of poetic talent. Herewith my lament:

Rejected haiku
Seven hundred others won
Hara kiri looms.

Monday, October 02, 2006

The cover

My cover design came in today, and I'm quite pleased with it! Here is what it looks like. People do just books by their covers, and I think this one conveys a sense of humor without appearing to be a children's book.

The next step in the process is to review a proof, which I hope to get soon. I've already gone over the text time and again, so there shouldn't be (m)any typos.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Proofread your work!

I recently read a mystery published by a small press--let's keep names and titles out of this gripe. The writing was fine in many respects; the chapters were short, the pacing was excellent, the characters were sympathetic. The plot and dialogue worked well.

So why mention it? Because apparently no one proofread the manuscript. Wouldn't you think that if a novel is about a kidnapping, that someone would notice that there are supposed to be two p's in kidnapped? It's spelled wrong dozens of times, because no one thought to look up the word. Frequently the author is too close to catch these errors, but someone should catch them before the reader does. Running a spell-check program would have caught "kidnaped" or "kidnaping." Even the spell-checker is not sufficient, but it should be a writer's first line of defense.

Typos--at least typos in quantity--distract from my enjoyment of a book and from my appreciation of its author.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

The cover in progress

This week, an iUniverse graphic artist is designing the cover for When Pigs Fly. My idea had been to show a silhouette of a pig or javelina flying over Arizona's Sonoran Desert at sunset. There are several children's books by the same name, so I stressed the importance of designing the cover to appeal to adults. They referred me to several stock photographs that they could work with.

I didn't much care for the pig they found, which looked vaguely creepy. So I found a more suitable one and superimposed it on the sunset. The graphic artist should be using something like the image on the right. They plan to use a Nueva font with a drop shadow for the title and my byline. This doesn't look like a children's book to my friends who've seen it, so that's a relief.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

It's done!

Glory, hallelujah, I've declared my manuscript complete and sent it to iUniverse. For the last week I've been going over the story, picking out the nits. Did you know that heaven and hell aren't initial-capped? Nor are pronouns referring to deities. So I had to change "God sure took His time, didn't He?" to "God sure took his time, didn't he?" The estimable editors at iUniverse referred me to the Chicago Manual of Style, and sure enough, they were right. I've been making little changes like that 'til my eyes were about to fall out, so the copy should be clean.

I've often heard stated as a truism that a writer can't edit his own writing. Well, I just did it, though it helped a lot that iUniverse sent me a report telling me the types of issues to look for.

Soon I hope to hear from iUniverse graphics folks about the cover art.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The Pig's Progress

Right now I'm going line by line through When Pigs Fly, and that's a slow process. Sixty-eight pages in three days, and only 150 pages to go. Then I'll ship my edits off to iUniverse and move on to the next step. They have to put the book into the production queue, and they owe me a cover design, which I am eager to see.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Advance praise for When Pigs Fly

Here is what a couple of well-regarded published authors have to say about my upcoming novel:

Bob Sanchez’s When Pigs Fly reads like it was written with an ice pick, and he drives it right into the heart of the American dream of the Golden Years. A big pay-out lottery ticket, a 300-pound bad guy named Diet Cola, an Elvis Impersonator, and a javelina that flies? No one looking for a smooth Southwestern retirement should have to face what Mack Durgin faces. Part road trip, part crime caper, part love story, this is one cool debut. If you like the dark comedy of Hiaasen and Leonard, you’re going to love this one.

David Daniel, award-winning author of The Marble Kite and Reunion

When Pigs Fly is a masterpiece of comic writing combined with a touching story. Quirky doesn’t begin to describe the characters—they’re sometimes terrifying, often hilarious, and always unique. Robert Sanchez has the perfect touch for comedy, delivering a riotous good time while giving us a well-developed protagonist we’ll want to follow for many books to come.

Kathryn Mackel, author of The Hidden

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Great news! Pigs really fly!

We're finally settled in Las Cruces and don't have a moment's regret. New Mexico is flat-out beautiful. I haven't begun any new projects, but am thrilled that my comic novel When Pigs Fly will be published by iUniverse this fall. As most folks probably know, iUniverse is a print-on-demand proposition where virtually all of the marketing effort is the responsibility of the author. So if I don't work hard to promote my precious pig, he sinks like a bucket of lard. However, I've heard good things about iUniverse from folks who know what to expect of them.

Since I took the plunge yesterday, I've reserved the domain, which forwards to my existing personal home page. Once there is decent artwork and a publication schedule, I'll change that page to advertise the book.

I've also solicited several published writers for cover blurbs and have arranged for a Kirkus Discoveries review. The deal is that for a fee, Kirkus reviews a book they wouldn't ordinarily review, such as a POD. They stress caveat emptor, meaning what you pay for is an honest review. It's worth taking the chance, as a review from them means increased visibility.

The whole idea of Kirkus charging money for reviews raises questions in some people's minds, my own included. Will they go easy in reviews that writers pay for? If you're curious, check out some of the Kirkus Discovery reviews on the link I provided above. It's unclear whether they will carry the same cachet as the traditional Kirkus reviews, but I certainly hope so.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Homeless in our Volvo

We close on our house sale this coming Monday, but mentally we've already closed; in fact, we are 900 miles away in our Volvo stuffed with luggage, laptops, a camera, and two cats with all the attendant paraphernalia that implies.

This is day 2 of our trip from Massachusetts to our new home in New Mexico, where we close in a couple of weeks. So break out the violins--we'll be homeless in our Volvo.

We won't do much sightseeing because of our cats, but we did go through the Shenandoah Valley today, which was wonderful even with the cloud cover. This graceful doe posed for us along Skyline Drive.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Getting ready to move

Time is hurrying along, and we're eight days from moving out of our house, nine days from heading to New Mexico for a radical shift in climate. No more sharp, cold March winds blowing in our faces; no more ice storms coating trees and windshields; no more blizzard warnings as Dick Albert on Channel 5 tells us to bundle up against the co-o-o-o-ld. But also we'll have no more gentle snows with heavy, wet flakes falling as we sing Christmas carols with our neighbors in our community clubhouse; no more red and gold autumn leaves; no more tulips and daffodils heralding spring.

The movers arrive next Wednesday, and we ready as much as we can to minimize expenses. In the basement today, I pitched printouts of old manuscripts I had written with so much enthusiasm and hope. Merciless, I let go of those old dreams. The stories are all safely stored on my computer and backed up on my hard drive in case some day I choose to cannibalize my old work. But now, on paper inside old three-ring binders, those old dreams would cost me seventy cents per pound to transport in the eighteen-wheeler that will pull up in front of my house.

The last time we moved, we did so quickly, with little time to weed through the thousands of reminders of our past. This time the real estate market had turned to favor buyers, and we were slow to sell our house, leaving us with plenty of time to sell, donate, or discard our used-up belongings and ill-considered purchases of the past. The house is emptying, but there is still plenty to do.

Next Thursday, we will drive with our two cats from Massachusetts to New Mexico. Our route will take us through western Virginia and Skyline Drive in the Appalachians. I wish we could stop at a few of the many Civil War battle sites such as Gettysburg and Antietam, but our cats George and Gracie will be restless, asking if we're there yet.

So I am looking forward to the trip, but much more so to the destination, and most of all to settling down again, making new friends, and writing.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

So long to a great writer's group

Last night Nancy and I said goodbye to the excellent friends in my writer’s group after close to 16 years of twice-monthly meetings. Patty and her husband Craig hosted the evening of dinner and conversation, and this time there were none of the usual critiques. If Patty isn’t the best cook in New England, and she might be, she must be the best who also writes horror fiction and works as a bank VP. Dave and his wife Stephanie were there—Dave’s a fine mystery writer and teacher who can quote Emily Dickinson or Walt Whitman as though it were the most natural thing in the world. Bev and I have carpooled to writer’s group meetings dozens of times. Her Peace Corps background has given her grist for some of the marvelous essays she’s written. Marj hasn’t made it to many meetings lately, because life can be a handful, but she showed up last night with a plateful of chocolate, the elixir of the gods and panacea for whatever ails you. Kathy and Lee, spouses who sit next to each other and finish each other’s sentences at writer’s group meetings, presented me with a delightful poem they’d written and framed. It will hang in my new office.

And there were other great friends who couldn’t make it: another Kathy, a couple more Daves—our group is replete with Kathies and Daves—and Judy and Kristi, who have already moved away.

Love of writing is what brought us all together. Some of us have substantial publishing credits, some are still working toward publication, and some, like Kristi, have decided to pursue other interests. Every one is a good to excellent writer and critic, and I’ve learned from them all. Thank goodness for e-mail, which will keep us all in frequent touch.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

What's the Net coming to?

I subbed a flash fiction piece to a couple of zines and received quick rejections--not the replies I wanted, but I appreciate the speed of their responses. It appears that my humorous piece was too risque, and they wanted clean humor. So I cleaned the story up, sent it back, and was told that without the "dirty" part, there was nothing left. The editor kindly sent me a critique almost as long as my sub, which was more attention than the piece deserved. Gosh, here I'm being told the Internet is a vast swamp, and I have to run into a pair of editors with standards. What's the Net coming to?

You can find a number of good markets (all with standards) at: The nice thing about this site is that it groups markets by speed of response and percentage of rejections, based on readers' input.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Never mind the house...

Image borrowed from Gonzaga.eduMy friend advised me the other day that I should bury a statue of St. Joseph upside down in my front yard so that my house will sell faster. Well, never mind the house. Where do I bury St. Joseph to sell my novel?

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Separations and friendships

This June we'll be packing up our laptops and our cats, and we'll drive across country from Massachusetts to New Mexico. We need the change of scenery, the change of climate, the lower cost of living. Will we stay? Who knows? We'll probably give it a year to test the strength of New England's gravitational pull. Meanwhile, the mere prospect of uprooting our lives leaves my writing less focused, and it engenders a sense of impending loss of the regular company of my writer's group of 15 years. It's times like these that make me happy to live in the Internet and e-mail age, because it will be so easy to stay in touch with everyone.

We talked about friendship at my writer's group meeting last night. Can you really make friends on the Internet? We all agreed you can use it to maintain already-existing friendships over wide distances, but what about friendships where the initial contact is on the Internet? One person thought no, because it's so easy to disguise one's identity. I'm more sanguine; while it's easier to accumulate a lot of pleasant acquaintances by using only a keyboard, I suspect it's also possible to find good friends here and there. As with traditional friendships, they take time and common sense to develop, and recognition of the limitations of thinking you know someone you'll probably never meet.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

A conundrum

A conundrum. I'm in a writer's group with people I've known and whose opinions I've valued for many years. So now I am reading segments of a work in progress where a young girl has been kidnapped and her captors talk between themselves about how best to make money from her: ransom or kiddie porn? When I got to that point in my reading, my friend made it clear that she would stop reading. Fair comment. Good and decent people have different thresholds for this type of fiction, though, and I wonder if it isn't better to stay with my original direction and see what happens.

I've read and thoroughly enjoyed several books in Lawrence Sanders' hilarious McNally series, so I was quite surprised when I delved into his The First Deadly Sin, which is about as dark and unfunny a story as I've read in a long time. Sections of the book with the point of view of the killer are so hard to take that I've nearly stopped reading. A whole book of that would be far too much. What keeps me going are the terrific writing and the anticipation that I'll soon get to read about the very sympathetic and human protagonist. No doubt my good friend would never tolerate the book, yet in its own way it is excellent.

So I'm inclined to go where I'm inclined to go.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Write what you know

Many years ago a cartoon appeared in Writer’s Digest. A fellow sits at a typewriter (remember them?) and stares at the blank sheet of paper. The thought balloon says, “Write what you know…Write what you know…”

As the Internet age clearly shows, ignorance doesn’t stop us from writing. It used to be that writers wrote on yellow lined pads or hunted and pecked on ancient Royals. They always had to be careful near the end of a page so that the last line didn’t slant away. I used to painfully type a complete page of what was supposed to be clean copy only to look back in horror at a typo on the first line—and then of course my eraser always left a smudge. Or my carbon paper would be in backwards on an otherwise perfect page.

So who wants to keep piles of handwritten or poorly typed work, be it inspiration or dreck? Every few years I threw out piles of my pale efforts, unread and unlamented. Today, through the miracle of modern technology, I never have to throw any of my precious words again. It can stay on hard drive, on CD, or, God bless us, in cyberspace for everyone to enjoy.

But if word processing gives us the means to produce typo-free dreck, and the Internet gives us the means to assault the world with it, we also have the means to learn what we don’t know and to verify the rest.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Talented writer bursts onto cyberspace scene

This just in: The good folks at have accepted my short story, Write a Book in 14 Days. They say they'll publish it on March 15. I feel so--so validated!

Missing groove

There's a groove out there, a writer's groove I seem to have misplaced. In recent weeks we've been preoccupied with the prospect of a move from New England to New Mexico, even though the move isn't imminent. First we have to sell our over-55 condo in a crummy real estate market, and then we'll have the independence to move on.

Distractions have always come easy to me, so daily-life experiences like lighting fires under real estate agents provide the perfect excuse not to snuggle my butt into my chair and finish my current novel, or, for that matter, to market a completed one to agents.

I've been better than this. I had a groove that produced a modest but steady output of pages over the years. Now my story has a dark plot line involving a child's kidnapping that a trusted friend in my writer's group says would be too dark for her to read. That's actually good news, because even though my writer friends have talked me out of the darkest of the story line, I've discovered that I can write some fairly creepy stuff. So now to go back and add some balance, which may mean giving the villains at least some minimal touches of humanity so they don't come across as cartoon bad guys. I have a lot of notes from our Saturday meeting--and from previous meetings--which will help me a lot in fixing story problems. I'll work on it later, because first I have to find my groove. If you have any information as to its whereabouts, I'd like to hear from you. I will accept its return with no questions asked.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Writing from a child's point of view

Today I'm working on a scene from the point of view of a kidnapped four-year-old girl. Other scenes in my crime novel contain adults' povs, which is relatively easy. But it feels like a challenge to depict what's going on through the child's eyes. She hears adults talk but doesn't understand them, nor does she quite understand what's happened to her. I want to write all of the characters in a close third-person, so in any given scene we only know what the pov character hears, sees, experiences or thinks.

Well, I've never been a little girl, so I'll have to read the scene to my writer's group, which consists mostly of women. They will set me straight on the blunders I will certainly make, and then my second draft will be on the right track.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

When writers don't hurt anymore

A good friend stopped writing a couple of years ago. The guy is talented, and his crime novel deserves to be published. When I'd met him about 10 years ago, he was still trying to recover from a bitter divorce. He wrote plenty of high-quality (in my opinion) noir fiction and participated actively in our writer's group. Over time he showed up less and less frequently at our group, and eventually stopped almost altogether.

So what happened? He found a girlfriend who made him happy, that's what. Life pulled him in a different direction, but love and work still left him with time to write if he wanted to. But one day he explained to me that he no longer had enough pain in his life to make him write. Anger and despair were part of his motivation to write in the first place, he said--in his novels he exacted plenty of fictional revenge on his wife, and now he feels much better.

Maybe that explains why I don't write more than I do. There is largely an absence of pain in my life. Doesn't unhappiness drive most creative writing?

Monday, February 27, 2006

Why keep writing?

Okay, my life isn't turned upside-down, but our attempts to sell our Massachusetts house and move to New Mexico have added a distraction. Several completed, unpublished novels languish on my hard drive, and my drive to complete my current tale has flagged of late. It's easy to get discouraged in the current publishing market, with ever greater numbers of writers chasing agents.

So why keep writing? Well, for me it's the challenge of putting my reluctant brain to work. It's the association and friendships formed with like-minded souls. It's the ego massage that results from seeing my work in print. Once a co-worker showed me what he called a great magazine article and asked if I had seen it. "I wrote it," I said, pointing to my byline. Then he went around the office, bragging for me. An inflated ego and a nice check too--how much better can life get? And yes, the occasional check is nice.

A couple of useful bromides: The key to finishing a novel is "ass in chair," according (possibly) to the most excellent Lawrence Block. And it's easier to fix a bad page than a blank one (source unknown).

Not long ago, I set a modest goal of writing 500 new words of fiction daily, and actually met or exceeded that quota for about a month. Now my enthusiasm for that novel has waned, which I hope is a temporary malady. Maybe the best approach is to just sit down and do it, just as one would treat a job.