Posts Tagged ‘novel writing’
Some people love to chase. While I am not a big fan of chasing when it comes to dating, chasing inspiration is one of the best things you can do for yourself as a writer.
I love it when inspiration comes by itself. When I have a magical A-HA! moment. When an idea comes by itself and not when I was brainstorming, forcing my brain to fix a plot problem. When it comes unannounced, unexpected and gives me the rush to start writing it right there and then. And even if I can’t start at that moment, I am smart enough to take enough notes so that I don’t let it get away.
Except this rarely happens to me. Especially when writing fiction. An exciting, entertaining idea doesn’t just come on its own. An idea- typically an ordinary one- comes when I think about what I want to write about. I know I want this ordinary situation or character in some way, but I don’t want it to be ordinary. No, I am not contradicting myself.
OK, think about it like this. You want to write about cancer. But you don’t want to go down the old, depressive, tragic, “what-have-I-done-to-deserve-this route”. Or the “I’m-already-dead-might-as-well-go-all-self-destructive route”.
Instead, your character decides to make the most of her life right there and then. She finds out humorous, practical and innovative ways to deal with her son and husband. She doesn’t care that much about saving money any more. She buys a red convertible – which will go to her son after he reaches a certain age. See how she lived for the moment, without screwing up anyone’s future? She also has workers build the swimming pool she always wanted. Impulsive? Yes. Irrational? No. If anything, this will increase the value of the house.
Did the plot sound familiar? Well, it is the plot of the comedy/drama show The Big C starring Laura Linney. Before watching it, I remember thinking “Humor in cancer? Right. Like that could happen!” But it has, and the show turned out to be really good and unique.
Isn’t this more interesting than typical ways of grieving?
This happens to me a lot. I respond to my ideas by changing the core of the story, changing the sex of the main character, shaking stereotypes, or adding some unexpected traits to the archetype. Victoria Connelly did a wonderful example of this by creating a writer character in her book “A Weekend with Mr. Darcy”.
In the book, the main character is Lorna Warwick – a modern day, famous author of best-selling Jane Austen style novels. But of course Lorna is the pen name and the writer is actually a guy. And he is not gay or a nerd. He is a masculine, heterosexual, sexy guy who hides behind the persona – and does adrenaline-inducing outdoor activities with his friends while he is not writing. And best of all…his interest in Jane Austen, and his novels, is genuine.
A Weekend with Mr. Darcy may not be the best book ever-created but I really liked the male protagonist being a guy’s guy and loving Jane Austen, and her characters, as much as the next gal. And guess what? Connelly has been published many times.
Where did the inspiration for this article come from? It came while I was reading this Writer’s Digest article about how not to write a novel, and one of the best ways to do it was to wait for inspiration. I am trying to write a novel and yet after all this time creating stories, I still tend to make the mistake of waiting for inspiration. The article stroke a chord and I wrote about it.
So an article about writing inspiration came when I was studying writing (so I could write my novel better and I could get to know the magazine enough to pitch great queries.) Not when I was doing something totally unrelated, or not doing anything at all.
While inspiration might occasionally do the favor of dropping by out of thin air, it mostly loves to be chased with vengeance. So you can just start writing about anything in anyway…and spice things up later.
If there is something that bothers me than writing something ordinary…it is not writing at all. The name of this blog is not a coincidence. I truly am addicted to writing. And while ordinary can be changed into extraordinary through trial and error, extraordinary isn’t born from nothing.
How fast can you churn out a decent novel? 3 years? 3 months?
While I was hunting for a good resource on writing a good page-turner that would satisfy me and land me an agent (and later hopefully a publisher), I thought Writer’s Digest’s 90 Days to Your Novel was reasonable enough.
The book tells you everything you need to know from the beginning to outlining to writing dialogue. And while I didn’t finish my book in 90 days (it is on me though – I also love to maintain a part-time career in teaching, as well as a career in non-fiction), I learned a lot from that book.
Then of course if you are ready to dedicate a really good portion of your available time, I do believe that even the NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) is not a far-fetched concept, especially if you do have a certain grasp of your main events and characters before starting. A novel- at least a reasonable first draft- can probably be written in 30 days. And a goal of 30 days, whether you officially join other writers in a contest or just set it for yourself, is a great and productivity-fueling idea.
But while I was reading an article on the Funds for Writers newsletter and saw the term 3-Day novelist, I thought it was a typo. A novel? In 3 days? Right…But then I read on to find out how the writer had used fundraising for her book and her proposed budget was $120….So I hit google.
Sure enough there it was: 3-Day Novel Contest. OK, to be fair, the novel is going to be about 100 pages but 3-Days? Seriously?
But short(ish) or not, I don’t honestly see myself sitting through one weekend and being able to finish a novel. But it is a challenge like I have never seen before. And if you win, your prize is getting published. But there is an entrance fee, and you must be ready for a true marathon.
- Have you ever joined the NaNoWriMo? Or the 3-Day Novel Contest?
- Did you assign yourself a certain amount of time to finish your novel and stick to it?
- What do you think is the most probable amount of time for producing a satisfactory novel, or its favorite cousin: the holy first draft?
I would love to learn about your experiences and insights.
Balancing Showing and Telling in Writing & Why “Show, Don’t Tell” Can Be Easier in Screenplays than in Novels
“Show, don’t tell” is a great advice. You-as the writer-need to make the readers see, feel, smell, touch…You want them to understand the characters and be immersed in the story without spelling everything out them. You want to them to see that your character is smart by the things he does or says. You don’t just tell them he is so smart. Or you might, but you also prove your point by showing that he is smart.
“But Show, Don’t Tell” is easier said than done, especially when it comes to writing novels. I can’t tell you how many novels I put down because they tried to tell me a million things, while also showing them to me. And ideally, no matter what kind of writing that you do, you have to balance the two.
There are many screenplays that just tell. Remember the movies where characters talk all the time, and never actually move their butts to take action about anything? The movies that bore you to death? Yeah- the screenwriters just told things, and the director went with it.
But with fun screenplays, the writers do a good job of balancing what to tell and show. But of course the screenplays are written for the screen, and everything will be shown by the actors. If they want to show the progress of a romance, they put on a good song and show us what the actors do together instead of giving us dialogue.
And this is exactly what I do when I write a screenplay. Sure, I sweat over lines and details, but sometimes it is more effective to choose the song with the right lyrics and let the reader/viewer get the message. But I can’t take advantage of music when I’m writing the novel. Well, I can- to motivate myself. But I can’t give my audience a soundtrack to go with it (although that would be pretty neat). I need to sweat over the thoughts, setting, and scenes- all the time. There’s no shortcut. This is a pretty hard thing to do.
Yes, I watch a lot of movies and pay attention to a lot of scenes. I also analyze novels on how much and how they showed and told. I keep my fingers crossed, and keep working on my first draft where I try to entertain, engage and make readers feel. But it is a tough road. Wish me luck.
How about you? Do you write fiction? Do you have problems balancing showing and telling? Please let me know in the comments.
Can it be done? I have nothing against chicklit. In fact, if it is written well, I am a huge fan. Hell, I am a romantic, and I am a chick- and a fun chicklit provides great escapism and some good laughs. But I highly doubt guys actually read any. Maybe some are dragged into the movie theaters if the book was adapted, but then the overwhelming pop soundtrack probably annoys the hell out of them, and minus the hilarity of the author, the comedy is easily lost on them. Well, I know that pop soundtrack definitely destroys the romance for me.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I want to be read by women. They will be the majority of my readers, and I am happy about this. I just don’t want the book totally ignored by guys just because the cover and tagline screams for women only.
OK, let’s get back to the novel. I’ve had this great idea for a romantic drama/comedy. Earlier, I had written about my indecision about the medium and why I’d decided to try writing it as a novel instead of a screenplay.
So, I collected some decent resources about how to write an engaging novel (and how to go about selling it.) And of course being the fan of romantic escapism, I dove into the novels of similar genres and started studying them.
Unfortunately, almost all of them had either been written in first person and in present tense or in third person limited from the girl’s point of view. And therein was my problem: I don’t have one protagonist. I have two. I don’t just want to get into the girl’s head- I also want to get into the guy’s.
And I have some pretty decent subplots which are also highly related to the main plot so I want to get into several heads. Don’t I have lots of books that were told in third person, unlimited? Sure, I do. Unfortunately they are all thrillers!
So what does a girl have to do to write a romantic novel that is not sappy? That isn’t all about the girl?
Yes, I want to be able to flesh out all my characters, and convey what they all actually think-as opposed to just the girl’s interpretation of what they think…I don’t want a pink cover. I love the color pink, it just doesn’t reflect the core.
So guess what I want? I want a novel that is as unisex as the movie Crazy, Stupid, Love. I loved everything about that story, and as much as it had a bromance of a sort, it was just a sweet, hilarious and universal story. And I know how to write one into a screenplay. I don’t have point of view problems there.
The question is, how to write its novel? Well, I’m writing and rewriting scenes from my first draft, and eventually it will all look right. Of course then the actual nightmare of looking for a publisher will start. But hey, let’s worry about one thing at a time, shall we?
What gets in the way of your storytelling?