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, April 14, 2011

How to Write a Looooong Book...

Fiction Lessons:
Do long novels intimidate you?  I alluded to measuring the length of , Elizabeth George's This Body of Death on the store book shelves for several weeks.  I enjoy Elizabeth George's straight mystery characterizations and plotting almost as much as Laurie R. King, James Doss, and Deborah Crombie, but her 1,000 page book intimidated me.  [OK.  950 pages.  It's still looooong.]

So, how do you write a loooooong novel that's publishable?  Believe me, it's not by adding a lot of description or walking your characters step-by-step to the action.  It's by complicating your plot with potential bad guys and giving your secondary characters a life of their own.  

So, how does George write a looooong novel without padding?  With these elements:
  1. a sub-plot where one villain's previous crime [a child murder than mirrors a real-life British murder] which impinges on the current London murder of a "missing person" in another part of Britain;
  2. the complications of Thomas Lynley, the major detective, returning to his old crime unit while still coping with his wife's murder and a new supervisor, who's auditioning for his old temporary position;
  3. a sub-plot involving his old partner, who the new supervisor is pushing to look more professional, and a change in the relationship with her ethnic neighbors.  [Dress is a point of humor for long-time readers of the series.]
  4. several possible villains, including three from the previous child murder, who are investigated by various members of Lynley's old unit; and  
  5. several people who add facts and observations about the murder, including several red herrings and a busybody who gums up the works.
The total gives the reader one long book without violating the various craft rules you keep reading in books and blogs. 

Other Stuff:
Rather than pull a bunch of stuff from the web together since I haven't been spending much time there, I thought I'd mention some useful articles in the May, 2011 issue of the The Writer.  Their article on 12 tips for an air tight contract hooked my attention, what with me being negotiating all sorts of stuff for the trailer.

The issue focuses on freelancing, but there are other topics of interest to fiction writers too.  Ideas on keeping your stories from bogging down, centering you story's emotional core, and creating/controlling conflict. 

I should mention that Writer's Digest did another best of the web section for 2011. 

Yeah.  I've finished my edits of "Dark Solstice", but haven't combined the chapters yet.  I'll learn the bad news tonight.  Then, I'll slap my hands if I try to make any more changes.

I did take a detour and turned a flash fiction piece, "Devil in the Details" into a short short story, thanks to E. J. Wesley's mention of some e-pub that likes stories about bugs.  The big light bulb in the sky flashed.  I added beetles as the imminent danger.  Now, I have to smooth the edges.

Almost got the critiques done for our next session.   Oh, there's a short piece on good critiquing in The Writer too.

Our lawn is filled with blooming violets, both purple and white.  Must say I like them better than the grape hyacinths.  Violets are tidier.  --  And, it snowed an inch, a rarity this winter.


Anonymous said...

I often lose myself on rabbit trails in longer works, but I suppose I could always resort to outlining. Lately, I've given myself a fairly firm 100K limit on novels -- since I seem to remember reading somewhere that agents are less likely to represent anything much larger by an unknown writer such as myself.

Ellie Garratt said...

Fascinating post, full of helpful advise. Thank you!

Ellie Garratt

Margo Berendsen said...

950 words that is not epic fantasy? I'm very impressed. Intrigued by how useful little critters red herrings can be!