The first step on the road to REALLY getting this book published

Once I allowed myself to admit that Mort Reed was indeed right and admitted I did have lots and lots to learn about writing fiction, I made the first step of subscribing to Writer’s Digest and devouring the information. I learned quite a bit, but there was still so much missing from my bag of writers tips and tricks.

I took another stab at it. The title was still Dance, Ballerina, Dance. One of the things I didn’t realize was that the fact that she was a ballerina was not the most important thing in the book. It took me years and several rewrites to come to that conclusion The gist of the story was how many times she trusted the wrong people, the strength and support of those who were her true friends, and how many times she was betrayed and hurt mentally and physically. The fact that she didn’t know how strong she really was until she fought to regain herself was very important to the story.

So, on the next go around I was still pretty much sticking to the facts that had inspired me to write it in the first place. At that point I didn’t even consider adding elements and people that had no place in the real story. It was still a long, long manuscript and were I to read that second stab today I would pull it to pieces. There were so many glitches, errors in the timeline, tangents that had no place in the story and the writing was not tight. As I said I would probably have echoed Mort’s words of doom: “This will never get published.”

I sent out some queries following the guidelines in Writers’ Market and Writers’ Digest and, of course, got enough rejection notices to paper a wall. Somewhat discouraged, I put it on the back burner again.

Not too long after that my sister Phyllice Bradner and I decided to take a stab at writing our own mystery series. We were both published in other genres and thought it would be a snap. Well, the concept which was a light, funny mystery series was right on but neither of us really knew the fine points of writing fiction–a much different animal than newspaper articles, magazine articles, cookbooks or ad copy. We had the right idea but the wrong skill set. And Dance, Ballerina, Dance sat untouched on old floppy disks for almost two years.

MORE IN THE NEXT INSTALLMENT…

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A WRITER’S WORST NIGHTMARE – THIS BOOK WILL NEVER GET PUBLISHED!

ANGRY FRUSTRATION

And I thought I had a winner….

The man’s name was Mort Reed, and he has since passed away, but thanks to Mort I had to come face-to-face with the fact that I knew very little about writing fiction.

He did read my manuscript, and instead of the awesome praise I expected, he crashed my world, but in a way that made me determined to learn how to deal with writing this story that continued to haunt me.

Mort said, “Look, I know you write good magazine and newspaper articles, but this book will never get published. First of all, it is way, way too long. At that time the manuscript was about 700 pages. You see, I thought you had to have a BIG book in order to get published.

He continued, “It is filled with cliches and tangents that take me away from the core of the story. You have lots of information dumps, too. The gist of the story is good, but you need to learn how to write fiction, my friend.”

As if that wasn’t bad enough, as I tried to hold back the tears of humiliation, he gave me one more sage bit of advice. “I don’t feel your characters. You need to become them. Particularly the woman whose story this is. Feel her feelings, shake with fear like she does. Make the reader buy into it. If you can do all of what I’ve suggested, I think you’ll have a publishable manuscript.”

He was right, but it took many more years to become BETRAYED.

EXCERPT FROM “BETRAYED”

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EXCERPT FROM “BETRAYED”

Sherry and Tommy both stood there staring at me as though I was a piece of meat in the butcher’s case. My eyes darted around the room frantically looking for

anything faintly familiar. The pounding of my heart echoed in my ears. I told myself it was okay and tried not to be so afraid. After all, the walking dead aren’t supposed to care about anything, are they? It didn’t work. I was petrified.

Tiny blood red specks blinked furiously, growing larger and larger on the dark blanket inside my head. Then everything turned pitch black.

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THE FIRST TIME OF MANY TIMES I TRIED TO WRITE THE BOOK “BETRAYED”

BALLERINAS

She was a ballerina, but the book is about betrayal

Because the kidnap victim, who has had different names in the various versions of this story, was a ballet protege, I thought something about dancing had to be in the title, when the reality is that it is a story of multiple betrayals. The element of dance weaves through all of the real events that inspired this story, but after years of wrestling with it to get just the right balance and writing technique, I finally realized there was no need to highlight “dance” in the title.

Sadly, my first attempt back in the early 90s was that of an amateur when it came to writing fiction. For one thing, coming from the world of magazine and newspaper articles, I had the tendency to do lots of “information dumps”–in case you are not familiar with that term it refers to big blocks of information contained within a paragraph or several paragraphs like a litany of facts.

That’s what you often do when trying to fit a lot of information into the limited space allotted for articles, but as I learned the hard way, it doesn’t work for fiction. When writing fiction you have to dole out the information in appropriate places.

Because it was imperative to write in first person to grab the drama of the scenes, I later learned I should have used dialogue and other devices to inform the reader of back story or things Laurel Murphy couldn’t see but were critical to the action. However, like most novices, I didn’t realize how many mistakes I was making. Hey, I was a published writer, right?

One of the lessons learned the hard way was to understand your genre before crafting the story. I hadn’t done that.

I also thought you had to have a massive book to get published, so my manuscript was over 200,000 words. When, after a few years of working on it, I typed that last line and breathed a sigh of accomplishment, deep in my heart I knew I’d written a best seller.

Then came the crash to the ground and to reality. I’d written a big, thick book that would never get published, but I was so confident it was great I asked a friend who had written some best selling thrillers to read it and give me his opinion. He was brutally frank.

More about this in the next post.