Getting It Right

I’m a perfectionist, whether I’m writing, creating art, learning how to consistently bat over .300 when playing softball, or being an all-around descent person. I’ve been this way all my adult life, and it was the force behind my determination to be an excellent wildlife artist waaaaaaaaay back in the 1980s. I began painting whitetail deer in the hopes of becoming a magazine and book illustrator, but my deer looked cartoonish (I was a cartoonist at the time!), so I painted hundreds of deer from 1983 to 1987 just to get it right.

Gouache on paper, 1985
Watercolor and acrylic on board, 1987

I’m a perfectionist with my books too, which is why I pulled my Green Crystal series from their Amazon home in 2015. Sometimes an author (and artist) has to say “Good enough” and get on with the next project. But sometimes that decision isn’t “Good enough” after all.

I’ve spent plenty time posting why the Green Crystal books weren’t good enough to stay in circulation, so I won’t repeat all that here. Let me summarize, however, that I’m pleased with what going back to the drawing board with them two years ago and starting anew has brought to light.

Although the first five books of the 8-book series are short stories, I spent a lot of time and TLC on character development that elevated their personalities and made me an acting child psychologist of sorts since my characters are 14 years old. And since they’re part of the overpopulated YA book department, they need to stand up well against their contemporaries.

If all goes as planned, I’ll have the first three books of my Green Crystal series available at the end of the year. I tweaked their covers again, so I’m sharing the art of the first two books—number three is still in progress.

Night of the Hell Hounds ebook cover
Day of the Fairies ebook cover

If I miss the mark on the release date, it’s only because the perfectionist in me found a good reason to hold up the publication. And that reason will be: to get it right.

Writing Novels

It seems as if every successful author has written a book about how to write novels. One author I read about compared writing novels to performing in a circus, with juggling and balancing acts that will entertain to keep your audience mesmerized. It’s a unique comparison to the many other authors who have compared it to either building a house or baking a cake.

The bottom line is the circus needs the right acts and entertainers to be a hit with its audience. The house needs an established blueprint to be functional and withstand time. And the cake needs a proven recipe to be delicious. They are formulas to success. They are also formulas to repetitiveness. It’s up to us as authors to change these formulas to keep them new and fresh … and hopefully, successful.

Every successful novel begins with a proven formula of plot and characters. They are nothing without each other. Each must entertain us. Plots tell a story, building layers with interesting hooks and twists (subplots). Characters move the story along, often by creating tension—people who oppose each other, and then releasing the tension.

The main character shows us outward action toward an interesting goal and inward action, usually toward some sort of growth and maturity. However, some stories have characters who recede and fall from grace by giving in to life’s pressures. Authors classify the former character as the tool of an affective plot and the latter as one of a disillusionment plot.

Some authors write outlines of their stories before they begin writing their novels. Outlines “tell” the author what happens in the story. Based on that outline, the author writes a story that “shows” the reader what happens.

Almost all novels have four acts. Act One begins with rising action based on Aristotle’s Incline and ends in Act Four with falling action and a resolution. The novel’s climax usually happens at the end of Act Three.

A series is a set of books with each book representing a self-contained story. Each book ends. There is no over-arching story among a series of books.

A serial is a story told in several installments with a cliffhanger at the end of each installment until the books reach an ending. The storyline during a serial connects at the start of the next installment and continues to weave through more installments until reaching an end of the books.

Authors must know the difference between a series and a serial so as not to confuse their readers.

Every writer should read The Elements of Style, by William Strunk, Jr. and E.B. White.

Finally, time is the most important tool for an author. Some people may argue that inspiration is. Others may say persistence is. But without setting aside time to do it, no novel is ever written.

Stories [poetry]

I am told of a home
where the courtier and the heretic are hostage to the devil

where the good life is the joy of hiking black holes
a long way down
and a long way gone

where there is plenty of oil on the brain
in a far country
but a sudden country when it comes looking for you
on agate hill

where the executioner always chops twice saints behaving badly
and the devil in the white city has a heart-shaped box at the castle in the forest

where the singularity is near and never stops dancing with the little drummer girl