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Confession: I’m a Serial Hater

How’s that for a glib, yet cryptic title? Let me explain a little more.

I walk into a used bookstore, which like most bibliophiles, is similar to walking into an opium den. Oh sure, you tell the people waiting in the car that you’re just running in for a moment, but they know better and wander off for some coffee, or a tour in the Peace Corps. Meanwhile, I wander through the dim shelves, looking for a stack of yellowing, dog-earred volumes to trade some hard-earned lucre for. I go to fantasy/sci-fi and start pulling books out. Hmm, this one looks interesting. Interesting title, nice cover art. I glance down at the bottom of the cover. Book 1 of

That’s it. Deal-breaker.

I’m not going to say it’s a hard and fast rule, but I must confess that I am deeply biased against novel series. I’ll call it a prejudice since then I don’t have to justify it. Of course, in the above scenario of the used bookstore, the much more frustrating situation is finding Book 4 of– with no sight of Book 3, 2, or 1 anywhere. That’s not the writer’s fault, but here are some other grievances I have with book series.

Most of our books. I'm sure some of them are series.

Most of our books. I’m sure some of them are series.

1. The series never finishes.

This doesn’t happen much, but every now and then, the volumes keep coming and coming, introducing more and more plots and characters and not wrapping up enough of the old ones. This was my complaint with Wheel of Time. Hopefully, this won’t be the case with the Game of Thrones books but that is also one reason I will probably never read them.

2. The first book really isn’t that good.

Let me clarify for a moment. I don’t have any problem with book series that all take place in the same world, but are separate stories, even if they are loosely related to each other. That’s fine. Books like the Discworld novels and the Chronicles of Narnia are series but they are also standalone novels, for the most part. My problem is with series that are all one single story. If the first book isn’t that good, I feel torn between giving up and never finding out the ending, and shelling out more money just to know what happened. It’s like selling me the first quarter of a novel, and unlike Jimmy Norman, the master behind Dysfunctional Literacy, I finish books. It’s a compulsion with me, even if I don’t like them (even this compulsion is more of an ideal; there are plenty of books I never finish).

3. You get the feeling the writer is only continuing the series for money.

I don’t have any specific examples of this, but I’m sure you’ve read them. There are still things that happen, conflicts occur, characters do things, but the books start to lose some of the driving force of the first one. It’s not necessarily bad writing, but you get the feeling that it’s also not really necessary.

4. The series is an artificial construct.

This is a publishing trick more than a writing one. Korea is especially bad at it, for some reason. I have the Lord of the Rings in four languages and the Korean one was by far the most expensive. That’s because while the other languages sell it in three books, the Korean version has seven volumes, meaning it’s 7/3’s more expensive. It is technically 6 books in one (plus the appendices) but there’s no point in selling it that way, except for money.

When I was young, I bought a middle grade fantasy series called Winds of Light. It had six volumes, even though each was only 130 pages or so. That was fine, except about six months after I bought the whole series, they came out with a single volume edition for about a third of the price of all six volumes. Maybe that was when my series hatred started.  Maybe I should go see a literary psychologist.

(Note: just to preemptively point out my hypocrisy, I am planning to write a novel series in about ten years or so. I only mention it now since everything online is eternal and I just know someone will dig up this post in 15 years when my serial novels are on the bestseller list. I just like to be prepared.)

Okay, I’ve ranted enough. How do you feel about serial novels? Let me know in the comments. (If, by the way, you write serial novels for a living, feel free to curse me out or send me a free sample of your books to try to sway my mind on the matter.)

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2015: The Year of the Green-Walled Tower

Belfry - New Years 1So, it’s not quite New Year’s here yet, but we’re counting down the last few hours and although 2014 has been a pretty good year, I have a really good feeling about 2015. I feel like this is going to be a big year for me and this blog, not because of random fortune, but because I am committed to doing a lot of work.

I don’t usually make resolutions for two reasons: 1) I don’t usually have anything I specifically want to do that I think I can accomplish with a resolution and 2) resolutions are treated very cynically these days. Resolutions seem to have come to mean “well-meaning but naive life changes that will be in effect from January 1-15”. I don’t want that.

However, this year, I have made some resolutions which I am 100% committed to keeping. I’m sure everyone says that so I am making them a matter of public record so I can compare this post with another one a year from now. Keep me honest, people.

New Years Resolution 1

 

New Years Resolution 2

 

New Years Resolution 3

And finally, the most important and most ambitious.

New Years Resolution 4

 

Thank you to all you who read my blog. Expect good things in the year to come. Happy New Year!

Belfry - New Years 2.2

Belfry intro

 


Welcome to the attic of the Green-Walled Tower

Come on it, don’t mind the mess (I don’t pick up that often). Just follow the steps up and up until you get to the top. I’m letting you into the inner sanctum of my writing world in response to an invitation by Amy Reese, at amyreesewrites.com. She is a great writer and a good blogging friend of mine since the beginning of this blog. This is part of the Writing Process Blog Tour, I do believe. Without further ado, here are the four questions that I was given.

1)     What am I working on?

Ah, what a question. It almost pains me to think about it. It’s like I have this jar of wriggly, squirming stories and I love every single, slimy one of them. They are my children: each at a different stage of development but they all have such potential. But then, with some chagrin, I have to cram the top back on top of that sucker or they might get out and I do NOT have time to deal with all of them at the moment.

Yeah, my jar is extra full, I’m afraid. I only mention them here since I work on things slowly, turning them over in my mind over a long time, like a literary Sarlacc.

Plots...I need plots.

Plots…I need plots.

I’m usually pretty private about my projects, but what the hey. Here is what is on my plate:

The Inner Darkness: this was originally a Nanowrimo novel I did in 2009. It has been through several edits since then, but I have a lot of plans for it in my head. No time though. It’s a quirky, first-person fantasy involving an abyss in a cave where people occasionally emerge from. I really love the main character.

The Girl Who Could Snee: I wrote this novel around a story I originally posted on this blog. This one is unfortunately not finished, not for lack of ideas but just time. Why didn’t I finish it originally? Sigh. Why not, indeed?

Brother Alien: This is another novel that is not finished, although with this one, I am still thinking about one particular point. It’s sitting in the belly of the literary Sarlacc, still stewing. It deals with the aftermath of a failed alien invasion.

Special Becky: This is a novella I’m working on, which is based on the series of Friday Fictioneers stories I did, one with the same name. It’s not finished, not because of a lack of ideas or interest, just because other, more urgent projects came up.

I don’t mention all these to brag. If anything, they are a mark of shame that so many are unfinished. I mention them because they are all on my mind and even when I’m not actively working on them, I’m working through ideas for them, until the day I can pull up the file, read through the notes and begin gloriously again to create.

What I am currently working on actively is a collaborative novel. It’s kind of a secret though, so I can’t say much about it. It is a great story though and if/when it’s published, you’ll know all about it.

Pictured: not me

Pictured: not me

2)     How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I have a confession: I don’t know what my genre is. As you might know, my blog stories tend to be quirky or dark and everything in between.

Of course, those are blog stories. With my novels, seven are adventure stories; four are funny; six have fantasy or sci-fi elements in them. However, if I had to answer this question (which I apparently do) I would say that I combine these elements together in my own style, which makes it different. Also, there are three minor elements that many of my stories share that reveal my personality. 1) other languages are a key part of the story or some character is learning another language, 2) there are often huge, dark expanses, 3) there are other worlds and some way to go between them.

fiction-genres-changing-writing-genres

3)     Why do I write what I do?

First and foremost, I write the kind of stuff I want to read. I write my ideal books (as well as I can) so it’s always fun to go back and reread them again and again.

Secondly, I write to express what I believe. I am a Christian, but I don’t mean I want to write blatantly Christian books (mostly because I don’t like to read most blatantly Christian books). I have a lot of beliefs.

I believe the world is a wonderful, magical place; I believe in forgiveness and mercy; I believe in truth; I believe the world is a really complicated place with no easy answers sometimes. For instance, in Brother Alien, the plot turns around the idea of what to do in a stalemate with stranded aliens who have killed hundreds of millions of people. Some people want to wage eternal war, others want to forgive them. Can you ever forgive a crime so great? I want to explore that question.

4)     How does my writing process work?

Many of my novels start with a picture. For a few of them, the picture came from a dream. My very first story, Teardrop, started with the image of a train going up a valley at quitting time. Inside were two different races: one short, one tall. Another one, The Wild Children, started with a dream where I was in a wet, muddy cave. The roof suddenly split open and light streamed in and a hand reached down. That was it; the whole dream. I built the novel around it.

After I have that picture or a What if? idea, I just think about it. I think and think, working the idea back and forth until I have the kernel of a story. Then I start writing. When I begin, I usually have an inkling of where the story will end, but not always. I don’t plot out scenes on paper, since I’ll just change them while I’m writing. If I get stuck on a point, I think on it a while until I get it unstuck.

After I get the rough draft done, I put it away and start something else, usually an edit of another project, since I don’t usually write novel rough drafts back to back. When that edit is done, I’ll come back to the rough draft, reread it and plot out the scenes with all their characters and significant events. Then I can see what needs changing, what needs cutting and adding, and so on.

Thanks for coming on this tour. Now I would like to pass on the challenge to Sharmishtha Basu, if she has any interest in answering these questions. Sharmishtha is a prolific writer and poet from India who manages an impressive number of blogs and specializes in fantasy and paranormal stories.

writing warning

This is true: the teacher in The Wild Children is named after a barista.


A Writer’s Dilemma: When to Let Go

The fantasy writer Terry Pratchett has been quoted as saying, “There’s no such thing as writer’s block. That was invented by people in California who couldn’t write.” I understand this (beyond the unfair slam to California) because writer’s block is a great excuse for someone who wants to write but doesn’t want to write THAT much.

writers-block21

[*]

I don’t know if my problem is writer’s block, but I recently gave up on a novel. Not permanently, but I set it aside for now in favor of another story which also needs working on. I’ve never done that before. I usually find that when I hit a snag in a story, I just think about it until I get over the hump and then it’s smooth sailing. Also, I hate, hate, hate to give up on a project. However, I’ve been thinking of how to end the story for about two years now, without any suitable solution. For those of you who read my optimistic post at the beginning of November, that’s the one I’m talking about. I made a lot of progress and got a lot of good ideas, but I still can’t finish it. I just went and read a bunch of quotes about writer’s block by famous authors and all of them said basically the same thing: suck it up and get writing, and I totally agree. But…

But here’s my question: when is it time to put something aside and when is it time to keep hammering your head against the craggy face of the story, hoping for a breakthrough? I’m not whining or complaining or even trying to justify myself, I’m genuinely wondering. I feel like a failure for giving up (even temporarily) but now that I’m working on the other novel, I’m much more excited about writing it. I look forward to going back at it.

I’m sure any professional writer would read this and scoff; I probably would too in their place. I have the freedom as an amateur writer of not being under contract and under a deadline. But also, being an amateur writer, I feel I have the freedom at the moment to pick and choose which projects to do, even if I am aspiring to be professional eventually.

What do you think? Please be as brutally honest as you’d like. Do you think it is acceptable for a serious writer to put aside a piece because of not being able to make progress with it, or should you always power through any difficulties? What are your experiences in this area?


Nanowrimo? More like Pernofinmo…

Ah, Nanowrimo. There is always the annual debate among amateur writers: to Nano or not to Nano? Some love the idea and some are against it for various reasons.

nanowrimo

Personally, I like Nano. I like the energy and even the deadlines that push you to get things done whether you feel like it or not. I’ve done Nano eight years in a row and won seven of them…until this year. This year I’m not doing it and it’s your fault.

Okay, so it’s obviously not your fault. It’s my fault or at least the fault of this blog. My usual modus operandi for novel writing has been to write a novel in November and then spend the next year (and more) editing it. However, since I started this blog, I have done much less novel editing and consequently, I have two novels from past Nanowrimos that are fifty thousand words long, but are still unfinished stories. As much as I would love to do Nano again this year, I don’t need another unfinished rough draft sitting on my hard drive. What I need is to finish the ones I have.

So I’m not doing Nanowrimo this year. Instead, I’m doing Pernofinmo (Personal Novel Finishing Month) and honestly, it’s a lot harder. For one thing, there’s more editing and retooling of things, which is much slower than just pedal-to-the-metal rough draft writing. Plus, the story I am working on has remained unfinished for two years for a reason. The main theme of the novel is that the main characters (and the whole world for that matter) are struggling with a intractable situation with no easy answers. The problem is, that I don’t have any easy answers either and I have spend tons of hours over the last two years trying to figure out how to end it plausibly. I’ve been making progress, but it’s still slow. I don’t know if I’ll actually finish the story in November, but I’ll try. I still have 21 left.

I get the feeling this guy doesn't like Nanowrimo

I get the feeling this guy doesn’t like Nanowrimo

Do you do Nanowrimo? Why or why not? I’m just curious.


Work in Progress Challenge

I was tagged in this by Ritika Upadhyay at LeBlog and thought it was intriguing so I decided to pass it on.

Work_in_progress_by_maxidevil

Here goes:

1. What is the title of your book/WIP?

This is tricky for me, since I currently have 5 novels I’m editing, although none I’m writing a first draft of. Still, I’ll do the one I’m actually working on at the moment. The title of that one is The Inner Darkness.

2. Where did the idea for the WIP come from?

Almost all my novels start with a single image, either just something that pops into my head or something from a dream. This one started with the image of a light on a long finger of rock, burning in an infinite black abyss of nothingness.

3. What genre would your WIP fall under?

This is fantasy. It has elements of romance, action and comedy in it too. It is in 1st person POV, which sometimes troubles me, but I think it’s important, since it’s very much about the main characters journey and he really is a very dynamic and quirky sort of guy.

4. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Hmm, I haven’t though about anything like that yet. The main character is gallant but also full of bravado, so maybe Robert Downey Jr. would be a good choice. The main female character…maybe Selma Hayek?

5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your WIP?

A inveterate wanderer finds a cave where people sometimes emerge with no memory of who they are, including one young woman who changes his life.  That obviously leaves out a lot, but you get the gist.

6. Is your WIP published or represented?

It’s on the 4th draft, I think. I haven’t had much time to work on it lately because of writing my blog stories.

7. How long did it take you to write?

It was originally a Nanowrimo novel, so I wrote the rough draft in a month. However, I’ve been working on it for a few years since then.

8. What other WIPs within your genre would you compare it to?

Not sure. This has to do with traveling between worlds, which is not an uncommon theme, but I like to think I’ve put a unique spin on it.

9. Which authors inspired you to write this WIP?

No specific author has inspired this specific novel. Perhaps H.P. Lovecraft and William Hope Hodgson for their depictions of vast, dark, empty spaces. The tone of the story is nothing like either of these authors though. I like to think of it as a light and quirky take on serious matters.

10. Tell us anything else that might pique our interest in this project.

The world where this takes place is the same one that Horus Vere and Bruce Riansson are from. They are characters from previous stories I’ve posted on this blog.

One last thing… Tag, You’re It!

Here are some people that I follow who I either know are working on a long story or I suspect it. In any case, I’d be curious to know more about it and its background, if you’d like to share. If you’re working on something and I missed you, I’m sorry. I’d like to hear about yours too.

David Harding

Miles Rost

Matron Bell

Diary of a Lost Girl

Lynn Biederstadt

Paula Acton

Tessa Shepherd

 

 

 

 


Nanowrimo: And so it begins again…

It occurred to me that this will probably be one of thousands of posts about Nanowrimo on WordPress today, but oh well.

Well, it’s that time of the year again: November, which for many means National Novel Writing Month. I have done it for the last six years but was debating not doing this year because of other writing and busyness. However, I’ve decided to do it anyway.

Thus, the amount of fiction I will be putting up here will be much less for the next month. I will still post three times a week with either true anecdotes from my life, reflections on writing, or whatever.

I’ve decided to write a full novel version of my story, The Girl Who Could Snee. That story was 1600 words and the novel will be at least 50,000 words, so the characters are going to be more developed and the plot will be quite different. I’ve got a rough sketch in my head and I’m excited.

Back when I was a young thing, I used to stay up until midnight every November 1st to get a jump on the writing. I told myself to be sensible this year, but “sensible” and “bedtime” are not two words that go together in my brain. I started writing at the stroke of midnight and…wrote 109 words before bailing and going to bed.

So, are you doing Nano? Are you tempted to? If you are doing it, let me know and we can be writing buddies on the Nanowrimo site.


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