How long will you wait to resolve a cliffhanger?

Hollow_City_(novel)_coverI just finished Hollow City, the sequel to Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. It’s a good story, but if you’ve only seen the movie, you probably won’t follow this book. This is not a review of the book, but of a writing technique, I can’t remember reading before.

I was listening to my Kindle read the book to me this past weekend. It came to a scene where the heroes were in life-threatening danger. Then the author Ransom Riggs threw in an unexpected twist and ended the book, leaving the reader with a cliffhanger.

Can anyone name a book where that has happened? Comics do it and, of course, television shows, but I can’t remember a novel that did it.

The largest reason why it wouldn’t be popular is that readers would more than likely have to wait a year before getting the resolution to the crisis. That’s a long time to leave the readers hanging.

Does it work as a literary technique?

It certainly does for chapter ending, and it does here. However, when the resolution is drawn out for a year, I think some of the power wears off.

What do you think?

Also, send me the names of any novels that have a cliffhanger ending.


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Never stop researching

I took a trip out to Western Maryland on Friday to do some research for Saving Shallmar. I’ve finished the first draft, but I tracked down someone else who lived in the town and took the opportunity to talk to her about what she remembered.

I didn’t expect to hear much new at this point given how much I’ve researched the subject. I guess that’s vanity on my part because I did get some new information and a very different perspective on things from this lady. I’ve got plenty of information to weave into my first draft and some interesting and hilarious stories I’ll have to research for possible articles.

I don’t know why I’m always surprised (happily) when I interview someone and get a lot of new information for a story. That’s why I do the interviews.  Part of me is always looking for more information and part of me seems to think that there isn’t anything new to say.

I’m glad I’m able to fight off that lazy side of myself because my books and articles are much richer because of the research I do and the people who I can speak with. My hope is that people will have a real sense of life in a dying coal mining town in Western Maryland when the book is done.

I just looked at the bibliography for Saving Shallmar. So far, it includes 110 newspaper articles, 11 people who were interviewed, 16 books, 2 journal articles, 28 reports and 12 websites for the 50,000-word book. Those numbers will increase because I’ve still got some loose threads I’m investigating.

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No Meeting this Wednesday

thThe Gettysburg Writers Brigade is pretty consistent in meeting every Wednesday, and the crew at O’Rorke’s Restaurant are very accommodating to us. That said, this Wednesday is the Fourth of July. Not only is it a holiday, but since we meet in the evening, we figured that everyone would be getting ready to go see fireworks, so we won’t be meeting this week. Come out and join us next week. Same bat time. Same bat channel. (That’s a reference to the old Batman series for those who are wondering.) Have a fun holiday.

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Why you should write for regional magazines

I like writing for regional magazines. Some writers are all about getting into the big-name magazines, and that’s fine. I like writing for them occasionally, too. However, the bread-and-butter side of non-book income is writing for magazines so I need to keep the assignments and checks coming.

2fd069a12889a0c3761c5db01730cb0d6858b490Here’s why I like to write for regional magazines:

  • Larger market: If I wanted to write a story for a national history magazine, I have three or four possible markets where I could pitch the article. However, if I look at the local angles of the story, I could at least double that number of market, maybe even triple it. I live in Gettysburg, and there are six magazines that I can think of that directly cover the town.
  • Easy to resell articles: I find that it is easy to resell article ideas between regional magazines. The article needs to be refocused a bit to fit the market of the magazine, but probably half of the article can stay the same between the markets. For instance, I wrote an article about the Tuskegee Airmen who were from Maryland for a Maryland magazine. I then repurposed it for both West Virginia and Pennsylvania magazines focusing on the airmen from those state. While the names were different and I had to interview different people, the basic information about the history of the airmen was the
  • Multiple chances to impress: This ties into there being a larger market of regional magazines. Each of those magazines has a different editor, so you have multiple chances to build professional relationships that can serve you well. Once I have worked with editors for a few stories, they quickly realize I like history so when history ideas up in editorial meetings, they contact me to write the story. Also, if the editor moves on to a new job, they know they can contact me for assignments.178e9ea3549cac3b6d3a2d20aee0ad2c
  • Good payment: Certainly national magazines pay more, probably around $1 a word, but regional magazines easily pay 25 cents to 75 cents a word. If you repurpose your article idea for four magazines, you’ll probably make more for the overall idea by selling it to regional magazines.
  • Unique stories: Because national magazines have a national market, I find that the stories they tend to tell are more generalized. I find that I have plenty of good articles ideas that national magazines wouldn’t be interested in because they are too local. For instance, I recently wrote an article about the year-long hunt for a supposedly escaped gorilla. It was a fun story that local people enjoyed reading about, but I doubt that a national magazine would have cared for it.
  • Less competition: Regional magazines have fewer writers competing for the editorial space. That means you have a better chance of being accepted. While national magazines may pay more, if you don’t get the assignment, you won’t be making anything. Not only do I have a better chance of getting the assignment at an individual magazine, but if I’m pitching an idea to multiple magazines, such as the Tuskegee Airmen story, I have a better chance of getting the story accepted somewhere. The odds are against me getting the $1 per word story, but I could easily get 50 cents per word.

1192240118All that being said, national magazines still offer advantages.

  • More-impressive clippings: When querying magazines for assignment, having national credits is more impressive to editors. That would make them more likely to see my query favorably. I do have some national credits, and I name them in my queries as well as pertinent regional credits.
  • Better pay: As I already said, if you can get a national assignment, it will more than likely pay better than regional publication. This is particularly true if you can get an assignment from one of the big-name publications that might pay you even more than $1 per word.
  • Author reputation: It doesn’t happen as much now as it used to, but some authors can build a following of readers who are anxious to read their articles.

From my perspective as a full-time freelance writer who needs to earn a living, these are my reasons for favoring regional publications. You may have a different perspective. If it works for you and gets you published, keep it up. If you find it failing you more often than not, try your luck with regional publications. There are some great ones out there. I should know. I write for them.

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Check out these great writer’s websites!

thDuring last week’s meeting of the Gettysburg Writers Brigade, we looked at some of the favorite writer’s websites of our members. These are sites that have lots of useful information for writers. We took a look at each of the sites and what they offer.

I’ve listed the sites below so you can take a look at them yourself and save them to visit frequently.

  • Writer’s Digest – The website for the nation’s leading writing magazine.
  • The Creative Penn – Joanna Penn’s website has lots of usable information, particularly for indie publishers.
  • David Gaughran – David Gaughran’s website has good information for indie authors.
  • Brandon Sanderson – NYT Bestseller Brandon Sanderson’s website has a great podcast and a lot of behind-the-scenes looks at a writer’s life and his process.
  • Alliance of Independent Authors – This organization’s site is filled with news that indie authors can use.
  • diyMFA – Another website chockful of useful writing information.
  • Daily Writing Tips – Learn something new about writing every day.
  • Writers Beware – Avoid the scam artists out there before they take crush your dreams and take your money.
  • Romance Writers Association Online Classes – Don’t let the name fool you. There are plenty of courses offered that have nothing to do with romance.
  • Publishers Marketplace – Get the news on what agents are selling, the publishers that are buying them, and what the publishers are paying.
  • Writer Unboxed – A great site with information to raise your writing to the next level.
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Will Hutchison hits the road

517BvmwSaEL._SX375_BO1,204,203,200_If you happen to be out west this month, check out Gettysburg Writers Brigade member Will Hutchison, who will be signing copies of his award-winning book, Artifacts of the Battle of Little Big Horn: Custer, the 7th Cavalry & the Lakota and Cheyenne Warriors at various locations around the national monument in Montana.

The book is not only filled with Will’s great writing and research about the battle, but it also has hundreds of full-color photographs of artifact – both Indian and white – of the battle. Some of the artifacts have never before been photographed.

Since Will is a member of our group, I can tell you that he spent a couple years traveling to various locations to take high-resolution color photographs, shot from various angles. It serves well as a reference book or just a tabletop book where you can enjoy the photos.

This year is the 142nd anniversary of the battle. The National Park Service has a full day of events at the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument on June 25th, 2018. The Battle of Little Bighorn or Custer’s Last Stand was a battle between Lakota, Northern Cheyenne, and Arapaho tribes and the 7th Cavalry Regiment of the United States Army. The Native Americans emerged victorious from the battle.

You can find out more about Will’s book here.

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The benefit of drafts and hindsight


A page from my current project with some mark-ups.

Have you ever looked back at your older writings and wondered how you could have written that? Maybe the imagery was simplistic, the grammar poor, or the story cliché-ridden.

I have.

One of the things I like about being an indie author is that I can go back an update previously published works. Given that some of my books have been in print nearly 20 years, it shouldn’t be surprising that I find things that I want to update or correct.

I also discover older works that didn’t find a publisher when I initially shopped them around. I read them and think, “I still like this.”

I sometimes think that the piece is better than I can write now. That concerned me at first until I realized when I felt that way it was because I was comparing a finished book with a book in progress. Of course, there’s going to be a lot that needs to be improved in a draft.

When I’m writing a draft, I can get swept up into a conversation between two characters and forget that they are doing something while speaking. I might paint a scene with minimal details because I have fully visualized it yet. I may have pages of exposition with needed information that needs to be spread out through the story.

In my case, I need to be able to get these things written first to see where the flaws are that need to be fixed.

Still, it is nice to see that I have some unpublished manuscripts that I still like. That means I will probably go through them and publish them at some point.

I also like the fact that I can see how my writing has improved over the years. My goal is to make sure that I can still say that in 20 years about the books I’m writing now.

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