C.M. Albrecht's Weblog

This is how I see it.

Tag: Danger

Rules of Writing

I sent an early crime novel to a publisher who had already published one of my novels, but she rejected it, saying that, in a mystery, the victim is only there to provide a puzzle for the reader. Therefore, I should bump somebody — anybody — off in the first few pages and devote the rest of the novel to the investigation whether it be by police detectives, a private detective, or an amateur sleuth. Carefully following her own advice, she rejected my mystery on the grounds that I didn’t murder anyone until just over a hundred pages into the story.

I felt bad, naturally, but at the same time, something in me rebelled. Over the years I had read a great many detective novels and mysteries, and, although at the moment, I couldn’t offer book and page number, I was pretty certain my publisher’s theory was in error. I was almost certain I had read many crime novels, be it private eye tales or police procedurals,  in which a murder didn’t occur until later in the book.

Okay, I got over it and moved on.  A bit later I  found a new publisher.

But the other day I chanced to pick up a tattered old novel by Ngaio Marsh, arguably one of the true queens of mystery fiction, and decided to read it. In this particular novel, “Tied up in Tinsel”, we don’t stumble across a body until page 242 in a book that has only 286 pages. Wow! Obviously, the editor who rejected my little novel also would have thrown Ms Marsh’s effort into the circular file and in her disgust, she might well have sent Ms Marsh a stern message about the way to write mysteries. Too bad for an editor who had made up her mind about what constitutes a mystery novel. But reading the book and remembering the editor’s remarks, the entire incident poured back into my mind and I got all wound up again.

All this the above is a prelude to my remarks that in novel writing, there are no rules. The very word novel conjures up images of something new and different. Now a mystery novel with no murder might not go over well with readers, starting with editors, but still it is legal. There’s no law that says you have to have a murder. A short story, maybe. Remember “The Purloined Letter” by Mr. Poe.

In “Vanity Fair”, Thackeray talks frankly, to his reader. He knows it’s just a story and he knows the reader knows it’s just a story, so tongue in cheek, he goes ahead and tells it, stepping in from time to time to remind us that, after all, it’s just a story.

Fowles puts himself right into the background of a novel while observing the proceedings and of course, in my favorite mystery novels, the narrator, the detective, tells his story as he remembers it. He’s just a reporter giving us, as Sgt. Friday would say, the facts. He’s not the real author of course, but we can suspend belief and assume that private eye Raymond Chandler is just calling himself Philip Marlowe to avoid being stalked by beautiful women with pearl-handled .25 automatics in their handbags.

In fact, being a very young reader when I began reading Marlowe novels, I was severely traumatized to learn one day that Mr. Chandler was in his sixties, meaning Marlowe was in his sixties. Philip Marlowe kicking butt in his sixties? To me, a kid of sixteen, I couldn’t believe anybody in his sixties was still able to walk, much less kick butt or write about the butts he kicked. And I felt very betrayed, almost the victim of a bad joke. But I was a vapid youth of sixteen. Maybe only fifteen.

Most people today lack the patience to wade through “Moby Dick”, but when it was written, I believe people liked a more leisurely novel, something they could spend hours, even days on. They wanted their money’s worth. Remember, at that time there wasn’t much else in the way of entertainment, at least not in that price range. But today what editor would accept a long tedious novel that stops cold, and before continuing, offers lengthy dissertations on whaling, or any other industry?

If there is anything to be gleaned from this little outburst, it is that as author, you are God. Rules, schmules, it’s your creation and you have the right to say anything you want to. Now if you step too far out of recognized lines, you may never find a publisher, but these days with the Internet and self-publishing opportunities being offered every time you log on, you can still get your stuff published.

Now, I don’t suggest you go too far off the grid if you hope to find a traditional publisher who is willing to take a chance on your work, but I do feel that, as the writer, you still have the right so say what you want to.

I should mention that what makes books  like Moby Dick, Sherlock Holmes, Don Quixote, etc. isn’t always their construction, but their unforgettable characters. Remember that.

So the takeaway here is to write what you want to. Once you’ve written it, you might want to see how it compares with similar works. If you feel it’s a little outré in some respect or another, you might want to make a few changes. If you like it the way it is, submit it and see what comes out of that. BIG PUBLISHERS probably won’t look at your masterpiece no matter what it is, but there are a great many independent publishers now. Most of them are open to unpublished writers and if all of these reject your stuff, you may want to revisit the entire work and see what’s holding you back. If you do get feedback, by all means, listen to it. Listen to it, but you don’t have to do more than that. It’s up to you. You’re the writer.

In my case, hearing about the rule that the murder should happen on page three or thereabouts, I nevertheless stubbornly felt I was okay with what I had written and time has proven me to be correct, insofar that another publisher accepted Deadly Reception, and I haven’t had any complaints. So you just have to consider what you’ve written and if you firmly believe you’re right, then stick to it. Sooner or later you’ll connect with the right publisher and hopefully you’ll establish a good relationship.

One last thing that may give you solace: If and when you do get some BIG PUBLISHER to publish your book, you’ll have a very short window of opportunity. If sales after a couple of months or so aren’t what the publisher wants, off with your books head (or cover). It’s gone. Buried without any ceremony, and all you’ll have are the few copies sitting your shelf to remind you that you once had a book published. As an added humiliation, if you’re really unlucky, you may stumble across a few copies of your book in Big Lots or a 99c store but let’s hope that doesn’t happen to you.

If you allow them, most of the indies will keep your book on the Internet forever. You may not sell a lot of POD copies because of the cost, but your masterpiece can float around as an E-book on Kindle, Nook and so on forever and who knows? Maybe one day, like Van Gogh, you’ll be DISCOVERED! Hey, if Picasso and Warhol can be “discovered”, anything can happen.

Editor

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Raymond Chandler

<strong><span style=”font-size:small;”>A</span></strong> l’âge de 70 ans, Raymond Chandler écrivit son roman « Playback », c’est connu. Ce qui n’est <a href=”https://cmalbrecht.files.wordpress.com/2011/11/r-chandler2.jpg”><img class=”alignright size-full wp-image-398″ title=”R. Chandler” src=”https://cmalbrecht.files.wordpress.com/2011/11/r-chandler2.jpg&#8221; alt=”” width=”187″ height=”269″ /></a>possiblement pas connu, c’est qu’avant qu’il n’écrive ce roman, à l’époque où il se trouvait dans l’emploi d’Universal Studios, il avait écrit un script.« Playback ».  Attention : Bien que M. Chandler ait écrit le scénario, ce n’est pas un récit Philip Marlowe.

Malheureusement, « The suits » (les cadres) n’aimaient pas le script, et le film n’a jamais été tourné.

Deçu par la reception mitigée de son scénario, M. Chandler l’avait complètement changé en un roman Marlowe comme ça. Allez donc comprendre !

S’il t’intéresse pourtant, tu peux télécharger le script gratuitement ici :

http://www.dailyscript.com/scripts/playback (en angliches, bien entendu) Bonne lecture !

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Marta’s Place

A brief plug for my noir novel, Marta’s Place. Check it out!

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A Section of River Road

Here’s a short excerpt from River Road:

Homicide Detective Hugh Rafferty stood in the center
of the kitchen holding Fido, his hefty black cat in his arms.
In dismay his sharp eyes roved over the disaster that
surrounded him.
A huge dark brown stain matted the filthy linoleum floor,
Cabinet doors sagged open, some broken, as was the
kitchen window. The oven door hung sideways and the
kitchen fanlight was hanging by one electric wire. Rafferty
wrinkled his nose at the familiar smell that permeated the
room.
Fido struggled to get down, but Rafferty held him fast.
“No no, Fido. You know you can’t be wandering around
crime scenes. Jesus…”
Jeff Malone, a husky man in his early forties stood in tshirt
and jeans holding a clipboard in one hand and a digital
camera in the other.
“Yeah Raf. Crime scene is right. This is about as bad as
it gets. The bastards that did this—” He broke off and
sucked in his breath. “I mean…this is sick, man.”
“I hear you,” Raf agreed. “Just when you think you’ve
seen it all.”
His eyes continued to rove about the kitchen. Cracked
tiles sullied the counters. Litter cluttered the counters and
the floor.
“But hey,” Raf went on, “look at the bright side, Jeff.
Somebody did us a favor. When we bring this puppy back
to life, she’ll be worth three hundred grand. Maybe a little
bit more.”
“Well, we’ve got our work cut out for us, Raf. But—you
know, only giving me a forty thousand dollar budget to
work with—this isn’t going to as easy as the last flip.
Besides, if you ask me, this was a poor time to be trying to
flip a house. This’s not like a couple of years ago.”
“You said that the last time, Jeff. In fact you always say
that. But somehow you always come through for me. And
we won’t be greedy. If we offer a good value, the right price,
somebody will buy. I —” He broke off to answer his ringing
cell phone. Still holding Fido firmly in his grasp, he fished
the phone from his side pocket. “Yeah. Yeah. Where? Jesus.
Yeah. Okay, I’m on my way.” He shoved the phone back
into his pocket.
Jeff stood patiently looking at his employer.
“Looks like my city needs me, Jeff. Crime never takes a
holiday. Well, you’ve got enough to start on. I’ll touch down
with you later.”
As Raf headed for the door, Jeff nodded and looked at
his clipboard. Raf turned suddenly back.
“Well, come on man. We’ve only got four weeks to flip
this puppy.” He looked down into Fido’s yellow eyes.
“Come on, Partner. We’ve got us a homicide to investigate.”
“Yeh,” Jeff came back, “and you need a new hat.”
Raf pulled off his ragged and stained straw hat to reveal
a thick mass of uncombed red hair. He looked fondly at the hat.
“Hey, I’m sensitive about this hat. This is my lucky hat. I
wouldn’t trade it for two new ones.” He slapped the hat
back onto his head. “Now get busy.”
***
Raf pulled his Ford off onto the right embankment of
River Road, opposite the small army of other vehicles,
including two television vans.
Raf sighed and grabbed Fido up in his arms. “Come on
big boy. We’ve got work to do.”
The day was warm but hazy and the tree line that edged
down toward the river looked slightly fuzzy. Carrying Fido
in his arms, Raf crossed the roadway.
A uniformed officer snapped his notebook shut as Raf
approached.
“Looks like you and your partner there have
another nasty one on your hands, Raf.”
“Gee, thanks, Jason. Just what I needed. “You know Fido
can’t stand the sight of blood.”
Jason laughed. “Sorry about that. Tell him to look the
other way. Here’s the deal: The girl was apparently riding
her bicycle in the rain along the road here.” He waved out
toward the roadway, dry now on this warm day. “Evidently
her bike was struck from behind by a vehicle, throwing
her off. But her body turned up down below there, under
a tree.” He waved his arm downward in the direction of
the river. “We don’t think the force of the blow threw her that
far, not by a long shot. Somebody got her down there one way or
another and smashed her head in with a rock.”
Raf’s face sobered. He set Fido on the ground and pushed
back his straw porkpie hat, allowing his tumbled red hair
to fly out. “Sexual assault?”
“Medical Examiner thinks so. Her shorts and panties are lying
by the body.”
“Oh boy…well, come on, Fido.”
Closely followed by Fido, Raf struggled to maintain his
balance as he slip-slid down through the wet grass and
gravel to the huddled corpse.

And we haven’t yet met Lucretia St. James, the medium.

River Road from http://www.writewordsinc.com and most sites.

Author Jay D.

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