Saturday, January 21, 2017

Starting the First Novel


I have always read fiction, visiting the local library frequently when young, and then buying romance novels at my job at age 15 in a drugstore in my hometown. The store had a soda bar where employees could pretty much help themselves, and a book rack I loved to explore. I discovered the library didn't have some of the books sold on those racks. After about two weeks of ice cream, malts, and sodas,  I no longer liked ice cream, but the book rack always drew me.

Have you ever noticed how some genre stories are told and retold endlessly? I've read where there are only seven plot lines. This I think, is debatable because so much else comes into play in a story, but still, I think every reader has come across remarkably similar stories.

That started happening to me when I lived in Colorado Springs for a year. My husband got a job offer in St. Louis, but the kids were in the Colorado Springs school system, and we had a lease on a house. I remained in Colorado. I couldn’t find a book whose plot wasn’t a rehash of something I'd already read. Some publishers seem to specialize in this effort, even the titles being somewhat repetitious such as the Millionaire's Bride or whatever (now the billionaire's). To fill my time I started writing my own romance story. I worked on it every night after the kids were in bed. Finally the next summer we moved to the St. Louis area.

The novel I was working on stalled as I found a full-time job. I remember the characters, Gina and Wade, and the start of the plot line, but have long since lost the actual story. Looking back, I know this was a ‘hidden’ baby book plot, i.e. mom has baby father doesn’t know about for this or that reason. That was okay as I had started another story, this time in another genre I loved, scifi and fantasy. Actually, I’ve since decided all fiction is fantasy. I’ve said this before. It’s all about how dressed up in reality the story is.

At that time I mostly wrote for my own entertainment. Finally, I finished one and sent the manuscript to a publisher with great expectation. I never realized until I got my first rejection how awful it was. Not the plot, but the actual writing, until I reread what I had sent in. Certainly it was a reality check. The characters lacked dimension, and needless wordiness invaded the paragraphs. Suddenly I became aware of the importance of editing.

I refreshed my grammar skills (admittedly spelling is still a problemprobably a genetic thing) and read several books on writing. Then I rewrote that rejected book which soon became three stories. I'm not saying the original writing was horrible, awful, terrible as I had a very good high school that emphasized English, and I wrote many papers in college that earned good grades. Fiction, however, is different. In some ways it takes more thinking as the writer’s goal is to grab and hold the reader's imagination. Even in basically unbelievable scenarios (some real life situations share this characteristic), the writer needs to fulfill the reader's need to believe these scenarios are possible and real. Writers do that by allowing the reader to share the characters' emotions and reactions.

Writing a novel is a long and difficult project. Which is why everyone thinks they want to write a book, but few complete one. Even then, once the actual story is complete, the herculean task of finding a publisher looms.

Please visit the blogs listed below to see more opinions on writing that first novel and how it was accomplished.

Skye Taylor
Margaret Fieland
Heather Haven
Dr. Bob Rich
Connie Vines
Victoria Chatham
Helena Fairfax
Beverley Bateman
Marci Baun 
Judith Copek

Rachael Kosinsk
Diane Bator
A.J. Maguire 
 

Monday, January 2, 2017

Color of the Day Jan 1

For Christmas I received a calendar with each day covered in a different Pantone color. If you are unfamiliar with Pantone, they have broken every color, shade, intensity down into a code of the colors in making it: cyan, magenta, yellow, and key or black. Originally used in printing colors, Pantone now has matching colors and fashion colors. 

So yesterday, January 1, the calendar color looked like this:


The color will change from machine to device showing it, but it is a intense red more on the orange side of the spectrum. However, at first I wondered about the calendar maker choosing this particular color. Then it came to me. If I had been out drinking New Year's Eve, I might well have woke up seeing this color or having others seeing it in my bloodshot eyes. 

Curious, I looked the color up at Pantone: C0 M87 Y62 K0. I wanted to change it to a RBG color model for this post. It didn't exist on the Pantone page, but I noticed Pantone even has a color of the year. The color for 2017 it is 'greenery.'  Today, January 2, on my calendar is an olive green and it's code colors don't match anything on the Pantone chart either. However, the color does somehow seem appropriate for a Monday after the first day of the year.

Getting back to yesterday's red swatch. While I did have two glasses of champagne, one with our lobster dinner (the cooked lobsters also being close to this color) and one later, I found the day's color had a lined note area on the back and suddenly it was the exact color I was feeling but not in the hung-over state of the color.

It was exactly how I felt: angry, fearful, upset, and worried—with the state of the world, with last year's lengthy and ugly election buildup and the results, with the failure of the majority of the human population to grasp how we are destroying the Earth, our only home, and most of it due to over population and greed, which is seldom mentioned in any media we listen to or read, with the number of people living in abject poverty, and with the human propensity to be cruel to animals. And yes, while I enjoyed the lobster, I also felt guilty over it.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Journaling or Preserving Time


Here it is the last week of 2016. Certainly most everyone remembers the big events of this now passing year: the wonderful get-togethers, parties, and the personal achievements, the election campaign. Many have sent images and messages to Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, Twitter, or other social sites about those. Then there are the terrible and horrible moments. They will haunt the mind at odd moments in the future but somehow with a different impact. Daily-do-it-again moments will get lost in the sheer repetitiousness of daily living and will often be forgotten, along with the things of importance that take place in small moments of revelation, of chance occurrences, of small talk, and of familiar moments with family or friends.

The fact is few people have perfect memory or recall. Plus, time seems to move faster the older you get meaning you remember even less. Something even the Washington Post reported on. While a second is a second, a minute a minute, and a year a certain number of days, they tend to bleed together and become a lost jumble of experiences. One way to preserve the memories of 2016 or any other future year is by keeping a record, or journaling, also known as keeping a diary but the former sounds more interesting. The practice even has advantages according to Psych Central.
Social media has given everyone with access the ability to not only preserve a memory but also to share it with others. People seem driven to post and re-post everything, and it is interesting, sometimes overwhelmingly so.  These outlets give everyone the opportunity to practice freedom of speech along with presenting personal ideas, events, and opinions, just as is being done here. 

Yet we’re learning some of the drawbacks. Hate is easier to export. A sense of privacy can be lost. Sometimes, a person's accidental or idiotic moments are caught in embarrassing detail by someone else and then publicly distributed for eternal entertainment. Social media can also become an addiction, and time and experience in the real world can diminish.  PsychCentral has numerous articles on these problems, just search social media problems. Some unscrupulous individuals also use social media to post fake news, to dupe audiences for fun and to garner clicks for increased revenues from advertisements on their page. The world is learning some of those sites might create major world consequences such as this week's Pakistan nuclear threat with Israel. News sites inundate the world with what is happening, but since news on TV has become more opinion based rather than a presentation of investigation results, audiences are more open to being told what to think, making it easier to believe phony news.

So why do anything privately? Because when you take time to write about your personal world daily, or weekly, or even monthly in a private forum, you preserve memories of a more significant personal nature rather than provide information to entertain friends as with social media. Private reminiscences provide personal growth. Everyone’s day-to-day changes with time. Circumstances change, employment changes, and moves are made. Neighbors, friends, and even family change. These changes can be stressful with no-time for anything else, or so subtle events pass largely unnoticed and unobserved. Writing about them can spur the mind to recall those hectic details and help relieve that stress, or on the other hand, describe the pleasure of those mundane, peaceful times.
 
Writing about your personal world and events does more than just preserve memories. It helps you sort through those events, both the enjoyable and the unpleasant, and reflect on what you learned, or they can help you solve a problem. Journaling helps you become more observant, and helps give you  insight into who you are. It also provides you a personal history you can go back and visit, events that otherwise will be lost by time with each passing year. Things like how you felt, how you or others reacted to certain events, the minute moments that fashion you. That is what makes journaling valuable.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Include a Prologue or Epilogue, Yes or No?

I think this is an interesting topic, but the answer depends on the story the author is telling. Recently I've read many epilogues in books, particularly romances both historical and contemporary, where the epilogue shows how happy the couple finally are together with all the misunderstandings presented in the story at an end. My personal feeling after reading these are that some work, some don't. The same goes for prologues. These are very popular in scifi and fantasy books, and in mysteries or thrillers. They help set up a background event for the story, and because they are labeled a prologue, don't create a jarring jump for the reader when the second chapter starts in another place and time from chapter one. Yet sometimes a time or location byline at the beginning of the chapter accomplishes the same transition. Again, I think some work and some don't, mostly based on whether they draw me into the story or don't. Everything depends on the author's purpose for including a prologue or epilogue.

Prologue, according to Merriam-Webster Online, is "the preface or introduction to a literary work." I've seen introductions called preludes and prefaces, too, which seems incorrect to me. A preface is "the introductory remarks of a speaker or author," which to me in most cases appears in nonfiction rather than fiction. For me a prelude is a more music related term, although the definition could meet the label for  a prologue. 

I admit to having used a prologue in Devil's Due, but I had a purpose. The previous two books in the Black Angel series had mentioned an event out of some of the characters' pasts to explain their present behavior, but many questions remained about exactly what happened. In the prologue of Devil's Due, I gave the perspective of what occurred from the person most involved in the disaster's results. That way the reader knew the character, who also had an active part in this book's story line. It gave a historical background for his decision, his mental state, and his family's influence.

I will also admit I have yet to find the need for an epilogue, or "a concluding section that rounds out the design of a literary work." My last chapter usually completes that function, and I haven't found the need to have an epilogue to finish the story line. (And yes, I know, it can be either storyline or story line--I love English and its many peculiarities of spelling.) I have read some that worked, particularly in an ongoing series where the last chapter concluded the story's action, but the epilogue showed the continuation of some aspect or action within the story ancillary to ending.

Personally, I think the author needs to seriously consider what the prologue or epilogue add to the story, and if it is better explained in the story itself before using either one.

So my answer is...it depends.


Visit the these blogs for more opinions on this topic:
Margaret Fieland
Skye Taylor
Dr. Bob Rich
Marci Baun 
A.J. Maguire 
Victoria Chatham
Anne Stenhouse 
Helena Fairfax
Beverley Bateman
Connie Vines
Rachael Kosinski
Kay Sisk

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Wording--Intent and Purpose



Any word creates communication. Most words hold multiple meanings and connotations, especially in the context of the words mixed with it. This makes word choice essential in presenting purpose. The understanding of every communication depends on this, and it works.
Visual communication includes more than words. Appearance, body language, topic, tone of voice, facial expressions, and specific words used all play a part. Tone, delivery speed, and loudness assist with audio communication. Real time conversations are often off the cuff. Due to this, even with expressions and tones, spur of the moment wording frequently creates misunderstanding.
When only words are used, the choice of words must make up for all that is missing in other forms of communication. Depending on genre and intent, editing of recorded communications of any type can correct or distort words. All writers use this inherent quality of words to load them with intent. Factual writers most often work to avoid such ambiguity, but storytellers develop it to exploit character and meaning. In turn, the readers interpret meaning according to their understanding of the words. In fiction, this can change the reader’s perception of characters and their actions.
For instance, Dr. Bob (one of the writers listed below) gave this example for this blog topic: She had to be the sexiest-looking 42-year-old on the planet, the best that money could buy.
Is this loaded language? Yes. Is it good or bad? Actually, neither and both; it depends on the writer’s purpose, which depends on who makes this observation within the story, and the writer’s intent for the character so described. The ultimate interpretation depends on the reader, their empathy and perception of the words’ purpose.
Every story is just a compilation of words used to expose character and situation, yet every reader’s personal experiences and imagination respond to the framework of the words used. Based on both the author’s word choices and the reader’s interaction with those words, their acumen, biases, perceptions, and sympathies give either understanding or confusion. Furthermore, a writer might use a word’s meaning to clarify, or even to lead the reader astray, with the intent for an emotional effect that increases the readers' interest. Luckily, whether the author uses commonplace or unusual wording, or desires to clarify or introduce uncertainty, the language lets the author play within the reader’s mind. The words build a sense of place and reality, allowing each reader to understand a character or situation, which grows the story’s purpose.

Wording is important. Yet I have to admit, in my fiction writing, I sometimes use ambiguous wording to encourage the reader involvement. As a reader, I have found this a very useful technique either to cement a character's qualities or to mislead the reader temporarily for a better understanding later; however, authors need awareness of their wording choices without overdoing it.


Check out these blogs for more insight on word choices:

Skye Taylor
Marci Baun 
Margaret Fieland
Victoria Chatham
Beverley Bateman
Dr. Bob Rich 
Rachael Kosinski
Judith Copek
Helena Fairfax
A.J. Maguire