Sunday, November 6, 2011

How I Began Writing Novels

I began writing as a time-killer after moving into this retirement community with nothing much to do. I finished up my family history and genealogy books and decided I'd try writing a Western. I trotted (trod) ran, went to B & N and picked out a book on writing novels, The Marshall Plan for Novel Writing by Evan Marshall of the Evan Marshall Literary Agency it says in "About the Author." I had some preconceived ideas about some stories lingering around inside my brain and this was the book that was going to tell me what I should do about it. Clutching it tightly in my grubby little hands, I returned home and began reading. If anyone could tell me how to go about it, this was the man. I read the intro, preface, prologue, what the book was about, and most of Chapter l, Part of Chapter 2, skimmed through Chapter 3 and to the end, put the book in my crowded bookcase and sat down at my computer my mind abuzz with all the do's, don'ts, and what-if's. Pushing all that aside, I whipped out about seven, eight, nine novels and rested with complete satisfaction, all done, finished, kaput. Easy as cutting into a cream pie (coconut) and shoving it into  the appropriate orifice.

It wasn't that I didn't follow the Marshall Plan, I didn't. I followed Oscar's Plan: Write a story and get it published. The first story was a 185,000-word novel, biographical in nature, and I sent it off to someplace. The someplace sent it back saying nice attempt, but we're not interested in this type. I was overcome with dejection, sadness, it just can't be, what were these folks thinking anyway, the Great American Novel rejected! Boo-hoo-hoo! I sent those letters to agencies, queries, I think they call 'em, telling them do something about this biggest mistake in writing history, take me on as a client. They got a good laugh out of that and sent them back, too busy, no action, too long, too short, not literary, try again.

Well, I'll show them, I'll break that novel up into three books, make the stories shorter, tighter, more action, and what-have-you, and sent them off again to different publishers. Of course, all three were sent back tout de suite with those honey-sweet rejection letters, we don't print this genre, thanks, needs more action, thanks, sorry, thanks, etc.

What's a feller to do?

I walked four feet to my bookcase, pulled out The Marshall Plan, read the complete Chapter 2, skimmed through Chapter 3, closed it, and walked back to the bookcase and shoved it in there somehow. AHA! I said to my wife, who wasn't listening and didn't give a damn anyway, and sat back down at my PC.

Five or six years later, I'm still sitting here. I arose from my chair, went those few steps to the bookcase, pulled out The Marshall Plan, laid it down in front of the monitor where I could see it as I type, and taking a good look at the nice pretty blue cover  said to myself, "One of these days, I'm going to have to actually read it - all the way through to the very end. It's such a nice book and lays it all out for me to follow. It has great advice, easy, how-to-do-it, instructions, simple definitions, great writing, easy-to-understand terms, a nice index. Whew! Just too easy."

And that's how I began writing. Now, if we can just move on to the second phase (I say with fingers crossed while praying to the Great Publisher in the Sky).
Thanks to Mr. Marshall for writing this fine and interesting book and I recommend it to all beginners with one caveat, you have to actually READ IT and FOLLOW THE DIRECTIONS!


  1. Now that was fun. And the entire story resembles a lot of us. Only difference I have bought multiple writing books I have not finished.

  2. Old guy, I'm sure they're all good and full of hot tips, but it's YOU that has to do the writing in the end, and all the tips and instructions may end up in the trash.

  3. Following directions isn't nearly as easy at it might seem at times. :)

  4. Charles, I know, you get lost in the details, especially when they don't fit in.

  5. Wonderful, Oscar! Still grinning at this...

    "AHA! I said to my wife, who wasn't listening and didn't give a damn anyway, and sat back down at my PC."

  6. Terrific post, and you're right on about those heartfelt rejections: "thanks, needs more action, thanks, sorry, thanks, etc." I think I got that exact same note once, word for word, including the etc.!

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