Throwback Thursday: How to Write a Novel That Will Actually Be Worthy of Publishing

A Writer's Path

Throwback Thursday is a series where we take a look back at some of AWP’s most popular posts. Enjoy!

by Michael Cristiano

So, you say you have a dream, Mr. Martin Luther King Jr. of prospective fiction (or nonfiction) writer. Well, so do I, and so do millions of others around the world. That is to write a book, but not just any damn book: a book that will be good enough to publish.

Seems like a pretty simple goal, right? In today’s day and age, there are a billion ways to see your work published: paperback, hardcover, ebook, literary magazine, traditional publishing, self-publishing, hybrid publishing, serialization, writing your novel on your arm and reciting it in the subway (okay, maybe not that one…)

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Naming Your Baby, I Mean, Ah, Book

Great food for thought! How do you name your books?

Vania Margene Rheault

I read books. I read lots and lots of books. Which, even though Stephen King says you can’t be a good writer if you don’t have time to read, is actually unusual for a writer. Most writers, especially those who don’t have much time to write, spend their time writing. That makes sense, right?  Right. But I read a lot of books, and sometimes I’ll have an epiphany.

Right now I’m reading Making More Money: Habits, Tactics, and Strategies for Making a Living as a Writerby Honoree Corder and Brian D. Meeks, and I had an epiphany.

How does a writer title their books, short stories, blog posts?

I suck at it.

And that was my epiphany.

No, not that I suck at creating titles for my books and stories. I knew that already.

No, I realized that On the Corner of 1700 Hamilton is the worst book title…

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So You Think You Can’t Write?

A Writer's Path

by Christopher Slater

I never have and never will claim to be an expert on writing. I have found an appreciation for it and perhaps a little bit of talent, but in general it is something that I have improved at only through sheer determination and continuous trial and error. Because of this, there is nothing that bothers me more than when I have someone tell me, without any attempt to the contrary, “I can’t write. I just can’t do it.” At that moment I start to understand how Bruce Banner feels right before he becomes the Hulk.

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The Visit

River Ridge


52-Week Writing Challenge: Week 22 – Scene from current WIP. Still struggling to overcome her issues of abandonment and salvage her personal life… and sanity, attorney Olivia Chandler attempts to visit the mother she hasn’t seen in five years and who’s been a resident at a private mental facility for almost thirty years.

“Olivia Chandler? I’m Sandra Riley, Sarina’s case manager.”

The tall woman grasped Olivia’s hand into both of her own, shaking briskly. “We’re so glad you’re here today. This is a big step forward for your mother.”

“Nice to meet you, Sandra, and honestly, it’s a big step for me too.”

“Oh, I’m sure, Olivia. Any questions for me before you visit with Sarina?”

Visit with Sarina. She made it sound so cute and homey, Olivia thought.

“Does she know I planned to be here today?”

“Yes, she does. When Sarina asked about you a few weeks ago, she said she also knew you’d have little or no reason to want to see her, but she’d always hoped you come someday.””

Olivia stared at the woman blankly, not knowing how to respond to the comment.

“I’m sure this is confusing, Olivia, and now isn’t the time for me to explain all that Sarina has gone through, but please know she is fully cognizant of her aging, of you, her late husband”, Sandra paused only for a second, “she even remembers the accident. It’s everything between the accident and a few months ago that’s fuzzy for her. It’s as though a switch was flipped off in her brain that was recently turned back on.”

Olivia frowned but didn’t ask the question on the tip of her tongue.

“May I see her now?”

“Of course! Follow me.”

The case manager’s long legs covered the distance across the sitting area in no time at all, with Olivia almost scurrying to keep up with her. Margot and Randie were always teasing Olivia about her brisk walking pace, but she had nothing on Sandra Riley! Olivia would guess Sandra to be at least six feet tall… and light on her feet.

Reaching an unmarked door in the far corner, Sandra held it open for Olivia, who walked through and found herself standing in yet another sitting room, only this one resembled the average family room. Large, overstuffed chairs, throw rugs and even a flat screen television graced the area.

“Welcome to Honey Ridge East, Olivia.”

“Honey Ridge East? I don’t understand.”

Sandra pointed to a bulletin board on the wall near the door they’d just come through.

“The residents here are grouped by floor, the severity of mental disorder, and the amount of care and supervision needed. The healthiest, most independent residents reside here in Honey Ridge.”

“My mother is here…in this section?”

She nodded.

Olivia tried to digest the information. Her mother was healthy? Required little or no supervision? Trying to reconcile this new Sarina with the bedridden, incoherent woman she last saw five years ago was difficult for Olivia.

“How long has she lived here?”

Sandra pursed her lips, thinking. Then she nodded.

“I’m pretty sure Sarina was here for the group’s Valentine’s Day dinner dance, so that makes it eight months.” Sandra tried not to laugh at the horrified expression on Olivia’s face.

“Don’t be shocked. We also have Easter Egg hunts and 4th of July barbecues. Most of the residents have signed up for hayrides next week for Halloween, and…” she leaned in towards Olivia, “I heard Santa will visit on Christmas Eve.”

Shaking her head, Olivia was incredulous.

“What kind of mental hospital is this? I mean, um…I thought…”

The case manager guided Olivia past the sitting area while answering.

“River Ridge Meadows is a private care, private pay, voluntary commitment facility. We’re fully licensed by the state and the federal government. Insurance isn’t accepted here, and no resident is here against their will. We currently have one hundred and sixty-one residents ranging in age from seven to eighty-six. Most are from throughout the state, but there are a few from other parts of the country, and even four from Europe. River Ridge has two permanent, board certified psychiatrists, two permanent, board certified medical doctors, six psychologists, and a nursing staff of 40 that includes licensed physical therapists.

The residents here are used to a certain way of life, and we provide that here, within reason. That’s why we also have an event planner and a social activities director on staff.”

Sandra stopped at the top end of a short hallway. “But we have all the time in the world for me to tell you about River Ridge, and even give you a tour, if you like.” She nodded towards the end of the hall. “Your mother is expecting you.”

Olivia pressed her hand against her stomach, the tiny nervous tremors threatening to morph into a full-fledged earthquake. Heat enveloped her body as the familiar tang of bile crept up the back of her throat. Closing her eyes, the nervous woman tried to will the anxiety away.

You’ve come this far, Chandler, don’t you dare freak out now!

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After Work: #WritingChallenge #Week21

Elevator photo

Week 21: 52-Week Writing Challenge.

A scene from a current WIP which I am absolutely clueless about!


Making her way to the elevator just after 6:30, Quinn was glad to see the end of the day. She spent the afternoon wheeling and dealing like a Wall Street broker securing new health plans to replace Martech after their premium rate hike. Quinn was successful so far, but at the expense of a migraine trying to form behind her eyes.

Pushing the down button, Quinn leaned her head against the cool, marble wall while she waited for the elevator.

“That kind of day, huh?

Quinn turned to find Fletcher Morgan… standing unusually close to her. She hadn’t even heard him approach.

“Unfortunately, yes. But it’s over… for now. It’s safe to make my escape.”

Fletcher nodded, knowingly. “Funny how a forty-hour work week so easily turns into sixty… or more. It seems like we’re always here. I’m sure your husband will be happy to see you walk through the door.”

Quinn quickly looked away and was saved from responding when the elevator doors opened.

Frowning, Fletcher followed her into the car. “Where are you parked?”

“Um… garage level four. Thanks.”

“I’m on four, too.” Pushing the button, Fletcher leaned against the lift wall. “Quinn, did I say something wrong?”

She stared at the descending floor numbers.

“Quinn?”

Smiling faintly with a half shrug, Quinn looked into Fletcher’s eyes for the first time. “I’m going through a divorce, Fletcher.”

The young man froze… momentarily speechless.

“Quinn, I-I… dammit! I feel like such an idiot! I had no idea. Please forgive me for speaking out of turn.”

“It’s okay, Fletcher. You didn’t know. Although, I’m pretty sure you’re probably one of the last few in the building who didn’t know.” She laughed easily.

Fletcher watched her… confused.

“Well… um, you seem to be dealing with it pretty well.”

“It didn’t just happen. It’s been a few months, and honestly — I waited far too long.” Before Fletcher could respond, the elevator doors opened. Quinn quickly exited the lift, heading for her car, pausing long enough for a quick goodbye. “Have a good eve-…”

“How are you really doing, Quinn? I know it’s stressful. My divorce two years ago had me drinking way too much.”

“That bad, huh?”

He nodded.

“It has been stressful. He keeps finding ways to stall, and while he’s stalling, he, along with our families gang up on me trying to make me change my mind.”

“He’s still in love with you?”

“Oscar is in love with Oscar… and the thought of marriage.”

“If he’s going through so much trouble to stall, maybe he’s learned his lesson and reconciliation is possible.”

Quinn smirked.

“It might be a possibility for him, but not for me. He should have thought about that before he cheated… several times.” She saw a flash of anger in his eyes, but it quickly disappeared.

“Are you kidding me? The man was married to you”, he pointed at her, “and he cheated? Is he a sighted man?”

The laugh escaped her lips before she could stop it.

“Seriously, Quinn Landon. You’re a beautiful woman. I don’t know you well personally, but I hear nothing but good things about you around the company. Forgive me for being so forward, but I think your husband — soon-to-be-ex-husband — is an idiot.”

Ducking her head as heat flooded her face, Quinn was grateful her mocha skin hid her blush.

“Thank you, Fletcher. That’s so kind of you to say.”

“You’re welcome. May I ask if you have a good attorney? Your assets being protected?”

“He’s a great attorney, and I’m not giving up a thing. What’s mine stays mine.”

“Good. My ex-wife came into the marriage with nothing, attempted to spend half of what I had while we were married, and tried to take the rest with her after I filed for divorce. This is a community property state, but no need to get carried away.”

“Exactly!”

He reached out and touched her arm. “It will get better, you know?”

Quinn nodded.

“I know. I’m just ready for the storm to pass. I need some sunshine in my life.”

Fletcher nodded in agreement, the firm set of his jaw instantly making Quinn think of John Wick. Damn that Priscilla! She bit the inside of her jaw to keep from smiling.

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Downsized

Supermarket

Week 20: 52-Week Writing Challenge
Word prompt – downsized

 

Ramsey felt God had punished him enough.

An honors graduate of Northwestern with nineteen years professional business experience should not be managing a second-rate grocery store.

He fumed thinking about the brand new sixty-foot boat his brother now owned.

Ramsey Carter’s pulse quickened remembering the sadness of his wife’s eyes viewing the photos from her sister’s European vacation.

The former new accounts director owned a boat once. Ramsey took his wife to Europe for their eleventh wedding anniversary… thirteen years ago.

But that was all in the past. The boat was sold two years ago in Ramsey’s second full year of unemployment. Unless they won the lottery, the Carters may never see Europe again.

Closing his laptop, Ramsey pinched the bridge of his noise. Grateful the new work schedule was complete, Ramsey wasn’t looking forward to the usual employee complaints. His penny-pinching regional manager decreased Ramsey’s allotted monthly staffing hours again. The deli and bakery would have to close five hours early to keep checkout lanes and customer service staffed.

Senior employees would scream. Insisting they’d already paid their dues by working the inconvenient shifts and doing grunt work, being scheduled for swing or short shifts was a slap in the face to long term staff.

Ramsey Carter agreed with them. He believed years of service and loyalty to an employer should mean something… have some value.

Or at least he used to.

He believed it right up to the day Bentek Corp’s security escorted him to the parking garage. Security manager Dick Roddy took Ramsey’s employee identification card, handed him an envelope, and walked away.

Downsized.

So, while understanding employee anger at their situation, Ramsey had a job to do. Take the newly allotted hours and staff the store for eighteen hours a day, seven days a week.

At least he wasn’t firing anyone. Yet.

Easing his tired body from the chair, Ramsey headed for shipping and receiving to double check the evening lock-down.

Passing through Household Goods and hearing his name called, Ramsey turned. The throbbing in his head was immediate along with the bitter taste in his mouth.

Delia Pennock, health and beauty clerk, teetered toward him on heels too high… and unsafe for the workplace.

How many times would Ramsey have to warn this woman?

Before Delia caught up to him, Ramsey’s inter-store walkie buzzed. The display showed the call was coming from Ramsey’s intended destination — shipping and receiving.

“What’s up, Minas?”

“Need you back here, Ramsey. Now.”

“On my way.”

Red-faced and out of breath, Delia reached Ramsey as he returned the walkie to his belt-clip.

“Ramsey, I know you’re working on the next schedule. Do be a dear and not schedule me for the opening shift or on the checkout stands.”

“Sorry, Delia. The schedule’s done. You open on the express checkout week two of the schedule.”

He turned to leave, but Delia caught hold of his arm. Ramsey looked back to find the bottle-blonde attempting a full-fledged pout. Pursing his lips, Ramsey stepped out of Delia’s grip.

“Ramsey! Six in the morning is just too early for someone with a social life as active as mine.”

“It’s your turn, Delia. You know the rotation.”

Delia had gall. He had to give her that. Most employee scheduling concerns were about babysitting issues, evening classes and caring for disabled family members. Only Delia would want special treatment so she could sit in a bar all night.

Though her employee file carried a birth-date making Delia thirty-nine years old, Ramsey Carter would swear in open court sitting on top of Bible-mountain she was older than his forty-seven years. Even from where he stood, Ramsey could see the layers of makeup on Delia’s face intended to hide wrinkles. It didn’t.

“But, Ramsey-”

“I have to go, Delia. Problem in S and R. And Delia,” he looked at her feet, “the shoes.”

“Oh, okay. We’ll talk… later.”

Ramsey walked away in double-time to keep from laughing in the woman’s face.

If the employee rumor mill were to be believed, Delia Pennock lured three of the last four store managers into sexual trysts outside… and inside the store. The fourth manager was female and not into women, even though it was said Delia tried anyway.

Ramsey Carter had no intention of becoming the over-the-hill party girl’s latest conquest.

Toni Temple-Carter was the sunshine in Ramsey’s life. He’d loved her since the day she’d walked into their seventh-grade English class. But the shy, awkward Ramsey Carter resigned to be just friends with the dark-skinned beauty. For six years Ramsey watched Toni date other guys, his heart breaking piece by piece each time. When he learned Toni would also be attending Northwestern, it cheered him to know he would still get to see Toni from time to time.

Ramsey’s world spun out of control the day Toni Temple plopped down on the bench next to him in the Student Union.

“Do you like me, Ramsey… at all?”

Ramsey, still gawky at nineteen, sputtered for the right words.

“Huh? Like you? Of… of course, Toni. We’re… friends. Have been for a l-long time.”

“Why haven’t you ever asked me out?”

Ramsey’s eyes widened in disbelief.

“Ask… you out? Because… I thought… we’re friends. I didn’t think-”

“Ask me out.”

“Huh?”

“Ask me out.”

Understanding registered with Ramsey and the two young people shared a grin.

“Will you go out me, Toni?”

“Yes, Ramsey Carter. I thought you’d never ask.”

They’d been inseparable ever since, marrying five years later.

Committed to each other, the Carters had avoided most of the pitfalls which darken some marriages. When their second son entered college, Toni and Ramsey were excited about the future and making plans. Plans which imploded less than a year later when Ramsey was downsized out of Bentek Corp.

Toni was steadfast, never complaining about their financial situation. At the end of her work day, the nursing manager would often pick up extra hours in patient care to help with their household budget. Toni never blamed Ramsey or even Bentek for their lot and Ramsey was in awe of her. Each time he looked at her, Ramsey saw nothing but love in her eyes.

Other downsized Bentek employees lost everything… homes, savings, and their marriages. But Toni was Ramsey’s fortress, holding him up and shielding him from the depression which threatened to take him.

Yes, the Carters sold their boat, the cabin upstate, and their timeshares. And they no longer splurged on artsy furnishings or ate out. But they had saved their home and kept both their sons in college. Toni often said they were an unbeatable team, but Ramsey knew better. Toni’s love for him was his armor against the world, but her endless faith in him gave him the strength to keep moving forward.

When Ramsey suggested putting their artistic sides to good use by getting into the on-line graphic arts business, Toni not only agreed, but she researched and found the best on-line classes they could afford. Eighteen months later, the couple was close to realizing their dream and beginning a new journey together. Ramsey knew it would be a struggle at first, both of them working full-time while trying to start their own business.  But Ramsey looked forward to the day when he was his own boss.

Opening the security door separating shipping and receiving from the rest of the store. Ramsey Carter gawked at the sight before him.

Department manager, Minas Fortuni, stood at the bay doors attempting to unbend metal around a three-foot hole in the door.

“What the hell?” Ramsey inched forward, his stomach churning at the paperwork in his immediate future. “What happened, Minas?”

Shaking his head, Minas gave up his futile attempts to close the hole.

“That last delivery guy… from Buckley Dairy… didn’t swing the back end of his trailer wide end enough. Backed right into the door. He leaned out the window and saw what he’d done. Know what he did then, Ramsey?”

The store manager stared at the hole in the door, still incredulous.

Minas continued. “He said, “Oops, sorry, dude” and drove off. Just like that.”

Ramsey hung his head defeated. He was tired, hungry and he wanted to go home. This day had to end.

Ramsey Carter decided it was time to delegate. “You busy this evening, Minas?”

“No, and I already put in a call to Rolla-Doorz. It’s going to cost extra, but they’re sending a guy over.”

“Good thinking, Minas. If you’re willing to stay and cover for me, I’ll authorize the overtime… as long as it takes.”

“Of course, I’ll stay. It’s Patty’s turn to host girls’ night. You’re saving me from watching a bunch of baby boomer females get drunk and cavort around the house to the soundtrack from “Grease.” It’s a win-win situation for us both. Go home, man… I got you covered.”

“Thanks, Minas. I owe you for this… big-time!”

Returning to his office in record time, Ramsey made quick notes about the incident and put the Buckley Dairy file on his desk for tomorrow. Before Ramsey could lock his file cabinet, Dale Johnson from the meat department leaned into his office.

“Hey, Ramsey… got a slip and fall near aisle twelve. The woman says the floor was wet and Good Buy Foods is going to pay for her pain and suffering.”

Ramsey leaned against his desk, ready to scream.

“Is the woman okay? Anything broken? Bleeding? Do we need to get paramedics here?”

Dale smirked. “Ramsey… she’s fine.”

“Is someone with her?”

“Yeah. Gail from the front desk.”

“Okay, on my way.”

Ramsey pulled an accident report from the file cabinet along with the store’s Polaroid and headed out of his office. He stopped and returned to his desk, grabbing his cell phone.

Ramsey had to let Toni know he’d be late getting home… again.

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The First Writing App? #MondayBlog

Writing Helmet

 

The Isolator is a bizarre helmet invented in 1925 which was used to help increase focus and concentration by rendering the wearer deaf, piping them full of oxygen, and limiting their vision to a tiny horizontal slit. The Isolator was invented by Hugo Gernsback, editor of Science and Invention magazine, member of “The American Physical Society,” and one of the pioneers of science fiction

The Isolator

Science and Invention Mag

 

So! Who wants one?

 

Images from Pinterest.

Edits Done! YES!

MS

Meltdown avoided. Barely.

When I decided to publish the online read Free, a Novella, I thought compile, edit, publish, right?

Obviously I’d hit my head… or watched far too many episodes of Chuggington with my two-year-old grand-nephew, Jordan.

Who knew a tiny 20K novella could be as daunting to edit as a 100K novel?

I did not.

Fortunately, the worst is over. *Looking for a piece of wood to knock on.* Now I just need to clean it up and ship it off to my editor. *And pray.*

This read will be published! Maybe not as soon as sooner, but definitely not any later than later. See what I did there?

As promised, there will also be another installment posted here-and yes, it will be before the book is published! *I heard you mumbling over there.*

Gotta love Mondays!

 

 

 

 

Breathe – and Write Your Book #MondayBlog

Writing Paper

All you wanted to do was write a book.

You had a great start–six-thousand five hundred and seventeen words. But now you’re stuck. You haven’t written a word… in three years.

You venture online for a bit of help and inspiration and in no time at all you’re sorry you ever heard of the Internet.

Sifting through a thin layer of the gazillion returns on ‘how to write a book’, you become confused.

Tropes? Outlines? MS? Taglines?

What?

All you want to do is write a book. That story has been stuck in your head since the week before high school graduation decades ago, and it won’t go away.

You just want to get it down on paper.

But all the search returns–where do you start?

You find THE link that says, “Join a group” and things are starting to make sense. You can join a group. You’re a born joiner!

Discouragement sets in a few days later when you still haven’t found a group to join, and it’s not that you didn’t look.

The first group was for published authors only. LA-DE-DA!

The second group didn’t require members to be published, but a completed manuscript WAS required.

How are these groups even in the “how to write a book” search returns if you must already have written something to join???

The next group wasn’t so bad… they were just weird.

They kept calling themselves plotters and pantsers, and talking about conflict resolution, and a satisfactory HEA to satisfy Betas.

What’s a beta?

The last group… wow. That was some next-level-new-age-bullshit!

Moments after joining the group chat, introducing yourself, and sharing your dream of writing a book the interrogation begins.

How big is your mailing list? What’s the link to your author website? Have you installed Google Analytics? How often do you blog? What’s your target audience? Do you have a professional editor lined up? What program are you typing your book in? What’s your plan for marketing and promotion? Have you written proposal letters for publishers and agents? How do you expect to get noticed and sell books?

You break out in a cold sweat! What the hell is SEO and ROI??? And there’s that ‘Beta’ word again!

How are you supposed to HAVE these things when you JUST DECIDED TO WRITE THE FREAKIN’ BOOK???

The Group has been throwing out links which you’ve clicked on and you now have thirteen browsers open. You’ve also kept a running total of costs in your head – $4500.

And you haven’t even hit ten-thousand words in your story.

The group moves on to new topics and you sit quietly… even though you want to scream and vent like you invented the term “going postal”.

The meeting ends… thankfully… and you toss your thanks and goodbyes into the chorus. You leave the chat, unjoin the group, and close the browser.

In hindsight, you should have followed your spouse to Art and Wine Night, or surprised your parents by showing up at St. Paul’s for bingo night.

Sighing heavily, you head for the coffeemaker, suddenly veering off towards the wine… minus the art.

Returning to your desk, your mind is crammed full of things you know nothing about, but just about everyone is the free world is willing to teach you… for a price.

All you wanted to do was write a book. When did writing become so complicated? The Internet did not invent books. Millions were written before ‘https://www.’ became a thing.

Collecting your thoughts… with a nod to the wine… you make a short list of the things you saw and heard repeatedly. Website, mailing list, social networks. Those will do to start… eventually.

You push the list aside, close the remaining thirteen browsers… and work on your book.

And breathe.