Archive for the tag “writing”

Inspiration: Finding It In Your Own Backyard

Keeping on the theme of inspiration for NaNoWriMo, just like Dorothy states in the The Wizard of Oz, very often, “There’s no place like home.” If you’re trying to come up with an idea or a setting for your novel, sometimes you need to look no further than your own backyard, or neighborhood, or town. The most intriguing and captivating stories can be ones crafted from places and things the writer already knows. Why are these stories so captivating to readers? Because the writer is able to imbue them with details they have personal knowledge of and those details are what makes the stories pop. Yes, the old adage, “Write what you know,” is trite, but so very true.

What’s in my backyard? I live in the far northwest suburbs of Chicago, out in the cornfields. Within a couple of miles of my home is what is billed as “The World’s Largest Corn Maze” (check out RichardsonAdventureFarm.com). When I started trolling for ideas for heartbeats, Book #1 in the DeLuca Family Series, I thought it might be fun to make my female protagonist someone who grew up on a nearby farm, then went off to the university to become a doctor, and later joined a prestigious practice in Chicago. I knew I wanted to write suspense, so I thought: What if my all grown up, sophisticated protagonist has claustrophobia issues stemming from a time when she got lost in the cornfield when she was playing hide and seek when she was young? How interesting would it be if, just as she is becoming a rising star in her profession, her one-time college roommate is murdered in her Chicago apartment, and at some point in the novel, my protagonist must return home and face her fears of being lost in the corn in order to save herself and her young daughter? I also thought it would be interesting to juxtapose the two settings of the seemingly idyllic farm country and Chicago’s busy streets, both of which I have first-hand knowledge of. And there you have it; that corn maze was the spark that ignited my imagination and allowed the storyline to take off.

In a similar vein, fellow romantic suspense author Tracie Ingersoll Loy, (http://www.tracieloy.com) decided to set her Hartz Island Series (Slip Into the Night, Deep Into the Night) in the islands of the Pacific Northwest, not only because of the beauty of the area, but because she had personal knowledge of the islands. As Loy explains, “I felt comfortable using the islands as a setting because that was my backyard. My aunt and uncle ran an oyster farm there and I spent summers exploring the islands with my cousins from the time I was a small child, through my teenage years, and into adulthood.” Because of her experiences, Loy felt she could bring an authenticity to the stories that someone else might not be able to do. As her characters go about solving the mysteries of the fictitious Hartz island, Loy gives us details of what it’s like to take cover behind a madrono tree while watching kayakers come ashore in the middle of the night, or traveling on the car ferry, the only way on and off the island, or the camaraderie of the island’s inhabitants as they sip their morning coffee at the local café and discuss the body parts that are washing up on the otherwise tranquil beaches.

For cozy mystery writer Caryl Dierksen, (Teaching Mysteries 101), the choice for the setting for her first novel was also easy. An English teacher for over thirty years, she knew the ins and outs of the high school setting, the different personalities of the teachers and administrators which made every day at the school a new adventure, and a few little secrets of her building which she thought might be fun to use as a template for the setting of her book as she wrapped the mystery around it. And that’s the key: the high school she worked at was just a template, the personalities starting points, from which the ideas began sparking and her imagination took off, allowing her to create a truly fictitious novel but steeped in believable detail.

So, as you think of starting a novel, look around you, at what you see every day and what perhaps you take for granted, but look at it with a new creative eye. Your own perceptions and knowledge of your surroundings will allow you to bring it to life in a unique way that will bring authenticity to your story. That authenticity will carry your readers right along with you as you unfold the story for them, whether it be a mystery/suspense novel, romance, fantasy, or whatever, because, for inspiration for your story ideas or settings, very often, “There’s no place like home.”

Now click your heels together three times and start writing!

Until next time,

Susan Rae  

Finding Inspiration In The Company of a Roomful of Aspiring Authors for NaNoWriMo

And a few novel writing tips!Writers Toolkit Presentation, Susan Rae Intro10_1_2014 webste

Last week I had the opportunity to help present a program titled, “Building your Writer’s Tool Box,” with fellow authors Elizabeth Harmon and Caryl Dierksen. The idea was to give inspiration to writers along with some tips on how to write a complete novel in a month as they gear up along with thousands of other writers who will attempt to write a complete novel in November: National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo.)

I have to say, though, that I was the one inspired by the forty or so aspiring novelists gathered for the presentation. There is something so soul soothing about being in a room full of people who get what you do and why you do it. Seeing all those eager faces, pens poised ready to take notes, excited to get started, I could almost feel my brain and heart give a huge sigh, just before all those creative synapses started firing again as if I’d had a triple mocha latte. These people understand what it means when characters are talking in your head, wake you up in the middle of the night as you try to reconcile an argument they’ve had, insist on turning your story in one direction when you had planned on them doing something completely different. They also understand the need to write, the urge to create, despite any obstacles that might be tossed your way. Read more…

Beta Readers–You’ve got to love them!

Or…What happens when they point out something in your novel that could make it stronger but would require some significant revising just days before your first edits are due back to your editor?

In a perfect world, you would have finished your manuscript and sent it to your Beta readers long before your first edits come back.  Ah yes…in a perfect world. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always happen.

So, what do you do? First of all, you have to believe in your Beta Readers.  For that, you cannot have just anyone as a
Beta Reader. You need people you trust. People who are not going to love anything you write just because you wrote it, but people who read a lot, and read in the genre that you write. They don’t all have to be writers themselves, but one or two writers in the group is nice, especially if one of them has editing experience also.  How many readers should you have?  That’s up to you.  I have four whose opinions I value highly.

So now you’re Beta Readers have read the manuscript and pointed out some things that you might have missed in the story: things that were not said, but maybe should have been said; things you assumed readers would understand but that did not come across clearly in the manuscript; things that didn’t sound quite right to your readers; etc.  You take all their comments to heart, decide which ones you need to address and fix some, but you don’t necessarily make all the changes they suggest. Sometimes only one reader will have a problem with something and you have to decide if it is really is a problem or not.  Occasionally, however, there is an item that multiple readers come up with.

That’s what happened to me with TRUE blue, and to be honest, it was a change I was toying with as I wrote the novel, but had decided to leave as I originally envisioned.  Now, though, just days before the edits are due, three bring up this main point and feel the storyline would be stronger if I do this little change, which really isn’t so little as it is interwoven throughout the entire book!

Of course, I’m not going to tell you what it is. 🙂 That might spoil the story for you.  But I had to ask myself before I did any changes to the manuscript, would this main change really make the story stronger?  Would it make a significant enough difference in the character arch to justify the revisions? And, what did my editor think about it?  I sent off an email to my editor. She replied that she really didn’t see a problem, that the story worked just fine the way it was, but yes, changing it would work, also.  It was up to me to decide.  I still needed to meet the deadline, though.

So now what do I do?  Well, I decided to work through all of the edits first while I mulled over the bigger change. Finally, when all the edits were done, I decided that yes, in my heart I knew that what my Beta readers were telling me was true–and, although it would require more work, I also knew that I owed it to myself to put out the best work I possibly could. I made a new manuscript file, figured out the best way to make the change with the least amount of revising, and dove in.

Two days later, the manuscript, complete with all edits addressed and the new changes incorporated, was done–two days before I said I’d have it back to the editor. Yeah!

And yes, I do believe the story is stronger for it.

So, Beta Readers…It takes a lot of courage to put a manuscript out there to your first readers.  But if you want comments, be ready to accept what they give you, and be ready to put the work in if they come up with an item that might require a fairly significant revision. Of course, as a writer, one way to look  it is as just another awesome challenge to get the story just right.

To all my Beta Readers…Love you. Thanks! To my readers, only FIVE MORE WEEKS until TRUE blue’s release.  Until then, I thought I would leave you with this tease…

Sometimes we must revisit the past to embrace our future.

Twenty-four years ago, the murder of a Chicago police officer changed Joey DeLuca’s life.  He lost his best friend and first love, Meghan McConnell, when her mother whisked her out of town.  Now, on the eve of another officer’s death, Meghan is back and about to step into his life again.

There is very little gray in Joey’s line of work as a Lt. Detective–it is either black or white, right or wrong. But Meghan’s insistence on finding answers to her father’s murder threatens those beliefs and throws his marriage to CPD Detective Andi, his career, and the entire DeLuca family in jeopardy when new revelations come to light.

Can Joey save his marriage, solve the murder, and keep his family together all at the same time?

Until next time,

Happy Reading!

Susan Rae 

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