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My path to becoming a published author

Started by RealAmerican1776, March 19, 2021, 03:36:16 PM

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RealAmerican1776

Hello all, I have always been fascinated by mysteries and the like, I love watching Law and Order as well as the X-Files now, due to my disability the likelihood of me becoming a cop is impossible. Not to mention I have a hole in my heart. So, I found the next best thing: write about it! I have been told that I am a pretty good writer so I want to make a career out of it and currently my degree in college is in English and I am set to get my first degree in the summer.

When I first started this journey, I wanted to go full in and write a novel, so I was able to write what's called a novella which is longer then a short story but shorter then a full length novel. I found Page Publishing online and submitted to them. Now, on the website, they do not tell you the cost and I found out the hard way: three thousand us dollars to get a book published. Now granted they do everything from proofreading to the cover page to distributing it to the major outlets and online. But three thousand dollars is a lot of money and I had to turn them down. I felt my dream of becoming a published author slipping through my fingers. So I decided to start small and write short stories get my name out there before I submit a full length novel. There are a lot of literacy magazines out there and most don't cost much if at all and some even pay you. For example, one of the magazine's I submitted a story to is going to pay me five to eight cents per word which is average. My story is around five thousand words so the magazine is going to pay me two hundred and fifty dollars for my story which is not bad. So, I submitted a short story to this magazine and they currently have it. I have not heard anything from them and it should be a few more months, but I am on my way to becoming a published author!

My next story is set on a small island in Scotland (fictional island mind you) at an abbey. There is a murder and the victim is found crucified on the cross. Written in blood is a cryptic message from the killer, and so the abbot of the abbey who is a veteran who served in the Royal Navy Police's Special Investigation Branch must solve this murder mystery before more people start dying. I call it: An Eye for an Eye.

Attached is the short story I submitted to the mystery magazine. I want your opinions and please be truthful because it will help me in the future.

Leartin

Sooo... let's ignore the writing and start with the story.
Tatekawa is an idiot. He's the type of guy you place as a dumb police inspector to show off how much smarter the protagonist is (and legitimate that they investigate in the first place). He is either wrong, or he comes to conclusions which turn out right, but only because you want him to be.
This starts when he finds the gun, and immediately thinks the owner of the gun must have been the murderer and confronts him without further investigation. That's not a small thing you can brush aside, especially considering that while a CGIS special agent does have authority to arrest, they are NOT above local jurisdiction. Whether the Sheriff has local jurisdiction depends on location - sadly the only Newhaven I know is British and can't be where this plays out, perhaps it's New Haven of which there are a bunch? Either way - at this point in the story, we have one man who was alone in the murder room, had all the time in the world to get rid of any evidence there, and then comes back to make ridiculous accusations.
Then, when the DAUGHTER of the suspect claims anyone could have taken the gun, he sees that as proof that it wasn't the Sheriff. Because if anyone could have taken the gun, it couldn't be him? That proofs nothing at all, and of course his daughter could lie so he wouldn't be convicted, but that's never put into question.
Then, he comes up with the genius idea to search for clues in groups. At this point, to him, there are basically two suspects left, given that it couldn't be a woman for no good reason. So what does he do? He pairs both of the leftover suspects with women, one of them a teenager. And as it turns out he pairs up a teenage girl with the murderer. Good Job!
Lock? Let's just shoot it. Without telling anyone else in the house, all of which just moments before heard a shot and found a body, so they should still be traumatized. All because he couldn't be bothered to look for a key? What a dick move.
When he comes back to the stair murder, he does not bother asking what happened, but immediately makes up his mind and accuses the Senator. There is a bit of a conundrum - either he assumes that the murderer would murder the person they are paired up with, harking back to him making the worst pairs possible, or he'd know that there is no way a murderer who murders with a contraption would then simply throw someone down the stairs, which usually doesn't even kill people.
He then finds a folder with paperwork that was a letter (?), then explains the motive, and then that paperwork/letter is presented as proof. Proof for what? Paperwork/A letter could explain that Jacob didn't want to sell, but had to due to financial problems, or something like that. It can establish a motive sure enough - one that didn't need much establishing anyway - but it's not proof. Basically, Jacob could sit there and say "Yeah, sure enough, I hated them, I wished they were dead. So?" and he'd still be considered innocent until proven otherwise.

Other overarching problems:
- So Jacob prepared a step and a cabinet, both with mechanisms that presumably required planning, but his plan hinged on getting the sheriffs gun, and as both traps were automated, he had no way of ensuring that they would get the right targets? Furthermore, he takes the sheriffs gun, but when the sheriff is accused of the crime because his gun was used, Jacob asserts that "anyone could have done it". Anyone being, at this point, him and the Senator, as he already knew Ryans wife would die as well.
- Too much fluff. That is, in a Mystery, you'd want fluff about the victims and the suspects, such that it can mislead and hide important information in plain sight. But there is no important information about victims or suspects anyway, nothing gives the reader tools for speculations who could have done it, the "clues" are introduced and already get explained. (That being stuff like the different-sounding step, or the hole in the cabinet). And instead of fluff about suspects and victims, we get information about the protagonist that tells us nothing. Some of which doesn't even make sense (So, the twins were adopted last week in Kyoto, yet they speak English at eight years old, and the protagonist already had some rough days raising them as a single father...)
- Too much patriotism. I mean, it's America, you do that, but it's just stupid looking at it from the outside, especially when an American author makes characters who don't grow up with American propaganda believe it over their own nations propaganda, cementing it as a truth of the fictional worlds they create. Doesn't matter for an American audience I guess.
- Inventing a Tatekawa Shogunate that supposedly ruled Japan before they had Shoguns and making the protagonist an heir to the throne for no reason is not just fluff - it undermines the authenticity of everything else you write. A guy claiming he can trace back his linage to a guy whose existence is in doubt is a charlatan. Paired with his stupidity as explained above, it makes perfect sense - that guy just pretends to be a CGIS while he plays Sherlock Holmes. Bet the kids are paid actors that grew up in New Jersey!

Finally, the language. Repetition is good for teaching, but it's bad in a novel. The very first offence is in the fourth and fifth line, when the word family is used twice in the same sentence. It's especially bad since neither appearence is required. If you want to talk about Iesadas Family at that point, then explain who his family is, that he moved here with his (?) twins and no wife (?). For Ryan, was it really his family that purchased Northfield, or was it him? It's somewhat important for the murder motive, and that his family is wealthy comes up again later anyway (plus, being able to buy a manor already makes that clear). In line six, it's repetition of the word 'together', in line nine and ten, it's "buildt" etc. - a somewhat special case is the repetition of "pulling up" in line one and ten. While they are far enough apart textually, it's both times our special agent pulling up to the mansion, and saying it twice makes it seem as if it happens twice, which is weird. My guess is that the first "pulling up" means "drive up to" and the second "stop at", given that he walks in the next sentence.
Quite often, things are mentioned that make no sense until a later sentence explains what was meant. For example, adding three more people to five would make eight alright, but which three people are that supposed to be? If the reader can trust the author that any occurrences like that are intended and accept that it will be explained in a moment, this can be fine, though probably still exhausting. But because it's not that well-written in general, I can't trust the author and think it's a mistake on his part not to explain it any better. This is especially true when a Mr. Moore comes out of nowhere ;)
I'm not sure if you can pull of the trope of being precise in what something is sometimes when you don't follow it through with detailed descriptions. I don't know what a 1934 Duesenberg J-505 is, and from context, I know it's a car. I don't know if it's an expensive of a cheap car. Since I looked it up, I guess that mentioning a Duesenberg should have similar meaning to mentioning a Rolls Royce, at least within the US, so I guess it's meant to indicate our secret agent is rich. Which still doesn't matter to the murder case. What is important to the murder case is that Ryan is rich, and Jacob isn't, so if you want to use cars as a status symbol, you could have them parked outside. You already mention that there are cars, if one of them is Ryans Duesenberg, while Jacobs is a Ford, you got an early indicator for their wealth without saying it. If then you have the twins run up to the Duesenberg because it's a shiny, exquisite car, the reader knows just as much, and they are introduced naturally. See what I mean?

Anyway, I can't say I enjoyed reading it. There were several times where I wanted to just stop and only read on to finish it, since I sincerely wanted to tell you my opinion and don't think it's good practice to not read what you criticize.

Isaac Eiland-Hall

I haven't downloaded or read it yet, but just based on the one reply you got, I wanted to say:

1. I will download and read it.
2. I've read some of the early work of Sir Terry Pratchett and... I wasn't overwhelmed. lol. So even if I'm not overwhelmed by your story (which I dunno yet, of course), I do know it takes a long long time to "git gud". And everyone has to find their own voice. And writing is one of those careers like acting where it takes a LOT of heartbreak and a LOT of work to make it, and not everyone does.

So even before I read it, I just wanted to say: Keep it up and don't give up. If that's your passion, do it and keep doing it and don't worry if you don't find success for a while.

Find and keep close the people who are willing to read and give feedback - even stuff you disagree with or don't like. After all, the worst you can do is ignore such feedback; and the worst that can happen is that even if they're right, you just don't gain the advantage of their feedback.

I will say that if you want a website and forum, I'd be glad to help and host for free. And if you're not in reddit yet, I'd be glad to help with that, too. I'm mostly withdrawn from other social media, so I alas can't help much in other places. But reddit - in the right subreddits - might also be a help to get you out there. Like everything else, though, nothing is magic.

But let me know - you wouldn't even have to start out with paying for a domain, I'd be glad to set you up on something like roadmaster1996.pc2.dev - or whatever makes more sense for your author name (again, haven't downloaded your work yet). Having a WordPress side where you can publish news and such is always helpful; having a forum to connect with your long-term readers would be helpful.

If you're interested, lemme know. :)

RealAmerican1776

First of all, thank you for the feedback. This is really going to help me in the future. When I first started writing it it was completely different set at a lighthouse and the victim and the killer were both Coast Guard so that's where that comes from. Fortunately It's just a one shot and not a series. I haven't determined what I want a series to be so I'm open for suggestions. I would like to stick to a nautical theme and mystery. what I'm learning in English is going to improve my writing. But again thank you.

Leartin

Even if it was a lighthouse and the victim was Coast Guard, it should be established why a guy that happens to be at the scene investigates, rather than calling someone in to take care of it. After all, everyone is a suspect, including the protagonist. I suppose your original light house was off coast in a raging storm, not sure why at the manor, nobody bothered to call for police.

I wouldn't go for a series if you want murder mystery, and rather keep it to oneshots. There is a reason for that - in most cases, you can easily separate the murder mystery with all it's clues from the investigator and his method of clue retrieval. For example, let's say the membership of a character to a specific group is a relevant clue.
An object-focused investigator might see a brooch on the characters chest that he knows indicates them to be member of the group. He already knows all that, and might explain it to his sidekick just so the reader knows as well. While writing such an investigator, you'd have to be detailed in description of objects, perhaps hide the important ones in plain sight between a bunch of unimportant ones.
A people-focused investigator might not know anything, but still see a brooch. Knowing people, they somehow realize the brooch has meaning to the character wearing it, and so they ask them about that nice brooch. That character then tells them about the meaning of the brooch, and that they are a member of the associated group. This way, the reader learns at the same time as the investigator and gets more of a feeling that they can solve the mystery at the same pace. Writing such an investigator means that object descriptions are less important, and you'd focus more on peoples mannerism and reactions.
An investigator like Columbo might have a strong hunch about the murderers identity, and only needs to find a motive and proof. As such, they might come to the conclusion that for their hunch to be true, some character would need to be a member of a group, making it much easier to confirm it. Perhaps even by stating that they found out and watching the reaction. Writing something like this is different again, since you don't need to feed the reader red herrings and have them wonder about everything, which gives you much more time on describing the clues that do matter.
You can be more creative than that. Use Conan Edogawa as example - as a kid, he can play around with asking questions that would be suspicious coming from an adult, giving him an unique way to gather clues. It wouldn't be enough by itself, but still.
Note that this is a bit different from other gimmicks. Adrian Monk has OCD and phobias, but those have nothing to do with his observation skills. Same for Shawn Spencers medium act in Psych. For Dr. Cal Lightman in Lie to me*, it's called microexpressions, but it would work the same way if it was a gut feeling, since it's not proof either way (knowing who the murderer is simply isn't enough). Those gimmicks are relevant only in making the character recognizable, but rarely affect anything (much like being from Belgium)

So here is the thing: If you write X oneshots with X different mysteries and X different investigators, you can figure out which mysteries work and which types of investigators work for you. Then, you can take your favorite investigator and set that one up against the better mysteries you came up with, rewriting them as a series. Now, your investigator is tried and tested, so you know whether people like them and the writing style they lead to (which is better than a blind start), your mysteries can have all their flaws from the first iteration fixed, and you already wrote a bunch, so your style has improved.

(Whether that works for you I can't say, since methods differ. That's just how I would approach it)

RealAmerican1776

Hah, I just started watching Colombo on Amazon Prime. He's an odd character. I'm also watching Detective Conan as well (the Japanese version that is.) Anyway, Since last time, I have decided that maybe fiction writing is not my career path. I am in a support/social group and the person working with me wanted me to look at job opportunities with writing. I have been interested in politics for a few years since I voted for the first time in 2016, and wanted to write a book series that sort of follows a fictional Presidential Administration sort of like a modern day West Wing and when I was working on that, I found that I really enjoyed the speech writing aspect so after a midlife career crises I decided that that is what I really want to do. Speech writing. I can still do what I enjoy and can continue to write. Plus, I don't have to worry about where my next pay check would come from like I would with being an author. Now, that does not mean I have to stop writing short stories, I can do that as a hobby, just not as a career.