Category Archives: Beyond Categorization

Stuff I Made Up Last Minute

One: In Which I Make a Single Point About Dialogue But Don’t Actually Tell You What the Point Is Because It’s So Obvious Even a Non-Writer Could Figure It Out

“So it’s Friday and that means I can talk about whatever I want,” said Stephen.

“You can talk about whatever you want any day,” interrupted Stephen’s alter-ego, Pedro.

“I know that,” interjected Stephen, “but Friday is my day to be especially random.”

“Pedro?” queried Pedro. “You named me Pedro? What’s wrong with you?”

“Nothing’s wrong with me,” countered Stephen. “Pedro is a fine name. What concerns me is this horribly stilted dialogue.”

“Tell me about it,” grumbled Pedro. “Not only am I saddled with a name that calls to mind an outdated Napoleon Dynamite reference, you’ve got me ‘interrupting’ and ‘querying’ and ‘grumbling’ and that’s just not right.”

“Yeah, well, look at me. I’ve ‘interjected’ and ‘countered’ and who knows what’s next,” puzzled Stephen. “Oh great, now I’ve ‘puzzled.’”

“Look, you’re in charge of this stupid conversation,” argued Pedro, “so why don’t you just fix it?”

“I will, eventually,” answered Stephen, “but I like to pound my point into the ground and then keep pounding it until the sound of the mallet against metal and mud gives everyone around me a headache.”

“Mission accomplished,” ached Pedro.

“So I don’t need to actually explain the point?” tribbled Stephen. “Oh c’mon, me. Tribbled? That’s not even a word.”

“Ha!” Exclaimed Pedro loudly. “You really sound stupid…hey…wait a minute. You just burdened me with an adverb!”

“That’s for laughing at me,” gargled Stephen.

“You just gargled!” burped Pedro. “I can’t believe you just gargled that sentence!”

“Yeah, well you just burped your words. Don’t poke fun at me or I’ll have you fart the next ones,” threatened Stephen.”

“You wouldn’t dare,” farted Pedro.

“Told you. Clearly, I rule,” gloated Stephen.

“Fine, you rule,” acquiesced Pedro. “Oh, c’mon, now. You’re making me look like a real loser.”

“I win!” celebrated Stephen.

“I’m afraid there are no winners in this conversation,” Pedro concluded brilliantly.

He was right.

Two: Upcoming Things

  • The second contest starts next Friday. Here’s how it’s going to work. I’m going to give you three “First” sentences to choose from and three “Last” sentences. Your mission? Write a short story or scene that begins with any one of the First sentences and ends with any one of the Last sentences. What possible real-world writing skill am I trying to teach with this? I’ll tell you next Friday.
  • I’m working diligently on a new semi-regular feature. It’s called “Doofus and Talent” and if you’ve spent more than five minutes in a dentist’s waiting room, you’ll know exactly what children’s magazine feature I’m ripping off.
  • Also coming soon, the first in a series called “Things I Learned About Writing From…” or something like that, except there will be some other words where the ellipsis is now. And next week, I’m going to give you, yes give you, seven characters Guaranteed to Spice Up Your Novel. Just plug and play.

Okay. This has been Friday.

See you on Monday.

More Friday Miscellany

Welcome to another weekend edition of Noveldoctor.com. Today? Five random things.

Item the First – Tomorrow evening, the Christy Award ceremonies will be held in Denver. The Christy Awards are given to celebrate and promote the best of Christian fiction. A novel I edited, Safe at Home, by Richard Doster, is one of three nominees for best “First Novel.” I won’t be at the ceremony (I don’t have anything to wear and I sincerely mean that because I work out of my home and in my home I don’t maintain a dress code apart from “wear something when you go to Starbucks”), and so I won’t be able to practice my “it doesn’t matter who wins, it’s just an honor to be nominated” expression for the non-existent cameras. Richard’s a great writer, so it really doesn’t matter what happens after people have stuffed themselves with cheesecake or whatever they’re serving. You should read this novel. It’s about the 1950′s and family and minor league baseball and the cultural stirrings that swelled into the civil rights movement (which Richard explores even further in his second novel, Crossing the Lines).

Two – I’m thinking about my next contest. It’s going to be fun. It has a name. The name is “First and Last” There will be lovely prizes, including some Really Cool Stuff From a Box in My Closet. You will want to enter. Look for it in…two weeks. Meanwhile, keep stopping by so I can teach you all kinds of things about writing and editing and not taking yourself too seriously.

Third – Do you write YA or MG? (That’s “young adult” or “middle grade” for the uninitiated.) Middle grade author Adrienne Kress recently wrote a blog post about “The New YA” and if you write either (or think you do), you should read it. Click here to go directly to the blogpost, then add your comments to the thread. Be sure to say something nice to Adrienne, too. She’s not only a writer, she’s also an actress and therefore is doubly in need of the occasional kind word.

For Fore Four – So I’m watching David Letterman as I type this and that young whippersnapper Daniel Radcliffe (you know, the actor who was naked on stage in Equus and also is in movies about a wizard or some such thing) is on and he just used the following phrase while describing a method for improving your microwaved pasta experience: “bookended by condiments.” If you weren’t a fan of Radcliffe before, surely you are now. In totally unrelated news, I have discovered the spell to make myself 30 years younger and will soon be courting Emma Watson.

The Fifth Element – If you missed it earlier, now would be the time to correct your error. Kilt-wearing literary agent Chip MacGregor recently featured a series of posts answering a whole bunch of basic publishing questions. Click here for the first post, here for the second, and here for the third installment. But be warned, if you read all of these posts, you’ll have no excuse for making stupid mistakes as you work toward your goal of publication.

7 Random Distractions to Keep You From Noticing There’s No Real Content In This Post

seven-box1All indications are that it’s Friday. And apparently, it’s a holiday weekend, too, though I didn’t realize this until my fictional next door neighbor started setting off fireworks in his driveway. I think it’s some sort of holiday to celebrate man’s dominion over dogs. I didn’t verify this in the “current holiday we just made up” section at the Hallmark store, but previous experience and the ain’t-that-cute tweets of complete strangers on Twitter give me reason to believe July 4th is known as “Make Your Dog Cower Under Your Desk” Day. I could be wrong about that.

I don’t have a dog.

So, in honor of this fine holiday, I’m going to fill this space with words so you have something to read after you’ve enjoyed six pieces of corn on the cob, five slices of watermelon and four hot dogs (hot dogs, eh? I see what you’re going for here, but don’t you think the sudden loud noises and subsequent cowering are enough to make your point?).

Anyway, the things below are typical Friday fare. In other words, they’re random and potentially meaningless. Enjoy.

  1. A friend just sent me a copy of Nabokov’s Invitation to a Beheading. Yes, this is the Nabokov of Lolita fame. My friend says it’s a surprisingly modern read. This, despite having been published in the year of my birth. Go ahead, look it up. Shed a tear for me if you want, I’m a thirtysomething on the inside and that’s what matters. But back to the book – don’t you love that title? I’ll let you know what I think.
  2. I’m falling in love…with the TV series Mad Men. Yes, I am slow to the party, but thanks to Comcast’s On Demand feature, I’m making my way through the first season four episodes at a time. I can see why it’s an award-winning show. Much thanks to a different anonymous friend (not the unnamed one above) for the recommendation. You were right.
  3. One of the projects I’m wrestling with in my “free time” is a movie screenplay. Well, I’m actually not that far along yet, I’m still arranging the scenes into a detailed treatment. I’ve been working on this for two years now and it has changed dramatically during that time. What began as a dark, edgy story about a mysterious character who brings redemption to a corrupt town has morphed into a lighter, quirky story about a mysterious character who brings meaning to the lives of a few people in a small town. (Reason for most of the changes? Anticipating a low budget to work with.) I’ll keep you posted.
  4. Want a fix of beautifully poetic narrative writing? Go to Amber’s website and read her posts. The My Love Songs thread is particularly amazing. I told her she has to write a book someday. You can tell her that, too.
  5. Thus far, my limited experience with Twitter has granted me a brief conversation with Augusten Burroughs, a re-tweeting by uber-nerd and former Star Trek: TNG whipping boy Wil Wheaton, and a kind three-word response from the American God himself, Neil Gaiman. Oh, and a rather significant number of my tweets are going to appear in the book The World According to Twitter, by NYT columnist and techno-geek David Pogue. Twitter is fun. Especially when used to stalk famous people. You should follow me. Sometimes I actually tweet something witty.
  6. Dark Chocolate Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups = Happiness.
  7. For some strange reason every time I hear the Indiana Jones theme I feel compelled to salute. In a related story, every time I hear the soundtrack to Legends of the Fall I want to marry Julia Ormond.

There. That’s seven things. If you’re still reading the dog has had way too much time to plot his revenge.

Step carefully.

Fiction Trends of the Future!

Yesterday I was in the future. Wait, I mean in the future, I zipped back to yesterday. Or was it tomorrow that I…never mind. It doesn’t matter. Bottom line is what’s important here and here’s the bottom line: I know what book trends are going to be hot in three years. Yes, you heard me. (Really? Did you just hear me right now? Like in an audible voice? Because that’s either the coolest thing ever or a sign that you should schedule an emergency appointment with your psychiatrist.)

While I was in the future, I did a little historical research. All because I love each and every one of you like Stephen King’s literary agent loves Stephen King. In other words, a lot (pending your decision to utilize my editorial services for a perfectly fair fee considering how famous you’ll be someday thanks to all the information I’m providing).

The following seven trends are going to be huge. I’m talking Dan J.K. Meyer Brown Stephenie Rawlings huge. You have just enough time to complete a novel in one of these genres so that it will be ready for the literary agent of your choice to sell to the highest bidder.

At great risk, I’ve included the actual title of the trendsetting novel for each genre to make it even easier for you to succeed. I have not, however, listed the authors. Did I see the authors’ names? Yes I did. But I don’t want to mess with the future any more than I already have. You know how this time travel stuff works. It’s delicate and wonky and there’s always a chance of the universe folding in on itself. I don’t know about you, but I’m not quite ready to be folded out of existence.

Okay. So here they are. Pick one and write it. And remember, if you need editorial help from a sharp editor (who has already seen the finished book), just email me.

Future Fiction Trends

1. Science friction fiction – Read that again, carefully. This genre is devoted entirely to stories about scientific things that rub against each other. This might seem an impossible challenge, but you’ll be happy to know “scientific things” includes hot scientists. You do the math.

Future Bestseller: Iris and the Spectrometer of Doom (Mostly it’s about the Spectrometer. Iris is just there for eye candy. And for rubbing up against things.)

2. Hamish love stories – I know. I had to do a double-take on this one, too. In case it’s not clear, these are love stories featuring a protagonist named “Hamish.” And that’s all you need to know.

Future Bestseller: Gwen’s Eggs and Hamish (No, not those eggs. It’s not about procreation. Gwen is a breakfast cook at Denny’s. A really good cook.)

3. Plant fiction – Think Charlotte’s Web, except with talking plants. Most of the books in this genre apparently are set in the jungle, though the chart-topping bestseller listed below was obviously set in a backyard garden. So if you’re the lucky author of this one… sorry about that.

Future Bestseller: Rutabaga’s Lament (NYT review: “A literary, vegetarian masterpiece of Dickensian brilliance!”)

4. Gaimaniacal fiction – This one threw me at first. Any guesses? Yep. It’s a genre of paranormal novels in which every character is a creative interpretation of real-life author Neil Gaiman. (This is because Neil is a fantastic author and a tremendous human being and everyone likes him. Plus, he just responded to a Tweet in which I mentioned referencing him in this blogpost and it is quite possible that in so responding, he triggered the very event that will result in the future Gaimaniacal fiction phenomenon described here. Makes your head spin, doesn’t it?)

Future Bestseller: Neil Before Me (It’s really quite amazing. Did you write it? Can I have your autograph before Neil sees this on the front table at Borders?)

5. Historical fiction: 1970′s – This might seem like the easiest of the bunch, but there’s one little detail you should know: every chapter has to feature a detailed description of orange shag carpet. The noted book below did this with subtle grace, by the way. If you’re the author, I salute you. (And you owe me a box of Kleenex.)

Future Bestseller: Shag ‘n Me (This was huge in Britain – first day sales of 500K. But then they read the book and discovered it was about carpeting. That’s when it took off in America. Go figure.)

6. Adverbial mysteries – Save those adverbs. You’re gonna need ‘em for this genre. Basically, it’s a mystery genre – but each page is packed with a plethora of adverbs. I guess people like adverbs in the future.

Future Bestseller: Beautifully, Seriously Killed Dead (I know. That’s a terrible title. Don’t shoot me, I’m just the messenger. And who can argue with 3 million units sold? Well, you could, stupidly.

7. Neurotica – I don’t have to describe this genre do I? Good. Because I’m not sure I could do it well enough to satisfy the critics who will spend upwards of three months obsessing over an accurate definition before ultimately decrying the genre as meaningless, purposeless soul-sucking crap.

Future Bestseller: Does Distress Make Me Look Fat? (I’m not going to tell you any more about this one.)

Well, there you have it. Enjoy writing your bestsellers. And let me know how I can help.

Until next time…

All Novels Are Love Stories (But This Post Isn’t)

I think it’s Monday. Is it? I had these great plans to write a clever post about how every novel is essentially a love story in disguise, but those plans got derailed by Real Life. So instead, I’m just going to offer this bit of writing advice (I’ll get to the “love story” post another day): Sometimes you just don’t have anything to say.

I don’t mean “sometimes you don’t have anything of value to say.” I mean sometimes you just don’t have anything at all to say. When these times come, it’s not about writer’s block – it’s about being empty. There are lots of reasons for this, most of which are related to the Real Life we live apart from putting words on paper. Maybe your cousins showed up unexpectedly and in the midst of the noise and chaos your muse not only ran away with all those brilliant ideas, she took your laptop, too. Maybe you’re over-tired because your child has been sick or the dog keeps puking in the middle of the night or your spouse suddenly decided it was a good time to take up snoring. Maybe your One True Love left you, and while there are a thousand broken-heart stories lining up in the queue and preparing to spit and spill onto the page, in this moment you are simply stunned to silence.

Whatever the reason, you’ve just got nuthin’.

If you have a deadline and that deadline is today, you’ll have to find a way to put words on paper. Even if they suck. (Unless you can buy another day – but you know my feelings about deadlines, right?) What if you don’t have a deadline? Or if the deadline is self-imposed (like the one for this blog)? Then it’s perfectly okay to say nothing at all. Don’t beat yourself up for not meeting your word count.

It’s just a season.

Meanwhile, deal with the Real Life stuff in front of you. Catch fireflies with the cousins. Take a long nap. Or curl up in the fetal position and cry. Whatever the Real Life stuff calls for.

When the time comes, you’ll have plenty to say again. Probably more than ever before.

And remember: Just because you aren’t writing right now doesn’t mean you aren’t a writer.

You are.

And so am I. And maybe tomorrow I’ll write that post about Love Stories.

Or not.

Peace.