We get all sorts of advice about query letters, pitches, writing styles, words per day, and on and on. But there are two things that help you in the world of writing that have nothing to do with your own work. They have to do with someone else's.
Read other writers' work. Read the writers you aspire to be like and try to decide what it is in their work that you admire. Read writers you don't like and figure out what they're doing wrong, at least in your opinion (remembering, of… Continue
Added by Peg Herring on June 30, 2008 at 10:48pm —
Should you write what you like or what will sell? I find that among my works, I can't say which is better or best; I love whichever one I'm working on right now. I can't imagine being told what to write, and I guess that taking the creativity out of a person's work is what makes a writer a hack. Although I understand the need for editorial intervention once I'm done, before that point I have to write my story. It is this that makes me reluctant to join critique groups that exchange… Continue
Added by Peg Herring on June 27, 2008 at 11:05pm —
As a reader, I love many types of "literary fiction," which is hard to define (but you know it when you see it). While the genius of some modern writers eludes me, I appreciate the casual brilliance of a Kurt Vonnegut and the simple elegance of a Margaret Atwood. But what about mysteries? How literary can they get, and is it even desireable in a genre-type work?
There are three levels of what I'll call literary-ness in genre fiction, at least according to my personal categorization.… Continue
Added by Peg Herring on June 26, 2008 at 10:14pm —
My worst one is songs. If there's even a vague reference in conversation or on TV to something that is (or reminds me of) a song lyric, the words play in my head for hours afterward, even if I hate, hate, HATE the song itself. Please don't mention low places or Garth Brooks (my least favorite) starts singing to me. And please don't say anything about roller skates, spirits, or flowers in your hair, because certain sixties songs just dominate when you do. I don't even have to hear it aloud. I'm… Continue
Added by Peg Herring on June 25, 2008 at 10:09pm —
When I was a kid we created all sorts of imaginary violence: cowboys and Indians, cops and robbers, heroes and villains. The #1 rule was Take Your Deads. If somebody killed you, you had to lie down. It wasn't fair to holler, "You missed me" or "It's just a flesh wound." (That was the BMP Era: Before Monty Python) But it seems to me that many people these days don't take their deads when it comes to education. When caught without the necessary skills, they say, "They missed me" or "They didn't… Continue
Added by Peg Herring on June 24, 2008 at 10:46pm —
Exposing one's writing to the world is more terrifying than all the chainsaw massacre movies put together. Emily Dickinson said it: "How can you print a piece of your soul?" And yet, there is a compulsion in those of us who write to share that writing with others. We are tentative at first, but we can't resist handing that "piece of soul" to another person, hoping that he or she will say, "This is good." Often we're even okay with "This isn't too bad."
My first time story: I shared… Continue
Added by Peg Herring on June 23, 2008 at 9:48pm —
Yesterday a newspaper reporter called and asked if she could interview me for a feature article. Let me think about thatYES!
Marketing campaigns are tough, competition for print/radio/TV is fierce, and beginning authors aren't big news. So how did I score a feature article? Friendship. You see, a woman in the church choir I direct has a daughter in a slightly larger town who was my friend in school, way back when. The woman bought my book, read it, and then handed it off to her… Continue
Added by Peg Herring on June 20, 2008 at 10:28pm —
There is some concern in the publishing industry about the fact that every year there are fewer readers in this country. We all know why, and I'm not here to argue that it's wrong, wrong, wrong, even though it is.
The question is what can build interest in reading? Those factors need to be cultivated. For one thing, there's the popularity of certain books among young people. Once a kid has developed an interest in Potter or Goosebumps or Chillermania, chances are he will understand… Continue
Added by Peg Herring on June 19, 2008 at 10:37pm —
I was pretty quiet about wanting to publish until I got my first contract. In a small town, announcing that you've written a book is an invitation to "Who does she think she is?" comments behind your back. Once I got that contract, however, it became necessary to come out of the book closet and start down the endless road of marketing and promotion.
The most surprising thing is how many phone calls I got from people who had also written a book. They wanted to know how I got published… Continue
Added by Peg Herring on June 18, 2008 at 10:26pm —
There are, in my view, two big dangers in blogging. One is that your blog is not read: you waste time, writing long, carefully-thought-out messages to no one. The other is that your blog is read and you say something dumb or hurtful or, worst of all, libelous. Ah, yes, the joys of the dilemma.
If you are read, that's good, right? People get to know your name, get to know your views, and remember you when they think of authors. But writing every day or week or whatever means you have… Continue
Added by Peg Herring on June 17, 2008 at 11:03pm —
On the road, I am prey to the sin of gluttony. Something about being away from home makes me forget all the work I've done to remain healthy. At a drive-thru window, water seems unnatural, and I order a soda. In a sit-down restaurant the choices laid before me, all the pretty pictures and well-chosen words, call for meals drowned in cheese, sour cream, or guacamole. I know I'll be working for weeks to get rid of the extra pounds of a few days.
On the plus side, travel reminds us what… Continue
Added by Peg Herring on June 16, 2008 at 10:05pm —
When you're at home and storm warnings arise, you know where to go. You're with your family or at least are aware of where they are. Whatever happens, you'll deal with it from experience and prior planning.
On the road, however, it's a different experience. You're in a strange place. You have no idea where people are supposed to go for cover, no idea what the warning system is, and sometimes no one to ask. It's a different feeling, a sort of alone-ness that arises when it's too late… Continue
Added by Peg Herring on June 13, 2008 at 9:58pm —
Much as I love my family and my friends here in this small town, I find it difficult being at a distance from those who write, if not for a living, at least for sustenance. I'm sure my circle of everyday folk get tired of me throwing plot knots at them or rambling on about marketing. It's like hearing your plumber talk about U-joints and plastic pipe versus copper.
When writers get together they open up, even wallow, in their writing problems, the niceties of the craft, and the… Continue
Added by Peg Herring on June 12, 2008 at 10:10pm —
Thirty years in education was great preparation for authoring, because no one multi-tasks like a teacher (except maybe the school secretary). These days it's marketing stuff, speaking engagements, editing, and when there's time, writing. The cool part is, just as when I was a teacher, I love it all. Yes, it gets overwhelming at times when the printer is running (ever so slowly) and the phone is ringing and there's email to be answered but my latest protag is ready to tell her story NOW. And… Continue
Added by Peg Herring on June 11, 2008 at 9:45pm —
My mother, in the last days of her life, became concerned with how she would look laid out at the funeral home. It was macabre but understandable. She had nothing else to look forward to, so being a life-long planner and arranger, she turned to doing what she could to prepare for the inevitable. There was a shopping trip to buy a suit, so she wouldn't be wearing something anyone had seen her in before. Yes, it was weird. Even weirder when the sales clerk told her, "This suit will last you for… Continue
Added by Peg Herring on June 10, 2008 at 10:53pm —
Guess I might have called this "The Hazards of Spellcheck."
I talk to so many writers who are chomping at the bit to get their work out there. Enthusiasm is great, but wisdom is better. You should NOT send your work out the week, month, or maybe even the year after you finish it.
I know, you think it's done. But listen to good writers, and they'll tell you that nobody's done just because he's written the final period. Concentrating on the story, you've made mistakes that… Continue
Added by Peg Herring on June 9, 2008 at 10:38pm —
I have a great quote from Scott Turow that I use in my mystery talks. To paraphrase, he says that the fictional courtroom is better than the real one in some ways, not the least of which is that justice is usually served. In real life, the courtroom often becomes a speech contest, a test of wills, a popularity platform, and/or an endurance test. While that may also be true in fiction for a while to keep the story going, there is at some point an ending where we know what really happened, and… Continue
Added by Peg Herring on June 6, 2008 at 10:32pm —
I'm totally unable to understand the niceties of building a website. Luckily, I have a great guy I can email and say, "This is what I'd like" and he makes it happen. From time to time I tell myself I should learn to do it, but in my heart I know that (A) I'd never do it as well as he does, and (B) I'd hate every second of it. Let those who can, do.
What I love about having a site is that people have easy access to me without having real access. I've spoken at places where people say… Continue
Added by Peg Herring on June 5, 2008 at 10:58pm —
I've been known to complain about bad writing in this little spot, so I guess I have to admit it when I find a writer who can do it all. Allowing for my prejudices and such, here's my idea of a great mystery writer.
The main character has to be both real and heroic, at least in some way. She/he can have flaws, even big ones, as long as I feel as a reader that he's fighting them rather than indulging them.
Secondary characters also have to be real, and they can't be so… Continue
Added by Peg Herring on June 4, 2008 at 10:05pm —
I got a boost from an unexpected source yesterday, and it made all the difference. After announcing online that I had a book signing this week, someone jumped on DorothyL to say she "highly recommends" my book. Wow.
In this crazy business of rejections, century-long waits, and zillions of talented authors vying for each spot on a publisher's schedule, the boost one gets from just one person saying, "I liked this!" is critical. We must remember to tell each other when we like what we… Continue
Added by Peg Herring on June 3, 2008 at 10:11pm —