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Snafus getting in the way of your writing?

The latest Beyond book in the series

The latest Beyond book in the series

The actual “final” rewrite of my latest Beyond mystery is coming along and I am enjoying doing it because I get more creative insights, can fix inconsistencies, check the research and am really tightening up the wordage.

However, I’ve hit a few outside snags that are interfering with my writing time. And they make me angry. So, I’m doing something about them.

One biggie comes under the heading “My health ate my life.” So far since 2017 arrived I’ve been and am faced with two separate unexpected molar extractions. The dental surgery for the second is the day before my publisher’s deadline. As he has given me two extensions already and for health reasons, I do not want to push my luck – it would also not be fair to the publisher.

To get the manuscript and its synopsis (the latter rewritten this week with the word count part left open so far) done in time, I’ve arbitrarily given me an earlier deadline before the publisher’s and before the dental surgery.

It has also forced me to do something I had started to do this  year. Get rid of a lot of the stuff I do that isn’t really important and put some of the others in “pending”.

So far I’ve cancelled me going to a meeting tonight, limited what I get involved in within my community. Important are my East End Writers’ Group and keeping track of a nearby Light Rail Transit line being built as that will affect me in many ways. I am also a member of a local garden club and go to some of their meetings but no volunteering there this year. A couple of other community things I’m interested in I signed petitions and will let the persons organizing them do all the work – just keep me informed. At this point I am also careful of how many social and pseud-social events I go to.

And I finally found someone to shovel my snow when we get bigger snowfalls.

The big take-away point here for writers – whatever you are writing or rewriting – is you can’t do everything, especially what others think you should be doing. Figure out what is important and don’t be afraid to say “no” and/or put some of that on hold. Prioritize. Make the word “no” a big word in your vocabulary even if you have to post it all around your house and on your devices – maybe create an electronic file with a big “NO” and click on it sporadically. You can figure something out.

What I have kept in is family. Last Saturday I was to take out my son and his girlfriend for his birthday dinner (which is actually tomorrow but he will be out of town in the US for a tour with his band – Beams). Martin was sick last weekend. I wanted to see him and at least get his birthday present to him before tomorrow – the present, although not connected to music, is something useful for travelling. So, we arranged for me to make a “flying visit” to his and his girlfriend’s place in another part of Toronto last evening – if you can call buses and subway “flying.” He was feeling better. Dinner will be rescheduled when he returns home.

I know this isn’t exactly about writing, but perhaps if those getting distracted from their writing from whatever, can see one person’s way to deal with the problem, maybe it will help.

How do you deal with writing distractions?

Comments please in the comment section.

Cheers.

Sharon

And as usual, click on the book icon at the top to find out more about my Beyond books.

 

 

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Don’t Write the Same Old Same Old

The latest Beyond book in the series

The latest Beyond book in the series

When writing fiction, particularly mystery, thriller and suspense, don’t develop plots and characters that have been used before. Do readers really want another jaded police detective who is an alcoholic? How about yet another body found in a trunk?

Readers want to be surprised, entertained, and have something different. Those who like to try to figure out who done it and why like a challenge. If it is too easy, that won’t work.

Twists and turns in suspense, mystery and thriller novels work very well – provided they are different. And if you are writing a series, you need to write the unexpected even more so your readers don’t get too comfortable with your series characters. You want them to relate to the characters and develop a bond, but you have to shake them up with each book’s plot and characters.

Remember your characters need to be like real people – they can’t be stagnate. Throw them lots of curve balls and see how they act and react.

Some authors that are masters at this are Julia Spencer Fleming, Peter Robinson and Harlan Coben. The latter writes standalone mystery-suspense, while the former two write series mysteries. Spencer Fleming, for example throws a big curve with each book. Just as something seems to be sorted out between her two main characters – Rev. Clare Fergusson and Russ Van Alstyne –  right at the end of the novel, something happens that seems to come out of the blue.

But it is not really out of the blue – if you go back throughout the novel you will see events and what the characters are doing that make the unexpected logical. Some examples (without stating which novel) are when the priest and the cop finally get their relationship solidified, the priest who was previously in the armed forces and is now on reserve, is put on active duty outside the US. Right at the end of the book. Great hook to get the reader to read the next one in the series.

The reader knew Clare’s background here,so that wasn’t grabbed from the air. It was the timing.

And that’s what is important. Timing. In my Beyond novels, I build up the suspense with (among other things) a growing relationship between the main character PI Dana Bowman and Detective Sergeant Donald Fielding. Both are relationship shy – that isn’t too different. But how it evolves (or does it?) is different because of other things going on in the novel. The ending has a big twist.

This is the novel I’m still putting the finishing touches on for the publisher. So, I’m not going into more details. The previous and most recent one, Beyond Blood has a bit of a cliff hanger at the end – the premise here being, when a crime victim has been rescued, it may not all be rosy and comforting for them. In fact, it isn’t in real life.  I took that idea and left the reader wondering about a character’s dealing with after effects. The short story collection Beyond the Tripping Point has four stories featuring Dana Bowman and most of the rest of the Beyond gang. These stories take place the year after. And the current Beyond book is later that same year and the character is still suffering some after effects.

Unexpected events change people – how they live their lives afterwards.And that varies with each person. So, too, should your fiction.

Don’t be lazy and write the same old same old. Surprise your readers – but make it logical. That may sound like an oxymoron, but be creative.

And read what is already written to see what works, what surprises and what doesn’t. Read books by Julia Spencer Fleming, Peter Robinson and Harlan Coban, and yes my Beyond books too.

You can get more information about the Beyond books by clicking on the Beyond Blood icon at the top.

Cheers.

Sharon

 

 

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Beyond Blood characters celebrate Christmas

Dana Bowman digging in her bag for Christmas presents?

Dana Bowman digging in her bag for Christmas presents?

Christmas is near and fraternal twins and private investigators Dana Bowman and Bast Overture, along with Dana’s seven-year old son David are gearing up for the big C – Christmas. But as we all know and have experienced, Christmas doesn’t usually go as planned.

Scene: Christmas Eve in the Bowman/Overture household.

Dana; Okay, David that’s enough peeking under the tree. Bedtime.

David: Aw, Mommy…

Dana: Come on, upstairs to bed so Santa can come down the chimney and surprise you with toys.

David: I want to surprise him and say “hello” and “thank you” when he arrives.

Bast comes into the living room: And help him eat the cookies too.
David: No, Uncle Bast. Well, maybe if he can’t eat them all. He is kind of fat you know.

David moves over to the mantle, gets down on his hands and knees and peers up the chimney.

Dana: David, what are you doing?

David: Checking to see if Santa can make it down the chimney or get stuck.

Dana: Really, David. That is part of the magic of Christmas.- Santa can always get in but you have to go to bed first or he won’t come.

David: But Mommy, I’m really worried he won’t be able to get down our chimney.

Dana, throws up her arms: David, he will get in.

Bast, goes over to David and crouches down to his level: Okay, David, looks like we’ll have to let you in on a little secret. If for some reason, and I’m just saying “if” Santa can’t make it down the chimney, we always leave the front door unlocked so he can come in that way.

Dana: Bast? Safety.

Bast: Shh.

David: Okay, Uncle Bast. Let’s unlock the door then?

Bast: Already done.

David: Can I just check? It might be stuck.

Bast looks at Dana and shrugs. Dana nods.

Bast: Okay, but then it’s up to bed with you. Promise.

David: I promise.

There is a knock on the door.

David jumps up: It’s Santa. He’s early.

All three rush to the door. Dana checks the small window.

Dana: Oh, no. And it is definitely not Santa. I guess we’ll have to let her in. Well, folks we have an extra Christmas guest, it seems.

Dana opens the door: Hello, Great Aunt Doris. I thought you would be spending Christmas with you nephew, Ron.

Doris: He seems to have plans, although he didn’t tell me what they are.

Bast: Well, I guess you better come in.

Doris: Hmm, still here, I see. I thought you would have moved out by now. This is the Bowman family home and should be Ron’s.

Dana: Now, Aunt Doris, you are quite welcome to spend Christmas with us but you have to be civil to us.

David: What’s civil?

Doris: Hello David, Merry Christmas. I guess we better do as your mother says and be nice to each other – that’s what civil means. After all it is Christmas.

Doris enters the house. Bast takes her coat and hat and puts them in the closet. Dana shrugs her shoulders and whispers: What else could I do.

David: Don’t lock the door. We leave it unlocked for Santa.

Doris: Young man, doesn’t Santa come down the chimney?

David: He’s fat and might get stuck.

Doris: Oh, I see. Good thinking, young man.

There is another knock at the door,

David: It’s Santa, this time.

David beats them all to the door and pulls it open. On the steps stands a young man in jeans, windbreaker and a toque. In his hand he holds a bunch of wrapped presents.

David: Daddy. You made it for Christmas.

Ron: Well, that is what you and I planned.

Dana groans. Bast sighs. Aunt Doris smiles and says, Merry Christmas. Now this family is all together for Christmas.

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We will leave the Bowman/Overture family to celebrate Christmas, keeping in mind Dana and Ron are divorced. Ron has been an absent father. Aunt Doris doesn’t like Bast because he is gay. And Aunt Doris has a bad habit of not only landing on Dana’s doorstep uninvited, but she tends to stay and stay and stay.

If you want to read more about another of Aunt Doris’ never-ending visits amidst murder and other nasty deeds, you an read about it all in my latest Beyond mystery, the novel Beyond Blood. The link to info about that is on the book cover below.

And on behalf of Dana and the Beyond gang and me, too, I want to wish all of you a joyful and peaceful (as much as possible) holiday season however you spend it.

Just make sure Santa doesn’t get stuck in your chimney.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

 

The latest Beyond book in the series

The latest Beyond book in the series

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Point of View clarity important in writing fiction

Sharon A. Crawford's latest in the Beyond series

Sharon A. Crawford’s latest in the Beyond series

Currently I am reading a mystery novel where the characters’ points of view are all over the map  – in one chapter without a scene change, in one scene, Even in one paragraph the point of view switches from one police detective to the other. They are police partners, but this “jumping heads” (as it is known in the editing business) is not only ridiculous and annoying it is distracting from the story. And it is an interesting story.

Looks like the author’s editor was asleep at the computer. I blame the editor, not the author because as an editor I find that 85 per cent of my fiction clients mess up the point of view. And, yes, if the author mixes up points of view, then it is his or her editor’s job to fix it.

So, what is acceptable in fiction writing (unless you are going for experimental fiction, which this mystery novel is not)? Here we go with the standards:

In novels it is acceptable to have multiple points of view as long as it isn’t overdone. Do we really need to know what minor characters A and B think?

Up to five points of view are the limit in my opinion.

Keep the same point of view within a chapter or a scene. Next chapter or next scene you can change the point of view. For scenes this is usually indicated by extra line spacing and starting the first paragraph flush left or separating the scenes with an asterisk. Read Peter Robinson’s mystery novels. He usually has three points of view and does a superb job of it. He uses the change of scene change of character POV method with extra line spacing.

Other authors indicate change of character POV by putting the character’s name at the top of the change – this can be with a new chapter or new scene. I use this method in my latest Beyond book, the mystery novel Beyond Blood. The story is told from four different points of view – Dana Bowman, Bast Overture (the two fraternal twin PIs), David Bowman (Dana’s six-year-old son), and the mysterious “Him.” I put the character name and the date and time (a word on that in a sec) just before the character POV change. This change usually occurs with chapters but I do have it within chapters – change of scene change of character POV with the above-mentioned indication.

It is not necessary to always use time and date unless it is relevant to your novel. I’m not the only author who does this. I do it because Beyond Blood is a fast-paced mystery that occurs during eight frantic days in August 1998. Often when I switch point of view what is happening with that character is happening simultaneously with another POV character. And that is another reason to switch POVs.

Switching POVs is also a good way to heighten suspense – if you end one scene/chapter with one character left out on a limb and the reader does not know what will happen with him or her next. Instead they go on to another character – more waiting to find out/more suspense. And it also allows plot development that just might not be possible using one character’s POV>

Switching points of view in a novel also allows the author to get deeper into each main character – and gives the readers a more intense looksee at the characters.

My POV on POV anyway.

Cheers.

Sharon

Click on the Beyond Blood icon at the top to find out more about my Beyond books.

 

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Can fictional characters teach readers something?

Sharon A. Crawford's latest in the Beyond series

Sharon A. Crawford’s latest in the Beyond series

Readers read novels to be entertained. However, life isn’t all about entertainment. We want to learn more, to grow, to live a better life.

Can fiction help here? I think so. If you have credible fiction characters who live lives like readers. And it doesn’t matter what genre the novel is written in. For example, science fiction can present us with a future we might just not want, with the underlying story of just how it can play out. This requires believable characters who deal with these situations. Built into a good sci-fic story are elements of present time – such as law enforcement professionals and your every-day person like divorced parents, seniors, etc. Sometimes the professionals and the single mom are one and the same person. Although the characters have problems peculiar to a future  time period to deal with; like us now, they have common day-to-day problems as well. So the reader can identify with the story and the characters and get a satisfied read. A science fiction author who does this very well is Robert Sawyer. Read any of his books to see how he handles it. And many of his novels also have murder in them.

In the mystery genre, there is a series by J.D. Robb (Nora Roberts pseudonym) where the novels are set in the future. So the reader not only gets policing in the future,but also something many of us now balance – a career and a marriage.

In somewhat current time (in the late 1990s), my novel Beyond Blood, has characters that are representative of real-life characters. I have the fraternal twins (which may not be so common) Sebastian (Bast) Overture who is gay and Dana Bowman who is a divorced mother of a six-year old boy. Readers have told me that it is this relationship between mother and son that they relate to because they find it not only interesting but compelling. Of course, not all six-year olds are kidnapped (thank God), but here I have taken a universal relationship, that of a mother and son, and escalated it into the “what if?” area, where a mother is pushed to the edge to find her son before it is too late. And because Dana is human she may try to forge ahead as a professional PI and push her fear and other feelings back inside, we know that in real life this just doesn’t happen. She is conflicted, and yes she does lose it at times.

And that’s the key to writing fiction to teach a lesson. You need both realistic characters that readers can identify with and a plot that grabs readers.You need characters that are human, because we are human. This way you can show readers what your characters are like, what they are made of – but heightened to situations beyond what you would deal with in your life.

Remember, readers want to also be entertained.

You can read for yourself how Dana Bowman handles all her problems with her son’s kidnapping and all the complexities that occur, from an ex-husband who shows up as a suspect, to the stuttering Detective Sergeant Donald Fielding whom she is attracted to, to ….well, you may just have to read Beyond Blood to find out. Click on the book icon at the top for more info.

And I have a new website with a much different website design, thanks to Martin Crawford, computer software expert and Juni Bimm, graphic artist. The website text is purely my doing. So take a look here

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

 

 

 

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What to do between books

Sharon A. Crawford's latest in the Beyond series

Sharon A. Crawford’s latest in the Beyond series

What does an author do in between books?

This week I finally emailed the manuscript for my latest Beyond mystery to my publisher. Met the deadline with a few days to spare.

Here’s what I’m doing now and plan to do. It might trigger some ideas for you.

What I don’t do is keep thinking about the outcome of the submission and let it get me in stall mode. Instead, I move on to other writing projects, editing clients’ work, writing workshops and promo of the two Beyond books published.

Other writing projects include developing a possible next Beyond novel – in my head, at this point. I also write personal essays and memoir so I have already returned to a personal essay cum memoir for more rewriting and searching for possible markets. There are other personal essays to be written or rewritten so I keep those in mind as I search for possible markets. Sometimes the markets trigger the essay.

I still edit manuscripts, so have  clients-in-waiting, so to speak, and have emailed one of them, will email another one, and the third one is on holiday right now but when he is back in April, I will email him.

I want to continue teaching writing workshops at branches of Toronto Public Libraries. That means contacting the librarians at some of the 100 branches (yes, Toronto has that many branches. We Torontonians like reading, like borrowing library books – print or e-copy – and attending events, such as writing workshops. These are free to library patrons but I get paid for teaching them). I also plan to develop more workshops I can teach.

Promoting Beyond Blood and Beyond the Tripping Point. I’ve already sneaked in or had already arranged for presentations in the upcoming months, which will start March 24. Have one for the end of May and one in the works for the end of June. Once this nasty winter weather is finished (hopefully before March 24), I want to schedule at least two promo presentations a month – some on my own, and some with Crime Writers of Canada and The Toronto Heliconian Club. I am a member of both and do have something scheduled with each. More on that in future posts.

And I’m doing something that borders on promo and workshops. The end of April, I’m part of a panel on editing and writing for self-publication at an Editors Canada meeting. Again, more on this one in a later post. Although, meantime, you can check the Gigs and Blogs Tours page here with this blog or on my website – go to Beyond Blood and Workshops pages.

You can develop your own writing, etc. plan to keep you from thinking about what the publisher will say about your manuscript. It also works when you have submitted shorter pieces or poems to magazines – print or online.

Come to think of it, why not write some poetry. That will get your creative juices flowing.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

If you click on the book cover at the top it will take you to my publisher’s page about my books and my background.

 

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More tales from the novel rewriting trenches

Sharon A. Crawford's latest in the Beyond series

Sharon A. Crawford’s latest in the Beyond series

Still working furiously to make changes in my current Beyond book to meet my publisher’s deadline. Making progress, despite distractions and glitches from others.

The research mentioned last week hit some more glitches. The social issue in the new novel (not telling what it is – no spoilers here) ran into the same roadblock with the Ontario government department as the police query with the local police services corporate communications department. No reply.

So, my journalist background came into play here. Journalists don’t give up on their research, despite roadblocks and twists and turns.

The two library books I had looked at in the Toronto Reference Library? Sure, I had made some notes but that wasn’t enough. So I bought the out-of-print one on Canadian Law (it fits the novel’s time period) secondhand from amazon.ca .Counting the day I put in the order online, it took three business days to arrive in my mailbox. The other Canadian Law book – a q and a type with questions for civilians I found out from an editing client that over 20 copies are circulating in Toronto library branches. I put a hold on it and if there are still some other copies not on hold, I should be able to renew my copy three times.

I phoned Service Ontario and after being shunted around three times got a very knowledgeable person in the specific department who answered my questions.

For that one nagging police procedure question that the two books couldn’t answer, I emailed a retired police colleague via Linked In. He replied immediately, answered part of my question and said he would contact one of his police connections to get more of an answer. I gave him my email address to avoid the Linked In quirks in email and he has replied again this week, apologizing for the delay and why (that is his business) and that he would be contacting his colleague that evening.

Meantime, I’m rewriting to get around anything that wasn’t true with the social issue and police procedure back in 1999. And also rewriting to deal with any plot threads left dangling. Some will get deleted as irrelevant.

Also there is the matter of my two main characters, fraternal twin private investigators Dana Bowman and Bast Overture trying to take over the plot. I have to listen to them because they can have good ideas.

And it is their story. Always listen to your characters.

As for the other distractions, I’m trying to rein them in. Personal calls that come during my writing time (which pretty much follows a business weekday give or take a few hours at either end), I will now let them go to voice mail. My dentist appointment will have to be moved to February 29 after my deadline. I have a big problem with medical people who don’t have some evening and weekend hours .I may ‘not be working outside my home, but what about those who do? Why should they have to take time off for dental and other medical appointments, Hey medical professionals. Get with the times. Yes, some professionals (like police, transit drivers, etc.) have work hours all over the map. But many people still work regular business hours (excluding email and social media). Medical clinics understand this and even my optometrist works one evening a week and some Saturdays. My eye specialist doesn’t. My dentist doesn’t. So, unless a medical emergency, I work their times around mine.

I have also worked in editing clients after the end of February and any new inquiries re work, they are being told I am booked up until … Two current clients have been scheduled in after the end of February – it is set up to work for both of us.

Now, back to the novel rewriting. Bast and Dana are waiting impatiently for me to get to it.

Cheers.

Sharon A.Crawford

If you click on the book cover at the top it will take you to my publisher’s page about my books and my background.

 

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