The Saga of a New Writing Chair

IMGP8811

 

My computer chair has been everything I could ask for, but I recognize that it’s time for a new one. I just didn’t think it would be so hard. My current chair was a present from my mom and I remember us laughing as she read the directions and I slowly put it together. We were so proud of ourselves when it was completed and then laughed again when we noted that my dad would have put it together in about five minutes.

It took time to find this chair. I don’t like leather and it was hard to find a chair that wasn’t (fake leather wasn’t much in use at that time). So I bought a fabric-covered chair in navy blue with a short back and roomy seat. One of my brothers dropped in one day, saw the chair and said “Mine.” Never mind sitting on the couch or rocking chair!

But…eventually the padding wore down, in both the seat and the arms. Using a pillow changed how the chair’s back aligned with mine. So I went shopping.

I found what I thought was a perfect replacement: Fake black leather, cushy but firm enough not to get sleepy in. It was delivered yesterday and I had paid extra for the store to assemble it.

It was returned that same afternoon. Someone had assembled it incorrectly so that it didn’t tilt back. I spent hours trying to figure out what was wrong, followed by numerous phone calls to the store. They suggested bringing it back to fix but I knew I was done with it. Why hadn’t I noticed that the back was so high? Or the seat so much more narrow than my battered darling? Where was the love as I placed it in front of the computer?

So I’m taking a step back before searching again. I know I need a new chair. I just hadn’t realized how attached I was to this one. Silly, isn’t it?

 

My Dad and Writing

ID-100276193

*

 

Yesterday in the US was Father’s Day. My dad is gone (as is my mom) but both supported my efforts to write while I had a full-time job. For common sense, they couldn’t be beat. So I’m going to share my dad’s wisdom on writing that I’ve used as a yardstick ever since.

I had read a writing magazine that extolled the virtues of one type of writing. It’s formulaic! It makes money!

By the end of the issue, I was convinced to write a book in that genre for some quick and easy cash. I typed one paragraph and cringed. I couldn’t write another word but I was so disappointed in myself.

I went to the living room where my dad watched TV and told him what I’d tried to do. He said words that are engraved on my heart:

“You start out writing garbage, you end up writing garbage.”

What he meant, of course, is not that that unnamed genre was garbage—just that it wasn’t right for me. And to write solely for the money and not with any part of my heart was simply wrong.

He didn’t make me feel like a failure because I couldn’t do it.

Thanks dad. Miss you still.

 

 

Image courtesy of sattva at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

Choosing a Title? Avoid These Two Crucial Mistakes

ID-10073138

*

 

I knew someone online who wrote her first novel and did a lot of good things to publicize it. She mentioned it in forums where she was known and created a website and live-action trailer to promote it. I was impressed with the care and effort she took.

But I cringed when I saw her title. Was it horrifying or disgusting? No. But she never ran a search before choosing it. There were 44 books with the same title already in existence. Within a week, a search of her title showed her buried on page three at Amazon.

Ouch.

Titles are not copyrightable. There’s no way to stop someone from using one that’s been used before. If you absolutely, positively have your heart set on a specific title you still need to run that search. If there are too many in print, rethink it. Play around with the words, dig out The Synonym Finder, and focus on your theme. While it’s best for a title to be unique, if there are only a few other books that use it, it’s fine as long as you remain on the first page.

The second problem with her title (and no, I’m not telling the name of the book) was that I couldn’t see any connection to the somewhat lengthy synopsis I read. The title and cover art matched but all three needed to be in sync. Short of reading the book, I had no clue why she chose that title.

What upset me was how simple these two mistakes were and how much they cost her. Being an indie author is hard enough without shooting ourselves in the foot.

To recap:

  1. Make your title relevant to the story.
  1. Run an online search to find out if others have used it for their book.
  1. If there are so many that your book might end up on page two or worse, change it.

I didn’t come up with a title for my novel until it was almost completed. And I ended up changing it to something totally different by the time I began working with a cover artist. (This is the sanitized version, omitting the screams of frustration and foot stomping.) I liked my first title but my writers’ group gave me valuable feedback and I realized that I needed to give my novel its best shot.

Doesn’t yours deserve the same?

 

 

* Image courtesy of adamr at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

Wordy? Cut It Out!

ID-100113154

*

Last week I discussed using an object to add depth to a scene. But it’s easy to overdo it. How many times have you read so much detail in a story that your eyes glazed over? You know the one I mean:

She tapped one glossy red nail on the black lacquered table. She pushed her tinted blond hair with her other hand and caught her reflection in the side mirror. Her green eyes squinted slightly. Her clothes were…

Sorry, I had to stop. Writing that was making me cringe. There were too many colors, too much description and there was no need for it.

I’ve read stories in which the character undressed and went to bed. Unfortunately, each article of clothing (including socks and belt!) was described as the character changed out of his work clothes and into pajamas before he crawled beneath the covers. Why?

And then there was the book that used twenty pages—twenty!—to describe a character with amnesia who was walking around a city. I summarized it as, “he couldn’t remember who he was and he was lost.” Twenty pages, people.

I’ve been guilty of this as well. I wrote my novel as one long story with no chapter breaks. So each time my characters moved to a new location, I had to write how they got there. When I finally split the story into chapters, I saw how unnecessary all that movement was (not to mention repetitive. How many times can a character get in and out of a car?). It was far easier to end a chapter and have them at the new location in the next one. The reader can fill in the blanks and doesn’t miss a thing.

What is the point of the description? Does it set the stage, help the reader see better, move the story along? Is it necessary? Or is it just padding?

Imagine your story had been written by someone else. Would you want to read every word? If you’re not sure, put it aside for a few weeks and then read it again. A little distance can offer perspective.

And if you can’t bear to cut that beautifully crafted sentence that describes something so personal and heartfelt to you, do what I do: cut the sentence and put it in a file. There will always be another story.

 

 * Image courtesy of thawats at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

 

Using Objects—A Writer’s Eye

Does everyone recognize what this door leads to?

 

IMGP8785

 

It’s an elevator. I never gave it much thought until a friend told me she had never seen one of these in real life. It made me take a closer look.

True, new elevators don’t have doorknobs. Or little windows so I can see when it’s coming to my floor. When it stops, I can see inside the elevator car. That’s my cue to grab the doorknob and open the door. (Don’t worry, there’s a safety lock—if the elevator isn’t there, the outer door won’t open.)

But to me, it’s just an elevator. It never occurred to me that there are people in this city who never saw one like this or would be excited to know it exists.

Suddenly, it wasn’t just an elevator anymore. It had possibilities. My fingers twitched even though no solid plot evolved. I know that when I sit down to write about this amazing, magical elevator, the story will come.

Everyone has something right in front of them that they’re not seeing. Take a look around your house. Your street. Look at the buildings, the transportation available, the stores. It’s all magical. You can do a lot with gravel in the driveway.

But what if you don’t write fantasy?

An elevator like this one would be a nice little detail to slip into a description. It offers many meanings as well. Either you’re writing a period piece or your character entered into an old building. Or something else you might think of. You can use it to add depth to the surroundings and then move on.

These are the details that will help make your stories authentic, even in fantasy.

Subscribe via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Recent Posts