Monthly Archives: July 2014

Three Dirty Birds Talk Fluidity and Story Trumps Structure

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Flowing smoothly from Zoe’s blog

No Tickles Tonight :(

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It’s summer. I keep forgetting what day of the week it is. And I have two days to pull a rabbit out of hat, but all I keep finding are these little raisins…

I knew the first book I wrote after my husband’s passing would be hard. I wasn’t expecting quite this hard, or the reasons it would be difficult. I’ve never had a story that was so slippery, that wouldn’t stay inside my head in its entirety long enough for me to be sure all the arcs were arcing and the plot points were pointing.

Thankfully, I can see that this is going to end. Maybe not in time for this book, or even for the next, but the mental and emotional exhaustion that I think is at the root is passing. Every once in a while, I have a good day, and the whole story lays itself out for me in all its glory. Relief is in sight.

Until then, I’ll keep on writing and coaxing stories out into the light of day. It just might be more the tortoise than the hare.

Hey, would that explain the raisins?

Three Dirty Birds Talk about Continuity (only it’s not)

Three Dirty Birds, tweeting about Story Trumps Structure, chapter 16.

Kate: He calls this chapter Continuity, but I do not think that word means what he thinks it means. (/mutilated Princess Bride reference)

Zoe: Yeah, it wasn’t quite what I was expecting based on the chapter title.

Kate: No, I was expecting something about making sure all your facts are in order, and that you don’t say a character can do something early in a book, then have them not be able to it later (unless they’re a witch with problems…)

Ana: Talk about messing with reader expectations….

Kate: The irony.

Zoe: So the first “half” of this very short chapter was about how he had a big plot hole in a book, and no one noticed because the narrative forces just rushed the reader right over it. And his point was… I’m so not sure.

Ana: I know I’ve had it happen to me as a reader. When I really liked a book and then I go look at the reviews and they point out issues I never noticed because I was too engrossed with the story. The reviews kind of spoiled the book for me after the fact.

Kate: The point of the matter being–there shouldn’t be a plot hole big enough to drive a truck through in your story.

Zoe: Was anyone else trying to solve his plot hole problem in the least rewrite-necessary way possible while they were reading?

Kate: Yes! I figure the snakes had to be left in the front of the helicopter, and it would have had to be the kind with the separate pilot’s compartment. A military one.

Zoe: I thought you could leave the snakes out altogether and find another way to kill the pilot…though even crashing the helicopter risks the character’s life—the character he was dead set on burying underground.

Kate: He could have just bribed the pilot, too. A little bit of foreshadowing here and there, and kaboom! Plot twist!

Zoe: Hey, yeah!

Ana: It sounded like it was too late for him to make rewrites, though.

Zoe: Excuses, excuses.

Kate: Never too late! I’ve made changes in proofs! (Not that the publisher likes that, but it was one of those ‘better to ask forgiveness than permission’ situations.)

Yes, I have had a lot of coffee this morning. Why do you ask? I’m a bit hyper. *bounces* Lots of exclamation points today…!!!

Zoe: The other part of the chapter was about subplots, and I found it somewhat reassuring because I’ve struggled with the subplot thing, the feeling that I need to add one, that I don’t have enough going on in my story, that it’s too simple. So it’s a relief to read that I should only have subplots if they’re supposed to be there.

Ana: He said: ‘If you can remove a subplot without changing the outcome of the story, it’s not a subplot–it’s a distraction.’ I think that would go on a sticky note if I had any. I usually have trouble identifying my subplots because everything ties into the main plot somehow. Now I guess that’s not a bad thing.

Kate: My subplots are usually–and I’m not sure how to explain it–but I write the main story from the MC’s POV, then as I rewrite, I look at what the other characters are doing and why they’re doing it. It often changes dialogue, and sometimes the actions of the characters. But usually, the secondary characters are making the best choices they can, given the situation they’re in and what they know.

Ana: Oh yes, please let secondary characters have lives and their own agendas!

Zoe: You don’t like it when they’re treated as potted plants? (Ana: Zoe actually typed ‘plotted plants.’)

Ana: I’d only forget to water them. My plants all grow crispy.

Kate: Any plant entering my house knows they need to be self-sufficient. The scattered corpses of their predecessors are ample warning. I can kill cacti.

Ana: That’s a talent.

Kate: Not good when you’re married to a farmer. 🙂 Well, that was a short chapter–only three pages in the book. And half of it was spent telling us the helicopter story from his book.

Next up: Fluidity!

Checking Out Publishers

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I’m getting to the point in my career where I think I need to branch out in terms of publishers. Don’t get me wrong–I’ve very happy with Loose Id, and I have no plans to leave them. I’ve got several stories lined up to be written, or to finish editing, that should take me well into 2015. These plans have been in the works for a while, but the events of the past year and half have pushed everything off by about six months or more.

There are a few reasons for having more than one publisher.

One is to gain experience with different editors and pick up new skills. Every pub and every editor has their things they do well and things they don’t cover quite as well. They’ll point out different things in your writing, push you in different directions. Some market better than others, while others have a stronger editing department.

Readerships tend to be like a Venn diagram–there’s some overlap between pubs, but there will always be some readers that visit one website, and never go to the other. However, if they like the book you put out at your new pub, they might be encouraged to pop over to your old one and try some of those too.

Myself and several other writers I know are currently debating the issue of multiple genres and whether going to a second or third publisher to handle other genres is a smart thing to do, or just makes it harder for readers to find you. Would it make sense to have contemporary and fantasy at one pub, paranormal and scifi at another, and then a third for anything that doesn’t fit in those categories? In essence, using the publisher’s name as a branding tool for that genre? Or should an author make the effort to keep everything at one publisher for ease of purchase by a reader? (That being said, there are some pubs that seem to be more open to odd categories of fiction, like erotic romance in a fantasy setting, or erotic horror, or steampunk.)

So I’m probably going to test the waters on this. I have something that I’ve been holding onto, that needs some revision, then I’m going to try sending it out again. We’ll see how it goes. If it doesn’t work out the way I’m hoping, then no harm, no foul, right?

What have I been doing to figure out which publishers I want to try? Some of it is personal experience. There are a couple I wouldn’t touch with a ten foot pole, after either having dealings with them (or attempting to), or reading things that came out from them.

Word of mouth. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to get involved in the community somewhere, so you hear things that might not be said in an official capacity. Very often, writers are reluctant to discuss concerns they have with a publisher, because they’re afraid of being blacklisted, or graylisted. It’s also the place where you’ll hear about the really good stuff too. About times when publishers went above and beyond their responsibility to an author and sorted something out, or even just made a change to a release schedule to help someone having a rough time.

Check their sales rankings for books in the genre that your manuscript would be placed in, and look to see how, and if, they promote themselves. Check Novelrank sales, check ARe rankings, check Goodreads for reviews of the books. Because some publishers are very good at the “Rah, rah, we’re a fantastic publisher!”, but the proof is in the numbers, and sometimes the hype and numbers don’t line up.

Last, but not least, read books from the publishers you’re considering. Especially, read books in your genre. Even if all you can get to is the ‘Look Inside’ from Amazon, read the books. Because that will tell you what their editing is like, if there’s a general trend in the types of characters they prefer in that genre, and it will tell you a little bit about house style.

There’s one pub I’m considering, because their sales are great, but I keep hesitating because their editing is less than stellar. There’s another with great sales, and better editing, but when I read the stuff in my genre, I DNF the books more often than I finish them, which tells me that I might not be writing the kind of stuff that they like. There’s a third with sales that aren’t quite as good, but they seem to be working on their marketing, and the style of their books lines up better with mine. And a fourth that seems to be a bit of a powerhouse, but I’m afraid I’d get lost in the number of books they put out.

These are all things that need to be considered. Each one will have a different weight, depending on where a specific author’s strengths are. Me, I don’t want to have to do much promo. I don’t feel particularly comfortable with it, and I’d prefer to spend time in my imaginary worlds than researching blogs and trying to figure out what, exactly, is the optimal schedule and number of guest posts for a blog tour. I also look at this as a chance to learn something new, so I want a place with editors that will challenge me, but also know how to show me where the path is when I get so all I can see is the trees.

And the last thing I want is a crystal ball, so I can just look ahead and see which is the right choice to make. 😛 Because, really, the only way to find out the truth is to make a choice, and jump. So, that’s what I’ll be doing, once I’ve got Loose Id looked after. A little experiment, if you will. Should be fun. 🙂

Three Dirty Birds Talk about Genre Expectations

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We’ve moved to Ana’s side of the nut tree, to talk about reader expectations and genre blending and to basically shake our heads in wonder at Mr. James and his apparent conviction that no one reads romance anyway, so he doesn’t need to do his research on that topic.

Three Dirty Birds Talk Believability, and Kate tried very hard not to jump up on her soapbox

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We’re over on Zoe’s branch today!

Tuesday Tickle: The Payne Principle (Working Title)

This is the start of a new science fantasy series that I’m toying with. It’s post-apocalyptic, with shifters and dragons (who are not the shifters) and a new branch of the military. and is taking way more research than I expected. I think you can look for this one next year, late summer or fall I hope. And it kind of depends on whether I can come up with a title that’s a lot less cheesy than up above. Because I really don’t want it to come out with that one. 🙂

“Private Miller?” The corpsman’s voice held only the faintest quiver.

“You don’t need to be scared of me,” Riley said.

“I’m not scared.”

“That’s good. I’m terrified myself.” As jokes went, it sucked, but it seemed to break the tension. After all, he couldn’t be that dangerous, if he was still cracking jokes, right?

The corpsman washed him with rapid efficiency and held the jug for him to piss into. There was little enough to come out, since he hadn’t been able to keep anything, even water, down for—he didn’t know how long. It felt like forever. He’d moved well beyond being thirsty a while ago.

His vision was going weird again.

Please, not another seizure.

The corpsman was tucking a clean blanket around him when it hit, but this one was different. His muscles snapped tight so quickly he literally bounced off the mattress. This time, they didn’t stay tight. Instead, he flailed on the floor, barely aware of the leather sleeve breaking and his IV tearing out of his vein, streaming blood tainted fluids everywhere. He didn’t hear the corpsman screaming over the sound of his own muscles and bones as they tore themselves apart.

He did feel the bite of the tranquilizer darts. And they made something inside him very angry.