Go Set a Watchman Blog Tour

Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman follows Jean Louise “Scout” Finch as she returns to her hometown, Maycomb, Alabama. Yearly, she travels from New York to Alabama, and the novel opens with her long train ride. Jean Louise muses about the past, blogger-image--1888984075surrounded by loved ones and friends, for a large chunk of the beginning of this novel.

Once home, she unearths secrets about her father, Atticus Finch, an attorney and former legislator. Discovering harsh truths, she breaks ties that held Maycomb close to her heart and her inner child alive and naïve, despite being in her early twenties. This revelation in adulthood gives her an eye-opening understanding of her past, present, and her heritage as a Southern woman as the Civil Rights Movement takes shape.

The most prominent theme here is racism. Jean Louise’s altercation with Atticus and Henry “Hank” Clinton–Jean Louise’s love interest and Atticus’s junior partner in his law firm–about their resistance to the NAACP in Alabama is exacerbated by her father’s long-standing ties with the KKK. An interesting aspect is that the issue of race was brought into Atticus’ home. The story shows how it affected a young woman who had such high opinions of her father, then became crushed by the truth.

I read a fascinating analysis of the symbols used in this novel. For instance, the title itself refers to the Biblical Isaiah 21:6. “For thus hath that Lord said unto me, Go, set a watchman, let him declare what he seeth.” — King James version.

Early interpretations assert that the watchman refers to Atticus, and how he serves to undermine the morality with which Jean Louise had oriented herself in the world. It could also be said that Jean Louise herself becomes her own watcher, observing the world through her own eyes rather than her father’s. Her nickname “Scout” seems to favor the idea that scouts range ahead to see what’s coming. Which makes me wonder if Lee was intentional in her decision to give her this nickname. My guess is that she knew exactly what she was doing with these symbols, and that is truly commendable.

That said, this novel does not follow contemporary structure. In that, there is no real hook, large chunks of backstory, continuity issues, and the entire beginning is mainly musings with very little tension. Other than when she locks herself in her bunkroom and can’t get out. Which, honestly, didn’t work for me.

I will say, a large part of the problems I had with this novel is that I was expecting a crime novel. This story is more of a politically, racially-motivated family drama. And those who enjoy this type of story will find much to like. For me, reading an unedited first draft is not something I’d do twice.

Many loved this novel, however, so please take my comments at face-value. This is only one opinion…mine. I don’t normally review books that I can’t in good conscience give at least four stars. To shred someone’s hard work goes against everything I hold dear, but I also refuse to lie and tell you this book kept me up nights, flipping pages.

I’ll leave you with this. To Kill a Mockingbird is such a cherished piece of literary history. If you want to see what Harper Lee envisioned for what happens next, Go Set a Watchman is definitely worth the read. If you’d rather not ruin your memories, then perhaps skipping this sequel is best.

Your call.

Next, we’ll continue with the series Murder at Cabin 28.

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What Type Of Writer Are You?

I have a special guest for you today, with a thought-provoking post. He sure had me wondering what type of writer I am, and I’m betting he’ll do the same for you. Paul Dale Anderson is the author of 27 novels and hundreds of short stories. Paul earned graduate degrees in Educational Psychology and taught college-level Neuro-linguistic Programming (NLP) and hypnosis courses as well as writing workshops at universities and novel and short story writing for Writers Digest Schools.

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Each writer has her or his own distinct “voice.” Some writers spend decades looking for their unique voices, and others find theirs with the very first story they write. Voice and style are related but different.

Voice is what a reader hears inside his or her head when reading words. Storytelling is an art that existed long before the written word, and the best storytellers have a natural rhythm that mesmerizes listeners with alliteration, repetition, rhyme, parallel structures, and patterns of pacing that enchant and entrance.

Too many writers are unaware of how the human mind processes language. Various structures in the brain—some in the left hemisphere and some in the right—work together to make sense out of symbols. Symbols include, besides alpha-numeric digital representations, sounds, gestures, signs, maps, smells, tastes, and physical feelings. It is the mind that gives meaning to each symbol based on prior associations dredged out of memory. The map is not the territory but merely a representation of the territory.

During conversations with fellow writers at the 2015 Nebula Award Banquet in Chicago, I identified successful new writers by which symbols had salience for them and the way they accessed information. Some writers were very verbal and had a fluidity of language based primarily on auditory processing of sensory input. Those people were able to instantly duplicate and respond to what they heard as they heard it. Sounds themselves had salience. Those writers are akin to the musician who plays mostly by ear, translating auditory input into kinesthetic output without the additional steps auditory-digital types like me require to process input and output.

One of those writers admitted to having difficulty reading stories published in books and sf magazines. It wasn’t until he listened to books on tape or CD—auditory files—that he found his own voice for his writing. He “hears” stories inside his head. Then he translates those stories into symbols that comprise the written word based on the spoken word. Once he discovered where his voice came from, he has become a prolific author.

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I work differently. I “see” stories, then translate them into words that describe my visions. First I see the scenes. Then I see the written symbols that best represent that scene. I see each letter, each punctuation mark, each space at the beginning of a new paragraph, the way words and white space look laid-out on a page, the way each page contributes to the story as a whole.

I write at the keyboard where my fingers automatically translate the symbols in my head into kinesthetic actions that produce the symbols that appear on the screen or piece of paper. I cannot listen to music while writing. Background music interferes with the words in my head. Other writers find that listening to music while writing is a big help. Different strokes for different folks.

If you are primarily auditory like Stephen King, Kevin J. Anderson, and the guy I met at the nebulas, you might find writing easier if you dictate and capture the words into a digital recorder or into a program like Nuance’s Dragon Naturally Speaking. Dragon for Windows or Macs will type your spoken words for you with up to 95% accuracy. There is a slight learning curve, but it will increase the output of an auditory person exponentially.

If you are primarily kinesthetic, you might prefer to write with a pen on paper before revising your works on a keyboard or sending your notebooks to a typist. The feel of the paper itself, the touch of the pen to paper, produces words from your subconscious faster and better than any other process. Kinesthetic writers also love to pound out words on manual typewriters. They write with a flourish that adds to their style. James Patterson is a kinesthetic writer.

If you’re more like me, however, you separate the process into a series of “drafts.” The first draft is primarily visual, and you describe what you see.

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The second draft includes imagined sounds, tastes, feelings, smells. During the third draft I read all the words aloud to hear how the words sound and to feel how they roll off my tongue. I add punctuation marks to match my pauses, inflections, intonations. I tend to cut unnecessary flourishes out of my stories unless they add momentum to the plot or help describe a specific character.

If a story is to work, it must engage all of the reader’s senses. Some readers are primarily auditory, some are visual, some are kinesthetic, some olfactory, and some gustatory. The majority of people in this world are auditory. They respond best to dialogue, to alliteration, to phrasing. Kinesthetic people respond best to action and they translate words on paper into muscle movements. If you want to appeal to every reader, you need to reach each of them in their own personal comfort zones

I can listen to music all day and appreciate the rhythms but not duplicate the sounds “as is” on a musical instrument. I can, however, imagine the notes appearing individually on a musical score, write those notes down, arrange counterpoint and harmony, and play the music on nearly any instrument by following the sheet music. After translating the visual score into kinesthetic fingerings or vocalizations, I can practice until I get the rhythm right. I then artificially add feeling to change tone and timbre and provide warmth to the composition. The end result might be the same, but it takes an auditory-digital a much longer time to get there than an auditory-kinesthetic. I don’t do well at impromptu jam-sessions. I don’t hear or feel the music. I see the music.

It took me fifty years to find my voice. I went about it the long and hard way. Instead of listening to other voices, I saw written words on paper. I only imagined what those words sounded like. It wasn’t until I read my written words aloud at conventions that I decided to include the spoken word as an important part of my writing process.

Some people tell me they find it difficult to imagine. They feel, they do, they hear, they speak. They don’t see images. They’re not lying. They can’t easily visualize. The way to reach such people is to touch them, to speak to them, to mimic them and then lead them to accept new experiences via their primary senses. It’s easy once you have established rapport. Let them hear and feel what you want them to see. Images will eventually appear in their mind’s eye. It just takes some people longer than others to see what you want them to see.

Auditory digitals, like me, often get hung up on description. We tend to write long narratives that include copious details better left to dialogue. We tend to view scenes from multiple viewpoints rather than a personal POV. We tend to lecture and to provide too much information, much more than any one character (or any one reader) is capable of handling. Therefore, we need to be ruthless in our editing. We need to butcher our little darlings. We need to cut out all the fat but leave enough meat on the bone to be both nourishing and palatable.

To find your own voice, determine how you primarily access information and process sensual input. Listen to your voice, see your voice, feel your voice, taste your voice, smell your voice. Temper your voice with style. Style is deliberate manipulation of words to invoke more than one sense by using alliteration, onomatopoeia, rhythm, rhyme, metaphor, simile, and all those other verbal skills you possess but don’t normally use. Begin in your own comfort zone and venture outside it. Write until all your fingers are sore, you’re vividly hallucinating, and the voice inside your head is telling you what to do next. Then stop just long enough to smell the roses and to taste success before you pick up the pen to write again.

Tell your stories in your own way with your own voice. Just remember that not everyone will be able to see or hear your words the same way you do.
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Darkness, the third novel in the Winds-series, is now available for pre-order at http://www.amazon.com/Darkness-Winds-Book-Paul-Anderson-ebook/dp/B00X52FVP4/ or http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/darkness-paul-dale-anderson/1121864147?ean=9780937491140

Instruments of Death, Paul’s crime-suspense series from Crossroad Press is also available for the Kindle and Nook.

Visit Paul’s website at www.pauldaleanderson.net

Can you answer the question posed in the title?

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Supporting One Another In The Writing Community

As many of you know my friend and author Joe Clifford has a new book out. LAMENTATION is making its rounds. There are even talks of a movie deal. No. This is not one of those boring promotional posts, so keep reading.

To get you as excited about this book as I am I’m going to give you a little taste instead.

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You can click on the cover to buy Lamentation, now available as an e-book, too.

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I’ve Converted! Outlining vs. Pantsing in Fiction Writing

As some of you know I’ve been working on a new book. I am very excited about this project because I think it’s one of the best stories I’ve ever written. I’ll give you a little teaser later in the post. For now I’d like to share something else.

I have always considered myself a pantser, as I’ve said many times. I was recently approached by author/writing coach Joel D. Canfield who invented an outlining program for pantsers called Outline Your Story in 12 Sentences. Sounds to good to be true, right? Being the type of person that I am, always eager to help another writer, I allowed him to use me as his guinea pig. writing is hard

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Another Thank You To My Prose & Cons Family

There are times when we all need help. Seeing our own work as others see it is extremely difficult.  We spent countless hours crafting our characters, plot lines and twist, shaping and reshaping our story until we’re happy with it.  We set it aside for weeks, sometimes months, in the hopes of coming back with clear eyes.  And sometimes when we come back we still can’t see our stories like someone would reading it for the first time.

I struggled with this very thing a couple of weeks ago.

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