A Fine Line

It’s that scene in a novel where a reader’s mood can quickly change from relaxed to agitated. It’s the point where the author inadvertently crosses a fine line, risking the loss of the reader’s attention. This can open the possibility of the book being put aside, never to be visited by that reader again. The line may be crossed when the writer decides to fill in background details without taking the time to thoroughly research them.

Integrating the characters’ stories may require hours of  research. Obviously, a story set in Kansas would not have a scene with the characters planning a trip through one of its deserts. Again…obvious. When writing a novel, it’s important to hit the books, and the internet, to gather valid, factual and historical data in an effort to present the work of fiction as accurately and true-to-life as possible.

The slip may not always be as easily identified. This can happen when using colloquialisms and slang. A couple of the most widely known regional differences are: in the Midwest, a carbonated beverage is “pop”, while this is “soda” when you’re in one of the southern states. In northern states you might pack your lunch, or groceries in a “bag,” while in the south, they would definitely be in a “sack.” Make certain the word, or term you’re using is one that’s used in the region of the novel’s setting.  Let’s face it, we all have a certain sense of pride for the area we live in and would definitely notice if the wrong term is used. Not only would most readers notice, but many would be annoyed at the misuse.

You may think extensive research is relevant only to non-fiction and historical fiction, but that’s not the case. Readers read comprehensively; simultaneously analyzing the book’s content, consistently and effortlessly. If something is presented that’s not in line with what the reader knows to be true about a place, or situation, it can immediately strike a negative chord. Consequently, a red flag of agitation can rear its head – straight and stern – directed toward the author.

In fiction, as in all published works, the reader trusts the author is presenting verifiable lines of data, life experiences and the human condition when moving the story forward. Even in the most extraordinary: wizard, fairy, monster, superhero fantasies, scenes presenting human emotion, life events, and known geographical areas should be presented realistically and factually.  When that robot (whether android, or cyborg)  falls in love with, or murders, its designer, the emotion taken on by that animated mass of glass and metal needs to be reliable. Even when disarmed, disabled, dismantled, this must make perfect sense. It must be in accord with anything known robotics has put forth on how that would come about.

Make no mistake; just as it’s true for non-fiction, a writer of fiction is not exempt from conducting research. It’s necessary in order to provide readers the authenticity and credibility they expect, and deserve.  It’s also necessary if the author wants to prevent the reader from crossing that fine line of novel abandonment.

Writers’ Resolutions

cropped-header.jpgSpeaking with a friend, and fellow writer, I found that I was not the only one with several (five, actually) “novels-in-progress” which pretty much are a result of four, successful, NaNoWriMo challenges. One of them is, of course, of my own prompting when first I decided to write a novel. From this conversation I realized that we are, most likely, two out of thousands who’ve found themselves in this same situation. As we begin another new year we realize we have now been afforded another opportunity to bring at least one, possibly more, of these products of our imaginations to their intended conclusion, submission, and hopefully…publication.

I cannot be certain of many things, but I can be of this one: many other writers will join me in this same New Year’s resolution to awaken our characters from their long and deep sleep and put them back into active status; to work with them, each and every day, to meet the goal and cross the finish line of a written and re-written, fully edited, completed novel. However, what is it that makes this year different from the last, or the one before? Every year I resolve to finish my unfinished novel/s; write something every day; resurrect my age-old short stories, poetry, and give them the resuscitation, I believe, they deserve. What is so different about this New Year that will cause me to bring this resolve to fruition? Absolutely nothing!

Given this stark reality it seemed to me that I needed to take a closer look at why my annual resolution these past five years has not survived the test of time. It wasn’t long before I decided it has been exactly that: my lack of “taking a closer look” and not keeping my resolution in mind, allowing it to wander off into the dark recesses of who knows where, to hibernate, without accountability until the next New Year rolled around. This year, though, I’ve made a second writer’s resolution. In addition to write, write, write…I’ve resolved to work, work, work.

As writers well know our writing is not a chore, it is not a job, it is something that comes naturally and easily to us and it is a passion that fills our hearts with joy. At the same time it serves to release our inner yearnings and pathos; sometimes expressing thoughts of outrageous horror and psychosis, unrequited love and unfulfilled romance…whatever. We write because we can’t help ourselves. It’s who we are, and what we do. That is, unless we don’t write for a day, or two, or more.

It’s a fact of life that our writers’ minds are not always creative. It is during those dry spells, those writers’ block days where we lose track of our characters and put our novels aside, just for a moment. Unfortunately, that moment often becomes another year. During that year we continue to write, because it’s our nature to write, but now we’ve stared a new novel, a new short story, several new poems, and our original work/s stay put aside; dormant. In sad silence they’re unable to recover from the dread writer’s block of which that particular writing has been afflicted.

That is where my second resolution, my resolve to “work” fits in for me this year. I think this year I need to take a new approach. So, I have resolved to go back to each of those unfinished novels, short stories, pieces of poems, one-by-one, individually, and actually “work” to complete them, one at a time, despite any perceived creative block that’s been stopping me from bringing these to their appropriate conclusion. I’ve come to the realization that, yes, I am a writer, and as a writer I need to work at my craft. One definition of “writer” given in the Merriam-Webster dictionary is: “someone whose work is to write books, poems, stories, etc.”

So now…I think get it! These will be my resolutions in this New Year: I will work to complete one (or more) of my novels and one (or more) of my short stories and work to complete the rewrites and edits and finally…work…to submit them, to have them viewed and critiqued; to be killed off, if that’s what happens, or possibly to live on.

So, wish me well in my endeavor; in my New Year’s resolutions. Maybe these will become the writers’ resolutions for others in this New Year that is open to extraordinarily great and wonderful opportunity and accomplishment.

Happy New Year everyone!

Don’t delete! What to do with scenes edited out of your novel.

Stop...don't delete those words from your novel.

Stop…don’t delete those words from your novel.

Whether it’s the first, rough draft of your novel, or your final edit, it’s inevitable that you, or your editor, may want to remove sentences, or scenes. That’s okay. Most likely, it’s necessary. However, whatever you do…don’t delete them. Don’t banish them to that cyberspace eternity, leaving them to dissolve and disappear into some unknown infinity…alone and abandoned.

Instead, protect them and save them in a separate file, reserving them for another time. It’s been helpful for me to follow this practice. I’ve found I have gone back to that file often, always grateful I’d been able to rescue these previously rejected words and place them in their new place, in a new story.

Often, especially in the case of a first draft where I’ve decided to cut a sentence, or a scene, I’ve retained them on the same file by color coding that section and cutting and pasting it to the last page of the same work-in-progress for another look, later. There have been many times I’ve been able to bring some of these back up into the story in a different context where they fit better and worked well. In all cases, I’d been so pleased to have my writing still available instead of having to try to recreate that sentence, or that scene, the same as it had been written previously. All of you will agree, I’m sure, that once that written thought has been deleted, it’s pretty much impossible to restore it to its original form.

What doesn’t fit here and now may be the perfect fit for your next short story, or novel. Your words were worth their weight in gold to you when they first made their way from your creative mind and became part of your story and they’re valuable. They may have lost their place in this story, but they haven’t lost their worth.

Let me know if you’ve been saving your writing in a similar way. I would think this is a common practice for writers, but would be interested in hearing your thoughts and opinions


Literary Fiction vs. Genre Fiction


A literary fiction genre, with a retrospective narrative voice is what I’d determined the novel I’m writing to be, and still do. Except I’ve recently had some reservations on a definitive genre and probably will just write it and let my

readers determine what it should be considered once it’s published. This is the best thing for me to do, I’m sure, after reading way too many articles on “genre” and coming to the conclusion to not spend any more time trying to decide where my novel will stand in this arena.

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random: having no specific pattern, purpose, or objective


a nondescript anachronism… all random

In the movie, “Six Degrees of Separation”, Flan (Donald Sutherland)  tells Ouisa (Stockard Channing) , “the painter, Cezanne, would leave blank spaces on his canvas when he couldn’t account for the brush strokes, or the color”. Stockard Channing replies,    “How much of your life can you account for? My life is a collage of unaccounted for brush strokes; I am all random”.

Chicago Theater

If walls could talk

Random wisps of wistful words  wafting  through, adhering to, the watchful walls. Stories without end, set upon the creaking stage. Refurbished and renewed, yet remaining still  a part of times long past, where countless thousands have entered with great expectation and left, at times, with great disappointment, but always with a learned experience of the art of illusion, an escape from the reality of the world into a realm of pretense.

Not so different, though, from the false selves still to be encountered day-to-day.