Showing posts with label resolutions. Show all posts
Showing posts with label resolutions. Show all posts

01 January 2019

The Power of Tenacity

by Barb Goffman

I planned to title this column the Power of Persistence and to write about writing goals. It seemed perfect for January 1st, when so many people make resolutions for the new year. And I do love alliteration. But then I thought, maybe "tenacity" would be a better word than "persistence." The Power of Tenacity might not have the same cadence as the Power of Persuasion, but is it more on point? I had always treated the words as synonyms, but maybe they aren't, I began to think. Maybe I should check. So I did, and it turns out there's an important difference between the two words.

Persistence means trying repeatedly to reach a goal through the same method, figuring eventually you'll succeed. Tenacity means trying to reach a goal through varying methods, learning from each failure and trying different approaches. For anyone with goals for 2019, tenacity seems the better approach.

How does this apply to writing? First, let's talk about getting writing done. Everyone has their own method. Some people write every morning before daybreak. Others write at night. Some people say they will write for a set number of hours each day. Others say they'll write as long as it takes to meet a daily quota. Some people plot out what they're going to write. Others write by the seat of their pants. It doesn't matter what your approach is, as long as it works for you. So with the new year here, perhaps this is a good time to take stock of your approach. Is your approach working for you? Are you getting enough writing done? Enough revision done? Are you making the best use of your time?

I have a friend (and editing client) who used to be a pantser. But she found that after finishing every draft, she had so many loose ends to address and problems to fix, it took her much longer to revise than she'd like. So she started forcing herself to plot before she began writing each book. Not detailed outlines, but she figures out who kills whom, how, and why, what her subplot will be (again, just the basics), and what her theme is. These changes in her approach have enabled her to be so much more productive. She writes faster now, and she needs less time for revision. That's tenacity in action.

Moving on to a finished product, how do you react to rejection? If you have a rejected short story, for instance, after you finish cursing the universe, do you find another venue and send that story out immediately? Or do you re-read it and look for ways to improve it? And if a story has been rejected several times (there's no shame here; we've all been there), do you keep sending it out anyway or put it in a drawer to let it cool off for a few months or years until perhaps the market has changed or your skills have improved?

If sending a story out a few times without revising after each rejection usually results in a sale for you, great. Then your persistence works, and it means you have more time for other projects. But if it doesn't, if you find yourself sending a story out a dozen times without success, then perhaps you should consider a new approach. After a story is rejected, say, three times, maybe you should give it a hard look and see how it can be changed. Maybe you should let it sit in a drawer for a while first, so when you review it, you'll have a fresh take.

And if you're getting a lot of rejections, perhaps it's time to re-evaluate your markets or what you write. I know some writers who started their careers writing science fiction, but it turned out that they were much better suited to writing mysteries. Once they let their true selves out on the page, they started making sales. I know a writer who's been working on a novel for years, but she can't seem to finish it. Yet she's had a lot of success with short stories. If she were to decide to only write short stories and let the novel lie fallow, that wouldn't be a failure; it would be tenacity in action: finding what works for her.

I was about to write that the one thing you shouldn't do is give up, but there might be value in letting go. If your goal is to write a novel or short story, but you never seem to finish your project, and the mere thought of working on it feels like drudgery instead of joy, then maybe being a professional writer isn't for you. There's no shame in that. Not every person is suited to every task. When I was a kid I loved swimming, but I was never going to make a swim team. I wasn't fast enough. Maybe with a lot of practice and other changes I could have gotten there, but I didn't want to take those steps. And that's okay. I enjoyed swimming for the fun of it, and that was enough for me. Maybe writing for yourself, without the pressure of getting to write "The End," is what gives you joy. If so, more power to you. And maybe it turns out you don't want to finish that book or story you started writing. That's okay too, even if you did tell everyone that you were writing it. You're allowed to try things and stop if it turns out they aren't the right fit for you.

But if you believe writing is the right fit, yet your writing isn't as productive as you want it to be, or your sales aren't as good as you want them to be, then be tenacious. Evaluate your approaches to getting writing done, to editing your work, to seeking publication. Maybe you need to revise how you're doing things. Are you writing in the morning but are more alert in the evening? Change when you write. Is your work typically ready to be sent out into the world as soon as you finish? If you get a lot of rejections, maybe it's not. Maybe you need to force yourself to let your work sit for a while after you finish, so you can review it again with fresh eyes before you start submitting. Do you have a contract, but your books aren't selling as well as you'd like? Perhaps you should find someone you trust who can try to help you improve. No matter how successful you are, there's always something new to learn. The key is to figure out what works for you and keep doing it, and also figure out what isn't working for you and change it.

That, my fellow writers, is my advice for 2019. Be tenacious. Evaluate what you want, and evaluate your methods for getting there. If your methods aren't working, change them. And if in six months your new methods aren't working, change them again. Work hard. Work smart. And be sure to enjoy yourself along the way, because if you're not enjoying writing, why bother doing it?

***

And now for a little BSP: I usually have one or two of my short stories up on my website so folks can get a feel for my fiction writing style. I just changed those stories. Now you can read "Bug Appétit" (which was published in the November/December 2018 issue of Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine) and "The Case of the Missing Pot Roast" (from the 2018 Bouchercon Anthology, Florida Happens). For "Bug Appétit"click here, and for "The Case of the Missing Pot Roast" click here. Happy reading. And I hope you have a wonderful new year.

02 January 2018

Writer’s Resolutions 2018 – Fragile: Do Not Break

by Paul D. Marks

Well, since it’s the day after the New Year, I thought I’d come up with some writer’s resolutions. Not that I feel I need any as I’m so perfect – just ask my wife. But what the hell?


My prose will not be written in passive voice. I will not be plagued by this bad writing habit. This is one resolution that will definitely be kept.

And I’ll try to use “but” and “and” and “just” just a little bit less. But I like using them and they make me feel like the narrator is a real person talking like a real person does. Really.

Take criticism better: My wife, Amy, is my number one beta reader. And she’s a damn good critic and editor, but sometimes I just don’t like hearing what she has to say. Not that she’s wrong, just that she likes to make more work for me. I like to think everything I write is straight from the muse to the page. But she feels like she has to get between the muse and me. Most of the time, about 2/3 to 3/4, I take her advice, grumbling all the way. But in the end, I think the work is better for it.

Try not to be jealous of others’ successes: I’m always happy to see other people have success, but there’s always that tinge of envy. So I’ll try to squash the tinge and complain less. As others have pointed out, there’s always someone looking at you (me) wishing they had what I had. But I guess that’s the human condition.

Get up from the desk more often: Amy gave me a Fitbit, and it’s pretty-pretty cool. It buzzes to yell at me and tells me to get up and walk around, which I do just so it will stop shouting at me. And I do walk the dogs and other things, but sometimes when you’re in the zone you just want to keep writing. But it bugs me to get off my ass and walk around…so I do. Just to shut it up.


Do less Facebooking: Oh, yeah, that’s gonna happen. FB is my watercooler. Since I work at home and we live in the middle of nowhere (not quite as nowhere as the abandoned missile silo that I tried to talk Amy into, but that’s another story) it’s good to have a place to connect with people. It gives me a place to see what others are up to and thinking. Chat and feel like I have friends. Well, I could stand less posts about politics and more cute cat videos.

Stop calling surfing the net research: I love surfing the net. I love doing research. Sometimes when I’m surfing the net, looking up Indian head test patterns and how to murder someone and get away with it, I can talk myself into thinking I’m doing research. Or like when I was writing my 1940s homefront mystery and I spent hours just looking up big band leaders and listening to their songs on YouTube. Y’know, research, even though I only needed one song and already had picked one.

Spend less time on e-mails: I do tend to spend a lot of time on e-mails, reading them, responding to them, crafting them. It’s kind of like the Facebook thing, keeps me in touch with the outside world. Our phone hardly rings anymore. Uh, Take 2: Our phone rings many times a day…but it’s almost never from people we know. One telemarketer after another. So we don’t even bother to answer anymore, but we do feel we should keep the landline. Mostly I connect with people via e-mail or another type of electronic communication. But I’m not big on texting…yet. Still, every once in a while it’s nice to actually hear someone’s voice. But not too often!

Get back to the novel that’s been dangling for a couple of years now…and rewriting the first novel that was accepted by a publisher: I have a novel that I like quite a bit that’s about half-finished but for various reasons has been languishing. And I really want to get back to it, but something always seems to come up that takes priority. And I also want to rework somewhat the first novel that a publisher picked up. I may have mentioned this before, but the first novel I completed was accepted for publication at a major house. It was a satire on a screenwriter trying to make it in Hollywood. Eventually, the whole editorial staff at that publisher was swept out and, as a new broom sweeps clean, my book was swept out with them. And since the humor was topical it was pretty dated even after only a couple of years so it couldn’t really go to another publisher. The lesson: don’t write things that are so topical that their shelf life is shorter than yogurt left on the counter on a steaming, hot day. Remember what George S. Kaufman said, satire is what closes Saturday night. Story of my life. But I’ve learned a lesson – No Topical Humor.


Be kind to the computer: Like Amy says there are no dumb computers, only dumb humans. But I beg to differ. It’s usually the computer that makes the mistake – not me…

Write 10000 5000 2000 100 words a day. This one’s self-explanatory.

Well, there you have it. Gotta run, gotta hit Facebook. Gotta start breaking those resolutions. It wouldn’t do to have any of them unbroken after the third of January, would it?

What are your resolutions? And which ones do you plan to break first?


Happy New Year to Everyone! Now get busy breaking those resolutions.



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Please join me on Facebook: www.facebook.com/paul.d.marks and check out my website www.PaulDMarks.com



27 December 2016

The Best Protagonists Resolve to Take Action

by Barb Goffman

As we head into the new year, thoughts often turn to making resolutions. To drink more water maybe. (I often pick that one.) To exercise more. (I don't often pick that one.) Maybe to read more books. (That's a good one!)

Resolutions ultimately are about taking control over your life, improving things by effecting change, not waiting for someone else to do it for you. That make-it-happen attitude is great for real life. And it's also great for mystery protagonists. It's much more
interesting to read about a damsel who saves herself rather than waiting for the knight on his horse. In the same vein, it's more gripping to read about an accused murderer who sets out to find the real killer rather than watching him waiting and worrying, hoping the cops and prosecutors--or even a jury--realize they've blamed the wrong guy.

Both my short stories published this year have characters who make things happen, for better or worse. In "Stepmonster," a woman blames her stepmother for her father's death, so she sets out to avenge him. In "The Best Laid Plans," the lifetime achievement honoree (LAH) of a mystery convention is dissed publicly by the convention's guest of honor (GOH) just weeks before the event begins. The LAH responds by saying nothing publicly, trying to appear the better person. But she also plans some non-lethal dirty tricks so that the GOH suffers during the convention. Or so she hopes.

The protagonists in both stories might not be reacting in an emotionally healthy manner to their situations, but that's okay. In fact, it's better than okay. It's great. By resolving to get revenge, they set in motion a stream of events that are, I hope, page-turning. (You can find out for yourself. Both stories are available on my website for your reading pleasure. Head over to www.barbgoffman.com and click on each story title from the links on the home page.)

Many other crime stories were published this year with protagonists who take charge. Here are a few from the anthology Chesapeake Crimes: Storm Warning (in which "Stepmonster" appeared):

  • In "Cabin Fever" by Timothy Bentler-Jungr, a young woman trapped by a blizzard with her abusive boyfriend takes desperate action.
  • In "Stormy, With a Chance of Murder" by Alan Orloff, a weatherman takes advantage of a bad rainstorm to try to win his ex-girlfriend back.
  • In "The Last Caving Trip" by Donna Andrews, a reluctant caver seeks to rid himself of a frenemy.
  •  In "The Gardener" by Kim Kash, when a lawn-maintenance man mars her garden oasis repeatedly, an avid gardener strikes back.
  •  In "Parallel Play" by our own Art Taylor, a mother in a deadly situation learns how far she'll go for her child.
The key in all the stories is the protagonist isn't passive. She takes action. And it's those actions from which the story unfolds. Have you read any great short stories this year with protagonists who make things happen? I'd love to hear about them. Please share in the comments.

In the meanwhile, get busy on those new year's resolutions. I hope one of them involves reading.

01 January 2014

Being Resolute

by Robert Lopresti


(The pictures in this column are intended to point out something incredibly cool.  The British Library just placed more than one million illustrations from their books on Flickr.  All public domain, yours to use at will.  Wow!)

Back in 2009 I blogged  a list of New Year's Resolutions.  Last year I did it again, but that time I generously made a list for various fictional characters, hoping to improve their lives.

Well, it appears that my turn in the barrel is New Year's Day so I can't resist the chance to do it again, but this time instead of advising characters I am going to offer some useful suggestions to their creators.  I trust you will add a few in the Comments section.  If you don't I will assume you are too badly hungover to function and send someone to your house to preach temperance.  So be warned.

Horror movie writers hereby resolve not to let their characters split up when they know they are in danger, unless it has already been established that they are idiots.

Chic Lit writers resolve not to their characters use their devious feminine wiles to get something they could have just by asking, unless a point is being made about their personality.

Private eye writers resolve to get their heroes' sociopathic sidekicks some therapy. 

Noir writers resolve to remember that to be noir a work must  include crime, not merely be depressing.

Cozy writers resolve to remember that murderers need motives.

Humourous writers resolve to be funny (I'm lookin' at you, Lopresti).

Police procedural writers resolve to prevent their officers from doing things that would get their cases kicked out of court, unless it is established that they are aware of the danger.


Suspense writers
resolve to admit that not every criminal has a super-intellect and obscenely good luck.

Thriller writers resolve to consider the possibility that ninety percent of all conspiracies consist of one dummy screwing up and a lot of smart people making a mess trying to hide it.

Courtroom drama writers  resolve to  occasionally show a judge who doesn't hate the  hero.

Any other suggestions?

07 January 2013

New Project For a New Year

by Fran Rizer




 

We are seven days into the new year, so a blog about resolutions is not really timely, and besides, other SSers have  addressed that issue.  Aside from the moment having passed for my resolutions, most of mine never lasted a full week anyway.

So...why am I going to tell you what I am resolved to do in the next six months?
Probably for two reasons.  First, because I'm excited about it, and second, because I don't really have anything I'd rather share today.

On December 18, 2012, Dale's post "Christmas Stories: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly" set me thinking.  Why haven't I ever written a Christmas story?  I decided it wasn't too late to remedy that situation, but first, I had to consider whether to write a Callie Christmas story or a pen-name Christmas story. I chose Callie although there's already a Callie book coming out in 2013 --Mother Hubbard Has A CORPSE IN THE CUPBOARD.  

Would Bella Rosa Books publish two Callies in one year?  After all,  the publishing big dogs didn't think Stephen King's readers would want two novels in less than twelve months.    Get real, Fran, I said to myself, you're not a female Stephen King-----damn it!  I called my publisher and explained the situation. 

His response: "We'll do it if you have the completed manuscript to me by June."  That wasn't disturbing  because I wrote my second and third Callies in six months each. It did mean setting aside a half-written project, but it will be there when this is finished. My next concern was a title because while titles of pen-name books usually come to me during the writing and are frequently changed often during the process, I always want a title before beginning a Callie mystery.

Out came the Mother Goose book.  The only rhyme that lent itself to a Christmas theme was "Little Jack Horner sat in a corner, eating his Christmas pie." Nothing there.  Discussing it in the car, Aeden came up with On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me A DEAD MAN UNDER A CHRISTMAS TREE.  My titles have been long in the past, but nothing that long.  Then we got the idea of incorporating the opening words into a visual that might be a cover idea which would get the message across yet diminish the effect of the length of the opening clause.


ON
THE
FIRST
DAY OF
CHRISTMAS MY
TRUE LOVE GAVE
TO
  ME  

A DEAD MAN UNDER
A CHRISTMAS TREE
A Callie Parrish Mystery

I envision the above on a white background with author's name in black Edwardian script at the bottom and a chalk outline of Santa with A DEAD MAN UNDER A CHRISTMAS TREE superimposed over him.  One of the many things I like about Bella Rosa Books is that they give me far more input on production than my previous publishers, while their art department can take an idea and create a professional version of it.


  
Ten axes grinding instead of
ten lords a leapin.'
Seven guns a smokin'
instead of seven
swans a swimmin.'
Singing "The Twelve Days of Christmas" all the way to Jacksonville resulted in exchanging the gifts.
Nine doggies howling instead of
nine ladies dancing.
We have substituted mystery/murder presents for each line of the song, and I'm using the new lines as chapter headings.  I won't share them all with you, but the plot and chapter headings are working well together.

What about you?  Did you make resolutions?  Do you have a new project for the new year?


Until we meet again. . . take care of you!

02 January 2013

Being Resolute, Third Person

by Robert Lopresti

January 2 seems like a good day to make New Year's Resolutions.  Not for me of course.  If I got any closer to perfection I might be carried bodily off to heaven, and then poor David would have to blog every Wednesday.  But since it is better to give than to receive I have developed some resolutions for other people.  I hope they take them to heart.

Sherlock Holmes resolves to lay off the 7% solution.

Miss Marple resolves to patent her formula for removing bloodstains from hand-knitted woolens.

KInsey Milhone resolves to join the twenty-first century.

Jack Reacher resolves to buy a second pair of underpants.

John Dortmunder resolves to stick to the straight and narrow, as soon as he can steal a compass.

Doctor Watson resolves to write a piece for a medical journal about the curious case of his ever-moving wound.

The Black Widowers Club resolves to get through one damned meeting without investigating a mystery.


Nero Wolfe resolves not to work so hard, and to spend more time at home.

Perry Mason resolves to let the D.A win one for once.

Father Brown, Lieutenant Columbo, Parker, and Spenser all resolve to get first names.

Archie Goodwin resolves to memorize the address of the brownstone where he has been living for forty years.

Trompie Kramer and Mickey Zondi resolve to stay the hell away from Winnie Mandela.

Hawk, Win Horne Lockwood III, Joe Pike, and Snake resolve to form a Union of Sociopathic Sidekicks, and demand  better treatment.

The boys at the 87th Precinct resolve to make a list of all variations of  "The Deaf Man" in all romance languages, so they'll recognize his pseudonym if the bastard shows up again.

Professor Moriarity resolves to avoid chills, such as may be found on Alpine hills.

Sam Spade resolves not to play the sap for you.

Suggestions?