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The Author’s Perspective

Roy Peter Clark wrote the 2010 bestselling book, The Glamour of Grammar, and on September 21, 2011, his new book will be released.  The new book is entitled Help! for Writers: 210 Solutions to the Problems Every Writer Faces.   Mr. Clark joins us here for a guest post, answering a key question for us.

Joseph Arellano

JA:  Should you write the ending of your story first?  

RPC:  The paragon for this paradigm is J.K. Rowling, who has told the story many times that she began writing the seven-book Harry Potter series by writing the ending first.   Not the ending of the first book, mind you, but the ending of the seventh book!   She even teased her faithful readers with the news that the last word in the series would be “scar.”   She changed her mind.

It helped me to write to an ending for my 1999 newspaper serial novel “Ain’t Done Yet.”   The story, in 30 chapters, described a burned-out reporter hired to investigate a cult planning a terrorist attack for New Year’s Day 2000.   Max Timlin, the reporter, feared two things most of all:  lightning storms and high places.   So, of course, he would fight to the death with the villain on top of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge in a fierce storm.   Because I knew the big arc of the story, I could focus on the little arcs, those moments of surprise that reveal patterns, cliff hangers, and character.

I like the advice of a novelist (don’t remember his name) who said that writing fiction was like driving a car at night along a winding country road.   You don’t need to see all the way to your destination, as long as your headlights can illuminate a stretch of the road ahead.   In other words, if you can write your way to the end of a scene, you can build narrative momentum toward what’s coming next.

Interested in winning a copy of Help! for Writers: 210 Solutions to the Problems Every Writer Faces?   If so, just return to this site on Wednesday, September 21st to see how you can win one of five (5) copies that we’re giving away!

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The Author’s (Humorous) Perspective

Questions That I Am Asked Frequently* by Jeff Shelby, author of Liquid Smoke

I am asked many questions frequently.   Or, at least in my head, I am asked questions frequently.   Or maybe that is just the voices.   Sometimes it is hard to tell.   The voices can be loud and kinda pushy.   Anyway, here are some questions that I may or may not be asked frequently.

Q:  Is your book, like, a REAL book?

A:  Yes.   It’s totally real.   It has words and everything.   It’s very real.   As is the pink elephant standing next to you.   Watch out, it’s about to pee on you.

Q:  Is your book any good?

A:  No.   It’s GREAT.   It’s so GREAT you’ll probably want to quit your  job and travel the world, telling people about it.   If you wanna go to Mongolia, I’ll probably go with you.   I’ve never been there and I hear they have great BBQ.   And I hear they love great books.   Like mine.

Q:  Are you rich?

A:  No.   I’m Jeff.   Pay attention.

Q:  I have an idea for your books.   Can I send it to you?

A:  No.   I’m already full of ideas.   Those voices again…

Q:  What is LIQUID SMOKE?

A:  It’s smoke that is made of liquid.   Duh.

Q:  Why do you have such awesome hair?

A:  (Blushes)  You think?

Q:  Are you going to write more Noah books?

A:  Yes.   Unless I don’t.   But I will.   Maybe.

Q:  I heard you wrote a book called STAY AT HOME DEAD but you’re using a different name, Jeffrey Allen.   What’s that all about?

A:  Where did you hear that?   Did you tap my phone?   Because it’s true.   Look for it in January.   And stay off my phone.

Q:  What’s the hardest part about being a writer?

A:  Counting all the money we make.   (BURSTS INTO LAUGHTER)  Kidding.   Um, probably writing the first word of the story.

Q:  Did you always know you wanted to be a writer?

A:  No.   I always wanted to be a baseball player.   But the Padres got a restraining order and it’s all awkward now.

Q:  If you could write one piece of advice about being writing, what would it be?

A:  Write.   And don’t let pink elephants pee on you.   Ever.

*It’s quite possible that I’ve never been asked any of these questions frequently and that’s why I answered them so poorly.

(Copyright 2011, Jeff Shelby)

Liquid Smoke: A Noah Braddock Mystery (Tyrus Books, $15.95, 300 pages) will be released on August 22, 2011.   Jeff Shelby is the author of the novels Dead Week, Killer Swell and Wicked Break.   He lives in San Diego, and sometimes responds to the name Jeffrey Allen.   But then sometimes he doesn’t.

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