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SEW UP A BOOK

May 15, 2017 by in category The Write Life, Writing tagged as , ,

Sew up a Book | Rebecca Forster | A Slice of Orange

Years ago, I worked in corporate America and my client was married to Danielle Steel. When I found out who she was, I uttered seven ridiculous words: “I bet I could write a book.”

One of my colleagues called me on that boast and that’s how I became a writer – on a crazy dare. Having never written before, I tackled this challenge in the same way I tackled a marketing plan: by asking questions about how I would go about becoming a published author. In the old days, all I had to do was write a pitch and hope someone paid attention; these days all I have to know is how to upload to Amazon. But the business of publishing begged the question that was most important: how do I learn to actually write a book?

I decided I would learn the same way I learned to sew; I would follow a pattern.

With one of Danielle Steel’s books in hand, I spent three nights with that book, a glass of wine and a yellow marker. As I read, I highlighted the ‘seams’ of her work. My pattern consisted of noting:

  •  When the main characters were introduced
  •  Where the plot points happened
  •  Where the emotional reveals came in
  •  How many pages of expository were in her book
  •   How long were the dialogue passages
  •   How many total pages were in the book

I wrote for months and when I was done I had exactly the right number of pages, all the characters came in on cue, and the plot was revealed appropriately. What a yawn.

My book was the equivalent of making a shift dress out of burlap. It was technically correct but plain and unexciting. My book had nothing to make it memorable to a reader. I didn’t want to just go to the published-author party; I wanted readers’ heads to turn.   I needed to learn what sets an artist apart from a painter,  a fashion designer from a seamstress and a writer from an author. Bottom line: I needed some buttons and bows, some satin and lace. I needed some style.

I am writing my thirty-fifth book and I have learned a great deal, but I still follow the pattern I created years ago. I have grown as an author, found my voice, honed my observations and come to understand my personal style. I hope that someday a writer will take a yellow marker to one of my books and make a pattern of her own from my work. Then I hope she will be inspired to kick it all up a notch with her buttons and bows.

Rebecca


 

http://rebeccaforster.com/

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Choosing The Write Life

April 15, 2017 by in category The Write Life tagged as

There are only two times in my entire life that I have truly made a deeply thoughtful decision about how I want to live. Up until then, I sort of plucked choices out of the air. For instance:

I went to college far away from home (Chicago) because I had never been far away from home before.

I took the first job that came my way after college – working a switchboard at a big company – because it was offered to me.

That job slid me into an assistant position in a marketing firm when another person quit to get married.

A snowstorm drove me out of Chicago and back to California where I grew up. That really was more of a reaction than a decision. Have you ever lived through an Illinois winter?

Back home I got married (okay, that was a great decision).

I got my MBA because the company I worked for paid for it.

One day someone dared me to write a novel – something I had never imagined doing – and I did it because they dared me.

That was when I started making real life choices. I had found something I was passionate about (other than my husband). The challenge of writing, the flights of imagination, the nail biting wait to see if an editor would even look at my book created a thrill that I had never experienced before. After my first book was published, I chose to become a writer, an author, a novelist. I decided that I would be the best storyteller I could be and for over 30 years I have pursued that goal. I have had my ups – including best seller lists – and my rejection/bad review downs.

When A Slice of Orange asked me to pen a blog, I thought this would be the perfect place to talk about everything I have learned, about the everyday decision-making that comes with this career. I want to tell you what it’s really like to make a living as a novelist, how other people have done it and why there is no one-size-fits all when it comes to a writing career.

This will be a blog about permissions, and fun stuff, and objectives and questions and hard looks about the decisions authors make every day. This will be a blog about choosing how to proceed on your own terms.

The beauty of the Write Life is that it’s all about choice – yours, mine and ours.

Rebecca

RebeccaForster.com

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Character Flaw(less)

February 16, 2017 by in category The Write Life tagged as ,

 

Recently we celebrate my oldest son and my husband’s birthdays. They are a day apart, much to the chagrin of my husband. Thirty-two years ago he brought home the biggest, spiciest burrito he could find in the hopes of jumpstarting labor so that our son would share his birthday. Needless to say, the burrito story was one of many we told at this year’s birthday dinner. We laughed, we clarified details, and we took tangents and remembered those who had been part of our lives but were no longer with us.
As I listened to all this in the company of my husband, my two sons and my ninety-two year old mother, I realized that my family is key to what readers tell me is my strength as a writer: characterization. After generations of evolving as an extended family, I know what makes each member of my family tick. I know why they are special – and why they aren’t.  I know how they speak, how they think, how they will act and react, what makes them happy and what doesn’t. I know who they love and admire. That means, if they act out of character, I know to dig deeper to find out why; if they act in character, I completely accept their actions and reactions because I know them so well.
If depth of characterization eludes you, try this exercise.
IMAGINE each of your main characters at a family dinner table.
IDENTIFY where that character fits in e.g. the bartender, the perpetual guest, and the lingerer-in-the-kitchen guy.
ESTABLISH where each character came from and whether or not they are permanent family fixtures or a family member who has distanced themselves.
TAKE their coats. Fur? Wool? Blazer? Sweatshirt? Notice what they’re wearing.
DETERMINE their purpose at the table: the joker, the commentator, the peacemaker, the witch, the politician, the philosophe, the put-upon wife or angry husband (or vice-versa).
LISTEN to the conversation around the table. Do not focus on just one character. Rather, close your eyes, hear all their voices, see all their gestures, listen to their words.
What you ‘hear’, what you ‘see’ at your dinner table will help you create fictional characters that are as familiar as family and as unforgettable.
Rebecca

Rebecca Forster

www.rebeccaforster.com

 

 

 

 

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Indie Doesn’t Mean Independent

January 15, 2017 by in category The Write Life, Writing: It's a Business tagged as ,
Just before Christmas, a new author asked me how she might get more exposure. I’m sure she was waiting for some social media insights or advertising suggestions. Instead, I introduced her to Marianne Donley, one of my first writing friends.
Thirty-two years ago I published my first novel with Harlequin and joined RWA. The women I met there saw me through three genre changes, five publishers, four agents and the final leap into indie publishing. In those early days I learned that being part of a creative community was not simply important, it was essential to the health of my creative career.
With do-it-yourself publishing all authors –  newbies or seasoned writers – are often overwhelmed. We juggle writing, design, formatting and marketing, but if human interaction isn’t a part of the equation our hard work will lack inspiration, depth and heart. In an age where we boast of the number of followers we should be counting our friends.
When I ushered in the 2017, I took a time out. I looked backward and forward and was amazed to find out how truly un-indie I am.  Old RWA friends like Marianne, Sandra Paul, Mindy Neff, Angie Ray, Barbara Benedict are still my best writing buddies. No less important are those in my new virtual community – authors like Rick Bard, Brian Drake, Sheldon Siegel, Christine Whitmarsh, Chris Taylor, and Jennifer Chase. I have a superb team that inspires me and helps me create my books: cover designer, Hadleigh O. Charles, marketing expert, Robin Blakely of Creative Center of America, editor, Jenny Jensen of E-Bookeditor.com and formatter Stef McCaid. There are readers and pen pals, Tweeples and Facebook friends, family and neighbors who join in the mix. I am so grateful for them all.
As your year unfolds, remember this: being a successful indie author means being a successful human being. In the coming days reach out, give back, pay attention, get to know the people behind the avatars and the books. Your work will be better for it and so will your heart.
May 2017 be filled with fabulous friends and colleagues, good acquaintances, and admiring readers.
Happy New Year!

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