Posts Tagged writing process

Writing for One in a Million

8 July 2013

Kip Langello wrote 9 novels and sent them out diligently to various agents and publishers. All were rejected. He even received contradictory feedback from industry gatekeepers, one person telling him that his plot was great but his characters were weak, another telling him — about the same story — that his characters were great but his plot was weak.

But then, a breakthrough: his 10th manuscript was accepted and published. Not only that, but he received a six-figure advance, a two-book contract, and a TV movie option. And has published 4 books since.

What made the difference?

“Before writing No. 10,” Langello writes in the September 2013 issue of Writer’s Digest, “I asked myself who was going to read my book. I visualized one person …. The same way I create characters when I write, I created a reader — my ideal reader … And I gave her a name: Peggy.”

“Peggy forced me to use a consistent voice and style, to be consistent and focused and true to a single reader, representative of a larger niche readership. And so my novel read that way — consistent, focused, true.”

In writing The Mystery of the Jade Avenger, my “Peggy” is named Seth. Seth is almost 9 years old and is certifiably Gifted & Talented. And he’s a real person — my nephew — which makes it a lot easier for a beginning novelist like myself to figure out how to write to a young audience, since I can simply ask him questions and be showered with his many thoughts on any subject. By writing for him (and often with him since he is generous about sharing his many ideas!), I can focus on entertaining him, focusing on what interests him, frightens him, and engages him.

I love this technique because it really does help keep the focus on that one person in a million that you are writing for.

My Partner in Crime

8 July 2013

My 9-yr-old nephew Seth and I have talked for hours about the Mystery of the Jade Avenger. He’s provided invaluable insight for me into a young boy’s mind and likes/dislikes but has also sidelined all my main characters in favor of his own! Not sure who will get the last word on that one.

Initially, I wanted to write the Mystery of the Jade Avenger as a surprise for him. But this collaboration is working out much better. He has come up with a ton of ideas. One thing that was a pleasant surprise was that two of his great plot ideas, I’d already thought of! Which was good for the old ego. At least it confirmed what I thought a young boy might like in a novel.

One thing I found interesting and insightful was that he basically pushed all my adult characters out of the way (most of my characters were adults and I hadn’t even realized it) and replaced them with children characters. My two heroes used to be Richard (11) and his sidekick Antonia (7) but Seth basically buried Richard in a gang of boys who are friends and who form the “good guys” and poor Antonia has been totally sidelined. Well, actually, he eventually condescended to give her two other girl friends who are also 7, and whose names all start with an A.

We spent 3 straight hours today discussing plot and characters. When I was talking, he often interrupted with “Can I ask a question?” or “I have an idea!” He is very enthusiastic, has an abundance of ideas, is really great at figuring out plot possibilities and reasons behind people’s actions. I could go on. He’s going to be a very talented writer if ever he decides to get serious about writing a novel. He gave me lots of great ideas, and also invaluable insight into a little boy’s mind.

Last night, he asked me very hesitantly and with great embarrassment if I was going to put in more female characters. He thinks I should. When I guessed that it was so there could be some crushes on the part of the boys and girls, I expressed surprise, saying I didn’t think boys his age liked that kind of thing, he said that they do. And lots of violence!

The Jade Avenger Journal

8 July 2013

The Journey Begins

Over the next two weeks, I have the unique opportunity of being able to focus exclusively on my “fun” writing. Although I’ll still need to do some of the writing/editing that pays the bills, I’ll be able to concentrate on writing for pleasure during the bulk of the day. What a dream come true! My number one focus is the children’s detective fiction story The Mystery of the Jade Avenger.

I’ve pulled out some of my Agatha Christie novels to analyze her writing style. I haven’t wanted to do this much previously because I feared it would spoil the enjoyment I have in simply reading her books for pleasure. But she really is the author I most look up to and whose style I would most love to emulate. I looked up several things about her and her writing style. One website provided detailed information concerning each of her dedications and who they were intended for, which provides great insight into the author’s mind and heart.

There are a couple of books out there that detail Agatha Christie’s writing style. My library doesn’t have them, but I would certainly love to get my hands on them – especially the one that deals with her “secret” journals, the notebooks in which she kept all her plot and character information. What a read that would be!

At this point I’m simply writing down in the manuscript any ideas related to plot, characters, dialogue or setting that come into my mind. It’s like putting a puzzle together really: I do the “edges” first by creating a basic outline, then fill in a little patch here and there as inspiration leads, each part of the puzzle making the overall picture a little clearer.

At some point in the future I’ll have to sort out the scenes and put them in proper order, and choose what to keep and what to delete. I have a lot of plot possibilities and will have to choose which way to go at each crossroads. I’ll have to smooth out dialogue, etc. But I am more optimistic than ever that it will all work itself out and someday I will actually have a finished manuscript!