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Getting your novel ending right

The second beyond book.

Five rewrites later for the publisher I finally got it right. Sure lots of changes and improvements throughout Beyond Faith. But the one giving me the devil of a time was the ending. No matter how many rewrites of that, the editor at the publisher came back with what basically amounted to that it wasn’t quite right. And he did make suggestions which I did not ignore.

In retrospect I was probably being too flippant in part and it wasn’t getting serious enough, wasn’t making sense. In the end, my change must have been inspired by something he emailed. Or maybe that he said he could rewrite the last page. And the time ticking. So, I said I wanted one more crack at it and he agreed.

So, I suppose I got really into what the ending was all about and just wrote. When finished (including some rewording here and there before it went back to the publisher) I discovered something I wasn’t even thinking about in the main part of my brain. But my subconscious must have been tuned in, because there it was.

The ending actually tied back to the beginning.

And it made sense. It also provides, shall we say (no spoilers wanted), an opening for the next Beyond book. In fact, there are a few things happening in the latter part of Beyond Faith that could be carried forward into the next Beyond book, story lines that could be developed further and used in the complex mix of plots and characters I use in my stories.

So, why hadn’t I thought of that tie-in to Chapter One  before?

Many reasons. Perhaps the rush to finish the rewrite to meet a deadline (as it turned out, several deadlines). Perhaps because I had client work to do as well (no offence to the clients. I try to balance client work with the novel-writing and all the PR work for it involved.) If it were just Beyond Faith and client work to balance, I could manage.

I think I have to put a big share of the blame on much of the other stuff in my life, such as income tax filing and the CRA messing up despite me filing on time, health issues (that one will eat up your life no matter what. Guaranteed.), house and property problems, etc. Perhaps one of the biggies is others expecting me to do this and that for them and well, just bugging me to do so. Now, I’m reining back, even being slow to return emails if it is something that can be dealt with later. Some things I’m dumping and some things I’m saying “no.” to. My new motto is to prioritize and to focus on what is important to me.

That includes my family, too and some property and financial stuff, and especially the garden. My garden is therapeutic.  So is my writing

What can we learn from my experiences above to get the right ending for your story?

Don’t rush it.

Better time management – ignore the unnecessary and/or not important at the time. If those demanding your time to do something for them balk, too bad.

So, prioritize.

Think of your story’s beginning. This works for novels, novellas and short stories. A long time ago I learned from a writing instructor that the ending has to tie in with the beginning somehow – perhaps a resolution. In today’s mystery series novels, which mimic TV series, there is often a cliff-hanger at the end. Don’t be afraid to use it. Linwood Barclay and Julia Spencer Fleming use that tactic very well. In fact, I’m currently reading the third (and I think final) in Linwood Barclay’s Promise Falls series. This third one The Twenty-three starts just days after the second one. I suggest you read some of their books as well.

And don’t be afraid to rewrite. That may include several endings to see what works best. This might be the time to get somebody (besides a biased family member) to read the beginning and ending and give you some feedback. I know it could have spoiler potential, but you do want to get it right, don’ you?

The cover of my previous Beyond book Beyond Blood is up at the top with links to amazon. And yes it’s ending ties in with something in Chapter one, and also has a hook into Beyond Faith.

The publisher now has his book designer designing a cover for Beyond Faith. When that’s done and I get a copy, I’ll be putting it at the top of these blog posts.

Meantime, starting next week, I’ll be writing some special blog posts, a sort of mini-Beyond series for the summer.

Keep writing and rewriting.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

 

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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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Crime (Writing) not dead in Canada

Sharon A. Crawford mugshot

The title might be an oxymoron, but to rephrase it – dead people populate crime fiction and non fiction, but the genre and all its books are popular and prolific in Canada. The annual Arthur Ellis Awards banquet held annually by Crime Writers of Canada proves that.

We packed them in last evening in the great hall of The Arts and Letters Club in downtown Toronto. We ate, drank, chatted, and then the awards were presented. Unlike the Oscars and the like awards presentation aren’t drawn out, boring, and exaggerated. A bookseller did the duties of handing envelopes and award statuettes, the CWC president spoke briefly at the beginning and then called each presenter in turn. The presenter read the authors shortlisted and then named the winner (and no Oscar wrong name fiasco). The winner, if present, came up on stage, did their thank you and then posed for a few seconds for a photo with their presenter.

The latter got a bit funny when the CWC member taking photographs – Rick Blechta won the  Lou Alin Award for Best Novella. But Cathy Ace, the CWC president stepped up to the camera and took the photo.

There was also some humour from all and the winners’ thank yous were interesting and diverse.

Donna Morrisey won for best novel. And no, I’m not going to list all the winners. You can check that out at the Crime Writers of Canada website.You will also see what the award statute looks like. But you won’t be able to make its hands and feet work. One of the winners showed us how at the banquet Can’t do that with an Oscar. I am also not putting a graphic of Arthur at the top for copyright reasons, so you have to contend with my mug. At least I was there.

And for avid crime readers – no matter where you live – you can receive a quarterly electronic copy of Cool Canadian Crime which lists their members newest books coming out. Just scroll down the page to “Books”. Warning, commercial – sort of here – my newest Beyond mystery Beyond Faith comes out this fall, so if I remember to send out the info in time, it should be listed in Cool Canadian Crime later this year.

And when you check out CWC home page, you get a selection of new books releases by members floating across the screen. Check out the bios for what we all do between the book covers. Murder and mayhem and much more.

And we can get away with crime (between the book covers).

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

 

 

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Show not tell in fiction

The second beyond book.

How many times have you read (or written) a scene in a novel or short story that reads something like this?

John decided to tell Mary off and do it loudly.

“Mary, you are a disgrace to the club,” John yelled.

What’s wrong here?

It not only tells the reader what John is going to do,but then puts the same thing in dialogue.I call this overkill and is an insult to the reader’s intelligence. It is equivalent to hitting them on the head and slapping them in the face. Show, not tell the reader works better.

So, what can you do here? Delete the narrative where it tells what John plans to do and go right to the dialogue. Of course this is taken out of context (NOTE: not anything in particular – just off the top of my head  – before said head was hit, of course).

Besides the dialogue you can show John in action. Does he point a finger at Mary. Does he throw a book? Does his face contort into a red mass of fury? You can also show how John feels about doing this. Maybe he is scared to stand up to Mary as he may be on the shy side and Mary is a forceful person. So maybe his yelling and actions show this.

Having said all this, it is okay to have some narrative which can include telling your story, showing what characters are like and what your Point of View character feels and thinks.

Just don’t tell when you can show. And never do both around dialogue.. Readers don’t like being insulted.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

The next book in Sharon A. Crawford’s Beyond mystery series, Beyond Faith (published by Blue Denim Press will be out this fall 2017. Meantime, click on the Beyond book at the top of this post and get more info about Sharon and her Beyond books.

 

 

 

 

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The Credibility Factor in Fiction Writing

The second Beyond book.

We writers let our imaginations flow. We get creative and write outside the box. However, sometimes we go on tangents with our plots, and characters’ actions and dialogue, often resulting in going way off the credibility meter.  We don’t always see that, but our readers do.

And to make it more complicated – credibility can be relative. What is credible for fantasy may not be credible for mystery or romance – at least the plot. Character, no matter the genre, always need to be credible.

I’m not immune to this credibility tangent. Just ask my publisher. And read last week’s post here.

So, how do we get make sure our characters and plot are credible?

One thing I sometimes do is act out a scene. Can a character actually do this? No, I don’t jump off buildings – nothing extreme like that (I’m afraid of heights anyway.) But I do it to get the logistics of a character’s action. For example to see if a character could actually see something from a certain window? Or what it is like walking in heavy rain. Yes, you can use your imagination, but I bet you’ll forget some detail. So get out there and experience your scene. Hook yourself up to your cell phone  so if you have to talk like your character, you don’t risk strange looks from others you pass. If you are using present time and present location and not making any of that up, it might be a good idea to get the lay of the land as it is now for streets and crossings. You don’t want your characters crossing a street called Main Street today that last week was renamed to Markham Avenue.

Use a credibility meter for characters to decide on action or dialogue. (And remember, this might be done in a rewrite). Ask yourself how your character  would act or react- based on their traits, based on their background, based on their psyche, based on what has happened with and to them before in your novel. Would a timid character suddenly start arguing with someone who is clearly trying to get her goat? But remember, part of a novel’s premise is things change and that includes the characters. So if something happens to your character to bring about a change, maybe that character will finally tell that other character off. Don’t make it easy for him or her. It would be a struggle.

It also is a good idea to have your writing critiqued by a writing critique group – online and/or in person.

Remember, writers can have tunnel vision about their work. But other writers will look at it fresh and from other viewpoints.

That is taking your writing out of the box in another way.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

 

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Beyond Faith new novel

The second beyond book.

The contract for Beyond Faith, my third Beyond mystery book is signed and yesterday I completed the second last rewrite for the publisher. There will be one more kick at the … no, not cat – no cats in Beyond Faith – there is a dog,but I do not kick dogs, or cats either. I will get one more chance at any rewrite after the editor at the publisher has another look at it.

He and I have worked together to get Beyond Faith ready for publication this fall and once the last rewrite is done, I will pull our the book promo ideas now running round in my brain (and some no doubt taking a nap), and what I have read in emails and social media and get them going.

But the rewriting has been intense. Shane, my editor has pointed out things that are unclear, silly and inconsistent, and like all editors (myself too when I wear my editor hat), things that can just be deleted. I found a few of all those on my own. From there I was able to rewrite a better story, make my characters more interesting and realistic and hint at what’s to maybe come in future Beyond mysteries.

It is an experience for me to be the one whose novel is being edited instead of the other way around. I do say that I work from both sides of the fence – writing and editing. This full fence position (positions?) gives a wider perspective of the writing and rewriting process.

I like going deep deep into the story with its rewriting. Sometimes I get so carried away I forget to get up and eat lunch at a reasonable time. And I find myself acting out scenes – although many times it is to get the logistics of what is happening. Without going into a lot of details to spoil it, Beyond Faith has a whole lot of pushing going on (and I don’t mean the drug-dealing kind). Trying to see how someone would fall when pushed (as opposed to tripping and falling) isn’t as easy as you think.

What do you do? Get a friend to push you or persuade them to let you push them so you can see it from behind? It is important to get these details right, but at what cost? No, I didn’t get friends involved, but I did some research online and I moved around inside and outside to get a better idea.

This going inside your novel’s story and characters and seeing where it takes you and then having it make sense and flow, but be interesting and different is what I like doing. It is like going into another world, although it is debatable who controls it – you or your characters.

But if I didn’t do it, the novel would be superficial.

And while I’m doing it, God or somebody else help anyone who phones or comes to my door; If jerked suddenly out of this intense creative state, there is no telling what I will do. Although I seem to be more mouthy (as in “what do you want?”) instead of pushy.

What about you? .

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

 

 

 

 

 

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Using Fiction Tools to Write Memoir (continued)

Again, I connect you to my post on my Only Child Writes blog. This time it is using another fiction writing technique for memoir – setting. Blog post is here.

And next week we’ll get back to strictly fiction.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Author of the Beyond mystery series.

 

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