Next Meeting

There will NOT be a meeting in October 2019, as the third Thursday in October is the first day of the FWA Conference.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Diane Sawyer Locates Dead Bodies

Mystery author Diane Sawyer (her 5th Avalon mystery will be coming out soon), presented ways to dig up stories for mysteries at the September 10th meeting. In a very entertaining and enlightening presentation Diane covered not only mysteries, but also magazine stories in several genres, including children's and romance. The multi-talented author had a quick wit, engaging style, and answered attendees' questions readily.

She talked about naming characters, using settings she was familiar with, (changing for her needs), dealing with editors and submitting work. She talked about research and how valuable it was to her stories and how she is always thinking of ideas for stories by observing her surroundings with the provocative question, 'Where would I hide a dead body here?'

I think everyone enjoyed her talk and the insights she shared.

Until next month,

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

This Year You Write Your Novel

Mosley, Walter. This Year You Write Your Novel. Little, Brown Company, 2007.

I have a weakness for "How to" books from my favorite authors, so I was happy to discover Walter Mosley’s This Year You Write Your Novel. This slender volume (128 pages) doesn’t break new ground in advice on the general mechanics of writing. Mosley provides generally the same advice on the elements of fiction that are found in most books on novel writing, such as the various points of view, showing vs. telling, and so on. But his advice still worth reading, both for the value of reinforcing the fundamentals and also for Mosley’s characteristic poetic style. In discussing the need to chose the right descriptive details to advance the story or characterization, he advises, "Details will devour your story unless you find the words that want saying." On the need to write daily to maintain momentum and keep the story from slipping away, he writes, "[A] novel is larger than your head." On making writing a first priority: "Let the lawn get shaggy and the paint peel from the walls."

All of Mosley’s advice is delivered in the gentle but insistent tone of the best teachers and coaches. For me, the most valuable chapter was the one dedicated to "The General Disciplines That Every Writer Needs." In particular, a section on "Avoidance, False Starts, and Dead-End Thinking" contained a wealth of wisdom on overcoming a persistent problem with self-restraint. "If you want to write believable fiction," he urges, "you will have to . . . revel in the words and ideas that you would never express in your everyday life."

Other than his insistence that you must write every day, there is little of the strident, dogmatic tone I have found in similar books by other authors. Mosley gives advice but does not, for example, insist that you must use an outline--or that you must not. He encourages writers to find their own methods of writing, and to persevere in those methods until the first draft is complete. He has extensive advice on revision, which in his view is where the real act of writing begins. A first draft, he says, "is little more than an outline of the novel you wish to write." Once you have finished that draft, "you are ready to write it."

There are more comprehensive books on writing, and if you’ve read any of them, you won’t find a lot of new ideas in This Year You Write Your Novel. But if you’re a fan of Mosley’s style or if you need a little encouragement to motivate you, it’s worth picking up.