A series of connected blog posts.
I always wonder how authors get ideas for books, how they make the story well-written, and then where in the world do they get all those words? I appreciate inspiration and undeniable talent, but I really want to know how they master the writing craft.
The following series of blog posts is my answer for my work. I’ll tell you what’s different about The Mogi Franklin Mystery books, how I decided to adopt those differences, and how I conditioned the stories to accommodate those differences. Those differences have made them recognizable and desirable.
Even with no zombies, no dragons, no vampires, no wizards or witches, no superpowers, no fairy tales, no supernaturally-gifted boys or girls, and no monsters, the Mogi Franklin books are not like other juvenile (years 10-14) books, mainly for three reasons: 1) the first chapter is set at some time in the past and relates some historical event that usually ends with an unsolved mystery; 2) somewhere in the last quarter of the book, I return the reader to the time period of Chapter One, just as Mogi and Jennifer are solving the mystery of the past, and continue the story - additional information or action solves the mystery created in Chapter One and confirms the sleuthing of Mogi; and 3) the solving of the historical mystery or event prompts the solving of a present day mystery or crisis in which Mogi and Jennifer had gotten themselves involved.
Those are structural differences. There are also some plot and character differences compared to other juvenile novels but they are not as dramatic in their effect: 1) the solving of the crisis or mystery is tied closely to the landscape and physical features of the land; this leads to action sequences that occur in those features: lakes, mines, tunnels, caves, canyons, plateaus, cliffs, mesas, snowstorms, rainstorms, and others. 2) technology is not used to make a significant difference in the outcome; it is the workings of hearts and minds, not cell phones, television, or computers, that bring resolution to the difficulties. Technology is present and is used, but it doesn’t control the success of the characters. 3) I avoid teenage angst, for the most part. My characters don’t experience excessive personal drama, trauma, betrayal by friends; outside influences like drugs, cigarettes, or alcohol, and there’s no suicide, personal violence, excessive personal struggles, or bad family relationships. 4) I do, deliberately, put Mogi and Jennifer in a functional family, with lots of trust, respect, encouragement, and tolerance.
How I handle my structure, plot and characters separate the Mogi books from the crowd and the next few blog posts will talk about why I made those choices.
Writing is not for the weak
Before I begin regular blog posts, I want to make a general statement that tells you a lot about how I write. I understand that there are people who are filled with words just waiting to get out. They sit down, thumb their phones or tablets or computers and the words pour from their fingertips onto the screen. They can do it spontaneously, with no warm-up, with no mental provocation, with no preparation, and pick up in mid-sentence where they were hours before.
I’m not one of those people.
Ernest Hemmingway has this quote: “Don’t let them know you have to work at it. Let them think that you were born this way.”
I wish. I have to start and start over; I erase a lot; I revise constantly; I read writing books (more about this later); and I have been disappointed more times than I have been overjoyed.
It takes courage. It takes strength.
If you are a writer or want to become one or want to become a better one, then you need to have courage. There will be times when you read something a critic has said and, after imagining him drawn and quartered, you’ll shake your head and say that he’s probably correct and you should cash in your writers’ magazine subscription and put the money toward truck driving school.
It might be true, but I doubt it. You’ll need courage to go on; writing is not for the weak.
Courage, perseverance, tolerance, and even a rage in you not to give up.
Don’t worry – things will work out. Writing is a craft and you can learn it just like thousands of other people have learned it. It will take willfulness, and drive, and persistence, but there is a joy beyond imagining when you see someone absorbed in your book, your magazine article, or your newspaper column, and you’ll be rushing home to start another one.
Don Willerton has been a reader all his life and yearns to write words like the authors he has read. He's working hard at it and invites others to share their experiences.