Sunday, August 30, 2009

Guest Blogger: Ray Arsenault

NOTE: This week’s guest blogger is Ray Arsenault, author of Tempestuous Seas. For as long as I've known Ray, he's never been shy of taking risks, following paths others avoid. So when Ray told me that he had no interest in 'playing the games' required in traditional publishing and chose rather to go with an electronic (Kindle) published format only, I was not surprised. The fact that he wrote a rousing historical/adventure/romance also came as no surprise. Ray's a natural storyteller with an eye for detail and an ear for dialog. And today he lends a hand on Type M.


Hello, I’m Ray Arsenault, a brand-new novelist. My old friend Charles Benoit asked me if I would consent to posting this “guest blog” in recognition of my recently completed novel, Tempestuous Seas. (Despite the fact that my novel is not a mystery, Charles thought I might still offer some insight by sharing my writing experiences with you. I don’t know how much “insight” one can glean from me, but here goes…)

First, having read the recent posts on the “Type M” blog site, I seem to be partially at odds with my old friend. (Sorry, Charles.) Read on to see how.

I would think I’m a little out of the mainstream among “my fellow authors” (and gee, doesn’t that phrase seem a stretch to me…) because I never set out to really be an author. In fact, this project came into being when I was trying to think of a good way to pass my time during an upcoming tour in Iraq. My girlfriend suggested that I write a book. When I protested that I had nothing to write about, she proposed the plot for Tempestuous Seas.

“Okay,” she said, “he is a sea captain, and she is a school teacher. It’s the 1830’s. Go with it.”

We collaborated a little on the details and I started writing after I arrived at my camp. Obviously these parameters dictated a historical romance. I just went with it. I never made an outline; all I knew at the outset were the parameters we had agreed upon earlier. I was to make sure he was heroic; she was going to be beautiful and smart, and we agreed upon how it would end. (Note how I’m cleverly leaving the details of that part out of this discussion…) I had only the vaguest idea how the story would fill itself out. (So in my case, I knew the destination but didn’t have much of a clue as to the route I would take reach it. --Sorry, Charles…)

Anyway, this was my “hobby” in Iraq. My mind was on the story when I was off duty. I would ask myself, “What happens next?” Each scene revealed itself to me when it was ready and I just wrote what popped into my head. The words fairly flew onto the page most of the time.

As for the “nuts and bolts” of writing the piece: I decided that I would have to alternate scenes at first, “him-her-him-her”, until they finally met. Then, I tailored scenes to fit the plot line, which I created day by day. I didn’t worry much about anything else; I simply let the story tell itself. I wrote over 95,000 words in all, but the finished manuscript came in at a svelte 91,000 words. My story has no “chapters”, only “scenes” of varying length.

I put my energy into the tale itself, not technical issues. I wanted my characters to be believable and genuine; and I wanted them to have “depth”. I tried to reveal bits of their character as I went along, through their actions, rather than by describing them in detail at the beginning. I wanted the sailing parts depicted as accurately as possible and the adventurous parts to be exciting and plausible. I also tried to describe scenes so that the reader could truly “see” the locations through my words.

Remember, I wasn’t in the game to create a “book”. I don’t consider myself a “writer”; I was just passing time. I found it fun, actually. I looked forward to the challenge of figuring it all out. To tell you the truth, if I had set out from the beginning with the goal of becoming a published author “come hell or high water”, I probably wouldn’t have succeeded. I can see myself in that scenario, frustrated beyond belief in my efforts to make my book “a blockbuster”--and dropping it to play golf (where I would become frustrated beyond belief, etc).

As for having this novel published, well…since I didn’t really have that in mind as a goal in the first place, I opted to simply upload it as a Kindle book on We’ll see how that goes…I will be surprised and delighted by any sales at all.

I have no idea how much help this experience of mine will be to anyone. My advice, if I may boldly offer it as a newbie, would be to let your story tell itself. Don’t agonize over it. No pressure; just have fun with it.

Regards, Ray Arsenault, Author, Tempestuous Seas,


Anonymous said...

I often check out Type M for Murder to see what's going on in the world of writers and is there a new book I need to be on the look out for. I'm inspired by Ray for the "Just do it" attitude. I often think to myself, could I ever write a book... The fact that Ray just set out to write and not put the pressure of being published on himself is an attribute I admire. I don't have a Kindle but I seriously think I need to ask around to see who has one. I want read and see how this came together. Much success to you Ray. Paula

Vicki Delany said...

Good for you, Ray. Good luck with it.

Dana said...

Congratulations on your achievement, Ray! Your approach to your book is a testament to Nike's slogan. If you "Just do it," you just might reach your goal (that you didn't know you had).
Cheers! Dana Denberg
(fellow DS copywriter with Charles)

Anonymous said...

Ray, I can appreciate your "let the story create itself" type approach. I feel like we writers get caught up in the rules, the formulas, the obstacles. It sounds like your piece was written from a place with guidelines, theories, and unlimited possibilities. And that's a good place to be!
Congratulations & best wishes!

Raymond E Arsenault said...

Hello, everyone-

Ray Arsenault here. Thank you very much for your kind words--I appreciate your input very much.

"Tempestuous Seas" chalked up a handful of sales during its first week online. I'm stunned and amazed. The jury is still out; I await its first review...

Best wishes,
Ray Arsenault, Author, Tempestuous Seas,