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.


Thursday, March 31, 2011

Simplistic vs Tangled Plot Structures

Fiction Lessons:
Most of the books I read have linear plot lines.  Many consider such books simplistic even if the relationships among the primary and secondary characters are complicated.  Must say I rather prefer events to flow in one direction ...  with maybe some time outs for flashbacks.

Then, I read a book that a couple book-group friends praised:  New York Times Bestselling Author Kate Morton's The Forgotten Garden.  The book started out with a lovely hook -- a small, pre-school English girl stranded on a boat heading for Australia and the ensuing events when she tries to determine her origins after she grows up.  In other words, a what-happened book instead of a who-done-it.

Most writers would use a nice linear structure to solve this mystery piece by piece, and the character would live happily or unhappily ever after.  Morton hops around in time like a skitterbug.   The time line jumps from pre-WWI to the 70s to the mid 2000s and back again.  In the end, it's the granddaughter who solves the true identity of the abandoned little girl [after she dies] and the dysfunctional family relationships that sent her on her voyage. 

Different sections explore the motives of each of the major characters  How did the writer do it?  With chapters written in different viewpoints in different times and "hatches" [#] to indicate breaks in the action within the chapters.

This all may sound rather lame, but I found the book a satisfying read ... though I doubt if I'd ever write anything that jumbled events [in an organized way] so often.  One thing bothered me though -- the curriculum questions at the back of the book.

Web Promotion and Other Stuff:
Cliches:  Ideas to avoid while writing.  So, why do I have four of them in one book manuscript.  {There Be Demons}  Whatever, I picked up a blog on Twitter by Elizabeth Briggs on major YA/MG cliches.  You might be interested in looking at it since it also applies to adult SF/Fantasy.

Got a lecture recently on how e-self-publishing is the way to go.  Amanda Hocking was given as one of the arguments why.  So, when Writer Beware had a link on Facebook,  I had to look.  You might like to look at her blog too, so I've included a link to her recent blog on her thoughts about self-publishing -- after she just signed with St. Martin's Press, one of the big print boysSounds like she's a writer instead of some icon.

Of course, if your going to promote you have to have something to market.  You have to create something real enough to engage the emotions of your reader.  Nancy Williams did a blog on the elements of Revenge recently.  It's not as simplistic as many writers construct it.  So, take a look at Nancy's comments and see if your characters measure up.

Last but not least, I just discovered why I get so confused about all the publishing possibilities.  Again thanks to Writer Beware, I found a link to a blog by Lynn Price, of Behler Publications, on how the various definitions in publishing are changing.  So, the next time you think writer's have it hard, publishers are in the same boat.  I don't think anyone really knows what's going to happen very far into the future.

To add a discussion to e-publishing:  I've submitted "The Noticing One" to Untreed Reads.  Yeah, I totally expect a rejection.  The piece is probably too short [... even though they want short stuff ...] and maybe not written well enough.  It's been out only a couple of times ... and got a long explanation why the editor didn't buy it, so maybe there's hope of a sale. --  If so, that means I'll have two publications up in the e-o-shpere.  Why submit as a short story stand-alone?  Well, in the e-publishing it seems that if you have more than one offering, you get more sales.  [I assume that's if you've told some good stories.] 

Also got "Dark Solstice" out to Angry Robot books.  In case you hadn't heard, the British publisher was taking unagented manuscripts during the month of March.  Guess I'm sort of at the bottom of the heap.  Did re-edit the submitted chapters and was surprised at how well they stood up.  Made very few changes.  Maybe they'll ask for a full.  [That's the height of my ambition.] 

Can't wait to get back to revising Emma. [Psst.  I'll tell you my secret fault.  I downplay my VP characters' emotional reactions to the action, which means I add rather than delete.]

 Nothing much different is going on.  I'm just a little squirrel running in her wheel.


Anonymous said...

YA cliches? Uh-oh. I'm afraid they've been cropping up in my work, too. Time to revise...

Unknown said...

I decided not to worry about cliches, except for maybe the hidden [farm boy] savior of the world.

Many of the books I've seen that agents have represented contain cliche elements. I'm telling myself: It's how you handle the cliche.

Unknown said...

Hocking is an interesting case. If she proves anything, I think, it's that there's more than one way to skin the publication cat. (Not advocating cat violence, btw! :-)

There are simply more ways to publication now, and none of them are any more or less valid (in my mind). Whatever path you end up on, it's up to you (the writer) to make the most of it by creating a good story with solid writing and finding a way of getting it to the readers. Whether that's through Random House or Amazon, I'm not sure it matters any more.

Personally, I think that's awesome.

Unknown said...

E.J., you just sort of reaffirmed my opinion: it's your writing that's the most important. I'd say that current writer's are lucky publishing has opened up.

We still have to master our craft and learn to promote, but that isn't so far from print authors must do.