Titles, a Sentence and Contest Plans

Friday Item The First – Titles

I like book titles. I make them up all the time. In fact, most of my short stories began as nothing more than a title. If you’ve memorized James Scott Bell’s Plot & Structure, you know that on page 38 he lists “making up titles” as a great way to spark plot ideas. Well, continuing the spirit of generosity I began yesterday, I thought I’d just go ahead and give you five titles.* Now all you have to do is write a great novel around them. You can do that, right?

  • Kick the Mountain
  • The Truth About Climbing Trees
  • A Modest Collapse
  • Thief of Seasons
  • Hello Lucid

Friday, Thing 2 – A Sentence

I like this sentence and the sort of person it describes:

There is a certain kind of confident traveler who likes to open the carriage door just before the train has stopped in order to step out onto the platform with a little running skip.

On Chesil Beach, by Ian McEwan

Make it Three, Friday – Contest Plans

Someone must be spiking my coffee with bailout funds because I’m suddenly feeling generous again and I want to give stuff away. So next Friday I am going to host a fun little writing contest right here on this blog. Hey, you know what would be super great? If you started telling your friends about Noveldoctor.com before the official contest announcement. One really good reason to do this is that I’m going to base the coolness of the prize on how many folks stop by the blog during the week. The greater the number of visitors, the cooler the prize. Another good reason to send your friends here is that my self-esteem is based entirely on the popularity of the blog. Because of this, I am naming the contest the “Help Keep Stephen Off Prozac Writing Contest Extravaganza.”

All the important details will be revealed next week.

That’s all. Enjoy your weekend.

*I didn’t search any of these titles on Amazon to see if someone else is already using them. But you can be assured your publisher will. And then they’ll change it. To something like Cupid Has Terrible Aim. Or maybe Bunny Slippers of Doom. Hey, I kind of like that one.

First Things…

Question: Do we really need another blog about writing?

Answer: Probably not.

Question: Then why are you here?

Answer: Because I like it here.

I know why you’re here. You’re curious about this little writerly blog and wondering if there is enough practical wisdom or entertainment value in it to merit regular reading. (Either that, or you’re related to me. Hi, Mom.) If you came here hoping to find a blog written by a famous, widely-read author who might, in the course of sharing his writerly journey with practiced humility and choreographed candor, accidentally let slip the carefully-guarded secret to publishing success, this isn’t it.

Nope. I’m not that guy. (Though, like you, I am writing a novel that I am reasonably certain will be both a literary and a commercial blockbuster. Check back in a couple years. Meanwhile, if you beat me to it, will you let me touch the hem of your garment? A little proximal magic couldn’t hurt.)

I am an editor. If you tend to read books that come off the Christian fiction shelves at your local bookstore, it’s possible you’ve read a book I edited. (Go ahead and read the Stephen Who? page for more info about me.)

Back so soon? Wait, you didn’t click the link, did you. Then you’re missing out on an awfully cute picture of a kitty snuggling with a puppy. C’mon, click it.

[Insert tick-tock sound here and/or visual of blog author tapping fingers on table while staring at the ceiling.]

Welcome back. Sorry about that little deception. I know how much you were looking forward to that picture.

Now where was I? Right. I’m an editor.

I have had the privilege of working with a number of “first-time” novelists. (If you’ve been writing for a few years, you know that “first-time” designation can be misleading. Many of these authors had written a number of novels before finally publishing one.) I’ve also enjoyed working with a few seasoned authors. Second only to my own writing (a process I lovingly compare to performing open-heart surgery on myself without the benefit of anesthesia), the thing I enjoy the most is investing in someone else’s story and helping the author slice his or her way through the jungle to reveal the beautiful mystery of a well-told tale.

If you met me at Starbucks, you might initially mistake me for part of the furniture. I blend well. But get me talking about books or music or movies and you’ll soon discover I know a little something about words. And although I know the rules well enough, I’m not a particularly “by the books” editor (don’t tell my publisher friends). I edit by instinct and am currently pursuing a master’s degree in making this up as I go from the Indiana Jones school of editing. It’s an entertaining adventure. I am passionate about what I do and sometimes can get a little snarky, but everything I say and do is born of a love for the written word.

I’m planning all sorts of potentially life-altering posts for this blog. In addition to the requisite wisdom and foolishness that will bear my imprimatur, I’ll share some of my favorite words that other people have written – and tell you why I like them. I’ll challenge you with writing exercises. I’ll host the occasional contest and give out really swell prizes (and by “swell” I mean odd and yet strangely compelling). And, if the wind is blowing just right when Marilynne Robinson or J.K. Rowling or Stephen King saunter by on their way to another success, I will pass along that carefully-guarded secret. (As long as you promise to keep it to yourself.)

Here’s one more reason why you might want to come back: I’m the only Stephen Parolini who is writing about writing. I’m one of a kind. I know. Makes your head spin, doesn’t it.

Either you’ll like it here or you won’t. If you do, tell your friends. If you don’t, then only tell friends who think you’re a master of reverse psychology.

Oh, and fair warning: I push at the edges sometimes both in my editing and in my blog-writing. I don’t do this for the sake of edge-pushing. I just want to be true to who I am as an editor and writer…and I’m a real work in progress. A messy work in search of truth that matters. So, if you’ve arrived here from a rather conservative blog or link and you’re easily offended by occasional words or thoughts that don’t fit neatly in the Christian marketplace, you might want to slip away quietly. I won’t judge you for leaving. I’d appreciate it if you don’t judge me for my rough edges.

Next post? Something scintillating. Or a picture of a kitty snuggling with a puppy. I haven’t decided yet.

Have a great day. Write well.