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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Monday, April 30, 2012

Writer's Block: When Does It Plague You?


Had a blog mostly written on Word, with some really nice, informative links. But ... it didn't transfer here. So, I'm starting from scratch since I did find a place where I can post a new blog instead of work with my blog drafts. Yeah, I can't find find such simple things as my Blogger dashboard. Mine went AWOL, and I can't find it. Yeah, I'm still fighting with Google+ ... which isn't kind to people with dyslexia. The change totally confuses me.

What have I been doing? I was editing Dark Solstice, sort of Book six in the Half-Elven saga/ An agent wanted to look at sample chapters, but I got a "wasn't right for me" response ... so I'm going back to seeking a small publisher. Now, I'm letting my brain simmer and will see what pops out. Think that means I'm courting writer's block.

Sandra Novak did a nice blog on just that at Girlfriends Book Club. Writer's Block.
I'm linking it here so I can go back to this ... provided I can ever find the blog again at Google+. [Do you get the idea I don't like the forced merger between Blogger and Google+?] 

In the past, I haven't had much problem with writer's block, but then, I came to writing from a newspaper where there were deadlines. You wrote your 1000 words and the editor took out the garbage. [More or less, like a super-charged critique group.] Now, I think I'm going to be dithering on what to do next. Got a lot of manuscripts in the computer -- or play with a partial or  -- go for something totally new? 

I'm going to take a vacation as my first step in facing my writer's block. I've got marketing stuff to do. Hopefully, I'll fixate on what new thing I should work on. -- I won't talk about the new thing I'll be revising since I've got to make a decision there too. Yeah, I'm going to try to break my day into three segments: social networking, revising, and creating. 

Maybe I should have titled this piece: Decisions, Decisions? Whatever, I'm going to try to get back into the blogging groove ... even if the results are different than they were.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

One Character, Two Characters, Three Characters, More?

How many characters should appear in your first chapter? It's a question I'm  sweating over since I have an agent interested in looking at samples of Dark Solstice. Yeah, I gotta write a whole new chapter from scratch. The second chapter, the much-revised original first chapter, was rejected, partly, because it had too many people in it. Guess I'll have to revise it too and take out some of the named characters.

The "Ugh" reaction is so big, I doubt I'll do it. The above publisher-attitude makes me wonder how much the mental abilities of the "American public" have been "dumbed down".

Old Haunts by E. J. Copperman is one of the books on my stack of "read, but not reviewed". Haunts is a well-done ghost-story mystery. The premise is neat: the ex-husband of one of the ghosts haunting Alison Kerby's guest house is found buried on a beach, murdered some years ago. 

Amateur sleuth Kerby reluctantly agrees to investigate when someone wants to hire her to investigate, and the dead ex-wife of the victim, who lives in her guest house, convinces her to take the job. The major complications arrive in good time to compel the reader to keep reading: the arrival of Kerby's own ex who pretends to want to reconcile and the arrest of the ghost's mother for the murder when Kerby investigates.  The resolution flows well from the incidents, both major and minor, in the story line.

So, how are the characters introduced? Copperman involves three characters in the first chapter -- the owner and the two ghosts who were killed at the guest house -- plus a fair amount of back story. I didn't consider the information an info-dump, but then, I'm tolerant of background. [If you've read any of my stories, you know just how tolerant.]

Copperman is an American, so she follows the American short-chapter pattern. She includes a few characters and sets up a complication at the end of the chapter. In this case, the complication was the arrival of the MC's ex-husband, "The Swine". The "Guaranteed Smile" here would raise the sympathy quotient of many female readers. [Yeah, I know females can be swine too. Got one in the extended family.]

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Have you heard about Pinterest yet? Have you explored it? I'm trying to limit my social networking ... but I find the concept intriguing. Jeff Bullas at jeffbullas.com discusses Pinterest plus gives some tips on using the site in your marketing. If I don't have to visit the site every day, I might put up the covers of my two free Half-Elven stories.

Speaking of social media, do you use a Facebook author's page? I have the Far Isle Half-Elven up there as well as my personal page ... or whatever they call it. Chanced to Google "Half-Elven" while checking my daughters new promo pics. Was surprised to see I've three links to pages on my website on the first page, including an earlier version of The Foiling Gorsfeld from Renna's point of view

If you Goggle "Far Isle Half-Elven" I've got the monopoly on the first page of listings. Now, I have to spend time exploring the links. Would you believe Chinese search engines have found my website?  -- And, no. The listings haven't increased the downloads of my free stories on Smashwords or the sales of Taking Vengeance

Though I'm beginning to wonder about Smashwords' statistics. I know four people who say they boought the novellette on Smashwords, and their statistics say I've only sold one. Good thing I don't care that much.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Good Writing Advice

Hi, says she as she peeks into the computer screen.

Know I haven't been blogging.  Kept meaning to, but I was frantically trying to get a manuscript ready to pitch at the Northern Colorado's Writers conference, held last weekend. 

For all my efforts, "Troubles" is still languishing in never-novel-land at 55,000 words. I need to add the villain-viewpoint in to increase the suspense. Plus, there are other plot points to revise into the manuscript. What? Most important, I need to keep Linden sitting on the fence until basically the end.

That realization is sort of  Novel 101, but it just hit me up the side of the head. There are so many things to fix in "Troubles" that it makes me tired to just think about them.

Fortunately, I was saved from an empty pitch by a rejection for "Dark Solstice" the day before the conference. 

Background: I have slloooooowwly been submitting the Dark Solstice manuscript to a few small e-publishers. Have gotten a couple of personalized rejections among the form ones. The main criticism? Mostly they wanted romance, even when they say they took plain fantasy. "Dark Solstice" deals, partly with what happens after the "happily ever after" crashes. A "No. No." for romance.

This time around I got a long letter about the shortcomings of the manuscript, and a colossal "DUH" moment. So, when I pitched "Dark Solstice" as a political novel of economic change and genetic drift, I was surprised to get interest instead of a startled deer expression. The agent wants three chapters and synopsis. I'm now madly writing a new first chapter with fewer introduced characters.

Most important, it opens with Mariah and Linden fighting ... rather than have the estrangement be part of the background. Since the estrangement is one of the key elements in this section of the series, you would of thunk I would have figured that out before in my many revisions. 

Nothing like feeling more than a little silly.

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Always like to see anthropology applied. In this case, Desmond Morris' work on human intimacy. Jenny Hansen, over at Writers in the Storm, blogs about  Using the Twelve Steps to Intimacy in your writing. -- I think this can be used on several levels, not just for the development of sexual relationships. Of course, I'm referring to the first couple of steps.

The people over at Chiseled in Rock, the blog of the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, came up with a great interview with Karin Chaplin, the Tween/YA editor at Harper Collins. A lot of what she says puts the "Market" in perspective, but some of her comments apply to being an effective writer, period.