The Fortune-Teller Is In: Reading for Benjamin Ludwig

The Reluctant Fortune-Teller’s main character, Norbert Zelenka, is a kindly, retired man who has trouble making ends meet, when three strong-willed seniors stage an intervention at his little white bungalow. They insist that he solve his financial woes by becoming a fortune-teller—just try it for the tourist season, they say. Their lakeside town, Gibbons Corner, N.Y., needs a card reader, and Norbert has been observing people all his life. The forceful ladies, known as “Carlotta’s Club,” will show him the ropes, and his story goes from there.

I hope you will enjoy reading about Norbert’s transformation as much as I enjoyed writing about it.

In a conversation with Benjamin Ludwig, the author of Ginny Moon, Ben suggested that Norbert might read his cards!

Please check out Norbert’s predictions, and tell us what you think!

Benjamin Ludwig shuffled his cards in New Hampshire and sent off a list of his seven cards to Norbert in the fictional town of Gibbons Corner, New York. The question he concentrated on as he shuffled was this: “Should I keep writing full-time, or write while I teach at a university?”

Below, you will find Norbert’s answer.

You have drawn the Eight of Diamonds, Two of Spades, Two of Clubs, Five of Hearts, Three of Diamonds, Two of Diamonds, and the Jack of Hearts.

You have a gift that is at the center of your question. This is your gift for writing; it may also be your gift for teaching. I see a minor delay here, in the Two of Spades, just a bit of momentary discomfort before a decision is made.

Be on the lookout for a social invitation, as shown by the Two of Clubs. This social gathering will bring you an opportunity that you might not expect.

The Five of Hearts shows a possible rift between friends or else a separation from loved ones, but have no worries there. Everything is unfolding for the best.

I see here a legal contract in the Three of Diamonds. It may be a teaching contract or a book contract. Whatever it is, it will be very good for you. Other people trust you quite naturally, because you are sincere.

Your spread ends on a very happy note, with the Jack of Hearts, signifying good times, celebration, and a fun spirit.

In regards to your question: really, you cannot go wrong. With these two options, both aligning with your heart, you will be fulfilled with either one. I would suggest you go with combining writing with teaching. It will give you the balance, the contrast, that will feed you both as a writer and a teacher.

How did Norbert do, on his first virtual reading?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What I Am Learning about Revision from My Agent and Editors

  1. I try to keep a light heart: Revision can be an expanding part of the creative process. With the right editorial people, revision can bring out the best in a story.

 

  1. I slow my roll: I’m not gonna lie: seeing lots of “suggestions for improvement” on my work inspires many (ahem) feelings. I now read those suggestions, put them away, do other things, and come back to the work in 24 hours, rather than respond immediately. Considered overnight, most suggestions have turned out to be spot-on, but I couldn’t see that at first glance. The suggestions that still don’t seem right simply become points for discussion.

 

  1. I read differently now. I can’t read anything without seeing where tighter editing might have improved a work—not only my own, but everyone’s!

 

  1. True confession: despite having a master’s degree in English and reading voraciously for decades, I did not know that every scene in a novel is supposed to move the story forward. I really did not ever grasp that fact! After working on revisions for my first novel, where I was asked “What’s the point?” about a couple of scenes, I learned that “It’s funny!” is not enough justification for a scene to exist. This has been a game changer for me! Now, when I edit my own work before sending it in, I ruthlessly slash every scene that does not advance the story. Or, if I love the scene too much to cut it, I add what that scene needs to make it an integral part of the story.

 

  1. I am grateful for everyone who takes the time to study what I have written and make suggestions which I may or may not follow. Every writer wants to be carefully read.

 

Please share your thoughts on writing and revision here!

 

 

Starting a New Novel: A Metaphor

The 1980’s family is in the car, looking forward to their road trip. They’ve taken a couple of road trips before and the kids are dying to get going. But the driver—let’s call him “Dad”—is sitting up front fiddling endlessly with his roadmap.

The kids squirm. It’s getting hot in the car. “Can we just go already?” they whine.

Dad, the killjoy, won’t go until he’s selected all his routes, circled all his exits, and considered all the most interesting stopping places along the way. He knows the kids’ cry “Can we just go already?” will turn into “Aren’t we there yet?” before he gets to the first highway exit.

That’s just kids, he’s thinking. Wherever they are, they want to get to the next place. Dad is deliberate and steady. He’s not turning the key in the ignition until he’s thought it all out. Sure, there will be surprises and adventures he hasn’t pre-planned, but he’s not going to get his family lost. He’s not going to waste precious time on this trip.

Although to the kids, it feels like that’s all he is doing: wasting time with the boring map. They want to see stuff. They want to feel the wind in their hair. They want to take snap shots and have a good time. Sitting in the driveway, waiting for the fun, makes them want to slap each other.

Mom is alternately telling the kids to be quiet and let Dad concentrate, and then suggesting to Dad that maybe he has enough of the mapping done to get started. It is getting hot in the car.

I’ve been beginning this new novel for too long. That’s how it feels.

For my first novel, I used exercises from The 90-Day Novel, by Alan Watt, to plan it out. I also took an online novel writing course offered by Faber Academy in the U.K.

For my second novel, I used techniques from The Story Grid, by Shawn Coyne and Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook, by Donald Maass.

For my third novel, I am using methods from Story Genius, by Lisa Cron, and continue to refer to the other books listed above.

Maybe getting started on the writing of this, my third novel would have happened sooner if I’d stuck to methods I’d already learned, but I wanted to learn new things.

I have a huge pile of index cards for scenes and characters. I’m finishing up an outline which, like rules, is made to be broken. I’ve charted my plot points, but maybe I don’t have all the plot points I need yet, I worry insecurely. I’ve done a bit of research, but need to do more. I’m sort of ready. Not totally ready.

But hey. They do say, No surprise for the writer, no surprise for the reader.

There does come a point when it’s time to fold up the map and turn the key in the ignition. That point comes today. We’re on our road trip.

The kids holler and cheer out the window.