Tuesdays with Terry – Part 11

*As this is the last of the series, I want to take a moment to say a special Thank You to Terrance Foxxe for contributing posts for out Tuesdays with Terry segment! If you’ve missed it, be sure to check out the previous installments as it is jam packed full of information that any writer can use! Also, be sure to check out his books, and don’t forget, he has his own blog, too!

Now on with the show!*

Notes From a Twenty Year Almost Career. The guest musings of Indie Author Terrance Foxxe

 

Part Eleven

 

You want me to pretend I’m in front of an audience, and read it aloud? You’ve got to be kidding!

Nope. Believe it or not your ears will pick up on mistakes in grammar and pacing and sentences that don’t work, faster than your eye will. Reading may be done with the eyes, but the brain actuallyhears the words.

Silently, as you read any book or magazine, your brain hears it as if you are reading it out loud. Try to skim over the words of a favorite author, and see if you remember half of what was said five minutes later. Now relax, and read for the pleasure of it, imitating the voice the author has set down for you with sentence construction and punctuation. How much do you remember after five minutes?

I resisted doing this for the longest time, simply because I felt stupid doing it. Now I feel exceptionally stupid for not doing it.

I live in a house with very little privacy, and my wife and sons are not interested in what I do. Not really. Plus, well, as I said, I felt stupid.

There are writer’s groups, and you may be asked to read for them.

I don’t know. Me, I don’t do writer’s groups. I tried a writer’s group once, but I found a bad one. I arrived at the first meeting with high expectations, only to find most there were talking about writing, and not doing any writing. Okay, I thought, I’ll see about reading something I’m working on. Not to lead the group, but to get something productive done. I craved feedback.

I read, and then I was raked across the coals so hard . . . For forty-five minutes, I timed it, this little guy ranted about how my Horror should have humor, and basically, be just like his stuff. I told him it was my sandbox, and I’ll play in it any way I want. I left so angry I couldn’t see straight. I tried again, another meeting, and was sucker punched. I was told I was uncooperative. That sandbox remark came back to haunt me.

I never went back, and didn’t bother to look for another writer’s group. I tried to start one of my own.

The first question I was asked? “Are you published?” The answer then was no, and my small group never showed up for a second meeting. The all wanted me to give them the secret. The Magic Formula.

I was on my own, no computer, no feedback other than my many rejection slips. Hell, I would have killed for “The Magic Formula!”

Online writer’s groups can be a bad or good thing. Ghost the posts for a while, see what’s what, then decide for yourself. A good group doesn’t meddle with content, understanding that this is your sandbox, and you’ll play in it however you want. They should concentrate on the mechanics of good writing. Style, not content. Style is grammar, punctuation or logical progression. Too much detail? Not enough detail? The mechanics of writing.

I’m very happy with my content, but want to know if I missed something.

“I can’t see where you’re going with this.” Of course you can’t, and you should know that yourself. Hell, if someone out there can tell where a novel is going in just three fucking chapters, I want to meet them and kiss their ass.

I try to limit my own comments on how they can make their own writing better. If the writing is great, but they misspelled a word, I let them know about the typo and tell them it’s great. So . . .

What is The Magic Formula?

To be truthful, there is no such thing.

The magic to all this is a matter of knowing just what the hell it is you’re doing, and why the hell you’re doing it. Knowledge is power. That’s the magic.

I hope you enjoyed my series. Now, go buy my books! Find out for yourself if I’m full of shit. I might surprise you with a great, provocative novel.

******

Terrance Foxxe is crazy enough to share everything he knows about catering to readers, because readers matter most to the Indie Author of today, and tomorrow. He had two books published under his real name, only to discover publishers really suck. After being royally ripped off and then some, he is the Indie Author of A Post-apocalyptic Story of Love,$2.99 USD & In The Dreaming, $0.99, both for the Kindle. Links provided. He’s now a happy man. Buy his books. Read them. Write reviews.

Post Apocalyptic Love Story

The Dreaming

He blogs at http://terrancefoxxe.blogspot.com/

Tuesdays with Terry – Part 10

Notes From a Twenty Year Almost Career. The guest musings of Indie Author Terrance Foxxe

Part Ten

 

Proofreading is tedious. Editing is hard.

Yes it is.

I used to write a story and be done with it. Well, doing it that way makes for a bad story.

Before I edit a story for the first time I let it rot in a drawer for as many months as I need to forget my story. When I pull my story out for the first time, I’m looking at it with new and fresh eyes.

The miracle that is new and fresh eyes! You have no idea how formidable on your ego it is to look at your own hard work with new and fresh eyes. Words that work jump out at you and inflates your pride. Linguistic bombs detonating in your face inflates your sense of stupidity.

I may repeat this process as often or as little as needed. Only I know when I’m done, and I’m done when each novel reads as good if not better than what you find coming out of the big six, mainstream publishing houses. 150% effort to be the best, 99.8% mistake free. A professional read.

You ever labor over a paper, getting everything perfect, set it down, come back to it, look down and see a typo you swear to God was not there an hour ago? It took a while, but I finally figured out what does that. Your brain. My brain, too.

How? Your eye takes in thousands of bits of information each and every second. Your brain processes the information into your reality, but there are always gaps in the information you receive. Your brain automatically fills in those gaps. It gives you continuity.

A wonderful gift, continuity. It keeps you sane. Unless you happen to be a writer. Then what your brain has been doing all of your life seems to work against you. Insidious, isn’t it?

Here’s a tip I’ll pass along to you, dear reader. You can break up the continuity your brain uses to give you that annoying typo when you least expect it. Yes, you too can learn to outsmart nature.

EDIT IN REVERSE!

Start with the last paragraph first. It works amazingly well. I find I can concentrate on individual sentences, every mark of punctuation, catch every typo and grammar gaffe. It takes practice.

Editing in reverse also gives you a very good idea when to kill them babies you suffered through. What I mean by this are sentences that read good when you were constructing the story, but now read poorly when you edit in reverse. Sentences or words that are stuck into your story like a pencil stuck into your eye. Delete them. In fact, if you have a three thousand word story, pretend your job is to cut three hundred words out of it. That’s story, minus ten percent. You’ll have a better story in your hands when you’re done. Even if all you managed to cut were a hundred words, you will have a better story.

When you proofread, you want every sentence constructed to say what you mean. Every comma and period in place. Every single word spelled right. The right word used (affect or effect) for the meaning you intend. That takes practice.

Knowledge and practice, that is. That again is where reading for fun and self-education comes in handy. Let other writer’s published works teach you writing that works.

Again, a good book on editing is: Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King. Illustrations by George Booth. Subtitled: How To Edit Yourself Into Print. Harper Perennial.

******

Terrance Foxxe is crazy enough to share everything he knows about catering to readers, because readers matter most to the Indie Author of today, and tomorrow. He had two books published under his real name, only to discover publishers really suck. After being royally ripped off and then some, he is the Indie Author of A Post-apocalyptic Story of Love,$2.99 USD & In The Dreaming, $0.99, both for the Kindle. Links provided. He’s now a happy man. Buy his books. Read them. Write reviews.

Post Apocalyptic Love Story

The Dreaming

He blogs at http://terrancefoxxe.blogspot.com/

 

Tuesdays with Terry – Part 9

Notes From a Twenty Year Almost Career. The guest musings of Indie Author Terrance Foxxe

Part Nine

 

Checklists are a complete waste of time.

Every writer has to keep track of just about everything in their writing career. I have many lists going at the same time for different reasons. I have a calendar, planning my day. What needs to be done.

My “how to write well” checklist runs about fifteen to twenty pages. I say that because it’s a fluid thing. Most of the time I’m adding to it. I review all of it at least six times a year. Page one deals in scene construction.

My checklists are what I’ve found pertinent to the understanding of my writing. Stuff like, Resist the Urge to Explain, with an example: Rather than telling your reader your car is trash, tie a wire to your starter and touch the other end to your hot battery cable to start it. You can pump the gas with that lever thingee on the side of your carburetor.

Book after book after book, I did just about everything I could think of to figure out just what it was I was doing wrong, not realizing what I was doing right.

I cut or converted into scenes narrative summaries. I hardly ever mentioned emotion, writing scenes to show emotion and help my characters breathe. How I could have a character’s history in my head, and use only what was necessary of that history to highlight an action or reaction. Why too much technical information can kill a story.

Name it. I had it all and used it all. I rewrote just about everything I had those first few years more than ten times each, and used a lot of time doing it. I’m glad I made my lists. They do tend to keep me on the right path.

Use – to show an interruption. Use . . . to show a character’s conversation trailing off, or for a one-sided telephone conversation, use four . . . . Em dashes and ellipses can be overused, so sprinkle with care.

Start a new paragraph when starting a new speaker.

High energy verbs! Crammed! Attacked! Bloodied!

Two words into one list. Good grammar. “Incredibly hard to take” becomes “insufferable.” “The smell of the thing” becomes “its stench.” And little words too, “issued forth” becomes “erupted.” “Opened up on” becomes “revealed.” And about thirty other examples as I discovered them in my own writing. The find and replace feature in my word processing program is a wonderful tool.

I ask myself questions like: Does the story have a logical flow? Do I care about the outcome? Do I have enough conversation? When is too much, too much?

There are questions and examples that helped me gain empathy.

What and why does your character love? What limits would they breach in order to keep that love? What are they capable of doing once love is lost?

God is in the details. So, what details are you using?

If writing is a war, is there enough battle in the middle, or does it sag.

Action, reaction, more action, and more reaction.

Read it all aloud. All change is good change.

A scene dragging along? Cut it down.

Proper words for their proper jobs. Emotions need proper words.

Get rid of the “right foot, left hand” thing. The reader can decide for themselves which foot or hand is which.

Words to waste: And, that, even, up, just, besides, over, and about 40 more I sprinkle all too liberally within my first drafts.

The words most commonly mistaken for each other. That’s part of proper grammar. And, that list is huge.

Most of you are screaming at me for not including my entire list. I could have, but I didn’t. My list is personal. It’s geared to what I think is important for me to remember and understand about mywriting.

In a fantasy I’m working on, I list descriptive words and phrases that apply to the world I’m building. Tall as a scarecrow, a bullock in length. You can figure it out from there. No modern reference points within the story. I draw on other’s words to show me the way.

I can list locations or draw a map, and the map concept is old news. I have lists of character names for each book, and what they do. Business names, street names, on and on. The thing is, lists are good.

I don’t usually get lost. I have a page of titles I might use some day. Lists of ideas. Words and descriptive phrases. I have many notebooks full of things I used (hard copies as well as computer files), can use or will use, helping me improve each story. I want to be one of the best out there today. I do try hard, and then harder still. I owe it to myself and my readers.

******

Terrance Foxxe is crazy enough to share everything he knows about catering to readers, because readers matter most to the Indie Author of today, and tomorrow. He had two books published under his real name, only to discover publishers really suck. After being royally ripped off and then some, he is the Indie Author of A Post-apocalyptic Story of Love,$2.99 USD & In The Dreaming, $0.99, both for the Kindle. Links provided. He’s now a happy man. Buy his books. Read them. Write reviews.

Post Apocalyptic Love Story

The Dreaming

He blogs at http://terrancefoxxe.blogspot.com/

Tuesdays with Terry – Part 8

Notes From a Twenty Year Almost Career. The guest musings of Indie Author Terrance Foxxe

Part Eight

 

Get lazy. Don’t bother with researching squat. It’s not that important. You can fake your way through anything. They don’t call it fiction for nothing.

I have invented many a world. Some familiar, some strange, some extreme. Readers can tell if a story rings true. If it doesn’t . . .

 

Blues for a Red Planet

was one of those created-world stories. I took a manned orbital flight around a living and vital Mars, added a monumental disaster, an exploding planetoid between Mars and Jupiter, had that lone survivor get lucky and land on Earth roughly three million years in our past. His present, our past. What I had pointed out to me was, Earth would have been pelted with debris from the exploding planetoid, too. Life might have been wiped out on one planet, but the other planet would have suffered something terrible. Nuclear winter terrible.

My lone survivor lived in the sun, ate freely, and helped found modern humanity.

 

Logical progression.

It’s not a concept, it’s a writing reality.

What is logical progression? One thing leads to another thing, which leads to another, which leads to another. A bowling ball gets knocked off a roof, hits a window ledge, and gets bounced out into the street. Five stories below is where you are. You hear a strange sound, possibly a shout of exclamation or warning. Maybe you hear the ball hit the ledge, a hollow thwok sound. You look up and see the ball falling. You either let it hit you, or you get the hell out of the way. That’s what logical progression is.

New writers tend to rush the process, and you can’t. Each scene has within it potential. Each scene moves at its own pace. Logical progression demands a scene is what it is, is detailed or not, takes as much time to unfold as it does, builds up a sense of what comes next, or builds up suspense, and does all this within the confines of your character’s perception. What they see, touch, taste, hear, smell, feel, physically or emotionally.

This is their world, after all, and you are simply their scribe. Your characters, they don’t know you exist.

Your characters don’t live in your world, but in their world. Do you know how their world works? Do you know the streets of their city, and the flavors of people you find section to section within their city?

Do they live on a space station, another planet, or as part of an alien culture?

Do you have what it takes in knowledge to define their existence? Can you find that knowledge? Probably, sure.

In building worlds you need to know mast from bow if you’re writing about pirates, and it doesn’t matter if the pirates are on this planet or another, solar sails or canvas sails. You need to know how things work, what to do and why you do the things you do. You need to know the details. God is in the details.

 

Your characters need to know what the consequences are to their actions.

The characters you put in your literary world need to know what to do, but they act as themselves. What they would do, and not what you want them to do. Logical progression. Details.

In writing my second novel I had a lot to learn about Heaven and Hell. I had to learn the story of the Christ. Every word had to ring true in a horror story that relies on Revelations to make my plot points. I had to know the rules my world depended on in order to bend or break them. I had to know the details. Mix in logical progression, how one detail affects my character’s actions and/or reactions, you got movement, you got plot, you got a book.

 

What not to do!

 

deus ex machina

. God in the machine. Angels coming out of nowhere to save, at the last minute, your hero.The Soap Opera Effect.

Life has its ups and downs, but you don’t go down in a jet every time you board a plane. The people who inhabit the world of soaps do, and they live through it, only to be saved by a fisherman, who then takes advantage of their amnesia, and on and on. Pointless suffering. All of your suffering should have a point to it.

Do your research. Examine, study, talk to people. Your average working Joe or Jane doesn’t mind talking to you about what they do. In fact, most will be thrilled that you sought them out, and are listening to what they have to say. They, indirectly, get to be in your book! And, it’s kind of fun. You don’t get to carry a gun and solve real crimes, but I have witnessed an autopsy. In real life, the inside of the human body reeks.

 

“Why shouldn’t truth be stranger than fiction? Fiction, after all, has to make sense.”

– Mark Twain

******

Terrance Foxxe is crazy enough to share everything he knows about catering to readers, because readers matter most to the Indie Author of today, and tomorrow. He had two books published under his real name, only to discover publishers really suck. After being royally ripped off and then some, he is the Indie Author of A Post-apocalyptic Story of Love,$2.99 USD & In The Dreaming, $0.99, both for the Kindle. Links provided. He’s now a happy man. Buy his books. Read them. Write reviews.

Post Apocalyptic Love Story

The Dreaming

He blogs at http://terrancefoxxe.blogspot.com/

 

Tuesdays with Terry – Part 7

Notes From a Twenty Year Almost Career. The guest musings of Indie Author Terrance Foxxe

Part Seven

 

I think most writers fall into one of two cracks in the floor. They either don’t let themselves have fun when they write, afraid of what others might think of them, or they think too much about their own words. Not by choice, mind you. I have been guilty of inhabiting both musty grooves at one time or another. What pulled me through was reading lots of books, absorbing their styles, seeing how their authors put their words together to make their writing work.

The book which drove this point home to me was, The Elements of Expression by Arthur Plotnik. Here’s why. You ever watch one of those documentary films on Public Television, where they read the letters of those whom lived the history? The Gold Rush of 1849 was great for words. Most of them folks were not what you would call highly educated, but their words live and breath, even to this day. Why? They were not subject to the information overload we have to muck through from day to day. They had to reach to describe their world, and their words are elegant, even if crude by our overly educated standards.

Why should I bother with understanding how a short story is constructed, or a novel? Everybody does their own thing when it comes to writing.

 

Because I read both novels and short stories most of my adult life, I had a sense of what they should be. I had absorbed enough about novel and short story construction to write a novel or short story. I realized there were many similarities between novel chapters and short stories. What I didn’t realize were their differences. Both need hooks in order to start. A novel needs a big hook, preferably one that will carry the reader through to the end of the book. That big idea behind the story. One that dangles or promises, leading the reader deeper into the novel.

A short story needs a hook, too. One that starts the conflict, or exposes the conflict within. Short stories have an end, hopefully with an ending that leaves you saying “good story!” A resolution to the conflict you started with the beginning hook.

And what are hooks anyway? Reader grabbers. The very first sentence every reader will read. Lookee here at the hooks I wrote.

“I intend to swallow alive and kicking from humanity’s womb the greatest minds and things history has ever produced.”

Leslie Tharp roused tired, as she always did exiting hibernation.

Percible Traynor held charge over most of the Eastern Seaboard whether anyone knew it or not.

Bryan-with-the-bright-green-eyes saw it coming.

Rafe Dehi paused on his way out of the truck stop’s nasty, stinky rest room long enough to wash his bloody hands, then he was back on the bus like nothing ever happened, stuffing the little red bag Tomas (whatever his last name was) had into his duffel.

“I want nothing to do with this.”

Six different hooks. The power of voice.

Here’s one more thing to think about. Novels are between 70,000 to 150,000 words. Those really thick paperbacks you buy and read, they’re about 250,000 words. Short stories are between 100 to 17,000 words. The average for a novel is about 100,000 words. For a short story it’s about 4000 words.

Guess what? A story is only as long as a story should be. A novel should only have as many pages as it has. If it tells the story within 70,000 words, you have a scrawny novel, but a novel nonetheless. If it takes 200,000 words, that’s what it takes. If the story is good, it doesn’t matter how few or how many words it takes. My novels average 90,000 words.

******

Terrance Foxxe is crazy enough to share everything he knows about catering to readers, because readers matter most to the Indie Author of today, and tomorrow. He had two books published under his real name, only to discover publishers really suck. After being royally ripped off and then some, he is the Indie Author of A Post-apocalyptic Story of Love, $2.99 USD & In The Dreaming, $0.99, both for the Kindle. Links provided. He’s now a happy man. Buy his books. Read them. Write reviews.

Post Apocalyptic Love Story

The Dreaming

He blogs at http://terrancefoxxe.blogspot.com/

Tuesdays with Terry – part 6

Notes From a Twenty Year Almost Career. The guest musings of Indie Author Terrance Foxxe

Part Six

 

You have to know the rules, and there are rules for everything. There are exceptions to the rules that are rules unto themselves! Writing for clarity of thought, and clarity of form. This clarity is what you give your reading public.

I may spend five or six months jamming away on a manuscript–I’m one of those writers that like to do that–only to pick it apart line by line to get it all right. Write the book, and then make it sing. Ignore the rules if you must, but you’ll learn. You’ll learn you can’t ignore even one rule.

When writing works, it’s doing a job. Voice is part of writing well, and I didn’t get it for the longest time. Voice was what I was lacking most. My stories craved voice.

What is meant by “voice?” This is my voice. You’re reading how I speak. But my voice can change when I want it to. I simply pretend. I become the character. “I am the story.”

Verbosity can be your friend when exploring voice. Don’t be afraid to overwrite your manuscript. You can always delete unneeded words at a later date.

Another example I’m sure you can understand, and I mean no disrespect against the writing styles of Stephen King, but he can get a little “golly gee whiz” at times. Now read The Green Mile, and after that read The Eyes of the Dragon. Two perfect and wonderful examples of his voice. Both different, both Stephen King.

The closest I get to across the pond is watching Doctor Who. But, I do a lot of homework, and I understand voice. This little bit starts my very first novel. My boring, had promise but lacked something, novel. What it lacked was voice. It lacked a layer of excitement. By inventing the narrator of this story, giving him a unique voice, allowing him to tell the story, I added a subtle layer of needed sophistication.

I, am a fool.

The Fool, and my emperor requests a gratifying tale from me, but which compelling narrative in my vast repertoire shall His Fatassness receive? A questing yet witless knight, braving outlandish elements of fable and fantasy with a personal code of honor sufficient to turn any stout stomach? Or, perhaps, an adventurous yet resourceful thief in his perpetual pursuit of liquid wealth, tight wet fellowship and heady spirits? Alas, with both I must provide a companion, and I’m not feeling generous.The Empress, in turn, invites a poignant tale within whose dark heart exists a riddle. May I pluck the knotted hair off her pointed pale chin and from under her bulbous reddened nose for such an unsatisfactory suggestion.

The Lovers stop their perpetual grope to propose forbidden love as a topic. They should stick to the task in hand and let me tell the story I wish.

The Executioner puts in his recommendation, but tonight is not a night for bloody revenge. The Hierophant wants redemption with ascension. The Hanged Man, dangling such as he does, says nothing.

Then it comes to me, inspirational lightning, pinning me down with a wondrous tale that must surely gratify all. A fantastical saga from long ago, when there existed such things as space and time.

“Get on with it, Fool,” commands The Emperor between mouthfuls of roasted meats and tiny sweet cakes, quaffing at will wine made by old, ineffectual, impotent and incontinent gods. “You’re milking it.”

“Of course, Majesty,” I say, thinking about a large chunk of that moldered meat lodged deep in his throat, stealing what he calls his pitiful excuse-of-a-life out of him.

I must confess I am milking it for all it’s worth. I’m a bit of a ham. What fool is not? To draw the audience inside the story is my vocation. To keep them enthralled by the narrative is my gift. I endeavor to give generously.

“A proper piece of pretentious nonsense must have an appropriate beginning,” I say, “and this chronicle is without exception. The question here is not where to begin, because I know where to begin. The question here is who to begin with?”

And I think Xavier Collen will do nicely.

 

That’s him, the spry old fart pacing the carpet around his desk. Top floor of the Collen building, London proper. A titbit of prime tattle from the queen herself, no less, set his shallow money obsessed thoughts spiraling down the loo, and that was just the beginning.

 

 

The point of view shifted with the scene transition. My Fool narrates this novel; from first person present, to third person past present. I let him tell the story for a reason not evident until the very last paragraph of the novel. He became my voice for A Changing of the Guard, coming soon.

******

Terrance Foxxe is crazy enough to share everything he knows about catering to readers, because readers matter most to the Indie Author of today, and tomorrow. He had two books published under his real name, only to discover publishers really suck. After being royally ripped off and then some, he is the Indie Author of A Post-apocalyptic Story of Love, $2.99 USD & In The Dreaming, $0.99, both for the Kindle. Links provided. He’s now a happy man. Buy his books. Read them. Write reviews.

Post Apocalyptic Love Story

The Dreaming

He blogs at http://terrancefoxxe.blogspot.com/

Tuesdays with Terry – part 5

Notes From a Twenty Year Almost Career. The guest musings of Indie Author Terrance Foxxe

Part Five

Ignore the rules.

 

And there are so many of them. Sentence construction, punctuation, grammar, format. Did you know my The Random House Dictionary of the English Language, The Unabridged Edition is 12 x 9 ½ x 3½ inches thick? My Illustrated Oxford Dictionary by DK Publishing, Inc., isn’t as impressive in height or length, but it is two and a half inches thick, with hundreds of sweet illustrations. I use both of them each and every day. You should see my arms.

It’s one thing to know the word you want to use, it’s another to actually spell it and use it in its proper context. I want each sentence to be understood. Everything together takes the reader from the beginning to the end of your story. The skill of the writer is to impart meaning and emotional impact.

I’m published, intelligent, and it has taken me years of working completely and utterly alone to learn how to choose or spell most of my words correctly, punctuate for clarity, and not make a grammar goof. I won’t go into the many, many mistakes I’ve embarrassed myself with, but there have been a few. I still make mistakes, mind you. Nobody is perfect.

During my journey I had to figure out what I was doing wrong, and what I was doing right. To that end, there are eleven books I think are worth the money I paid for them.

The Random House Dictionary of the English Language, The Unabridged Edition

 

.

The Illustrated Oxford Dictionary by DK Publishing, Inc.

The Elements of Grammar

by Margaret Shertzer. Collier Books. This nifty little tome takes your across good grammar’s landscape. Chapter headings are as follows: Recognizing Good Grammar, Points of Grammar, Capitalization, Punctuation, Expressing Numbers, Spelling and Choosing Words (including words most often confused) and Signs and Symbols. Punctuate It Right!

by Harry Shaw. Harper Perennial. Subtitled: A complete, authoritative, quick-reference guide to modern punctuation and related mechanics of writing, showing what marks to use, when, where, how, and why, including a detailed glossary of “punctuation for clarity.”Webster’s New World Thesaurus

by Charlton Laird. Warner Books.Thesaurus of Alternatives to Worn-Out Words and Phrases

by Robert Hartwell Fiske. Writer’s Digest Books. Which, to me, is a good way to keep clichés out, or think up new clichés to replace the old and worn out.The Elements of Expression

by Arthur Plotnik. Henry Holt and Company. A must-have read if you want to understand the force words can have, and the voice lurking inside of you. Self-Editing for Fiction Writers

by Renni Browne and Dave King. Illustrations by George Booth. Subtitled: How To Edit Yourself Into Print. Harper Perennial. This book can teach editors what’s what.

The Writer’s Digest Handbook of Short Story Writing.

20 Master Plots (And How to Build Them)

by Ronald B. Tobias. Writer’s Digest Books.Make Your Words Work

by Gary Provost. Writer’s Digest Books. It’s one of the easiest books to read and understand. The man walks you through everything, and gives you homework. Do your homework, write well. Have fun, write well. Never be afraid to tear it loose and write well.

Eleven books out of thirty-five. Eleven books that will make you a literary hero.

Those books are the only books I want to read again and again, because they helped me the most. They helped me understand punctuation, grammar, plotting, editing and voice. Tools of the trade.

******

Terrance Foxxe is crazy enough to share everything he knows about catering to readers, because readers matter most to the Indie Author of today, and tomorrow. He had two books published under his real name, only to discover publishers really suck. After being royally ripped off and then some, he is the Indie Author of A Post-apocalyptic Story of Love, $2.99 USD & In The Dreaming, $0.99, both for the Kindle. Links provided. He’s now a happy man. Buy his books. Read them. Write reviews.

Post Apocalyptic Love Story

The Dreaming

He blogs at http://terrancefoxxe.blogspot.com/

Tuesdays with Terry – Part 4

Notes From a Twenty Year Almost Career. The guest musings of Indie Author Terrance Foxxe

Part Four

Writing is a craft. It’s an art form. It’s not what you say, but how you say it. Writing well is the key. Technique. Form. Talent. Dedication. Blah, blah, blah.

 

I believed this nonsense. And it is nonsense. Others will argue this statement to the death, but for me, this declaration rings true. It’s nonsense; up to a point. Where does it stop being nonsense, you ask? Read on and figure it out on your own. You see, the answers are different for us all. My conclusions will not necessarily be yours.

“Getting published is easy. Writing well is hard.” – Gary Provost.

My ass. Getting published by the big boys is hell-on-wheels in this day and age, and writing well is much easier than you think.

There is a Catch 22 when it comes to getting published by the big boys. I bumped heads with it for years. It is: You have to be published, in order to get published. Or, to put it another way; you don’t have any credits until you get published, and publishers want to see your credits before they risk publishing you. And on and on and on.

A nasty, endless circle of twisted logic that really doesn’t make any sense. You see, me and several of my writing friends have great credits. Published many times at the semi-pro and pro level, and we got nowhere. When it became truly possible to bypass the clearinghouse, fee-charging self-publishers, I decided to take the Indie Author path. I’m much happier these days, despite doubling my workload.

The fact is, within monolithic publishing, crap sells. I don’t know why, but it does. Agents and publishers know this. Think Snooki, Paris’s dog, and so many others.

Great books, wonderful stories, they get turned down every freaking day. The gatekeepers think only in dollars. If they think they can make money off of you, lots of money, you’re in. But, they don’t know what will sell oodles of books. They simply follow trends, and then they beat those same trends to death.

With us, thinking publishing as a business, and you’re one of those people who think your finished first novel is gold, good to go; do yourself a favor and put it in a drawer for six months. Don’t touch it, don’t even think about it. Six months. Write another novel. At the end of that six months, pull it out and read it again. If you still think you have gold, and be truthful, without having to rework almost every page for some reason or another, do whatever it takes. But, like I said, be truthful to yourself, first and foremost.

Twenty years of reading everything I could get my grubby hands on about writing and publishing has taught me a lot. It taught me even the best storytellers out there today may never, ever, get a contract. Future Pulitzer Prize winners may never see print by monolithic publishing, until after they win a Pulitzer. Indie Authors, some of us are magnificent storytellers. We care about our readers. We care enough to try to be the best there is out there today, in content and quality. Not getting published by monolithic publishing means nothing in terms of the quality of our stories. Nothing!

“It’s not what you say, but how you say it.”

 

Bullshit!

It is what you say, and how you say it!

Writing well is the key.

 

Creating an exciting story that’s exciting to read is the key. The lock that key goes into is writing well. Keys are shaped to fit locks. Locks are mechanisms. You can learn to understand the mechanism, but if you study the lock, can you tell what shape the key must take? Try saying all that three times real fast.

Technique. Form. Dedication.

All of this can be learned by those wishing to learn it. Don’t sweat it. Not yet. Don’t ignore it, either.

As I said, my first novel had some great ideas in it. The plot was simple. Good vs. evil. What my characters did and said moved my plot along. How they acted, reacted, how they reacted to other’s actions and reactions, all brought me, and them, to the end of the book.

I added to it where I thought it lacked, thinking all the time how I could get more excitement into the story. I took away all I thought didn’t belong, hoping what I was removing was the boredom. It still lacked something. It was tenderly tucked into my file drawer with one or two regrets I quickly swallowed. There was a moment of depression I immediately gulped down, too. I’m a writer, and there is no time for mental masochism.

I dumped whatever I felt about it out of my mind and wrote my second novel. Again, horror. Good against evil. This time something was different. This time I ignored the much touted writing advice from all of my books, and let everything I was vomit out my fingertips, and had a lot of fun doing it. I wrote what I wanted to read, how I wanted to read it. This time I did something right. I wrote a good book.

My novel was full of gritty real-life drama. It didn’t pull punches. I hit below the belt when it came to my character’s reality. I had made my horror, real. Some passages bordered just this side of being pornographic, but reality, the reality I built for my characters, was art. Any fellow writer who I could convince to read the story, gushed over its brilliance. They weren’t yanking my chain. They would have told me, diplomatically, if it had sucked.

Writers dedicated to the craft are like that, by the way. They love good reads just as much as you do. They love pointing out your mistakes, even when they misunderstand your intentions, and you must forgive them, because they are trying to help you. Most want to tell you things without hurting your feelings, because they don’t like getting their feelings hurt when they, in turn, show you something of theirs that bites.

Nope, my second novel did what I set out for it to do. In 1995 Leisure Books looked at it for eight months, then turned it down. A very agreeable, handwritten rejection letter. Everybody else sent the form rejection letter within the specified time limit. But that letter from Leisure Books told me something, even if I had to read between the lines to figure out what it was.

I had a book with potential, it caught someone’s attention, but they eventually turned it down. I set it to the side for a while because I had to. I figured I was too close to the problem. When I did pick up the manuscript again, six months later, the answer hit me upside the head, hard.

I screwed myself to the wall by not producing a highly polished manuscript, and I mean that high-gloss foot-deep shine. I was an unpublished nobody from Iowa, of all places, with a less than perfect manuscript. I cut my own throat.

The manuscript was as rough as sandpaper, and needed a lot of top-coat polishing. It was up to me to have a mistake-free manuscript, and I failed. I failed myself. The problems I ran into were many. I was relying too much on my word processing program. Bare, bear. I can’t bear a bear with a bare butt. Get it? I now bracket words I’m not sure of as I edit, and run my manuscripts through three independent word programs. I double-check everything again with a freakishly big dictionary, that human factor, relying on me to catch what the machinery or software didn’t.

Indie Authors, take note. I had a great story, but I had a badly written book. An author with a badly written but great story isn’t going anywhere. Your readers will judge you, and your sales are their verdict.

Where was I? Yes. I applied this same simple principle of writing heart and soul to all of my short stories. I wrote what I wanted to read. I had fun. I cleaned up my punctuation, my grammar, the gaps in my logic, and I did that for every short story and novel I wrote. I added to them where I thought they lacked, and took away all I thought didn’t belong. I fixed all I could fix, and made sure my stories were as perfect and exciting as possible. More rejection slips arrived, but I also received a few acceptance slips. I made some money, too.

Talent.

 

Some people have natural talent. Most can learn.

I love to read, but made the mistake of not reading anything when I was writing. I didn’t want what I was reading to influence my writing. Well, the flaw in that logic is: published words from talented writers will influence your own words. You want that to happen. You need to learn from those who came before. It’s a good thing. That’s how you can build up your own talent.

******

Terrance Foxxe is crazy enough to share everything he knows about catering to readers, because readers matter most to the Indie Author of today, and tomorrow. He had two books published under his real name, only to discover publishers really suck. After being royally ripped off and then some, he is the Indie Author of A Post-apocalyptic Story of Love, $2.99 USD & In The Dreaming, $0.99, both for the Kindle. Links provided. He’s now a happy man. Buy his books. Read them. Write reviews.

Post Apocalyptic Love Story

The Dreaming

He blogs at http://terrancefoxxe.blogspot.com/

Tuesdays with Terry – Part 3

Notes From a Twenty Year Almost Career. The guest musings of Indie Author Terrance Foxxe

Part Three

 

My computer and me, we have an understanding. I treat it nice, it treats me nice. I also burn backup copies of every file I make or edit onto three separate flash drives. One sits in the house, one goes wherever I go, and one sits outside the house, just in case. Make a change, back it up. Start a story, back it up. I don’t lose words, or time. And if, God forbid, your machine gives up the ghost, you won’t have to start all over from square one. I learned that the hard way too. And no, I don’t want to get into it. The memories are too painful.

Never underestimate the many and unique ways things can go wrong. Murphy’s Law is a fact of life.

Anyway, I jammed through my first novel, and was so happy to get it done, I sent it off to all the big publishing houses all at the same time. It cost me a small fortune in postage. Never again.

I did it! I wrote my first novel . . . and the overall story wasn’t that bad. It had a lot of promise, but what did I know about polished words? I just knew I did it, used almost a ream of paper to do it with, and it all made sense in the end. I even waited until the last two pages to reveal the true face of my monster. I thought it kicked shit all the way to Shinola. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Between my first novel and a dozen short stories that year, I had fifty or more rejection slips. That’s when I took everything I had to date and put it in a drawer. I knew I was doing something wrong, but I didn’t know what it was. Like most of you out there today, there was nobody around I could ask for help.

My collection of How To books grew. Literary dandelions. My How To medley now stands at 35 books. It took all that for me to figure out what I was doing wrong, and what I was doing right. I read good How To books, and bad How To books. I’ll list the good How To books in a coming post, if you want to know them or buy them. I have no deals with any of their publishers. I’m giving you this information freely, as an opinion. My learned-da-hard-way opinion.

Every single one of my “How To” books can tell you what is, in their words, the right thing to do. Some dry reading, to be sure. Many include writing exercises you can use to improve your skills. They all give examples of what not to do, but they don’t go in-depth. Everybody learns from their mistakes. It’s human nature. God knows I certainly learned from mine.

I’m going to expose myself like an unashamed flasher. You get to read about and learn from my mistakes. Chances are, these are the same mistakes you’re bashing your head into the wall about, and drywall is a pain to replace.

******

Terrance Foxxe is crazy enough to share everything he knows about catering to readers, because readers matter most to the Indie Author of today, and tomorrow. He had two books published under his real name, only to discover publishers really suck. After being royally ripped off and then some, he is the Indie Author of A Post-apocalyptic Story of Love, $2.99 USD & In The Dreaming, $0.99, both for the Kindle. Links provided. He’s now a happy man. Buy his books. Read them. Write reviews.

Post Apocalyptic Love Story

The Dreaming

He blogs at http://terrancefoxxe.blogspot.com/

Tuesdays with Terry – Part 2

Notes From a Twenty Year Almost Career. The guest musings of Indie Author Terrance Foxxe

Part Two

Jump right in and write what sells. Do it cold. Don’t bother learning the rules, they don’t mean a thing. You just sit yourself down and start churning out novels or short stories.

 

I did that.

You hear all the time about writers cashing freakishly enormous checks, just for sitting around in their undies, drinking the beverage of their choice while they create worlds with words. I want in on that. I’m not ashamed to say so. I want to sit in my boxers, drink coffee, inventing literary wonders. Twenty years back I believed I was a natural, and could be the instant winner in big name publishing’s lotto. My very first novel, and millions of dollars would be mine. Just send it in and wait for instant recognition, and all those who inhabit the literary landscape to kneel at my feet, praising my talent.

Didn’t I say I was stupid?

God knows I’ve spent years reading books and magazines of all kinds. Non-fiction, genre fiction, you name it. I like to read. I understood the written word as it existed in the past, and as it exists today. I considered myself to be an intelligent sophisticated man. I spent years tweaking advertising copy for small businesses and large corporations. I was an Art Director, and a Marketing Coordinator. I was an “in” man. The corporate (nerd) life was mine for the taking, but I wanted more. I needed more. Deep down inside I needed more. I had a dream I wanted to follow. I thought I could jump right into the writing world with my shoes on. Roll up a lot of self-confidence and determination into a hard tight ball, and start choking it down without the wine of reason to guzzle.

I could do it. I knew I could do it. Live writing, breathe writing, eat, sleep, drink writing. And the genre I loved the most was horror.

Science fiction was cool, fantasy rocked, but I loved to be scared. Horror it was. I was going to be the next Stephen King, Dean Koontz, the next Peter Straub. I wanted to pass Clive Barker on the fame and fortune expressway like he was standing still. And then horror as a paying genre went phuuttt! Most writers of horror turned to the small presses, while the biggest names, and only the biggest names, continued on as if nothing happened. Some horror authors started their own companies to produce their own work (and friend’s work) as limited editions. I didn’t know it then, but that was the very first indicator that big name publishing had basically slit its own throat. The midlist was dying to dead in a few short years. But, I’m getting ahead of myself.

Computers were well out of my price range way back then. Bills pile up in my house too, you know. I did find a Personal Word Processor within my budget and bought it. An over-glorified typewriter. It could format the page, save everything onto a floppy disc, and loved it’s most important feature . . . Spellcheck™! What more could a man of my unlimited potential ask for? I could add to or delete from any file on a whim, save the changes to disc, and get past my personal Kryptonite, my inability to spell big words. I understood them, but couldn’t spell them.

I bought the machine, picked up some discs, set it up in my own little nesting spot in the basement, and read just enough of the directions to get started. I kept the “Quick Look” reference guide handy at all times. “Control” plus the scroll button for down would always take me to where I wanted to be.

Like a gleeful deity I created all that pleased me. The power was absolutely amazing. My dreams and thoughts, my soul, all were appearing before my eyes like magic. I jammed keys throughout the week and on into weekend, and saved almost a hundred pages of my very first novel. I could hardly sleep. There were times I woke up in the wee hours with an idea, and had to get it down on paper for the next day. Then I’d lay there, trying desperately to get back to sleep. Day jobs are annoyingly unforgiving.

I fashioned characters, breathed into them life, and killed them one by one as I applauded their demise in ways I thought unique, laughing manically between cups of stout joe. It was when I wanted to review what I had at the end of that first week, thinking I may be able to add more blood and chills to the pages, when I found out my wonderful new tool couldn’t save more than five full pages of text to a file!

I had pages 1, 2, 3 . . . . . . . . . . . 99, 100.

Oh yeah, it hurt.

I sat down to start over a week later. It took me that long to figure out if I wanted to continue on this corrupting path.

Two weeks after that I understood half the quirks my PWP was capable of, but my PWP never failed to surprise me. I think it lived Murphy’s Law to the letter, and did so just to piss me off. What can go wrong, will go wrong, usually at the most inopportune time. The worst problem was, I would add to a paragraph on page two, and a line of text would vanish from page four. I took it back to have it repaired twice, and the third time they gave me a new machine. Nothing had changed. I blame the programmers.

******

Terrance Foxxe is crazy enough to share everything he knows about catering to readers, because readers matter most to the Indie Author of today, and tomorrow. He had two books published under his real name, only to discover publishers really suck. After being royally ripped off and then some, he is the Indie Author of A Post-apocalyptic Story of Love, $2.99 USD & In The Dreaming, $0.99, both for the Kindle. Links provided. He’s now a happy man. Buy his books. Read them. Write reviews.

Post Apocalyptic Love Story

The Dreaming

He blogs at http://terrancefoxxe.blogspot.com/

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