Creative Living 9: Sandra Ruttan

March 10th, 2009

Sandra Ruttan is a relative newcomer with more talent than newcomers should have. (Don’t they know they’re supposed to write three or four bad books first?) Ruttan skipped that part of the development process, when What Burns Within established her as a writer of mysteries/police procedurals that are tough, tightly plotted, jammed full of persuasive characters, and as fine-drawn and conductive as a copper wire. One of Elmore Leonard’s rules of writing is, “Leave out the parts reader skip.” Ruttan’s books are pared to the bone. Having read two of her books (What Burns Within and The Frailty of Flesh), I’m not surprised that what she has to say below is long on action and short on woo-woo.  She can be contacted at http://www.sandraruttan.com/

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Perhaps you’re still buying the magazines filled with writing advice, still scouring blogs like this one that offer insights and strategies about getting your ideas out on paper. If you’re reading this, I suspect that’s why you’re here, and guess what?

I know the secret. You don’t have to send me your social security number and bank account information. You don’t even have to send a cheque for $100. You don’t have to copy an advertisement for my novels and send them to 15 people via e-mail, with the caveat that if they don’t buy my books and send the ads on to another 15 people within 10 seconds that they’ll have bad luck for ten years.

You don’t even have to write down the first letter of ever word in this post and decode the secret. I’m just going to tell you.

The secret to writing a novel is to write the novel.

The secret to overcoming writers’ block is to write the novel.

The secret to writing the book that’s buried deep inside you and trying to get out is… you guessed it… to write the novel.

Seriously, I start getting nervous when I’m asked to dispense writing advice. There wouldn’t be whole magazines and books devoted to how to write novels if they didn’t sell, and what worries me is that there are a lot of aspiring authors out there looking for that magic bullet, that elusive little secret that will serve as a shortcut and enable them to splurt out this Great Novel…

As though there might be a few magic writing pills that will enable us to overcome our creative constipation, and the story will come pouring out of us.

Writing is a creative pursuit, but it’s also work. It may not be the same as digging a ditch, but we don’t channel spirits or record visions. We do have to discipline ourselves to sit down regularly, to stare at a blank screen or page and begin to fill it with words. And we do have to make sure that those words fit together to tell a story.

I think one of the worst things about living in our highly disposable fast-food drive-through-banking generation is that we want everything, and want it right away. We’ll take a pass on a proper nutritious meal for the convenience of McDonald’s, and worry about what the fat and calories are doing to our waistline and health later on. We’ll buy on credit today and worry about paying the bills later.

The problem is, those philosophies begin to seep into every aspect of our lives, but there are no shortcuts to creative genius. Some days, I sit down and the words flow. Other days, it feels like I have to fight for every letter, and much of the time the only thing that separates the published author from the aspiring is the determination to keep going on the days writing feels like work.

When I started out I scoured interviews, looking for some tidbit, some suggestion, some secret that was going to make it all click. I thought I’d have a light bulb moment, and suddenly know the one thing I could fix that would make it all come together. I tried emulating the routines of successful authors, tried adopting their schedules. I even took a creative writing diploma, and I was taught to outline and draft up character bios before starting my story. I was given checklists and tips that were supposed to help me through the process. For some writers, these strategies work, but I followed them to the letter and fought with the story until I finally gave up on it for more than a year.

The problem was, I was trying to push myself into a mold, trying to find a formula, instead of figuring out what worked for me.

I had to lose my outline and bios in a move and be left within nothing but three written chapters before I learned that part of the problem for me was that I’m not an outliner. I fly by the seat of my pants. I start with an idea, a genesis, and the story flows from there. Sometimes, I know something that will happen partway through the story, or near the end, but I never have it all outlined.

Learning to step away from outlines was a significant step for me. I took those three chapters and started on chapter four. When I was able to finish the book, I came away from the experience with more than just the confidence of knowing I could complete a manuscript. I came away from it understanding that there’s no one magic formula that works for everyone.

Read how a number of writers work. If your current process isn’t working for you, try something different, and remember, no two books are the same. One technique might work for one project, but a different story might require a different approach.

There are people who’ve aced every English exam and have a degree proving their capabilities with the written word, and there are those who’ve never taken a creative writing class in their life. What classes you’ve taken won’t make one iota of difference if you aren’t able to put your butt in a chair regularly enough to bring a work to completion.

Be open to trying different routines and strategies. Work on improving your grammar, on expanding your vocabulary, on being precise with your words. Heed good advice when it’s given, just remember that the most important thing you can do is develop the discipline to sit down and actually write.

27 Responses to “Creative Living 9: Sandra Ruttan”

  1. Thomas Says:

    Ms. Ruttan,

    First, after writing this post, I’m gonna go off and look for your books. I love your post! And I’m not even kissing up. I love your post! Why? Because what you just wrote is what it all comes down to. If your novels are even half as good, and filled with the kind of cut-the-BS writing I suspect they are, I will quickly become a fan.

    Second, I have to admit that I have read a few of those how-to-write manuals. It’s interesting reading at times, offering a glimpse into the minds of those who have mastered what I strive for, not unlike gawking at the rich and famous in People Magazine at the grocery store check-out line before realizing that Brad Pitt has a better dentist than I do, but once the last page has been completed more questions than answers remain. So, I have stopped reading them. Instead I’m going straight to the sources; the classics that are still around ten, twenty, eighty years later. Right now I’m working my way through James Cain, John D. MacDonald, Raymond Chandler, etc, and I find myself impressed on nearly every page by how clean and condensed the prose is, yet so full of story and character and life. These are usually short books, free from the nonsense page-filling habits of many of our more contemporary writers. I say, if you can’t tell your story in 200 pages, your story is just too damn long. (Ok, that’s a bit harsh but you get my drift.) I’m still in elementary school but this is my new curriculum. Gone are the how-to. Short, sweet, crisp, and clean, is my new declaration of independence.

    Still Second, I’m sure no one cares about my personal reading list but the point I’m trying to make (yes, blabbermouth Thomas is trying to have a point again) is that I have come to the insight that the best way to learn how to write well is to study those that write well; not look for that magic pill you mention. It doesn’t exist. Professional writers say it all the time. Tim says it. You say it. It takes an amateur with hubris to claim the rule doesn’t apply to him.

    Third, discipline. That’s it, in a nutshell. Creativity, technique, talent, and all that, mean absolutely nothing if you don’t find a way to put it all on paper. This is what separates the daydreamers from the doers. Anyone who can come up with a surefire way of boosting one’s discipline, without selling the elixir in snake oil bottles, is guaranteed to be rich. I assume everyone who reads this has already been through Tim’s Finishing Your Novel piece on this very same website. If not, go there and do it! It’s required reading and a good first step on the way.

    Ms. Ruttan, I liked your post very much indeed. It was a refreshing piece of honesty. You put words on my feelings and for that I am grateful. Now, where can I find those Ruttan books…?

    Thomas

  2. Lisa Kenney Says:

    I appreciate this cut-to-the chase, no B.S. truth telling. There are a million books, magazines, DVDs, classes, exercises and techniques available and I’ve gone through the stage where I chased and devoured them. Some amount of that was probably initially helpful, but in the end, it only provides a means for procrastination. I’m with Thomas on the reading and finally, it’s all about the writing. Thanks so much for a great reminder.

  3. Larissa Says:

    the art of pith is one to not be overlooked. (c: I love the post because it’s to the point. Creativity is many things but it’s not easy. People used to roll their eyes at me when I said I went to Art School…like it wasn’t work. It’s incredibly hard work-show up for 8 hours a day in a room with people that may or may not jive with you, crank out ideas, do three weeks a work and then throw it out there for those same people to tear apart for 20 minutes…and then do it all again and write 14 page papers on Nietzche. Oh…and sleep and go to work.

    Being creative is incredibly freeing but it’s also really hard sometimes.

    I’m going to go find some of those books too I think.

  4. Sylvia Says:

    Great post: cuts to the quick. I think to an extent I get frightened when I hear/read about some author who talks about how the story “practically told itself” and completed the novel in 3 months. It takes me that long to write a short story and I think, maybe I’m missing something. Maybe I’m taking the long way ’round. And I start taking the first letter from every paragraph in hopes that the magic word is hidden there. Apparently it is Piyttsawitwtilrtb. Just in case anyone is wondering.

  5. Sandra Ruttan Says:

    “I say, if you can’t tell your story in 200 pages, your story is just too damn long.”

    Well Thomas, my books usually clock in closer to 400 pages, so maybe you should stop looking! Okay, seriously, I love the lean, mean style some guys have (Al Guthrie, Duane Swierczynski etc) but it goes down to the type of story you’re telling. Police procedurals require, well, procedural aspects, and that is tough to pare down without making the story look contrived.

    Tossing that aside, though, I think reading is the perfect thing to focus on. Years ago, I was afraid of reading too much in case I discovered someone had already used my idea. After a while I realized almost everything has been done before, but even if you start with a similar premise you won’t end up with the same story. The author’s voice will distinguish their work. It was around that time that I got a postcard from Ian Rankin, and it ended with, “Keep reading.” I took it as advice, and it’s probably the best advice anyone can give you.

    Lisa, I agree some of the advice books probably started off as helpful. And I own a few myself – particularly ones that talk about grammar, but only for reference. There’s an old saying: An open mind is a good thing, like an open window, but you put a screen on it to keep the bugs out. There’s nothing wrong with reading some of the suggestions as long as you can filter out what works for you and what doesn’t.

    Larissa, one of my best friends from high school attended an arts school in Toronto. I went to school with her one day and was stunned by the level of dedication, and just how hard the school was. I completely agree with you – most people often have no idea just how hard it is to be creative sometimes.

    Sylvia, short stories are very hard to write. You won’t want to hear that I wrote the first draft of WHAT BURNS WITHIN in six weeks (and it comes in at about 100,000 words), but compare that to the fact that I’ve had short stories published (The Butcher springs to mind) that are less than 3000 words and took me six months to finish. Short stories are a unique art because you have to stay completely focused on the central story.

    I always joke that I’m like Luke Skywalker flying towards the Death Star when it comes to short stories. I keep saying, “But what about the subplots?” and a voice says, “Stay on target.” The novels flow for me because I love the subplots (and I tend to lock myself in morning, noon and night when I’m writing a manuscript, which is the reason for the speed) but with short stories you have to keep paring them down. They’re a real challenge.

    Actually, as editor-in-chief of Spinetingler Magazine, I’d say one of the main reasons some short stories get rejected is because they’re unfocused.

    Despite the challenges, I think writing short stories is a type of creative cross-training, and it’s great for developing other skills as a writer.

    I’m glad everyone liked the post.

  6. usman Says:

    Sylvia,
    Thanks. Thomas frightened me with his lid on 200 pages. There are stories, and, well, there are writers who can turn a coffee conversation into a piece of art.
    I am learning to pare down. Though I fear that I’ll always end up with books closer to 100K. Not a good idea for the unpubbed, say the oracles of publishing.
    Now, discipline that is the key.
    My doubts arise, if only discipline is enough.
    What about talent, and the fact that creative people live in timorous doubt of their capabilities, or lack thereof.

  7. Sandra Ruttan Says:

    Usman, it isn’t necessarily a bad thing to have books that are longer. In fact, I know some authors who are contractually obligated to produce books longer than 100,000 words. While that may change a bit with the economic situation, the publishers recognize that there’s a certain type of reader who wants something longer, who wants to really step into the life of the character in more of a day to day way. I have a good friend who’s worked in publishing for years, and she says if a book is too skinny she won’t even consider reading it, because if she finds a good read she wants it to last.

  8. Lindsay Price Says:

    When students ask me how to write a play, I can see in their eyes they want that recipe, that add so much flour specificity to writing. Some step by step process to follow and TADA! It’s really is as easy and as hard as, ‘you just write it.’

  9. Thomas Says:

    Ms. Ruttan,

    Nahh, I’ll still have a look at your books, even though they are 400 pages. As I mentioned in my post, my 200-page “rule” was a bit harsh. What I meant to say, which I’m sure you got anyway, is that there is such a thing as the core of the story, and then there are accessories. Some writers write core without accessories (Ross MacDonald and his Lew Archer stories, which I’m reading today, is hard core). Some write accessories without much core (no names mentioned). It often ends up being the kind of fluff Oprah loves (no offense to any Oprah fans out there). If you know your stuff and can combine the two then fine, maybe you end up with 400 pages. Nothing wrong with that. I just think that a good way for a happy amateur, such as myself, to learn is to look at the people who can keep their story short and sweet, and still get all the character, emotion, and eloquence in there. Chandler, for example, was a master at that. That’s why we still read him. I tried doing the same thing with Dostoyevsky and failed miserably.

    Someone, I can’t remember who, said that Shakespeare wrote all the stories there ever was and ever will be. Everything after that are just variations. There is probably some truth to that. Just look at any police-legal-court-suspense drama on TV. When was the last time we saw anything original there? Columbo?

    By the way, getting postcards from Ian Rankin sure gives you bragging rights. I hope you framed it.

    Thanks for taking the time to reply to all comments.

    Thomas

  10. Sandra Ruttan Says:

    Lindsay, I think my new response to people (when they ask how I write a book) will be, “One word at a time.”

    A play would be a whole different challenge! You have to consider visuals more carefully, set design, length. I can’t even imagine how hard it must be.

  11. Dana King Says:

    Sandra,
    Great post; direct and to the point. I find I can often tell which author’s books I’ll like by reading their thoughts on such matters. Those who advocate butt in seat, write until the book is done, I generally like. Those who lose control of their fingers (and possibly other bodily functions) to their characters, who spritually channel the voices of stories floatng in the ether, not so much.

    I once told my writers group–which had several members notorious for starting with good intentions but not completing the stories–I had discovered the secret to getting published. It’s what Shalespeare, Faulkner, Tolstoy, Dickens, Poe, all the greats had in common. Everyone leasned forward until I gave them the payoff; “They finish the book.”

    My group was not amused.

  12. Sandra Ruttan Says:

    Thomas, it’s said there’s something like 7 different basic story lines, and everything is a variation on those themes, so you aren’t wrong about Shakespeare.

    Oddly enough, the postcard from Ian is kicking around one of my desks somewhere, but not in a frame. Rankin was the author that converted me to crime fiction, and he’s provided me with a lot of good advice along the way. Very nice guy.

    I enjoy the discussion. I used to have a more conversational blog, but my blogging volume decreased with my divorce. I do miss it sometimes.

  13. Rachel Brady Says:

    Hi Tim,

    Had to do my annual de-lurk to let you know how much I enjoyed this post. Since I’m out of the woodwork tonight, I’ll also let you know that I frequently go back and re-read your Writers Resources pages. Good stuff.

    Rachel

  14. Rachel Brady Says:

    Sorry– meant to say “Tim and Sandra” 🙂

  15. usman Says:

    Sandra,
    Good books are good books, irrespective of their weight and killing capacity (for crime writers.)
    I mentioned the word count does become an obstacle for new writers, and not all are Stephanie Meyers.
    Anyway, if you had a blog, I would join in.

  16. Martha Reed Says:

    Sandra, thanks for sharing your insights. As usual, you are right on target. I sometimes think there is a whole subsidiary writers market bent on telling writers how to write from writers who don’t – they write about it instead. Creative writing is hard and some days it flows and other days it is work. There is no magic bullet and the story doesn’t just fall out of the sky. And yet, in the end, you hold it in your hand and its magic. Loved the post. Thanks again.

  17. Timothy Hallinan Says:

    This is an amazing discussion, and I’m grateful to Sandra for focusing on the precise point where the sun through the magnifying glass brings smoke from the piece of paper. Word by word is exactly how books are written, word by word, hour by hour, day by day. Whether the day’s work is easy or hard, whether the previous day’s product was good or awful, whether you FEEL like writing or not.

    The essential thing, I think, is to build an internal shrine for your writing (this is not woo-woo) so that you’ve acknowledged its pride of place in your life. It’s more important than most of the things that claim your (my) time. The time allotted for the writing session is not negotiable. It’s more important for us to write than it is to get the tires rotated or to sweep the floor. Pretty much everyone who’s decided to make a creative enterprise part of his or her life has had to learn to get things done around that creative time, not instead of it.

    Rachel, thanks for mentioning the Writers Resources section. I got an e-mail today from a woman who’s been using the material in that section of the site for about 18 months to finish her first novel. About three months ago she wrote to say that it was actually done, and today she sent a note that her agent has the manuscript in an auction situation with two major publishers. That makes me as happy as anything that’s happened this month.

    Anyway, thanks to all who have contributed, and thanks to Sandra for lighting the fire.

  18. Sandra Ruttan Says:

    Dana, if you didn’t see it on my blog the other day, you HAVE to check this out: http://tiny.cc/4v5EA Read the product description. Based on your comment, I guess this isn’t your kind of writing experience. 😉

    Rachel and Martha, thanks for the comments.

    You know, I think it would be easier if we could break down the creative process into more precise actions – easier, at least, to talk about it. The creative process of writing a book is a solitary pursuit in many respects, and everyone has such a unique approach that it often feels like we’re adrift at sea, all alone, and we start looking for a lifeline. One of the ways we can embrace the process but still have that lifeline is through blogs like this, venues where we can talk process.

    Honestly, this blog was like a self lecture because I’ve been banging my head against the wall with the new book, and for the first time ever with this series, completely rewrote the ending. It really (sadly) doesn’t get easier.

    Usman, yes, you’re right – newer authors will find a big word count to be an obstacle to publication. We have to try not to get wrapped up with that though, and just include what we need to tell the story. If so, we’ll still sell, because the book will read tight.

    I do have a blog, but I’m a bit sporadic there these days. My own blog is: http://www.mysterybookspot.com/sandra/

  19. Larissa Says:

    For fear of being woo woo…(I use that term too) I think my writing/creativity shrine was trying to tell me something. My boss called me 8 minutes before I was supposed to be at work and told me to have the day off ’cause she didn’t need me. This puts me into a panic about the practical things like…well…rent. But! (but?) the whole 8 minute drive this morning I kept thinking how I needed a day to be home to work on a few pressing creative and artistic things that I’ve got to be getting ready for so perhaps this is my moment. Everyone cross your fingers I don’t blow it. (c:

  20. Thomas Says:

    One comment and one question:

    “Word by word” is an ugly truth, but a truth nonetheless. Magical thinking is a powerful force indeed because it places the responsibility for change on someone else. Someone else will write my book for me. Someone else will loose weight for me. Perhaps it’s human nature to seek shortcuts, to make everything faster, easier, and with less effort. There sure is a huge market for it. It reminds me of a scene in the movie There’s Something About Mary, when Ben Stiller’s character picks up a hitchhiker, who pitches his idea for a 7-Minute Abs video to beat all the 8-Minute Abs videos out there. The conversation goes back and forth but concludes that 8 minutes is too long, 7 minutes is perfect, but 6 minutes, well, that’s just a ridiculous idea. “Word by word” might as well be translated into “Realize you have to do it yourself!”

    Ms. Ruttan, now to my question: You say you don’t outline and that you fly by the seat of your pants. Tim has said he’s the same way, as are many other writers. However, as you know, there are those who outline in excess, almost down to the comma, so that they won’t have to rely on that creative flow being there on every single page. They already have a road map and spend their time filling in the holes. I know that’s a simplified way of describing the difference, but I take liberties here. Bottom line, there are some very successful people in both camps so both methods apparently have merit.

    You say you start with an idea and “the story flows from there.” Does your creative flow ever come to a halt? If so, what do you do? Two Aspirin and call me in the morning?

    Thomas

  21. Thomas Says:

    By the way, does anyone out there – Ms. Ruttan, Tim, anyone – have any suggestions for a GOOD online creative writing course (not one led by the guy who had one short story published in Reader’s Digest in 1972 and now feels he has something to teach the world)? I’m not entirely sure it’s a good idea but, at the same time, I am intrigued by the idea of having someone other than my desk drawer give me feedback. How’s that for a magic pill?

    Does anyone have any experience with these classes? Worth the trouble or a waste of time?

    Thomas

  22. usman Says:

    Sandra,
    Another question for you, How clean is your first draft? Or is it all done in the rewrite.
    This is also for Tim.
    Thanks

  23. Timothy Hallinan Says:

    I just want to say that anyone who doesn’t follow the link Sandra suggested to Dana is missing the funniest thing I’ve read on the Internet in months — but you have to scroll on down and read the reviews. And keep reading them. One of the unique things about the Net is that it can bring together totally improvised creative communities like the people who wrote critiques of the book, which then dissolve into air, into thin air, and leave not a wrack behind. (That’s Shakespeare’s THE TEMPEST, which will be woven through the fourth Poke book and which I’ve read five times in five days.)

    This group, assembled in response to Sandra’s post, is another good example.

    Thomas, I don’t know of any good online writing courses, sorry. Doesn’t mean there isn’t one, but I don’t know of one.

    Usman, I don’t really produce first drafts because I begin every day’s work by going back three or four day’s worth of writing and revising the hell out of it. So by the time I write the final 2000 words or so, it’s the only actual first-draft material in the book. Everything else has been revised several times. Then I go back and weed out all the promising subplots that went nowhere and plant beginnings for the subplots that presented themselves as a surprise halfway through the book. Then I put the whole thing away for about six weeks to wait for the really, really bad writing to get so rancid that I can’t miss it. And usually at that point, I cut one-third to half of the jokes and weed out about ten percent of the length (overwriting, anyone?) and then read it out loud to my wife, which reveals all SORTS of problems. I fix those, close my eyes, gulp, and send it off.

    I’ve wondered about Sandra’s first drafts myself.

  24. Sandra Ruttan Says:

    Larissa, sometimes, things just work out the way we need them too. Hope the day went well.

    Usman, my answer fits in with my answer to Thomas.

    Do I ever get stuck without the creative juices flowing? Yes. However, there are a few things I can identify that have helped me with that issue.

    1. My usual routine is to start off re-reading what I wrote the previous day, catching any typos, tweaking, making sure everything makes sense. It’s an edit-as-you-go philosophy. I do tend to write clean, and part of that has to do with a background in journalism.

    Re-reading and self-editing can be torturous, though, and by the time I’ve moved through that phase I’m usually anxious to start writing. If I loved editing this approach might not work as well for me, but it helps motivate me to get back to creating rather than keep correcting.

    2. The background in journalism. One of the things that takes out of you is any reliance on inspiration, because when you have editors breathing down your neck you can’t say, “I’m just waiting for the first line to come to me.” You’ll get your backside kicked. Even if you start with getting the bare bones down, you can go back and put the meat on them later. There’s nothing like a nagging editor for inspiration.

    3. Police procedural writers will hate me for saying this, but there is a natural backbone to a procedural. You follow the investigation. I don’t have a physical checklist, but what I ask myself is, “Logically, what would they do next?” And then I think that step through, and decide if anything useful can come from that part of the investigation. If not, I don’t write it, or I touch off on it being done but yielding nothing and move on to the next point. As I do this, things organically emerge. I’ll realize that a certain part of the investigation is a good place to divulge details about the killer/crime. Something in it will connect to one of the protagonists on an emotional level. Or I may have read something that I’ve tucked away that comes to mind, and see if there’s a way to use it in the story.

    For me, I simply can’t outline. I was taught to do that in the writing course I took, but people teach that because you can’t teach people to fly by the seat of their pants. Outlining felt too forced, constricted. Once I got to know my characters, I’d realize they’d never do the things I wanted or needed them to do in the outline. That’s the other side of the equation. I follow the investigation, but I also listen to my characters. I do believe it’s okay for a character to act out of character sometimes – we all do – but it depends on the circumstances, so I ask myself, “Would she really say that? Would she do that?”

    I think I can give an example of external ideas merging with the story from THE FRAILTY OF FLESH without giving too much away. In Coquitlam, BC (where my books take place) there was a real missing persons case that had yielded no clues or solid leads. After several weeks, the family was contacted with a ransom demand. The police investigated, caught the people who’d demanded the ransom, and found out that they had nothing to do with the disappearance, but thought they could take advantage of it to make a quick buck. As far as I know, the missing persons case has never been solved.

    So, when a ransom demand comes up in the story, that’s where the idea came from. However, it manifests itself differently. I keep a folder on my desktop filled with copied newspaper clippings – anything that catches my interest. Much of it collects cyberdust, but every now and again something works its way into a story.

    Now, one last thing about clean copy. I maintain a consistent discipline of trying to write proper, whether it’s in e-mail or the blog (which is more relaxed, but I still try to avoid mistakes) because it helps me when I’m writing the book. Clean copy is crucial. Many agents and editors won’t keep reading if your query letter has typos. As I’ve heard them explain, if you don’t take the time to get the basics right, why should I take the time to read it? Copyediting costs a fair bit of money, and therefore, editors don’t want a lot of typos that have to be corrected. The cleaner your copy, the happier they’ll be about the fact that it won’t cost them hundreds of dollars to do final corrections.

    When you re-read your work, here’s a tip. You’ll start skimming, because you know what it’s supposed to say. Change the font type and size so that your eye has to pay more attention to what’s actually on the page. It will help you catch missing words, typos, etc.

    Thomas, I did take a course that I found helpful. If you want more info you can e-mail me.

  25. Sandra Ruttan Says:

    Oh, and you’ll all hate me for saying it, but I wrote the first draft of WHAT BURNS WITHIN in about six weeks (locked in my office, costing me my marriage, I might add) and there were minimal corrections needed.

    Not since the first novel I ever finished have I done a total re-write.

    Now, I’m also working on a different project, not a police procedural, and I feel it’s a good thing I have a few books under my belt because this one doesn’t have the backbone, so I have to feel my way through the story differently. It’s a great challenge.

  26. Larissa Says:

    Sandra, you’re amazing. And yes, the day went well overall. (c:

    This feels like going some old speakeasy and listening to a bunch of great minds get together and bang ideas off of each other.

    Thank you to everyone who has put in so much time and effort and reminded me that there are people who want others to succeed so they do things like give their time and their insight for us to take and fall back on later.

    (c:

  27. HemRaj Singh Says:

    A great post indeed. You hammered the nail right, and very well. 🙂

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