Guest Post: Jeff Bennington ~ Building a Book from Scratch

Reena’s Blog

Thanks for having me Reena! Before I write about how to create a novel from scratch, I’d like to tell your followers that I’m giving away a FREE Kindle on May 15th. For details about the book and the Kindle giveaway rules, go to jeffbennington.com. Good luck!

 

Building a Book from Scratch

I’ve always taken pride in knowing that I can explain things clearly. In 1989, I was a junior high cross-country coach, and I coached that group of boys to a county championship. A few years later, I advanced to a crew leader at the heating and cooling company I worked for and trained the guys on how to install furnaces and air conditioning units. Those were both occupations that required good communication. But when it comes to teaching someone how to write a novel, I am absolutely clueless!

Writing a novel, to me, seems impossible. It’s unexplainable. It’s beyond words. To be honest with you, I don’t really know how I do it. To think that I could adequately educate someone on the process is simply unrealistic. That is to say, I know what I do, but I don’t know how it works.

Some people say that in order to be a good writer, you have to be well read. I agree with that because the more I read, the better my writing is. But I don’t think that’s the key to creating a fully engaging and captivating story. Some people believe one must be trained through a bachelor or master’s degree in creative writing, but I don’t think that’s true either. You can learn style and grammar and how to plot and all the technical rules until you’re blue in the face, but no one can teach you how to dream up a plot, a twist, or a cleverly sketched character. That is pure imagination, pure creativity, and if you want to make your characters believable, it takes an understanding of human nature, which is hardly quantifiable.

Now that I’ve told you what I think is not the key to creating a book from scratch, I’ll tell you what I do, a process guaranteed not to work for anyone else. I say that because I think creating literature out of an eight-pound ball of cells inside a brain is just too magical and too mysterious, fused into the blood of the writer like strands of DNA.

When I think of an idea, or when an idea picks me to be the writer, it usually springs to life out of thin air. In fact, I’d say that I have never sat down and tried to think of a book idea. I don’t think that would work for me, because I’m more of a live in the moment kind of guy. Once the idea hits me, I write a brief summary much like what you’d find on the back of a book, on anything I can find. Later, I’ll transpose that idea into my black book of ideas, not to be confused with my black book of spells, primarily because I don’t have one, but also because if I did, I’d screw things up so badly that I’d probably be a frog by now!

Later, when I’m ready to start a new book, I sit down with a cup of coffee and just think, as if I were running the scenes of a good movie through my head. I think about my protagonist, what he wants, what problems he might have and how I can disrupt his life. Now that’s a tricky concept because that is usually the crux of the initial idea, but at this point I take it further. I begin to jot down ideas from one scene to the next, making quick notes of the general action that takes place, no major details, just a sentence or two to get me started. I’ll do this over and over, staring into space as the theatrical trailer plays in my mind’s eye, forming the characters, motivations, conflicts and resolution. I don’t really know how it happens, but I’ll have a basic list of scenes, enough to start writing, in about an hour. Of course many scenes get added, and the thousands of details build up as I go along.

After I’ve written the scenes down, I make a detailed list of the cast, like I’m copying down the credits from the movie I just watched. I spend more time on the main character, thinking about what is buried in his or her soul than any other. I think of their past and what they want for their future, but spend lots of time creating a really good way to keep them from getting it. This is the phase when the twists and turns usually smack me across the head. I’ll try to pencil in any extra ideas and twisty-turnys as I go, but my plot outline and character sketches are pretty crowded and messy at this point. That’s when I know I’m ready to write. All in all, if I can’t get a book idea out of my mind, I’ll spend about two hours preparing to write and then start at it hard and heavy. Research comes later, or as needed.

Will Smith, the popular film star said, “You don’t build a wall; you lay one brick at a time, and after laying each brick as perfectly as you can, you will have a wall.” And that’s pretty much what writing a book is like to me. I don’t think about the ending or middle as I write. I use my outline as a guide as I progress, leaving lots of room for changes and surprises, and just write what I see, word by word. It’s not as easy as transposing a pre-recorded message. For me, writing a scene at a time, is like mining for gold. I spend one hour writing and ten minutes cleaning up the mess, and then I move forward another hour and repeat the clean up process over and over until I eventually come to the end. That’s where the real work begins, one brick at a time, lifting, setting, tapping, mortaring, lifting, setting, tapping, mortaring, lifting……

Well that’s my writing process. Feel free to share yours! Don’t forget to follow Reena’s blog and then go out and get your copy of REUNION, my supernatural thriller. Peace.

 

Check out Reunion by Jeff Bennington at the following places:

Amazon

Nook

Smashwords

Also available in Apple ibook and print. For more information, head over to Jeff Bennington’s blog. 🙂

 

 

Novel Review: Reunion by Jeff Bennington

Not too long ago, Jeff Bennington sought commentary for the cover art for his up coming novel, Reunion. The original drafts were black and white. I have to say I love the final artwork. Here’s the thing. The scheduled release date for Reunion is April 1. Now you didn’t hear it from me, but Reunion is on sale NOW. Okay, we haven’t even gotten to the review and we’re already in sale mode. First the blurb from Mr. Bennington’s website:

David Ray killed eight students and then turned the gun on himself. He thought the shooting and suicide would fix his world. It didn’t. The massacre threw Tanner Khan and the other survivors into chaos.

Twenty years later, Tanner and his fellow classmates reluctantly agree to hold a reunion to lay the past to rest. Although they suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, they come back to their hometown and reunite in the defunct school building. Old flames are rekindled, fears are ignited, and their lives are about to explode in a whirlwind of memories, haunted by the spirit of David Ray.

Once they’re inside the school, they discover that a dark entity has joined them. It has come to collect a debt, long overdue, and someone has to pay. Will Tanner and his classmates overcome their fears, putting the pieces of their lives back together, or will they be consumed by their worst nightmare?

Thrillers haven’t been my thing for a while now. During my teenage years I read a novel about astronauts who went to Mars and became infect with some kind of black substance. At least one survivor returned to Earth with the infection. Finishing that book resulted in nightmares. And that was the end of my run with thrillers. Dean Koontz comes to mind, but I’m pretty sure I’m wrong about that. Anyone have any idea what book I’m talking about?

Moving on. So Mr. Bennington offered an ARC of Reunion. The premises was interesting but could I handle it? I figured I was mature enough… or so I hoped, and gave it a shot.

Reunion was presented in two parts–before the shooting and twenty years after. In the first section we had, David Ray, a tormented teen who planned to go out with a bang. Despite his methods of dealing with the situation, it was difficult to dislike the boy. More than anything, I felt sorry that a kid would be subjected to such horrible circumstances.

Fast forward twenty years and we have the bulk of the story. Six classmates come together to overcome the imprint the tragedy left on their lives. Now I’m a reader who looks for the morbid in literature and movies. I’ll gladly give up my happily ever after (HEA) for a wrench thrown into the gears. To my wicked delight, no one was left unscathed in Reunion. We had the ruined, the mere survivors, and those who presented a tough facade but where crippled, nonetheless. Big fan of the flawed characters!

One oddity was the way people reacted to the unexplained. I had a hard time believing so much would be shoved under the rug for whatever reason. Faced with the same paranormal elements, I could see myself going into denial, explaining away the supernatural, or running out of town as fast as my stubby legs could carry me, but certainly not the acceptance or nonchalance I saw in a few characters.

Now this is the writer in me talking. Mr. Bennington broke two writing guidelines royally, and I LOVED that he did. He did quite a bit of telling instead of showing and had plenty of back story. Why am I cheering? Because despite my mind rebelling at the broken rules, the story line kept me captivated. Awesome plot! Just goes to show folks, the rules aren’t golden. 🙂

The only thing I really didn’t like was the point of view (POV) style, which I found a bit distancing. As a romance fan, I’ve developed a preference for the deep POV. Reunion was more omniscient POV, which you’ll find in stories like Lord of the Rings. So it’s certainly not wrong, just a subjective preference. Keep in mind, the story was told from 7-8 viewpoints, so perhaps the POV choice was perfect. One thing for sure, I can see Reunion adapted for the theatre.

Reunion by Jeff Bennington is available at:

Barnes & Nobles

The Book Depository

Smashwords

The Pile Up

It seems like forever since I’ve done my last mailbox post. Like a good girl, I’ve slowed down on purchases. Yay me! The first two books I believe I preordered, so even that’s kind of good, right? So, let’s see what goodies we have. 🙂

Like I said, this was a preorder. Nalini Singh’s Psi/Changeling series used to be on my instant buy list. Then came the Guild Hunter, which turned into an instant buy also. Only the third in the series, I’m hoping for a winner here. Hopefully her next Guild Hunter book will be an auto-purchase also. But we’ll see.

Next up, Dreams of a Dark Warrior. Kresley Cole has NEVER let me down, and I’m hoping for greatness with this work also. I’m in the middle of Meljean Brook’s Iron Duke, but this book is definitely next. Kresley Cole is one of those authors who currently has a place at the top of my to-read list no matter what’s on my plate. Yes, she’s that good, and I highly recommend her. I’m such a pessimist and keep expecting her to blow it, but she continues to draw me in with each story. Way to go, Ms. Cole!

This round I also received a couple of complimentary copies from authors. Woot!

Last month I read Space Junque (review here). It was my first space opera, and I rather enjoyed it. I was pretty lucky Ms. Rigel offered her next novella to me. I had quite a few questions after the first novella and knew Space Junque was only the tip of the iceberg. Beautiful artwork, don’t you think?

It’s been forever since I’d read a thriller. I used to be really into them, Dean Koontz, Stephen King, Peter Straub… then the I started having nightmares. When I read the blurb for Reunion it really drew me, in a sick twisted, I’m asking for trouble kind of way. 🙂 Reunion doesn’t release until May 1, so hopefully I’ll have time to build up my courage. Wish me pleasant dreams. Yikes!