Sunday, January 27, 2013

Dot-to-dot Memories

The brain is marvelously adaptive at making sense out of the world.  Given fragments of information and incomplete observations, our brains put together a picture or a story.  The famous blind spot in our vision is an excellent example.  The optic nerve connects to the retina leaving a hole in our vision. Yet the brain fills this in nicely.

Memory is the same.  We store information about past events and recall them when needed, but every time we put the recalled memory back, we lose something of it.  Our brain fixes it when we recall the memory again and plays its version of connect the dots.  Over time our memory can become altered which explains why people have different memories of a shared experience.

A technique I like to use in writing is to toss out fragments of a character’s past.  Bit and pieces laced throughout the tale. In my novel Claws of the Griffin, Peter Reynolds remembers his own mother’s funeral while attending a burial for an old girlfriend. Another time, he recalls when the headmaster at a boarding school lectured him about the dangers of hitch hiking. Yet another memory is of him being shipped off to summer camp shortly after his father remarries.  Fragments of his life are revealed a few words, a sentence or a paragraph at a time. By the novel’s end the reader has a picture of what molded Peter into the character of the story.

Did I tell a complete story of his life?  Did I go on prolonged flashbacks? No.  I relied on the reader’s brain to fill in the blanks.

Ron D. Voigts is the author of CLAWS OF THE GRIFFIN available in the Spring of 2013 from Cool Well Press.  Check out his Penelope Mysteries available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Wow, this is good!

I’ve now been almost two years into the publishing game. I’ve self-published three novels and one short story. I have a book coming out this Spring from Cool Well Press and another with a Literary agent, making the publisher rounds. I still look for way to maximize my success, but I have been coming to one conclusion. Writing a good story is the key.

Recently I happened upon Bone River by Megan Chance.  I down loaded to my Kindle a sample, read the first few paragraphs and thought: wow, this is good.  I decided to get the rest of the novel. Then I wondered how well it’s doing. Typically, I check the rank on Amazon and the reviews. The book is #75 in the Kindle store. Not shabby. By my estimates, that comes in at least 500 books a month.  Selling at $2.99 means $2.10 to the author, or over a $1000 a month.  (Interesting side note: probably not enough to support oneself.)

What sold me on the book?  The writing did.  I can think of many marketing schemes. Reviews. Author interviews. Web traffic. But one thing matters.  Write a damn good book.

Ron D. Voigts is the author of CLAWS OF THE GRIFFIN available in the Spring of 2013 from Cool Well Press Check out his Penelope Mysteries available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

But what comes next?

The most difficult part of writing a novel is getting started. In the beginning, I labor over the scenes.  Sometimes they write themselves, but many times I step back and consider what I am trying to do.  This beginning process makes for much of my early writing to be out of sequence as I come back and fill in scene gaps.

Right now I am in a scene with my protagonist, Alan, whose just entered a bakery where he meets the rather attractive owner, Amelia. They hit it off almost immediately.  Friendly chitchat. The chemistry is just right.  He came in to buy some bread, but she’s going to slip some hot cross buns in his bag. The scene is absolutely delightful, except nothing is happening. 

If she hated his guts on first sight, that would be interesting. Perhaps, her boyfriend arrives and demands they duke it out.  Or perhaps his ex-wife arrives, and she and Amelia have a cat fight. Or …you get the pictures. Something has to happen.

So I ponder the scene and think where this is going.  What will rivet the audience to their chairs while turning pages? What will make them keep reading chapter after chapter? This is the part of writing that’s called being creative.

As my old boss would say, “If this were easy, everyone would be doing it.”

Saturday, January 5, 2013

What is your resolution?

It’s that time of year when you make a resolution to improve yourself and become a better person.  The most popular being to shed excess pounds. By summer you'll have a flat tummy, fit into the bathing suit you saw your favorite movie star wearing and become a babe (or hunk) magnet.  But then you fall flat on your face.

Maybe you’re going to write that high concept novel you’ve been telling your friends about.  Churn out 100,000 words over the next year, land a literary agent and get the big publishing contract.  Book signings. Fat royalty checks. Offers to make the movie. The sweet scent of success. Near the end of the year the words still lay dormant in your brain.

Or what about the unfinished project in the basement?  The plan to stop smoking?  Take a trip? Save lots of money? Eat more healthy foods? Learn a new language?  And the list goes on and on.

The problem is most of those big New Year Resolutions fail big.  Like plans to climb the Matterhorn, the terrain becomes rocky and the ascent treacherous.  It’s easier to just talk about it or better yet just drop the whole plan. But then novels would never get written, and pounds never lost, and self-improvements never accomplished.

My dad had a saying: “Never promise what you’ll do tomorrow, because it’s always today.” The point is to do it now.  Write something. Make one good day of dieting. Lay off the cigarettes for the day. Then when tomorrow comes, plan what you’ll do today. 

Ron D. Voigts is the author of CLAWS OF THE GRIFFIN available in the Spring of 2013 from Cool Well Press Check out his Penelope Mysteries available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.