Soda Springs, novel and boot camp;
Behind-the-scenes tips for writers

Writing fiction is hard work. You write . . rewrite . . . root out the underbrush . . . cut, cut, cut . . . rewrite again . . . banish unneeded characters . . . oust cliches . . . spiff up the language . . . then rewrite yet again . . . over and over.

Writing a novel is a long trek. When you're finished, your life lies buried in mounds of flotsam and jetsam a reader never sees in the published book.

So what IF . . . we use Soda Springs: Sex, Love, and Civil Rights as an on-line writer's boot camp? I'll show you the warts and dirty little secrets that only a novel's author knows . . .

    • the false starts
    • the revisions
    • some of the wonderful scenes we left on the cutting room floor
    • Plus . . . I'll show you why we made those choices . . . and the questions they raise for your own fiction writing.

Use Soda Springs: Love, Sex, and Civil Rights as your personal fiction writing workshop . . . I've salted the discussion with fiction writing tips, fiction writing hints, fiction writing exercises that will help you with your own fiction writing. Read it. Enjoy it. Criticize it. Learn from it.

Let's begin with a couple of sections that draw on my efforts to build this website, and to find a publisher for Soda Springs.

Writing for the web

Writing for your website is nothing like writing your novel. It's a genre of its own. Short sentences. Fragments. Graphics. Bullets. "Special effects" you'll never find in a novel . . . ellipses (in place of commas), words in boldface or colors . . . or Arabic numerals (e.g. 3) instead of (three).

Get started with these pages:


If you are sending queries to agents and publishers, and feel as if you're batting your head against a kyptonite wall, consider self-publishing. That world has changed enormously in recent years. Here are some thoughts you might want to consider:

As time goes on, I will use Soda Springs as an example, drawing from it, bringing in material that was cut, edited, added . . . to show from the inside how a novel gets written.

Here's my first hint:

Chapter summaries. One-paragraph summaries of each chapter. (A fiction writing tip we picked up from our writing groups over the years.) Good chapter summaries give both you and your critique group partners (and your readers) an easy handle on your story line.

Later, I'll develop the following:

The art of cutting: Good fiction writing means deleting entire scenes, pages, themes, characters . . . even well-written ones. View the secrets that published novels never reveal: the parts the author cut out . . . plus comments on why we decided these sections had to go, and useful tips for your own fiction writing.

Chipping off excess: Good fiction writing forces us to be concise . . . to chop out paragraphs and sentences . . . to shrink each phrase to its essence. Chipping and chopping are indispensable skills in the hidden arsenal of a fiction writer. See them here in action . . . plus our comments and lessons learned.

Coloring words: Writing fiction means precise word choice . . . words that convey the right shade of mood, style, action, emotion. Consider these examples from Soda Springs . . . and, as always, my comments and lessons learned.

Creating characters: A whole company of players await you in Soda Springs. Meet them, see how the author describes them, then, link to In our own words, where the main characters introduce themselves to you.

Painting a setting: Join me for a stroll into the past. At this link, we'll take you to real civil rights events in Birmingham in 1963, and to examples of the field research that led to creation of our fictional town of Soda Springs.

Writing erotic fiction: Soda Springs is about love and sex, as well as civil rights. You'll read some hormonal-charged adventures in this novel. We've tried to show them in a way that's true to our cast's emotions and actions. Join me in wrestling with the dilemma of writing fiction about sex without being pornographic: "Exactly how explicit should this scene be?"

Soda Springs from start to finish (the novel as a process): Writing fiction takes time. The story evolves. Characters change. Join my journey though the history of Soda Springs . . . from notes scrawled on a napkin at a Hardee's somewhere off the Iowa interstate through the numerous iterations on the road to publication.

An interview with the author: So how did this story come about? Are these characters for real? Are the places real? Did these things really happen? . . . And lots more: a no-holds-barred interview.

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Helpful websites
for writers

Maria Pease's website, is for writers and those who dream of a career as a writer. Maria shows you how to start your own freelance writing business, how to build it and make it as successful as you want it to be. This site is worth bookmarking; it’s chock-full of ideas for anyone who aspires to be -- or who is -- a writer.

Karen Bane’s website, www. Change The World With is about writing (making art), getting your writing published (making money) and changing the world in the process (making a difference). The site offers a plethora of useful writing and publishing tips, articles, resources, and links, plus an extensive on-line bookstore of books on writing. Bookmark this site.

Audrey Owen is a model for writer-oriented websites. Her website, helps you present your message with clear, crisp writing. She also offers editing services to support you through on-line writing tips, substantive, line, and copy editing.

Be sure and check out her e-book, Get Your Writing Fighting Fit. Click Here!