Sunday, February 28, 2010

Name That Novel ... #16

Haven't done this in a long while, but since I just finished reading a great novel, I thought I'd share. See if you can guess this very contemporary, fairly new (2003) creation of suspense, and it's author who is well-known for a couple other well-written works.

"Since that trip as a boy, Teddy had never enjoyed being out on the water, took no pleasure from such a lack of land, of visions of land, things you could reach out and touch without your hands dissolving into them. You told yourself it was okay--because that's what you had to do to cross a body of water--but it wasn't. Even in the war, it wasn't the storming of the beaches he feared so much as those last few yards from the boats to the shore, legs slogging through the depths, strange creatures slithering over your boots."

And another passage, just in case you might need a bit more prompting:

"...He felt a sudden pity for all those people on the other side of the wall who recognized that thin wire for what it was, realized just how badly the world wanted to keep them in..."

Okay, good luck to all!

No takers, I Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane.

I Have an Idea, But ....

An idea pops into my head, maybe a great idea--we all get them, right?--and I think, "what a story that would make!" And then it fizzles, it deflates, it floats away until it's soon forgotten. Why? Probably because I don't think beyond the idea. I don't imagine what would happen, how it would happen, who it would happen to, etc. So, what does a writer do?

Thinking It Through: I was reading the other day about human trafficking in Ohio, how the laws aren't really protecting children and women from it. Again, I thought how this would make a great story. But how? This is the point where you have to begin a journey. Develop a plot where you can imagine all the possible scenarios. What could happen to a young girl who is abducted and placed into sex trade? Would she manage to escape? Is there someone who searches for her? Will the bad guys end up being exposed? Planning it out, all the possible scenarios. You are the creator :-)

Who: At this point, you are thinking about the characters. It's logical to begin with the main character, (but who's to say you can't start with the antagonist?) In any case, you are putting the details into the faceless beings of your plot, filling them in and out until they come alive. You can see them, hear them, watch them acting out your little scenarios. The images are coming to you, right? Perhaps, the young girl is from a mid size town in Ohio, say Zenia. Or maybe she's Amish, from Walnut Creek. Sweet, innocent, trusting, the picture of purity. Can you see her? And then there is the crusader, maybe a detective, maybe a rogue vigilante who will search until he either dies in the process or manages to rescue her. He is strong, opinionated, crudely honest, maybe a father himself. He has a scar across his cheek that he won't talk about. The Amish girl's parents don't trust his demeanor, but he's all they have to help find their daughter. Is he moving and talking in your mind, now? Create your characters in 3D. Get to know them.

Research: Stumped for details? Need to know more, find more to create a believable story? There are experiences in your own life, in others you may know, in those whom you read about. Always keep your eyes open and listen to what's out there. Everyday, something is said, something happens, and you never know when a tiny detail might be a perfect fit in your story. The Amish girl's experiences during her seedy captivity might need some added credibility. Research to find it. Or maybe the "crusader" is a war Vet, and you happen to have a friend or relative who served and has lots of experiences to share. These details are from such great primary sources, how can you ignore them? Believable details entice your readers and generate admiration for your work.

Have a great idea? Before it has a chance to go up in smoke, or become some other writer's great idea and best seller, grab onto it and develop the heck out of it. Thinking it through, creating the characters, and researching--a great way to get started. Good luck!

Friday, February 26, 2010

ABNA ... The Verdict's In for the First Round

Well, sad to say it, but I didn't make it past the first round, based on the pitch. Frustrating, as it was the same one I used last year, which did make it through. Ah, well... must keep on and be resilient.

Now, for what I believe is the good news--unless there is more than one author out there with the last name, Lonergan--my blogging friend, Tina Lonergan ( Hemingway's Lost Work) made it through and will be wading into the second round waters. Good luck, my friend! (Please let me know if I'm mistaken and you might have a brother, sister, long lost cousin ... with the same name :-) But you would deserve kudos, all the same, for your wonderful story telling!)

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Check It Out .... Weekly Websites

For online workshops and a focus on the creative process, as well as blog building; flexible schedule with an easy format. Most everything is free. Right now there's an interesting article on self-published works that became successful. Go to:


For a site similar to that provides a platform to post your writings and critiquing, but this one's totally free :-) Check out:


Saturday, February 20, 2010

You Might Be an Overwriter When ....

The person who tries too hard ... You know the type. Often prompted by insecurity, wanting to be liked or admired. You can picture him, or her, right? And you want to say, "Be yourself. You don't need to work so hard to impress me." Well, writing can be like that, too. New authors, often trying to make certain that they are getting their point across, will explain their story in such detail that there is nothing left to the reader's imagination. And that's not wise to do. The reader needs to be an active participant. Letting him or her experience the story along with the characters is the right way to go.

So, leave in the sensory details to tease your readers' senses. But let them use their own experiences to recall what a ringing phone sounds like, the roar of a crowded room, the crackling of wood in the fireplace. In other words, leave some of the details to their imaginations. You don't have to spell out every emotion, every thought, every expression.

If you are still not certain what to leave in, what to take out, here are a few guidelines:

1) If your descriptive passages seem to outweigh your action, then you might be an overwriter.

2) If the flowery, melodramatic language seems to strike you as akin to a scene from a Cecil B. DeMille film like Gone With the Wind, then you might be an overwriter.

3) If your flowery language seems to distract from the story, as if it's hiding the action behind a big purple cloud or maybe the descriptions are too unnatural, then you might be an overwriter.

4) When you have an I-know-more-than-you-do attitude and your writing goes on and on and on, making your story seem more like a lecture, then you might be an overwriter.

5) If your writing looks like a Woodstock Festival for the gathering of prepositions, then you might be an overwriter.

Bottom line, remember that your writing should sound natural -- dialog, action, description -- all of it should reflect some aspect of life. If it's forced, the reader will know. And like that person you know who tries too hard to be liked? Well, as the story goes ...

To read more on the topic, try Thanks, But This Isn't For Us by Jessica Morrell.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Example Pitch or Query for ABNA

For those who are interested in the ABNA contest, I thought I would post my pitch/query entry. Please note, it is customized to fit the contest specifications, so you will see there isn't any mention of my credentials and such that you might typically place in a query letter to a publisher or agent. If you visit the message board for ABNA you will see a thread for contestants to post their queries, and you will see quite a variety. In any case, here is mine, for what it's worth:

Your aunt is missing and no one seems to have a clue where to look for her. In the meantime, your editor won’t stop bugging you about getting that overdue book finished, and your family just can’t seem to stop meddling in your life. So, what do you do? If you are Lilly Millenovanovich, there is only one answer because family comes first. Find Fran. As she searches for her missing aunt, Lilly finds herself on a hazardous, sometimes unpleasant journey in Whips, Cuffs, and Little Brown Boxes, a 97,000 word cozy mystery.

Turning forty, menopausal, and single, mystery writer, Lilly M. needs a little excitement in her life now and then. So, when her aunt Fran turns up missing, Lilly decides playing amateur detective might do the trick. Of course, she would have to keep her snooping from Millie, her overprotective mother. She thinks Lilly will snoop herself straight into trouble. It doesn’t take a crystal ball for Millie to predict Lilly’s fate; most of the time, her life just turns out that way. Fortunately, Lilly has boyfriend, detective Jake Kline, several friends and family to keep her safe, as together they confront many dangers and unsavory surprises. From death threats and drug trafficking to the mob and sex clubs, the journey in Whips, Cuffs, and Little Brown Boxes will reveal answers even Millie couldn’t predict.

Whips, Cuffs, and Little Brown Boxes provides an entertaining combination of mystery and humor with a plot driven by lively, amusing characters. Readers of women’s contemporary fiction will enjoy this humorous cozy and relate to its likable characters and their experiences.

ABNA or What To Do In Your Spare Time

Happen to have a completed novel sitting on the shelf and collecting dust? Or one that you've been trying to pitch, but haven't gotten that fish on the hook, yet? Or maybe you've self-published the precious gem and just want more recognition ... anyway, if you haven't come across this bit of news in your surfing the web, you might try the ABNA contest through Amazon. Here's some info:

AMAZON BREAKTHROUGH NOVEL AWARD-DEADLINE: February 7, 2010GENRE: BooksDETAILS: Unpublished or self-published novels, 50,000-150,000 words. Two categories general fiction and young adult fiction. PRIZE: Winner in each category (General Fiction and Young Adult) receives publication by Penguin Group USA and $15,000 advance.


And good luck, if you take the plunge! :-)