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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Friday, December 30, 2011

Was Your Christmas Season Enjoyable?

Maybe I should lay on the guilt and ask: Did you accomplish anything over the holidays? I didn't even try -- though I did manage to finish a flash fiction piece for my critique group next week. On the other side of the coin, I can't find the short story I wrote in long-hand while my computer was down. -- Win some. Lose more.

Why didn't I accomplish much over the holidays? I took a trip to Tamora Pierce's Tortall. First, by reading Mastiff, the last book in the Beka Cooper trilogy. Then, I got the itch to read more and went on to an Alanna marathon: Alanna, In the Hand of the Goddess, The Woman Who Rides Like a Man, and Lioness Rampant.  The first book is YA, and the quartet is more tween than YA.

It's no secret the books are well-written, so I won't blather about what makes them good other than saying Pierce has a deft hand with at  her craft skills. I'll wish that you all a successful writing career as long as Tamora Pierce's instead.

So to pad this blog, I'll do a list of some of the things I especially liked about the books.
    1) Liked the way Beka came off a failed "pairing" to land in the middle of a major uprising over taxes which resulted in her assignment to rescue the king's son.
    2) Better yet, the result of her rescue of the crown prince of Tortall changed Tortall society forever.
    3) The book contains lots enough plot twists and villains to keep the reader guessing.
    4) In the Lioness books, liked how the two villains reappeared in the last book stronger and more evil than ever in the last book. Loved the way Pierce made their respective egos, the stumbling block to their success of their ambitions.
    5) Also, liked the way she used the Cat Constellation as a tie-in between the two series.

If I had the time, I'd read the Pierce's Trickster books which center on Alanna and George's daughter,. but I need to de-emphasize my reading after I read a book for New Year's. After that, I need to write more and social network less.

Yeah, 'Tis the Season for Lists:
Have you written a list of best books, leading men, or what? Sure seems to be a lot of lists on the e-newsletters I subscribe to.

I'm sticking to adding things to my to-do list. Maybe this should be on yours too. -- The book is published in whichever medium, including sideways. Now it's time for book reviews. I've been fortunate to get a few, but you can never get enough good book reviews. Novel Publicity & Co ran an article on increasing your chances of getting a review. Whether the review's good or not, depends on whether you wrote a good book.

Monday, December 26, 2011

The Most Unwanted Present

 'Tis the season to be giving ... given that there are twelve days of Christmas after the 25th, but not all presents are welcome. [Actually, there are more if you celebrate the Solstice which Christmas started out as being.] Probably, the most unwanted present during the season is advice. 

I can remember when our first married family dinner when I cringed at "going home" for the big meal. Seems my mother thought nothing I did was right. The biggest sin ever happened at that first dinner. My new husband demanded he eat the dog's chicken backs. Said she could give the dog the tasteless white meat. My mom huffed over that comment for over 30 years.

With those memories in my head, Justin Musk surprised me with some great advice on promoting ... especially important for indie authors. It's all about getting lost in a writer's world, and then, getting a bucket of cold water pulling her back into the real world. Read about her disappointment and how to keep the magic going.

Made me real happy that I had the links from my Half-Elven website to this blog. Only wish I wrote faster so there was more stuff to report on it. The Facebook fan page suffers too. In short, I'm guilty of what Musk cautions about. My Tweets have too much promotion. Must go back and reread some of my promotion links to devise some more interesting ways to build a platform. At the moment, my mind's a blank.

Have Been Reading:
But. Haven't had much energy to put some coherent thoughts together. Was surprised that most of it's been YA and mysteries.

One of the more enjoyable reads was Rick Riordan's The Son of Neptune. Was glad to see he was back in form with this second book in the new half-demigod series. Maybe I was disappointed with the first because Riordan captured the stolidness of the Romans as compared with the Greeks. Unlike his clone adolescent from the Roman camp struggling against amnesia, the first in the series, the two new characters a daughter of Pluto and a different, thinking child of Mars stood out as individuals ... and not just because Riordan changed viewpoints from chapter to chapter.

Summary: Riordan added character depth to all the action he devised. His take on Greco-Roman religion still rings true. He has great fun turning the beliefs sideways whil remaining true to the mythic characterizations.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Ideas for Before and After the Agent Search

Every writer dreams of an agent who will help turn them into a best selling author.

The first step is to write a good book and be able to write a query that'll interest an agent into learning more about your book. Sounds easy, doesn't it? The first step is to learn what turns agents off, like the person who mentioned her "fiction novel" at Janet Reid's Query Shark.

Seems most agents think novels are fiction. If you want to avoid such mistakes, Stacey O'Neale's blog at the YA Fantasy Guide has a listing of Agent Interviews.  If any of the interviews are in your genre, they might be worth studying.

Of course, you can exhaust the list of reputable agents interested
in Your Genre.
 Submitting to publishers or Self-publishing then becomes an alternative.
When self-publishing, what is the most important thing you can do?
After editing your book/story, that is.
I'd say its getting the best cover you can afford ... which doesn't mean you must go to a professional cover artist. Granted I'm biased because I'm a browser. I like to go to the book stores to poke and putter among the volumes.

Your covers are still important if you're e-publishing. Have you looked at the promotion sites? Long lines of book covers which are usually organized by genre. The same is true at the e-publishers. A long line of book titles and blurbs, only they aren't organized by genre ... unless you limit your search.

Guess which of my covers on the left I like best and comment.

Vanna Smythe blogged about her decision on whether to create her own cover from stock photos or hire it done.  Interesting reading, and useful, I think, even if you have a publisher doing your cover.  

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

What Do Writers and Agents Have in Common?

Writers and agents both have to be good salespeople to make money.  

Joanne Tomarkos blogged about What Good Salespeople Know That Writers Should, a guest blog at Jane Friedman's blog, Being Human at Electric Speed. #1? Believe in your product. That means you as a writer.

Want to set up something you can sell? The Passive Guy reposted a blog Dean Wesley Smith wrote about getting insulted by an editor. Smith gives some interesting insights on marketing and maybe a marketing plan if someone writes fast enough. [Not me.] The comment that snagged my interest? Two years is an "age ago" in publishing.

Of course, if all that marketing [aka selling] is stressing you out, Pat Stoltey at the Chiseled Rock blog has a list of de-stressers. They even don't cost an arm and a leg. Just get them moving.

Then:
What websites help you the most with your writing?

Angela Ackerman at The Bookshelf Muse gives you the link to nominate sites for the Writer's Digest best website listings.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Give a book for Christmas -- Print or e-Book

Got surprised when we stopped by one of the independent book sellers in our town. They had a folk harpist playing. Couldn't give away free coffee, though, since there was an independent coffee shop on the other side of the hall leading to the bathrooms.

What I liked best at this shop was the section of old classic [pre-1970s] paperbacks. Spent more time than I expected looking at the cover art. Was tempted to buy a couple early Edgar Rice Burroughs for a trip to Barsoom, but bought an Andre Norton instead.  [While current Mars exploration is intriguing, it saddened me. Space explorations destroyed the fictional worlds of Mars and Venus. Must say I prefer Eric John Stark to John Carter.]

I like the way independent merchants give you a chance to enjoy the unexpected.  Corporate stores ooze sameness from branch to branch. Don't worry for those of you who root for Amazon competition.  Barnes & Noble got its hands in my wallet too. I seem to be buying my CDs there since the independent stores went out of business.

Then, there are ebooks
which I don't buy as much as print books.

Looking for a last minute Present or a Treat?  You can find dozens of great ebooks for  for 99¢ plus lots of prizes too, including a Kindle at the Indie Book Blowout during their Twelve Days of Christmas promotion. Lots of genres. Lots of books. Well worth a look. [Yeah, Taking Vengeance is buried in the back of the pile of fantasy listings.]

My guess is everyone has a network of writing friends. Do you support them? Pam Young wrote a blog on the importance of supporting friends and relatives ... when they've published a book ... maybe, especially when they've published an e-book.  Read about ten ways you can help promote your friends' books. Why don't check it out to see if you can add a couple strategies to your networking schedule.Your friends will appreciate it. They'd also appreciate mentions of your blog, Facebook, and Twitter.

No.
I'm not angling for sales and/or promotion.
Surely, you have buddies who would appreciate your help.
I think one of the important things about the indie publishing movement is 
declaring freedom from the corporate sales department.

Wonder where I've been?

No. It wasn't Christmas preparations that had me missing in action. A computer virus lowered my flag.  Computer's debugged and with new virus software. Hopefully, it won't happen again. Soon anyway. I was actually having computer withdrawal symptoms.

Oh. My right thumb complains even more when I write by hand.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

How to Start a Novel

Got slapped up the side of the head again; this time while I was reading for the fun-of-it. While my thumbs were recovering from NaNoWriMo, I decided to read through all three books of L. L. Foster's [aka Lori Foster] Servant trilogy: Servant, The Awakening - Servant, The Acceptance - and Servant, The Kindred. Decided I really like the way the Foster developed the main character with a different life-goal in each book. Liked her decision not to turn Gaby into a series, even better. [My surmise from Foster's website]

So, what did I learn? Perhaps a solution for my main writing problem: never starting at the beginning of my story. My critique partners are always saying I don't give enough information for them to have an idea of where my story is going. Result is that I'm always tacking chapters on at the beginning -- after I think I'm in the middle of the book. This time, when I re-read the Servant novels, I think I may have found a solution. I noticed how Foster introduced her characters.

Yeah, she showed her characters in action. She's a modern, professional author, after all. That's the easy part. The hard part is to indicate the "problem" while the action's flowing.

First chapter: Foster took care of that by showing the villain first, without naming him/her. "POV break" Then, she showed Gaby, God's paladin to destroy evil in her city, in the throes of her need to save someone from evil and her ambivalence towards that compulsion along with enough back story to understand a bit of what Gaby is. We also get introduced to a major side-kick in a confrontation that demonstrates Gaby's perpetual bad mood. 

[The bad mood is one of the reasons I like this character so much.]

The next two chapters are much the same except they introduce Luther, the love interest and main support character who also offers a strong conflict situation since he's a cop. As God's paladin, Gaby is a freelancer on the street. The conflict continues for three books, until it's resolved. Foster sells lots of books because she tells a good sotry, so she's well  worth studying.

Money,
something, maybe, too many writers forget.
A quote from Janet Reid, my wish-for agent 
but I don't write  what she represents
[and I probably don't write well enough for her to be interested any way].

"This is a for-profit business and I spend my time doing what I think is going to make me boatloads of money. Shiploads would be better. Helping you figure out why your book doesn't work is not going to make me any money. It makes you feel better. Those are NOT the same things."

[Yeah, there's a similarity in attitude between Janet Reid and Gaby.]

I'll sum up Reid's comment:
Agents are in the business to make money.
If they don't think you can make them money, 
they aren't interested in your story. 

You probably want to make money writing too. That means PROMOTION: 
While procrastinating instead of writing, I discovered a neat list of promotion sites that Mimi Barbour used to promote her book. Doesn't say much about how to use them, but The 13 Steps I took to Promote My Work gives a good check lists of the ones that seem effective. Her list may very well tip the balance of my signing up for a couple of them -- even though I can't keep the ones I'm doing updated regularly.

I'll close with a link to Allison Pang's blog for a sensible approach to Twitter.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Saving Energy for Your Writing

Energy levels as well as time influence how much writing we get done. 

So how do you conserve your marketing energies when the marketing fires burn low. Rusty Fischer at Zombies Don't Blog offered five tips on overcoming marketing fatigue. Check it out to see if any of them inspire you.

One way to conserve energy is to recycle ... even in the writing world. Had a duh-moment when I visited Julie Issac's blog The Writing Spirit. The gem? How to Quickly and Easily Increase Your Blog's Alexa Rating.  The duh? Her first point was: Repost old blog posts. Another idea: experiment with titles. 

Now, I don't know what an Alexa rating is, but I assume they're a competitor with Klout. I'm not even sure I care that much. Still, I gives me an opportunity to use some of the stuff I wrote. Yeah, I hate to see things go to waste ... unless it's food I don't like.

Roni Loren at Fiction Groupie wrote a companion blog to her blog on blogging. Setting up a writer's program: The Slow Writer's Reform School on speeding up your writing speed. How does that influence conserving writing energy? Maybe, getting more bang for each hour spent?

Now, all I have to do is take my own advice:

I'll thank you in advance if you like it.
I'll thank you more if you can give me instructions on how to improve the page.
Sometimes, being a computer klutz isn't adaptive.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

What Are Your Goals for Your Piles of Words?

Do you have huge piles of words in your computer?. More than what you just wrote for NanoWriMo or the last novel or short story you're drafting? Completed stories/novels you are submitting don't count. Stories you sold, especially don't count in your answer.

Just put my Half-Elven novella in the closet to ferment before I go back and tear it apart. Yeah, it's got flaws, major structural flaws. So, now I have two recent things festering in there which I need to rewrite, a MG novel [Emma Kloken] and the above novella, The Somant Troubles. Now, to organize time to do it amidst the seasonal baking and presents and clearing off my desk which has piled higher and deeper again.

Went to procrastinate by reading some blogs, and N. R. Williams slapped me up the side of the head with a blog reminding me about how inadequate my description was in The Somant Troubles. Her article on The Writing Craft: Description is worth studying. Actually, if I remember right, she's doing a series on writing craft.

Perhaps my most sizable pile of words, sitting like a lump in the web-cloud, comes from blogging. [So far, I haven't figured if I can do more with them than leave them here.] I've been blogging for, maybe, three years. A good question: can anyone have anything new to say after you've blogged for a month? Six months? A year? 

Roni Loren at Fiction Groupie wrote a neat little blog on blogging stages the life cycle of a blogger. You might've missed it in the NaNo madness so I decided to link to it here. Just loved the pics, and wish I knew how to do the mechanics to dress up my blog with free artwork.

I hope I've avoided the problem of boring myself by commenting on other blogs and doing fantasy book reviews. Blogging is like self-publishing. As long as someone reads the blog each week, guess this blog will continue.

As any NaNo writer knows your words need to be polished before they are worth reading. No one will read a formless pile -- other than you first readers/writing buddies. They need purpose. Chuck Wendig, who's published by Angry Robots, weighed in with a list of reasons why readers will stop reading. I took the blog to heart because I often quit reading a book when I get bored -- after the cover blurb, and opening intrigue me.

My goal is to organize my time so I can revise/edit/polish my word piles. I plan to spend evenings revising. For the new year, I'll be writing new stuff, including a short story a month. I plan to practice taking a character, giving her/him an introduction, problem, complication, and solution in a well-described world. 

In short, I'm setting the goal to polish my craft skills. Oh, I'll be finding some new words to finish my NaNoWriMo story. Have toooooo many words piled up in 1/3 draft to ignore. 

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Then, there's the ever-present need to promote your words after you can see your face in them. Came across a great way to promote: tattoo your book's url on your forehead.

For more ideas, check out Angela Scott's 10 Ways to Promote Your Book. The smiles are worth the time.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Snagging a Reader

'Tis no secret. A thousand-and-one things clamor for people's attention. Don't think retirement will bring you the slow, easy life. I've never been so busy as I am now -- even when I worked, volunteered, and raised kids. Writers must work double time and weigh in with a tuna-hook to grab and keep my attention.

So, how's an author to grab my attention? A cover helps ... in both bookstore and scrolling down the new listings at the e-stores.But, the real hooker is an opening and situation that first grabs me and then keeps my interest. 

That said, I'm reviewing Mike Mullin's Ashfall, which starts out with a teen-aged boy throwing a sullen temper tantrum. I'm no fan of jerky teens, so the questions is: Why did I buy the hardcover, something I hardly ever do? The even bigger question is:  Why did I abandon my read-a-paragraph-here-and-a-couple-paragraphs-there pattern? Yeah, I sat down and mostly read through until I finished the book in one day. -- A terrible waste of money if you want your book to entertain you for a week.

First the opening two sentences: "I was home alone on that Friday evening. Those who survived know exactly which Friday I mean."  

The book then tells the tale of how a sixteen-year-old snot survived the eruption of the Yellowstone [like the park] volcano and became a man in the "... post Friday world of ash, darkness, and hunger."  The action centers around his long journey on foot to follow his family's trip [a few hours by car] to the next state to visit relatives. Along the way, he encounters many survival techniques. Some good, and some not so good, in my opinion.

The cover of Mullin's book caught my eye in a local bookstore. It shows two teens, a boy and a girl, looking into a cracked, dusty mirror. The boy wipes a clean streak across the mirror face, to reveal an eye looking back at them. Dark, grey tones add to the feeling of menace, for maybe "death by ash".

Yes, I bought the book in the early afternoon, gave it a deeper checking out, and read until I had to fix dinner, all without going upstairs to do the social media thing. After coffee and the TV news, I made the choice to read instead of writing, something I sometimes do on Friday nights. In short, I read the book in "one sitting". -- What intrigued me so much? Well, my family has visited Yellowstone Park ofter, over the years, and I always felt uneasy on each visit. My sense of danger always rose there, even when just passing through.

One of the neat things about the book was the way Mullin planted his chapter hooks. He spent three chapters on the events of that Friday, 25 pages which included his house burning down. Here is the ending of Mullin's ending for chapter 3:

"Everything would be better tomorrow. I thought: a new day, a new dawn would have to be better than this.

I was wrong. There was no dawn the next day."

Yet, Alex survived and strengthened during his journey through this distopian world and even picked up a companion who saved his grits a few times. The companion's addition kept the book from sinking into a monotonous, teen-aged-boy, one-person point of view. Must admit the action would probably have kept me reading.

Yeah, I think this is an extraordinary book. If I did such things, I'd give Ashfall five stars.Even though this is a hard bound, it's well worth buying to study how Mullin constructs his pacing, complications, and surprises along the way. No, an e-book won't do -- unless you've a secret way to mark pages and make comments on an e-reader.

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Another take on pounding out 10,000 words-a-day by Zoe Winters at the Weblog of Zoe Winters. I like her steady writing approach. 

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Then, there's the glow I'm basking in. Just got another nice review for Taking Vengeance. Here's the tweet I posted about it. Or, is that share? Who cares about the terminology?

Swift ... clear motivations.Taking Vengeance. 22niel review: Info:

WolfSinger Press has even lowered the price on the ebook to $0.99. So, now's the time to buy it if you already haven't. It's at Amazon [USA and UK], Smashwords, and Barnes & Noble. Just search Theodoratus to find it. 

Remember: you don't have to have an e-reader to download e-publications. 
Just a computer ... and I know you have one. 

Sunday, November 27, 2011

E-Publications: Are they Elitist?

While publishing trends are moving fast, I find the fact that parents continue to buy print books for reading to their kids comforting. Yeah, I find the overwhelming push towards e-publications disturbing. It makes reading, more and more, a past-time of the "haves", making those among the "haven'ts" do without -- except at school.

I can't think of anything more discouraging and limiting to a love for reading than to confine the excercise to the walls of the classroom.

Maria Zannini, keeper of the newsletter for the Online Writing Workshop for SF, Fantasy and Horror, set my mind along this track. She recently blogged about trends in publishing: The Apocalypse is Closer than You Think. All about e-readers and print trends -- which sent off this train of thought.

I'm finding the trend more than a little disturbing. See, I was one of the poor kids who got hooked into reading by cheap used paperbacks. The fantastic depiction on the cover [A. L. Merritt] attracted my attention at the army surplus store, back when the teachers still had me convinced I didn't know how to read. While my dad searched for the tool he needed, I spent my dime on the book. I still have the poor, battered copy as well as three other Merritt novels. I reread them regularly until when I decided I didn't like the way he portrayed girls. [Now, I re-read one or the other every other year.]

[A side note, the second novel I wrote was a counter to Merritt's need to rescue his beautiful female characters. My female character kept saving the male adventurer protagonist, and, I think, had a scar from getting too close to a knife. Too bad I lost the manuscript over time, but I do remember she had titian hair and green eyes. Wonder, if that was a cliche back then.]

I still have a hard time buying hardcover books, mostly because they don't fit into the chaos of my bookshelves. One hardback I recently bought: Mike Mullin's Ashfall -- about the consequences on a family after the volcano under Yellowstone Park blew its top.

###

'Tis the season. I'm making Cavern Between Worlds available for free at Smashwords --
until the end of the season or someone tells me I can't offer it for free.
You don't have to have an e-reader to read it [or any other epub],
you can download it onto your computer ...
and I know you got one of those.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Encouragement for NaNoWriMo Failures

Do you consider yourself a NaNo failure because you haven't churned out 50,000 words? I didn't, and I don't. My goal was to pick up my writing speed ... and I did it. I'm thinking I doubled it from 500-words-a-day to a thousand, sometimes more, depending on what the priority task is for the day.

Thanks to The Colorado Writer's Daily by Tamela Buhrke, I found Rachel Aaron's blog on how she increased her writing speed to 10,000 words a day.  --  The screaming you hear are my thumbs. If they could run, they'd be heading for the hills at such a thought. --  Aaron gives both some great macro- and micro-tips on increasing your word flow.  Give her a read. You may find something useful.

My favorite insight was one I sort of fell over while doing NaNoWriMo. -- I realized I didn't have to outline to increase my word flow. I just needed to know what direction I was going. I set up docs for my chapters: 1, 2, 3, etc. Then, started writing notes to myself at the top of each chapter in red. As a thought occurred to me, I'd jot it down on a sticky note ... and then, add it to an appropriate chapter. If the idea didn't get used when the chapter was done, I transferred it down the line ... until it was thrown away in the "bits and pieces" file.

Point: Even if you don't suceed in writing 50,000 words in one month, you may still have set a continuing pattern or habit that'll help you be more productive. Oh, yes. I realize NaNoWriMo isn't done as I write this, but I'm done. I quit trying before my thumbs gave out. Like, I'll be able to write tomorrow.

While not writing for Thanksgiving, I wrote a new opening chapter for The Somant Troubles ... which hooks readers with an unusual situation [I hope] that shows the MC's [Mariah] openness to the "99%" of the Marches. Then, the chapter introduces the continued bickering between Mariah and Linden plus how she maintains her friends at the Half-Elven military Camp even though Linden has banished her. 

Now, I still have to write the ending, ie. give more detail and action to the summary for chapters 20/21 or combine them into one. -- Who knows what'll happen tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

SomeThings I'm Thankful For

I should be finishing the book review of Ashfall by Mike Mullen, but my head's mush. I wrote all morning ... and still have loose ends to tie up. So, I thought I'd share some of the things I'm thankful for, things that let me continue writing.

1) That I'm sitting at the computer and able to think clearly, mostly, except for when I don't.

2) That I had sense enough to quit NaNoWriMo while my thumbs still functioned. They kinda hurt, but they aren't screaming. My hip's whining too, but I'm going to ignore it.

3) That the old man has recovered from the lousy cataract surgery and is threatening to cut the suckers out of the 40-foot apricot tree. I'm telling him he can do it as long he can guarantee me he'll be 100% for our 50th anniversary next year.

4) That I can still come up with new ideas ... different from what I've done before. My NaNo start sounds interesting, and I'll continue writing next week. Need to clean up all the stuff I let lie the first two weeks of November.

5) That my kids still talk to me ... though sometimes they border on telling me what to do. I listen to them like they listened to me.

6) That I can always use the mute button when stupidities ooze out of Washington, DC too deep.

7) That my Facebook fan page for the Far Isles Half-Elven has some friends ... even if I don't know who they are.

8) That I have at least one kid living in the area so we have family to celebrate holidays with.

9) Important ... I think .
Rebeka Harrington posted my guest blog on where ideas come from.

From 'Idea' to 'Taking Vengeance' – Writing For The Love Of It. Who knows where ideas come from? I've gone through four/five different writing “careers”, and I ...
 
10) There are other things, but I'll just sum them up:
I'm thankful that my life is more comfortable than the life I grew up with.
 
May your refrigerator hold food until your next pay day.
Enjoy.
 

Sunday, November 20, 2011

After NaNoWriMo

The revising. The reviving. The bells of doom are ringing, and I haven't even finished. Of course, I don't expect to finish 50,000 words in one month. I do expect to finish the novel and revise. So, revising is on my mind.

If you're still writing your NaNoWriMo effort, Terry O'Dell at The Blood Red Pencil has a suggestion for adding painless words in her guest blog on "The Rule of Three". Have your character do three things in one sentence. -- The principle has been proven in regards to military training. People remember in threes better. Also, it may explain the popularity of trilogies.

Ania Ahlborn at "Suspense Novelist" blogged about Elizabeth Georges' writing process since she loved George's craft book, Write Away, so much. Now, George is one of my favorite mystery writers. Felt warm inside when I learned that George revises on hard-copy. I do that too. Maybe I'm learning something. [Though, I'd never set a book in Britain, even if I lived in Wales a wonderful year.]

Again, what to do with your NaNoWriMo. Dean Wesley Smith, one of the self-publishing gurus, gives an interesting take on the self-publishing vs traditional publishing brouhaha. Do both

###
I'm no longer NaNoWriMo-ing. My thumbs went on strike. I'm limiting myself to two half-hour computer sessions a day. In the meantime, I can r e a d.



Friday, November 18, 2011

Getting Noticed, the Bug-a-Boo of Promotion

Okay, I'm still hitting my head against the big marketing wall and have the bruises to prove it. Little traffic and sales.

Yeah, "I'm promoting". An example. Just noticed that I've done over a 1,000 Tweets and over 200 followers [most of them pertinent to writing]. The first few months I visited there, my tweets and followers were in the single digits.

Surprising, how promoting your stuff adds up. I'm mentioning all three of my pubs on Twitter. I include the Independent Authors Network' hash-tag and url. They even retweet me ... for what that's worth.

Does Twitter work for book promotion? I think maybe. I know that I get more traffic when I mention my books on Smashwords. Whether or not, someone buys depends on your blurb and other marketing skills. I think writers can chalk one up for the traditional publishers here. At least, I have this dream that they have a set of guidelines to help their writers do the promotion bit.

Back to the bug-a-boo of promotion: getting people to notice your book. A book by the IBC  [the Indie Book Collective] people does just that according to Jeff Bennington at The Writing Time Bomb. Why, oh why, do I keep finding such stuff when I don't have the time to absorb it. How to Sell More Ebooks gives some great ideas on getting noticed on Amazon where probably more USA books are sold than any where else. 

I'm thinking the book may be a buy ... but how to you study on Kindle? Can you underline and write notes to yourself as you read?

Yet again the ladies at Duolit have come up with some great suggestions for getting your NaNoWriMo project getting noticed by other writers: 5 Ways to Build Hype Before NaNoWriMo.  The good thing? Many of the ideas will apply to promoting all your writing.

So, happy writing ... and happier promoting if you sell something. If you are on Facebook, Twitter, etc you can promote even your short story sales. I'm sure editors appreciate all positive mentions of their publications ... just like authors do.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Do Your Characters Live on the Edge?

Why should readers read your stories? Because you're a nice person? I'm sure you are, but I'm not so sure about my myself. Still, I'd like people to read my stories. Thinking about this, I've hit my head against a basic idea: Will your characters survive their trials and tribulations. 

[This is a little difficult with my Half-Elven, but I need to address the principle in some way. Maybe asking: how much skin do your characters stand to lose in your story, might help?] 

Last Friday, I finished Karen Marie Moning's Shadowfever, the last of her Fever series. The almost 700-word-book spent too much time in the head of Mackayla, the main character, for my taste. But still, the book managed to move instead of spin. The Rainbow girl, oozing with Georgia sunshine, is no more ... and has turned into something darker ... and has to cope with that transformation ... and survive, if not live happily ever after. The series is a paranormal romance, after all.

Actually, the Fever series is longer than the five books listed. Moning included characters and situations from her Highlander series. Hints appeared here and there in previous books, but Shadowfever had the Keltar clan playing a major secondary role. Found it kind of amusing that the hyper-virile Keltars had to play second fiddle to Mackayla. Still, they got to snap and snarl at Barrons and his crew.

All in all, she managed to create a great twist on the Fae. Not the cutsie fairies. But the terrible inhuman Fae of serious legend. I thought her ability to give strange creatures understandable motives one of Moning's more striking achievements. 

Moning managed to tie up the loose ends, as far as I can remember, while throwing in some twists which I didn't see coming. I had suspicions that some of the characters weren't exactly what they seemed, but the "reality" Moning presented wasn't exactly like I thought. Moning has two series on my keeper bookshelves.

An Aside:
A good share of my time on Sunday mornings is spent reading the book reviews in the New York Times. Yesterday, they did their children's book insert. Elizabeth Bird's review gave me the most to think about. Consider this beginning:

"Imagine the difficulty of creating an active crime-fighting protagonist in the age of helicopter parents." 

One writer solution would be to put your characters into a historical time, which is what Greg Ruth (City of Orphans) and Chris Moriarty (The Inquisitor's Apprentice) do. Baker's take:

"And for today's readers, finding themselves caught beneath the omnipresent, not to say suffocating, love and attention of their hovering parents, reading about children free to go anywhere and to solve crimes, not to say their own problems, may offer them the escape they understandably crave." 

[Please excuse the typos. NaNoWriMo is really eating into my time.]

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

So. What do Agents Feels About Queries?

Several blogs back, I mentioned Janet Reid's formula for a good query ... ie. one that might give her a positive attitude when she reads your sample ... provided your query lures her on. A query that's low on description and high on action.

I was trying to use her formula for my new query for "Dark Solstice", using Linden as the focus rather than Mariah. So, I had been thinking about queries a lot before NaNoWriMo, trying to get away from describing feelings to show action. Still, I've talked to several people who think writing queries is a waste of time, too hard, or ????? Since self-publishing is so easy, they say, I should just go that route.

Jessica Faust gives an agents viewpoint on why a query is important in her Bookends Blog: The Archaic Query. She considers it just another craft skill which writers have to master. The upside? It allows agents, and probably publishers, to work through their submissions faster.

While we're thinking about queries, agent Rachelle Gardner wrote a blog on interpreting "agent euphenisms": Decoding Query Rejections. What I found interesting: she linked to Janet Reid's Query Shark as a place where writer's can get a specific reaction to their query -- if their query is lucky enough to be chosen. Though I should warn you Janet Reid isn't as nice as Rachelle Gardner.

Then, there's the other end of the process, getting some publicity for your book -- whether traditionally or self-published. The Passive Guy gives some good tips on using Good Reads to reach a targeted market of readers. He makes such a good argument that I may have to go back and visit the site regularly in addition to Facebook and Twitter. After NaNoWriMo, of course.

How am I doing with NaNoWritMo?
I'm behind, of course, but not by much. Sunday threw me off my count when I went to Denver, and I was short yesterday too. Still, I've discovered a completely undreamed of character who is central to the mid-story conflict that launches my main character into deep doo-doo, only I don't know what she's going to do to get out of the mess her contentious attitude gets her into.

PS: Got a good laugh when I discovered all my typos after I published an except of "Combine Mythos" yesterday.  Oh, I'm also thinking of calling the story "Combine Blues".

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Excerpt from My NaNoing


I've amazed myself as I NaNoing along. One weeks gone by and I'm on Chapter 7. Should be on chapter 8, but I'll take what I got since it's about 8000 words more than I usually produce in a week. Got my 500 words in this morning even though I got up late because I read until 2 AM. Whatever, I decided I really liked how Judi Anne Lucca wakes after being hijacked onto a space trip.
 
Waking Up
7

The cold sent her shivering until her hands could barely clutch the ax, but Judi Anne kept splitting wood. Crack. Snap. Scream. She wasn’t alone. The wood chunk she slammed the ax into jumped off the chopping block. Judi bent over to pick up the pieces and groaned. Every fiber in her body cursed with pain. Her mother would wash her mouth out with home-made lye  soap. The burning flowed down or up into her throat. Judi had no reference points in the darkness. Her eyes refused to focus.
The smell of puke invaded her nostrils. “Oh, God. Oh, God. Oh, God.” A voice near her yelled. “Have mercy on me. I’m dying. I’m dying.”
Screams. Shouts. Shrieks. Moans. All assaulted Judi’s ears, but she kept chopping kindling even as her own muscles pulsed with pain. Raise the ax high. Slam it down. Each whack jarring her body until her shoulders rose off the bed.
Bed? Am I dreaming?
The smell and noise surrounding her cut too deeply to be a dream. She tried to raise her arm, only to bump it against some wall. Judi brushed her hand down. She moved her leg to the same side. The smooth wall seemed to surround her.

Like I said, I like this ... so I'm wondering if it'll turn out to be one of the darlings I eventually kill with a red pencil ... I do know it'll get edited because, for one thing, I haven't described the setting from her childhood farm. And, yes, it's important. Judi's anachronistic skills are going to save her when she and her class get captured by terrorists.  

Monday, November 7, 2011

To Write or To Read, That's the Question ...

So, you're a writer who wants to succeed. What do you do? The simple answer is to write a book that doesn't bore you and market it until you find a buyer(s). As with all simple things, the devil's in the details. [Sorry, I couldn't avoid the puns. A friend has declared Mondays Pun Day.]

For the Indie Author who's wondering how to succeed, Emlyn Chand at Novel Publicity has an interesting blog: Indie Authors can Succeed. Chand  takes the general principles of promoting your novel and combines it with the techniques Terri Guiliano Long used to make her novel Leah's Wake a best seller. This is the link to part one. 

Unfortunately, for me, I'm so busy with NaNoWriMo ... struggling to write 1700 words a day and not succeeding ... that publicizing my e-things is getting ignored. Oh, I post on Twitter, but I can't see where it's doing much good. People are downloading the free one [dumping Gorsfeld, though, but no reviews yet.

While I puzzle not writing, Roni Loren discusses another crucial part of a writer's life -- not reading. A recent blog discusses: The Dangerous Side Effect of Becoming a Writer. Her basic position is you're shooting yourself in the foot [pun] if you don't read other writers' work. Others would add "in your genre ... and outside it".

Loren mourns the decrease in her reading since she started writing. I'm stuck in the same boat. I used to read two, three books a week -- unless I had an 800-page monstrosity in my hands like Game of Thrones [G. R. R. Martin] and Shadowfever [Karen Marie Moning]. Now, I barely get a book a week read and the to-read pile keeps building again.

Well, back to NaNoWriMo and the insurrection of new hires on the bus.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Series Writing: Will Sookie Out-live Her Welcome

When does a series and/or character outlive the readers' welcome? Charlaine Harris hasn't outlived her welcome at my house. Just reread Dead in the Family where Sookie Stackhouse tries to reconnect with the remnants of her fae family when she allows her snotty fae half-cousin move in with her. Of course, the vampire and shape-shifter politics is going strong as well. All the elements mixed together is what makes the series endure, I think.

Sookie has grown too. She's no longer the tentative waif she was at the beginning. She has survived all that vampire politics has thrown at her so far, becoming more and more proactive along the way. More important, the secondary characters have grown from book to book, though their importance changes. Perhaps, the most difficult part of the character development, Sookie has retained her good heart. Her grandmother raised her well.

I have friends who criticize the Stackhouse series as not well-written. Yeah, I find nit-picks too, but they never get in the way of the story development. Harris is close to raising another storm. The series has three more books to go, and I predict she'll have fans screaming in protest like she still does for the Lucy Shakespeare series. [She's already announced to her fans that the series will end in a couple of books ... depending upon where you're reading the series.

I'll sit back and wait to see what happens in her Harper Connolly series or whatever new series she develops. You don't knock a master who knows how to tell a good story, wrap up loose ends enough, but not too much not to lead you into the next book in the series. There's a key somewhere in there, but I'm sinking in the NaNoWriMo mess, so I won't dig for it.

Deadlocked is at the publishers, can the mass paperback of Dead Reckoning be far behind?

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Only four days in [10:30 AM], and I'm 3000 words behind in my NaNo-ing. Granted I was interpolating a future world as well as manufacturing characters, both secondary and tertiary. Hopefully, I get this blog edited before I have to go grocery shopping. 

Yeah, I know. Life's details keep screaming as loud as my internal editor. Just don't want to have the old man screaming because the fridge is empty.

PS:
Enjoy the typos and mistakes. I don't have time to re-read this umpteen times to find them.

PPS:
My free e-story is up on Smashwords: The Foiling of Gorsfeld. I don't know how you could miss the cover. If anyone of you folks would like to read it and take the time to review it ... I'd appreciate it muchly. I'll even mention the review on Twitter, even if it's one star.

PPPS:
Rebecca Harrington mentions Taking Vengeance on her blog. 



Monday, October 31, 2011

NaNoWriMo Madness

Do dogs drool over meaty bones? I'm beginning to think writers drool over NaNoWriMo. 

Went to the monthly Northern Colorado Writer's, and they devoted a fair amount of discussion to the Time-of-Writing-Frenzy. I knew the two independent book stores in town, sponsored writing tables for NaNoWriMo participants. I didn't know our public library was also in the act of encouraging writer to pound out the words. They even ran "classes" for teen and adult writers.

Even if you aren't participating, I recommend you read the blogs that mention NaNoWriMo. There a lot of good advice on the mechanics of producing words. Breaking through writer's block. Setting up your characters. Plus, much more.

Over at Operation Awesome, Lindsay gives her reasons for not doing NaNoWritMo. She's into quality more than quantity. More important, she gives some links to other blogs with great craft tips.

Morgan Bailey takes the opposite stance in her blog asking: Are You Ready for NaNoWriMo? She even hides some writing tips hidden within the text which will help you whether you join the madness or not.

Then, there's me.  I don't expect to come out of the month with 50,000 new words in the computer, but I'm doing it any way. I hoping that pounding out words, without thinking much about them, will help me break my 500 words a day habit. -- I may be planning to shoot myself in the foot. Thanksgiving's at my house, as usual, plus I start my Christmas baking about that time.

Think ... I sort of ... get NaNo ... though. Writing is mostly a solitary activity except for critique groups and writing buddies. In November, writers party and write for the heck of it..

Friday, October 28, 2011

Vampire Weenies Meet Bunnicula: MG Reviews for Halloween

Found a mystery last September, while browsing in a indie bookstore, with an intriguing blurb about a lady sleuth, who could talk to ghosts. Gave me the idea to do reviews of ghost stories for the Halloween month. After all October is the month when the veils between dimensions thin, until they're gone at Samhain.

Then, I started reading the book. Thought the MC was a wimp. Worse, the ghost was a whiner. A complete turn-off. I read about four chapters and found none of the characters engaging. Kept meaning to go back and give the book another try. I read a bunch of other books instead.

At the moment, I have to dig it out of the to-read pile by my chair and put it in the trade pile. [Have been a little busy trying to finish The Somant Troubles, a Half-Elven novella, about my callused character, Mariah, who many won't like because she's not warm. -- Don't think I'll get it done.]

Still, I've been reading some interesting books. How does Attack of the Vampire Weenies sound? Actually, the book is a collection of short stories by David Lubar. Lovely very short tales that twist and up-end all sorts of legends and cliches in scary and unexpected ways.

Lubar really demonstrates the short story framework: introduce the character/situation, throw down the complication, and solve the character's problem with a slight twist so the reader doesn't quite guess the ending. The book is part of a series. If you are working of plot pacing, a suggest you buy a book and study.

Then, practice by joining Write1Sub1.[The basic idea is to write a short story a week and submit it. The idea comes from Ray Bradbury, and Milo Fowler was one of the people getting it going. -- I may do it next year while I revise stuff in my computer -- five/six finished novels.]

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How about a vampire of another sort: Bunnicula, the infamous vegetable destroying bunny? James Howe continues his punny narratives of the Monroe family and their pets. In this episode, Bunnicula goes into a massive depression, and the fellow pets try to save him, even Claude, the cat, who usually tries to off him.

Not only did I read both books. I laughed out loud.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Random Thoughts On Writing

Color my face green for Halloween. Read Maria Zanini's blog on promoting her new book, Chain of Souls. She's running a nice little contest [+], all people have to do is mention it on Facebook and Twitter so it's easy, [+], mentions her first book [+], and feeds her dog at the same time. Seriously, you should take some time to read her past blogs. I like her energetic promotion of her books. 

[I'm the contrast for what not to do. All talk, and very little do.]

Ever wonder why so many "mainstream" writers are e-publishing their backlist? The Passive Guy ran a piece where Nina Bruhns, a romance writer [who I haven't read], discusses why she e-published. Seems her traditionally published print book delivered $42.50 in royalties. Over the same period of time, the same number of e-books sold = $1500. Don't need to think much about why there's an indie revolution.

Writing paranormal? If you can put an interesting twist o the cliches, I think you have a strong market. Picked up a paperback at the grocery store featuring five short stories by J. C. Robb and a bunch of other writers I had never heard of before, including Ruth Ryan Langan. In touch with the season, all had a touch of the paranormal.

My favorite story of the bunch was Langan's "The Unforgiven", a ghost story about a highland lord who wasn't too thrilled about have his castle turned into a bed and breakfast by a impoverished woman, who had just inherited said castle. The story was quite a bit more complicated than that but that's a good enough log line for writing of the fly. [Robb's monster was pretty neat, too, but I can't remember the other stories.]

Then, there's NaNoWriMo. The madness is almost here, and the Duolit team gives writers a strategy for successfully pounding out 50,000 words.  Look at their other suggestions on their blog: 5 Tips For NaNoWriMo Success. My comment: If I have to do an outline, I'm doomed.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Random Thoughts on Writing Log Lines

Am finding log lines extremely useful. I've been writing log lines for the story ideas that pop into my head. A technique I learned from Trai Cartwright, who teaches writing at the Northern Colorado Writers and colleges in my area. One, it preserves a story idea, until I can hopefully get to it. Two, it's focused my cutting and pasting of the pieces I'm currently working on. Three, it helped me stay productive almost every day while I was working on my current Mariah novella.

Then Janet Reid, the illustrious agent I'd sign with in a minute if she represented what I wrote and I was good enough, wrote a whole blog on how log lines are anathema.

Then, she gives a great summary of what a query should be:
"... Focus on ACTION not description. Tell us what's at stake and what choices the main characters have to make. Give us a compelling INTERESTING villain." 

Thank you for the tip Ms Reid. I see where I should rewrite my Dark Solstice query from a different, more sympathetic, character's POV. While others have said much the same thing, her version seems to of stuck in my head better.

Does practice make perfect? Maybe, went back and looked at my idea files. My log lines mostly touched the spots Reid mentioned. Does that mean I'm on my way to being published major, big time? 

No. I'm beginning to think I'm not that ambitious. But, I'm wondering how you/others use log lines.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Not So Ghostly Review #3: McCrumb's St. Dale

Not all ghosts are ectoplasmic wonders. Sharon McCrumb's 2005 book St. Dale gives readers a tour of various stock car speedways and racing history. Dale Earnhardt [ senior], a popular stock car racer who hit the wall, literally, appears as a ghost. Adding to the "mystery", the specter is so real he can be confused with an impersonator, who also tours the the speedways where Earnhardt once competed.

Set in the south, where some people consider stock car racing close to religion, Earnhardt is cast as a secular saint who helps some of the characters of St. Dale out of their personal "troughs of despair". McComb uses the  "travel tale" motif, an updating of the Saint Canterbury Tales, if you will, where the characters, take a Memorial tour of the tracks where Earnhardt won races and died.

McCrumb's characterizations, as always, are magnificent. She takes a bus-sized load of characters and manages to create three dimensional images for all of them, except for maybe the bus driver. Granted Chaucer earned his laurels by writing some of the first English non-religious fiction. McCrumb added to her laurels by creating a series set away from her more mysterious Ballad series.

The slim plot in St. Dale sort of bothered me this time around. [I've read the book several times] This may be because I'm struggling with the plotting my next story. I'm stumped on what to do with my characters, the characters I haven't even outlined yet. Oh, I have some vague ideas like "disgraced scholar" but can't figure how the world is going to slap them up the side of the head. All my ideas so far have reeked of cliche.

Did discover a new site to follow which offers a nice crib list for plotting, though. Jon Bard and Laura Backes over at Write 4 Kids highlighted a nice blog by Thomas W. Young [with link] on "You Can't Have a Plot Without Conflict". I hadn't thought of their third suggestion: what messes up your characters life and sends them on a journey.

Anyone for another book on a young adolescent forced to flee his/her home to seek his/her destiny?

In one possible story, an academic scandal sent my character into deep space where she got a job on a corporately owned planet. Only I can't figure out who's the villain of the piece ... except for some vague, ambitious corporate flunky. Obviously, I have to turn that one on it's head and make him/her at least a positive secondary character.

Deciding what to do is difficult. Maybe I should just sign up for NaNoWriMo and write even though I know I won't get close to 50,000 words. At least at NaNoWriMo, they care more for volume than quality ... until you start revising stage.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Squeezing the Most out of Your Twitter Time

I'm always amazed at how Twitter helps me learn about using the world wide web. Some how, this computer klutz grasps many of the details without thinking. More important I find lots of useful information amidst the chatter -- even if I don't study it as I should.

Christine Rose, in her blog, On Marketing, Mochas, and Mayhem, talks about more than the Top Ten Twitter Resources.  My favorite was the top one in 11 Ways to Use Twitter to Held Your Site Go Viral :  be able to tweet about your website (ie: describe it in 140 characters). Here's my draft example for my Far Ilse Half-Elven website:

Visit the Far Isle Half-Elven for a different take on elves: You'll also find a free story set in that world. #fantasy

Now, I have the revise the home page before I do anything with it. [I'm also think of switching to Book Baby's website hosting ... if I can even get out from under the revising, drafting, and the messy desk.

Thanks to Christine, I'll be able to promote Taking Vengeance and and Cavern Between Worlds more effectively, I hope. What's more, I discovered the log line for Taking Vengeance on my website is better than the one on Amazon and Smashwords.  Now, to find the time to change it ...

Almost rolled on the floor laughing: Julie Issac claimed that promoting your book can be fun. Some great ideas there too, but I don't think she more comfortable in her corner, growling, than promoting.  Some people just have a marketing gene. I'm one of the ones who doesn't.

If I was a good little writer, I'd post this ... clear off a place on my "desk" [aka card table] ... and study the above two blogs. But, I won't. My stomach says it's lunch time.

Procrastinators Anonymous, anyone?


 

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Ghostly Book Review #2 -- School Spirit

Pity the poor pre-teen whose mother is a medium for she'll never be part of the "in-crowd". For Kat, life takes a turn for the worse when she also starts seeing ghosts. 

Elizabeth Cody Kimmel 's Suddenly Supernatural: School Spirit explores the relationship of a middle grade girl, her psychic mother, and the problem of fitting in at school, including coping with the dreaded cafeteria. More important, Kay must grow comfortable with her new found power to see and talk to ghosts.

Menace is supposed to lurk in ghost stories. After all, uncanny chills crawling over you skin is the sign of a ghost. Kimmel's book's more of "I gotta fit in" kind of book,though. One positive note. Kat does find a friend in the form of a cello-lugging outcast. The two do help a ghost, trapped in the library of their school, cross over. 

While School Spirit is a nicely crafted story which I enjoyed while reading, the book left me feeling the story was way too benevolent. Guess I felt the book was much too concerned with school relationships and didn't spend enough time menacing the players. The book is written for the 8-&-up crowd, and it's obvious they don't agree with me.  The Suddenly Supernatural series contains four books at the moment.

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Ghosts break into my thoughts a lot now days. I'm almost done with my Mariah [the Half-Elven world] story. I think it's down to three more chapters and the fermentation process before I start revising. In the meantime, I'm thinking about what my next project will be. Key element: What should my next supernatural playground be.

The popularity of paranormal stories has sort of dried up the supernatural possibilities, mostly by over use. So, what's a fantasy writer supposed to do? I can't think of any supernatural that hasn't been used to excess in one form or other ... except perhaps the Windigo of the north-eastern forests. [It's hard to write about a cannibal, except as a villain.]

So, while others write madly for NaNoWriMo, I'll be playing with characters -- mostly villains and secondary characters. Don't really have a setting/world yet, either. Do have my main character and her family, recycled from another story, but I want to put her in another world.  "Small town" is the closest I've gotten so far.

If I had the room, I'd put a dart board up and use it to create my people.  One thing sure. I have to clean off my desk so I can work. I usually use a pencil and much erasing to create my set-ups. What do you find effective when starting a new novel that doesn't burst half-written from your brain?
 

Saturday, October 8, 2011

What's Your End Goal for National Novel Writing Month?

National Novel Writing Month: On your marks. Get set. Go to the computer and start punching keys. With luck you end up with a draft of a novel by the end of November. At least, that's the goal. What's remarkable? Lots of people manage to do it. I won't be one of them.

Oh, I think it's an admirable goal ... but my 500 a day pace would get me to about the fifth or sixth chapter. I know. I've been writing a novella since August and have reach chapter 16. I even know what's going to happen it in. I often chuckle as I think of the action. Still, thinking about the reactions of the characters to the action in the story line is different from actually writing it all. How much setting? How much back story? How much description? How to curb a character who wants to run in another direction, entirely? How to??????????

No, this isn't an excuse not to participate. Even if I wanted to participate, I couldn't sit long enough at one time to actually write a whole chapter. [Since my chapters average little more than 2,000 words, that'd be my pace.] Even if the cat didn't yowl to be turned on the other office chair, I'd still have to get up and do yoga exercises so my back didn't freeze up.

I'll just keep writing at my pace ... especially, since I can see the end of the novella in sight ... even if a couple of the planned chapters turn into two. I don't think I have to worry about one of them turning into three chapters. I'm too far along in the process.

Several of my writer friends are frantically organizing so they can devote enough time to writing a new novel this November. I'm sympathetic, but I almost got a cup of coffee thrown at when I asked a friend how he was going to organize the revisions once he had the draft done. He accused me of not appreciating his efforts. ... I do appreciate anyone's efforts who can continually put coherent words into a story until the ending has been reached.

The problems we had? We thought of the results of writing differently. To him, finishing the story was the end-goal. For me. Well, my draft is mostly providing something to revise. No matter how much I back track to make additions and polish words. I find places where I didn't make my characters' actions clear or have assumed some back story info the reader hasn't been told ... or something.

Then, today I took a peek at the National Novel Writing Month Site. There as bold as a school marm was a call to revision. Okay, an acknowledgement that the results of a month of drafting would have to be revised. Basically, now that you have written, now what?

##
Just realized that I didn't post a blog last week. Have several partials in my computer on different topics, but they didn't get completed. Sound familiar? Anyway, my excuse is that I've been spending too much time in doctor's offices. [Nothing disasterous. Just the chronic, piddle-die stuff which should soon resolve itself.]
      

Saturday, October 1, 2011

How Many Choices Does Your Story's World Give Your Characters?

Lots of people complain about two-dimensional characters, but I've seldom seen people complain about simplistic societies. Seems to me that you need to weave a variety of conflicting values into your settings -- where your characters can "mix-and-match" the possibilities so they aren't all on the same spot of the statistical curve. Conflict creates more texture by just describing what the characters are thinking. 

Yeah, values create the core conflicts in any world -- real or make-believe. Your main characters must believe in something. Their opposition must believe the opposite -- at least some of the time. Then, if your world is changing for some reason like my Half-Elven tales, you can create conflict without anyone being right or wrong. The choices possible in your character's world add to the story's tension and add depth to your story, and the choices your characters build relationships or destroy them.

One problem with too many books: They only have two dimensions, "either ? or non-?. How many times to you see a situation in a novel with many conflicting distinctions wrapped up in the same situation. An example of a multiple-dimension description from a Christian Science Monitor article on women's status in India started me thinking along these lines. The sentence: "Go beyond a strip of high-end boutiques in Delhi, into any alley past a cow resting beneath a tarp, and climb up the stairs of a nondescript building." Modern and old India bump against each other in the same description.

I'm thinking a lot about such conflicts in societies as I busily edit Dark Solstice, a Far Isle Half-Elven story.  I've often summarized political positions by this formula: one-third of the people are agin' and will never change and one-third of the people support an idea. Any political motion will happen with the middle third where the people haven't quite made up their minds yet.

Seems to me this is also true for moral values too. So, where do your primary and secondary characters line up on the issues that create conflict in your story? Do they support your main characters or do they fall somewhere in between, sometimes for them and sometimes against when the main characters make a different decisions? I think the more they disagree with each other and the better you resolve the issues among them, the greater depth you'll create in your story/novel.

Where am I sitting on the continuum at the moment? I'm afraid my writing is too two-dimensional.
But, I'm trying.

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Sort of, Just for Fun:
Sometimes, I don't feel like I belong in my own country.
Enjoyed this blog ... then, went back to it when I decided it was important enough to retweet and add it here. David Sirota blogs at Salon.com about a few American Icons that Would Shock the Right.

The problem. I consider myself a fair-deal, fiscally-conservative political type. Don't think I have a political party any more.

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Ta-Dah. Above is the cover for the free story I hope to get up on Amazon, B&N and Smashwords. Still have to get the formatting and editing done, but I'm progressing.