Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Writing: Don't Give Up

Do Not Give Up!

You may be closer than you think to becoming a published author.

I briefed nine manuscripts this past week. The authors were rejected by one of my clients, a major publisher. Three of those manuscripts were great. So, why were they rejected? They were rejected because they were not quiet ready for publication, that's why.

As a freelance writer, I am pulling for the writers of the above mentioned three manuscripts. As a paid editor, my responsiblity to my client is to toss the manuscript and go to the next one, however, I cannot. There's trouble going on between my ears. The writer in me is a nagging moralist that makes me feel like I've betrayed all writers by supporting the rejection, but the publisher is paying my bills. So, what do I do?

I contact those writers and offer what a rejection letter does not. You guessed it: I offer advice.

Why am I writing this particular post? I want you to know that your manuscripts may be closer to publishing than you realize. In honor of my client publishers, I am not at liberty to mention names, just yet, however, many good books are turned down simply because editors do not have time to read them. If only I had more time. I would edit the good manuscripts for free. Yes, I would. I cannot help myself. I love this game.

How I love this game.

A wise person once said, "If your game in life is not worth playing, find another game."

I agree with the sage. Great manuscripts are worth saving. I'm asking other editors out there (no, I'm begging) to please, please take an otherwise rejected manuscript home this weekend and give the writer a few pointers. It will reward you. If the good manuscript is published, you'll have yourself a most loyal writer. Remember, loyalty works both ways.

Sure, you might say, but Barry are you doing what you're requesting of us?

Yes, I am. Well, to an extent, I am. I don't have time to read complete manuscripts that are already rejected, however, I will help correct what I call "bad chapters" to an otherwise good book. Some of you (editors) have good manuscripts with a couple bad chapters that turned you off, please, don't outright reject it. Contact me, I will help with it.

So, do I practice what I preach...or what?

For those aspiring novelist out there whose editors have directly pointed out bad chapters, yet you don't know what to do with them, send me an e-mail. Please be brief, as time is of the essence. Send me a summary of the problem. Summary. That's a two pager. If I agree to help you, I will request a chapter. We will work with it over a couple of days, at which time you may be ready to move to the next problem with your manuscript.

How's that for service?

Remember, I have time to review one chapter only....the bad chapter that is otherwise, inhibiting the publication of a good book. Most books have a hindering spirit....somewhere within the text, prior to publication.

Hang in there and someday soon the mail carrier will arrive with an exciting acceptance letter.

So, there it is. Don't give up. Define the chapter(s) that's hindering the progress of your book and do something about it.

So, what are you waiting for?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Writing to Mesmerize the Reader

(c)copyright 2010 Hamdani

We want to capture the reader's attention, right away, do we not?
Assuming we agree, let's explore means of arriving at that objective. Here are a few tips.

Use the epithet to handcuff the reader's imagination to a given passage. I suggest you write and read poetry to develop the technique and modify your style over a relative short period of time. Use unusual words and phrases to accompany your prose. These words should incur in place of the name of a person or thing, thus the epithet.

{Bare with me. I've included two examples, below. I won't leave you hanging}

Allow your writing to fluctuate from prosaic to insidious to the poetic and back, again, thus elliptic. This is a panacea to otherwise boring narrative. Here's how to do it.

*Give them deliberate obscurity.

*Emphasize the magic of the elliptic.

{continue reading. These techniques are included in the examples, below}

Why? Because adverbs are otherwise relative to the reader's interpretation, but obscurity evokes emotion. Emotion gives the passage crediblity relative to the reader's personal experience or judgement. In other words, obscurity allows the reader to identify with a character or event from the reader's past.

Everyone knows a Smitty and a Fenetriss (characters in my story as depicted below). The roles the characters represent are fiction, but the personalities are not.

*Write a poem about your protagonist/antagonist and watch the magic happen.

The master of this talent, in my opinion, is Emily Dickinson, poet extradionaire. Emily Dickerson could have patented her technique. It is an extreme economy of speech, second to none. The language she used is intrinsically special in that it is elliptically compressed. Her intellectual reticence stops you in your tracks, compelling you, the reader to "feel" her.

{I don't claim to be an Emily Dickerson, but you get the point}

She used metaphors to explain what prose (independently used) cannot. Make a point to read one of her poems each week and see what happens to your writing.

The technique requires a major leap from your present topic to another by the emission of words and then you must revert to poetry, and return to prose, again. To employ this technique, effectively, you want to use words and images that are undefined and allow the reader to attach the face or self-invoked image.

For example, you may resort to words that create images....words like: God, the devil, angels, demons, guardian angels, spirits, a presence and so forth.

Here's what I want you to accomplish: use an economy of words by exploiting silence, elliptically. For example, in one of my upcoming novels (a thriller), I explained the antagonist as such:

It was not Smitty's words that destroyed you. Havoc took place between a few deliberately spoken sentences. His dark eyes remained still beneath thick brows that were becoming of a demon with the appearance of a normal man, except little of Smitty's demeanor was normal. Looking at him gave one the perspective of a person viewing the body of a relative at a wake. One's soul became instantly fragmented by the possibility of being left alone with him. He was a dark place, a sinister element that should not have breathed.

And when he gave you that half-smile, that grimace becoming of nearly every known serial killer, you were immediately aware of your human frailties. He made you want to pray.

His smile offended God.

This technique is not limited to a particular genre. For example, I used it in a romance scene, below.

It was not her words that magnetized the man's heart, but the things Fenetriss didn't say. It was that space between the words spoken and the actual meaning conveyed that made her lover stutter; a place superior to wit and one step below Godliness. When Fenetriss spoke, and just before their lips met, a most sublime silence captured him, even before she closed her eyes. At that very moment, he realized that his propensity to become better or weaker was solely up to her.

He could only hope that her half-smile pleased God.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

I Need an Agent

(c) copyright 2010 Hamdani

Most writers need an agent. You've heard of the legendary catch 22: the agent need you to have a published book, and the publisher need you to have an agent.

Look forward to upcoming post on this topic. We plan to have fun with it and too keep ourselves informed on the latest.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Develop Colorful Writing Techniques


Discover The 5 Sense Approach to Colorful Writing,

Try the 5 Sense approach, and hone your creative writing skills. This approach does not provide a panacea to all your writing problems, however, if practiced, this technique will make your writing practically jump off the page. It only takes about fifteen minutes a day to develop this technique. I promise, if you continue to read this blog, your writing skills will improve, dramatically.

Here goes.

We are going to exploit the five senses to arrive at very colorful writing. Use this technique with prose, poetry, non-fiction and writing in general. I write suspense, a necessary ingredient in my genre which is the Thriller.

Get your pen and paper or put your fingers on the keyboard (a-s-d-f, j-k-l-;) and close your eyes. Forget about the entire story you're writing( for a moment) and focus on a single scene in your book. Begin this exercise by focusing on the sense of sight. S-I-G-H-T.

Close your eyes for about a minute and bring to mind all that you see. Next, open your eyes and write single words and phrases (not becessarily sentences) based on what you saw, however, sentences and fragments are okay. It's not about rules of grammar, it's about creativity.

For example, I'm doing it as I speak.

Step 1.
I'm about to close my eyes and concentrate on a scene in my latest novel. I'm going to think of the antagonist, Smitty. I'm focusing on the sense of sight. Here I go.

I've opened my eyes and I'm writing:

Smitty. Ponytail. Eyes that shifted. Clean face. Tall. Salt and pepper hair. Dark. Beneath a tree. Wind blowing. Shadows. Lights inside. Looking through window. They don't see him. He saw her. Flashes of light....a television screen?

Step 2.

I'm closing my eyes and foucsing on the sense of sound. S-O-U-N-D. This is what I hear:

Wind blowing. A dog barked in the distance. A machine hummed. Air conditioner? Plates rattled. A door slammed. A car door shut. Voices. Voices disappeared. Slence.

Step 3.

The sense of "Touch."
Brittle tree bark. An insect crawling on my skin. A brushing leaf. bit my tongue.

Step 4.

The sense of "Smell."
Supper. Something roasted. greenery. Something moist, perhaps mildew. Smoke. Pollen?

Step 5.

The sense of "Taste."
Chocolate. Mint. blood. shampoo. dust.

Okay. Notice, I did not attempt to make sense of my writing. I simply wrote what was there. Now, we can go back and allow the writing to flow.

He stood beneath a thick sycamore tree, safely camoflagued by thick branches looming overhead. An insect crawled over his gloved hand an onto his wrist. Probably an ant. Shadows danced as a strong wind rustled leaves above his head. He stepped back, away from the street lamp and into the edge of the treeline.

He saw her, but she couln't see him.

Her lights were on across the street. The kitchen window was open and he smelled supper. It would be her last meal. It was a roast, fresh from the oven. He could almost taste it, but he didn't; instead, he tasted blood. His blood.

"Dammit!" he whispered. He had bit his own tongue.

Smitty removed a chocolate from the top pocket of his hunter's vest. Smitty was a hunter. Smitty hunted people.

He smacked the chocolate twice, and then swallowed. He rubbed his salt and pepper ponytail and tucked it into the first layer of clothing, a t-shirt. He then fastened the hunter's vest about his neck, creating a snug fit. Happy that his ponytail was secure and not likely to lose a strand of hair for police forensics to discover, he half smiled. Half smiled, but not yet confident that he would get away. Perfection requires rehearsal and he always rehearsed....three or four times before the action took place. He rehearsed. That's what made him good at it.

A car pulled up. The neighbors were on time. All four car doors opened. The couple and both children departed. Their voices emerged from the car but soon faded as they approached the front door. A small dog barked from inside the house.

He leaned against the trunk of the thick, moist Sycamore tree and rehearsed his plan of attack. He noticed a flash of light. Probably, a tv screen. He checked his watch. In fifteen minutes, she would turn off the tv and go to bed. He had rehearsed. A feeling of confidence swept over him, a power engulfed him. It was a complete confirmation of his superiority. Now, he smiled, completely. Twenty minutes later she would fall asleep, and then...Smitty would make his move.

Smitty was certain of one thing: He would get away.


Exploit the readers mind by alluding to what is sensed. Notice, Smitty does sense that everything is usual. Nothing is out of place. Smitty is, therefore, ready to act.

In the first and third paragraphs, I broke the rules of composition by using sentence fragments. For example, "probably an ant." Later, I used "his blood....." It's okay to break the rules, infrequently, for effect.

Now, I've demonstrated how to use your basic senses to pull he reader into the story. It doesn't matter whether you're writing romance, mystery, poetry or suspense. Employ this technique and watch your writing jump off the page.

I suggest you thumb through your manuscript and locate elongated narratives that does not move forward. There, apply this technique.

Try it. If it works for you, I would appreciate a comment on this blogsite. If I am helping you, I will share more information, but you have to let me know.

Sell more books. Use the sense God gave you.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Writing Non-Fiction (How to Books)

(c) copyright 2010 Hamdani

Some writers believe non-fiction writing is more challenging. I think it's the opposite. Why? Because non-fiction limits us to a set of facts. Fiction, on the other hand, allow the imagination to run wild. Sometimes,as a result of imagination, we consequently, run upon bestsellers. That's not to imply fiction is not without format or rules. It is. For example, I write fiction thrillers. These books demand short scenes. Short scenes create suspense and impact. They make the reader turn the page (provided the writer is talented). So much for fiction; after all, this session is about non-fiction How-To books, a most lucrative category. I should know. I have a great seller out there.

We maintain tighter parameters when writing non-fiction. The free flowing imagination of the writer becomes inconvenienced by the truth. The truth is not always interesting, however, and is often flat boring. That is especially, true, when writing a litany of facts. Such writing is more effective that sleeping pills. In fact, it is a healthier and environmentally safe. Safe, because there are not plastic containers to toss, healthier as an alternative to overcoming insomnia (safer than pharmaceuticals). Save your money and spare yourself the 100s of side affect of taking sleeping pills (......may cause internal bleeding, hypertension, migraine headaches, suicidal tendencies, encourage bad writing and cause people to tear up viable manuscripts). Okay, I made up some of those symptoms, but you get the point, don't you? Poor writing, writing a list of facts is boring.

Seriously, here's the key to writing effective non-fiction.

* write what you know. (You've heard that somewhere before
haven't you? Right. That's because it's true. It works).

* Offer accounts of human experiences, not just facts.

Here's what I mean by that. In my book, How to Build a Putting Green (c)copyright 2007, I didn't limit the book to a list of facts. I, like all good writers, revealed several accounts of my experiences (not all good experiences) to demonstrate to the reader the things that can go wrong. In other words, laugh at yourself. They'll understand.

Maybe you're writing about your experience in starting a business.

Make it human.

Talk about your greatest fears when first starting out. We're you afraid that you were one of the few women to ever start a business in your particular industry? Maybe, you didn't have the assets sufficient to obtain a bank loan. Maybe, you later learned that most people do not, but you succeeded, anyway.

You don't have to give away your trade secrets to make your book interesting; you simply have to give. A wise person once said, "....they don't care what you know until that know that you care." So, don't be foolish, love 'em. Love the reader and the story will happen.

What were your greatest pleasures? I'll bet you can remember when you landed your first major contract, can't you? Remember, the dinner? Cocktails? You probably celebrated the night with your most significant other, didn't you? Then, tell us about that, and then get back to the facts.

* Employ a good'ole no-non-sense editor. Find a skeptical
editor who happens to be a good writer.

I am a strong believer that fellow writers can make great editors. We know what to look for. We can, also, readily identify the boring points. We, often, know how to spruce it up.

* Do not try to organize your thoughts. No-no-no. The
truth is often spontaneous and not often organized. Just write
notes. Don't stop to organize notes when you're in-the-zone and your writing is flowing. Have a cup of coffee, tea or whatever you drink or
smoke and reminisce on moments in the past...exploit the economy of emotion.

Focus on memories that makes your cry, or re-generate anger, hostility, sadness or joy. Write it down, and have another sip. (I'm just kidding about the smoking part. Really, I am).

Now, let's get to another fact. Ask yourself, What would you change if you had to do it all over again? Maybe, you would try a different approach. Maybe, you would sign on a different partner. Maybe, you would choose a strong drink and try a different profession, altogether. In any case, list those facts. It might go something like this.

* Never enter a negotiation unless you are fully aware of
the concessions you are willing to make.

* Know the advantages of negotiating your book deal on the
publisher's turf (at the publishers office).

* Know the benefits of negotiating the book deal on your own
turf (in this case, we're alluding to your own terms).

Here's what I'm getting at. A non-fiction book has a more distinctive market. A golf putting greens book is written for whom? You've got it. It's for golfers. Believe it or not, some people have asked me: Barry, who is the book for? (They arrived on that short, happy bus. They were a few cans short of a six pack....know what I mean?) Anyway, the market for your How-To book is somewhat obvious, however, that doesn't mean peripheral market members won't buy your book.

Here's an example. Years ago, I met a young African American man by the name of Ian Fitzwilliams, a Canadian. Ian owned a small business. He sold colorful cookbooks. He made several million dollars selling cook books, door-to-door. He made the cover of a popular Canadian business magazine. I can see him in my mind's eye, on the yellow magazine cover where he sat on a pile of cook books stacked some six feet high.

I was curious about this man. I contacted him and posed a few questions, one of which is, "How in hek did you sell so many cookbooks, so soon, and why did the cooks buy them?" No, he wasn't offended.

Ian answered, "Barry, it's not so much that people cooked, but they did believe if they bought the book, they would (cook). Get it?

C'mon, not all of you are on that proverbial slow bus that I mentioned above.

The same wisdom applied to my book, and may very well apply to yours. Not all people who bought my book were good golfers, let alone good at putting, but they believed that if they bought the book they would become so. In reality, they may or may not. That's not our problem, as writers. We give them the how-to information and it's up to them to apply it.

So, what are you waiting for, start writing.