Why This and Not That

Indie film critic, Daria MacClellan, wants to marry the man she loves, but she’s slipping on rose petals as if they were banana peels on her way to the altar. Big, beautiful and rebellious, Daria, who is most comfortable in a monster movie poster T-shirt and blue jeans, finds that her wedding is hijacked by family drama. How did she sign on for a formal wedding planned by Sky, her perfectionist, anorexic, older sister? Daria adores her fiancé and she loves horror films, but her wedding seems to be spiraling downward in that direction. Will a picture perfect pink wedding turn her into the Bride of the Living Dead?

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Your “this, that and a whole lot of the other” blog headline set me to thinking about why we write this or that and so often the other.

I’ve known that I wanted to write since childhood, but what to write did not come that easily. It seemed to make sense to write science fiction stories and build up to book-length fiction, but I couldn’t seem to finish any of the short stories. Finally I started tried collecting small fragments and fitting them together jigsaw puzzle fashion until they started to reach critical mass and I was writing a novel. Surprisingly that worked! I finished the novel. It was a sensitive story of disillusioned youth. A few kind friends read it and said nice things about how much effort it must have taken to finish it. One commented, “It sure has a lot of pages.” Not a good sign.

Some years later I picked up my first novel again and found that I could not manage to finish reading it. That book sits in the closet, but writing it taught me an important lesson: I love to write novels.

I could not write another such book, youth can only be disillusioned once, right? I wanted to write another novel but what did I want to write? A book called out to me from the shelves of a Berkeley bookstore. It was called HOW TO WRITE AND SELL A NOVEL by Jack Woodford, pulp novelist and Hollywood screenwriter. Woodford inspired Robert Heinlein and Ray Bradbury to write, so I was in good company.

A great deal of the material in the Woodford book, written in 1936, was obsolete, but one piece of advice was well worth the purchase price of the book, “Write what you read.” Most of us tend to do this instinctively, often when reading a not-so-good example of a genre we like and thinking, “I could do better than this.”

I didn’t have much confidence that I could write better than the authors of the books I read most—murder mysteries—but at that point I was reading 80% mysteries, so I gave it a try and it worked. When the book was completed, 400 manuscript pages, I went looking for an agent and found one who would talk to me, I wasn’t so sure that the pages I handed her actually were a mystery.

Fortunately, she liked what she read and told me she would represent me if I would cut every section point when the character sat down to contemplate her past or reflect on her life. There was the ghost of the sensitive novel of disillusioned youth surfacing again!

When I finished cutting those interludes the book was about 75 pages shorter and much more readable. Within a few months the agent was able to sell the mystery and my first book, TERMINATION INTERVIEW, came out in 1988 from St. Martin’s Press.

It’s been a long journey since then, but Woodford’s words hold true and I keep an eye on what I’m reading to see what I want to be writing next!

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Lynne Murray, author of the romantic comedy, Bride of the Living Dead, has had six mysteries published. Larger Than Death, the first book featuring Josephine Fuller, sleuth of size who doesn’t apologize won the Distinguished Achievement Award from NAAFA (the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance). She has written three ebooks of encouragement for writers as well as essays, interviews and reviews on subjects that rouse her passions, many of those can be found under “Rants and Raves” on her web site at http://www.lmurray.com. Lynne lives in San Francisco and when not writing she enjoys reading, watching DVD film directors’ commentaries and spoiling her cats, all of whom are rescued or formerly feral felines.

Web page: http://www.lmurray.com

Bride of the Living Dead: http://www.pearlsong.com/brideofthelivingdead.htm

Blogs: http://brideofthedead.blogspot.com


Twitter: http://twitter.com/lynnemurray