WHY RHYTHM AND PACE ARE JUST AS IMPORTANT AS CHARACTER. THE RISE AND FALL OF A NOVEL.

Haute Tension

Haute Tension (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Tap, tipetty, tap, tippetty, tap, go my feet along to my favorite songs on the MP3 player. Easy as pie, my head hears the beat and my feet they automatically know what to do. Oh dear fates now I am singing along and I have a voice that the local foxes and tomcat would be proud of.

When it involves music, its instinctive, you hear the beat and something in you knows what to do, connects on that cellular level that we are all instinctively looking for when we write. Music moves us, and we don’t have to do a thing……

Writing is different, it takes a lot of shitty firsts just to get the language right and once we’ve completed that and it’s readable we then look to structure. How long is this bad boy? Do I really need 120,000 words to say this or could I use fifty grand instead?

Where do I show? Start as close to the end as possible you say okay, “The End”, doesn’t seem that effective, begging your pardon. Use a hook for every paragraph? Are you fecking kidding me?

Okay, now I am exhausted reading it, so that doesn’t work.

This is my nemesis now, the rise and fall. I am not writing a thriller. So having my characters fall from one calamity to the next every paragraph doesn’t quite suit, I want drama and tension to come through, but I don’t want to manufacture nasty stuff to happen just because everyone tells you that you must have your character in deep doo-doo all the time. I am not sure it’s right.

Tension,is what I am trying to create and then resolution and then further tension, my novel should rise and fall like the ocean, sweeping the reader along with it. Disaster, then climax then build again. I want it believable and musical. I want my readers emotions to travel with them on the journey and whilst some of this is achieved by likeability and hateability of the central characters. A lot of this will happen via the structure and flow.

My perfect reader will be on a journey with my characters towards realisation. Not all my characters make it. In fact many that start the journey will fall and their friends and family will be irrevocably altered by their loss. Some for good and some for ill.

It’s creating that wave-like structure that I am finding the most challenging (along with everything else.) I seem to either have too much happening or too little, it’s such a fine balance.

I’d welcome suggestions from others who’ve struggled with the topic of pacing?

Are there any great craft books, you know of that deal essentially with this topic rather than anything else?

Why it is not so hot to find out you’re a plotter 6,000 words from “The End”

Scrivener (software)

Scrivener (software) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Oh dear, TTWI has just gone and done it again. I was six thousand words give or take some dialogue away from writing those two little words  “the end”. When my inner editor thought it would be a great idea, no, the best idea ever to have a look at the structure. Maybe even do some cork-boarding on Scrivener.

 

This was not a good idea, in fact in the history of bright ideas I’ve had recently this is in the bottom two.

 

I’ve just cut my darling to shreds, so we’ve gone from 73,456 words to 32,245 words in my still unfinished novel. It gets worse. I have to do some research and some plotting as well. The story in its original form wasn’t working, happy coincidences abounded and I hate these in other work. Person A just happens to be in the right place at the right time to intersect with Person B y’know the sort of stuff. My geography was all over the place and even worse people’s names were changing? How did I manage that?

 

So the current state of play is that I have a still unfinished novel…..

 

The upside to this is that the novel is one I’m happy with and I guess being happy and content with the 32,000 words I’ve got is better than having a steaming pile of finished.

 

There’s some real work to do. As easy as it would be to throw the net-book in a drawer and cry myself to sleep, it’s not happening. I always knew this was gonna be hard. Probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done and that’s okay.

 

40,000 to go….

 

I’m doing it. I am not giving up!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Are you a writing Screw-Up? Five things I learned the Hard Way.

English: Opening logo to the Star Wars films

English: Opening logo to the Star Wars films (Photo credit: Wikipedia) A story that should have flopped.

We all secretly wish to write award-winning, book/article/blog selling perfect prose, the minute we lay our fingers on the keyboard and we all are slightly disappointed with our first drafts, when it turns out they are less than perfect. We may all understand that “crappiness” is part of the process but that doesn’t mean we have to like it.

There are five distinct screw-ups I’ve made that have taught me how to get better at this writering and I’d love to hear from you about what you’ve sucked at and how it’s helped you improve. So, here’s my Top Five.

1. OBSESSION WITH W.I.P. TO THE EXCLUSION OF ALL ELSE

I have been guilty of putting my writing ahead of absolutely everything and become obsessive about it to the point of a detriment to my day job (the one that pays the bills) and my personal relationships. This sucks and has not made me a better writer. Nothing, not even this writing means you should stop interacting with life at least some of the time. Don’t look at me like that, writing appeals to the loner in all of us, but without life experiences our writing is in 2D, it’s thin and lacks authenticity.

2. NOT PUTTING THE EFFORT IN

Okay, this is where I go the other way and hang out on social media and try to loosely prove to myself that “building a platform” is more important than the W.I.P. What is a Platform anyway? I’m not an oil-rig worker, I’m a writer! I’m a complete idiot when it comes to building authentic relationships via social media and that’s the new BUZZ message? Communicate, make friends and be real. But in  150 characters or less.

Or then there’s Procrastination which sounds like a disease and has the same ravaging effects. Whilst cutting yourself some slack is a good idea, there are times when you just have to sit down, suck it up and string sentences together.

3. PANTSER OR PLOTTER?

I am a Plotter who Pantses. I am now only about 10,000 words away from the end of the first novel and I am going to have to go back and plot and cut and re-draft. The second book will be fully plotted out before I start. It’s easier in the long-term and I’ve noticed a butt-kicking awesome lift in my productivity when I have a clear idea of where the work is going. A structure allows me to take the work in a different direction. A plan doesn’t restrict, it frees my creativity. Currently I have a lot more work to do because I didn’t do this the first time.

Whether you are a Plotter or a Pantser, just accept it and move on. Plotters don’t understand Pantsers and Pantsers don’t understand Plotters. We are two seperate sides of the Force. Of course I now realise that Pantsing is the DARK SIDE…..

4. REPETITIVE WORDS

There are lots of turns of phrase and words that as a new writer you are going to find a lot of in your work. I’ve listed mine in an earlier post. We all struggle to move our writing on. I thoroughly recommend creating a list of those words you overuse and then searching them out in your prose. Don’t remove every instance where you use them, as there will be occasions where they are completely correct and fit. Again we are back to the word balance…

5. THINKING ABOUT MY AUDIENCE

There will always be room for great stories and I need to accept the fact that all the storylines have already been taken. I don’t think there will ever not be a place for writing about all the great archetypes in our world. Yes, things do go through a cycle and you may find for a decade darker style fiction where everyone dies and there are no happy endings are in vogue, the next decade happy endings, hope and redemption win out in the light. My best example of this is Star Wars, a tale of heroes that became a major success in the same decade that gave us Scarface and Taxi Driver. Some stories will always “just” work.

Write what you want to write and stay true to yourself. Although some more fiction for grown ups and not teenage girls would be nice. Just saying.

COMMENTS, AS ALWAYS WELCOME. May the force be with you…..

Do E-READERS stifle sales?

Cover of "Kindle Wireless Reading Device,...

Cover via Amazon

Kudos, to a very intelligent commentator who left the following in another post of mine and got me thinking. First, please visit Frances blog as her title is very misleading and it’s an excellent blog.

http://wp.me/210UR

You came back! Welcome, now let’s see that comment…

“Kindles has this effect as well. Unlike a physical book one is less likely to strike up a conversation about a current read of another without a glimpse of the book cover.”

I got to thinking? I remember many conversations or Authors discovered by glancing at the dust-jackets of someone else’s book and seeing the reader so intent on the contents, that I absolutely had to check the author out.

I’ve also had many holiday conversations round the pool or on flights where the main topic of conversation is what I’m reading and what my social conversation partner is reading.

In fact, I have a little ritual before I go on holiday where I’ll stop in the bookshop in the departure lounge and buy five or six books that I’ve heard of or seen people reading.  With the rise of the e-reader (I love my kindle) will I now miss out on that? Will I be downloading them to my Kindle instead and will I now rely on the “Reviews” on Amazon to see whats hot and whats er, not?

“23% of Americans ages 16 and older read an e-book in the past year, up
from 16% the year before. The share who read a print book declined to
67%, from 72%”
Thanks to the Pew Internet Project – see the original doc.
 So print is in decline? I didn’t need the above to tell me that…. I see far fewer people reading in hard-copy but that’s great isn’t it? More opportunity for the self-published route…
Well, Yes and No. There’s too many posts to comment on the “Amazon” sales ranking stuff and the KDP Select debate runs on and on. I can’t help thinking that whilst the rise of e-readers is good, it has lost us the opportunity to market our work via the good old-fashioned see someone else reading route.
On a hard-copy book, Authors have their name and beautiful cover art as an instant advertisement. Whilst the old saying of never judge a book by a cover still rings true, at least when the cover was visible it caused interest and got your name out there. How many times have you asked someone what they’re reading on a tablet?
So, whilst the rise of the e-reader and no-one being able to see what your reading may have helped the erotica market by getting rid of the embarrassment, does it stifle an area of Sales for the rest of us?
Have you ever picked up a book abandoned by someone and read it cover to cover,  discovering a new author?  Once discovered, you can’t help buy just about everything they’ve ever written.  Personally, I’ve done this six or seven times finding one of my favorite authors Robin Hobb via this route.
If I picked up a tablet abandoned by someone I am more likely to hand it to lost and found than read anything on it and I still don’t understand how the lending stuff works, which is the somewhat confusing attempt by Amazon to fix this.
So what do you think?

ADDICTED TO BOOK REVIEWS ON AMAZON

Critic Takes Over Our Universe

Critic Takes Over Our Universe (Photo credit: Edwin456)

Please don’t judge, it started as an amusing diversion from the blank page and has turned into a bit of a secret obsession (far worse than looking at videos of cute cats on the internet). I have found that the reviewers themselves tend to fall in distinct categories….. Let me know in the comments section if you can think of any that I missed.

1. A Page One-er.

This person obviously hasn’t read the book and is having a bad day. Usually has the words “I only read X amount” in it. Followed by “and I always finish books”. If you see this person has reviewed another book there will be the same sentence in that review as well. – Juries out on whether this person is physically able to finish any book.

2. The Family Member.

Genus a. Over-excitement

These reviews usually read like the Author has just discovered the cure for the ills of Mankind. You will regret it if you don’t buy this book and you will be missing the literary event of the decade, no, the century! This is such an amazing book that it can cure all known diseases and bring about peace in the middle-east……

Genus b. Guilt

My Brother/Sister/Friend etc has spent nineteen years writing this book and I know how hard it has been for them. I’ve been with them since the start and you pesky readers should be honored to even view the dust jacket graphic of this book. This author will starve, starve I tell you, unless you download this RIGHT NOW!

Genus b. Threatening

This is an excellent book and I happen to know the author. In fact they are a member of my family. I feel very strongly about family. Did I mention that just like the gangsters in this thriller I am Sicilian? Well, you know how we feel about family.

Genus c. Denial

Now, I don’t personally know the author but this was a really exceptional read…. (Why on earth would you say in a review that you don’t know the author unless a friend or family member has told you that you are not allowed to know them for the purposes of the review. What reason would you have for personally knowing the author?)

3. The Literary Critic

This person is a wannabe author/editor and will take great pains to explain just why the dramatic arc did not obey any of the rules of (insert principle of well-known “write a book” author). We are unsure whether this person is irreparably filled with hatred and self-loathing but we think it might have something to do with the manuscript for their first novel which they have never finished. There is also the Critic that has finished the manuscript and received countless rejections down the traditional publishing routes; who holds staunchly to the believe that self-publishing is “Vanity Press” and should be banned.

4. The Angry Man or Woman

This reviewer believes that the book is the sole reason for the continuing collapse of Western Civilisation as we know it. In fact the book is so bad it has just started a sequence of events that will eventually lead to Armageddon. Accompanied by statements of “If I could have left a review of less than one star, I would have.”

5. The Genre

This person for some reason will have completely ignored all the sign posts for what the book is about including the blurb which mentions ten times in ten different ways that the book is a thriller set in the fourteenth century. They will say things like I don’t like thrillers and take issue with the fourteenth century, informing you that this is definitely the worst century of this period and had the author chosen to write a romance about the fifteenth century all would have been well.

 6. The Genuine Reviewer

They read the book, they liked it or even didn’t like it but they tell you in plain and simple terms “why” on both counts. If you spot one of these, send them my way, they can have copies of my debut for free and they would be worth it.

So, which reviewer did I miss? As always comments welcome.

FINALLY A WRITING POST!! – GENRE TART

Yesterday, as well as sharing the here and now with my husband, I did a bit of work on the book. My book. I haven’t really posted all that much recently about my work. I feel a sense of dread when I write about it. Especially when it seems, that every other person on the blog is a wannabe author out to get self published. Do we notice other writers more when we take those first tentative steps out of procrastination and into the writing light? I must do, either that or the rest of the world really IS writing their first novel too.

It doesn’t help I guess that the genre I am writing in gets a bit of a bad rap. You see it’s a fantasy novel and even worse it has no vampires, werewolves or paranormal beings. It’s also designed for adult readers, so that’s the YA audience out then. The protagonists, because there are multiple, are from the late twenties up. One of my favourites is in her fifties.

I am writing the book that I would want to read. I miss the old-fashioned fantasy with interesting characters. I miss feel good. I miss drama minus the dwarves and elves. There will be magic, however, based on some of the science around the Higgs Bosun particle… Whilst I love Dragons – there are not any in this book.

R.I.P. David Eddings
R.I.P. David Eddings (Photo credit: Xanetia)

If you think David Eddings or Patrick Rothfuss, you are in the right sort of area for my first novel. There will be a bit of George R. R. Martin too, his dialogue is exceptional and thats the standard I’m aiming for – I’ll try not to kill anyone off that you really like, but unfortunately characters have a life and death of their own.

This is not a series of books. It isn’t part one of ten. It will be a standalone, about a world that has been in my head for over twenty years. There will be six short stories that go with the book. One for the history of the “Disciples” who are a band of six. They represent: the mother, priest, joker, assassin, healer and thief.

I will after completing this; move on to a contemporary fiction novel, could be described I suppose, if you had to, as hen-lit but there are no relationship dramas. My character hasn’t got divorced, she’s not going to find love in a bookshop. It’s about how the mother and daughter relationship is difficult even when you are all grown up and have a family yourself and how some wounds from childhood stay with us even when we really should have discarded them years ago. The central theme is about finding peace and redemption.

For my third novel, I haven’t got that far ahead… The third book I write will probably be in a completely different genre altogether, I may even try my hand at romance. I think there is room for a Romance with real people. For a truly inspiring female lead that you root for and more importantly a truly heroic male who complements not controls the protagonist.

We have a small reading problem
We have a small reading problem (Photo credit: ktgeek)

I’m not a genre writer you see, I want to write about the things that I am interested in. I read everything from thrillers to fantasy, so why wouldn’t I write about them too? I think if anything really good has come out of the Self-Pub revolution it is that we get to experiment with our stories; no longer are we confined to only writing the same stories over and over because that’s all the publisher wants.

So are you a genre reader or writer and do you think that authors should stick to one thing?

Comments as always welcome.

LISTS: 1, 2, 3 – TO DO…

Listing, is omnipresent throughout my life. Some people really don’t get it and I simply can’t help it. My long-suffering husband has watched me write, list after list, for years.

Example: Holiday, Shopping, To-do, New Year Resolutions, Christmas Cards – the list really is; endless….

They are my forte, you will find me most happy (excluding writing) when I am crossing things off a big list with items left unchecked transferred to a new list with a higher priority place – God, even I hate me, after that last sentence.

It seems that I am not the only writer out there that likes making these lists.

Apparently, they can help you make important decisions as part of your structuring and even if you hate doing the outline thingy  your english teacher always told you to do. I tend to write important things that happen just so that I can keep track of continuity. I’ve met people who even list what they want to happen in a paragraph (yes, I know, wouldn’t work for me either).

But the real beauty of a list is that it does give you a structure of sorts, we all need to get our ideas in order and I’ve always found that the best stories have a start, middle and end (the leave everything on an almighty twist is over-done in my humble opinion).

So next time you get stuck halfway through a chapter, make a list of what needs to happen and assign it a sequence. You may just find that it helps you get your own thoughts in order and sparks something..

And remember if you are a lister – there are lots of us out there and even God loves a lister.

Commandments: Thou shalt not….