Charlie's Boss Answers the Readers
Here's a great article on what you need to know before you ever have a book published. I wish I had found an article of this nature prior to 2012.
If you've ever experienced Writer's Block, here are some great suggestions on how to overcome it.
One of the things that new authors struggle with is maintaining continuity throughout their work. There should be a character thread that becomes evident in each chapter. Certainly your main character must grow and improve, but he/she is still the same person (character arc). Here's an interesting article from a Penguin/Random House editor that I think you will find helpful:
What are the two toughest words to write? How about "The End?" You want so badly to finish your novel. You want so badly for readers to feel a sense of fulfillment when they've finished reading it. So how do you know when you can safely write "The End?"
In response to Alicia's question:
"How do you actually become a member Charlie Collier, Snoop For Hire Agency? I passed all the brainteasers in the books and most of the ones in the Brain teaser section, so I want to know how to become a member."
The answer is easy. Send a stamped, self-addressed envelope to the following address:
Charlie Collier Snoop for Hire
P.O. Box 423
Naperville, IL 60566
You will then receive an official Charlie Collier Snoop for Hire Detective Agency ID card. With that in hand, you are a bona fide member of the agency. There is no cost. I hope this helps, Alicia.
For some reason, a lot of readers think that authors simply write a story or manuscript, submit it to their editors, and collect a check. Unfortunately, it doesn't quite work like that. What no one ever tells you about are the incessant rewrites that take you from first draft to final draft.
In the Charlie Collier, Snoop for Hire series, I have had to do up to FIVE rewrites for a single book. It's the part of the job that I least enjoy. As the title suggests, "Writing is great. Rewriting is Pure Frustration."
I remember when I received the first set of notes (The Homemade Stuffing Caper) from my editor back in 2009. I couldn't believe all the changes she was asking for. I recall saying to my wife, "I don't know what they ever liked about this in the first place." I knew that rewriting was part of the process, but I was never expecting it to be so painful.
I soon got to work. On many of the pages, my editor would preface each suggestion with "Consider changing..." And so I did just that. I considered them all, but only changed about half of them. I then resubmitted what became known as the "second draft." I explained my reasoning for leaving certain parts unchanged.
Within a few weeks, I received my second set of editor's notes. And wouldn't you know it...everything that I hadn't changed the first time was back on the table. That's when I learned a valuable lesson: "Consider" doesn't mean "consider." It means "change." It was at that point that I "got religion." I decided to become a good soldier, and to follow every suggestion from my editor. I didn't want to be viewed as a "difficult" writer. I wanted my editor to love the manuscript...and me. And none of that would happen if I made a habit of dismissing her suggestions.
It was the best thing I could ever have done. Not only did we have a much smoother relationship from that point on, but more importantly, I realized that every suggestion she had made...was right. By making the changes she had proposed, I had created a better product.
When I speak to 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders during school visits, I always tell them that story. I compare it to the times when they receive critiques on their writing assignments from teachers. I tell them not to get frustrated when they see words crossed out or notes in the margins, but rather to embrace their teachers' suggestions. These teachers aren't telling them what's wrong with their assignments. Instead, they're telling them how to improve them.
And, after all, who among us wouldn't welcome constructive suggestions that would undoubtedly help make us better writers?
When I speak to writers' groups and meet aspiring authors, I frequently hear them complain about not being able to find the time to write. If writing is important enough to you, you must MAKE the time. Period. If you can't find the time to write, then it is certainly not a passion. If it were, you would employ the necessary time management skills to make it happen.
I remember reading an article about Texan billionaire, H. L. Hunt. The interviewer asked him to identify the "secret of success." The billionaire replied: "It is two-fold. First, you have to identify exactly what it is that you want. And secondly, you have to decide what you're willing to give up to get it."
It is that last part that is most telling. You can't just add a writing session into an already busy day. You need to make choices. Something has to go. For me, I give up lunch. I'm not saying that I don't eat exactly. At midday, I walk to the local library and write. When I return to my office, I eat a quick sandwich at my desk while I work. And at night, I give up late night TV. At 10:30, I head to my home office and I write until midnight. In both cases, I needed to sacrifice something in order to find quality writing time.
You must find the time to write every day. Set aside fifteen minutes to start. Then each week, add five minutes. Do so until you're writing an hour each day. And don't skip a day. If you do, it will be easier to do so the next day, and the day after that, and the day after that...
If you're serious about your craft, then give yourself every opportunity to succeed. It's all about discipline...discipline...discipline.
I've had a lot of fun this year visiting elementary schools to talk about the Charlie Collier series. In 2012, I've visited Walden Elementary in Deerfield (IL), as well as Highlands Elementary, Prairie Elementary, Welch Elementary, Clow Elementary, St. Raphael's, and All Saints Academy (all in Naperville, IL).
In a typical one-hour Author "Meet and Greet," I talk about how Charlie Collier, Snoop for Hire came to be...my early years as a screenwriter...the conversion to middle-grade mystery author...followed by a Q & A session...and we end with a series of Charlie's favorite brain teasers.
If you would like me to visit your school, click on the Author Visits tab on this website. I plan to visit dozens of schools in 2013 for the debut of The Homemade Stuffer Caper (in paperback on 2/7/13) and the release of the second book in the series, The Camp Phoenix Caper (2/21/13). I hope to be visiting your school in the very near future.
Be the first kid on your block with an official Charlie Collier, Snoop for Hire membership card. To receive one, all you need to do is visit Charlie's Facebook page. There you'll find all the instructions. It's the perfect gift for an up-and-coming young detective...or an up-and-coming older detective for that matter. For a look at the card and for all the details, visit the official Charlie Collier Facebook page.
Here's a bit of information that might be of interest to aspiring writers.
What is the best way to begin your novel? One of the most effective ways is to start things off "in medias res," (translated: "in the middle of things"). You don't want your story to begin in the same manner as a fairy tale, "once upon a time." Avoid filling the first ten pages of your few chapters with exposition.
Consider this: begin writing your manuscript. As soon as things get interesting, (let's say on page 10), you should just toss those first 10 pages and start the book right there. It's much more pleasurable for the reader to jump into the action immediately.
Starting off your manuscript "in medias res," is not only a great way to hook readers, but prospective agents or editors. You need to hook them on page 1. Don't waste time trying to build suspense early on. Get right to it. There will be plenty of opportunities for that later in the novel.
I'm often asked what made me consider writing as an avocation. I tell people that the bug bit me at a young age. I started my first novel when I was in 5th grade. It was a war novel. I was inspired to do so after reading Robert Louis Stevenson's "Kidnapped." I remember writing a couple of chapters, then realizing that this was significantly more work than I had thought. I put it down, never to return to it.
In college, at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, I especially enjoyed media writing...specifically screenplays. I vowed at the tender age of 21 to write a screenplay someday. Then things began to spiral. I got a job at WGN-Radio after graduation...got married a couple months later...and then within a few years, we were raising a family. And the dreams of writing were just that...dreams.
It wasn't until I reached the age of 41 that I faced a moment of truth. I looked back at the goals I had set for myself 20 years earlier. And I realized that my dream of writing a screenplay had passed...or had it? Was I too old to do so now, I wondered. In an effort to jump start my life, I purchased a cassette program titled "The Psychology of Winning" by Denis Waitley, a motivational writer and speaker. On the tape, he talked about the people who lived on "Someday I'll." Notice the spelling. These are the folk who say, "Someday I'll lose those extra pounds"..."Someday I'll quit smoking"..."Someday I'll learn a new language." And I suddenly realized that I was also living there.
Denis Waitley's program was my catalyst. The next day I purchased "Screenplay" by Syd Field, "Creating Unforgettable Characters" by Linda Seger, and screenwriting software. I began writing in earnest that day...and have been doing so ever since.
Charlie has asked me to start up this blog so that readers will have an opportunity to ask questions about him, his friends, his adventures, and to share their favorite brain teasers.