Sunday, January 31, 2016

Making a good story better

Reviews, good, bad or indifferent, are literally the lifeblood of any writer. The word of mouth from a review can propel sales for a writer and makes said writer’s bank account a happier place too.

Reservations, the first of my four-book series being published by Oak Tree Press, recently was reviewed by a book blogger who brought up a couple of points that got me thinking about the creative process a writer goes through and how even the small decisions a writer makes can make a big difference on how the story is received.

First, she mentioned that some of the places I had written about seemed very real which in turn made the entire fictional story feel more believable to her.

Reservations is set in and around Gallup, New Mexico. I lived there for five years and spent a considerable amount of time on the three reservations that lay nearby. Many of the locations included in Reservations actually exist in real life.

In the book, Jack Del Rio and Lucy Chee meet the Mayor and Police Chief of Gallup as well as the County Sheriff inside a restaurant called Richards. If you ever find yourself in Gallup stop by Earls Restaurant and try to get the table next to the end of the counter on the edge of the secondary dining area. You’ll be sitting at the table where that meeting took place.

The last time my wife and I went through Gallup we stopped there and I talked the waitress into letting us sit at that table. You can imagine the goosebumps on my arm when no sooner had we sat down than a young Navajo girl was the first to stop at our table with a tray of Navajo jewelry for sale.

And the El Rancho Hotel, complete with neon sign, rooms named after old Hollywood stars and the Ronald Reagan burger with a side of jelly beans? Yep, you can find all of those there too.

So don’t be afraid to incorporate something real that you know into your fictional writing. Even though the details above were very minor, and the story would have progressed just fine without them, that little bit of realism sprinkled in can make your story all that better

As to her second point, while she thought the main character, Jack Del Rio, was well written she really liked the Lucy Chee character and that the book would not have been the same if Chee had not been included.

So here’s the dirty little secret that no one has ever been told before now. In the original draft of Reservations, Lucy Chee did not exist. It wasn’t until I’d finished the first draft and was working on my first read/write through that I decided something was missing. After a couple of minor tweaks did little to dispel that feeling, Lucy Chee was born and written into the story.

And I am very glad Lucy Chee became a part of the world of Jack Del Rio that I created, even though she is involved in the toughest chapter I’ve ever had to write in my entire life.

The lesson?

Don’t be afraid to go back and rewrite – even if you think you’ve already written your final draft – and take a chance or two along the way. It won’t always work out, but when it does it can be pretty special.

Richard Paolinelli is the author of the four-book Jack Del Rio mystery-thriller series. The first book, Reservations, was released in 2015 and the second, Betrayals, is set for a September 2016 release. He is also the author of the sci-fi novel, Maelstrom, and the sports non-fiction, From The Fields. He is an award-winning sportswriter and lives in California.

His website is: 


Shalanna said...

Congratulations on becoming an Oak Tree Press mystery author! (Mysterian?) I agree that in the first revision pass-through, it will come to you that you need something--and if you're lucky, whatever or whoever the book needs will materialize. Aren't the Muses something?

Nancy LiPetri said...

I really enjoyed this post, leaning about Gallop and Lucy. And will remember to listen for the muses!

Dac said...

Nice Blog, Richard. Guess I gotta buy your book.

I must say -- I've been misled by reviews. I've bought highly-touted books that turned out to be poorly written. I will give a book 50 pages, most of the time, but some of those 5-star reviews have fooled me.

Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

Good post with some great points.


Amy Bennett said...

I can't wait to read "Reservations"! I've been through Gallup and always wanted to stay at El Rancho! If you visit the Ruidoso area of New Mexico, you'll find a lot of real places that are mentioned in my Black Horse Campground series. It's fun to incorporate real life into fiction!

Stephen L. Brayton said...

yep, I'm always adding realism in my stories. Rewrites are tough, but must be done because there's always something that can be improved. The trick is to know when to stop and submit.

Beryl Reichenberg said...

New Mexico and the South West are some of my favorite places to visit, so it's always a treat to find a good book set in these areas.