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?

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…..

The balance between real-life and writing.

Blah! Party logo

Blah! Party logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have been less than perfect in my day job this week and simultaneously stifled and unable to write in any downtime. Not that there’s been a lot of that….. I’ve clocked up sixty hours this week. – I am not going to throw a pity party about it, that was yesterdays post!

So how do you manage the demands on your time when you are struggling to finish your novel and trying to hold down an intense job that pays the mortgage?

It’s tough and it’s not a subject that gets covered in a positive way by a lot of the advice blogs you read. I think the usual general gist of it is to –  suck it up…. It’s just the journey of being a writer – Blah, Blah.

I’ve seen strategies and spreadsheets. Advice that tells you to get up half an hour earlier. To try harder because you are obviously not utilising your time properly.

Helpful eh?

I think you need to show balance and when you find yourself short on time, focus on the things that count. Sometimes there is stuff more important than writing or building a platform or engaging in social media or anything like that.

How long have you had this dream for? If you are anything like me, it is decades now. Is it going anywhere? – Nope, it’s here to stay. So don’t sweat it and don’t give the inner demons a chance to wheedle their way in. Because once they start they won’t stop and if you let them get a horn in the door of your mind they’re likely to convince you to quit…. AGAIN.

So cut YOURSELF some slack, you are not procrastinating, hey it would be lovely to have the time to procrastinate.

There are probably people in your life and they deserve your love and undivided attention, too. That Novel is not gonna let you warm your feet on them on a cold winters night and they deserve better. They know it’s important to you, they put up with being a writers widow/er so give them some valuable time.

You will come back to the writing, tomorrow or the next day because you gave yourself some room to let it settle. You placed things in the right order of importance. You cut yourself some slack.

It’s only when we force it that the inner demons get into their stride or we end up thinking about what has to give… Something always has too eventually. So stop beating yourself up about it and go hug a husband or spouse or family member or even a little person.

Comments, as always, welcome.

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?

My Urban Myth. The Naked Truth.

Meh.

Meh. (Photo credit: Patrick Haney)

You’ve heard it all before. My brothers cousins friend, knows a man who knows a man, who swears – Insert particularly gruesome hilarious story here…. Are there ever occasions that in these myths or allegorical tales or lessons,  there is some small shred of truth, a nugget of reality?

Yes there are. – Here’s my urban not so myth!

I used to work for an international airline with a very famous owner and a red uniform. I did this for the early part of my twenties and like any type of job, there were always the stories. Ghost stories that kept you awake on long night flights, crash tales that were complete baloney, usually involving some element of fate and the pranks and naughty stories that get more and more exaggerated.

Recently I was on the tube in London and two young women with their suitcases are discussing an airline urban myth, the one about the woman who slept-walked naked in a New York Hotel on Lexington Avenue on the 12th floor and is caught on security camera’s.

“Oh, I’ve heard that story before” – Air Hostess one said

“I am sure half these stories are made up” – Air Hostess Two said.

They were completely oblivious to the middle-aged woman sat next to them with her kindle upside down and a bright red face and whilst the security camera bit and the tape being handed to the Captain is false, the sleepwalker and the naked bit are most definitely true.

I remember getting off the flight and feeling dog tired after landing in Newark. The coach dropped us off and in NYC, we only got a single night layover. I got into my room, had a shower, wrapped myself in a towel and sat on the bed to watch some cable. The next thing I knew I was on the twelfth floor wearing nothing but a confused expression and minus the towel. I ended up finding a security guard who lent me his jacket so I could go down to reception and  get a new key card. I told a friend of mine what had happened on the flight back to Heathrow the next day and the story has gone into legend, with multiple versions and some quite intriguing embellishments.

So next time you hear, one of those, y’know stories…. Don’t automatically write it off…..

Why have I never heard of half of the people who give writing advice?

Advice

Advice (Photo credit: mpclemens)

I always used to imagine that writing (if you do it properly) is a free and easy creative rapture, where I sit and the words effortlessly flow from every pore like some sort of wordsmith disease. I have discovered Dear Reader that anything worth doing is difficult. Now, I’m not talking brain surgery here, I am talking about effort….

I’ve also discovered a direct correlation between how difficult it is and how likely I am to complete it. Is half of this about showing up and writing stuff down? Stuff that isn’t just about how hard it is to write stuff. I’ve tried that tactic recently and I have managed to complete 3/4 of my novel.  It’s still not finished and nowhere near a publishable or ship-able format but it is 3/4 done and I’m patting myself on the back for that.

It also resulted in a six month gap in my blog writing. I love blogging due to instant gratification, I press the little publish button and voilà someone is potentially going to skim read the first few lines.  However, I have noticed how much writing blogs  and a lot of the advice being extolled,  is from people who have no more right to give advice than I do…

Have they written a bestseller, maybe but not one that I’ve ever read….

So is that what happens when your novels don’t make it? Do you just write about writing instead…..

Your thoughts are welcome friends…

P.S If you fancy a very commercial laugh. Try #danceponydance

P.S.S Do not drink any kind of liquid whilst doing this.

P.S.S.S The Findus one is genius! For all my American friends – Google recent press in the UK regarding Findus after watching. It will make perfect sense.

The GAP – Are you playing at this?

Mind The Gap!

Mind The Gap! (Photo credit: BuhSnarf)

It’s been a while… Sigh.

In fact it’s been about six months or is it more? I forget, even though this blog calls to me at the strangest moments to pick up my little netbook and jot a few thoughts down. I’d reached the saturation point I think, before.

Before, I decided that everyone has done it better and more succinctly elsewhere. Other writers with words more clever and funnier than mine. What do I have to offer except repackaged duller versions of other writers words.

And yet, it still calls to me. This little spot, my unadulterated stream of consciousness. I still think in the middle of the night of the small things I could say in my way. I’d hoped for further forward and feeling brighter and yet there it is in the stats, a big fat huge six month gap and I can’t take it back.

But pausing doesn’t have to mean failing and my words are here on the page.. I am going on. It’s just a little gap….

I hope you will welcome me back and now that I think about it – I never really left. I was just waiting for a space to slide myself into.

A gap.

Hello! I’ve missed you all so much.