So you can read my books

Monday, February 21, 2011


The mysterious Nazca lines. What fan of the arcane and the supernatural has not heard of them?
But did you know that there were equally mysterious Nazca Lines for writers?

Bet you didn't.

But there are. And you need to know them.

Imagine this scenario :
you're at a writer's conference. You're waiting for the elevator doors to open and take you to listen to your favorite author. They open. He storms out. You stumble into the elevator and bump into none other than the president of HarperCollins Publishing.

The doors close, and he glares at you.

"That jerk just told me I needed him. Me need him? I made him. I could make you. Hey, you tell me what your book is about in one sentence. I like it. I'll publish it. Well, just don't stare at me. Give me that sentence!"

What do you say? Besides "Oh, shit!" to yourself.
And right now, as you read this, if you're writing a novel, you better have that sentence crystal clear in your mind.

If you don't, you need those mysterious Nazca Lines for authors.

What is your novel about, Roland? Now is no time for ah's. "It's about a man, nearing retirement, invited to a company country retreat, only to find out it is his employers' deadly way of downsizing by 'accident' to avoid paying him his benefits."

The president's eyes roll up. "Why should I care? What's the shake-up in this retread?"

"Ah, you see, he's not human. He's ... he's an alien with gruesome dietary needs. And he's more than happy to add these company killers to his menu."

"Hey, that might work. Give me an eagle-eye view of this, kid."

Eagle-eye view. That is what the Nazca Lines for authors happens to be.

First Nazca Line - The theme in one sentence.
In an important aspect, a good novel is an argument posed by the author to the reader.

As in : what is more important, love or success? What is love really? And success? How do you measure that? Your theme is your argument.

How do you get your theme seamlessly inserted into your novel?
Usually thourgh the lips of a secondary character. In my THE MOON & SUN AS HIS BRIDES, Webster, the one-eyed orphanage headmaster, stalks towards my young hero as the orphange burns down around them.

He jabs at his empty eye-socket.

"You want the truth? You want to understand? That costs, boy. It costs!" {As it turns out Webster is really Wotan, he who you might know as Odin -- and wisdom cost him his eye.}

Second - The Book-Ends :

The Opening Scene and Your Closing Scene.

Some publishers look at the first 10 pages and the last 10 pages.
Think of them as the "Before" and "After" photos in all those advertisements. There has to be a drastic change in the main character underlinging your theme or the rubber stamp "REJECT" comes down on your manuscript. Ouch.

Third - The Set-Up Lines :

The first 50 pages or the first 3 chapters.

In those you must set-up your hero, the life-or-death stakes, the goal of the story, and all the major characters are introduced or hinted at.
Think of any classic Hollywood movie. In the first 15 minutes you will see that same set-up. You don't have it in your novel? You don't have a good novel. Or least that is what the publisher will think. And he is the one we're trying to sell.

Fourth - The Flaws That Show & Those That Don't :

You should have three major time bombs in your hero's life that need fixing and three minor ones that prevent him from seeing the real problems in his life. Tick. Tick. Tick. BOOM!

Fifth : Let The Games Begin :

Fun. That's what gets readers to come back for a second and third read.
It what gets them to urge friends to read. Let the hero and his circle of comrades have adventure. Let them get away with the loot. Let them thumb their noses at the howling Dark Ones.
It's what would be on the poster if your novel was turned into a movie.
Luke and Leia swinging on that rope. Quigley shooting his rifle over impossible distances. Iron Man streaking across the dark heavens ... to slam into the brick wall of the next Nazca Line ---

Sixth - The Twilight of The Gods :

Or that is what I call it : the hero realizes too late a harsh truth.
The forces of darkness have won. He is alone. There is no hope. He comes face to face with the fool that he was. And then, kneeling in blood and ashes, he decides ...

Seventh - The Phoenix Rises/ The Catalyst Sizzles :

There is losing. Then, there's quiting. The hero decides to fight on. But fight on smarter.
The bad news was really the good news.
It is that moment the reader loves. The harsh realities that every reader faces is tilted on its ear by a carefully sown subplot. The person the hero thought he has lost returns. And the forces of darkness discover you never count a hero down until you see his corpse.
And maybe not even then.

Eighth - The Mid-Point Line :

The stakes are raised. The hero wins. Or does he? The floor bottoms out beneath him. All is lost. The hero was a fool. He obtained his goal, only to discover he had lost the real treasure in getting a tarnished, empty vessel.
Ninth - The Wolves Close In :

What makes a hero?
What ticks inside a proponent of Evil?
The answers to those two questions are what turns defeat into a learning, growing stage in the hero. The hero fights for others. The antagonist fights for himself. The hero is willing to die if those he loves live. The antagonist usually finds a way for followers to die for his cause. He himself wants to live to bask in the glory of winning.

Tenth - Gethsame_Golgotha_The Empty Tomb :

Death. Someone dies. Something important dies.
In every classic movie, death is the seed that is sown to bring a harvest of redemption to the hero. As the shadows close in around our defeated, dejected hero ...

Eleventh - The Sun Also Rises :

Love usually brings the believed lost partner of the hero back to his side. A moment of joy leads to a revelation of a solution.
The lessons learned in the prior pages are brought to bear. The forces of darkness have learned nothing. The hero has learned a great many things. He brings them to his arsenal of weapons.
One by one, he and his comrades and his love dispatch the enemy. Until it is just the hero versus his arch-foe.
New surprises are thrown at our hero. He takes his hits and keeps coming. He may die, but he will not be defeated. Nor is he.

And The Lines Strikes Twelve - The "World" is changed.

Triumph isn't enough. The world must be drastically changed -- for the hero or for everyone. But changed it is.

Final Image :

It echoes the first image we got in the book.
But this image has more depth, brought by the dark colors of death, pain, and revelation. You have made your point in the argument you proposed in the novel's beginning.
You know your reader will close your book with a sad sigh at a great experience ended. And maybe, just maybe, if you've done your job right ...
your reader will turn to page one again to read your novel with renewed delight at knowing where you are going to take him/her.
And talking of eagle-eye views, here is a music video that is a life lesson all by itself :


  1. Wow, Roland,

    What a post. So detailed. Another segment for your book on writing.

    I'll be copying and pasting this into my files.


  2. Thanks, Michael. I'm pleased that you liked it so much that you're copying and pasting it into your files.

    May all of us do well in ABNA! Roland

  3. A genius idea and post - thank you. I'll be doing the same as Michael!

  4. ...this installment of yours sparks a timely debate for me, as I wrap up edit work on "Charm" and send it on its way. Well done, Roland, and yes, I'd be happy to promote your release in any way that I can. Send me an email with your ideas and we'll move forward from there.

    Have a great week,


  5. Ellie : That means a lot to me. I'm glad you enjoyed my post and got something out of it that will help.

    Elliot : I know you must be relieved to finally be finished with your edits on SOUTH OF CHARM. I'd be interested in what your lively debate was about. And thanks for being there for me with the genesis of my blog tour for my book. I'm new to this, so I'm inching myself along with this. Thanks, again, Roland

  6. Nazca lines for writers, I love that! It sounds so much better than a logline. I had the chance to put this to work this last weekend and boy am I glad I had answers ready! It makes all the difference to look, sound, and be prepared. Industry pros notice that right off the bat.

  7. Oh I've always thought being in an elevator with someone like that would leave me speechless, lol.

    Anyway, thanks for the post! And Yanno? I LOVE the Nazca lines! (I'm Peruvian btw, and I've been there :D)

  8. This was a really great post, Roland--full of tons of helpful stuff... in fact you've made my permanent files with it... I have a spreadsheet of posts I like to have for reference when I am working on this piece or that, and this hits several of them.

  9. I am IN LOVE with this post! It was a story in itself (insert protag and antag of choice). And I finished it with a sad sigh at a great experience ended! Thank you so much Roland, that was inpirational... I'll be posting a link to this bad boy! ;^)

  10. Hi Roland!
    Great take on the Mythic Journey, and I'm writing my log-line on hand for that conference!! :)

  11. I'm still back at "The Theme in one Sentence".
    GREAT post. I will be using this as one of my top guides in what I do.
    Thank you.

  12. This post reminds me of my thesis writing, the structural steps and organized part... just my thoughts.

    A good post with great points on writing. Thanks.

  13. First: When I finish my manuscript, will YOU please read it?

    Second: Please oh please send me the link to my email for that eagle video. My son in law would love it and I want to share it with some others.

    Third: I too am copying and pasting this post for my writing file.


  14. Oh yeah, FOURTH: Would you also send me the link for your wolf header??? OMG it is amazing and son in law would LOVE it.

  15. Heather : I so envy you being able to go to that convention. I must look like the Hulk's thin cousin, I'm so green with envy! LOL.

    Monica : It's my night for envy. You've been to the Nazca Lines? Wow. Thanks for liking my post.

    Hart : Well, now I'm honored. I've made your permanent files? Thanks for thinking this post worthy. I hope it helps in some small way, Roland

    C.E. : You feeling like that about my post and putting up a link to it -- well, that makes my evening!!

    Autumn : Yes, the Mythic Journey is in every great novel, no matter the genre. Campbell was right about the Hero with a 1000 Faces. Thanks for enjoying my post and seeing something useful in it!

    Dawn: Just think about the theme in one sentence as the answer you would give your friends asking what the movie based on youR book was all about. It helps if you think of it that way, Roland

    Imagery Imagined : I'm glad you found my post laid out helpfully and with a bit or two that could prove helpful. It makes me feel as if I'm doing something right.

    Donna : Here is the link to the eagle video :

    I will have to look up the wolf link when I get home.

    I would be happy to look at your first three chapters of your manuscript. They are the ones the agents scan first. I have so many demands on my time with work, my novels, and starting up my blog tour that time is something that I do not have much of these days.

    Thanks for liking my post so much, Roland

  16. Donna B. Here is the link to some great wolf graphics including Wolf On Ice :