The Golden Rule of Novel Writing:
Write a story that entertains from the very first line
to the end of the book.
Click on any book cover above to view more information about that novel.
Writing, reading, and telling stories has always been a major part of my life. I suppose, if you believe in astrology, arriving in this world under the sign of Pisces makes one a natural-born dreamer and a lover of the arts. While I was always a good student in school, my teachers’ comments on my report cards usually included phrases like, “He seems to be in a world of his own,” “Daydreams a lot,” “Doesn’t always pay attention or follow directions.” All too true.
Well, I now write books drawing from all that daydreaming, and try my best to tell stories I’d like to read; stories that transport me out of reality and put me somewhere exciting, moving, and just plain fun. I have to credit my parents with helping me along that artistic path. My dad always said that a smart person could do three things: Entertain oneself, another person, and an idea. My mom told me that the more I cried, the less I’d pee. I’m sure there’s a subtle moral there somewhere between those two philosophies.
I write stories I seldom can find to read these days. There seems to be so few really captivating yarns out there, considering that there are way more of them in circulation than ever in the history of literature. A whopping number of new books are published every year (estimated to be over 15 million by 2015), and yet, only a few best-selling fiction books pull me into their world and take me on the ride; that pleasurable passage of time we call recreational entertainment. I write stories designed to move you from wherever you are to other places, places where the mind can dwell for hours in danger, adventure, and suspense. A dash of humor doesn’t hurt either.
Perhaps, the best-seller lists, such as those printed in the New Your Times each week, don’t always contain the very best books out there. Fifty shades of what? And maybe those gifted authors that we once gleefully subscribed to have: (a) run out of fresh and exciting ideas, (b) given in to out-sourcing their work to co-authors, which often changes the voice and alters the quality of the work, and not always upward, and (c) ridden on list after list of best sellers because of the track record of one or two blockbusters they dazzled the reading public with years ago. Some great writers only write one book and never write another. Case in point: To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee, who only wrote one until near her death many years later, and the jury’s still out on that one. Her first was such an incredible book that even the author didn’t want to follow with a second attempt to equal or best it for several decades. Some authors should have quit after one. I mean, what do you write after Gone With the Wind or The Catcher in the Rye?
We are now living in an interesting era in literature: Self-publishing. It’s out there and it’s going to stay. The numbers of self-published books are rising at the speed of the Internet, and will soon surpass traditional publishing in volumes put on the market. But exploding volcanoes of books carry with them, like the eruption of lava, a very big problem. Most of what’s put out there in ebooks and print-on-demand are abysmal, ego-driven junk. So traditional publishing will always be my choice, since to arrive on the market via one of the big publishing houses, means that numerous professionals and experts have vetted the work before it goes public. Now, even experts don’t always get it right quality-wise. Fifty shades of what? Who out there bought an Edsel or a Yugo? Seen Ishtar? Well, don’t. Maybe the force behind some successes is the money, not the quality, that got them produced. Ya think?
Let’s boil this down to find some optimism in this new age of publishing. There are many fine books out there on the market that are self-published, non-fiction as well as fiction. So fine that several have been picked up by traditional publishers and have created the new “hybrid” author. And there will always be books on the NYT best seller lists that suck. Here’s the trick, and it’s the very same one that literary agents, traditional publishers, and editors alike use to estimate a book’s worth: Read the first 20-30 pages of any book you audition for your home library. If it doesn’t hold your interest by then, return it to the seller’s shelf and pass. In fiction, a good novel should grab your attention right from the first line, and hold you there throughout the entire story. The good news is, you can read the first pages of any book, either in the book store or online at any of the major booksellers without venturing a dime.
I try my best to write stories that take you away, like the ones shown above. If you read one, drop me an email and let me know if I’ve succeeded.