Friday, October 19, 2012

Author Jeffrey Stone: Best/Worst Writing Advice

I’m always delighted to meet new authors, discover their books and find out more about their writing. I’d like to introduce you to author Jeffrey Stone and his latest release, PLAY HIM AGAIN, a historical mystery.

I must admit it was the cover and then synopsis of PLAY HIM AGAIN that quickly drew me in. It has such a feel to it. Here’s a brief synopsis so you can see:

It's the Roaring Twenties but silence remains golden for Hollywood. Sound is expensive. Only two studios have installed sound equipment. Matt Hudson, the preferred bootlegger of the film industry, wants to produce a talking picture but neither sound studio will lease him their facilities. 

After Hud's oldest friend, con man Danny Kincaid, dupes a gangster who controls a small movie studio into buying a bogus sound device, the gangster gets wise and Danny ends up dead. To settle the score, Hud runs another con to play the gangster again. A con that will either avenge Danny and land Hud a studio, or get him killed.

While Jeffrey may be a bit new to the writing game, he has come across his share of good and bad advice related to art. I asked him to share some of that advice with us today.

The best piece of writing advice I've come across is to write the type of book you would like to read. That may seem obvious or even trite but it runs deeper than it sounds. 

The obvious part is if you read predominantly in the mystery/crime/thriller genre, don't attempt to write a paranormal romance or a vampire novel or whatever genre appears to be hot right now. Stick to the genre you know best for your first book. You've absorbed a lot more about structure, plotting, craft etc. than you realize by having read all of those mystery/crime/thriller books.

The key part of the advice, for me, is to write the type of book YOU would like to read. How many times while reading a novel have you asked yourself "Why would he/she do that?" after some illogical action by a character. 

a5158bac2d81487ac7cbdff1a94673ab8f5f20a1Story twists and turns are intriguing and keep the reader engaged but how many times has a twist out of left field or an implausible plot development stretched your suspension of disbelief to the breaking point and diminished your enjoyment of the story? Whatever your particular peeves are, here's your chance to write a story where characters and plot and everything else develops and proceeds in a manner that YOU believe constitutes good story telling.

Anyone who reads a lot has over time, formed conceptions of what does and doesn't work for them in a story. As a writer, take great pains to leave out the things that don't work for you as a reader. Be true to your own convictions of what constitutes good story telling. 

This isn't always easy. There will be times when you've set a character on a course that follows logically from the previous story events and the plot requires that character to take a certain action. Then you realize that there's some other element in your story that would keep that character from doing what you need him to do. When that happens, go back and fix it. It may be a simple fix or it may mean days of replotting and rewriting but don't ever allow yourself to take an expedient shortcut. Don't give readers cause to ask themselves "Why would he do that?"     

The worst piece of advice I've read is don't expect to get constructive criticism of your writing from friends and family. Go to a third party for objective criticism. I couldn't disagree with this more.  

I don't take writing classes or belong to a writers group. I don't even personally know another writer. My only source of feedback is friends and family and in my opinion, they are the ideal source. You feel very vulnerable the first time you show your writing to someone else. That alone is a good enough reason to show your work to someone you trust. Someone who cares about you for who you are and is not going to judge you on your writing ability.

Of course your friends and family want to be supportive. They want to like your writing because it's important to you. But if you can't tell their honest opinion from them just trying to be nice, you're in trouble as a writer because you have to be able to read and understand people to write believable characters.

I asked the two people I'm closest to, my best friend and my sister, to read my book. Overall, they both liked it. Neither of them liked everything about the story and they each disliked different things in the story but they both gave me their honest opinion. 

I considered their feedback and made some changes but I didn't change everything they disliked because I didn't always agree with their reasoning. Their telling me they liked my book buoyed my confidence in myself as a writer and their constructive criticism made my book better.        

Jeffrey, thanks for joining us today. You made some very helpful points with both good and bad advice. I like the fact that while you considered the advice of your first readers, you didn’t change everything they disliked.

PLAY HIM AGAIN is the first book in Jeffrey’s new Matt Hudson Series so hopefully we will be seeing much more of both in the near future.

What advice would you give to a new writer just starting out? Thanks so much for stopping by today. Be sure to keep out an eye out for my review of PLAY HIM AGAIN on Nov. 4th.


  1. Jeffrey, thanks again for visiting with us today. You've shared some very useful tips about writing. Wishing you much success.

  2. Mason - Thanks for hosting Jeffrey.

    Jeffrey - You're quite right that writing the kind of books one likes to read makes sense. That's part of how the writer stays interested in her or his work.

  3. Hi, Jeffrey. Nice to meet you. Thanks for the sharing the writing tips.

  4. I totally agree about not trying to take a shortcut. It rarely, if ever, works.

    Happy Weekend!

  5. Jeffrey, that is exactly why I wrote my first book - it was a story I wanted to read.


I'd love to hear your thoughts on today's post. Thanks for dropping by.