Author: Tracee de Hahn

Extra-special near pathological attention… to first and last lines….

Tracee: I’m given a bit of time this week to the importance first lines and pages in a manuscript.  Do you work on these with special attention? Well, not special, but extra-special near pathological attention?  Robin: If by “extra-special near pathological level” you mean “agonize day and night then second-guess myself to this very day,” yes. The first page is the most rewritten part of any manuscript for me. Runner up is the rest of the first chapter. I may revise the entire book 4 – 5 times, but I typically revise the first chapter 5 – 10 times. I literally pace like a caged animal while mulling over, writing, and rewriting the first sentence. Once I hit on a “grabber,” I’ll stick with it til I can picture it on my tombstone then I make sure the rest of the chapter measures up. Susan: I’m definitely in the pathological-attention- to-first- paragraph camp. However, the flip side of that is that once I’m happy with my first paragraph, I’m generally happy with the book. Or as happy as anyone ever is with anything. I can then move forward and enjoy myself. Although occasionally I’ll be reading someone else’s book and want to […]

Read More

Valentines/Galentines. What’s in a name?

February 14th already? What happened to January? From all of the Miss Demeanors….. we hope your year is going well, filled with lots of reading and/or writing. We’d love to hear what books have made you feel extra good so far this year. Or what books you keep on hand for that pick me up? Anyway you look at today…. have a happy one.

Read More

First pages.

If the first line sets the tone, the first page(s) lay the groundwork for the entire tapestry of a book. What does the reader expect: genre, point of view, place (time and geography). How about mood?  If the compelling first line did its work the reader is interested. Now you have to round out the experience. Did the first sentence make them uncomfortable? Or pose a question. I’m again reminded of Celeste Ng’s “Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet.” The opening to Everything I Never Told You. The first pages need to immerse the reader in the story, and most likely in a significant, if not main character. What kind of protagonist is at the heart of the tale?  What about the first pages of a “next in series?” The first pages must bring fans back to a familiar world while introducing it to new readers for the first time.  This brings the complication of repeating information in a new way. Reassuring fans that they will enjoy this installation as much as they did the last.  For ongoing discussion and examination of this topic look to the weekly First Two Pages blog hosted by Art Taylor athttp://www.arttaylorwriter.com/blog

Read More

First lines.

I didn’t grow up in the tradition of memorizing great swaths of poetry or prose (this is an entire subject of great regret) so it means something when I can quote a first line without pulling out the book. Think about this. It is one line. The first line. The one read before all the others on hundreds of pages, and yet it sticks in the mind. For example – Scarlett O’Hara was not beautiful, but men seldom realized it when caught by her charm as the Tarleton twins were. (Margaret Mitchell, Gone with the Wind) The small boys came early to the hanging. (Ken Follett, The Pillars of the Earth) The last camel collapsed at noon. (Ken Follett, The Key to Rebecca) The gale tore at him and he felt its bite deep within and he knew that if they did not make landfall in three days they would all be dead. (James Clavell, Shogun) Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. (Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina) More recently – Lydia is dead. They they don’t know this yet. (Celeste Ng, Everything I Never Told You) The snow in the mountains was melting […]

Read More

Lots of counting in writing

Here’s how I see my current WIP by the numbers: Daily word counts to keep the manuscript on schedule, or give the illusion of progress. Overall word count, with plusses and minuses every day.  Number of times I’ve read the manuscript.  Number of weeks (months) set aside before the final edit. Number of working titles.  Number of revisions I’ll admit to.  Number of words (by specific example) to be checked and possibly purged. Number of time the specifics of the murder have been changed. My numbers look like this: 1,000+/-; 78,000; a gazillion; hmmm, 3; 22; 13, 3 and counting. What are your writing numbers?

Read More

Lessons Learned.

 Tracee: What have you learned, or changed as you advance from first to second, or sixth novel? I feel like number one and two were seat of my pants (regardless of actual plotting) in relation to the larger world of writing and publishing. Now I think I am – for better or worse – more Aware of what I am doing or should be doing. Not that I’m necessarily doing it.  As I write, I feel there is more at stake. Honestly the biggest difference for me is a sense of wanting it to be better. Which can get in my head and wreak havoc.  What’s changed for the rest of you?  Susan: I love reading books on Kindle because I love seeing what people highlight. One of the things I’ve come to realize is that while people will highlight some beautiful sentences, and some funny lines, they are mainly marking up sentences that offer some form of wisdom. People are looking to authors to help them interpret the world. If you read a book like Beartown by Fredrik Backman, for example, just about every third line is highlighted. So I’ve become more conscious of that as I work on my new Maggie Dove. […]

Read More

Which short fiction collection are you dreaming of?

There’s a short fiction collection coming out in 2019 based on the albums of Joni Mitchell. I’ve had the pleasure of reading one of the stories and can’t wait to see the others. Of course this got me thinking: which collection I’d like to see in print.   Hands down for me it is fiction based on The Decembrists’ 2009 album The Hazards of Love, which tells a complete story as a rock opera. The plot is essentially a love story, where a woman falls in love with a shape-shifting forest dweller. His mother, the jealous forest queen, and a villainous rake add their own conflict to the story. There is love, jealousy, abandonment, hate, and revenge. Perfect.    Reviewing the album some critics felt that the ‘storyline’ was under developed. Well, short story writers, have at it. Time for development! Until that come to fruition (I’m dusting off my pen right now…) I’m waiting with great anticipation for the Joni Mitchell inspired collection.  What would you like to see inspire a collection of short fiction?   

Read More

On the trail of Jane Austen

 Recently I spent some time in Bath in the United Kingdom (while I was there the ‘United’ part of the Kingdom felt a bit splintery, but that’s another story). Bath is the land of Jane Austen. At least that’s what we are made to feel and believe.  To the hapless traveler it might seem that Bath was the setting of the entirety of Austen’s life and all of her books. She is present in the hearts and minds of the people there, as the saying goes, and is somehow omnipresent in the town. The highlights of Austen’s world to today’s traveler remain the Pump Room (where tea is a delight), the Baths (which my Bathonian friends remember swimming in as children….. I suppose that ‘back then’ no one cared that the exposure to the open sky grew algae and turned the water green), and the Jane Austen museum.  I loved Bath. The town, the people, the atmosphere. However I did wonder about pilgrimages to places where authors have written their great works. Do you understand Austen or her books better after visiting the places she walked, and the places which inspired her?  A terrible confession. While I was there, and in the midst of enjoying […]

Read More

Literary luminaries on their Atlantic crossings

I recently returned from a trip across the Atlantic on the only true ocean liner sailing today, Cunard’s Queen Mary 2. The trip from Southampton to New York was nothing short of magical, however (isn’t there always a however?) we did pass through strong storms for a good portion of the voyage. I am prone to exaggerate for the sake of a good tale, but even the captain declared them strong and the Beaufort scale set the winds at Force 11, violent storms. That’s proof enough for me!  While crossing I came across three other Cunard passengers of historical interest. Each was a literary luminary of his era and each had a slightly different view of the crossing. During my trip, I had moments of agreeing with all three although I had no complaints with the ship, which was glorious, they’ve come a long way since poor Charles Dickens suffered. “She stops,” wrote Dickens about his crossing, “and staggers and shivers as though stunned and then, with a violent throbbing in her heart darts forward like a monster goaded into madness, to be beaten down and battered, and crushed and leaped on by that angry sea.” He spent ten days of his 1842 […]

Read More

Bruce Robert Coffin and the Detective John Byron Mysteries

 TRACEE: The third in the Detective Byron Mysteries, Beyond the Truth, released October 30th, so first off, Congratulations.  BRUCE: Thanks so much! And for the invitation to guest on your site. TRACEE: Anyone who reads the John Byron series knows that they are classified within mystery as police procedural, and as a former law enforcement officer you are known for “getting it right.” I remember chatting with you at the Malice Domestic conference a few years ago when you were debating the theme for your next book. What struck me in our conversation was your complete focus on John Byron’s emotional trajectory. Is his story always central to how you approach the book?  BRUCE: Yes. When reading a series I really get attached to the characters. In creating the Detective Byron mystery series I sought to create a character whose past was integral to who he is as a person. I wanted a character who fights constantly against his demons, while striving to become a better person. I knew where I wanted John Byron to be by the third novel even as I wrote the first. Byron’s development will remain central to every book in this series. TRACEE: Writing fiction is inventing things that […]

Read More

Recent Posts

First pages.
  • February 13, 2019
First lines.
  • February 12, 2019
Lots of counting in writing
  • February 11, 2019
How Do You Even Brand?
  • February 8, 2019
Left Coast Party
  • February 7, 2019
The Power of Yes
  • February 5, 2019
Embracing My Brand
  • February 4, 2019
How to Deal with Change
  • February 1, 2019

Search By Tags