This blog is by Susan Berliner, author of the supernatural thrillers "DUST," "Peachwood Lake," "The Disappearance," "Corsonia," and the short story collection, "The Sea Crystal and Other Weird Tales." If you have any comments or suggestions, please contact me.
The objective reader – January 20, 2018
Until now, my end-of-world series, The Touchers, has been read only by me and a few people close to me. This kind of subjective reading results in lots of praise and not much criticism. However, in order to improve these two books, I need objective criticism.
I've spent the past week reviewing a beta reader's analysis of The Touchers (Book One), and in most cases, I agree with the comments. The reader pointed out times where I've lost my narrator's voice (The series is told in the first person by Erin, a teenage girl); several plot issues; and a number of mistakes, both minor and major.
I've been working on The Touchers series for years—especially Book One, which has taken forever—and even though I've read this manuscript many times, I've missed lots of things. That's why, before a book is published, it has to be read by objective readers.
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Plot problem – January 15, 2018
I'd just finished editing 11 short stories and patting myself on the back because they're in pretty good shape. However, shortly thereafter, I realized that the story I'd just finishing reading, "The Imposters," had a major plot problem.
"The Imposters" is about a young teen who realizes her parents have changed in a major way—not outwardly, but personality-wise—and it dawned on me, after all this time (it was the first story I'd written of this new batch) that my explanation for this change didn't make sense.
Today I thought of a way to correct the problem and started deleting dialogue and rewriting scenes, not thrilled at having to remove lots of good stuff. But as I was ripping this story apart, I came up with yet another way to fix it—a much easier solution that didn't involve rewriting half the story. In fact, my new fix required just redoing a few paragraphs. And I think my changes work.
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Book talk – January 10, 2018
I love talking about my writing and today I had the opportunity to do so as a guest speaker at the Yorktown Rotary Club's weekly luncheon meeting in Kirby's Grill & Bar.
I always begin by explaining how I got the ideas for my first two novels, DUST and Peachwood Lake, since both were inspired by newspaper articles (the former a tiny Internet post and the latter a front page story in the Sunday New York Times).
My next three books, however, came entirely from my imagination—The Disappearance (time travel), Corsonia (mind-control), and The Sea Crystal and Other Weird Tales (a mixed bag of supernatural short stories—everything from humor to horror).
I also spoke briefly about the creative writing process—and then we ate lunch—delicious burgers. I could do this every day, the writing part especially. (I'd weigh 400 pounds eating the food!) And I will be attending the Rotary Club's next meeting because Larry Berliner will be the guest speaker. Photos from today's meeting are in Happenings.
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Too much information – January 5, 2018
"Write out of the reader's imagination as well as your own.
Supply the significant details and let the reader's imagination do the rest."
--Patrick F. McManus
I thought of this quote, which I had seen on Twitter a couple of months ago and retweeted, as I edited my latest short story, "George's Mother." When I reread this tale about a woman who claims to be a man's dead mother, I realized I was giving the reader too much information—explaining clues that a competent reader should be able to figure out without my help.
I eliminated two unnecessary details: an early conclusion that is now implied and explained at the end of the story and an obvious clue that I had needlessly spelled out. Both these omissions improve the story, making it more challenging for the reader.
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