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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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.
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