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Category Archives: novella

Changing your perceptions


I had initially began the first of a long series of books with a male main character. While listening to a writing podcast (I believe it was writing excuses), they talked about switching the sex of your main character in order to alter how you see them and to refine the core of the story.

When I did this, it completely eliminated my writers block. I have since entirely switched that main character to a female, and it has unlocked the story for me nearly entirely.

So now everytime my story starts to lag I look at how I can alter it in a fundamental way, which will so thoroughly change the way I see the story. In order to hopefully unlock the next scene which seems to allude me.

 

Prologues & Epilogues


So, what people normally do with prologues and epilogues is add depth to a story that just doesn’t seem to fit in the main story. It could be a brief excerpt of thousands of years of history to explain why things are the way they are. It could be a “they lived happily ever after” like they did in the harry potter movies. Recently I was listening to a podcast where an author was talking about putting chapter excerpts from the next book at the end of his books. That got my mind to thinking, what if.

What if, instead of sprinkling explanations throughout a new book of things that happened in a previous book or books, you just had excerpts as a prologue? What if, instead of a cliff hanger (which I hate, usually) you make the reader want more by giving them a taste of what’s to come?

So basically, the prologue catches the reader up. This can be good for new readers who are just coming into the universe, or for loyal readers who might have had to wait a long time for a sequel, and instead of needed to read the previous book all over again, they can just read the prologue and all the memories of the previous book(s) come flooding back, along with the drive to learn “what happens next!” which is built in momentum ready to go.

Sometimes I really enjoy reading the previous books in a series, like Ender’s Game. Then again, after about 7 books, you start to just read the new book and struggle to recall everything relevant. That’s why I can see the reasons for shout-outs sprinkled throughout the new books in a series, even though they bug me. A second benefit that just occurred to me is that a reader might not know about a certain book that leads up to the one they are reading. A good for instance is the books in the Liaden Universe. Often times there are short stories, or whole other series that tie in and a new reader will not know what order to read them in. As a matter of fact, the writers have made a Correct Reading Order list just so readers know to go find these other books before they dive into a series that will leave them confused in a few spots.

Now Sharon Lee and Steve Miller don’t do the shout-outs, or if they do they are so clever or talented that I haven’t noticed them. In fact reading their books has made me think about my own universe and how I can remedy issues in my own universe that¬† I come across as a reader of theirs. I also hope I can make stories half as interesting as theirs are.

What if, I made these book ends not only explanatory and enticing, but hyperlinked? In the prologue, you’d have “Excerpts from ____” with the name of the book hyperlinked to a buy page. That way a new reader could stop there and go pick up the previous book if they wanted, or read the excerpt and hope it explained enough, and read on. The epilogue being a chapter excerpt also having a hyperlink would allow the reader to go then and get the new book, if they were so inclined, or a link to my web site (when I get one) so they can watch for a release date.

I’m really excited about this idea, and think it could solve many issues I have come across while reading series or universes. What are your thoughts?

 

 

 

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The sequel shout-out


Over the years I’ve read quite a few sequels. Mostly in series but sometimes just in the same “universe”. One thing that bugs be and has gotten bad enough that I had to put the book aside and take a break so I wouldn’t tear it in half, is the “shout-out” to events that happened in a previous book. 99% of the time I have seen this done, is the “explaining to a third-party” type. Everyone has done this, you will be telling someone a story and realize that they weren’t privy to certain information that may make what you are saying cogent. So you stop your description or story, and back fill. When should this be done and when shouldn’t it?

I’ve talked with many people about this and most don’t have the problem I have, but then they weren’t closet writers either ūüėČ The ones it did bother, basically considered it “the way it is” like the sun being the center of the system, and let it go. I can’t do that. Something being “the way it is, and wrong, I try to find a way to change it. Now my major issue in advocating change in this case, is many people don’t have a problem with it, they never noticed it until I said something. Some people will later call me everything but human for pointing it out cause now it annoys them too. Another convert MWAhahahaha!

Anyhoo. My idea, and feel free to use this, is to use prologues and epilogues as a catch-up and sneak peek. Basically, I want the books I will be writing in my “Mongers Universe” to be semi stand-alones. There will be character arcs over multiple books, main character back stories, side stories that eventually tie into the main thread. Secondary characters that will have spinoffs, and that’s just the ideas I have now. No telling what else I’ll get when I write all those stories, or what stories others will want to write in the universe.

I’ll let your brain stew on that for a bit. Look for the sequel to this post titled, “Prologues & Epilogues”, see what I did there?

 

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Separating dialog with narration


I understand the need to set a scene and describe actions well enough for the dialog written to have the proper context. What I do not understand, or agree with, is separating a sentence with narration. Let me give you an example. “I do not think,” He began considering the proper weight he wanted his words to have. “that would be a good idea.”

These separations throw speed bumps into the flow of the words. Not only that, if you throw a long narration in between a sentence, then the end of the sentence can not make sense at all, resulting in the reader going back to the beginning of the paragraph in order to get caught up, then needing to find their place again in order to continue reading.

This narration can be added before or after the dialog, or in between topics in a larger conversation. If a writer is trying to “catch up” their reader, then they have made a mistake previously in their story. If you are writing and suddenly your story goes in a place you hadn’t intended, but is perfect for the story itself, and that creates a vacuum where you need to catch your readers up, go back and add something into what you have already written that will keep the flow of your story steady and well paced. If you can’t add this new bit in, or it’s too long, write a short story and send it out to your mailing list as free bonus content, or publish it on its own.

A writer often times wants to draw their reader into the head space of a character, for good or ill. They want to make sure the reader knows what’s going on in the characters mind as the dialog unfolds. This can be superfluous or essential to a story. A writer might not know which until the editing happens as they’d re in their “creative mind” while writing and will just throw words on the page to get them out of their heads.

This is also why I “let it age”, in regards to my story, before I edit it. This allows my mind to forget about that story and get distracted by another. I’ll blog about that later.

In closing, always think about flow when you are editing. If needs be, read aloud to the extent that you are attempting an audiobook. Does your speech catch? Then so does the readers mind. The smoother flowing a story is the easier a reader slips into the world and the stronger it grips it’s readers. It can be the difference between a “That was a good book” and “Where’s the next book?!”.

 

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Personal Wikis


I first heard about personal wikis on the SPP. Granted this isn’t a new idea, nor is the program Sean spoke about using, but it was new to me. The guys on SPP were talking about a program called wikidpad¬†which I subsequently downloaded and started trying to use. I will be honest, I sabotaged myself with this program at first. I thought it was HTML heavy and because of that initial misconception, I mentally blocked myself. So I downloaded two other applications for my mac, scribbleton¬†& voodoopad. Both seemed to be great wiki programs, and I tried both thoroughly.

Voodoopad is only a trial, and at 15 links you don’t really get a good idea of what the full program will be like, so I passed on it.

Scribbleton was free all the way and was a great wiki, easy to use and as far as I could tell unlimited. The problem with scribbleton for me was the lack of allowing multiple wikis (more in a minute) and suddenly deleting my entire wiki.

Now… there were glitches with scribbleton when I used it, which could be it’s interaction with my OSX 10.6.8. Any time I tried to start a new wiki for a different book, it froze entirely, requiring me to restart my macbook pro in order to open it again. Now the sickening part. One day I woke up, started up my laptop, opened scribbleton and my wiki was gone. There were no traces of any of the wiki files. I restarted and they were still gone. So that was the end of my experience with scribbleton.

After a few days to eliminate my depression over weeks of work gone, I decided to give wikidpad a chance again even if I had to learn HTML. Opening it again I went back into the ‘getting started’ files, and suddenly realized how foolish¬†I had been. There was no need to write in HTML, all your data is stored in plain text.

So I started building my little corner of the galaxy which my universe sits in. It was all downhill from there.Hours and hours of typing and I had rebuilt what I had lost in scribbleton and doubled the information in my wiki.

Now…the reason for a wiki is to keep your thoughts in order. Just like a fan wiki, a personal wiki allows for any information you deem important in your universe at your fingertips. Whether it makes it into the book you are currently writing or one you will write in the future, or never makes it into a book but helps you build the scenes in your mind, it’s easily accessible.

I was working on outlining my book and I could not for the life of me picture a scene where I wanted my story to go. Once I started building my wiki, that changed. Linking aspects of my universe together to make a whole picture helped immensely to construct scenes. Suddenly entire subcultures I had never envisioned sprouted into existence. I may never use them more than window dressing on a scene, but knowing the culture allowed my mind to make connections it couldn’t before.

I guess you could view it as the universe’s character. I didn’t have the universe’s character profile filled out extensively enough yet. Building a wiki allowed me to do that. It also showed me reasons why certain characters were doing things I pictured them doing. I’m not even writing yet, and the characters already have a mind of their own. So in closing thank you Jason Horman for making wikidpad open source and free for everyone, including us struggling writers.

 

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Character short stories & character profiles


My last post I mentioned an experiment involving character short stories as a means to better understand the characters. While the characters I selected had far too interesting lives to make just one story, I have come to discover that this idea isn’t limited to myself alone.

About two months after I had the idea to make these short stories, I heard on an episode of writing excuses, I believe it was Brandon Sanderson,¬†¬†that did this often. Wrote short stories of the main character’s life to better understand the character. If I recall correctly, he said that many times these stories were never even published.

So… while my experiment didn’t lead anywhere for me at this time, I did find positive results from a well established author. What my experiment did¬†find was the expanse of the universe I had in my mind. The back story of my main character worked very well as a world building story in a section of the universe I am creating entirely separate from where I had intended in the novel i was working on.

The area where the back story was set will be referred to in many occasions in the original novel, and in doing so I saw the benefit of increasing the understanding of the universe as a whole. So I came to another decision… how to fit these new stories into the series that I had originally intended. I couldn’t do it.

I considered using the back story I was developing in my mind as flashbacks throughout the series, but they would have been too numerous and would have detracted from the flow of the original story. So then I considered a stand alone novel for each character’s backstory, and then it hit me. Make every book a stand alone novel in the wider universe.

This idea wasn’t my own, I was reading Fledgling for the first time in many many years and since I enjoyed it as a much older person and the author’s writing was excellent, I decided to look them up. I also noticed on my copy an mention of book X in the Liaden Universe. That set my curiosity going and I needed to learn what they meant by ‘Universe’. I imagined it was the collection the book was in, by was this a series, or series of series? In fact it was something else entirely.

What it was, was something that would lead to my understand my own ideas better. The¬†Liaden Universe¬†is a collection of books. Some stand alone, some series, all connected in some way, obscure or obvious, and all in one “universe” of the author’s making. This realization that I was “allowed” to do such a thing, that many “rules” in writing are not set in stone and the only barrier to changing any set rule is success. If it works…use it.

For Lee and Miller, it works very well. Once the allowance was made in my mind, the barriers I had set in my own imagination fell away, resulting in so many ideas for novels that it has taken me months to get them all down and in a semblance of order.

Now that I have that all out of my conscious mind I can focus once again on the characters that began the wonderful quest of mine. While the original idea that started this whole thing is going to be put on the back burner for awhile, the backstory turned stand alone novel, set in my Mongers Universe, has become the focus of my time. Even the other backstory I was planning to make a short story out of originally is on the back burner and as of now is still only in the idea stage.

So in closing, don’t be afraid to experiment, or let the story lead you to the place it needs to go. Also beware of the walls you put on your imagination.

 

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Experiments pt 2


I have been intently focusing on learning what I am doing wrong and how to fix it. One thing that I have been having extreme trouble sometimes is characters, and how they all fit together.

So what I have decided to do is to take each character and write a short story about their main motivation. When you write characters, you need to know who they are so you can know how they react to the world you put them in.

I’ve got these characters in my head and I see so much of them and the world that I sometimes get lost. What these short stories will do, is put in black and white what is currently fluid in my mind. Not just allowing my mind to relax its hold on them, but also to make them more concrete to keep me from changing them constantly.

I’m aiming for these to only be a few thousand words, two or three is my goal, but that might change. This exercise will also be purely discovery writing, no outlining other than what I have already done in my head. I’ll post again with the results.

 

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