Sunday, August 4, 2013

First Page

Dear Lord of Words,

Can you please explain the need for myself to spend hours contemplating, writing, reading, and stressing over the first page to my novel?

It's a bit of a drag, if I can be even more frank (don't call my Shirley?), that such a small portion of my story be an impressive consuming sink of brain-power, eye muscle scanning, and typing experience. The fairness of it all escapes me.

Yes, I understand that the first page is what most readers will see when they open the book, well, after they've gotten past the credits, copyright, etc, or are done reading the last page. Of course the beginning should be good -- it has to catch the attention of the reader, setup the character and world, and maybe something else, although I'm not sure. But really, my quality of writing shouldn't need to be substantially more professional or re-worked because of this, right?

Okay, I know what you're thinking. How can I think the first page doesn't need to be perfect? What if it's like the rest of my crappy novel? You've got a point there. But, in that case, shouldn't I just write in the same vein as the remaining content so that I'm not fooling the reader into thinking I'm talented or that they might enjoy the story? I don't want to be sued for false writing-ability.

Shouldn't the cover do more for me? I mean, it's got to be awesome, too!

Right, I'm missing the point, I'm sorry. Then could I at least try less and less from paragraph one on until the end of page one? By then I'm sure my writing will just go seamlessly to normal and the reader won't be caught in the turbulence that is my attempt at providing them a story.

I haven't received your answer yet.

Oh, you were reading my first page? What'd you think? Lord of Words? Mommy...?

So you want to watch it as a movie instead? Crap.

-JK

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Succinct

Sometimes when I read I get lost. Sure, word follows word and punctuation is present. Hey, getting lost can be good, if I meant getting lost in a story such that I was entrenched in the world and lives of the characters. No, I’m talking about when I read a paragraph or — even worse — a sentence, that by the time I get to the end of it I can’t remember what I’d just read or what the point of it was. And this has happened to me during published works, although not as often as drafts.
What if words were the only way we could convey our feelings? I’m talking on a literal level, here. Neither symbolic speech nor non-verbal communication count. (This would be a different world.)
And what if those same words that you typed or write could not be taken back? They would be etched on the stone of eternity for all to see, or at least all who cared to look.
I know that I would think more carefully how I phrased my ideas, opinions, and thoughts in general.
In that world, whether or not you feel the inspiration of your writing flow, or the sludge barely moves from your tips, you would be stuck with it. Tough luck. Would you survive? If you were a writer, would your work see the light of day past your inner-circle?
But, we’re blessed to be able to edit, delete, and revise. Keep your style, sure, but try to be succinct. Losing your reader is the worst thing you as a writer can do.
-JK

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Developing Skills To Write Novels


 A friend of mine recently asked me what the above header so boldly asks (though it isn't a question here).


How did I develop the skills to write novels?
To some degree I think the skill has to be built-in. Perhaps that's a convenient answer.
The programmer in me wants to break this question down into modules, in some order, but not in an official way, so here I go:

Creativity

When writing creative fiction/non-fiction, it is crucial that I have some sort of landscape of original thinking. If I don't have a creative wave pulling me out to the forgotten, demon-ridden whirlpool of story-land, why should I expect the reader to enjoy reading it? They've already read that last book – they probably won't want to pay money or waste their time reading a crappy duplicate.
Bless your story with genuine articles of your own creative juices. Don't be mad if you find story elements based off of other stories, but be sure that you give it your twist/taste.



Love of Reading

What? No, you don't need that. After all, books are written by magic, and thus no one writes them.
Yet, the want to read has to be there, otherwise why should you (or I), the writer, want others to read it? Anyone who writes a story and publishes it who doesn't love to read did not have a lot of readers. It will show through. Don't make it out to be that love of reading means knowing how to write just like your favorite authors. It only means that you enjoy the act of immersing yourself in a story so much that you want to do so yourself.


Planning

Writing a novel requires you to know the story. (Duh!) There are scenes, and beats within those scenes. A collection of scenes will make a chapter, and a series of chapters an arc. And of course, a series of arcs makes a novel.
You have to know what is going to happen, and when. Does this need to be known at creation of the story time? No. You will figure this out as you go, and from draft to draft changes will also be made, even if just slight.
Make your trajectory, and fine tune it as you write. Otherwise, you and your readers (if you have any) will be completely lost.


Determination

If you end up quitting, then your story will never be finished.
Some days (or weeks) are so challenging that you question each piece of the story that makes it your own. Given that, it would be easy to accept defeat and forget the project. Sure, you'll have days that rock your world and you want to sing to the world of your greatness, until the next day when your writing is worse than two hillbillies comparing who has more teeth.
Keep going if you want someone to read your piece someday. That may mean changing large elements of the story, and that hurts. But, that pain will be worth it when you complete the novel and see what you've accomplished.



Learn

Doing research on your world is crucial. So is learning from your mistakes and improving. If you don't increase your minds-awareness, and/or your characters', then the reader certainly won't feel challenged, either.



When I say your characters learn, that should mean that they are vibrant and think for themselves.
The world you build also has to learn as you write it. Certain events and places may not feel suitable for it, so if that's the case, take them out. Remember what I said about re-doing things? That's where this comes into place. You want to create the most natural fits for your world, even if your world isn't natural at all.
Take the time to get involved with the story, and really care about what happens to it, and your readers will notice, and hopefully end up caring, too.


Collaboration

Even if you never write with another author, you need friends. People can be great, and in that spirit, it is my belief that an ear, a shoulder, eyes balls, or even your own self can be a great remedy to the writing life. Your friends can help you out, and you to them. Learn other styles and stories. Give advice to the others, and listen to others, even if you don't do anything with it. No one knows the secret to writing, so should it hurt to ask around to see if you and your friends can stumble upon it?


Lastly

This isn't a module, but: believe that your writing matters. If I didn't believe that my writing and my stories have a place in the world, then I probably never would have started doing any of it. It's a compulsion, and the best treatment for it is to keep doing it until you get it out of your system. The best writers never free themselves from the compulsion.


Sunday, December 2, 2012

Is Grammar and Spelling Important In Novel writing?


Is Grammar and Spelling Important In Novel writing?




Sumtimes I read the noosespaper. (Good story, bro, tell it again.) My Dad reads it every weekend, or tries to, at least. When I was younger, he would pull my Sister and I up and show us a typo. This would also happen for advertisements when we were out and about; I have a keen eye for such grammar mistakes and typos because of that, which has become my jetpack for jettisoning over the grammar pitfalls of writing.



How can it be that people whom are paid to write can have a published piece out in the wild with grammar problems and typos? I suppose the first thing to consider is this: no one is perfect, least of all the entirety of humanity and computer programming.



I could write a novel (yeah, I can!) and not do any spell-checking. Let's also assume that I don't know how to write with mostly correct grammar, and also, let's say that I didn't use the spell-checker to mitigate (in most cases) the problems.



So, the piece gets out there, because that's how the world works. (If you didn't know, all you have to do to become a famous righter is get your piece “out there”. Pretty simple, dummy.) People then pick up your piece and become enthralled by the miraculous story and diction-talent that you possess. It becomes a popyoular book! That's amazing, and all u had to do was right it. Yeah, you rok.



Xept, I don't believe that ever actually happens. It can't be write that righters can just pen/type out a potentially mind-blowing piece and push it to the world and actually get somewhere off just that. It will never happen that way. (And if it does, feel free to strip me of my jetpack.)



But, you might say that not all diealogue is in correct grammar. Oh, yeah, for sure, but that's usually fine. Why? Well, dialogue is when the character is speaking. (Is that how it works? I had no idea, thank you!) So, if the character is speaking, then the dialogue should represent their dialect.



Back to the point of the article. Why will peaces that are poor in their grammar and spelling never make it big? Because people generally hate to sift through those missedakes for a long period of time, myself included. I find it frustrating, and more so if I paid for the work. Njoyment is usually what I want from reading a book. The act of reading it shouldn't force me to think two hard about the actual words yoused. If it does, perhaps it was the dictionary? Hey, it could be.



Think of it from another point of view. You have a phone. It's awesum and does phone things (smartly, I'm sure). But, its slow when loading “apps” and you can't change all of the settings to your liking. After some time, using the device gets on your nerves for at least sum of its functions. But, u have that two-year contrack; good luck with that.



We shouldn't put it up with overly unedited writing, unless we are editors! For the most part, though, buks are published with at least the paulish of correct grammar and lack of signiphicant typos. What a great feet and I'm happy that we have accomplished that much! But, I'm not so sure that will last. Our world is becoming less formal by the deckade...will I be a stalwart in twenty years because I right more correctly than another writer?



I find it important to right with an eye for correct spelling and yousage of grammars. What do you think? Are you a writer or a reader?



Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Sunday, November 11, 2012

What happens when I ____?

When I first wrote the title to this post, I had the concept of a "What happens when I <insert curse-word> up? How...be...awesome...again?"

However, that's actually a narrow perspective, therefore this post will cover the great eff-ups and successes, and how the author (you/I) should deal with them.


An author can force a story to deteriorate in more ways than should be allowed.

I can pull on that one thread and suddenly I wish I'd left it all alone because now I have one long spaghetti of story. Certainly, you can put it back together...but it may not be easy.

Was that chapter really necessary? What did it do for the character, for the reader?

I spend the entire story building up the character's personality and desires, and I don't want to screw up! Perfection is ideal. Attainable? No.

But, back to that chapter example. There has been at least on time where I wrote an entire chapter that I then threw away. I can divulge this one thing quite easily: it was not enjoyable. I spent a good hour on that thing. Sure, it was the first draft and it wasn't a long chapter, but come on! I wrote the scenes, had some ideas for the next chapter, and then with some thought, I realized it was for naught. Perhaps my whims had caught up with me: I can't write the perfect list of chapters on the first go anymore. Normally, I'll add chapters on later drafts, but remove in the first? That's not how I thought I'd do it.

So, what happens when you screw up? You fix it. In my case, I removed the virus chapter and replenished the story with a better one that gave the story the direction it needed. It was actually surprisingly easy, once I realized I had the second chance. Still, I didn't really plan out the replacement, but I was in high spirits. And I got some comedy out of it...always a good thing.

To summarize: when you make a big mistake, bring out your critical eye and take a sip of I-can-do-better. And perhaps add some sugar. Find a better way. Take your story as a whole and work through it!

Onto the optimistic side:

When I do well I get giddy. Woot I rock at writing! I want a slow-clap. Now.

I got through the tough passage and the character is up against a huge block that they have to surpass. Yeah, it's a good time to be the writer: how will it go down? I just set up the story for that amazing thing? Yeah, I'm awesome.

The gotcha? Don't get complacent. Most likely you're not finished with the draft. If you are, then move to the next draft, else hire an editor.

If you have more writing to do, be happy for what you did, but move on. As most of us know by now, one day you'll feel ravishing about your accomplishment, but the next downright dreadful. Take it in turns and be strong, you Writer.

-JK

Re-draw

Re-draw

I read an interesting article a few weeks ago. (What, you didn't?)

If I find the URL for it, I'll post it up, but for now I'll go into the summary, and my thoughts on it, in a practical sense.

Novelists have a hard time; we have long pieces that need to hold the reader, build up conflict in a somewhat well-measured time, and keep a look-out on the end from the get-go. Short-story writers don't have that same problem. As far their problems go, that's not for this piece.

So, if we have such a hard time keeping things in-line, understandable, and interesting, how can we know we've done such things? It's not easy, as I subtly alluded to above. And, the article goes into the following methods for helping out the novelist, using short-story methods:

  • write from multiple POVs (point-of-views)
  • Break up the major arcs into sub-arcs that are more or less self-contained
Hey, that's work! Or, hey, I already write out the POV of a few/several main characters. (I normally don't do multiple POV, but perhaps that will change.)

 It's important to have an idea of the flow of the story at every point. That may mean that, at least for single POV stories, that you, the author, write passages of the other characters. In this manner, you can fill plot-holes, and understand your characters, the world, and events better. Isn't that a good thing?

It's this re-draw that I find interesting. My, what if you actually like what you write in this stage? Maybe that means the next draft actually uses those bits? Why not? It's your story, write it how you find it best.

I'm planning on doing just that, I think. I still am working on the draft, but I am closing in on the ending, and once I've taken my break from the story, I'm looking forward to this incredibly in-depth method. Sure, it's going to take a long time, and my frustration level is going to rise. However, the idea is that my story will be better off for it in the end. Want to try that yourself? Go ahead! I doubt you will be disappointed for the effort.


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