Tuesday, January 31, 2012

How to Write a Novel: Part XXV

The Vue, a "fine dining" restaurant on 30A Seagrove Beach in Florida 
Stalling in inspiration? Go where people gather, a coffee shop or restaurant, seat yourself close to a table of folks in lively conversation and eavesdrop. Don't feel bad about this. Writers have always borrowed from life. If you have no experience to write about, take from others. Be Inspired! -G.H. Sherrer

If you've been following the John Coyne tips posted on this blog, you've reached a milestone, and are ready to begin the next phase of writing, preparing your manuscript for querying agents or publishers:

*Write a one-paragraph description of your novel.

*Write one paragraph about yourself.

*Presenting your book.
Follow these instructions closely:

Printed on 8 1/2-by-11, standard 20-pound bond white (not high-gloss) paper.

No three-hole-punched paper.

Pages not bound in any way.

Printed on a laser or ink-jet printer — no dot-matrix.

12-point-type font.

Double-spaced, with one-inch margins..

Number the pages consecutively from title page to last page of text.

All new chapters start halfway down a new page.

No mention of rights or “copyright.” Mentioning “copyright” labels you as an amateur.

*Print out your novel.

Monday, January 30, 2012

How to Write a Novel: Part XXIV

While in the process of writing your novel, always keep a goal in mind, in order to motivate action and continue on the journey to finishing a novel. If you've never published a book before, it may be difficult to imagine what a signing is like. For me, fulfillment as an author is two fold:
1) the joy of writing as I've previosuly described, and 2) the joy of meeting people while publicizing the book.
At a book signing yesterday I met a prominent local mayor, and even more important in my mind, a family court judge who not only bought my book but invited me to her court to gain inspiration for more books. How wonderful is that? Being a book author opens doors, garners your respect. Be Inspired! G.H. Sherrer

Below are more Coyne Novel Writing Tips:

*At this point in the process, review your manuscript and make sure you have given your readers a picture of your characters early in the story. Readers don’t need to know everything, but they do need to know what is physically important about each character. Use the five senses to get your characters down on paper.

*You need a climactic scene at the end of your book, a scene that resolves the conflict.
Re-read the endings of your favorite novels. How does your book match up?

*The short story writer Raymond Carver said he knew a story was finished when he found himself going through it once and putting commas in, then going through it again and taking the commas out. Is that how you feel?

Sunday, January 29, 2012

How to Write a Novel: Part XXIII

Light Breaking Through
The above photo reminds me of days when "dawn breaks", scenes and words flow so fluidly it's as if the mind has already worked out the details and been waiting for me to take the time to write.
Commitment, perseverance, determination... these are a few words describing the character of a novelist. Not everyone has what it takes to stay on course, see a job through to the finish, especially if they are juggling many other things in their life. Do you?
No. This is not about prioritizing your writing over relationships or not keeping your life in balance, but finding bits of wasted time each day, like that spent on techie toys or television, and applying your talent to pen and paper. Consistent writing is how budding talent comes to full bloom.
Be Inspired! -G.H. Sherrer

Coyne Tips:

*Read your novel into a tape recorder and then play it back while following the written text. Look for scenes that don’t work, language that draws too much attention to itself. Cut and cut and cut towards the core of the novel, the essence of what your novel is about. Remember the “flight” of your novel.

*In this, your rewriting period, make the opening of your novel as strong as possible. The first few pages show an editor just how talented your are. Rewrite your opening scene. You’ll see that now, having written the novel, you are a much better writer than you were when you started writing it.

*Pick up a half dozen great novels and read just the first sentences of each. Go to a good book store and read the opening sentences of novels that have just been published. Re-read your own opening sentence. How does it hold up?

Friday, January 27, 2012

How to Write a Novel: Part XXII

Palm Springs, California
Writers, like other creative people, have a built-in "cure" for many of life's painful moments, an escape into their work, whereby their mind resolves and, in many cases, heals hurts. As a young girl I discovered reading to be a temporary escape. As an adult I retreated into painting pictures. Today, I have found even greater solace... writing a novel. Not a poem or short story, which are quickly over and done, but an entire book of characters and settings over time becoming "real", a tiny world designed by me. No wonder I linger over rewrites and edits, spending more time crafting and fine tuning, especially the climax and final scenes. No mystery when, at last, I send the manuscript to the publisher, receive a hard copy book in hand and feel let down, like post-partum depression. No more can I spend great blocks of time with these characters. The scene is set. The ending is as it will always be. Oh, but there's always the sequel, and another novel to write. Now I understand why the great writers call writing an "opium".  Enjoy your own journey. Be Inspired! G. H. Sherrer 

Coyne's Tips:
Did you take a couple weeks break from your work? Now that you've been away from it for a while, it is time to start editing your novel. Before you start, remember what James N. Frey says: Think of a climax as the target and the rest of your story as the flight of the arrow.” It is time to review the “flight.”

*Do chunk editing. Cut away from the bone of the story. Go chapter by chapter and get rid of “all your darlings” as William Faulkner called excessive prose.

*Re-read your pages — one at a time — out loud to “hear” any awkward sentence structure.

*Go back and cut out one excessive metaphor or simile from each page. As F. Scott Fitzgerald put it, “You never cut anything out of a book you regret later.”

*Cut out one adjective or adverb in each paragraph.

*Re-read your novel again and look just for the cliches. Cut: “one fell swoop,” “pretty as a picture,” “in my mind’s eye,” “right as rain.”

*Get rid of unnecessary question marks, exclamation marks and parentheses.

*Get rid of excessive use of foreign words or phrases, the inappropriate use of fancy words, vulgar language or images, or graphic blood and sex.

*Get rid of meaningless phrases and jargon such as: coming from, networking, furthermore.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

How to Write a Novel: Part XXI

Piestawa Peak Phoenix, AZ 
Today's photo is a view from my condo on Arizona Biltmore Estate where I began freelance writing, and the peak in the background is the one I hiked, taking yesterday's blog photo of Camelback Mountain.

If you have been writing your novel as this blog progressed, this is a good time to take a break from it, as suggested by Coyne, and then you will see your work with fresh eyes when you begin the editing process. Meanwhile, I found a writing contest for you. See below. Be Inspired!- G.H.Sherrer 

The Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize honors internationally celebrated North Carolina novelist Thomas Wolfe. The winner receives $1,000 and possible publication in The Thomas Wolfe Review. The competition is open to all writers regardless of geographical location or prior publication. The postmark deadline is January 30, 2012. See web site below:


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

How to Write a Novel: Part XX

Camelback Mountain, Phoenix, AZ as viewed from Piestawa Peak

While hiking to the top of Piestawa Peak in Phoenix, Arizona I glimpsed another mountain nearby more rugged than the one I was on, a challenge to the best-trained hikers. Camelback Mountain. This hike I was on was challenging enough, and seemed a metaphor for my life at that moment in time, for I stood at a crossroads, having just left a corporate career. Fortunately, I soon met a writer who invited me to join their inspiration group at Desert Ridge and that began a wonderful journey as a columnist/journalist... and now as a published author.

What challenges do you face today as a writer?

Life's struggles of all types are better managed in the support of friends. If you are not part of an active writer group, then form one yourself. Book stores and libraries are very welcoming to writer groups.  Trying to write without support of friends and fellow writers to inspire and spur you onward can be as empty as a desert, dry and boring. Empty. Be Inspired! G.H.Sherrer

Coyne Tips:

*If you have been following this blog, then you have written approximately 300 pages.
But are these pages a novel?
Do they have a beginning, a middle, and an end?
Re-read your novel and ask yourself: Have I raised a question or presented a puzzle, and then solved it?
If you can give a satisfactory answer to this question, then continue reading tomorrow.

Monday, January 23, 2012

How to Write a Novel: Part XIX

Courtyard entrance, Taos, NM
One of life's great mysteries is how a writer cannot see the obvious flaws in their writing craft, while having the rules in their head. A fellow writer's critique is vital in uncovering necessary changes to a manuscript. Be open to hearing their advice. Take heed. Or you work will suffer. Don't take criticism personally. That said, the final decision in changes is yours. Never allow another writer or editor to create your work, by this meaning change your plot, change your premise, kill off a character, cause mayhem uncharacteristic of your plan. After all, whose name will be on this work? Whose face will be out publicizing? Stay true to your values. Be Inspired! G.H. Sherrer

*There’s an old adage in writing: “Don’t tell, show.” It means, don’t tell us about anger, show us. We then will read and feel the anger. Don’t tell the reader what to feel. Show the reader the characters and situation, and that feeling of anger (or sorrow, love, honesty, justice, etc.) will awaken in them.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

How to Write a Novel: Part XVIII

Use fresh metaphors, always making them specific to plot, character and scenes. For example, an old sea captain may feel washed up as beached flotsam. Be Inspired-G.H. Sherrer 

*Strunk and White in The Elements of Style make this point: “If those who have studied the art of writing are in accord on one point it is on this: The surest way to arouse and hold the reader is to be specific, definite, and concrete.”

*Take a break from your novel. Take either a day off, or a week. After this period, you’ll see your work with a fresh eye.

*Remember that novels can be light on plot and short on style, but flesh-and-blood characters with believable traits and motivations can save any book by gaining the reader’s sympathy.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

How to Write a Novel: Part XVII

On Mt. Adam, Washington State: Photo courtesy of Tammy Keller

When considering your novel setting, select one which makes sense for your novel and gives the most energy to the story line. For example, the scene above is draped with mystery, drama. People may become lost in forests. Wild beasts make this their home. Or, the beauty of sunshafts filtering through the mist may transform a spooky scene to one of a peaceful retreat and inspiration for poetry. Be Inspired! G.H. Sherrer
Tips from Coyne:
*During the making of the film "Friendly Persuasion" — from a novel by Jessamyn West, West remembers director William Wyler, saying, "We’ve got to get one more ‘Will he? Won’t he?" into this." As a writer, West tended not to do enough of creating that tension, which is what readers want.

*Go to the library and browse through books on food and gardening. Authors of these books describe smells, tastes, touches, and even sounds in precise detail. When writing, always mention scents and tactile sensations. Good description observes all the senses.

*Select your details. As Mark Twain said: “Use the right word, not its second cousin.” Remember that verbs are the strongest parts of any sentences. As Rita Mae Brown puts it, “Verbs blast you down the highway.”

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

How to Write a Novel: Part XVI

Mountain Laurel: Highlands, NC
When I ponder the above photo, I'm reminded to write with enough details to come across as authentic, using specific names for a flower or herb, but not add so many details they become a distraction to your story.
Also, when choosing words setting a character's mood, paint a scene. Instead of writing, "John's mother felt dejected for days," consider something more profound like, "John's mother was water poured out onto the ground, never to be gathered up again." I borrowed this metaphor from the Bible, a wonderful source of inspiration. -G.H. Sherrer

*Don’t get discouraged. Keep writing. Remember the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Ironweed by William Kennedy was rejected by 13 publishers before Saul Bellow intervened on its behalf. In rejecting Laurence J. Peter’s The Peter Principle, an editor wrote that he could “foresee no commercial possibilities in such a book.”

*Anton Chekhov’s remarkably simple advice was this: “If a gun hangs on the wall in the first act of the play, it must be discharged before the end.” You have to “look” at the total work with that piece of advice in mind and cut out anything that doesn’t help the story complete itself.

*F. Scott Fitzgerald said: “Character is action.”
     Characters do not operate in a vacuum. Their actions usually involve other people, and these interactions are what make up scenes. Full scenes, half scenes, and narrative passages are the building blocks for constructing a unified story line.


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

How to Write a Novel: Part XV

Sunset over Arizona Biltmore Estate, Phoenix, AZ 
Isn't it amazing how the brain works? Especially a writer's. Today I awoke with plot development on my mind, having just dreamed I was instructing a writer on the subject. "Make the stakes higher," I said to the writer in my dream, "Don't simply give a character a disease, make it incurable... place someone in a lab trying to find a cure." Now I plan to take my own (subconscious) advice and pump up my own plot-in-progress on this rainy day.
The next selection of Coyne's novel tips are below. Note how the second tip perfectly dovetails with my above dream. No. I did not plan this serendipity to happen.
 Be Inspired!-G.H. Sherrer

*Ideas, new and unique — that’s what surprises, satisfies and pleases readers. Stay away from the tried and true. Write with imagination

*Rick Bass, one of our finest stylists, says that fiction writers — like masons — require both power and precision to construct a good story. “You’ve got to lay the stones one on top of the other so they fit together, but you’ve got to have the strength to lug them around.”
Shirley Jackson, as the mother of four children and wife of a college professor, rarely had time to write during the day. Yet when she sat down at her desk at night, a story like “The Lottery” flowed out in a perfect first draft. Why? Because she had been thinking about it all day. Count on your subconscious taking charge and “working over” ideas that come to you during the day.

*Good characters grow and evolve out of basically two things: their actions and their beliefs. We develop a sense and understanding of people by what they do and think in the dramatic events of the story.

*The Roman poet Horace observed around 14 B.C. that writers should attempt “to say at once what ought at once to be said.” In other words, grab your reader by the throat from your very first sentence.


Monday, January 16, 2012

How to Write a Novel: Part XIV

Blaze Azalea: Sunset Rock at Highlands, NC

Are you a writer who's troubled with blocked thought and wasting time while waiting for a "muse" to appear?  Try setting a goal or two, why don't you? A number of words to write daily, a number of chapters to write weekly, a date to have a novel completed and ready for rewrites.

Oh... rewrites, you may ask? Yes indeed. All novelists must correct/edit their work, or get a professional critique, and then be self-disciplined enough to slash and burn to improve your work. Easy? No. That's why many creative types write poetry or paint pictures instead. 

A novelist needs inner fortitude, self discipline... or they can go the way of many would-be novelists, write from a formula with software package using Hollywood's latest hit as inspiration... boring! Me? I model my writing after the style of Mark Twain, Eugenia Price, and Laura Ingalls Wilder, to name a few. Be Inspired!- G.H. Sherrer  

*Without descriptions the reader doesn’t have a sense of place and time and mood — all critical for your story. But with too much, your story will bog down and get boring. Get in. Give the telling detail. Then get out. Don’t drown in your descriptions (or your research). Create a world where your characters can live and breathe, but not vegetate.

*Ideas, new and unique — that’s what surprises, satisfies and pleases readers. Stay away from the tried and true. Write with imagination

*Rick Bass, one of our finest stylists, says that fiction writers — like masons — require both power and precision to construct a good story. “You’ve got to lay the stones one on top of the other so they fit together, but you’ve got to have the strength to lug them around.”

Sunday, January 15, 2012

How to Write a Novel: Part XIII

Rabun County Georgia
Poets and many writers of prose are inspired by scenes in nature. Look deeper. Who once walked this land? Consider native peoples, or European immigrants driving oxen over mountains to settle the once wilderness. Today, who are the farmers tilling the soil in the middle ground of this photo? What is their story? Look deep, and imagine. Below are more tips from John Coyne of the Peace Corp writers. Be Inspired! G.H. Sherrer

*When using characters to present clues, don’t forget body language. Nonverbal signals can communicate much more effectively than words. 

*Try writing first in longhand, then on a computer. This will give you two passes at the prose before you start editing.

*Aim for one startling image on each page. For example, try and match this image of a sunrise at sea by Philip Caputo in The Voyage:
A golden shimmer appeared where the horizon was supposed to be, then a red sun pushed up, like the head of some fiery infant bulging out of the gray sea’s womb — water giving birth to its opposite element.

*Don’t overwrite just because technology lets you do it. The mechanics of the computer and the internet make everything easier, from research to writing to revising. Keep thinking small. We all think that movies and baseball games are too long. What about books? Publishers and editors will tell you: context determines length. Just remember that The Great Gatsby is only 200 pages long.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

How to Write a Novel: Part XII

Is anything more inspiring than love? What deeper love is there than that of a mother? Only God's love, of course. Ponder the above photo and be inspired!-G.H.Sherrer

Coyne Tips for today:

*Novelist Kurt Vonnegut once remarked that, “Talent is extremely common. What is rare is the willingness to endure the life of a writer. It is like making wallpaper by hand for the Sistine Chapel.”

*Commit yourself to a point of view early in your planning. This way the reader can get a footing in the story. Once you have decided which character will be the viewpoint character, stick with your decision. Do not shift point of view. If you decide on multiple points of view, show the story through one character at a time, in order to avoid confusing the reader.

*Carry a note pad with you. If you’re waiting for a meeting to begin, start writing. If you’re on an airplane, start writing. Whenever there’s a second to write, do it. Once you have written it down, you own it.

*Suspense is a basic ingredient of fiction. Because of it, readers ask: What is going to happen next? They will keep reading to find out.

Friday, January 13, 2012

How to Write a Novel: Part XI

Mountains, such as these in north Georgia, always inspire me, evoking positive emotion. Why? I don't know. Sometimes removing oneself from familiar surroundings for a time, even a weekend, will jump start creativity. Take your novel manuscript to the beach. See what develops. Or simply retreat into a movie theater or art gallery. Seek out change from time to time.

Here's a fiction writer's prompt or idea offered by Poets & Writers Magazine:

Choose a story that you've finished or a story by another author and use the last line of it to begin a new story, using the same characters and/or introducing new ones.

Below are more Coyne tips. Be Inspired!- G. H. Sherrer

*Set a goal for your self to write at least four pages a day. That is 300–325 words, double-spaced. Some days you’ll write one page; others you’ll write 15 pages. Try to average at least four pages a day.

*Your novel is a work of fiction, but that doesn’t mean your facts don’t need to be straight. Nothing turns a reader off quite as fast as a wrong fact. And nothing gives a story the ring of authenticity like the right fact or detail. Use the Internet for research. It’s fast, easy, and inexpensive. Every library in the world is open to you. Look, too, at magazines and newspapers published at the same time and place as the setting of your novel. Gore Vidal used old editions of Harper’s Magazine for details when writing his historical novels.

*Conversation is not dialogue. Dialogue has a purpose. It pushes the story forward. It keeps the reader tuned in to the story, and makes a person feel at the heart of the action. Therefore, don’t describe distant events second hand. Put the reader in the middle of your story’s action and your dialogue will sing naturally. Keep your talk efficient and forceful. And always make certain the reader knows who is speaking.

*Look into the mirror and write about the person you see. Try and describe the person you see in the mirror to a man or woman you have never met. Keep the description under 300 words. Make this “person” a character in your novel, either the protagonist, the narrator, or one of the minor characters of the plot.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

How to Write a Novel: Part X

Enjoy your writer's journey today, with more inspiration from nature. Ponder the flowers' fragrance, the mountain in the background. Who is in the garden tending this beauty?Be Inspired! -G.H. Sherrer
Tips from Coyne:

A well-written page-turner that is more character-than plot-driven and has a clear beginning, middle and end is what editors (and readers) want.

You now have made:


a commitment


a working schedule


a story idea


a cast of characters


a detailed plot of the entire story


a short description of what your novel is about.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

How to Write a Novel: Part IX

Pastoral scenes like this one taken in Dillard, Georgia inspire me, but often a writer needs a bit of competition to start inspirational juices flowing, one such as this:

Alabama State Council on the Arts
Individual Artist Grants
Fellowships of $5,000 are given annually to poets, fiction writers, and creative nonfiction writers who have lived in the state of Alabama for at least two years. Using the electronic submission system, submit 10 to 20 pages of poetry or prose, a resumé, and a list of publications by March 1. There is no entry fee. Visit website for the required entry form and complete guidelines.
Alabama State Council on the Arts, Individual Artist Grants, 201 Monroe Street, Montgomery, AL 36130-1800. (334) 242-4076. Randy Shoults, Contact.
Here are today's novel writing tips from Coyne. Be Inspired!-G.H. Sherrer
Prepare a rough outline of the story’s action from Chapter One through to the end.
     Novelist Katherine Anne Porter put it this way, “If I didn’t know the ending of a story, I wouldn’t begin.”
     Write down the last paragraph of your novel and put it in the drawer. At the end of a hundred days, lets see how close you came to following your imagination

Do nothing — absolutely nothing — on your novel in terms of actual writing until your plotting (along with your characters and their roles in the drama) is complete and down on paper.
     Do not fall victim to that old author line: “I just start out with a basic idea and a couple of characters. I never know where I’m going. I let the characters tell the story for me.” That may work for brilliant and experienced novelists, but most of us need a clear road map if we aren’t going to get ourselves and our readers hopelessly lost.

Hang the cards and outline you have developed around your office or room so that they can be easily read.


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

How to Write a Novel: Part VIII

"People... people who love people are the luckiest people in the world..." words sung by Barbara Striesand. How does loving people relate to writing? Since you asked, writing doesn't happen in a vacuum. People are your characters, living breathing people are our inspiration (no pun intended), people are your readers, your target audience, whether it's an interview with a book club, a journalism class or a newspaper reporter. Seldom does a writer have a novel "go public" without several good critiques by other writers. People are vital, but never should they be a utility, just a "platform", a means to an end. Foster your love of people in your own life orbit. Begin by loving the ones most near you in an unconditional way, assisting and supporting in other writers' projects, offering advice, or just a smile and kind word on a rainy day.

Today's photo of inspiration is La Cinta Canyon, which is on a 1200+ acre ranch in New Mexico once owned by my friend "Kip the Cowboy", and what an interesting person he was... before he died while hiking in a field of wildflowers in the Colorado Rocky Mountains. John Coyne's novel tips follow this photo. Be Inspired!-G.H. Sherrer

La Cinta Canyon:  New Mexico

Keep asking the question, “why?” As you reach the end of the second week of defining characters, you will have a stack of 5x7 character cards that spell out intimate details about the personal life of each and every character in your story, down to their waist measurement and favorite color. The novelist Vladimir Nabokov composed all of his novels on index cards.

Your “voice” is your voice. Your “style” is your style. Don’t attempt to “sound like” some famous writer. Many beginning writers feel that they have to add something to their “voice” on the printed page. Who you are on the page is who you are in life, just as sophisticated, just as worldly, or not. It doesn’t matter. Keep writing and keep cutting away at the awkwardness that might creep into your writing. Be a natural. As the French novelist, Francois René de Chateaubriand wrote, “The original writer is not one who imitates nobody, but one whom nobody can imitate.”

Monday, January 9, 2012

How to Write a Novel: Part VII

Did you make a New Year's resolution? I always do. This year I set a goal to have my second book back from the publisher by the end of the first quarter of 2012. Easy goal, I thought. Then fresh inspiration began hitting like a fly ball in left field, I furiously made pages of notes, reordered chapters, pumped up characters, deleted whole sections, added scenes. I was typing near midnight last night. But oh! How much better the novel will be! Always be ready to change direction when your sails are hit by a stiffening wind. 

Along with today's Coyne tips, above is a photo of inspiration, my very own watercolor I painted back in the 90's. Painting is an artform much like literary arts, meaning one has to look for details in our world, though try to replicate with brush instead of words. Be Inspired!- G.H. Sherrer

You need a strong protagonist. Most writers have a problem with creating a character who is larger than life, fully developed, and a consistent protagonist.
     Remember, your protagonist is your story’s major character. This is the person with whom your reader will identify. You want your readers to care about your protagonist. He or she is your new best friend.
Figure out who you need in the story and what they do together or to one another, and the story does to them. Are they all pulling together in one direction? Are they pulling in six different directions? Ask yourself the critical question: Which would be most interesting to the reader? That’s the real litmus test of character development and plotting. Will the reader be interested? Will the reader care?
     To be successful in character and plot development, you need to make hard choices. You need to be ruthless with your characters and your story. Who’s in, who’s out? What’s in, what’s out?
     Frankly, here is where a lot of first-time novelists stop dead. They can’t bring themselves to choose. They become fascinated or paralyzed by the possibilities.
     Don’t you dare do that. Be brutal. Try different choices, of course, but move the story forward event by event, bringing each character along with you. As each event unfolds, each character must react to it. Just as they would in real life.
     If a child is hit and killed by a car, the driver’s life is changed forever, the parents’ lives, the lives of the brothers and sisters, friends, even the crossing guard and bystanders. You have to decide what the changes are. You must decide. This is your chance to play God — and if you’re going to write you must play that role. God is in the details, and God decides the course of the novel.


Sunday, January 8, 2012

How to Write a Novel: Part VI

Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work. ~Thomas Edison
The above quote should be the mantra of all writers. Learn craft. Set goals. Be determined and persevere in a project, but have fun along the way. The reward is in the journey, not applause or a paycheck. This applies to all things worthy of our time.
Today's tips from John Coyne are below this photo, for your inspiration, which I took in route to Palm Springs, CA in 2006 on American Airlines. Be Inspired!!-G.H.Sherrer
Develop your characters and your plot together. You can’t do one well without the other. Your characters are not wooden people who just dropped magically out of the sky. They are critical elements of the drama you are creating. They must do something logical or illogical (which is what plot is all about) that adds to your story, and moves it to its ultimate climax. Never, never separate characters from plot.

The reader has to believe that your characters exist or could exist — and they need to be distinctively drawn. And nothing better defines characters than their actions, their purpose in life. Their purpose may be good or evil. It doesn’t matter. All that matters is that the reader sees their actions and purpose, believes them, and is continuously interested in them.
     Do not write a story peopled with a cast of thousands. Write a tale about one, two or three memorable characters, all of them filled with purpose.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

How to Write a Novel: Part V

Once I read that taking up writing on a regular basis will change a person, for the better of course. "Consistently write for five years and you'll be a different person entirely," they said. Hmmm... I can't say that I'm a different person today, but certainly I'm more fulfilled, have more joy, lead a richer, fuller life filled with interesting and gifted people as a result of my writing.

Just as fulfillment is unique to an individual, so will be your own writer path. If you are indeed a writer, you will write. Not for payment. Not to be well known. Not for any other reason than you can't help yourself. You will not seek a muse nor need a muse. The inner desire is there inside you, an integral part of who you are outflowing in word pictures, some intertaining, some modeling good values, some instructing. Write on, my friends!

Today's photo comes from Taos, New Mexico, the Taos Mission. My posting is Part V of Jon Coyne's novel writing tips. Stay Inspired!-G.H.Sherrer

Most novels are written to a formula, especially big best sellers. For example, John Baldwin, co-author of The Eleventh Plague: A Novel of Medical Terror, developed a simple formula that he used to structure his novel.
     His formula is:

The hero is an expert.

The villain is an expert.

You must watch all of the villainy over the shoulder of the villain.

The hero has a team of experts in various fields behind him.

Two or more on the team must fall in love.

Two or more on the team must die.

The villain must turn his attention from his initial goal to the team.

The villain and the hero must live to do battle again in the sequel.

All deaths must proceed from the individual to the group: i.e., never say that the bomb exploded and 15,000 people were killed. Start with “Jamie and Suzy were walking in the park with their grandmother when the earth opened up.”

More about formula. When Ernest Hemmingway started as a young reporter for the Kansas City Star, he was given a style sheet with four basic rules:
*Use short sentences.
*Use short first paragraphs.
*Use vigorous English.
*Be positive, never negative

Asked about these rules years later, he said, “Those were the best rules I ever learned in the business of writing. I’ve never forgotten them. No one with any talent, who feels and writes truly about the things he is trying to say, can fail to write well if he abides by them.”

Friday, January 6, 2012

How to Write a Novel: Part IV

As I now post more of John Coyne's advice for novel writing, the thought struck me that blog newcomers may see chaos instead of order, so read by posting date to prevent confusion. I've added the photo below for inspiration only. What is more inspiring than nature? This scene evokes poetry in my mind, and I'm no poet.

Yesterday I had lunch with a friend who is both published author and publisher, Joyce Norman, a former foreign correspondent. What an inspiring two-and-a-half hour lunch!  I left with more ideas than I could process, stayed awake writing them down last night. If your inspiration is lagging, do likewise, have lunch with a writer friend. Stay Inspired! -G.H.Sherrer
Begin by writing about what you know, if not the novel itself, then something about the place or people in your novel. It’s a lot easier to get started on your book if you are writing about people, places, and things with which you have already grown familiar.

Pick your characters first, as they are harder to pick than a story.
     When writing, the plot may or may not change, but the characters will develop and have a life of their own. As your characters develop, they’ll take on distinct personalities, and as with good friends, you’ll know in certain situations what they will or will not do.
     Mystery writer Oakley Hall says that a writer must “listen to the demands of his characters, who, as they begin to come to life, may insist upon a different fate than the givens seem to require.”

Get a bunch of 5 by 7 cards and put each character’s name at the top. Next, think about the role each plays in your story, and what kind of person each is: age, education, place of birth, hot-headed, funny, fat, ugly. What are their quirks? Do they wash their hands 500 times a day? Do they hear voices? Are they kind to kids but love to torture cats? Put it down, put down so much that you finally come to know these characters intimately. Alfred Hitchcock would write down his scenes on index cards, one scene to a card. That way, as he said, by the time he was ready to shoot the film, he was already done.
     Some characters will be major ones, around whom the story will pivot; others will play bit parts, but these will be critical too, as every player must have a reason for being in the story. If they don’t have a reason for being in your novel, they’ll slow down the story, and slowness bores readers.