Lessons from My Reading

M. K. Theodoratus, Fantasy Writer, blogs about the books she reads--mostly fantasy and mystery authors whose books catch her eye and keep her interest. Nothing so formal as a book review, just chats about what she liked. Theodoratus also mutters about her own writing progress or ... lack of it.

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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Book Series Start-Ups

The Read ...

Book series are nothing new in fiction.  Mystery writers have been doing them for decades -- have even tried to kill off their characters ala Conan Doyle.  Other writers, especially fantasy writers, often do serial stories set in the same world but with different characters though series can be based on single characters or set of buddies.  Whatever, that's the background thinking when I pulled Andre Norton's Witch World off my shelves.  Imagine my surprise that my Ace paperback was copyrighted in 1963, one of those shortie ones that cost 60 cents.

 Witch World is about Simon Tregarth's escape from our world to one more suitable to his warrior sentiments via the Siege Perilous from King Arthur's court.  He lands in Estcarp, a matriarchy of mages (Witches is too weak a term for me.) who are beseiged by three different enemies -- two presenting in-sync cultural menaces and the mechanical Kolder, who offer a different kind of danger.  I'm about 2/3s the way through the book, and Tregarth is still gathering allies for the end-fight with the Kolder.

So what does a 1963 book read like?  I don't know if the opening paragraph would hack it today.  "The rain was a slantwise curtain across the dingy street, washing soot from city walls, the taste of it metallic on the lips of the tall, thin man who walked with a loping stride close to the buildings, watching the mouths of doorways, the gaps of alleys with a narrow-eyed intentness."

The paragraph hooked me.  What's a guy doing out in the rain watching the alleys?  The problem is the reading level.  That's one sentence there with a "to-be" verb.  I realize you guys are readers ... but how easy did you find the sentence to follow.  Do you think the average high school kid would read it comfortably?

The book itself is organized in a series of interlocking novellas (novellettes?), introducing new characters and involving old ones and making me wonder if the stories first appeared in magazines.  While Norton is telling a story slightly more than showing the characters in action, each of the characters are presented facing a clear and present danger which ends with them facing a new problem/difficulty.  --  Nothing like being led by the nose past your bedtime reading a book you know the ending of.
 
Progress ...
Revising away, high ho ... and still wondering about submitting to editors.  (Britt)  Groaning to myself about all the research needed -- even after you get the darn thing written.  Then, you hit an agent who wants a 250 word synopsis????  (We won't talk about agents who like a personlized query.)

Conclusion:  You better darn well know what your book is about.  It's something like using your pitch to focus your book -- before you market it.  If you can't write a sentence and two-paragraph summary of your story, you may not have a story.  Just a bunch of words.  I wonder if that's what I'm afraid of and not admitting it to myself.

Trivia ...
Errands, errands, and more errands.  Can't even go out to lunch because we're still eating the onion soup.  Hopefully, it'll be gone today.
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