Fiction Writing: Three Common Mistakes

We live in a world where a lot of grammar rules are tossed out the window in favor of expression.  Sometimes, it’s hard to break away from them, especially when we’ve grown so accustomed to having them around in school.  There is such thing as a run on sentence.  Authors do use exposition to tell a story.  Most writers seem to agree that knowing when to break these rules for a strong effect is very much appropriate.
George Martin, Jim Harrison, and Cormac McCarthy are just a few very successful authors who break the rules they want to break, and the result is a strong impression on the reader.
So, what are the unwritten rules regarding fiction writing?  In my opinion, I don’t believe there are many rules to the medium.  The only rules, truly, are for basic grammar.  When it comes to your fiction writing, use common sense.  Write what you want, how you want, and be coherent.  To improve your form, read.  I can’t stress that enough.  How many musicians are out there that don’t listen to music?  Well, I don’t know how many, but there can’t be a whole lot.  Read a bunch of books, and develop your craft, your own style.
If you want to improve your craft, here are some mistakes new writers tend to make:

  • Name dumping.  Yeah, you know what I’m talking about here.  John Clemens scratched his northern Irish beard while sitting underneath the English Oak Tree and thinking about Marie Taggard, The Cobbler’s wife, who lost her sister Janet in the war against the Western French army led by Pepe La Pew.  Way too many names of people and places right off the bat.
  • Info dumping . You don’t want the reader to know every little thing about your MC right up front.  I know that you love your MC, you want everyone to love your MC.  Unlike you, however, it’s a relationship between that person and the reader and a relationship has to grow.  Start simple, and build as the story progresses.
  • Too many characters introduced right off the bat. This is common, and you should try to space it out a little.  If you have a couple of main characters, it’s perfectly fine to introduce them in the first chapter or so of your book.  If you throw in every side character in-between, however, the reader could get confused about who they are supposed to follow.

Do you find yourself making any of the above mistakes?  It’s perfectly fine to make them during your first draft.  Remember, the first draft of everything is ALWAYS crap.  Nobody is perfect.  For writers, the thing to remember is that you need to get the story out.  Finish it. Tell it the way you want it to be told.  If you want excessive run on sentences to carry your tale, then by all means, make it happen.  When it’s done, and you look back through your creation, that’s the time to make any corrections you may decide to do.  Change your mind about those run on sentences?  Change it.  Is your first chapter laden from excessive info dumping?  Break the information up.  That’s why they’re called drafts.  Once your book is written, you still have quite a bit of work to do.  It’s just the name of the game.

Tanglewood Release, Plus A Free Gift!

TanglewoodCover_f_paths.inddGood news for Montana Marrenger fans.
The Runaway Train is having a free run until 10/23 starting TODAY!
It’s my gift to you in celebration of my newest release!
Tanglewood, the third book in my Montana Marrenger Mysteries, has finally been published! Here’s a free sample for Tanglewood, if you’re wanting to check it out here first.  Enjoy!

 


Chapter One
November, 1994

“When’s Dad coming home?”
Maggie whirled around to find her little brother standing in the kitchen doorway.  His brown hair was tussled and there were pillow crease marks that made a bizarre tapestry of lines and circles along his cheek.  “You’re up early, Aiden.  Are you hungry?”
“Yeah,” he said in a squeaky voice that made her want to scoop him up in her arms.  He pulled out a chair from the small kitchen table and climbed into it.  “Where’s Dad?
“He’s at work.  Don’t worry, though.  He’ll be back before you know it.”
She turned towards the window.  The soft glow of morning revealed falling snow outside.  It was heavier now, and she just knew they would get another couple of inches added to the three feet that accumulated overnight.
Wind swirled up out of the trees lining the back yard.  The birch and cedars were the beginning of a large expanse of woods behind the house.  Their skeletal limbs trembled and creaked against the gusts.
“Daddy hates it when it snows.”  She washed her hands in the sink, observing the winter storm that had every school in the county closed.
“How could anybody hate snow?”  Aiden turned a confused expression towards her.  “I love snow!  Everyone loves it.  You can have snowball fights, you can build snowmen… You can even build a snow fort!”
“You’d like that, wouldn’t you?”  She stepped away from the sink, pulled a carton of eggs from the fridge, and cracked one into a cast iron skillet that had already been heated up for herself.  “It’s not that Dad hates snow, exactly.  It’s more that he hates driving in it.”
Aiden followed her movements with wide eyes.  “Why?”
“Well.”  She glanced at him and smiled at the superman pajamas that rose up just underneath his knees.  “Driving in the snow can be kind of tough.  It’s hard to see the road.”  She scrambled the egg with a spatula.  “Hey, I thought we got rid of those pajamas?”
“Nope.”
“They don’t fit you very well anymore, kiddo.  We should put them in a box and take them to Goodwill with the other clothes from last winter.”  She scooped the egg onto a plate, poured a glass of orange juice, and set them on the table in front of him.  “I thought dad told you to do that.”
“He did.”  He forked the eggs into his mouth as though he hadn’t eaten in a week.  “It’s just that these are my favorite.”
“That may be true,” she said while cracking two more eggs into the skillet.  “But somewhere out there is another little boy who may not have any pajamas to wear at all.  Just remember that.”
He gulped the juice and wiped his mouth with the back of his sleeve.  “Maybe his mom and dad should buy him some.”
She aimed the spatula at him with her eyebrows raised.  “My point exactly.”
Hail pinged against the window, startling her.  Outside, the wind howled and the snow blew across the yard in sheets.
Aiden was oblivious to the raging storm outside.  “Do you think Dad will help me build a snow fort today?”
She glanced at the digital clock on the stove.  Their father had never been this late coming home from work before, and the thought of road conditions made a spark of panic race along her spine.  Her hand shook when she scooped the eggs onto the plate.
“Maybe.”  She said in a soft tone she hoped didn’t betray her worry.   The thought of food suddenly made her stomach churn, but she dug into the eggs with a fork anyway.  “Maybe all three of us will.”

Chapter Two
February, 2011

His breath came in short stabbing rasps.  Branches grabbed at his sweater.  Twigs slapped against his face.  It was useless to even try to be quiet when every cracking stick under his boots exploded in the stillness of the woods.
A sharp incline to his left revealed a glittering stream.  He grabbed onto a branch to keep from sliding down the hill.  His steamy breath blossomed in the frigid air as he examined the chilly water below.
Had the stranger followed him this far?  He wondered if he should turn back, climb into his pickup truck, and head to the warmth of the fireplace at home.
A snap sounded somewhere behind him.  He heard the crunch of snow.

Available at Amazon

 

Winter Project 2015 – Part Two


Titles and Outlines
Today, I’m getting geared up for chapter eight in my winter novel. The tentative title for the book is Slow the Rain, but there’s a good chance it’ll be changed. It’s not that I don’t like the title, but there are a few others tumbling around in my head that may just fit the story more.
I came up with the title while writing the outline of the book. Which brings me to something I keep meaning to mention here. Outline. Seriously, do it. It will help you get those words on the page, help keep you focused, and will likely see you reaching the end of your first draft much sooner. I hear writers complaining all the time about how they started writing a book, but then their characters started to do whatever they wanted. One author actually asked me how I keep my characters in line. It’s simple. Before I write, I double check my outline to see what it is specifically that I have to tell next, and then write it. That’s the beauty of the outline. If you do your whole book, you won’t get lost, and neither will your characters.
Adapting
It’s been a slow morning. Yesterday, my new writing routine (see last weeks post) really kicked into gear. During the morning hours, I managed to write all of chapter seven. That’s pretty good, considering I’m trying something new and different with my routine (thank you monthers, more on that here).
The only thing that hasn’t quite worked yet is my afternoon session. You see, the plan is to write early in the morning and later on during the day. Unlike the monthers, this would mean that I’m not writing 10k words a day, but it does mean that I’m upping my word count. Basically, my intention is to get the fans of Selena Marrenger more mysteries at a quicker pace. Seriously, though. Who wants to wait for a book that comes out once a year in a series? If that’s you, great, but it’s definitely not me.
Haaave you met Maggie?
The coffee is fresh. Pumpkin Spice creamer is filling the room with a pleasant, fall aroma. I’ve turned on Spotify, and am listening to the Interstellar soundtrack. It heightens the mood, stirs images in my mind.
Chapter eight follows a police detective named Norma Perry. As some of you may have guessed, I like to write strong female leads. She’s tough, but quirky. If I had to make a comparison, it would be… well, imagine a combination of Maggie’s humor and Selena’s strength. She’s a good detective, has a good head on her shoulders, and won’t back down. Especially when she’s chasing a lead.
Oh, that’s right. Some of you haven’t met Maggie yet. She’s featured in my new novella, Tanglewood. Subscribers to my newsletter got a sneak peak at the cover artwork for Tanglewood as well as a sample. Don’t worry, though. If you aren’t a subscriber, you’ll get your chance in a couple of days to meet Maggie. Yes, you read that right. Tanglewood will be released on October 22!
Now, it’s time to get back to work. I hope to finish all of chapter eight today, and maybe even start chapter nine. The baby is teething, and has been rather fussy, but hopefully I can meet my goals. Wish me luck!

Winter Project 2015 – Part One

The Monthers
There’s a crispness in the air. Each morning brings with it the chill of winter. You know what that means? It’s time for me to get to work on my winter project!
I’ve been reading a lot of articles and forums concerning people who publish books once a month. These monthers seem to be quite insane, writing as much as 10k words a week. To be honest with you, that’s just not how I operate, nor do I think I could ever operate. Especially since I have college classes to think about, raising a two year old, cooking, cleaning, drinking coffee, etc. One thing that I did manage to get from reading posts by the monthers was a few pointers as far as routine goes. One author declared that she writes 2k words in the morning, takes care of her daily life in the early afternoon, writes 1k more words in the late afternoon, takes care of dinner and kids, and then writes another 2k words at night.
That much effort deserves a standing ovation.
It made me think about something a colleague once said: “Do what you love, and treat it like a job.”
Do What You Love
With that in mind, I’ve changed up my routine a bit. Instead of writing once a day in the mid afternoon, I figured, since I’m waking up at the crack of dawn to get my eight year old ready for the bus, might as well write after sending her off. Well, guess what?
It worked.
Not only did it work, it worked spectacularly well.
Does that mean I’m going to write as much as the monther three times a day? Probably not, but it felt inspiring. It made me feel like making it my day job wasn’t so far out of reach. That’s a good thing, because wouldn’t you want to do what you love as a job? Well, I love writing, so there it is! Might as well make it happen.
Bet you want to know what I was working on. You do, don’t you? The anticipation is killing you, I can tell these things. Calm down, take a deep breath. (Breathes deeply, attempting to calm excitement).
It’s a brand new novel.
That’s right. A full length novel. I haven’t even attempted a novel since Monsoon Morning, and now here it is.
The cast is set. The outline is finished. As a matter of fact, I’ve been picking at the book for a couple of months and am already 10k words into it.
What Makes You Tick?
With this new series of blog posts, I’m not wanting to blab on about the story content of the book. Instead, I figured it would be cool to delve into the creative process and routine while working on it. What would inspire me to write particular scenes, what moods am I trying to evoke, does it feel successful?
If you’re into that sort of thing, then stick with me! I’ll keep posting, mainly because I think it could be an interesting study.
Are you a monther? Are you just starting a new writing project and trying to fit it into your routine?
Let me know in the comments!

Things To Come

 

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There are a whole lot of you who have read The Runaway Train, and moved along to book one in my Montana Marrenger Series called The Truth About Alex. To all of my fans out there, thank you very much for your support!

You haven’t seen the last of this case.
There. I said it. The events that take place during The Runaway Train set into motion something bigger, something a bit more complex, than the original story explains. Some of my critics declare that the only fault of the book is it’s length, but I assure you, the length was entirely intentional. Very much on purpose. Just wait. You’ll see.
The Runaway Train serves as a sort of introduction to Selena “Montana” Marrenger, and if you want to check out a sample, then click HERE AND TELL ME WHAT YOU THINK!

Behind The Character: Maggie Sue Maguire

UnknownWhen I first envisioned Maggie Sue Maguire, it was while working on Monsoon Morning. The concept of incorporating a private investigator into a story was intriguing, but I wanted to develop the character into something I hadn’t quite seen before in my genre. Most of the PI’s I came across in books were cynical, not unlike the main character depiction in the television series House.
Not all of the PI’s I discovered were male, either. If it happened to be a woman, then she had to be sexy, sultry, and mysterious. Not all investigators look like super models, and I didn’t want mine to fall into that label.
I set out from the start to make Maggie quirky. In an original draft, there was even a nod to the great Spencer that came in the form of Maggie’s feline pet she keeps around the office. Sometimes the days are long in between assignments, and she considers her cat to be quite a good listener when there’s no one else around.
Maggie is smart and witty. Messy, but very much in control when she takes on animages assignment. She has a warm heart, and could very much be the girl next door if you didn’t know any better.
Much like Selena Marrenger, Maggie Maguire isn’t without her faults. She doesn’t claim to be perfect. She’s not one of those super cops you find on CSI. She tends to think with her heart, but isn’t afraid to follow her gut.

You can catch up with Maggie Sue Maguire in my upcoming novella, TANGLEWOOD!

IF YOU WANT EXCLUSIVE CONTENT AND ALL KINDS OF OTHER AWESOMENESS, YOU HAVE TO SIGN UP FOR MY NEWSLETTER! IT’S NOT HARD. JUST A LITTLE FORM, AN EMAIL ADDRESS EXCHANGE. NO BLOOD SPILLING NECESSARY. TRUST ME. YOU TRUST ME, RIGHT? GOOD.

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Living Without You

Cold-SkyI haven’t written since my father passed away some months back. There’s some sort of mental block pushing me away. Today, I’m going to make every effort to chip away at that obstacle. Before he died, I was five chapters into a new novel tentatively titled ‘Slow The Rain’. To the best of my knowledge, this blockage is due to the subject matter of the book. After having so recently experienced the death of a loved one, it’s proving difficult to write about a murderer and the impact he makes on the victims lives. My dad wasn’t murdered by anyone, but he was killed. By cancer, an unstoppable and malicious entity. My lead investigator, Selena Marrenger, says that there’s no such thing as closure, and I believe that. The loss of a loved one is something that you learn to deal with, but it’s a wound that doesn’t heal. Not ever.
Every once in a while, you’ll come across something that will remind you of what you lost. It could be a song, a particular joke or statement, or an old television program that you shared together. All I have left is memory. Sure, there’s photographs and other things that have been left behind, but it’s the memory that has the largest impact, a lasting one.
Well, enough of my babbling. Time to dive back into the book.
Wish me luck.

The Coming Rain Part 5: Released At Last!!!!

monsoongirl_FotorMonsoon Morning has officially been released! To celebrate my release event, I’m offering the book at a discounted price on Amazon! I’m really excited to find out what all of you think of Selena’s new adventure!
Want a little bit of insight into the books creation? Sure you do. Here you go!
Even though this book takes place after the events of Runaway Train and The Truth About Alex, it was written before either of those were even thought of. This is an unusual step for me, but there was a method to my madness.
You see, about five years ago I made the decision to stop writing science fiction and focus my literary efforts on a different genre. My wife recommended mystery, so I went with it. As the story developed, I took countless notes and began researching. I even befriended a medical examiner who helped me with some of the technical details. MonsoonCoverFinal.inddAfter it was completely written, I had another idea.
I should introduce Selena Marrenger to audiences in a separate story, a short novella. The Runaway Train was released, and was pretty successful as far as novellas go. Sure, some folks out there considered the short length to be a fault of the book, but I knew that it’s length was completely intentional. What followed almost immediately after was another novella, a story close to my heart, The Truth About Alex. With it, I wanted to tell a larger story within the restraints of novella form, and have the emotional impact that I tried to achieve with Monsoon Morning. Both novellas were separate stories, different cases, but gave you insight into Selena’s growth as a character.
Now that Monsoon Morning is finally released, I hope that all of you will now have a more rounded experience with Montana Marrenger, and will continue to follow her, case by case, as she pieces together the puzzle of her past.

Grab Your Copy Of Monsoon Morning Today!

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Short Story Writing Class

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Nancy PickardOne of my favorite mystery authors, Nancy Pickard, is hosting a series of courses on Facebook centered on short fiction.  If any fellow writers out there are interested in honing your craft in this particular style, or if you are a curious reader who wants a peek into the complex world of writing, I highly recommend it.
The class is coming fresh off the heels of the publication of Manhattan Mayhem from the Mystery Writers Of America, and is edited by Mary Higgins Clark.  It’s an anthology featuring mystery authors such as Lee Child and Jeffery Deaver.  Nancy Pickard’s short story  “Three Little Words” appears in it.  Nancy is using this anthology as a sort of text book for the course.
classIf you struggle with short fiction, or believe the old writer’s tale that they are too difficult to write, then I urge you to sign up today! join

See you there!