Tips for Writing Books (novels)

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Suggested Resources

As I’ve mentioned before, I am in the process of researching how to write a book. I am a professional librarian and an avid reader, so I know books, how they are structured, the publication cycle, etc.  But I have never written a novel (yet).  This is the first of many posts that I plan to make public for myself and to others. My hope is that others will find these notes useful, and perhaps a little fun, for their own writing projects.

A great book that I would suggest reading is Practical Tips for Writing Popular Fiction (1992) by Robyn Carr.  It includes the genre fiction areas of romance, mysteries, science fiction, fantasy, western, suspense, historical, action/adventure and horror. Many examples used in the book are from romance novels, since this is Robyn’s area of specialty, but it written broad enough to apply to the other genres mentioned above.

This book would be useful for a reference to help guide you through the overall writing process.  It includes wonderful insights and suggestions on what to include, what to avoid, character development, creating dynamic plot, dialogue between characters, and more. A book that Robyn Carr suggests is On Becoming a Novelist (1980) by John Gardner.

So what does it take to become a writer?

1. Enjoy writing. If you don’t like writing or find yourself unable to finish your projects, writing a novel is probably not cut out for you.  Choose an area to write about that you enjoy reading, and that you have extensive knowledge about or strong personal interest.  Join a writers group in your genre to practice writing, test ideas & writings techniques, and learn what you can from other writers who have more experience.

2. Extensive reading experience. You should read a ton of books in the area you choose to write–several dozens to hundreds of books!  Use these experiences to critique the work; figure out what works and doesn’t work and what makes the book so interesting.

3. Write well. If you are not able to write well, you will not be able to communicate your story effectively to others on paper.  Ultimately, your readers will not be able to understand what you are trying to say, and move on to the next book.  Also consider taking writing classes.  It takes time and energy to become a good writer.  Few people are born with the natural gift of writing–most authors understand that it takes years of practice to develop writing skills and that it is an ongoing skill to hone.


Willamette Valley Pastel Drawing

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Willamette Valley, 2008

The title of this pastel drawing is “Willamette Valley.”  It had been sitting in my work area for some time before I found the inspiration & motivation to finish it back in 2008.

I used a white Strathmore medium, 400 series, for the paper.  The dimensions are 9″ by 12″.  The color pallete color uses a predominantly red hue to emphasize the powerful sunset.  The white double-mat and black frame makes it look really sharp, and the picture adds a lot of color to our hallway (my an impromptu gallery).

I enjoy sunset and sunrise scenes because they tend to have warm colors associated with them.  This picture reminds me of a summer or autumn sunset in the Willamette Valley, hence the title.  I like how it turned out.

Pastel Drawings: Nehalem Afternoon & Nature’s Reflection

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Here are my two new pastel drawings entitled “Nehalem Afternoon” and “Nature’s Reflection.”

2009 OLA Conference

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I have to point out the 2009 Oregon Library Association conference logo that was primarily designed by Linda Repplinger (I helped tweak the design & coloring).  It looks wonderful!

Salem Art Fair and Blueberries

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08_posterimage-smI attended to the SALEM ART FAIR (2008). Connie & I traded Haylie watching as we walked around. We visited the children section of the fair, which had arts and crafts for kids.

We made two buttons, put together a water bottle with food coloring & sea shells, and made a card for baby (unborn at this time).  We also got a balloon for Haylie, that accidentally sailed away.  It was a minor catastrophe with Haylie because it was a pink balloon, but she stopped crying shortly after the incident by distracting her.  I had fun talking to the various artists, asking about their techniques.

I chatted with one of my favorite local artists, JANE AUKSHUNAS.  I like her style and use of colors & medium (pastels).  From over hearing the comments from others at the art fair, it seems like her art is well accepted by the general public.  Right before I bought a print, someone purchased two large originals, so it was fun to see the exchange between artist & buyer.

The buyer walked into the tent, looked around for roughly one minute and said, “We’ve seen enough. We’ll take the two large ones.” (Together they totaled $3,500!).  They claimed to have a lot of space to hang art, and I’m guessing a lot of money to spare too!  Some other artists I got to meet were: Liz Collins, Shari Lord, and Scott Jeffs. Connie was ravenous at that point, so she got burritos and lemonade to share with Haylie.

Photos of Willamette University

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I relocated some of my old photos of Willamette University. These were taken in 2004 before some of the major construction projects on campus, such as the recent Ford Building which opened Fall semester of 2009.

Custom Pastel Drawings by John Repplinger

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I offer customized pastel drawings!  How does this work and what does this entail?


I like to work off of pictures and photos while drawing with pastel chalk.  So the first thing I need is an image from you.  The larger or higher definition the picture, the better quality I have to work from; I print the image on either an 8 1/2″ by 11″ sheet or 4″ by 6″ sheet of glossy photo paper.  It is best to have the image trimmed and cropped to how you want the picture to look.  However, you may also allow me to select the portion of picture to draw.

I may also suggest cropping the image if I see more potential to zoom in on certain aspects of a photo.  In any case of change, I will email you a final version of the picture before drawing. Once I get your approval, I will begin drawing.

***Please be aware that I’m not responsible for obtaining copyright if this is an issue (e.g. postcards or magazine image).  I’ll leave this up to you.


I primarily work with nature scenes and still-life images (people are sometimes included in the distance), but I do occasional produce portfolio pictures of people.  Am I willing to draw portfolios of people?  Yes!  While I can draw people very well, I tend to prefer to draw scenes from nature a little more.  That said, I enjoy whatever I am currently working on!


Below are the traditional sizes I work with, but can also make the drawings fit into customized sizes such as panoramas (e.g. 3’x2′ or 3’x1′).  The total cost includes the matting and frame. Let me know if you want the picture drawn in landscape (wider than tall) or portfolio (taller than wide).

  • 8×8 matted to 5×5 = Total cost $50
  • 8×10 matted to 5×7 = Total cost $60
  • 11×14 matted to 5×7 = Total cost $60
  • 11×14 matted to 8×10 = Total cost $80
  • 14×18 matted to 10×13 = Total cost $100
  • 10×20 with two Collage Openings = Total cost $100
  • 16×20 matted to 11×14 = Total cost $150
  • 19.5×25.5 single-matted to 18×13 = Total cost $200

Dual Float Mats

Two Openings Dual Float Mat


I use a variety of paper when working with pastels, but my favorite is a standard white paper by Strathmore.  Specifically, I like to use the acid-free 400 series with medium grade which provides enough “tooth” or roughness to the paper to hold the chalk pastel.

If a picture is predominantly a certain color, say a beach scene with mostly green-blue sea and blue sky, I may select a bluish paper to accentuate the blue theme or perhaps a sandy brown color to “bring out” the sand in the foreground.

I also like to use light-colored paper because it tends to make the colors more vibrant.  I have been known to use dark-colored paper occasionally for still life drawings (e.g. plants in a vase, or fruit in a bowl).  However, I generally stay away from dark-colored paper because it tends to make pictures dull.


All of my pictures come framed with white mats, unless you specifically request for your picture to come without a frame (e.g. you already have a frame in mind for the picture or you prefer to frame the picture yourself).  Except for customized size which requires a unique mat and frame, I include the frame and matting in the original price that I quote to you.  I tend to use Michael’s Gallery Frames with Dual-float Mats.

I include the frame and mat because like to fit the final picture into the frame myself and make any final adjustments if needed.  I also tend to draw slightly larger than the  framed area which can be confusing to framers.  Often I use the sides to test colors; when matted and framed you don’t see these ugly marks!


Depending on what other works I have in process and the size of the picture you would like me to complete, it usually takes 2-3 months to complete a work.


I like to hand-deliver the final work when possible.  Chalk pastels can be fragile even after spraying them with acid-free spray fixative.  Over time, if they travel around too much, tiny specks of pastel may come off of the picture and fall down between the glass and the mat.

This occasional phenomena can be annoying, but it won’t hurt the picture itself.  You can always remove the pastel picture from the frame, wipe the glass clean with glass cleaner (I like the individual glass cleaner wipes because they don’t shed paper pieces and do a great job of cleaning opposed to a paper towel), and use an art soft eraser or kneaded eraser to clean the mat.  Regular pencil erasers tend to leave streaks on the mat, so avoid using them.

For long distance shipping (one hour drive outside of Salem, Oregon), pictures are rolled into cylinder tubes and packaged for minimal movement and low impact.  The frame will likely be shipped in a separate container and packed carefully.

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