Rabbit holes — August 25, 2009

Rabbit holes

Well, really, plot holes.

I was watching a rerun of “Castle” last Monday (boy do I ever covet that man’s office) and I got to thinking: They never resolved one issue in the case they dealt with.

My knee-jerk reaction to this: “It must have gotten left on the editing room floor.” Happens a lot in movies and television.

But sometimes it happens in best-sellers. *coughtwilightcough*

So that’s when you need a really good reviewer/crit buddy.

The plot hole in Castle goes like this: The case they were working on involved a woman on the lam for years following a bombing on an oil tanker that she was involved in. Said woman turns up dead in the opening scene of the episode. Eventually we come to learn that one of the accomplices, the only one ever found because the third was killed in the blast, was turned in to the FBI by a female caller. The cops that Castle shadows assume it to be the woman whose murder they’re investigating.

Then they discover that the woman presumed dead in the original explosion wasn’t so dead after all.

And then the plot hole hits. They never resolve whether it was the woman who was murdered in the beginning of the episode or the woman who was presumed dead but turned out to be the killer was the one who turned in the other accomplice.

So, how does this relate to writing a novel or to crit buddies? Well, we need them so little threads like this don’t end up on the editing room floor. Readers aren’t stupid and they will pick up on the little plot holes and things we leave dangling. If we’re writing a series, they’ll forgive us the occasional dangle because they’ll assume it will get wrapped up before the series ends.

But if we’re writing standalone works and there won’t be any crossover beyond characters from book to book then we have to make sure we plug the rabbit holes and don’t cause our readers to fall through and disbelieve anything we’ve written because of one little thing.

Novellas- Real or Myth? — August 4, 2009

Novellas- Real or Myth?

The current issue of Poets and Writers has an article on novellas. I found it to be an interesting read. I’ve labeled my story that I wrote recently as a novella simply because it is not quite novel length at a whopping 60, 822 words; however, at that word count it is clearly not a short story.

But this article got me wondering if it really is a novella or if I should be working on this story to turn it into a full-fledged novel. I don’t think it would sell in the real world so I’d have to find a Christian niche market. My characters never have sex, never really do anything but go to fancy dinners or have dinner with friends at home. It’s very non-edgy and clean, but I enjoyed writing it immensely.

The author of the article, Josh Weil, talks about what makes a novella a novella, but struggles with the traditional length-based definition of “novella.” My favorite quote from his article is from George Featherling that says to compare novellas to shortened versions of novels is the same as “insisting that a pony is a baby horse.” Weil adds, “Describing it [novella] as a short story, just longer, is like insisting that a Clydesdale is a thoroughbred with bloat.” Ha! Have to love the humor of these two, eh? (OK, I may be a bit skewed there having been raised around horses.)

I’d quote more of the article, but it’s just more argument for recognizing the novella as its own independent form. One that is overlooked by publishers and by readers in favor of the clearly-defined short stories and novels.

Though this gloomy-gus post from Pimp My Novel will discourage anyone from writing anything but a novel-length work of any genre…sigh.

So, do novellas really exist if we can’t define them? (I’d answer yes [edited from a no answer], but I may be biased.)

Platform: Reaching the audience, be it YA or otherwise — July 14, 2009

Platform: Reaching the audience, be it YA or otherwise

I’ve said before that my principle genre is Young Adult or mid-grade fantasy. This is all tentative of course given that my book isn’t complete, most of what I’ve already written will have to be scrapped, and I’ve yet to hammer out the finer details of the plot. Now it’s on to the platforming choices that will lie ahead in my future. (Or should that be lay?)

I have my blog. It’s important to me. I’ve gloried in the physical signs of audience growth and outreach over the last couple of months since I started blogging regularly. I’m not letting it get to my head that you, my readers, have found something I have to say worthy of your time and attention. I am humbly grateful for this and know that my blog would not be continuing today without the continued support of my readers. I thank you for this.

I know eventually, however, I will have to expand my platform. While having a platform in place prior to that first publication is not as critical to getting published in fiction as it is in non-fiction, we have to reach our readers somehow. I will down the road create a website. (Or have one professionally made for me since I’m really not computer-savvy and I should do better than the free website hosts with their standard, bland templates.) But are blogs and websites the best ways to reach the YA audience? Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, and others that I’ve never heard of all pull on the teen’s time. Are these the better places to reach my intended audience? Or should I keep my platform broad in order to reach all of my potential audience since I do intend to write and publish poetry, perhaps some short stories, maybe even branch off into Christian romance. I’m not sure at this point that the smartest move would be to create multiple blogs/websites/Facebook pages, etc. for each of these different aspects.

For one thing it would take precious time away from the writing itself. I know that well-known authors spend oodles and oodles of time on platforming and networking in addition to their writing and it’s important to do so, but when does it become too much? When does your platform become so specific that you have to start from scratch to build a separate one for a different facet of your writing life? Down the road, if the dream came true and I was a successful poet and novelist and I wanted to write a memoir am I going to have to create a whole new and discrete platform for that?

When is it going overboard?

Related in the blogosphere: See Rachelle Gardner’s post on social networking

Making names sound consistent and believable — July 9, 2009

Making names sound consistent and believable

Even in fantasy, names of people and places should sound consistent and believable. While this may come easy to someone like J.R.R. Tolkien who was a linguist and knew dozens of languages, to use mere mortals it’s a far more daunting task.

In my contemporary fiction that I’ve written, the names have generally come easy. First names that is. If I ever needed a last name, I’d simply flip open to a random page of The Dictionary of Surnames, and scan for a name that appealed.

Fantasy becomes a much uglier beast. I have a spreadsheet on my computer to keep track of the significant name changes to either person or place. In one fell swoop, one day, I re-named several of the important side characters and every major location name for the country it all takes place in. Including the country’s name!

My general strategy for coming up with names is to either get on baby naming websites and go through the database willy-nilly or to open baby name books to random pages and look for a name to jump out. On occasion I do go to fantasy name generator sites and look for names that way.

So what are your strategies?

You tell me… — July 3, 2009

You tell me…

I’m always contemplating ways to improve this blog. So I thought I’d open it up to you, my readers (few as you may be, but know I appreciate you all) and ask if there’s something you’d like to see coming from this blog. A new regular feature? Something you want done away with? A discussion of a certain topic? Let me know in the comments section below!

What inspires you? — July 2, 2009

What inspires you?

I have a handful of works-in-progress at the moment. I’d like to take a moment to share my inspirations for them, but more importantly I would love to hear how you got inspired to write your current WIP, your debut published work, or anything else that really gets your creative juices going.

Novel series #1 I have been working on since I was in high school. (Which really only seems eons ago but in actuality I only graduated high school 6 years ago. Now you know why culinary school fell through for me this fall. Too much school!) Its inspiration is really, to me, the most interesting and the most difficult to work around. It started out as an attempt to write a screenplay. The earliest notebook of random drivel that I have for this series is all focused on screenplay elements. As I was going about trying to name characters, none of whom are actually the protagonist of the series. (Problem! I know! I’m working on it!) But then I came across the name that fell to my protagonist and I was instantly enamored of the plot line that it sparked. Though it is perhaps fairly cliche and will never get off the ground. But the main character’s name is the driving force of the story. Or rather, its meaning is the driving force. I’ve never forgotten once what her name means while the rest of the names, if I chose them for any sort of cool meaning they may have, have fled my memory in that regard.

Novel series #2 started out pretty controversial. It’s still in the early stages of world-building and plot-hammering-out, but it’ll get there eventually. I changed what the initial spark was because I didn’t want to seem like I was condoning slavery. So I’ve come up with a magical means of my character accomplishing what she wanted to do. Now I just have to figure out all the rest of the details, like a plot and a storyline, and side characters. But I think I do have written down somewhere a scene in which one of my protagonist’s two love interests nearly blows the entire thing out of the water. (Not their relationship, but the thing she’s doing that originally involved slavery that I’ve now changed completely. And I’ll be asking my readers for complete suspension of disbelief while they read this work.)

My most completed poetry manuscript is a chapbook of ekphrastic poetry that I wrote as the final project for a poetry workshop I took this last spring as I finished up my masters’ degree in English. It was the only work we really had to do for the class, outside of working in small groups to critique each others’ poetry, and workshopping 3 times during the semester. I spent the first two months of the semester just pounding out the poems. Each one was either sparked by a favorite painting, posters of which hung on my walls, or by thumbing my way through the many art books I’ve collected since beginning my journey as a humanities major in my undergraduate years and looking for the paintings that would scream their stories at me from the pages of said books. Never having considered myself a poet before this semester, I hammered out 5 really passable poems in one evening! It was amazing!

I have 2 other poetry chapbooks in the works, neither of which is very far along. The first is a chapbook that will feature poems severely grounded in place. I’ve lived a fair few places in my day. The month in Boston while my dad had his transplant and the two-month study abroad program I did as an undergraudate were the shortest but the most impactful on my life. The other one is an experiment in Asian forms of poetry, specifically haiku and tanka. It’s much further along than the one about where I’ve lived in my life.

My last WIP is a book-length collection of poetry about family, love, and loss. It’s heavily centered on associations with pop culture, namely Star Trek and Star Wars, and probably the second-most-developed of my poetry collections. (Yes, I’m a total nerd who loves Star Trek and Star Wars. I pretty much grew up watching Star Trek with my family around our living room table and watching the original, and best, Star Wars trilogy with my family.)

I have a novella, I suppose it would be called, that I’m considering working on developing into book-length. The genesis of this project was one of the many daydreams I’ve had in my brain and so the protagonist bears a striking personality resemblance to its author. Unintentional, of course. It is contemporary romance but will need a lot of re-working as I’ve learned a lot of information that will need to inform the rewrite of said story. The protagonist is an employee at an ad agency who publishes under a pseudonym. The story follows her through publishing a couple of books, falling in love with some real characters, and eventually reaching that HEA ending we all look for in romance.

Now that I’m done blathering on about what I’m working on, I want to know what inspires you to write, what informs your projects, and anything else that may come to your mind along these lines. Chat away!