How to write a novel

I was smitten with the following photo that pranced around Facebook yesterday courtesy of Melissa Foster. It makes the writing of a novel seem so simple and the deterrents to writing a novel so easy to solve. I’ve been working on my novel for about four years – off and on. I revised and got my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On, published in the meantime, and I spend a lot of time every day marketing it. However, I don’t let any of that take away from my writing time and my commitment to my novel. What I want to do is to briefly comment on the photo I’ve shared here and let you know where I am in my novel’s process. Think up a story I was fortunate to have a story fall into my lap from my aunt’s lifestory writing, and when I presented the idea at my first novel-writing workshop, it was very readily accepted. I’ve, of course, fictionalized her true story, making up characters, dialogue, events, and locales. However, I’ve tried very hard to be historically accurate about plac … [Read more...]

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Gathering inspiration for your novel

I like Cate Russell-Cole's great advice about gathering inspiration for historical fiction. I've been googling all morning to get inspiring images for my historical novel. Her way is much better. Thanks again Cate.   The Power of Day Dreaming in Fiction #Writing by Cate Russell-Cole “Set Building” I am a fantasy writer, who has hassles with description. Day dreaming and visualising is the only way I can cut through all the one sided fuzz that runs through my head. Otherwise my writing just sounds like a monologue! For me it’s a challenge as I am very analytical. I am more interested in the ‘why’ and ‘how’ of the story, than telling it. I have a few tricks for getting over this: Pinterest, story boarding and “set building.” The last two set my ideas in concrete; Pinterest shows me things I can mull over, and all these techniques expand and improve my work. I find I rarely click on the links in Pinterest, it is the images or quotes which give me the ideas, so th … [Read more...]

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Dr. Heather Friedman Rivera’s creative writing journey, Part Two

Thank you for returning to read the rest of Dr. Heather Friedman Rivera's story. I'm so pleased she offered to write a guest post here on Choices. In Part Two she relates how she wrote Quiet Water, the first novel in her Golden Raven Series trilogy. Part One was posted on January 22. Part Two The Writing of Quiet Water and the Golden Raven Series The following week in Dr. Miles’ class just as usual she started with a guided meditation. When I relaxed into meditation I saw an image of a woman sitting on a curb. This woman started talking to me. She said her name was Tess Whitaker and she just moved to the apartment she was sitting in front of. I was surprised by what I was being shown but I told myself to just allow the images and words to come. I wrote quickly what she related to me and then over the next six months she spoke to me daily telling me her story. Some days I could not type fast enough. Quiet Water was born. I finished the book and it was published in September 2 … [Read more...]

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Dr. Heather Friedman Rivera’s creative writing journey, Part One

I am thrilled to welcome Dr. Heather Friedman Rivera to Choices. I find her background, research and writing about past life regression fascinating. What do you think? Do you believe in reincarnation and past life regression? Do you believe past life regression therapy can heal? Whether or not you do, I'll bet you'll be drawn to this topic as much as I. Here is Part One of Dr. Rivera's journey in becoming a creative writer and how she wrote her first novel, Quiet Water. *** Part One How I Found My Creative Writing Voice After what felt like a lifetime of school and the all-consuming doctoral dissertation I had something akin to empty nest syndrome.  Some have called this phenomenon “Post Dissertation Stress Disorder.” For years I had structure, purpose and a goal and then finally the day arrives and I receive the letters I dreamt about many times . . . PhD. In an instant my life completely changed. No more books to tackle, no more tests to cram for, and no more papers to write un … [Read more...]

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Bonnie Milani, author of Home World, discusses book critiques

I always love to host WOW Women On Writing blog tour authors. It’s a great way to meet new authors and to be introduced to book genres that I don’t normally turn to. Home World by Bonnie Milani is on of those books. Today Bonnie shares her thoughts about book critiques, which are particularly timely for me. I just lived through some hard-to-take critiques about my novel from members of my writing group. Please comment here for a chance to win a copy of Home World, a fast paced well-written story about the power and the price of love. A winner will be picked at random and announced on Monday, December 9. Here’s Bonnie.... What Makes a Good Critique? Ah, critiques.  They’re the bitter part of the writer’s bittersweet craft.  Having just had an infected/impacted /fused-to-the-jaw bone wisdom tooth pulled, I’m most cogently reminded just how painful a critique can be.  Actually, that’s a pretty good analogy, come to think of it.  Because as the pain in my jaw fades, I’m becoming … [Read more...]

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Ace Antonio Hall is back. Hooray!

I am so happy that Ace Antonio Hall has agreed to come back to Choices. He wrote a wonderful piece about the gray haired women in his life in July and got a huge readership. Please take a look here. His writing is endearing and insightful and so, so loving.     Today, he’s going to discuss his novel, Confessions of Sylva Slasherand try to convince us to read it. Thank you, Ace, for being so generous with your answers.   Madeline:Please tell me why I should read your zombie horror novel, Confessions ofSylva Slasher ?   Ace:Reading my novel, Confessions of Sylva Slasher, is like drinking a large exhilarating can of fun, with an added lemon twist on the end! It's a coming-of-age story about a young girl who has to realize that she doesn't need any guy to validate her, the power comes from within. Once Sylva gets that, she faces her fears with courage and is able to overcome her “undead” challenges she calls deadheads. Listen, I grew up enamored with Alfred … [Read more...]

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Thoughts about novel beginnings

Chuck Sambuchino is always a wealth of information – about writing, about publishing, about platforms, about finding an agent. In a guest column on the Writer Unboxed website today, he quotes many agents’ thoughts about: What Not To Do When Beginning Your Novel I’ll just share a few quotes that resonated with me. Please go to Writer Unboxed to see the full list. I just signed up to get it regularly. You may want to as well. “Prologues are usually a lazy way to give back-story chunks to the reader and can be handled with more finesse throughout the story. Damn the prologue, full speed ahead!” - Laurie McLean, Foreword Literary “The [adjective] [adjective] sun rose in the [adjective] [adjective] sky, shedding its [adjective] light across the [adjective] [adjective] [adjective] land.” - Chip MacGregor, MacGregor Literary “I know this may sound obvious, but too much ‘telling’ vs. ‘showing’ in the first chapter is a definite warning sign for me. The first chapter should pre … [Read more...]

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Novel revision next steps

I’ve finished the big read of my novel, made brief notes in my notebook – not on the book itself – to remind myself what inconsistencies and repetitions I’ve found, and I’ve hung the whole book, page by page, on six by eight foot, quarter inch foam board panels on my hall wall. (I used Moore aluminum push pins. And by the way, each board has space for thirty 8-1/2 x 11-inch sheets, which allows me some room to grow). Now I’m ready for the next step: i.e., experimenting with first person narrative. I am going to see if I can rewrite a couple scenes in first person. If that works I'll take on the job of rewriting the whole book in first person. If not, I’ll move on to Part Two of my novel revision process: rewriting and fleshing out the later chapters of the book to catch them up to the level of the first eleven chapters, which I’ve worked over several times already. Then I’ll start the real revision, starting at the top. It looks like I have months of work ahead of me. … [Read more...]

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So how was the writing workshop?

Back from four long days at the UCLA Extension Writers Program's Novel Revision Techniques workshop. And when all is said and done, I must say I got a lot out of it. The instructor, Mark Sarvas, was well prepared and he enthusiastically imparted his knowledge of novel revision. It was hard to tell that this was the first time he had ever taught this workshop. As a result I’m very tempted to sign up for his Novel IV class that starts in April. His best advice is: Read Like a Writer He also encouraged us to keep reading novels all the time. The class was really grueling. It included lectures on these subjects: The Many Drafts of the First Draft Revision Tools Structure Scene Character Language The Essential Revision Questions Mark used The Great Gatsby over and over again to illustrate his points, and believe me, he is an expert on The Great Gatsby. He reads it at the start of every year. As much as I like the book – and I like it even better now that I know some of … [Read more...]

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Ruby Sparks, a writer’s film

Zoe Kazan’s script for the new film Ruby Sparks touches on subjects I as a writer think a lot about – writer’s block and the power of artistic creation. Although I haven’t had a real bout of writer’s block, I wonder when and if it will hit. And now that I’m writing my first novel, I marvel at how my characters seem to take over the page – that my fingers are just vehicles for the words that come out of their mouths. Kazan’s take is different. Her main character in the film, a once very successful writer, ends his writer’s block by creating a character that comes to him in his dream. He falls in love with her and then wakes up one morning and finds her real, in his house, making breakfast for him. I won’t spoil what’s to come, but I highly recommend my writer friends especially see this film. Kazan also plays the main character, Ruby, along side, Paul Dano’s portrayal of the writer, Calvin. Annette Bening, Antonio Banderas, and Elliott Gould are also memorable. Here’s the traile … [Read more...]

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Overcome by writing

I’ve really been working away at my novel – at least the first three chapters. I'm getting them ready for a First Three Chapter Strongest Start competition that I plan to enter by June 22. I actually printed out a copy of the first 35 pages in no time at all with our brand new Epsom Artisan printer and did a line-by-line edit on the hard copy. Like back in the good old days. But even after reading it through, I still wasn’t satisfied with the opening – which I think is the most important part of the book. Well, I had an epiphany while I was on the elliptical this morning – even through the Queen Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee on the TV, the article I was reading in The New Yorker about the artist Christian Marclay who created a digital piece of art called The Clock, which I’m dying to see, and the mix of music on my iPhone – I was able to think about writing. That’s how it has totally taken over my life. It’s on my mind constantly. I’m never bored with it. There’s always something to … [Read more...]

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Outline a novel first or just go for it?

A recent discussion on LinkedIn in my Authors, Writers, Publishers, Editors and Writing Professional group was about the question: Do you write with an outline or without one and just from your mind? The answers are all over the place, some for an outline, some against an outline and for the free-writing approach, and some for a little of both. I am of the outline-before-writing school of thought in most cases. When I worked on proposals in the aerospace business, the maxim was plan the writing before you write – that was to have a top level outline, annotate it with details and a graphics plan, get it approved, and then begin the writing. For my novel I did it a little less formally. In the first novel workshop I ever took, I learned these steps: write the first scene, write the last scene, and write a middle scene. Then write a list of scenes that go in between and start filling in the details of those scenes. Once all that is done, go back and fill more details: results of r … [Read more...]

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The writing life – another report

Since I consider last week my first real week of retirement, I think I got through it with flying colors. I was very diligent about my writing, I got caught up with the over 500 emails in my inbox, I posted at both my blog sights (Choices and Red Room), and I began to write down my thoughts about how to get my memoir into a shape that will pass the publication hurdle. I also got very involved in watching the first season of “Damages,” the lawyer series starring Glenn Close. It’s absolutely brilliant. And, I’m as disciplined as ever about keeping to my workout schedule. I continue to write at least 300 words a day on my novel, so at this rate I should have a book draft ready very soon. I’m already about 70 pages into it. However, right now it’s a just a hodgepodge of scenes, dialogues, scene outlines, and little descriptions, and it definitely lacks a lot of necessary research. I plan to workshop it in Jessica’s Novel 2 class starting in September – unless my memoir edit is still in f … [Read more...]

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A new bucket list focus – my writing projects

Now that I'm a week and a half into my retirement it's time to lay out a plan for my writing projects. I've identified five so far: My novel. First of all I need to begin by opening the files that have laid dormant for over a month and see if I can rejuvenate my interest in it again. Then, I commit to writing 300 words a day. This really doesn't seem like a lot since I can type away for 10 minutes on my journal and I'm already at over 400 words. Two chapbook submissions. My Jazzman and The Emerging Goddess poems. I have a good foundation here. I have the current My Jazzman manuscript. However, I've decided to take out the non-Paul related poems and add some of the earlier and later poems I've written about him. That will take a little work -- deciding which ones to add and then revising as necessary. The goddess poems are what they are. I think they'll make a nice collection for a small chapbook. The memoir revision. This task is more daunting. But, I've already begun the work … [Read more...]

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More about More Magazine

A few comments about the More Magazine Reinvention Contest. Supposedly no more entries have been allowed since the end of February, but I had assumed voting could go on until March 26, the end date in the contest rules stated in the magazine. However, this week they’ve posted that the contest is over. Confusing at best. But, I think votes for me are still being counted. So please keep voting folks out there who might be reading this. This process has been a real confront for me. I’ve asked everybody I can think of to vote: family, friends, work colleagues, and old buddies from high school. And I’ve found that a lot of people had no idea about Paul’s illness and death and how it’s affected my life. And, some of the comments I’ve gotten back from people have made me cry. At one point, I started crying so hard; it felt like I was reliving the whole experience of losing Paul again. It made me wonder whether this contest was worth it. I entered it to try to establish my writer’s platfo … [Read more...]

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What I do instead of write

I’m not doing so well with my novel project. I’ve begun to develop my characters and do a little research about where they come from and where they end up living. But, so far no writing. And of course I have no excuse. I’ve sat myself down at my computer this afternoon with the full intent to rectify that and what do I do, I futz around with emails, submission guidelines for poetry contests, and searching for ways to get my friends to vote for my More magazine reinvention story. Nothing has really been done to move along my novel writing since I completed the UCLA workshop two weeks ago. But, I have gone to a few movies lately and thought about beginnings, middles, and endings – the stuff of novels I was taught – so it’s not that I haven’t been thinking about it. For example, “Valentine’s Day” had a great beginning that introduced all the many characters in the film, it had lots of funny and even poignant middle scenes, and an ending that pulled all the threads together. Some pulling … [Read more...]

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Back on the positive side

Well, even though writing a novel does takes such a long time, I might as well get started. I’ll kick myself if I live to be a lucid 100-year old and not have done it. (My mother lived to 94 so I have a good chance.) Plus, I’m already thinking about the research I’ll need. I was in the downtown shoe repair shop this morning before work, and it is just about how I remember my grandfather’s - small, old equipment, dirty, bags of repaired shoes on a shelf behind the counter, and shoe-related stuff for sale on the opposite wall - all with that strong waxy boot black smell. At some point in the book I’ll have to describe the shoe repair shop of one of the main characters, and there, right in the downtown of my home town, I have a model. I bet the owner would love an acknowledgement in my book. … [Read more...]

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So should I tackle writing a novel or not?

The 4-day Writing the First Novel workshop was great. Jessica Barksdale Inclan, the instructor and a romance novelist, has an uncanny way of giving notes on our writing without taking many notes herself. She got to know all of the nine women in the workshop, and our writing styles, our writing needs, and the stories we are telling in record time. I think that is a real talent. Plus, she has real enthusiasm for the craft that comes out full force as she speaks in her wonderful dramatic style. I’m going to have her as a guest blogger here very soon, so watch out for reminders about that. But, right now I’m in a quandary about whether to actually sit down and do the work of writing a novel after all. I’m way older than the rest of the people in the class. Those folks, all very talented, have the time. I don’t know if I do. It’s great to be this ambitious, and I might kick myself if I don’t do it – especially if I still have a lucid mind for the next 10 years or so, but should I use what … [Read more...]

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My writing light

One of my friends always says "bring on the light." With that she means bring on good vibes. And right now I seem to be receiving a lot of light about publishing resources. One person told me about the Independent Writer’s Organization of Southern California and its tremendous list of resources and links. Another person sent me the UCLA Alumni magazine that highlighted the Wordhustler web site – a perfect place to go to for help in researching, organizing, and sending out submissions. It’s seems that all of this light is telling me to get back to my writing and submissions and querying. It’s telling me to end this little hiatus I’ve taken for the last few weeks for “reasons” – lack of motivation, too much work, the dreaded month of September, completing the 45 hours continuing education needed to renew my real estate license, the house redo, whatever. It’s always easy to find a reason. Well, right now I have a reason – the light – to get back into the writing game again. And, I’ve ju … [Read more...]

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A great movie! GO!

We saw “Julie and Julia” on Sunday. A movie about a lesbian love affair? No, sorry to disappoint. This is a movie about food and cooking. The Julia is Julia Child, and the Julie is Julie Powell, who decided to write a blog about cooking every one of the Julia Child recipes in Mastering the Art of French Cooking in one year. What a brilliant idea. Plus at the end she had oodles of followers and comments and then newspaper interviewers who came to dinner and wrote about her the next day. And lo and behold she had agents and publishers leaving messages for her, practically begging her to sign with them. In the end she got both a book and a movie deal. How could anyone be so lucky and smart? Plus now the Child books are flying off the shelves of the bookstores and Amazon, and cooking schools are filling up. What a boon for the cooking business. My friend, the owner of our local French restaurant, was quoted in the article about the movie today, and I suspect his business will also … [Read more...]

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