Saturday, September 5, 2009

Fame, Fortune and Chapter One

By Pat Browning

Writing. What’s it all about? Dozens of books will tell you how to do it, but nobody can do it for you. Sure, you can hire a ghostwriter, but then it’s not really your book, is it?

Advice? I have some advice for anyone starting to write a first book.

1.Don't take rejection personally, just keep working on it. Quoting Sue Grafton, who spoke at a conference in Boise a few years ago: "The free world does not hang in the balance. You are only writing a book."

2.Talent, like murder, will out, but be prepared to wait. What I heard repeatedly when I started was, "Don't give up your day job." If you’re addicted to food and shelter, that’s good advice.

3.Write for the thrill of it, and what you learn from it. Quoting Holly Lisle in HOW TO FINISH A NOVEL: "Write what you love, not 'what sells.' ... What you will not do for love, you should not do for money."

Plan and plot? I swear, one of these days I'm going to try that. Maybe then I'll write a best seller. In the meantime ... Settings usually present themselves, because I love places. Characters seem to arrive, probably from my lifelong love of people watching. That’s it. I can't plot my way out of a paper bag. After I've done pages and pages of drafts I start thinking, what will I do with this mess?

Recently, I enrolled in "Discovering Story Magic," an online workshop presented by Robin Perini and Laura Baker through A story board I made for my work-in-progress is marked off like a calendar, with yellow sticky notes for First Turning Point, Second Turning Point, Third Turning Point, and Fourth Turning Point ( Black Moment, and Realization). It keeps me on track.

Nothing, but nothing, inspires me like reading a good book. Some of my favorite authors may or may not struggle to get those words on paper, but for reading enjoyment it’s best not to look for sweat and tears between the lines. Better to accept it as magic.

I have too many favorite books to list but here are four.

NICE TRY by Shane Maloney (2001 Arcade Publishing, First published in Australia in 1998)
Maloney wraps social commentary around a mystery featuring Murray Whelan, a political dogsbody in Melbourne, Australia. Recruited to help with the government's bid to host the Summer Olympics, he ends up trying to outwit an Aboriginal activist while investigating the death of a promising young triathlete.

SUMMER OF THE BIG BACHI by Naomi Hirahara (Bantam 2004)
Mas Arai is an aging California gardener who harbors a secret going all the way back to Hiroshima before the A-bomb dropped. There is a murder, but the story belongs to Mas and the way he puts his long-held secret to rest.

THE SIXTEENTH MAN by Thomas B. Sawyer (iUniverse 2001)
Sawyer weaves together parallel lines of history and present time, with an intriguing JFK assassination angle and the best "what if" ending ever. Sawyer was head writer and co-producer of the TV show MURDER SHE WROTE so he knows how to keep a story moving.

PLAY MELANCHOLY BABY by John Daniel (Perseverance Press 1986)
In 1977, lounge pianist Casey Jones tickles the ivories for customers who love the songs of The Great Depression and World War II. Then a mystery woman yanks him back into a past he wanted to forget. It's a mystery in a time capsule, beautifully written.

Note: I found this blog while trying to clean up My Documents. I posted it six months ago, but it seems worth repeating. Hope you agree.


Jean Henry Mead said...

There's nothing like reading a good book to inspire us to write one of our own. Fame and fortune aren't usually part of the package but it's nice to know that other people enjoy reading what we've labored to write. And I've enjoyed the fruits of your labor, Pat.

Mark W. Danielson said...

I totally agree, Pat -- this post is worth repeating over and again. Rejection is part of the game, but like everything else, it's only one opinion. Accept it, learn from it, give your work another look, and send it out again. Chances are, your "new and improved" version will catch someone else's eye.

Ben Small said...

Pat, you just made my day. I agree with Mark, you should post this one periodically. Well said.

Anonymous said...

Jean, Mark, Ben:

Thanks for your comments.I'm still trying to clean up My Documents. I wonder if I'll find something else worth repeating. (-:

Hope you're all having a good holiday!