Sunday, June 24, 2012

Plot carefully

When I started this WIP, I made the conscious decision to make the plot complex. I had a relatively straight forward plot going about 30,000 words into it. The thing looked like it would top out at around 60K words of plot. I figured by the time I added setting and such that it would be the standard length the trads always look for. Somewhere around 80-100K. At that point, I sat back and I thought about it long and hard. Weeks went by, and I remember thinking everything was too thin for my liking. It was a thoroughly vetted story, quick and to the point. Most popular books today are quick and to the point. I knew I might lose the interest of readers who preferred a quick story, but for the next few weeks, I went and plotted how to make the thing more complicated. And I did.

More complicated means a bigger word count and more time to write the thing. On lonely Sunday nights like this when I've got some rum in the belly and the wife is upstairs asleep, I second guess the wisdom of the decision. It seems like such a simple decision at the time. The writer wants what he wants. Like a debutante demanding that not only the tapestries be replaced, but that the mill work gets ripped out and replaced with cherry, the decision is made without due regard to the consequences. There are consequences to every decision you make as an author.

The plot's rolling now, the pieces are in place. With two and a half chapters to go, it's no time to be stingy with information the story demands. There are things the reader simply MUST know. I know the writer's instinct tells him the last couple chapters of the MS have to move, regardless of genre, but there can't be shortcuts. I wanted to take some, but I couldn't. So, a chapter I had under 6K words has ballooned to over 8K. Consequences. Leaving out this transition would have left the reader wondering too much. Yes, had the reader sat down and thought about it long enough, he could've figured out a half dozen ways the MC could have gotten from point A to point B, but the reader really shouldn't have to do that, should he? Fill in the blanks.

I don't regret the decision. I made it knowing the book might run long on word count. But there are nights like this when I sit back and dream about what could have been had I made a different decision. I could've had the thing run through the CC queues by now, I could've queried, or maybe even self-published on Amazon by now and be sitting here, reading a review or two. It's okay. I'm not in a hurry. Are you? Plot carefully.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Fishing for Editors

I know I don't know what I don't know. I need an editor to tell me that. Regardless of how slick I think I can get my prose, or how well the WIP is sequenced, I have no delusions that I'm up to the task of editing. Not copy editing, not content editing, not proofing. I'm just not versed well enough in the language to be able to perform those functions. Not many writers are. Those are two distinct talents IMO, like the artist and his accountant.

So, since I'm getting closer to the end of the MS, I've been pondering editing. If I go trad, then it's problem solved. Land an agent, find a publisher, and said publisher will no doubt have and in-house editor. Convenient. That means I don't have to cough up the grand up front to have the thing edited, and I don't have to worry about whether or not I'm picking the right one, a tough choice by any standard.

If I decide to go indie, then I've come across four editors I'll pursue. Two I found when I searched through every editor on Editors and Predators. The other two I have come to respect over on Kindle Boards. They post there occasionally, and they seem to make sense every time they do. Perhaps I'll come across another one before I'm ready, who knows.

I don't want an editor that's a "yes man", that's the last thing I need. On the other hand, I don't need an editor who's in a rut and thinks there's only one way to write a successful book. I pan to get samples of their work, and hopefully to get them to do my first chapter, or at least a portion, so I can judge their work. I haven't been confident in a lot of things about the writing business, but I'm confident I'll spot the right editor for me within a couple paragraphs.

I have no clue if I come across as being humble or cocky or somewhere in between, but I know myself well enough to know that I'm pretty full of myself in certain aspects of writing. Fortunately, they're not the ones that would preclude me from taking advice. I think that no matter how bad my MS may seem at the time, I can make it into something cool, even if it takes five years. That means I'm willing to take an editor's advice, and not brush it off. I'm a little drunk, but I think that's something important. I think I can be an editor's wet long as its the right editor.

Friday, June 15, 2012

The Author's Style..

Every animal has its own style.

There's been a lot of discussion on CC forums and on Kindle Boards about the author's style. Various authors have asked us to define our style. I can never answer with anything but a smart ass answer because I have no fucking clue. I think we'd all like to be associated with certain successful authors, but I'm not well-read enough to know of one with my style. That may be a bad thing.

I watched the movie Jaws tonight, and I love Peter Benchley's style. He's the author of the book, and the co-author of the script. His style is simple, quick, back-and-forth, funny, it takes each character and magnifies his flaws, takes him to his darkest place, and brings him out of the tunnel at the other end. It really is brilliant. I aim to be more deceptive. To fool the reader into a false sense of security and hit in the back of the head when he's not ready. I have far more character development than Asimov, and that means the MS slows down. The reader that likes the straight sci-fi sprint will likely get frustrated or impatient with my steeplechase. I'm political like Hebert was in Dune, but not as weird or long winded. And most sci-fi writers don't like love stories, but I adore them. Style is unique. Never, ever, ever, model your writing after someone because you admire their style. Don't do it. You'll lose your soul.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Three Chapters to Go

There was a thread recently on Kindle Boards about pace. Many authors claimed that short chapters gave their books a quicker pace, but I disagreed. I think chapter length is irrelevant, particularly in 1st person POV. Yes, in 3rd person where the action takes place away from the the MC, it makes a difference because typically the plot threads change depending on the POV character, but in the 1st, it doesn't make as much difference because the plot lines invariably follow the MC.

I have three plot lines and within most chapters I touch on at least two of those. That means that whenever the focus of the plot line shifts from the sci-fi plot line to the romance plot line, I don't need a chapter break. The change in focus acts as a chapter break. No, pace is not a product of chapter length, it's a product of the flow of the prose, the smooth transition from one line of focus to the next, and the frugality of the author when it comes to word usage, and description of setting, description of characters, and introspection, which weighs down a lot of novels.

Make it smooth, make it quick, use words frugally, don't remind readers of things they don't need to be reminded of.

Anyway, I'm celebrating. In the picture, from left to right, that's Skip, Beep, Boopsie, Nat, and me. My celebrations have evolved over the years. I loved the four of them more than I can express, But there's a camaraderie with the writers on the Internet that probably goes deeper, because we have shared travails. Only other writers know what it feels like to near the conclusion of one's first MS. Cheers.