Since BEEF STOLEN-OFF comes out in three weeks, I thought I would get the party started now. Every Monday until July 2nd, I will be giving away an ARC of BSO to some lucky person. So, let’s get right down to it and find out what you have to do to win.
I decided to talk about rules today. I hate them! I have never been one to follow them, so why start now? I remember when I penned my first book, SHATTERED DREAMS, a million years ago. At the time I thought I was a romance writer and SD is a beautiful romance if I have to say so myself. I still cry when I think about certain scenes. You can imagine my surprise when it started getting dinged in contests by judges who felt compelled to tell me I was not playing by the rules. Guess the fact that I had 2 male heroes in the story, one of whom doesn’t meet up with the heroine until the middle of the book drove them nuts.
Crap! To change the story to fit the rules would have ruined the story. My heroine gets kidnapped and smuggled into Colombia where she eventually fights with her captors against a powerful cartel. Enter guns, dead bodies and explosions.
“Romances don’t have those sort of things,” I was told. Well crap, again. Usually in contests, I would get two people who loved the story, and one who absolutely hated it because I broke the rules. Rejection comments from professionals included, “You can’t have a romance in a third-world country,” and “You can’t have two heroes,” etc.
To this day I can still remember the way I felt when my agent called and said, “I love this story.” Unfortunately, she couldn’t sell it, either, and it is still unsold. But it is in the hands of yet another publisher, and if they pass on it, I will put it up myself. That’s how much I love it.
Anyway, it made me think of my aversion to rules. Faith, my Berkley editor, is always reminding me that I am writing “un-cozy-like.” I call her the cozy police. She’s right, of course, but it doesn’t seem to change the way I think when I write. I like big stories with lots of action, bad words, and humorous sarcasm. So, I still try to slip a few ‘uncozy” things in.
BEEF STOLEN-OFF had several, and eventually, she let a few ride. But if I had had my way, they would have all stayed. I’ve been fortunate that BSO has been reviewed by 3 top reviewers and gotten good marks (further proof that Faith knows what she’s doing.) One even said it was even better than LIVER LET DIE. I don’t know how it will do as far as sales go, but I’ve decided, I won’t change the way I write. I’ll continue to rely on my own personal cozy police and argue when I feel strongly about keeping something in.
But you’ll be glad to know that Terri, my new editor, loves my sarcastic potty mouth and wants more. My new series, THE GHOST and THE GARCIA GIRLS mysteries is not a cozy, and therefore I have more leeway. I can’t wait for y’all to read that one.
Back to the point of this blog…rules. Recently, I ran across this list from Kurt Vonnegut about writing fiction. I agree with most of them, but even if I didn’t write mysteries, I would totally disagree with the last one. Read them and let me know what you think. You may win a copy of BSO.
Eight rules for writing fiction:
1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.
2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.
3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.
4. Every sentence must do one of two things — reveal character or advance the action.
5. Start as close to the end as possible.
6. Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them — in order that the reader may see what they are made of.
7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.
8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To heck with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.
- Vonnegut, Kurt Vonnegut, Bagombo Snuff Box: Uncollected Short Fiction (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons 1999), 9-10.