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

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?

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?