Tuesday, May 17, 2022

3T Writing Tidbit

 As I was learning the craft of writing, sometimes I got a little confused about the proper way to do things. Here are a few more rules of thumb I picked up. As with any rule of thumb, this is a guide, not a set of commandments.

  • Every character represents something bigger (which is significant to the book's theme).
  • Write the hero as if a Hollywood star would love to play them.
  • The structure is like fractals. Each book is hook, build, payoff, built of chapters that are hook, build, payoff, built of paragraphs that are hook, build, payoff.
    • Note: The payoff of chapters is often something bad/cliffhangery
  • Curiosity keeps us reading. Emotions connect us to the story.
Published since 2009, over the years I've accumulated various items of writing wisdom. The Third Tuesday Writing Tidbit showcases these items in no particular order. Click here to see all 3T Tidbits.  

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

2T Performance - 6 Questions for Mary Hughes

I've done a number of blog tours over the years, posting on different sites. Now I'm bringing them to you!

Originally published May 16, 2011 for Sarah

6 Questions for Mary Hughes

Sarah, thanks so much for having me here today!

Welcome, Mary, can you tell us a little about yourself?
Basics: wife and mother, earn my living with my passions―writing, computer programming, and playing flute. I think and read way too much but compensate for it by listening a lot more than I talk.

At what age did you discover writing and when were you first published? Tell us your call story.
My first experience with writing was transcribing my favorite story, Bambi, at age seven via an old Underwood manual typewriter. I started typing my own stories on a new PC when pregnant with my first child. I made my first sale twenty years later (I tended to write two novels for every rejection I got :)

The Call (or The Email actually) came after an unlikely sequence of events. I like combining weird things so tend to be ahead of the market (like mashing mystery and paranormal, which twenty years ago just didn't sell). I'd gotten totally fed up with rejections and let loose, writing a story incorporating all the things I knew I did well. It combined vampires, action, comedy, and explicit sex and I had a total ball writing it. But when it came to selling it, well, nobody was buying all that in one package.

Until an anthology call from the amazing Samhain Publishing asked for exactly that. I wrote a shortie in the series and submitted it. It didn't make the anthology but was passed on to another editor who requested revisions. Since I had a full-length novel in the series ready, I asked to submit that in the meantime. She read it, loved it, and bought it.

What is the hardest scene you had to write in this piece? (Biting Me Softly)
I write stories that are explicit in both sex and language, packed with action and definitely mature. But I also think they're emotionally safe stories. I'm not going to kill off any good guys or seriously compromise their morality. So I always work hardest on the scenes that poke at a soreness in an important relationship. In this book my heroine Liese deals with her mom going rebellious because the mom's dealing with cancer. Heavy topics and potentially dangerous so I work very hard on painting the topics honestly but with a light enough brush that they're dramatic but not maudlin. It's a delicate balance.

What was your first reaction when you got a glimpse of your cover art?
I drooled. Honestly, I'd buy this one for the cover alone :D

Which of your novels most reflects who you are as a writer?  Why?
Probably Bite My Fire. It was the first I wrote in the series, but I learned so much after publishing Biting Nixie that I went back and rewrote Fire. Then my editor had more changes and I did another rewrite on the beginning three chapters. Of all my books, I think Fire was the one that I most had to use technique rather than muse.

As an author, what makes a book great in your eyes?
Half is clean vivid prose. Dorothy Dunnett can do more with a single character gesture than most authors can in a whole chapter. The other half is compelling story, but compelling is mostly dictated by a reader's personal taste.

What advice would you give to the new/unpublished author?
Write the story inside you that demands to be told. Then put it away and write another. Take out the first after you've forgotten what you wrote. Read it like a reader, not the author. Mark the places you're uncomfortable. You may not know how to fix them right away, but it's the first step in learning the vital art of self-editing.

“Never give up” is great advice too, but I think superfluous. If you're an author, you can't give up. You're always writing, if only telling yourself stories in your head.

Oh, and make a card that says “SUCCESS” and post it where you can see it. That's you, baby.

What are three things you wish you’d known before you began your writing career?
How about the three things I wish I hadn't known? :)  When you're published you have to deal with negative reviews, marketing yourself, and challenging yourself to get better at your craft every day. I knew all that and wondered if I would be up to it, which scared me, which really ended up making me doubt myself and my writing. Which I think delayed my getting published at least a decade.

The fact is, you'll learn what you need and do what you need to in order to reach your readers. In the context of reaching readers, it all becomes much less frightening. It's a lot of hard work (and negative reviews still blow), but understandable, good work.

If someone wrote a biography about you, what should the title be?
The Introverted Performer

Is there anything you would like to ask your readers?
Dear Reader: What makes a story memorable to you?