Thursday, February 12, 2015

Romance and Mystery Authors on Writing: Mystery Author C. Hope Clark on Dialogue, Character, Structure and More, Giveaway

Sneaking in here to wish everyone a 
Happy Valentine's Day!
Now, please check out C. Hope Clark's great post while you munch your Valentine candy...

Romance and Mystery Authors on Writing
A series on tips for writing, publishing, and marketing
Hello and welcome to the Romance and Mystery Authors on Writing series featuring mystery author C. Hope Clark. Hope is sharing quite a mix of  helpful tips today.

You may know Hope Clark as the editor of the award-winning, Her Friday newsletters are packed with information and ideas to generate income from your writing career. If you are a fiction writer, have you thought about picking up some extra cash by submitting articles for magazines on writing or your passion for your hobby? How about the topic of your latest novel or short story? Is your main character a quilter (probably like you)? You could write an article for a quilting magazine or site AND get exposure for your book. If you are a children's writer, submit articles to magazines for children. 

There are numerous ways to pick up more income and Hope can direct you to those sites. She even includes contests that pay. Check out Funds for Writers  for opportunities to expand your writing career.
Palmetto Poison by C. Hope Clark

Hope has brought along two prizes for two lucky commenters. One is a subscription to Total Funds for Writers and the other is a copy of Palmetto Poison, the third book in the Carolina Slade Mystery Series. Just leave a comment below to enter the drawing. Winners will be drawn after 9 pm EST Sunday evening.

Hope, put on your mystery author hat and tell us about your experience when you entered the world of fiction. 

Thank you, Janet.

I realized when, after ten years, I finally published a mystery with a traditional publisher, that I still had not "arrived." As a matter of fact, I learned that we never arrive. We just take new steps. After building FundsforWriters for a decade, and speaking nationally, I learned that entering the fiction world put me in the position of a freshman in college, stepping out of being the big dog in high school. I was a novice. Nobody had heard of FFW in the fiction world, so I was a newbie of the highest order. I had to publish more and earn sufficient royalties to even be accepted in certain professional organizations. Today, I've published four mysteries and one nonfiction book, and while I might have climbed one more rung on that ladder, I'm still way behind a gazillion authors and have a long way to go. It's always an upward climb. It's never easy. And there is no top. If you aren't in this business for the enjoyment of the long haul, then leave. You most definitely have to enjoy the process or you are in the wrong game.

Thanks, Hope. Your experience is a good lesson for all of us. You have more valuable advice for writers. Please go ahead and let us in on the tips you have gathered as a mystery author.

Writing Tips by C. Hope Clark

DIALOGUE - Write dialogue without the tags to test whether your characters are distinct enough. If the voices sound alike, you have work to do.

CHARACTER - Your characters need to walk off the page. In other words, readers should want to meet them in person. Most characters these days do not meet this criteria, so better to make them bigger than life than routine. Opt for over-the-top characters over those that color within the lines. Doesn't matter the genre.

STRUCTURE - Nothing beats the Three Act Structure (see ) or the Hero's Journey (you can see how similar it is to the Three Act Structure here ) for fiction writing. Over time, after several novels, you learn to naturally see where the pivotal moments are. Just remember that every scene has to propel the story. Every scene needs something off-balance that makes the reader proceed forward. If you get to the end of a scene, and nothing stirred the pot or yanked the reader in some manner, go back and rewrite. This is a good editing phase once your draft is done, though your structure (your skeleton) needs to be basically solid at the end of the first draft.

SETTINGS - Settings drive my stories. I feel readers should sense location as much or more than the characters themselves. The story is three-dimensional, and character and plot only make up a fraction of the pie. Setting is all around us in real life, to include all the senses, so why not include the same in your story? The reader should feel hot, cold, damp, parched, sticky, buggy, or dirty. He should hear the traffic, the birds, the wind or the crowd. He should taste the pollution, the salt breeze, or the margarita. He should smell the ozone, the bakery, the decomposing organize matter in the swamp. He should feel the sticky ooze from a jungle plant, the dust on a coffin, the smoothness of a stair banister. Don't leave a scene with running all the senses through your mind to give your words depth.

ORGANIZATION - Personally, an outline is a good tool for your story. However, be willing to be flexible. Many new writers want strict organization before they start, then get frustrated when the story doesn't go in that direction. An outline keeps you on task, but sudden innovative thoughts can take you on a better journey. Be willing to detour. Creativity is not static . . . it flows wherever the downhill takes it.

EDITING - I'm the world's worst editor for myself. I have edited each one of my books differently. And I'm one of those people the masters fuss internal editor never shuts off, but I like it that way. That's not to say I do not have to edit as much as the next guy. I just hate reading sloppy work, so even if I have to move or delete a chapter, erase a character, or shift the climax, it's in a cleaner environment, and frankly, I make fewer mistakes in the long run. But...that's me. The masters state that you need to get that first draft down on paper as quickly as you can, so that you are running on pure creativity. I strongly suggest you begin that way until you have a bit of experience under your belt. Creativity is original and yours. Editing is more structured and a multi-person effort. Get all of you on the paper before you worry about commas and passive voice.

FINDING AN AGENT, EDITOR, OR PUBLISHER - It is a slow process. Accept it. The world is packed with writers who gave it a month and a couple dozen queries then gave up and self-pubbed. And ninety percent of them learned later that they were not ready to publish. That process is not just supposed to find you a representative. It's supposed to make you reconsider whether your work is ready. If you are not finding these representatives after several dozen attempts, them go back and fix your writing, because the truth is, all those people found it in need of repair.

 CONTENT FOR BLOGGING - Y' isn't all about you. Readers want take-away value. You might mention yourself, but the message has to be bigger than you, and applicable to the reader. I don't care you've been to Italy. I am not intrigued by your Christmas. Not unless there was a story to be told, a growth process that emerged, an unexpected lesson. The reader has to feel the reading was worth the time, with something to take away and learn from, even if it's just a recipe or a string of how-to items.

 BEING A GUEST BLOGGER - Honor the blog's theme, first and foremost. Adhere to guidelines, and if there aren't any, read enough of the blog to recognize them. The day it appears, be available to answer comments, and treat each comment like a special guest. You are a guest in the blog host's home . . . act accordingly. 

MARKETING/PROMOTING - Like writing, marketing is a daily venture. It doesn't take  much, but you should do something, somewhere, to put your face/name/title/brand out there each and every day. If you aren't energized to spread the word, and aren't eager to communicate with your readers, why should they be interested in what you have to offer? They want a part of your energy as much as what you are selling.

USING SOCIAL MEDIA - Find that balance between using it religiously and being addicted. Use the 10:1 ratio. Ten items your followers might be interested in learning, and one item that promotes you and your work. You need to show you care about your followers and that it isn't just about you.

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Murder on Edisto by C. Hope Clark
The Edisto Island Mysteries (Volume 1)
A big city detective...a lowcountry crime

In Murder on Edisto, former detective Callie Jean Morgan returns to her parents’ South Carolina home broken, widowed, no longer employed, with a craving for gin and a teenage boy to raise. Life means little to her, but she owes it to her dead husband to raise Jeb. Regretfully, she remembers too late why she left her parents’ overbearing ways so many years ago, and she heads to the family’s vacation home on Edisto Beach to get away, clear her head, and hopefully give her son the life he deserves. On her first day in her new home, however, she finds her childhood mentor, a senior gentleman in his 80s, murdered, and Callie has to decide what she’s made of.

Buy LinkAmazon  
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About Hope:
Mystery Author C. Hope Clark
C. Hope Clark holds a fascination with the mystery genre and is author of The Carolina Slade Mystery Series as well as the Edisto Beach Series, both set in her home state of South Carolina. In her previous federal life, she performed administrative investigations and married the agent she met on a bribery investigation. She enjoys nothing more than editing her books on the back porch with him, overlooking the lake with bourbons in hand. She can be found either on the banks of Lake Murray or Edisto Beach with one or two dachshunds in her lap. Hope is also editor of the award-winning, chosen by Writer’s Digest Magazine for its 101 Best Websites for Writers for the past 14 years. Her Friday newsletters reach 40,000 readers, and she speaks at writing, reader and mystery events across the United States.  She also freelances and has been published in the likes of Writer’s Digest, The Writer, Writer’s Market, Guide to Literary Agents, and Guide to Self-Publishing. 

Connect with Hope at:

Have you been to Edisto Island and/or the Carolinas? Please leave a comment below.Your comment will enter you into the drawing for a subscription to Total Funds for Writers or the e-book, Palmetto Poison. Two winners!!



J.Q. Rose said...

Hi Hope, Thanks so much for sharing your valuable tips with us this week. Looking forward to lively discussions on your post.

Sylvia said...

Thanks for sharing your tips, Hope. I've been a subscriber to Funds for Writers for years. It's a great service for writers. I'd love to win a copy of your book.
Best to you,
Sylvia Nickels

Unknown said...

Thank you for sharing this excellent advice. It's interesting that you mention The Hero's Journey. I homeschool my teen son, and this is the theme of our English class for this entire school year. We're currently on Into the Wild. It's quite fascinating.

Hope Clark said...

Sylvia - thanks for being a follower! It's an effort of love I just can't seem to stop doing! LOL

Hope Clark said...

Heather, the Hero's Journey is just about infallible when it comes to story-telling, no matter the genre. A great foundation for your son.

J.Q. Rose said...

Sylvia, I agree FFW provides a great service to writers. I've been a subscriber for years too. Thanks for stopping in.

J.Q. Rose said...

Heather, One thing about homeschooling, you can learn a few things right along with your son. Is he interested in writing, taking after Mom and Uncle Dave?

Unknown said...

My son loves to write, Janet. In fact, a few years ago, he cowrote a story with Dave's daughter :)

J.Q. Rose said...

Heather, that's wonderful.

Billy said...

Hope is an struggling writers and established ones alike!

J.Q. Rose said...

Hi Bill, So true! Thank you.

Hope Clark said...

You are sweet, Bill. Thanks so much.

Val said...

Edisto is on my bucket list. Not too far from where I am (less than 10 hours). I always enjoy your advice to writers--and the great part is that you live that advice. Thanks for sharing :)

J.Q. Rose said...

Hi Val, Thanks so much for stopping in and leaving a comment.

J.Q. Rose said...

Congratulations to Val and Heather. They won the great prizes from Hope.Enjoy!!

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