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Stop! 10 Things Writers Shouldn’t Do

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

 

DON’T EVER. . .

1.Stop Reading: After a long day of writing, the last thing you want to do is pick up someone else’s book – do it anyway. It will help you relax and keep you motivated – not to mention you might pick up a few literary tricks along the way

2. Rely on Inspiration: Inspiration is a contact sport. Pound the keys, search the web for topics that are compatible with your story, be proactive about inspiration.

3. Veer From Your Genre: So you want to write the first science fiction, erotic, mystery, romance? Don’t do it. If you want passionate and engaged readers make sure your book can be defined.

 4. Get Boring: If you’re bored writing your book chances are that your readers will be bored reading it. Take your book to the top and then go over it. Conflict moves stories.

 5. Default to Perfection: Men are fearless, women are sexy and everyone is just too cool for school. Readers want to relate to your characters – imperfections, shortcomings and all.

 6. Lose the Through Line: Remember what story you’re writing. If you started out writing about a girl torn between her family and a soldier she loves, don’t go off into political discourse about war.

 7. Be Afraid to Cut, Cut, Cut: Cut close to the bone and let the reader see the skeleton of your book instead of burying her in unnecessary description or dialogue. Let a reader’s imagination fill in the rest.

 8. Throw in the Towel: The easiest thing in the world is starting a book; the hardest thing is finishing one. The cool thing is that you can do it with just an ounce more determination and patience. Yes, an ounce.

 9. Don’t Do it Alone: For some writers a critique group works. For others it’s one trusted voice cheering them on. Writers may live with their fictional characters, but they thrive with a friend(s) who believes in them.

10. Beat Yourself Up: The book isn’t shaping up the way you want? Someone read a chapter and didn’t care for it? Feel like jumping off a cliff?  You can spend your time beating yourself up, or beating the keys on your computer. Beat the keys and show the world what you’re made of. We’re all waiting for your book.

 

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Sister Carmelita, The Fear of God and Me

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

The day I stood in the choir loft surrounded by my fourth grade peers I had no idea that I was about to learn a lesson in suspense, terror, fear, retribution and resolution that would lead me to a career as a thriller author.

The day was hot, air-conditioning was unheard of, and we wore our itchy, ugly, brown wool Catholic school uniforms year ‘round to save our parents money. I was a very good girl. I never drew attention to myself, folded my hands with fingers pointing heavenward when I prayed, picked up trash on the playground and helped pass out papers in class. But that day, I made a blunder that put me in Sister Carmelita’s crosshairs. As she raised her arms and positioned her baton in anticipation of another rousing chorus of a hymn I have long forgotten, I rolled my eyes. Yep, I rolled them to the back of my little ten-year-old head in frustration and exhaustion.

Sister Carmelita cut her own my way. I realize now that she had mastered the art of eye cutting because she couldn’t move her head given her the box-like wimple. Everyone stopped breathing. No one knew what I had done, only that I had done something very, very bad.

“Miss Forster.” Sister Carmelita’s voice was modulated appropriately for God’s house. “Wait after choir.”

My stomach lurched. I felt light headed. I was doomed.

Sister Carmelita is long gone. During her time on earth she faced changes in her church and her life, but I doubt she ever knew how that day changed me. So, if you’re listening, Sister, I want you to know that, 30 years later, that moment sealed my fate. I spend my days writing thrillers, trying to recapture the exquiste sense of suspense I experienced that day. Here is what you taught me:

1) Less is More: Your understated notice of me, the glitter in your eye, the sound of your voice was more intriguing, more compelling, more enthralling than screaming, railing or ranting.

2) Timing is Everything: All 29 of my classmates knew I was in trouble. I knew I was in trouble. I even knew why I was in trouble (disrespecting you, God, choir practice, country, family and all living creatures with a roll of my eyes), yet you didn’t nip things in the bud with a mere instantaneous admonition. My comeuppance was exquisitely timed. You threw in an extra hymn to extend practice, studiously ignored me, meticulously folded your sheet music as my classmates silently went down the stairs. You waited until the door of the church closed, clicked and locked us together in that big, shadowy church before you turned.

3) The Devil’s in the Details: You were taller than me (back then almost everyone was taller than me), but that wasn’t why I was afraid. It was your whole package, the details of your awesome being that were so formidable. Covered head to toe in black, your face framed by your wimple (which, by the way, looked like the vice used during the Spanish Inquisition), your hands buried beneath the scapular that fell in a perfect column to the tips of your shoes, made for quite a package. But there was more: The scent of nun-perfume (I think it was soap, but it smelled like nun-perfume to me), the clack of those huge rosary beads attached to your wide belt, the squish of your rubber soled shoes. I saw all this, I heard all this, I smelled all this and each sense was heightened because of the hush surrounding us.

I remember your methodical advance into my personal space. I remember you lowering your eyes as I raised mine. The suspense was heart-stopping, the anticipation of my penance almost unbearable. Quite frankly, you were terrifying.

But here’s the funny thing: I don’t remember how it ended. Did you scold me? Did you show mercy and forgiveness? I only remember being terrified. Like the brain of the seven year old Stephen King swears gives him inspiration for his horror books, you, Sister Carmelita, inspire every sentence I write in every thriller novel I pen. For that, I can’t thank you enough.

I also want you to know, I have never rolled my eyes at anything since then .

 

Rebecca Forster | A Slice of OrangeVisit me: http://rebeccaforster.com/

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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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