Showing posts from June, 2009

Novels vs Poems, Integrity of Language

I've found a great way to come up with ideas for new blog posts is to just steal them from The Literary Lab and I've done that again. This post of theirs on revising has been percolating through my mind for some time now: I consulted a poet friend that I have mentioned once or twice here before. His name is Craig Cotter, and over dinner I asked him why he made certain word choices or phrase constructions in several of his poems.... What I realized was that Craig had initially limited himself to what edits he was allowed to make. The source of his inspiration, the motivation that got him to write this poem in the first place, he felt, was preserved in that first draft, not in the idea of that first draft. That meant that he couldn't revise everything. He couldn't start from scratch with the same idea, because that would be a different poem--one that he could write at a different time. My gut reaction reading this was to think, "But prose is different from poetry.

Uneven Writing Quality

Even though I am not going to look at it again until I have heard back from my beta readers, I already know one problem with my wip is uneven prose. The first chapters and the last chapter are colored, curled and styled to a chic finish, whereas middle chapters look like a hair-cut by an ax. Even beta readers tend to gloss more over the middle than the beginning, as they suffer from crit fatigue. Does anyone else have this problem? Any solutions or tips?

Between Old and New

I haven't started writing yet on my Secret Novel (research continues) and I've forbidden myself from even looking at Dindi until I finish writing my critiques for my Beta partners and receive their crits on Dindi in turn. This leaves me with nothing to write or revise and I'm starting to get antsy. I've even -- deities help me -- taken to doing house work ! (Desperate times indeed.)

Why Character Driven Fiction Can Be Subtle

I'm still at the research stage of my Secret Novel. I'm entering new territory with this novel. Dare I say it is literary? Perhaps -- I've concluded after spying on the discussion over at The Literary Lab -- not. Although the period of my piece is fairly contemporary, I see it as historical fiction. Some historical fiction is undoubtedly literary, but some must be mainstream. A definition to distinguish the two has been put forth: "what distinguishes literary fiction is what is left unsaid. Narrators may be self-absorbed or unreliable, things are pointed to without being explained." It is what happens "between the lines." Thinking about a historical novel like The Source by James Michener, I wondered if what happens is between the lines. I decided, not really. The themes are deep and mind-blowing, almost incomprehensible, despite being stated as explicitly as possible. I think most literary stories are character-focused and the game is all about inferri

Choosing a Character who Sees Deeply

I really want to reveal the nature of my secret novel, before I make it so mysterious that it becomes a let down when I finally do reveal it. That said, I'm not ready to talk details yet. As Scott Bailey mentioned in the comments on his blog post about outlining, it's not so much because I'm trying to keep it secret as that I don't feel comfortable jinxing it before I have a draft. So, for now, it's still the secret novel. That said, I'll still discuss a problem in general terms, if I may. That's choosing a character who can see deeply. I have several characters already chosen for me, as it were, by the nature of the novel. I know who my four main pov characters must be, at least in broad strokes. I still have to make sure, however, that the personality of these characters is not only sympathetic enough to justify being a protagonist, but profound enough to have insights into their own situations. This is tricky. I don't want the characters to be a mer

Running Out Of Future

Uh oh, is science fiction running out of future? 1984? 1999? 2001? 2010... Are all the "cool dates" taken?!

RWA vs Epublishers

An interesting confrontation between the RWA and the world of epublishing, defended here by agent and author Deidre Knight. RWA’s current stance on e-books is that a publisher must offer at least a $1,000 advance in order to qualify for legitimacy. Never mind that many digital authors far exceed that amount in royalties, or sell more than 5,000 copies of print editions of their e-published titles. The problem with RWA’s simplistic criteria is that it ignores one crucial fact. Our industry is changing radically, with traditional publishers seeking innovative models for overhauling their distribution and content. ... Meanwhile, let’s talk about RWA’s position that e-published authors who make more than $1,000 in royalties are a rare exception. As an agent, I have seen a fair number of statements for clients writing for Ellora’s Cave and Samhain. The majority of these writers have passed that $1,000 benchmark within the first few months. I’m sure some of the smaller e-publishers sell

Writing and Empathy

I think the basic substance of literature is the exercise of empathy. Some stories stretch our brains more deeply, but all offer the possibility of imagining other lives, other minds, and other points of view. While I believe we humans create art for art's sake (unlike ants) that doesn't mean art doesn't also enhance our existence in other ways. We put ourselves into someone else's shoes for the duration of the story. Research has shown "that merely imagining positive contact with members of an out-group can help improve attitudes towards that group." In an initial experiment, Rhiannon Turner and Richard Crisp had half of 25 students aged between 18 and 23 spend two minutes imagining a positive encounter with an elderly person, whilst the remaining students imagined an outdoor scene. These were the specific instructions for the imagined contact group: "imagine yourself meeting an elderly stranger for the first time. Imagine that during the encounter,

Blending Facts Into Historical Fiction

Back at work on my Secret Novel, I'm working in a new genre -- literary (in my case, perhaps merely psuedo-literary) and historical. By historical, however, I actually mean "1978-1998" so I'm also facing a new quadary. When I am writing a story loosely based on real people, what restrictions apply? My account is fiction and names and particulars are different, but is there a point at which historical research veers off into obnoxious intrustion into privacy, or even purgery? Is it gauche to base a fictional account on someone's real biography? How overgrown with fictional elements should a portait be before it is wholly itself? And yet, if it is too changed, does it not betray the realism needed to tell the story? [ Art by Levi Van Veluw .]

Why Don't Ants Have Art?

Lady Glamis has a series on her blog on the nature of art. Questions like this tend to send my mind down different lanes. Look at the beautiful sand castle in the picture. I would call it art if humans had crafted it. In fact, however, it's a termite fortress, and I wouldn't call it art. Not because it was created by non-humans, but because it wasn't created for any of the reasons art is created. If you are like me (I hope, for your sake, you aren't), you spend an inordinate amount of your time asking yourself, "How do humans differ from the social insects? And why?" Our species has, in some ways, much more in common with ants than with other mammals. No other mammals build heated and air conditioned appartment buildings, share nursery duties on a large scale, divide labor into different roles, wage wars. Ants do. But ants do not paint, sculpt, write or dance. They clearly could, if they were moved to, just as they weave leaves into homes or build bridges acr

A Wasted Day

There are many days I can't work because I have other pressing activities. That's frustrating, but it's a neccessary evil. Today, however, I had time to work, and wasted it. That's beyond frustrating. It leaves me deeply depressed. Of course, I suppose I was depressed to begin with, since instead of working, I stewed the whole day long in stressful thoughts about my inability to face the future with my current resources (mental as well as physical). It was one of those days when my inadequacies pointed and laughed at my aspirations, and even at noon, the sun shone grey. I ate too much, tasted too little. I scrolled through various Word files on my screen, but typed nothing. I thought about painting, but baskets of laundary were piled between me and my art desk. I thought about doing laundary, but returned to my computer. Scrolled some more, typed nothing. Worried some more, solved nothing. Tommorrow, I am not going to worry, and I'm not going to even try to type one

Another Round

I finished another round of revisions in order to have a draft for my later beta readers. In this version, which is still rough around the edges and missing one scene, I strengthened the story line of the hero. One of the critiques of an early beta reader was that the story made a promise to the reader at the start which was never carried out by the end. I've revised that so that hopefully the reader will see how the story promise has been delivered. (Vague, I know, but I don't want to get too much more specific.) While working on revisions, I've simultaneously been working on the second book, but I'm now now sure. Should I keep working on book two or should I "refresh the palette" with some work on another book? I suppose I'll follow my inspiration; if I continue to go strong on book two, I will. But sometimes it does help me to take a break between projects and work on something completely different. Does anyone else do that?

In Need of Villains

I have an idea for an Urban Fantasy, but I need an idea for the Big Baddies. I'm tired of demons, werewolves, and vampires. A goverment conspiracy run by a corrupt US senator who wants to sell arms to terrorists? Uh, no. That is so done. What kind of villains would be original, badass, re-newable (can't be just one dude, I need my heroes to plow through a lot of 'em), something interesting enough you'd like to read it? Both sf (aliens, robots) and fantasy (demons, necromancers) type ideas welcome. What kind of villain hasn't been done that would be supercool?

Guest Post on The Literary Lab

The Literary Lab was kind enough to invite me to guest blog. This week they are exploring the strengths and weaknesses of different genres. I've taken the opportunity to jot down a theory I've developed on the appeal (or repulsion) of Epic Fantasy.