Sheltering in Place – Day 72

Okay, so you want to write a novel. You’re excited, filled with energy, hope, and something to say. You can’t wait to start the process, do the research, meet the characters, and create a spiffy plot, all that good stuff. If you’re a mystery writer like me, you pretty much know what the ending is going to be, but the ‘how’ of getting there! It’s elixir for the soul. In the beginning, you’re open to all the possibilities that will spur you on during the forthcoming, never-ending months. Writing a novel – at least at the start of it – is a wonderful adventure. Just you, your ideas, a computer, and buckets of strong coffee. But at some point in the process, trying to reach eighty-five thousand words with what you often suspect is pure, unadulterated drivel is another matter. You become bogged down, overwhelmed by the enormity of the task. You discover you need more than just a fire in the belly (which could also be labeled as heartburn). For me, that’s the place where ‘talent’ and ‘craft’ need to cohabitate. The craft of writing is a practiced art, much like learning to play tennis. The more you practice, the better you get. You also need the tools that make the process more doable. Where would tennis be without a racket? So I’ve learned – and continue to learn – certain tricks to help me get through the arduous parts of completing a novel. I’m in the throes of writing my 14th novel, Casting Call for a Corpse, Book Seven of The Alvarez Family Murder Mysteries, so I’d better have learned a thing or two. Some things could be called obvious, but often the obvious gets overlooked along the way. Better to repeat them endlessly than lose sight of them. Here’s a few of…

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Sheltering in Place – Day 64

For as long as I can remember, lurking inside me was the heart of a comedy writer. I wanted nothing more than to be writing funny quips for people, like Woody Allen did for Sid Caesar on Your Show of Shows, back in the fifties. I couldn’t imagine a greater existence. I was hardly more than a kid when I got my very first job as a writer in New York City writing funny ads and commercials for No Soap Radio. There were four of us and every day we sat around a table coming up with funny scenarios, gags, and punchlines. Not only was I in heaven, but I got paid a weekly salary! Of course, the salary was so low I had to work in the theater at night just to make ends meet. No Soap Radio was a short-lived chapter in my career, but the things I learned sitting at that roundtable with those talented writers held fast for the rest of my writing life. The art of comedy is serious business and you’d better know your business. You’d better know timing, delivery, and what the funny words are. By funny words – and most people don’t think about this – these are words that automatically cause people to smile or chortle. For instance: Orange? Not so funny. Kumquat. Funny. Move? Not so funny. Jiggle. Funny. Glasses? Not so funny. Spectacles. Funny. Or maybe more funny. Wait a minute. Maybe not so funny. Testicles? Whoops! Never mind. But in comedy, write toward the unexpected. It often gets a laugh. Back to words. If you don’t have the words in the right order, with the right rhythm and cadence, it’s probably not going to work, no matter what the thought behind it is. This is why comics will…

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