Mary books

Friday, 27 July 2012

When Trying To Finish A Manuscript

 I am writing this very early to schedule to be published – and early on Thursday too for a change. I am going to try and go completely off-line for the week in the hopes it will give me more time to write.

The control of my life was handed over many, many years ago to the God I know beyond a shadow of doubt is the God of love and faithfulness to His word. The problem is I am the one who too often tries to take that control away from Him. I am so glad that in His love and mercy He still does over-rule.

The time has come when I cannot deny the fact I have been procrastinating, allowing too many things into my life that takes me away from finishing the current manuscript. This is the nineteenth manuscript I have written and am so thankful that only one of them to this point is still lying unpublished in the cupboard – and hopefully still saved on this computer – somewhere.

My biggest problem is I enjoy doing so many other things besides writing. Reading other writer’s books of course does head that list. The most recent one was a book by one of my very favourite writers, Linda Windsor. Unfortunately her “Healer” was VERY hard to put down. And it is only book One in her Brides of Alba series and now I have to find the other two!

I am not sure if reading comes before spending time with our precious, delightful grandchildren, except that we only have them for a very few hours each week. Then again, perhaps spending time on responding to emails, reading and writing blogs, trying not to spend too much time on places like Facebook and Goodreads takes too much time I could be reading – or spending time with our wonderful family. Er... did I just write reading – should have been WRITING!

Whatever the reasons, this week is it! How many words will I be able to write? 30,000 might finish “Her Outback Cowboy”.

I’ll let you know.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Knowing and Understanding - Two different things?

After knowing Ray for over 49 years now and married to him for well over 47 of those years, I believe I do know him very well.  But then, knowing his little habits and the way he thinks about myriads of things, do I still fully understand why he thinks like he does, why he may  respond the way he does?

As a writer over many years now, there is so much I have heard about, thought about, tried to put into practice of the craft of writing novels. I may claim to know certain of these  because I have heard, pondered on and even tried to put them into practice many times now, but are there any aspects of what I’ve been told, read, taught and tried to put into practice that I do not fully understand?

I am afraid there indeed may be, but after all these years I certainly hope and pray there are not too many!

In recent blog posts I have written about more and more “rules” that fiction writers seem to keep having to know about these days. I have to ask the question, “Does knowing the rules also mean understanding those rules well enough so they can be used correctly?”

We certainly live in a world very different from those writers of hundreds of years ago, perhaps even only decades ago. Many much loved novels published back then may not be acceptable to first of all some editors today because many modern day readers would not buy them. Certainly, there are still basics like the use of words correctly, grammar, spelling, a beginning, a middle and a conclusion to novels. I mentioned once in an email that some aspects of writing novels have changed since I first started writing back in the 1970s and was asked to give some illustrations.

One that sprang to mind was the way dialogue is often written today. It seems that most readers in our “instant, throw-a-way, entertain-me” society prefer fast-paced stories. This can affect several thing, including our description of settings and also dialogue. We are told to use action to show which character is speaking more often than those dialogue tags like he said, she replied. The use of punctuation has also changed. And we must realise there are new words created each year and the meaning of some older ones which have changed. There may be many reasons which I cannot go into here but it all highlights the fact writers need to keep on learning but above all keep on understanding how to use the changes.

One change I have mentioned in previous blog posts has been what the publishing industry calls “Point Of View”. This topic regularly appears in discussions on writing association email loops and at seminars and workshops for writers. We want to know about Omniscient POV, Single POV, Dual POV, Multiple POV, and one of the latest ones I’ve been noticing is called Deep POV. We need to know what each is and more importantly understand how each one can be used, which one is best suited to my own particular story and style of writing to give the reader the greatest Emotional Experience as my unfolds. Perhaps the most important fact about POV is if the reader’s enjoyment of a book is diminished by that lack of understanding just how to choose which character – or characters’– “head” to tell the story from and when and how to change POV so it is not such head-hopping the reader becomes confused and pulled out of the story instead of deeper into it.

So, I believe understanding how to adapt and use the knowledge I have about aspects of writing is so very, very important.

And we must remember that while some things do change over the years, the most important thing to remember is that “Story Rules.” No matter how perfect our “technique” as a writer may be, if the story and characters are weak and do not grip the reader so they have to keep turning the page to see what happens next, we had better go back to learning AND simply understanding “story”.

I read an email during a POV discussion recently from multi-published historical romance author, Anne Gracie - She put this next important point so well I asked her permission to share it off the email loop

“Nora Roberts, the most popular and prolific romance writer in the
world, breaks POV conventions all the time, swapping POV frequently
(head hopping) and doing all the kinds of things that contest judges
in RWA would pull contestants up for. She's a smart cookie and I'm
sure over the years (before she became famous) there were heaps of
people telling her she was "wrong". She could have easily learned how
not to change POV so often, and to stop doing the things that everyone
points out that's "wrong" in her writing, so why hasn't she?

Because she wants the effect that she creates on the page when she
does it the way she does it.”

Let me say this again. STORY RULES.

Some things may never change but people do. Ray and I are basically the same and yet both different now after all these years. Sure, I may think I know him. I may think I understand him. Then he does something unexpected, responds differently that might amuse and even annoy me! One thing is sure, life with Ray will continue to never be boring!

A question for readers:
Can you remember anything in a book (especially like head-hopping) that the writer has done – or not done – which has dragged you out of the story too much? What kind of thing makes you stop reading?

A question for us writers who are always on a learning curve:
Is there anything you may know about techniques of writing a good book but which you find very difficult to understand and put into practice correctly?

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Purging fires of a Manuscript

Every time an author is sent the cover of a new book there is great excitement. That long sweated over manuscript is actually going to be a book! 

Not long ago Ray had this happen for the fourth book in his 31 Day Devotional Meditation series. He has been very busy with emails going to and fro from his wonderful publisher, Rochelle Manners at Even Before Publishing. 

Today he shares a little of what he is feeling today as BETHLEHEM'S WARRIOR BABY goes to print.

And yes, while Ray is rather reluctant to add having his own blog to his busy programme, it will happen - when time permits. Until then he continues to share his thoughts here with us on my/our blog and I trust you are blessed and challenged as much as I am. 

Ray writes:

Oh, if only I was inspired in my writing!

To sit at the computer and type away confident that every word falls into place, every illustration is apt, every quote is accurate. Oh, what bliss I imagine that would be.

Alas, I’m not inspired. I’m just a writer with conviction and a desire to see my thoughts in print so I write. However what I write has to be put through various ‘fires’ before the manuscript emerges complete. Only then can the invisible imprint be scorched into the book. What are the ‘imprints’? ABH (approved by heaven) and ATP (acceptable to publisher)!

May I share with you some of those purging fires through which I have to travel with my manuscript?

There are the flames which consume the concepts of the themes I have in mind. So many ideas are burnt as being unnecessary or repetitive. That which emerges now needs hammering into chapters.

Here is the next furnace. Facts and quotes, illustrations and verses are subjected to their appropriateness for specific chapters as well as the necessary format. In essence these initial ‘fires’ are cool compared to what is ahead.

Oh, the burning sensations I endure as my manuscript is tested by various rewrites, preliminary drafts and quality control inspections!  How many times am I expected to endure such heat? Guess that depends on how much dross remains after each application of the searching flame.

As if that wasn’t enough I have to hand my hard, scorched work over to an editor and proof reader. Their oven seems to be seven times hotter than mine. Their boiler room reveals misplaced commas, inconsistent settings, unnecessary jargon and irrelevant verbosity. These people have sharp eyes, quick minds geared to language usage and the ability to see the impact such words will have on the readers. This is really the most purifying part of the process through which my manuscript must emerge.

The last fire my manuscript endures is called ‘the final check’. Actually that term is a misnomer for I’ve had to do my ‘final check’ a few times.

All of this takes time and effort. It is perspiring work. It leaves me (and others associated with the various fires) weary. However as I handle the completed manuscript ready to be printed I am thankful and appreciative of those who have stoked the flames to their most effective temperature.

Now I must wait to see how the readers respond to the purging my writing and I have endured.  Whatever their reaction this I know, I’m not inspired but I have a desire to write. It continues to take me through the various fires to produce a manuscript with ‘ABH’ and ‘ATP’ scorched into it!

Raymond (with scorch marks) N. Hawkins

Need a special, different Christmas present for someone? Keep Bethlehem's Warrior Baby in mind. And may the fire purge not only our manuscript's mistakes but our very hearts before our Holy God who sent His Son to be that Warrior Baby.

Thursday, 5 July 2012

To E-Book Or Not To E-Book?

I don’t even own an e-reader – at least not yet, but I  feel as though I am being dragged into the era of having my back list of books released as e-books. I’m not even sure if that is how to correctly write the word. Are they E-books, e-Books, eBooks, E-Books or just e-books.? HC stands for hard cover books, PB stands for paperback books, so does EB now stand for ebooks? Please correct me if I’m wrong.  Just one  more basic thing to learn about them!

Last Monday I enjoyed very much the guest speaker, T.D. McKinnon, from Victoria at our monthly Society Women Writers Tasmania.  He writes across several genres and now has his books as e-books. However this is really the first time I have heard a writer share details about self-publishing e-books and what he and his wife have discovered about it all.

The last couple of years I have been trying to follow what is happening around the world of publishing with the e-book phenomena. I know many published authors are now having their back lists released as e-books. I was delighted earlier this year to be able to sign addendums to the contracts with Barbour Publishing for my old Heartsong Presents inspirational romance titles to be released as e-books through their new Truly Yours division.

Some authors have had the copyright on their old books revert back to them so they can then self-publish as e-books. My last title, Justice at Baragula was released by the publisher as an e-book but recently heard it seems they are not going to continue with releasing the first two Baragula books as e-books. For some time now I have been thinking seriously about my other titles, both those novels and even perhaps short stories written years ago.  The biggest problem is discovering just how to go about it all!

Ray’s three 31 Day Devotional books are available as print and e-books. He has another one, Bethlehem’s Warrior Baby due for release later this year from Even Before Publishing.

Buying that e-book reader – or putting it on our Christmas gift list if we can wait that long – is becoming more urgent!           

Would love to have both authors and readers share about their experiences with e-books –and e-readers of course.