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Posts Tagged ‘novel’

One of my pet peeves is when a novel has a prologue.

At worse, as a reader, I view the addition of a page or two or more of world, setting, and/or character description before the start of a book’s narrative to be a sign of weak writing. At best, a prologue tells me this author doesn’t have confidence in either their writing or a reader’s ability to grasp the details of their novel’s world unless it is clearly explained.

Even at my jumbled desk in my chaotic office, I can hear the gasps of many of my fellow writers. Yes, yes, I know many fine authors have used a prologue to transition their readers from the mundane world into the universe of their book. And prologues have been en vogue during certain periods of time. But I, for one, never read those prologues! (And I don’t think I’m alone).

A book should begin on page 1!

Drop the reader into your world, then slip in the necessary information about your setting, rules of magic and/or science, the state of religion and politics, the geography, flora, fauna, etc., and the characters’ places in that world bit by bit as you move through the narrative.

And by the way, this does not mean dumping all that information in one place, but rather, judiciously dropping a crumb of info here and there. Readers will pick up those crumbs and begin to understand your world as they become involved with your characters.

Likewise, I rarely read an introduction or foreword. Again, get to the book itself.

Perhaps the only exception to my dislike of extra material prior to the start of a book, is a preface. Letting a reader know why you’ve written a non-fiction book, and your level of expertise on the subject might be important enough to delay the start of the book. Though to be honest, I prefer an author’s note in the back of the book containing that information.

I know there are other opinions on prologues and their kin, but for this reader, they are pages to flip past on my way to page 1.

For another point of view, check out Should You Use a Soft Opening by JA DuMairier on the Thanet  Writers’ site.

 

 

 

 

 

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cinder I’ve never tried to write a novel in November (National Novel Writing Month), but I cheer on my writer friends who make the attempt. And I salute those persistent friends who manage to complete a novel in a month’s time.

I’ve heard all the doubting Thomases and Thomasinas who say, “Why bother? Nothing good comes of writing a novel in thirty days.”

Actually, they’re wrong! Many NaNoWriMo novels prove quite successful, including one of my favorites, Cinder, by Marissa Meyer. Here’s the link to: Seven YA Must Reads That Started As NaNoWriMo Projects from the Barnes & Noble Teen Blog if you want to read more.

So keep on writing NaNoWriMo challenge-takers. I wish you success, and admire your dedication.

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‘”There,” Jon said. He swung his horse around and galloped back across the bridge. They watched him dismount where the direwolf lay dead in the snow, watching him kneel. A moment later he was riding back to them, smiling.

“He must have crawled away from the others,” Jon said.

“Or been driven away,” their father said, looking at the sixth pup. His fur was white, where the rest of the litter was grey. His eyes were as red as the blood of the ragged man who had died that morning. Bran thought it curious that this pup alone would have opened his eyes while the others were still blind.’ — George R.R. Martin, A Game of Thrones

I’m a fan of George R.R. Martin’s writing. In this seemingly small exchange from the beginning of the first book in the Song of Ice and Fire series, the reader learns a lot about the children of Ned Stark. Since the direwolves are each given to one of Ned’s children, the quote seems to say that Jon is a Stark, too, and that he’s the only one who will see when his “brothers” and “sisters” are still blind. Hmm!

But that’s not why I picked a George R.R. Martin quote. I was pointed to an interesting article about the opening of a novel by fellow Broad Universe member, Greta van der Rol. In Myth #3 – ‘You have to know your “story problem” and “protagonist’s problem” before you start,’ the old terms “planners” and “pantsers” are used. I’ve never been a fan of those terms, and found the terms used by George R.R. Martin in that paragraph, “architects and gardeners,” more appealing and more accurate.

I count myself among the “gardeners,” because I, like Martin, plant a seed with just an idea of what the seed might become.

So for all you architects (outliners and planners), gardeners (those who write by the seat of their pants), and readers who enjoy understanding the inner workings of writing – check out Lit Reactor’s What Every Successful Novel Opening Must Do: Myth vs. Reality by Susan Defreitas. Let me know what you think!

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When I’m working on a story, I never know what length the finished manuscript will be. If it’s a “small” concept, I assume it will be a short story (1,000-7,499 words). If there’s a bit of world-building involved, even with a “small” concept, I drift into the novelette length (7,500-17,499 words). If I know the concept is a little more complicated, plus there’s some world-building, I suspect the finished manuscript will land in the novella length (17,500-40,000 words). And then, there’s that moment when a writer suddenly realizes your novella wants to leap into novel territory! (40,000+ words)

But I’m talking speculative adult (new and/or old adults) fiction, not other genres. Which is why I used the lengths in the above categories as set forth by the Hugo Awards.

Plus, you’ll see I didn’t say anything about fiction under 1,000 words. Those short pieces fall in the rather nebulous category of flash fiction. Acceptable lengths for flash fiction are usually listed by various publications in their writer’s guidelines.

Now, here’s where all this gets tricky! Each genre has different length requirements. What would be too short for Epic Fantasy, is perfectly fine for a Western. The length of a Middle Grade novel really depends on which middle grade you’re writing for. And a picture book manuscript should almost always be under 1,000 words.

Here’s a good article from Writers Digest with lots more information. Happy reading and writing!

If you’re enjoying my posts, please consider buying one of my books on Amazon, or elsewhere. Thanks.

 

 

 

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I am a fan of Deborah Harkness’s All Soul’s Trilogy which begins with A Discovery of Witches. I really appreciate her focus on historical detail as well as her unique take on witches, vampires, and daemons.

As a reader and writer, I like learning about an author’s take on their book, characters, writing habits, etc. – which is why I’m delighted to share a link to a Goodreads question session with Deborah Harkness. The author spent lots of time answering extra questions from her readers, so there’s lots of information.

I hope you enjoy Deborah Harkness on Goodreads as much as I do.

And if you visit the site, please take the time to visit my page and become a friend and fan. Also, if you’ve read one of my books, please post a rating and/or review. Thanks. 🙂

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I’ve given up making New Year’s Resolutions! Why? Because I already know with my personality, crazy-busy family life, short-attention span, etc. – I’m setting myself up for failure.

So what do I do instead? I make a list of things I’d like to accomplish in “winter,” before spring greens the forest floor. (And since I’m also a procrastinator, “spring” for me doesn’t really begin until April Fool’s Day!)

I try to keep the list specific and realistic. I do not list “finish a novel” by March 31st, rather I list “write a minimum of 15 minutes per day.” Since I mentioned the crazy-busy life earlier, if I can’t write 15 minutes one day, I try to write 30 minutes the next. I do not list “blog every day,” rather I list “blog at least once a week.” If I blog 2 or 3 or even 4 times per week, I’m surpassing my goal. Hooray!

The way to continue to pursue goals (notice I don’t use the word “resolutions” – it sounds so weighty), is to have small successes along your path. Positive reinforcement helps all of us keep our eyes focused forward, and encourages us to put one foot in front of another. Certainly, the best way to reach a destination.

By the way, I’ll reset my goals on March 31st for “spring” with a new deadline of June 30th. On June 30th, I’ll reset my goals for “summer” with a deadline of September 30th. On September 30th, I’ll reset my goals with a “fall” deadline of December 31st. Then, as the New Year arrives, I’ll restart the process.

By keeping my goal time-frames to 3 months, I can evaluate a manageable chunk of time and adjust for the next 3-month interval. Perhaps I haven’t been ambitious enough, or maybe, I’ve set goals which aren’t realistic in a 90-day period of time. In either case, I set new goals which seem obtainable without being too easy on myself.

Another point of view on New Year Resolutions can be found on the Maryland/ Delaware/ West Virginia Society of Children’s Book Illustrators’ As the Eraser Burns.

How about you, do you make resolutions? Do you keep them?

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Charles Dickens is author of several books of which I’ve always been a fan.  “The Adventures of Oliver Twist,” “Great Expectations,” “Tale of Two Cities,” and “The Personal History of David Copperfield” are among my favorites. That said, it is a scrap of a book, “A Christmas Carol,” from which I pull today’s quotes.

Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” is more than a ghost tale (though there are ghosts), more than a family drama (though there is family drama), and more than a period piece (though the tale does give a glimpse into historical London). For me, it’s the ultimate story of redemption – of a seemingly hopeless cause who not only sees the light, but after his Christmas Eve adventure, Scrooge “knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge.”

I love Dickens’ description of that Christmas Eve long ago – one which actually fits the weather here at Woods Edge this Christmas Eve: “The City clocks had only just gone three, but it was quite dark already; it had not been light all day; and candles were flaring in the windows of the neighbouring offices, like ruddy smears upon the palpable brown air. The fog came pouring in at every chink and keyhole, and was so dense without, that although the court was of the narrowest, the houses opposite were mere phantoms.”

But I suppose the quote I like best for today, one which works as both a promise for me to keep the kindness of Christmas year-round and a wish for you to do the same: “I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach…A Merry Christmas to everybody! A Happy New Year to all the world.”

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