Peg Herring's Blog – October 2007 Archive (23)

Writers Need Readers

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…


Added by Peg Herring on October 31, 2007 at 10:57pm — 2 Comments

About a Writer's Confidence

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 my…


Added by Peg Herring on October 30, 2007 at 8:53pm — No Comments

Pacing a Novel

A friend and I exchange manuscripts from time to time, and her latest is, to use an overused word that actually applies here, riveting. That got me thinking about pacing.

Sometimes a book reaches out and grabs you by the throat and won't let go. You need to know what happens to the protag, need to know why he/she's in such deep trouble, need to have the whole story. You hear people say they stayed up half the night to finish a book, and it's understandable. You become so…


Added by Peg Herring on October 29, 2007 at 9:01pm — 1 Comment

Last Animal Story, I Promise!

This one might have you thinking that I've deluded myself into believing I'm a former President of the United States, but not so. It happened to me.

I'm on my daily walk in the woods. As I follow the path, ahead I see a rabbit, sitting maybe twenty feet ahead of me. This is unusual, since rabbits are, well, rabbity. They tend to startle and run at the first sign of an intruder. This rabbit was sitting very still, in plain sight.

As I approached him, the rabbit took off, as I…


Added by Peg Herring on October 26, 2007 at 9:20pm — No Comments

Animals Are Crazy, Too

I thought I'd finish out the week with animal stories, having been reminded by the porcupines of yesterday. Nothing to do with writing except that walking is my inspiration time each day.

Story #1 happened last summer. MId-morning I walk to the end of our property, about half a mile, cross a small woods, and return home. It's pretty much the same route every day, and that doesn't bother me in the least. There's always something new to see.

On a particular day, I heard the sound…


Added by Peg Herring on October 25, 2007 at 9:41pm — No Comments

Nature, Human and Otherwise

Yesterday I was angry at the world, as readers may have noticed. Today, although most of the same problems exist, I have a better attitude for three reasons.

First, I got a request for a complete from a publisher for my MS, Her Highness' First Murder. Few writers fail to be cheered by someone in the pub biz saying, "This is good. We'd like more." The nature of publishing today being what it is, that's a HUGE step forward.

Second, I spent an evening with some great…


Added by Peg Herring on October 24, 2007 at 10:26pm — 1 Comment

The Other Side-Internet Jerks

Yesterday I posted on Internet angels, those people who post, create, and otherwise assist others, making valuable information available to the masses who don't know much more than how to type in a keyword or two.

Since the universe loves balance, on the day that I lauded such angels, I collided with a person of the opposite type. Having had the nerve to ask a question on-line, I was subjected to name-calling, intimidation, and downright meanness, all delivered in a tone of hauteur…


Added by Peg Herring on October 23, 2007 at 9:45pm — 1 Comment

Internet Angels

Did you ever wonder who does all the cool stuff on the Internet that makes it so much fun? I do.

I know a few names. Daniel Arenson, the author of a fantasy novel called FIREFLY ISLAND, helps other Five Star authors by posting their info on the MySpace Five Star site, with a cool revolving thingie that shows each author's latest cover every few minutes. Now I could never do that in a million years (well, maybe I could, but it's kind of like the monkeys with the typewriter…


Added by Peg Herring on October 22, 2007 at 10:52pm — No Comments

Who Do You Trust?

Publishing is fraught with danger for the uninitiated. (I've always wanted to use the word FRAUGHT!) As a new writer, one must navigate a minefield of offers to "publish your book today." Most of us learn to resist the obvious scams, but some are more subtle and therefore more tempting. I once sent a query to an agent in Texas who wrote back with glowing compliments about my great characters and said she would be thrilled to represent an author as talented as I am. Luckily, even then I knew…


Added by Peg Herring on October 19, 2007 at 10:30pm — No Comments

Attention-Deficit and Disorder

No, I haven't got ADD, but sometimes I feel like that. I have so many ideas that I'd like to explore on keyboard that it's hard to settle down and choose one. Just about the time I get started on a historical, do all the research, figure out the characters, and outline the plot, I'll be skimming through my files and think, "Oh, there's that thriller I did two years ago. Maybe I should dust that off and do some editing; it was pretty good."

I don't think it's altogether a bad thing,…


Added by Peg Herring on October 18, 2007 at 10:44pm — No Comments

Book Two and Beyond

It's interesting to me that some authors get better with each book, some write the same book over and over, and some actually get worse.

Authors often deteriorate, in my opinion, because they are pressured to get that next book out, even if it isn't quite ready, even if the plot is thin as rice paper or the characters act like raving maniacs. We all had a long time, years for most of us, before that first book sold, and we tinkered with it every few months, improving and fine-tuning.…


Added by Peg Herring on October 17, 2007 at 10:26pm — No Comments

How Can I Blog When You're Winking at Me?

I've griped before about how life interferes with writing, and it's happened again. My husband is away for the week. I made no appointments, dates, or plans for Monday through Thursday, intent on finishing some writing things that have been nagging at me. Everything was set for four days of concentrated effort, and then Life said, "No, wait. You'll have to deal with this, and by the way, it's going to take up all of Monday and significant portions of each day for an unforeseeable length of…


Added by Peg Herring on October 16, 2007 at 10:14pm — No Comments

What Makes a Character Ring True?

It isn't a question I know the answer to, but like art, I know what's good when I see it. Characters in novels by Jan Burke, Laura Lippman, and Lee Child never, ever throw us out of the story by doing something alien to their nature. Characters in lesser works often do, and it becomes an effort to believe that they are real people.

The key is knowing the character you create intimately before you ever put fingers to keyboard. A protagonist will be closer to you as an author than…


Added by Peg Herring on October 15, 2007 at 10:15pm — No Comments

Librarians Are Our Friends

To the zillions of bits of advice for new authors, add one more: Make friends with librarians. These people are amazing despite the somewhat stuffy reputation they have.

First, they love to help you find things. Tell a librarian you want to know when a certain bridge was built, and he takes it as a challenge. I heard two of them discussing it only yesterday, and one guy said to the other, "I referred her to the Chamber of Commerce, but I want to find out now too, just so I know." Just…


Added by Peg Herring on October 12, 2007 at 11:30pm — No Comments

Road Trip

I mentioned a while back that driving is conducive to plotting for me. I particularly like long trips alone, where my conscious mind is focused on driving while those little beta waves are free to roam where they will. I keep a tape recorder in the car and talk to it, trying out plotlines and honing characters' fine points. I'm often surprised when I transcribe them later and find forgotten nuggets of creativity that are pure gold.

It's also kind of funny to listen to them, because…


Added by Peg Herring on October 11, 2007 at 9:47pm — 1 Comment

But Will It Sell on U-Tube?

Today's author can get buried in "how-to" advice, to the point where she just wants to scream and hide under the covers. Build a website, and don't forget to update regularly. Do a blog -- no, do half a dozen. Make a trailer, put it on U-Tube. Get radio interviews, better yet, do television. Go on tours. Write the sequel. No, do some short stories to get your name out there. Send out postcards. Or bookmarks. How about funny t-shirts?

What happened to my dream of creating entertaining…


Added by Peg Herring on October 10, 2007 at 10:58pm — 2 Comments

I Have to Disagree

We don't all like beets. I, for one, despise them. My husband, however, spends months growing them, then digging, peeling, chopping, and boiling, all to have a few helpings of one of the few purple foods available (which to my mind is nature's way of saying, "This is not normal").

That's why I seldom buy books based on reviews. I enjoy reading reviews, have even written them, but I don't make my read-or-don't-read decisions based on someone else's opinion of a book or…


Added by Peg Herring on October 9, 2007 at 11:11pm — No Comments

Scottish Outlaws, Deformed Vikings and Mystery Writing

When I came across the tale of Kinmont Willie, I knew he had to become a character in one of my books. Likewise Ivar the Boneless; who could resist a character with a name like that?

One of the reasons I love fiction is that it can be based on fact. History is fascinating, stuffed with characters who are unusual, colorful, and unbelievably evil. In novel writing you can take these footnotes of history and make them yours, creating a similar character to suit your plot requirements. If…


Added by Peg Herring on October 8, 2007 at 10:11pm — No Comments

The Occasional Short Story

As a novelist you can benefit from writing a short story every once in a while, even if you don't intend to publish it. A short story hones your ability to say what must be said efficiently. Characters must be sketched in a few words. The plot must move along, with everything focused on a main event. Description, while minimal, must bring the story to life. It isn't easy, so it makes you a better writer.

Another nice thing about short stories is that they're useful both before and…


Added by Peg Herring on October 5, 2007 at 9:25pm — No Comments

Which Part of Writing Is Work?

I have a glib answer: "None of it. It's all fun." But there's a more serious answer as well. It's all work: the writing, the editing, the shopping, the marketing. None of it is easy. There are times when it's smooth sailing. A story is going well and almost writes itself while I sit and watch. I get 100 pages edited at a sitting, and it feels like it has come together. An editor says nice things about my writing. People call to ask me to talk about my…


Added by Peg Herring on October 4, 2007 at 10:23pm — No Comments

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