How to Study Particular Skills in Novels

In today’s Journal

* Quotes of the Day
* Shameless Self-Promotion
* Update on Spot Research
* How to Study Particular Skills in Novels
* Of Interest
* The Numbers

Shameless Self-Promotion

If you haven’t tried Blackwell Ops yet, you can find the first three episodes (chapters) free on Vella. That one will be finished on Vella on October 12 when the Epilogue goes live.

This morning, I uploaded the first eight episodes of the book I’m currently writing, Blackwell Ops 11: More Jeremy Stiles. Great fun! I’ll publish the URL as soon as Amazon lets me know what it is.

Episode 1 will go live on October 13, which is also Friday the 13th. Very appropriate. A new episode will go live every day after that through the end of the novel

I’ve also already decided my next novel will probably be titled A Circle of Doubt. (Yeah, I stole that from the original subtitle of BO-11.) That story will be appropriate for Halloween, similar in tone to my much earlier one-off novel, Jonah Peach.

If you enjoy psychological suspense with just a touch of horror, check out Jonah Peach at Order it from StoneThread Publishing (me) for a discount.

Update on Spot Research

According to a writer who lives in Russia, “there aren’t any good panorama views for some places in Russia and for any big city in Belarus. But your characters still can visit them using”

How to Study Particular Skills in Novels

First, ALWAYS read for pleasure the first time through. Don’t “look for” anything. Shut down your critical mind and just enjoy the story (and feed your creative subconscious). But keep a few small, bookmark-sized slips of paper (or smal sticky notes) handy.

I do not recommend keeping a notepad handy. Taking notes will pull you from the story and propel you back into “looking for” mode. Just enjoy the story.

But as you come across a passage that blows your socks off, mark the page with a sticky note or slip of paper, then continue reading for pleasure.

Some Skill You Will Want to Study—(adapted from yesterday’s post)

  • Story Structure
  • Depth (intimate description of characters and setting) that pull you into the stories and keeps you there
  • Pacing (how slowly or quickly the writing causes you to read and why)
  • Scene/chapter cliffhangers
  • Story/chapter hooks
  • Anything else you can think of

Obviously if you’re reading on a Paperwhite or other ereader, mark the passage or note it’s location, then keep reading for pleasure.

AFTER you’ve finished the novel, enjoy the rest of your day. Later, come back to the passages you marked and study them closely. The writing blew your socks off, but how? What did the writer do, and how did s/he do it? Note: this is a conscious-mind exercise, but learning is the function of the conscious mind.

Later still, when you start your next story or novel, just before you sit down, put in your mind the thought that you want to practice the skill you studied in that passage.

Rinse and repeat.

Try to study and learn something new between one story or novel and the next of your own writing. Each time you begin your next story or novel, put in your mind that you want to practice another of the skills you studied.

Caution: Don’t go back and try to apply new things you’ve learned to older works. You don’t have time. You have new stories to tell. Besides, let those older works stand as a marker of your skill level at the time.

If someone really likes and enjoys your work, thank them, but don’t take it to the bank, because some other readers won’t like it. Pay no attention to readers’ opinions. They are all correct for themselves, but they aren’t correct for anyone else.

What others think of your work is none of your business. They have a right to their opinion. Your only business as a writer is to convey your characters’ stories.

Keep moving forward. Perfection is neither possible, necessary, nor preferable. Besides, what you believe is “better” or “perfect,” another reader will pick apart.

Remember, when you write a story or novel, you’re easily among the more fortunate people on Earth. Your characters have chosen You, among all others, with whom to share the story they’re living.

Put your fingers on the keyboard and let them tell it.

My personal favorite authors for learning new-to-me skills are (among others)

  • Ernest Hemingway
  • Stephen King
  • Lawrence Block
  • Shirley Jackson
  • Chris Lang (writes the Brit crime drama Unforgotten)
  • Jack Higgins
  • James Lee Burke

But pick your own list of writers. Any writer whose work you enjoy will do if their work, as you’re reading for pleasure,

  • Pulls you into the story and holds your interest
  • Keeps you reading from one scene or chapter to the next
  • Keeps you turning pages
  • Makes you want to buy more books by that author

If you follow these general guidelines, your writing will improve a great deal.

Talk with you again soon.

Of Interest

What is an Eco-Thriller?

A Celebration of Great Opening Lines in World Literature See? There’s something you can study already. (grin)

Dr. Mardy Great quotes and a great deal more. Free, but you can also subscribe now for $30 per year, only $2.50 per month. I strongly recommend it. Wonderful fodder for fiction writers.

The Numbers

The Journal……………………………… 820

Writing of Blackwell Ops 11: More Jeremy Stiles (novel)

Day 1…… 5214 words. To date…… 5214
Day 2…… 2657 words. To date…… 7871
Day 3…… 2481 words. To date…… 10352
Day 4…… 0923 words. To date…… 11275

Fiction for October…………………… 3404
Fiction for 2023………………………… 220946
Fiction since August 1………………… 106359
Nonfiction for October……………… 3230
Nonfiction for the year……………… 201570
Annual consumable words………… 422456

2023 Novels to Date……………………… 4
2023 Novellas to Date…………………… 0
2023 Short Stories to Date……………… 6
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)…………… 75
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)…………… 9
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)… 234
Short story collections…………………… 31

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Disclaimer: I am a prolific professional fiction writer. On this blog I teach Writing Into the Dark and adherence to Heinlein’s Rules. Unreasoning fear and the myths of writing will slow your progress as a writer or stop you cold. I will never teach the myths on this blog.

4 thoughts on “How to Study Particular Skills in Novels”

  1. ” They are all correct for themselves, but they aren’t correct for anyone else.”
    This is so true, yet so few people seem to realize it. Just go on Amazon and read the reviews of your favorite novels and you will see hundreds of different opinions and views on it.
    I used to do that with the Shannara novels, my favorite Fantasy series. I would go on Amazon and read the reviews for each book (particularly the ones I thought were the best in the series) and would be blown away by how harsh, or downright mean some readers would be, while others loved the very things those other reviewers hated.
    It goes to show that you’ll never please everyone so you shouldn’t even bother. If you enjoy the work and have fun, that’s all that matters.

  2. Cool post, I enjoyed. I’ve never read Hemingway before you mentioned him, but after all he is a good author. I liked his stories. My favorite author is Haruki Murakami, and I like David Gemmell’s stories. And Terry Pratchett’s… And Dean Koontz… And… And… the list is endless.

    I will use these tips from now on. Thanks.

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