Grace's Mosaic Moments


Saturday, August 26, 2017

How to Write a Mediocre Book

Last weekend my daughter and extended family traveled north to South Carolina for Monday's solar eclipse (where totality occurred for 2½ minutes). (I was scheduled to go but gave up my room to my son-in-law's cousin as I'm old enough to have seen the last eclipse.) Oddly enough, the next eclipse will pass over Rosario, Argentina, where both my sil and his cousin were born!

Mike (sil) took some excellent photos which I share below:

This is how the eclipse looked in Longwood, FL - at 88%.



Please note visible craters on the moon.


 All photos by Michael Reale - using a cellphone with enhanced lens


HOW TO WRITE A MEDIOCRE BOOK

If I were a "plotter," I'd have all my blog posts laid out from now until at least the end of the year. Since I am not a plotter, I admit never knowing from week to week what topic will come next. Even when in the midst of a series, something can crop up, inspiring a post on an entirely unrelated subject. Ah, the joys of creativity!

As many of you know, I frequently get ideas from what I am writing or from what I am reading. This week's topic was prompted by a book I just read, which sparked a thought, reminding me of other books . . . 

Puzzle for the week:

How can a book have a good plot with plenty of adventure, well-drawn characters, romantic conflict, a "fresh" setting, apparently sound research, and not be a"page turner"? Put another way, why, when I really wanted to know what was going to happen to these people, was I forcing myself from page to page?

Yes, I'm accustomed to encountering books I instantly recognize as flat-out poor, and sometimes I continue reading so I can use examples from them for this blog, but what could possibly be boring about a book that seemed to have everything going for it?

What, what, what . . .?

It wasn't the first time I'd seen this phenomenon. I recall sitting at a booksigning and watching in fascination the long, snaking line (comprised mostly of young people)in front of an author I'd never heard of. So naturally I bought one of her books. And discovered a well-done fantasy "world," good characters . . . and a writing style that was only a couple of steps up from "See Dick. See Jane."

So maybe that was a clue. It still took a while to nail down what was wrong with the book I'm using as an example this week—a book that seemed to have everything going for it—but here are some ways I believe this book went astray.

1.  Sentence Structure. 
Okay, I don't think we should wind ourselves in the great convoluted sentences of the most famous nineteenth century authors, but a book composed of a whole slew of straight declarative sentences? Subject, verb, predicate. Subject, verb, predicate. With occasional forays into Prepositional Phrases at the beginning or end. Interspersed with bits of dialogue here and there—and way too "Tell"? (See #2 below.)

2. "Show" vs. "Tell."

In the books I found tedious there was too much "tell"—the narrator (author) standing on the outside describing what was going on rather than getting inside the main characters' heads and "showing" what they see, hear, or think.

Frankly, I thought the "Show" vs. "Tell" battle fought and won long ago, that there couldn't be an author left who didn't understand the challenge of personalizing their story, particularly in romance. And yet . . .

3. Sentence Fragments.
There were no sentence fragments in the books I found "slow." The structure was, in fact, every English teacher's dream. As if each sentence was carefully constructed for a school exam. (I admit some people like this pedantic style. Clearly, I do not.)

4.  Wow Factor.
Perhaps this should be part of Sentence Structure or Moving the Story Forward, but I feel it's important enough for a paragraph of its own. In the books in question I found no sense of surprise, no "hooks" (i.e., cliff-hanger chapter endings). No "Wow!" factor. The story was told - carefully, correctly, even imaginatively, but without a sign of sparkle. And as for humor, not a shred from beginning to end. 

4. Keep the Story Moving.  
In the books I'm featuring today, I felt no sense of moving the story forward; for example, in the midst of a story of danger and adventure, the tale came to a screeching halt several times while the author described scenes of mere frivolity. Which, in my opinion, detracted from the drama and made the book too long as well.

5.  Dialogue.
The book's dialogue was what I'd call "serviceable." It made sense, it sounded natural. But it was never clever, or humorous. It had no verve, no sparkle. Many of you may be too young to remember the classic TV series, Dragnet. But its classic line, "Just the facts, ma'am," lives forever. And is the perfect description for dialogue that serves its purpose but does not enliven a book. One more factor that slowed the book even though dialogue usually adds interest, not detracts.

6.  Denouement.

At the end of the book, which had already deviated from the plot line too many times, I found a denouement that stretched to infinity. Yes, I like to encourage authors to deviate from the so-called "rules," but I'm convinced that a short denouement is one of the better rules around. This translates as: when your final action scene is ended, wind the book up as quickly and tidily as possible. In a Mystery this is the final chapter where readers learn how the protagonist figured out "whodunit." In Romance, this is often a final romantic scene between the hero and heroine. But whatever it is, do not go on and on and on, providing a waterfall of superfluous words that does nothing but put your readers to sleep. Your book is OVER. Don't shoot yourself in the foot by belaboring a dead horse!

Summary.

Perhaps my negative feelings about this style of writing are part of being an "out of the mist" author. I value thinking and writing outside the box. I don't want my books, even my historicals, to sound as if I wrote them  as part of a thesis or dissertation. I want my words to sing from the heart. And the heart doesn't always speak in perfectly crafted sentences. Nor does it want someone standing outside the main characters' bodies, describing what they're doing. The heart wants to be right there with him, inside their heads, suffering with them, loving with them, triumphing with them.

So even if you don't agree with me, take another look at your work. Would it be better for more varied sentence structure? Would it be better if it were more personal—more "show," less "tell"? Would it be better with snappier dialogue? Would your readers care more? Would you feel greater satisfaction?

Just a few thoughts for all authors to consider . . .

~ * ~


For a link to Blair Bancroft's Facebook Author page, click here. 

For a link to Pre-order (sale price) of The Bastard Prince, click here.
(The Bastard Prince is Book 3 of the Blue Moon Rising series.)

To add your name to Blair's Newsletter, click here.



Next Week: 
The remarkable tale of making a 
YouTube music video

Thanks for stopping by,
Grace 


 

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Out of the Mist Oops


How Time Flies . . .

Cassidy, Hailey, Riley - c. 2009

Cassidy, Hailey, Riley, August 2017


"Out of the Mist" Oops


Anyone who has been reading Mosaic Moments for a while knows that I am an "out of the mist" author. (Sorry, but I reject the term "pantser" - it's ugly.) If I sit down and create a detailed outline of what I intend to write, the story loses its magic. I know what happens, so the idea of all that work to fill in the remainder is too boring to be contemplated. Forgetaboutit!

But I have to admit that even after 35+ books, it's possible to wander astray. I've always been a linear writer - I start at the beginning and write straight through to the end. But when I hit Regency Gothic #6, The Blackthorne Curse, I came a cropper (as equine-speak goes). Perhaps it was because I was struggling to polish the workshop I would deliver to the BeauMonde Chapter at the RWA conference . . . Perhaps it was simply my time to stumble, but the week before conference, I knew I was mired in a bog as treacherous as the ones in my book. Wanting to move the story forward, I had leaped ahead - straight over the plot and into the brambles. I also learned the Maypole dance I had happily added for "color" would not work because my heroine was still far away in boarding school on the first day of May. Sigh. 

I saved Chapters 1-9, complete with Maypole scene, to a thumb drive, then read through hard copy of 9, highlighting the "must keep" sections. The problem seemed to be that I had jumped my heroine from age fifteen to age eighteen with the turn of a page, and as much as I wanted to move the story forward, it simply wasn't working. Which left me re-creating my heroine's sixteenth and seventeenth summers, which necessitated moving letters she received from one year to another and watching like a hawk to keep the continuity correct. Thus, instead of writing in linear mode, I found myself shuffling "mosaic moments," a definite irony for the author of a blog called Grace's Mosaic Moments

This jigsaw challenge was not fully met until after conference - and could not be accomplished without going back and reading the entire book from Chapter 1 to Chapter 8. 

What I discovered:

1.  The Blackthorne Curse was intriguing, but the level of evil - the scare factor - was not high enough for a heroine who is the only child in a family where the "first-born" is cursed to die before his/her 19th birthday.  

2.   Every change I made necessitated other changes to avoid continuity problems, distance problems, school schedules, etc. I became not only a creator of intricate mosaics but a juggler as well.

3.  I knew, of course, that I would need to add color to my story; that is always true as I go back and edit, but this time the added bits were far more extensive than usual. In particular, I needed to introduce the considerable adder population of Dartmoor. And make more of the terrifying tales told of happenings on the moor. My settings and characters were pretty good, but clothing, plants, animals, not so much. (Yes, I had mentioned some of Dartmoor's tall tales, but not enough.)

4.  Also - major oops - I discovered that an important setting I use in the story was not where I thought it was on Dartmoor. [Which would explain why I couldn't find it on my 1" = 1 mile (giant scale) map of the moor!] When Google Earth pinpointed it for me, my eyes popped. Wistman's Wood was close to Princetown? Close to Dartmoor prison? Oh, how I wished I'd known about the" wood" when we stayed overnight in Princetown, lo, these many years ago. (For the purposes of The Blackthorne Curse, I had to settle for photos from Google Earth.) Then again, if I hadn't been forced to slow down, take a breath, and study everything more carefully, I might have completely missed Wistman's Wood's placement in the heart of Dartmoor.

5. Maypole or not to Maypole?
I figured a way to get our heroine home by May 1st, but now the big question: would that dance scene move the story forward? And if not, can I justify it on the basis of "color" alone? I still haven't figured that one out.

6. By the time I was done puzzling and juggling, a good two weeks after the convention, most of Chapter 9 had become Chapter 10, but oh joy! a read-through of Chapters 6-10 seemed to make sense. (I can only hope I didn't leave my heroine too young for too long.)

Summary. Yes, not being a "plotter" can get you into trouble, but this is the first time (and I hope the last) in a quarter century of writing that I've had to suffer this much discombobulation. And, believe me, none of what I suffered was enough to get me to change my method of writing. "Out of the mist" is who and what I am. I embrace it.

Note for Newbies to my Blog:  When it comes to style and one's approach to writing, I never say, "My way or the highway." Each person must find his/her own method of getting to those magical words, "The End." My purpose is to reassure those who "wing" their way through manuscripts that it's okay, you don't have to write outlines or detailed summaries before you begin. (In fact—just between you and me and the lamppost—I don't how you can be creative if you've got it all planned out ahead of time.) But if you do get hung up - to borrow a phrase from law enforcement: "Do the crime, spend the time." Fix your tangled mess and move on. Don't leave it 'til the end of the book when the challenge of fixing it may have become overwhelming.

Only time will tell if shoving bits and pieces into different positions in my mosaic worked, but please keep in mind those ancient sayings: Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Take the bit in your teeth and run for it! True - you can't mess up if you if you never put words on a page. But you won't make any money with your writing either. You'll never enjoy the thrill of telling a good story. So be daring. Sit down and type. You can fix what doesn't work the first time. Or the second time, or . . . But you can't fix words that never made it to the page.

As always, my advice to authors:

SIT. STAY. PERSEVERE.

For my post, "Organizing the Out-of-the-Mist Author," please see Archives, 7/9/16.

~ * ~ 
 
Grace note:  For an inside look at The Bastard Prince prior to publication, check out the new post on my Facebook Author Page.
For a link to Blair Bancroft's Facebook Author page, click here. 

For a link to Pre-order (sale price) of The Bastard Prince, click here.


(The Bastard Prince is Book 3 of the Blue Moon Rising series.)


To add your name to Blair's Newsletter, click here.

Thanks for stopping by.

Grace

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Blair Turning a New Leaf

The grandgirls went back to school this week, an early date even for Florida. (I don't know what Seminole County was thinking. Maybe anticipating more hurricanes this fall?) And as I was searching for a photo to suit Back-to-School week, I recalled the marvelous cartoon that hung on the walls in my family's various homes for as long as I can remember. And which, since my mother's death, I had hanging on my own wall - until I moved to Longwood. Fortunately, I quickly located it in a cardboard container in my office, and here it is. This cartoon was blown up and framed by a friend of my father's back when my father was a high school principal. (Probably c. 1940-41 when we lived in Mansfield, Massachusetts.) So no, that's not a staged "period" cartoon. It's the real thing. The caption reads:  "Run along home, darling. Mother is going to make sure you get promoted this term."







Shopping for School Supplies

 ~ * ~

Blair - Turning Over a New Leaf

The recent RWA national convention in Orlando pummeled my mind with myriad new ideas - and some old ones that I'd let pass me by. (I can only plead that I was so busy writing books, blogs, and editing my own work, plus books for other authors, that a lot of promotion for my books simply never happened.) Therefore, before I get back to posts on Writing and Editing, I'm going to listen to the advice I paid all that money to hear and share some of the basic promotional things I've been working on this past week.

For those new to my blog who may not know . . .

Grace's Mosaic Moments is the work of Grace Kone, who writes as Blair Bancroft. And although I stumbled onto a page on Facebook this week that said: "An anonymous source has informed us that Grace Kone is not Blair Bancroft and the page has been deleted," it just ain't so! (On further thought, I suspect I may have been the anonymous source, decrying that the "Grace Kone" in India was not Grace Kone, the author. Or perhaps it was the male Blair Bancroft who's out there somewhere, frantically saying he doesn't write Romance, not even Mystery or Suspense. In any case, after moments of extreme panic, I discovered my brand new Facebook Author Page was alive and well. That, and other links, are listed below.

BLAIR'S NEWSLETTER.
For years I have sent out my Newsletter only when a new book was coming out. And, except for a fairly obscure "button" on my website, I failed to encourage people to become Newsletter members. Mea culpa! That changes now. My web guru has added a short paragraph with a "click" link at the very top of my web front page. A click will take you to my Blair Bancroft group on Yahoo, where you can sign up to receive updates about what I'm working on, what book has just been published, and other tidbits I hope might be of interest.
For Blair's website, please click here.
 
Needed:  ARC readers
I am looking for 4 or 5 people who would be willing to read an Advanced Readers' Copy (digital) of my books and write a review, preferably the day the book comes out.
Anyone who is interested can contact me at blairbancroft@aol.com

Grace note: Just sent out my first ARC tonight (Saturday). Who else would like to join the crew?

FACEBOOK AUTHOR PAGE.
I now have a Facebook Author Page. Due to the existence of a male Blair Bancroft on Facebook, the tag is: blairbancroftauthor
I will be posting updates on what I'm writing, insights into plots, details on the characters, how the book was born, etc. If you can see your way clear to "liking" my page, I'd be most grateful.
For a link to my Facebook Author Page, click here.

GOODREADS.
I was a last holdout to Goodreads, joining just before the RWA conference and finding myself swimming in a sea of confusion. Oh happy day, one of the workshops I attended was given by a lovely Goodreads librarian who has been struggling to bring me up to speed in the Goodreads world ever since. I'm not quite there, but if you're a member of Goodreads, you are invited to "follow" me or "friend" me. Your support is much appreciated.

TWITTER.
 I've been on Twitter a long time, posting weekly links to Grace's Mosaic Moments, but only recently have I begun to take advantage of its promotional opportunities, attempting catchy or amusing tweets about my books.
You are invited to follow me @blairbancroft.

 LINKEDIN.
 I am on LinkedIn as Grace Ann Kone, where I regularly post a link to Grace's Mosaic Moments.

VENDORS.
Almost all my books are available through both Amazon and Smashwords. (Smashwords offer formats for just about every computer and e-reader in existence.) The exceptions: Tarleton's Wife, which will soon revert from Kindle Unlimited and be available on Smashwords with the other books in the Regency Warrior series. Because of a long-term contract on Rebel Princess, the four books of the Blue Moon Rising series - a SyFy Saga - are available only on Amazon. Books 2 and 3 are:  Sorcerer's Bride and The Bastard Prince (pub date 9/8/17). Royal Rebellion will not be out until 2018.

PRE-ORDER THE BASTARD PRINCE.
To order The Bastard Prince, Book 3 of the Blue Moon Rising series, at a reduced pre-pub price, click here.

Grace Note: if you saw my "Surprise Post" of 7/22/17, you know that K'kadi may be literally a bastard, as in born out of wedlock, but no way does he qualify for the more figurative meaning of the word. In fact, his primary problem is being afflicted with innocence - something that just may change in Book 3. 

BEST FOOT FORWARD - Grace's Editing Service.
To receive a PDF brochure detailing services and prices, please send an email to:
editsbyBFF@aol.com.

~ * ~ 
Okay, I suspect even those taskmaster workshop presenters at the Dolphin in Orlando might be impressed with all I've managed this week. Certainly, I'm heaving a sigh of accomplishment. Imagine, entering the world of Promo at this late date!


Next week, I promise, back to Writing & Editing, though I haven't a clue what the topic will be. ("Out of the mist," as always.)


Thanks for stopping by.


Grace

Friday, August 4, 2017

Index to Grace's Writing & Editing Posts



Members of The Citrus Singers practicing for a YouTube video
In a major do-it-yourself project, The Citrus Singers, Director Susie Reale, Technical Director Michael Reale, plus mothers, fathers, grandmothers, grandfathers, uncles, aunts, etc., assembled an all pink set - even painting the studio floor pink! And after weeks of effort, rehearsals, and pre-recording "It's all about that Badge!" they video-taped on Tuesday and Wednesday. Believe me, there will be a link posted here when the video finally debuts online.

~ * ~ 

As my regular readers know, twice a year I post an index to all my posts on Writing and Editing since I began Grace's Mosaic Moments back in January of 2011. This time around, I spent considerable effort organizing them into what I hope will be helpful groups. You should be able to find all by date in "Archives."


UPDATED INDEX TO GRACE'S WRITING & EDITING BLOGS
Grace's Mosaic Moments, January 2011 - July 2017 


Note: Topics with more than one post are in Bold type.

WRITING

Formatting a Manuscript - 5/9/11
Nuts & Bolts, Part 1 (grammar, punctuation) - 5/16/11
Nuts & Bolts, Part 2 (punctuation, helpful books) - 6/16/11
Tab conversion (from manual to auto) - 8/5/11
Using Italics - 2/15 & 2/22, 2014
Using Capitals - 4/12 & 4/19, 2014
Manuscript Format for the 21st Century - 5/6/12
Writing No-No’s - 5/28/12
Point of View - 5/18/12
Dictionary for Writers (5 parts) - 2/4 - 4/7, 2013
Layering - 6/30/13
Layering, a Writing Technique - 7/16/16
Dangling Participles - 7/7/13
Show vs. Tell - 7/21 & 7/28, 2013
Treacherous Words - 8/11/13
The Difference a Word Makes - 9/1/13
“Modern” Punctuation - 9/15/13
Questions to Ask Yourself - 10/13/13
Third Person vs. First (2 parts) - 5/31 & 6/8/14
Rule-Breaking (3 parts) - 6/21 - 7/5/14
Don’t Be a “Rule” Slave (adverbs) - 5/6/17
To Be or Not to Be (was & were) - 5/27/17
Attitudes Toward Point of View - 2/20/16
Playing with Tags - 3/19/2016
Mystery vs. Gothic - 10/22/16
Telltale Signs of Amateur Writing - 10/1/16
How to Write a Bad Book - 3/12/17
What is Women’s Fiction? - 6/25/17 & 7/1/17

HOW TO DEVELOP YOUR CHARACTERS series:
What you need to discover about your characters - 10/15/2012
More questions about your characters - 10/29/12
The Rest of the Story - 11/5/12

Also:
Character Development (3 parts) - 11/7 & 12/5, 2015 & 2/6/16
Character Development - the Unexpected (2 parts) - 8/20 & 8/27, 2016
What’s in a Name? - 3/18/17
The Nitty Gritty of Names - 4/30/17


WRITING WORKSHOP (9 parts) - 12/6/14 - 6/28/15
[Ideas, Fresh Twists, Research, Title, Names, Opening & Hooks, Plot, Goals, Motivation, Conflict, Setting, Characters, Narration, Dialogue, Pacing, Point of View, Transitions, Mechanics, Self-editing, & Questions to ask yourself before declaring your work “finished.”]

WORLD-BUILDING series (4 parts) - 12/28/13 - 2/1/14
   [a look at the problem of creating a whole new world]

WRITING A SERIES (5 parts) - 1/21/17 - 2/18/17. Why Write a Series? “Single Title,” “Cliff-Hangers,” “Mixed Approach” & Summary


EDITING

I Ran Spell Check, I’m Done, Right? (self-editing) - 7/2/11
The Final Steps (self-editing) - 7/14/11
A Tale of Three Books - 9/24/16
The Difference a Word Makes - 10/15/16
More Thoughts on Final Edits - 11/5/16
Editing & Holiday Musing - 12/ 30/16
Editing Scold - 12/4/13
Misused Words (2 parts) - 10/4 & 10/25, 2014
More on Editing - 5/3/14
Editing Examples (4 parts) -8/8, 8/23, 8/30 & 9/13, 2015
Copyediting Challenges (7 parts) - 8/29/15 - 10/31/15 + 4/3/16


EDIT THE BLASTED BOOK series:
Intro to Self-editing - 4/1/12
Should You Hire Help? - 4/28/12
Anatomy of an Edit - 8/5 & 8/19, 2012


SPECIAL TOPICS

**The Varied Faces of Indie Pub - 1/14/17

Reminiscences of Controversies (3 parts) - 5/13 - 5/26, 2013
     [a look at writing controversies over the past 2 decades]
Guideposts for Critiquing - 1/28/11
Writing Mistakes, Near Misses & Just Plain Strange - 3/4/11
Shortcuts for Writers (ASCII codes) - 3/18/11
Rules for Romance - 9/18/11 & 10/16, 2011
How Not to Write a Book - 12/20/12
How Not to Write a Book - 4/4/15
Branding - Bah, humbug [writing multi-genre] - 1/21/13
How Does Your Novel Grow? - 4/ 28/13
Word Perfect to Indie Pub - 11/27/13
Questions Fiction Writers Should Ask Themselves - 10/13/13
On Being a Writer - 8/22/015
The Tricks to Track Changes - 1/16/16
Running Off at the Keyboard (rant) - 2/13/16
Why I Love E-books (2 parts) - 5/21 & 5/29, 2016
Organizing the Out-of-the-Mist Author - 7/9/16
The Sound of Silence - 7/30/16
Transforming Truth Into Fiction - 9/4/16
What’s the Fascination with Fairy Tales? - 4/1/17
Cultural Confusion - 6/10/17
Twisted Times (the influence of today’s news) - 7/16/17
                                ~ * ~

**the post with links to indie-publishing information


 ~ * ~

For a link to Amazon's Pre-order page for The Bastard Princeclick here. 

 
Thanks for stopping by,
Grace

For Grace's website, listing all books as Blair Bancroft, click here.


For a brochure for Grace's editing service, Best Foot Forward, click here.