Writing Fiction by Dr. Marvin C. McMaster

by | Jun 7, 2019 | Entry | Blog writing competition | 2 comments

Writing is a process. Start with a working title for your fictional book, short story, or textbook. Find an unexpected hook for the end to write toward. Get to know the viewpoint character (the one telling your story) and let him or her tell their story. Get the action started, don’t waste time setting the scenery. Write a working outline on your computer for your 100,000-word novel. Trees, flowers, smells, and sunsets are wonderful, but work them in as you go. If you stick them all at the first, your reader is going to go somewhere else. Science fiction author L. Sprague DiCamp said, “Shoot the Sheriff in the first page!” Get the action, the conflict started, and grab your reader.

A title and outline are not cast in stone! They are designed to evolve. Although I have written full fiction novels without an outline, letting my view point character tell the story, sometimes these dead end without reaching a logical ending or with enough words or pages to satisfy a publisher’s editor.

The basic problem with writing fiction is ending the book at a complete, logical conclusion. Viewpoint characters do not like to stop where you want.  You find yourself having to prune heavily to end the book. Remember a sequel is always possible if the character is strong enough.

I have submitted manuscripts to print publishers, who work at glacial speeds. After a number of years of submitting, receiving publisher’s Dear John letters, and resubmitting, I encountered electronic publishers. In seven years, I published 18 books with a nineteenth book in the process of publication.

The downside of e-publication is marketing. Nobody is out there beating the drum for your books, pushing them into the bookstores, and getting them read by the New York Times best sellers list. It is up to you to get them read on Amazon.com, i-Book store, or on your publisher’s bookstore. But wait, everyone, who is anyone, is on Twitter and Facebook, aren’t they? Electronic publishing is the wave of the future. Isn’t it? Lets post them there and let your friends spread the word to their friends, and their friend’s friends, and so on. Good luck!

Sure, you want to see your words and thoughts in print in hard copy. Electrons are transient. The first thing I wrote was a textbook. I knew someone who worked for a scientific publisher. I sent him a manuscript, he got it to an editor, and I received a contract and an advance toward royalties. I published three more textbooks in the same way. Royalties are wonderful things, but that was years ago. We live in different times. Publishers want a sure thing. They want a Name author that will sell the book no matter how good (or poorly) the subject and the writing.

What you will find today are Vantage Press publishers who want you to up front part of the cost of publishing the book and marketing it. You need to have deep pockets to make this happen. But, this is nothing new. Beatrix Potter was able to publish Peter Rabbit only because her husband went to school with her publisher. L. Frank Baum sent The Wizard of Oz to 19 publishers over 21 years before he broke through, J.K. Rowling waited for 17 years before finding a publicist at a book fair who became her agent for the Harry Potter books.

The prolific science fiction writer Robert Heinlein published his advice on writing in “Channel Markers” in the magazine Analog, Jan. 1974.

1. You must write.

2. You must finish what you write.

3. You must refrain from rewriting, except to editorial order.

4. You must place it on the market.

5, You must keep it on the market until sold.

In another place he said,

 “Write 1000 words a day. 5000 words a week. 200,000-words a year.

And again,

“Write! 1 hour a day! Every day! No exceptions, except illness, birth, or death. Yours personally!” My most recent novel, The Seventh Seraph, began with a question during the coffee hour at church. I ask people how many Archangels are there in the Bible? The answer I got was, “Two, Michael and Gabriel” I said, “What about the ones in the Apocrypha in 2 Ezra, Uriel, Raphael, and Jeremiel? And of course there was Lucifer bringing the total to six Archangels, standing before the face of God.” But, then I realized that God tends to work in sevens, so I started looking for a Seventh Archangel or Seraph. I found him throughout both books of the Bible. He is called The Angel of Death. Wikipedia names him as Samael, the Venom of God. Islam names him Malek auld Maut and Azrael. I had my viewpoint character. Who said, “I am not evil. Like your dentists I am simply in the extraction business. But, your dentists have the highest suicide rate among your professionals. No one likes to go to the dentist and you signal that to him subliminally. I need help to keep from going nuts. I need a psychiatrist to travel with me.” I had my title and my viewpoint character!

Phone: 314-625-0906

Address: 2070 Cordoba Dr, Florissant, MO 63033

Email: [email protected]


  1. Melissa

    I always found self-publishing more comfortable than working with companies. Or maybe that’s just me.

    • faye

      True. I think there’s an added pressure with publishing companies.


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