Showing posts from June, 2011

Scary Scenes

My friend Rayne Hall is an excellent writing teacher, and she has another class coming up on Scary Scenes . Even if you're not writing Horror, if you want to learn to add suspense to your novel, this is a great class. (I speak from personal experience!) Are your frightening scenes scary enough? Learn practical tricks to turn up the suspense. Make your reader’s hearts hammer with excitement and their skins tingle with goosebumps of delicious fright. Whether you’re working on a ghost story, a thriller, a paranormal romance, an urban fantasy or a romantic suspense, this workshop is perfect for planning or revising your scary scenes. If you wish, you may submit a scene for critique at the end of the course.

Teaser and Revisions

Sorry, my blog is boring right now because I'm working hard on the edits for The Unfinished Song: Sacrifice. It will be a few more iterations, I fear. Since I don't have the energy for a real post, I'll give you an excerpt from the book. Here's a rare scene with no spoilers, unless you haven't read The Unfinished Song: Taboo yet, in which case go do so at once before you read this. (Just kidding.) Vessia “You can’t be rid of me that easily.” The voice was unexpected. Vessia whirled around to see Nangi watching her. Vessia felt a frisson of resentment shudder through her. It had been so long since she had run through the meadows alone, as she’d used to when she lived with Old Man and Old Woman. She missed the smell of heather under open sky. She needed wind to lift her hair off her neck, she needed to swing her arms without anyone touching her shoulder to calm her. The land they were passing through now was hot, dry and dead, closed up into canyons of striated r

Should You Start At the End to Reach the Middle?

Beginnings are difficult. Endings are difficult. But connecting them is the most difficult of all. As usual, a few plot holes have opened up during revisions, a few broken bridges between the Beginning and the Ending. To fix them, to tie up the loose strings, I am writing from the outside in...from the beginning toward the middle, but also from the ending toward the middle, until the two meet. To to this, I take each character's story arc and ask myself, Where does this person need to end up? Then I ask, where does this person need to begin?'s just a matter of figuring out the steps in between. Generally I try to have each major character show up once a chapter, and supporting characters at least three times in the book. I have a lot of characters, so this in itself can be tricky. My main characters have one to three scenes per chapter. Designing each individual story arc is not too hard, in and of itself; the tricky part comes when I juggle them. I

Why Have "Age Appropriate" Books?

In a previous post, I discussed YA literature, and whether it was merely an artificial publishing box. Today, as I sit with my one-year-old and listen to Barney sing about firetrucks, I wanted to ask how far that is true. When I was a tot, there were stories and television for children, but the diversity and volume of children's media has certainly increased. The research that goes into children's television is also astonishing. One show my kids love is Blues Clues. The success of this show was not accidental. The producers did a  tremendous amount of research  into the cognitive abilities and attention span of three and four years olds to craft every show. I don't know if as much research goes into children's literature. In general, I think the younger the children, the more research there is on how to package uplifting and educational messages for the target age group. Of course, this is because the younger the children, the more the target (buying) audience is a

What Is the Difference Between Young Adult and Just Adult Lit?

I found out about this article in the Wall Street Journal from Michelle Davidson Argyle when she responded to it on The Literary Lab . I recently read a book by our one and only Scott G.F. Bailey, and I was shocked at the darkness in it. I wrote to Scott and said, wow, this is really dark. He said, yeah, I know. It's an adult novel, and it disturbed me not with the subject matter, but the tones of the novel. Honestly, I have never read a YA book with such dark tones. Usually, even in YA novels that deal with darker subjects, the tones seem to be handled on a lighter level. Maybe, though, Miss Gurdon is really talking about tone in her article, not subject matter. Maybe there are YA books out there that I haven't read that are really, really dark in tone. Teens can handle subject matter. Adults can handle subject matter. I think it's tone that can really make the difference. I appreciated Scott's book. It was amazingly well done. I appreciated the darkness he portrayed

What is "Formula Fiction"?

"Formula" is an ambiguous term, and I should define how I mean it. I will give a basic example, found across genres such as jokes and Three Act plays. It has three steps. Step One: Protagonist does something wrong. Step Two: Protagonist does something wrong again. Step Three: Protagonist finally gets it right. General enough? TOO general to be useful? This definition of formula can be just another word for story structure. All stories have it, with the possible exception of some experimental works that go out of their way not to, in the same way some modern art goes out of the way to eschew beauty. This is not to say that there is no difference between formulaic fiction and quality fiction, however. In formulaic fiction, the formula is all there is to the story, whereas beautiful literature transcends the form. In one case, the formula is all there is in the end, in the other, it is merely the starting point, a vessel to hold something else. Maybe a stricter use of fo

Review: The Wild Grass and Other Stories

I finished The Wild Grass and Other Stories by Davin Malasarn . I went in with VERY high expectations. And they were all meet and then some. This is a beautiful collection. Each story is exquisite and breathtaking, yet feels utterly simple and real. As if, you know, the author just happened to be spraying cyanide on a field of red rocks to mine for gold, and also happened to be an old woman waiting to die, and also happened to be a childless woman meeting up with her sister's family for a photo shoot, or a child under a crocheted tablecloth during an exorcism... I have a recurring fantasy about what it would be like to possess telepathy, to simply look at another person, say as I pass by them waiting at a bus stop, and for that moment, BECOME that person. Reading this book felt like possessing that power. Many of the stories are told in the first person, with an intimacy and ease that make it vivid and natural. I've read a few of these stories before. Red Man, Blue M

Reading and Revising

This is just a quick update to let you know I am deep in revisions on Sacrifice, which (fingers crossed) will be out next month. I want it out as soon as possible, but not sooner. By that I mean that I made a pledge to myself not to simply slop out inferior, unfinished work. So I will polish as much as necessary to be sure I publish something I can be proud of. While I am working on revisions, I am also catching up on reading. I have a long TBR list, including the novels of friends, books I have been looking forward to for a long time. The one I shall be savoring tonight is The Wild Grass and Other Stories by Davin Malasarn . He's a marvelous writer. I expect I shall be quite jealous of his writing, but that's okay, since I have already decided that he and his two co-conspirators at The Literary Lab are in a class far above mine. In a way, knowing that is liberating. I don't have to worry about trying to be as good, I shall simply enjoy.