Monday, April 25, 2011

And In the End...

Writing a novel is hard. There’s no getting around it. Trying to create words and sentences that flow into each other nicely, develop characters and plots, and maybe even create an entire new world? These are all really difficult, and it’s easy to forget about some things while writing.

Forgetting, however, is exactly what I want to talk about. I’ve been noticing lately that many authors will introduce a plot element or subplot at the beginning of the story, but they won’t come back to it again at the end. Other times, a character arc will start, but the character will end up right back where she started at the end of the novel. It’s frustrating for us to get caught up in a plot element in a partial, only to read the synopsis and find that it’s not mentioned after the first three chapters.

Here’s an extreme example. Let’s pretend that J.K. Rowling never wrote another Harry Potter book after Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. The sixth Harry Potter book ended the way it was written, with Harry getting ready to search for Horcruxes and fight Voldemort, but Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows never happened. It would have been monumentally frustrating (especially for someone who loves the Harry Potter books as much as I do) to have had over ten years of exposition leading to the final book and battle, only to have no battle at all.

What I’m trying to say is, as you’re proofreading your manuscripts, make sure that the plot and character elements introduced at the beginning don’t disappear from the rest of your stories. If a character is unemployed and looking for a job at the beginning of the story, don’t put her in the same position at the end – it makes the story itself feel pointless. We want to finish learning about your characters, find out whodunit or whether the guy will end up with the girl of his dreams. And we will – provided those endings are written.

Hope this helps! Good luck with your writing!


Friday, April 15, 2011

What’s In A Name?

This past weekend, I attended a writer’s conference. It was a lot of fun and I had a great time, but I noticed something about everyone I talked to. Most of them couldn’t give me a definitive answer on what they wrote.

I know today, the lines between genres are blurring and there are new genres coming out, but it is important to know where your book belongs. Not only will it help readers know what they are reading, but it will also help you write better. You will know what to focus on in your plot. Is your book a mix of action and romance? Well, which is the strongest voice or plot strand?

Not to mention, if you can’t classify your book, how is anyone else going to? An agent won’t and a publisher won’t. It’s on you.

So to that end, I’ve compiled a short list of genres (and subgenres) with equally short definitions to get you started.

Main Genres:

Romance: a love story

Mystery: a whodunit

Fantasy: a mythical world that bends the laws of nature

Sci-Fi: a made up place with advanced technology

Thriller: a suspense filled story

Horror: some grotesque elements and fear for the main characters

Literary Fiction: “serious fiction”-highbrow writing and concepts


Historical: set in the past

Contemporary: present time

Paranormal: include characters or elements of make-believe

Western: set in mid-west

Gothic: dark elements

Profession: a certain type of profession (legal, medicine, politics) prevalent in the story

Inspirational: relying on faith (usually Christian based)

Erotica: focus on sexual relationships instead of emotional ones

Chick-lit: humorous tales of the main female character

Steampunk: a new sub-genre involving steam technology

The list could go on and on. Spend time researching genres and really thinking about what your story is. Also, don’t be afraid to let go of what you want the book to be and what it actually is. One author I met said he always wanted to be Stephen King and tried to write books like him, but when he sat down and finished his book, he found out he was a YA Paranormal Romance writer instead.

Remember find a home for your book!


Tuesday, April 5, 2011

New Release: The Sheriff's Sweetheart by Laurie Kingery

Laurie Kingery is back today with the latest inspirational romance in her Brides of Simpson Creek series, The Sheriff's Sweetheart:

He needs to turn his life around... and Simpson Creek, Texas, is the perfect place to do it. On the run from his dangerous past, Sam Bishop is happy to find a town seeking "marriage-minded bachelors." A wealthy wife is just what he needs to make his gambling problems disappear. But when Prissy Gilmore catches Sam's eye, she proves to be much more than a rich match. Sam wants to deserve her, wants to become sheriff and protect her hometown—wants to be the man she believes him to be. Yet the true test is waiting, when his past returns to challenge his future.

To read more, pick up a copy today.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Keep it Real: Crafting a Good Narrative Tone

Yo homeslice, what’s the 411 on the blogosphere and the intertubes today?

Okay, so that’s kind of exaggerated, but it’s perfect for what I want to talk about today: narrative tone and style. It can be tough to keep your narration from being too casual or too formal, so I wanted to discuss some tips for crafting that perfect voice.

Unlike the first sentence of this post, you should try to keep your narration—regardless of whether it is first person or third person—from being overly casual. Try to avoid using lots of slang terms and idiomatic phrases if you can. Even though it may seem like it fits in with your story and the featured protagonist, it can be very difficult for us interns to sift through colloquialisms to learn about the characters and the plots while reading manuscripts. If you’re unsure about how casual to go, I would recommend making your writing slightly more formal than a well-written blog post (see those of my fellow interns for inspiration!)

But you should also be careful about being too formal as well. We’re interested in commercial fiction, not nouveau nineteenth century literature. While I love the Bronte sisters and Charles Dickens’ novels as much as the next girl (Mr. Rochester, anyone?), modern day fiction can’t be quite that formalized. But it is possible to find that happy medium. One book that I love that’s written in a relatively formal narrative style is Michael Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. It keeps the reader interested in what is going on without seeming overly formal or overly casual. I’m not advising you to copy Chabon’s writing style, but reading well written fiction often helps me with my own writing – if only as a way to set a high bar for myself.

It can be difficult to find that line between too casual and too formal, and sometimes you might just want to use a character voice, which is fine too. Character voices can add a lot to a story and can keep your readers engaged from the very first sentence. One piece of advice, though: make sure that your character voice fits in with the overall tone of your story. A harrowing murder mystery won’t read as well if the heroine’s narration is that of a Carrie Bradshaw-type, and vice versa. But feel free to develop your character voices any way you want.

Hope this helps a bit on your quest for the perfect narrative tone. Good luck and happy writing!


Friday, April 1, 2011

Stuck in the Middle

Is there anything worse than staring at a blank sheet of paper (or a blank Word document if that’s more your thing) for seemingly hours on end? I don’t think so. Now, I’m far from a professional writer, but I have had my share of writer’s block. Whether it’s finding a way to continue a story or even finding a way to begin one, we’ve all been there. Here are some of my tried and true ways to keep the words flowing.

-Music. Hope Ramsay recently wrote a guest post about the soundtrack for her latest novel, which you can check out here. I’m a huge fan of using my iPod when I write as well. Whenever I’m stuck I turn to a particular genre or artist for inspiration. Right now I’m working on a story about the breakdown of a relationship, and whenever I hit a wall I turn on a soulful ballad to help things along.

-Research. I recently had trouble completing a story about an alcoholic (uplifting!). So, I turned to my trusty friend Wikipedia. The in-depth articles gave me more insight into the disease, and really helped me bring my character—and story—to life.

-Change of scenery. There’s nothing like a quick walk around the block or trip to the grocery store to get my creative juices flowing. People-watching, or just observing different surroundings, really helps to get my mind off what I’m writing. Easing some of the stress I feel working under a deadline allows me to come back to the piece with fresh eyes.

-Get a second opinion. I’m lucky to have a friend who is always willing to take a look at my writing when I’m struggling. If I send my story off to her, she’ll give me great notes on my characters or plot and what I could change or think about. Most of the time I completely disregard her advice, but railing against her comments always helps me find my own vision.

-Just write. If all else fails, I write down anything and everything that comes to mind. I don’t set limits, and I allow myself to completely overwrite and go wild. When I go back to trim everything down I usually find that most of it is actually usable! It’s almost as good as discovering a 20 in your pocket.

These are just a few of the techniques that work for me, but I’m sure there are plenty of other great ideas out there. What are some of your methods of beating writer’s block?