It’s been quite some time since I did any serious blogging. This site is primarily focused on my comments and reviews of books I have recently read, books I read with the hope that they would inspire me and help to make me a better writer as I plod along on the manuscript of my novel. Occasionally I do digress from that general theme to muse about events going on in my life that I deem significant.
Back on Feb.1, I posted that I would be taking a break in the action and that my blogging would be less frequent and shorter so that I could devote more time to my manuscript. That was the plan. Then my world got turned upside down when one of my two dogs went missing. For the next four weeks I did precious little else during my waking hours that did not have something to do with finding and rescuing Tink. Blogging, working on my novel, and countless other activities that seemed so important previously now seemed to be trivial compared to finding my lost girl. The story had a happy ending and she was rescued. In fact she’s lying by my side as I type this. Life goes on, thankfully.
So now I have a lot of lost time to try to make up. My manuscript will remain my top priority or I should say second priority since caring for Tink and my loveable other pooch Aries are and will remain my top priority. I also set a personal goal to read thirty books this year. I’ve polished off six already so I’m on track for achieving that goal and want to make sure I do not fall behind.That brings up trying to make time to write reviews of books I’ve recently read (three and counting at the moment) as well as my reflections on the wonderful San Francisco Writers Conference that I was attending when Tink disappeared. I had to skip the fourth day of the conference to begin my search for Tink, but benefited greatly from the three days I attended and want to write a little about that experience. I hope to make room for one blog a week until I actually have caught up. Then again as I learned in February, I do not know what curve ball may be coming my way. Stay tuned!
I attended the four-day San Francisco Writers Conference which began on Feb. 13 & presumed I would be writing about what I learned there on my latest blog. Unfortunately on Feb. 15 I got a call that the dog that I have been fostering had cut loose only hours after I left her at the shelter where I got her. Trying to find her immediately became my top priority and while we have had some promising leads, as of this writing she still has not been found. Once the dust settles and hopefully she is back in my home I’ll come up for air and share my thoughts about the conference. Wish me luck finding Tink.
Most of what I have been writing here on my blog relates to books I have recently read and my overall impression of those works. If you have been following my writings, you will recall that my reviews have been quite positive. I am not sure whether that is because I have made good choices or simply that I do not have a particularly critical mind. I like to think it is the former. I will continue to post comments on books as I read them but today want to focus my attention on the actual craft of writing.
I have picked up a few books so far which I’m finding helpful in this regard. The first is Writing Fiction for Dummies by Randy Ingermanson and Peter Economy. I laughed when I first read the title thinking “is the Dummies reference intended for the fiction writer himself or for his readers?” At the same time I’m also reading Plot & Structure: Techniques and Exercises for Crafting a Plot That Grips Readers from Start to Finish by James Scott Bell. Each book received excellent reviews at both Amazon and Goodreads and I’m finding both quite helpful. Since each of these are How-To books I’m reading them leisurely, taking notes, and incorporating those ideas that fit my needs best.
A book that I heard much about when I attended the San Francisco Writers Conference (SFWC) last month is The Chicago Manual of Style, which was first published in 1906, is now in its 16th edition, and is widely regarded as the single best reference for writers, editors, proofreaders and sundry other professions related to the writing world. I do not currently own a copy of this book since even a heavily discounted copy sells for $40. Fortunately for me I was able to borrow one from my local library. One of these days I know I will have to bite the bullet and buy a copy but for now I am glad to have this valuable reference work on loan. If anyone has any suggestions of other books I may want to investigate leave a comment here or write me at Ed@EdHartnett.com.
This also is a good time to mention that my progress on my book writing has been going slow of late. I can make all kinds of excuses for that but I will fess up to the fact that I simply am not setting aside time every day for doing it. Several times at the SFWC I heard it stressed that one needed to block a certain time of day (from one to three hours) at least five times a week to dedicate to writing a manuscript. James Scott Bell in his book I cited earlier mentions this as well. He in fact recommended setting a word count goal rather than specific amount of time to make sure you actually achieve results. Mornings work best for me; I’m refreshed, most energized (at least after 2 or 3 cups of coffee) and my pooch is not yet staring at me with his adorable eyes begging to go out for our hour in the park. Plus it normally is very quiet in my house at that time. So starting tomorrow morning I am committing to writing at least 1000 words in my manuscript five times a week. Wish me well!
When I attended last month’s San Francisco Writers Conference among the many fine individuals I met was Ellen Sussman, author and writing coach. I attended two workshops where she spoke, both of which were excellent. The “Feeding Your Daily Writing Habit: 4 Steps to Higher Productivity” I found especially valuable. One of her books that she mentioned was French Lessons, published in 2011. Being a hardcore Francophile (I’ve been to Paris eight times and I’m not done yet), I was so envious to learn that she lived in my favorite city for five years. I got an opportunity to talk one-on-one with her which was a thrill. After leaving the conference and getting back into a more normal routine, I searched online to learn more about French Lessons and decided that while it did not fit the theme of the novel I am writing I had to include it on my To-Read list.
Just last night I finished the novel and am so glad I fit the book into my reading schedule. This was a guilty pleasure of a read. The story takes place in Paris all in a single day. The work can be viewed as three separate short stories although all three are interconnected. Each story involves an American in Paris who is spending time there with a French tutor to improve her or his French-speaking skill. The characters have all come to Paris for very different reasons. Josie has just suffered a tragic personal loss and is there hoping to heal her broken heart. Her tutor is Nico, a sensitive poet. Riley has come to Paris with her two children and husband whose business has brought him to the City of Lights and who now is largely ignoring her. Phillipe is her tutor and someone who seems to regard seducing women as life’s primary goal. Jeremy is a man in his forties, the husband of a famous American actress and who lives in her shadow but loves her enormously nonetheless. They are in Paris for a film shooting and he feels quite removed from her world. His tutor is the beautiful young Chantal to whom he is strongly attracted. The book begins with the three tutors whose lives are intertwined meeting at a café in the morning and ends later that afternoon at their scheduled rendezvous spot.
By story’s end all but one of the characters have learned something very important about him-or-herself and have had a wonderful adventure in the process. While it’s certainly not necessary to have spent time in Paris and fallen in love with the city in order to enjoy this book, it certainly enhances the experience. The author certainly knows the city well and describes its sights, sounds and smells very accurately. She also interjects just enough of the French language into her writing to add some interest without having a reader who knows little or no French wonder “what does that mean?” There is also just the right amount of sexual tension throughout to keep the reader curious and want to keep turning the page.
All in all I found this a very pleasurable read and am very happy I took a little detour in my reading path to enjoy this.
In mid-February of this year I had the pleasure of attending the 10th Annual San Francisco Writers Conference held at the Mark Hopkins Hotel atop Nob Hill. I heard about the conference while doing some research for the novel I am currently writing; initially I had reservations about attending since I had not yet written very much of my manuscript. I wondered if attending the conference might be too early in the game for me, presuming that most of the attendees would be long-established writers who would question why a newbie author like me would dare to think he could invade their elite little world. Realizing that if I did not go I would have to wait another 12 months before it occurred again and that I could save myself the expense of hotel accommodations since the location was an easy commute for me, I figured I would take the plunge. I am so glad I overcame my doubts and went.
The four-day event over President’s Day weekend was completely sold out. Literally hundreds of individuals and authors of all genres were there: poetry, memoir, science fiction, historical fiction, romance, fantasy, suspense, crime, young adult, you name it. Yes some indeed were well established authors who enjoy a large readership and I did have the pleasure of hearing their presentations as well as talking to some of them directly. Many others though were working on a first or second book and it was great to talk to some of them and hear how they are dealing with the challenges they are experiencing. There also were a large number of editors, agents and publishers who provided me great insights on what I will need to be doing once I have completed my manuscript. During each of the time slots there typically were six different workshops and I could always find at least two that I wanted to attend. I also made some new friends and made connections with professionals who will be very valuable as I get closer to my finished work.
I left the conference filled with new exhilaration and a head stuffed with so many wonderful ideas and suggestions from people who all at one time were in the situation I am now. I look forward to the 2014 conference when I presume my manuscript will be complete. If not yet published at that time I now know that I will be at the right venue to make that happen.