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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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Make Writing regularly a 2017 goal

The latest Beyond book in the series

The latest Beyond book in the series

If you’ve been struggling to write that novel, short story, novella, etc. because you don’t seem to have time because other stuff to do is taking over your, life, whatever the reason, 2017 is coming in. Time for a fresh start.

Forget about “New Year’s Resolutions” which go down the drain after the first few weeks. Instead think goal, yes that’s singular. And make that goal to write on a regular basis in 2017.

For parts of 2016 I have struggled to find time to get at rewriting my third Beyond novel. The editor at my publisher’s (bless his soul) has given me a couple of extensions. But he is not the problem and I have to find a solution – make that several solutions to deal with the multitude of impediments that come at me “from outside.”

Just to clarify, “from outside” doesn’t mean things like sleeping in, too much socializing to name a few. Mine also include: gardening (in spring to fall, not now in horrible winter), doing client work (editing and teaching writing workshops and courses), and promoting my first two Beyond mystery books.Those things in the previous sentence I don’t begrudge doing and they are under my control and it is my business to get them in order so I do have time to write.

I’m talking about what just seems to come out of the blue at you. Some of mine are unforeseen health issues, house and property issues and weather (which often affects the house and property). It is true we just had Christmas and Boxing Day and I spent Christmas with my son and his girlfriend and Boxing Day just relaxing reading and phoning friends. What I did on those two days was my choice.

Most of the first half of my day today was not. I do a daily “to-do” list for what I call “Biz” and another for what I call “Other.” Unfortunately, like this morning, the “other” took over.

First there was the snow that came overnight. I had watched the Weather Network last evening and my “Other” schedule had up to one hour for shovelling the white shit that fell down. And I did it in that time.

Then things went wrong. The main time-stealer was the heating cable. I went to plug it in to melt the snow off the roof and discovered the cord just before going into the plug was suddenly frayed.And it got that way because it is a tight squeeze and turn to get it into the outside electric outlet. I taped it with electrical tape, then called my neighbour, a retired electrician, over to check to see I had done it right. He wouldn’t touch it, and instead gave me a long rant about he wouldn’t even check it because of liability, etc. The cord got frayed in the first place because my regular handyman (electrical stuff is one of his specialties) didn’t do anything about the short cord – didn’t even put it on a heavy-duty extension cord which my neighbour at least suggested. To make a long story short, I took my shortest heavy duty outdoor extension cord and found the plug from the heating cable wouldn’t go all the way in. I called the handyman and blasted him – he should have done it right first and I’ll pay for any new parts, but not labour. He is coming by later today or tomorrow morning to check it out.I made sure he knew I had expensive dental surgery coming up in January.

So, the bottom line is I have to come up with some way of dealing with all these outside problems that come at me unexpectedly. A year ago, I started dealing with all the health issues, one month at a time for each – even if I had to repeat this a few months down the road. I’m not sure about house and property things – certainly if not emergency issues they can be paced out per month based on time and money available (double hah-hah here).

Because I am fed-up with all this stuff getting in the way of my writing. (There’s a story there). I think the important thing is to figure out what is important. Staying healthy, of course, but when it gets beyond eating healthy, taking supplements, regular exercise (walking and gardening for me), getting enough sleep, and relaxing, then it is too much.

I may have found a way beyond the one medical issue per month – my writing is important for me to stay healthy. It is creative; it makes me feel good and relaxed. And it gets me out of the crap taking over my life. So it needs my time.

Perhaps, putting writing in one of your daily living categories, will get you writing regularly. Remember “regularly” will differ with each of us. If you have a full time job and/or raising a family/looking after an elderly parent, you will have a different regular schedule than I do. The trick is to look at what is taking over too much of your time, see where you can cut back and/or get help, and work in some time – whether it is two hours in the evening and/or Saturday and Sunday mornings – that is up to you. You also need to consider if some of the things you do are really necessary. For example, do you have to spend so many hours tweeting? Or even doing email. Shopping online or in bricks and mortars? If something is taking a lot of your time, that’s a clue to look at it closely.

And  tell family members and friends (remember, socializing takes up time, too) what you are doing and why – nicely. You have the best reason to do so now – a new year and a new goal. And think of the result – that novel finally underway, those short stories written, etc.

Good luck and may you write, write, write in 2017.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Click on either Beyond Blood at the top or Beyond the Tripping Point below to link to more information about the books. Hopefully later next year the third Beyond book will join them.

 

Cover of Sharon A. Crawford's mystery short story collection. Click on it for publisher's website

 

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Writing the right story beginning

Amazon.com link to Sharon A.'s short story collection

Amazon.com link to Sharon A.’s short story collection

If you have ever started to read a novel and became bored by the end of paragraph one, it might not be that the story is dull. There is a good chance that what you are reading isn’t really the story’s beginning.

One story beginning, particularly with novels, that has me yawning is the big character background story. Or the big travelogue of a city or a town. As my old journalist and creative writing instructor would say, “So what?”

You can start with character or setting or both together. The trick is to bring in something about your story. Something that will grab your reader. You need a good lead (or “lede” as it is sometimes spelled), as we old journalists call it.

I was a freelance journalist for 35 years and writing a good lead for my articles was very important. Otherwise it was impossible to write the rest of the story. The lead lets the reader know something about what the story is going to cover and teases them in to read all the details.

So when I write fiction or edit other authors’ fiction, I always pay attention to the lead. Sometimes the lead is hidden a few pages later or even a few chapters later. One author’s novel’s actual lead was a chapter near the middle. She needed to pull out that chapter and a few after it and bring them to the front. And then do some rewriting.

Rewriting, of course, is always necessary when writing fiction and ho-hum leads can be fixed then.

Off the top of my head here is an example of a bad story beginning.It is made up and not from any client’s fiction or any of mine.

Ellen was born in 1960 in the town of Crystal, the third in a family of four siblings. Her mother was an Osborne before her marriage to James Clark. She was a shy child who didn’t say much in school but she always got good grades. Her mother was also quiet and her father spoke in a loud boisterous voice. Ellen’s two older siblings, Daniel and Robert, teased her. Her younger sibling, Gail got on better with her brothers.

And on and on ad nauseum.

Do we really care about Ellen and her family?

Let’s see what we can do with that beginning – if we want to get some family background in and make it relevant to the story. If we want to make the reader care about Ellen and her family and read on. Something like this:.

Ellen Clark had always been shy and withdrawn. Until now. If her older brothers, Danny and Robbie, could see her now, they would be sorry they spent her childhood teasing her. They would be proud of her for what she just did for them, for her, and for the rest of the family. Especially Gail. Poor Gail. Best friends with Danny and Robbie had not helped Gail.

Ellen smiled as she looked down at her feet and what lay there.

Or something like that. Hey, I write mystery fiction. Anyway, let’s compare the two story beginnings. We still have Ellen, her shyness, her two brothers and the fact that they teased her and her sister Gail hanging out with the two brothers. We don’t mention Ellen’s birthday year or the town,  or her parents names or their main traits. That can come later. We have woven in a few things to tease the reader in. What did Ellen do just now? How did she go from being shy and withdraw to taking some kind of action. And what about Gail or the parents? What is lying at Ellen’s feet? Or should that be “who”?

This is the type of lead to draw in the reader. Even if you are not writing a mystery, a story needs some suspense, which could  very well be about the relationships in that Clark family. Or it could be something else – whatever your imagination conjures up.

I’ll end with the beginning of one of the short stories in my mystery collection Beyond the Tripping Point as it does have some family background woven into it. And I’ve used another technique to start the story and then pushed into the family background.

“The police can’t find her, Ms. Bowman,” Robin Morgrave says.

Rosemary Morgrave has gone missing and I’m putting on a brave smile for her twin brother. Robin sat on the other side of the desk in The Attic Agency’s third floor office. Only my twin brother, Bast, nodding, stops me from losing it. Ever since David, my seven-year-old son, was abducted last August, I’ve been living in Panicville.Sure, we got him back, but how much of him returned? He follows  Bast around like an investigator-in-training. His brown eyes stare right through my soul.I wish he’d just say how he feels. But since his return, David hasn’t opened his mouth except ti swallow liquids and food. He doesn’t even cry. (Excerpted from Beyond the Tripping Point, copyright Sharon A. Crawford, published  by Blue Denim Press, 2012).

You can pick it apart and try to guess what will happen in the story. Or you can read it. If you click on the BTTP icon at the top of this post, it takes you to my Amazon profile as well as to information about Beyond the Tripping Point and the novel (with the same three characters) Beyond Blood.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

 

 

 

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Writing a new short story finally

The latest Beyond book in the series

The latest Beyond book in the series

I am finally writing a new mystery short story. And I am amazed that I actually found time. Despite my good intentions to try to tame time, except for perhaps a couple of areas, it has not been working. Most of the blame is what I refer to as “outside crap.” Included in that is even more and new computer problems. I won’t go into the sad saga here now, except for the one that is connected to this author blog.

WordPress in its “infinite wisdom” has a Set Featured Image feature. Technically (pun intended) it should work for only the actual blog post you are writing for the image withing the actual post and is not the image (my headshot) that appears at the side outside all blog posts. That one stays. But if it the image is in a blog post and you set it as an “Update” you now have two photos the same side by side on your live post. If you delete one from the one post when you are in Edit Post for update mode, it deletes all the same image on all the posts that have it. Those with another image in the post seem to keep that image.

What were the WordPress designers thinking?

For the ongoing computer crap problems, you will have to check my personal blog, for future postings on it. Meantime, my son the computer techie will be helping me remotely to resolve some of these computer issues later today.

As for the time management plan – the actual writing is getting in there, although not as much time each day as planned and hoped for. I have cut back my email time to 20 minutes a day (using a timer), except for family. All email replies and even new ones with promised information are being prioritized according to content date. So, something happening the end of the month doesn’t get priority over something happening today. I use a timer. So I can write. We writers are driven to write.

Someday I’ll write a noir satire mystery on computer problems and time management, but not in this new story. The story does take something from the news (no, not Trump’s election to the US presidency) but something else that has already been satirized on satire websites. So, I’m not doing satire here. I’m taking the news item and going on a “what if such and such happened? What if the character was like such-and-such?.

And so the story goes. But I’m not writing a fiction based on fact, something writers have to clarify when they are writing; Just because I’m writing fiction doesn’t mean I don’t need to do research. Besides the news stories, I have to research the laws connected to their content, medical issues connected to content, police procedure and most important develop my characters. I have two – a new one and the Toronto Police Service Homicide detective Larry Hutchison from “Missing in Action,” one of my short stories in Beyond the Tripping Point (Blue Denim Press, 2012),  Both stories take place in the same time period – NOW. I have wanted to put Detective Hutchinson in more stories, so this is my first go at that. .

I am also trying something new for me. Telling the short story from two different viewpoints – the new character and Hutchinson to develop the cat and mouse suspense.

It is interesting. I have to follow the fiction rules – one character’s point of view per scene with extra line space and/or asterisks in between scenes.

In some future posts I’ll go some more into the ins and outs using two characters points of view in short stories.

For now, it’s back to writing the actual short story…I hope. There better not be any more computer problems.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

And for this post, the Beyond Blood icon a the top does take you to Beyond Blood at Amazon.

 

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Clearing the decks to write your fiction

Clearing the decks to write your fiction

This may be a case of do as I say, not what I do. But the past month and a half I have been inundated with unnecessary crap getting in the way of my fiction writing. A lot of it comes from what I refer to as “outside” – things like house repairs, computer problems, friends and others interrupting during my work time.. Then there are health issues and some things that I have something to do with happening.

Last Thursday Shane, the editor at my publisher’s (Blue Denim Press) came over for us to practice our authors’ skit for the Urban Folk Art Festival (Our skit went very well there and when Shane emails me some of the photos someone else took of us, I’ can post them). We also had a heart-to-heart talk about my third Beyond fiction book, which seems to be in a perpetual state of rewrite (see above paragraph for why). He is definitely interested in publishing it and is thinking of next fall (2017). We also discussed the book’s content and even a next book in the series. He also gave me a deadline.

This talk, particularly hope for publication and when, as well as a submission deadline has kick-started me into action. And so I am making changes in my life and some things will be no-nos during writing time, some things will go in the Pending file for at least a month, some things I just won’t do (yesterday I said “no” to something and it felt good); other things are getting the boot.

Am still fine-tuning the whole business as I go, but so far I am trying to do these:

  1. Specific time-frame to work on my fiction with flexibility for writing meetings and book promo events that come up. Like Shane is doing with his fiction writing, I am assigning two days a week for just that – rewriting my novel. And for flexibility, yesterday afternoon is flipped to this afternoon because of a writing group meeting yesterday. I did get some writing done on the novel yesterday morning.NOTE: I do write other things and have editing clients and teach writing. That is for other days and workshops sometimes evenings, but again for days, I try to be flexible. It is all writing and writing-related business
  2. Book PR is limited to one thing a weekday. Public readings and the like are on top of this.
  3. I set a timer for half an hour mornings to do business email .Personal email is for outside my business hours (except for my son) which are roughly 9.30 a.m. to 5.30 p.m.
  4. Make more of an effort to get started at 9.30 a.m.Sometimes difficult with chronic health issues and house repairs.
  5. Get more sleep at night. Can’ control the insomnia but have to make an effort to get to bed earlier.
  6. I’m letting my friends know what has been on my voice mail for ages but some don’t seem to get it, i.e., personal calls evenings and weekends only.
  7. This one I’ve been doing for some time and it’s outside of business hours too – don’t pick up the phone for possible telemarketers and if I get someone trying to sell me something I just yell out “Not interested” or if they ask for “Mr. or Mrs. Crawford” I reply – no one here by that name (true. I’m divorced) and you have the wrong number.” If I’m really angry I then yell “And get me off your bloody list.: Then I hang up.
  8. Try to keep the house maintenance/repairs out of my business hours and that one is hard when someone has to come to clear out your damn eavestroughs at least three times because of all the leaves falling and clogging it up.
  9. Keep getting back to utilities and the like for their screw-ups, problems, etc. to after my business hours if possible.
  10. The garden fall clean-up winter prep kept outside of business hours, although it is okay to do a bit at lunchtime, especially with Eastern Standard time returning this weekend.
  11. And this one – some of you might think I’m being mean here. But I’m putting on hold so-called friends who are unreliable and don’t show up (and don’t let me know that they can’t make it for dinners and the like we plan to meet up for – we all have things that crop up, but let me know before the meet-up that you can’t make it.

Hopefully ,I will now have my time to finish rewriting my novel. Up to now this week, I have been making some progress.  I know it is because I’m starting to get some control of my life – at least some of it. Now, if the computer problems and issues would stop, that would give me more time too.

How do you make time for your writing? Everyone’s circumstances are different. I am lucky in that I work mostly from my home office.

Cheers.

Sharon

I am taking part in the Toronto Heliconian Club Literature Section Salon (dinner and readings) next Tuesday afternoon. I am a member and will be reading an excerpt form a short story in Beyond the Tripping Point. More details in my Gigs and Blog Tours Page here.

Again, click on the Beyond Blood icon at the top to get to one place where print and e-copies are available.

And this, updating events on my website and the Gigs and Blogs Page (and the other social media links) constitute my book PR for today.

 

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Dana Bowman and George Walton collide this evening

Dana Bowman

Dana Bowman

This evening Dana Bowman from my Beyond Blood novel and George Walton from Shane Joseph’s novel In the Shadow of the Conquistador meet and collide. It may be a collision all right as Shane and I have still to do an in-person rehearsal together. We have done a script of sorts for a skit-line – back and forth by email – and I have been practicing on my own, which is difficult when the other person is not there.And Skype isn’t exactly the best way to practice. But Shane is coming here a few hours early for us to practice..

Meantime, Dana Bowman, as you can see from her photo at the top is getting into high gear to do her snarky bratty thing. And George Walton? He better be ready. Those two – one from a mystery novel and one from a literary novel are both eccentric and powerful characters.And neither better forget their lines – even if not exact. It has to be somewhat spontaneous.

And hopefully this rain and wind storm won’t interfere with people coming to see this Urban Folk Art Salon and also the other performers arriving. (And water better not get into my basement.) Below  are more details for those in the area who wish to attend.

Also part of this two-hour salon are folksinger Brian Gladstone, poet Merle Amodeo, Ariel Balevi, Isaak Bonk, Ann Marie Boudreau and Mary Mllne with host poet/violinist Tom Gannon Hamilton.

The location, time, etc. details are:

Location:

Mount Pleasant Library

599 Mount Pleasant Rd. (between Davisville Rd. and Eglinton Ave. E.)

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Free.

Below are photos of Sharon and Shane. Click on the photos to link to our respective websigtes. Sorry no photos of George…yet

sharonacrawford authorShane Joseph.

 

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