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Keeping track of fiction queries and submissions

Sharon’s latest Beyond mystery.

We writers spend a lot of time writing – short stories, novels, novellas. We hone our story; we revise; we get feedback; we get it edited by a professional editor – all or some of those.

Then we send it out to a magazine to a publisher with a cover email or letter.

And then we hope, forget about it and move on to the next story.

Not quite. Something is missing. We need to put on our administrator hat and keep track of where we are sending our stories. If we don’t, we can easily forget when and maybe even where. This was brought up at the meeting of my East End Writers’ Group meeting last evening. We were talking about marketing and our newest member, a guy in his thirties talked about using spreadsheets to keep track where he sent out his writing. That reminded me of how I used to do it – not just for short stories but when I freelanced as a journalist, article ideas I pitched. Except I used tables in Word. Excel and I don’t get along too well.

There are several good reasons for doing this type of what we used to call “paperwork.” One biggie is called follow-up. If you don’t keep records of where you send what, it will suddenly dawn on you that you haven’t heard back from… and now where did I send it….(maybe the latter) about so-and-so story. So you decide to follow-up. Presuming you do remember where you sent it, you probably won’t remember when. Writing a follow-up email (or letter – there are still a few print magazines that don’t accept electronic submissions) saying something like “I’m following up on my “so-and-so” short story which I sent you sometime a few months ago…”

Sound svery professional doesn’t it? We writers have to be professional, not just in our actual writing, but in our dealings with publications and their editors. Keeping track of our stories and queries is one way to be professional. You may not want to get into Excel spreadsheets or even Word tables, and there is probably a software program for this function, but just doing a list in Word can be sufficient. Just the title of the short story, where sent (publication, editor’s name and contact info), the outcome (which could include if you have to do a followup, or the publication’s yes or no).

It also wouldn’t hurt to do what I do – I list other possibilities for sending the story, in case the first one says “no.” And as I find more info, I add it to the list.

So take some time to do this. Set it up and as soon as you send/email in a story or query, record the details.

Meantime, I’m doing something totally non-administrative early this evening. Doing a public reading from Beyond Faith, my latest Beyond mystery novel.

If you are in the Greater Toronto, Ontario, Canada area you might like to drop in to the Urban Folk Art Salon. It’s not just me, but also my colleague Michael Robert Dyet whose book Hunting Muskie Blue Denim Press launched the same time as my Beyond Faith. Plus four other performers/presenters including two folksingers  Brian Gladstone and Glen Hornblast  It’s at a public library and is free. Check it out on my Beyond Faith page – scroll down – it’s there – at least until after the event is over.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

 

 

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Keeping the suspense in your novel’s plot

As an editor I have read and edited a variety  of fiction manuscripts. The creativity of many of the  writers and the wide range of story lines is very interesting. But one thing (among others) I sometimes find is the lack of sufficient suspense. The story drags; the story, well, it flat lines. Here are a few tips on creating suspense in your novels.

1. Leave your reader hanging – at the end of the chapter is a good place because it not only raises the reader’s interest, it gets him or her reading the next chapter. Here is an example from my mystery novel Beyond Faith.

“From what Sister Olsen had told me about her brothers, I had some idea what might be bothering Eli. Too bad neither Eli Foster nor I had all the facts.”

2. Ask a question. You know the old saying “questions are the signs of intelligence.” Questions also make the reader want to continue to get some answers. These are questions in the narrative, the character’s inner thoughts, not in dialogue. Obviously in dialogue, another character will usually answer the question although they might lie.

Again from Beyond Faith, “Who were they? And why did one seem familiar?” (all Beyond Faith excerpts, copyright 2017, Sharon A. Crawford, published by Blue Denim Press.)

3. Don’t tell all at once. Keep some information from the reader. I do a lot of this in Beyond Faith. The idea is you build up your plot with tidbits even if the character knows more than she is letting on. This is just the opposite from the example in point one above.

4. Use foreshadowing.This is often in conjunction with another technique. Again, see the example in point one above. Another example of foreshadowing is when the character is heading for an encounter they don’t relish. Perhaps with someone they don’t like and know is a nasty person. Build up the tension by getting inside the character’s head. How does the character feel? Scared? Are they sweating? Do they try to avoid meeting this character or delay the meeting by driving the long way to the meeting place. If it is in a restaurant, do they drink a lot, drop the cutlery, knock over a glass of water?

5. Or as a twist, the person is overly confident about meeting someone – a piece of cake, the character thinks. Then, wham, when they get to the meeting place, something happens – a car runs her down; someone takes a shot at her. She finds the person there all right at the meeting place – lying dead on the ground. You can tell I write mystery novels.

6. One suspense-building technique that I use is to have two main characters both heading for the same place at the same time – maybe one knows the other is there; maybe not. But one or both of them know that there is danger at the other end. Each one is racing to get there and perhaps save the other. You flip back and forth between the characters in separate scenes or short chapters. Show the reader what each character is thinking and what is happening to them. And don’t make it easy. In Beyond Faith I have PI Dana Bowman following Eli Foster in their respective cars; then I flip over to her fraternal twin, Pi Bast Overture who is not following anyone, but he has found out vital information about another character and figures out what this character is going to do so he is off to stop it. And no, I don’t tell all to the reader. And I’m not telling you any more here.

There are many more ways to create suspense. The twisted plot is one. And you can get ideas by reading published novels, the ones that do build suspense. Yes some crappy novels get published and I am not referring to self-published here.

And keep writing and rewriting, rewriting, rewriting.

And join a writing critique group for feedback.

And when you have rewritten a lot, hire an editor.

Then you can do some more rewriting.

I just started reading Hunting Muskie, a collection of literary short stories by Michael Robert Dyet (Blue Denim Press, fall 2017 – yes, same publisher as me). The first story “Slipstream”, has many plot threads popping up – all connected to a theme. And it keeps you reading. It also breaks the idea that some people have (mea culpa sometimes here) – that all literary stories don’t contain suspense.This one sure does have suspense.

Happy reading and happy writing.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

 

 

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Beyond Faith has a Book Launch date

Sharon A. Crawford and Dana Bowman have an announcement to make:

Drum roll…

Book Launch for Beyond Faith is set up and here are the details so far.

Muskie and Murder

Book Launch for Beyond Faith by Sharon A. Crawford

and

Hunting Muskie by Michael Dyet

Presented by Blue Denim Press

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Location: Supermarket Restaurant & Bar,  268 Augusta (in Kensington Market), Toronto, Ontario.

More details as they come and more in a future post on Michael Dyet, the other author whose book is being launched the same day. For  now I’ll just say Michael writes literary fiction and I write crime fiction and that is an interesting mix. Meantime, check out Michael’s website.

Michael is known as The Metaphor Guy.

Sharon A. Crawford mugshot

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hey, and Dana Bowman here too.

Dana Bowman PI from Beyond Faith

 

 

 

 

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Book Review of Shane Joseph’s Crossing Limbo

Just finished reading Crossing Limbo by Shane Joseph and below is my review as posted on Goodreads.

Crossing Limbo

by Shane Joseph,

published by Morning Rain Publishing

available at Amazon

at Chapters Indigo

And at the Toronto book launch this Saturday, July 8, 3 to 5 p.m. at Supermarket Restaurant & Bar, 268 August Ave. (in Kensington Market), Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Guest author readings by Sharon A. Crawford and Michel Dyet from their upcoming new books

The book’s title Crossing Limbo says it all – the main character or characters in each of these 13 short stories by Shane Joseph are stuck in limbo in their lives. In Greek mythology, the dead were ferried to the underworld by a boatman named Charron, who demanded payment. In Crossing Limbo, the characters have to make some payment, some trade-off to get to the other side of their limbo. For some the trade-off hangs in the future; for others it is now. Usually their past is a big factor. Whatever happens, Shane Joseph makes it original, yet the outcome is logical based on the main characters’ traits – on a scale of mean and nasty to troubled. All the stories reflect many current issues –divorce, online chat, finding a mate at a certain age, big developers versus property owners, writers who never make it versus jaded bestselling authors, death in the family, to adult “children” still living at home with dad. And Joseph brings out the emotions these characters go through when trying to cross their personal limbo, so that the reader gets it, even with the despicable characters.

In one of my favourites, Waiting for the Train, there are two main characters, an old man and a teenage girl who meet at night on the railway tracks. Both, for various reasons, are contemplating suicide, but their meeting and listening to each other forces a twist in their lives.

Then there ls the egocentric Arvind, the title character in The Supreme Leader’s Big Day, who  puffs himself up, as if he is God of the small country of Kanjipoor. Arvind forms secret pacts with his ministers, and orders killings. He is also a sex maniac who takes 16-year-old concubines to bed. On the day of the story’s title, he is expecting certain things to happen. But he gets a big surprise.

Perhaps the best story is also the most unusual – Shock & Awe, reflecting society’s attachment to their pet dogs, which is told from a dog’s point of view. Shep, a former police dog who got a little too violent with a drug dealer, is literally put out to pasture, living on a former police deputy, Bob’s, family farm/ Besides early retirement, Shep deals with many other issues akin to the human ones, love for a neighbour – Buster, the dog next door, dealing with Bob’s death in Iraq. But when what’s left of her family are faced with losing their home, Shep follows true doggy feat, proving that even with crossing limbo, dogs are still (hu)man’s best friend.

And in a world peopled by some of Shane Joseph’s characters in Crossing Limbo, that is a good thing.

 

 

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