Thursday, February 26, 2015

Genres, Writing, Reading and Wandering

A few thoughts on books, authors and all things writing and reading.

Writers come in all sizes, shapes, ages and genres. The list on the bottom of this post is not complete but, I think, a decent list of various modern genres. No matter what area of writing an author is working in there will be competition for readers. Today with self-publishing each category has developed sub categories, some genres many of them. And the competition to sell books is fierce.

In my day, as a school kid, I read action, adventure and westerns, along with anything I could find about baseball players. Today school kids seem to read fantasy and horror, with many girls having a tenancy to pick up romance. In my part of the world, the boys still like hunting stories.

Both as a youngster and as an adult I have enjoyed a good mystery, Mystery mixed with any of the above seem to be good catchers for today’s readers.

In my growing up years we read comic books, today kids read graphic novels, which look pretty much the same to me. The only difference, ours were usually humorous and in color, while graphic novels seem more along the lines of super hero or romance, serious books printed in black and white.

I think most westerns with large readership today would be classified as modern western mysteries. Two Wyoming writers, C.J. Box and Craig Johnson have been very successful in this area of writing. As far as the traditional, old west, western, it’s not dead, but I’m not sure any new author or agent could convince a major, traditional publish house, to buy one. Doubtful an author starting out could even find a reader among agents and publishers for this genre – too bad. I would still try one.

A literary genre is a category of writing. Genres may be determined by many factors.  Differences between genres and subcategories of genres are loosely defined.

Snowy Today in Wyoming

~My Incomplete Genre List~

Prayer books
Science fiction
Self help

Thursday, February 19, 2015

A Good Western Mystery

I like westerns and I like mysteries, guess that is why one of my favorite type of books is a good western mystery. Here is what I believe makes up a good western tail, or for that matter, a good mystery.

  1.     A crime early in the book, preferably in chapter one or two. Most readers prefer a murder mystery, makes for a much better read for many than the old fashioned cat burglar stories. (Although Lawrence Block and his character, Bernie Rhodenbarr, a burglar, is one of my all-time favorite mystery series).
  2.      Draw a clear line between the good guy and the bad guy
  3.     Reveal clues along the way, let the mystery unfold     Give the reader a chance to catch the bad guys using the same clues as the police, cops, sheriff, sleuth or whoever is the protagonist/good guy.
  4.      Don’t solve it all until the last chapter.
  5.      Above all else don’t end it with someone waking up and it was all a dream. Don’t make an unexpected turn with some kind of twin thing or a fantasy type ending when the rest of the book was not a fantasy. Readers are not that dumb.
This style of western is not always easy to find. I think a good western needs a strong plot, like a mystery it is always as much about the story as the good guys and bad guys shooting each other.
A little nervous and starting to move when they saw me

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Ten Reasons I Can't Get Around to Writing

Writing can be pretty lonely. I write at night, sometimes late into the night or the next morning. I read many blog posts that focus on, finding your best creative part of the day. Morning seems best for most - not me. Not sure why I was never a great morning person. Seems about eight in the evening until 1 or 1:30 in the morning is best for me.

That doesn't mean I don't work during the day, I go from 10 to noon or maybe one, that's about it until the evening hours.

So, how do I spend the hours of a day when most, non-retired people are working?  

1.   I get up late (Embarrassing, but relaxing) 

2.   I play golf (Even in winter when it is 50 degrees or better)

3.   I work in the garden (Seed starting this weekend – indoors)

4.   I work in my wood shop (Many projects and a great mess)

5.   I ride my bicycle (As long as the snow and Ice are absent)

6.   I hike the trails of Guernsey State Park (Love this)

7.   I take photographs ( I average about 800 a month, and no, I don't save them all)

8.    Yes, I do work some. I work five to eight days a month as a substitute teacher in the local school district. (After being in front of the class for 42 years it is a hard habit to break).

9.   I play my harmonica (love the haunting sound, it reminds me of times past and the old west. I’m not too bad either).

10.   I watch old movies (if it’s in Black and White I will probably like it, I also DVR the old B&W Gunsmoke episodes).

There you have it, a day in the life of a procrastinating writer. I still write about 20,000 words a month, not much to some, but pretty good for me.
Fort Laramie
“Never put off till tomorrow what may be done day after tomorrow just as well". 
Mark Twain

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Re-Write and Do It Again

The toughest part of writing is writing until its good enough. Writing until the pickiest critic, yourself, is satisfied.
I had someone recently ask me why I have not attempted to publish the four, yes four, books I have written. Easy, they are not good enough. I am continually working on them. When I get rejected I want my best stuff to be rejected, not something I wrote in a few hours.
I actually have enough short stories to put together three more books, but who’s counting?

"Books aren't written, they're rewritten. Including your own. It is one of the hardest things to accept, especially after the seventh rewrite hasn't quite done it..." - Michael Crichton

And if I need inspiration I take a quick trip to the park.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

I Only Know Three Things About Editing

First - Print it out and edit from the paper copy
Editing from the screen has become the method of choice for many writers, and will work if you plan to send it off to a professional editor afterward. If you do not have the time, or money, for a professional editor, you must edit from paper.
The last time I posted about not hiring a professional editor I got quite a few comments from writes saying a book should never be published without proper professional editing. This is wonderful advice if the writer can afford the over $1,000 needed to get a good job.
As I have stated here before one of the problems in editing, and the writing business in general, is finding a good editor. Book doctors and editors need only to advertise and they are in business. Sad, but there are some real scam artists calling themselves editors who may or may not run your works through a quick editing program and pronounce it edited and ready for publication.

Second - Read it aloud
Reading out loud will let you find, bad punctuation, poor word choice, awkward sentences and sometimes tense changes. The good news here is that programs are available that will read your work. They will sound like a computer reader, odd, but maybe not so odd since it is the computer reading.
I like to read it myself and listen to myself, which sounds a bit full of myself, but it works. Wives, husbands or friends reading your words to you works great.

Third – Look for overuses of easy/lazy words. Here’s my list.

That, stuff, things, very, got, all, every, seem, almost, sometimes, big, little, have got, just - and the dreaded, was-is-are-am
It is simple to use the find and replace editing function to pick up these and at least, attempt a fix.

There you have it the only three thing’s I know about editing, not much.  Must be why I am looking out my window at a foot of new snow instead of writing today.

Oh- don’t forget to spell and grammar check, often.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Tony Hillerman

Tony Hillerman has been one of my favorite authors for many years. I am now reading his autobiography, Seldom Disappointed – A Memoir, like his books, it is turning into a fascinating read.

Mr. Hillerman followed the old author advice of writing what you know and then finding an audience, not writing what is popular. He wrote mysteries, mysteries set among the Navajo’s of New Mexico. He knew New Mexico and he knew its people.

He was one of the all-time greats at writing modern adult westerns. Interesting that his books are often listed as mystery only. For my reading, he writes in my favorite genre, western mystery.

"You write for two people, yourself and your audience, who are usually better educated and at least as smart."

"An author knows his landscape best: he can stand around, smell the wind, get a feel for his place."

Tony Hillerman