Thursday, July 29, 2010

Facts in Fiction

Yesterday I was speaking to a coworker—ever notice how many of my posts start from my conversations—and I’d made a comment about a technicality my sister caught in my current ms. I’d mentioned something about a character firing three people without a severance or their 401k. My sister—a human resources director—told me that’s against the law. So I’d needed to change it. No matter what happened, the person was entitled to their 401k since it was money they invested.

This is another example of the value of “readers” because I would’ve never known that. Well, my coworker was like, “Who cares, its fiction!”
I had to explain to her that even in fiction you need facts. Everyone on my job, with the exception of those few who have actually read my writing, think I write nothing but Harry Potter type novels, when in fact, I’ve never written anything remotely close to the Potter universe—other than fanfiction.

To make this coworker understand, I had to point out all the inaccuracies in hospital shows—as we are medical professionals. It’s frustrating for the doctors and nurses I work with to watch their work being so inaccurately portrayed on screen. I said, “That’s fiction, but you want to be accurate, right?”

She understood, I guess, but I have a sneaking suspicion that when she thinks of my writing she envisions people flying around on broomsticks, worried about their 401k’s.

*Le Sigh*

This scenario had me thinking about how much we are willing to suspend our belief while reading fiction. Or watching movies and tv. I just recently saw Salt and, as with most action movies, you have to suspend your belief somewhat so you can go on the ride the director has planned. Watching people accomplish impossible feats and come out unscathed is sometimes hard to sit through without rolling your eyes, but when it’s done correctly, we buy it.

With my current novel, the main character has psychic dreams. Is this real? Who knows? I can honestly say I’ve never met anyone who could tell the future through their dreams. Have I had foreboding dreams? Yes. But out right showing the future, nope, never had, never met anyone with that ability. So to me, everything outside of that one paranormal activity needed to be grounded in fact for this particular story to work. It may change with other novels I write, but as I’m probably always going to write earth bound novels, there will be certain facts that I’ll have to keep intact.

How about you guys? Do you think a lot about the facts you put in your novels? Do you research, ask people who may be in the know, even if you’re writing fantasy and sci-fi? If you have some examples, leave them in the comments.

Monday, July 26, 2010

To Outline or Not Outline…that is the question.

A few days ago I was reading a post on the blog of kt Literary. The posed was about how people plot out their novels. Outline or fly the seat or your pants? As much as I’ve tried to outline, it’s never stuck. I am and, suspect I always will be, a fly by the seat of my pants type of writer. Perhaps if I ever write something like The Da Vinci Code, or my most recent reads: Caught by Harlan Coben or The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest, then perhaps I’ll need to outline, post up cards and have detailed pedigrees. Those stories have a tone of characters, plots within plots and enough twists and turns to snap a neck. So, yeah, I’d probably need to outline.

I’m a character driven writer. I like to read books, watch movies and tv shows which are character driven (one of the reasons I never really got into Law and Order). I care less about the crime and more about the toll it takes on the character.

So for me, I’ve never really had to plot out a character driven novel. Sometimes I have to take note of certain things, for instance:

In my latest novel, the first chapter starts with the main character angry that her on-campus parking spot has been revoked and given to the new guy, even though she stood in line last term to get it, and followed all the rules. It’s a small thing, but I wanted it to come back into play near the end of the book, so hopefully my readers will say, “Oh, now I see why her spot was taken.” The funny thing is, I’d written it down as a reminder to circle back around to it at the end. And then I promptly forgot about it, yet somehow managed to still bring it full circle. So I guess, until my memory stops working for me, I’ll keep flying by the seat of my pants as I write.

Tell me, do you outline or fly by the seat of your pants?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Writers vs. Readers

Today I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about a comment I made yesterday. I was speaking to a friend who has a copy of my ms and I said that I was looking for real readers for my ms. The word REAL made her look questioningly at me as if I thought of her as a ghost. I hadn’t meant to insult her, really, she’s awesome. I spit the foot out of my mouth and said, “What I meant to say was, I’m looking for writers to read over my ms. Writers and readers look at things differently.”

I was wrong to use the word real and I apologized because everyone who puts in the time to read something you’ve created is VERY real. Once I explained and dug myself out of the hole I’d fallen into, she understood what I’d meant. (and she doesn’t hate me. Yay!)

Sometimes—not all the time—people who have never written anything, can tell you that they liked or disliked something, but can’t really tell you why it works or doesn’t work. I find this to be the case with one of my best friends. She’s well-read and reads fast, but at the end of reading my ms, she will say, it was good. Or, I liked it. While those are the things you want to hear, as an aspiring writer, you need more. With my first ms, I was so frustrated with all those comments that I nearly shelved it for good. I didn’t know any other writers at the time, so I really had no clue if what I’d written was actually good or sucked sideways.

Turns out, it sucked. The novel was WAY too long—like almost 500 pages—I know, right! The plot was thin. The protagonist was 17 and I had way too much explicit sex in it to cater to the teen market. And the format was insanely wrong. I’d italicized, bolded, and double indented all the dialogue. *hangs head in shame* Yeah, I did that.

So as I try to rinse the flavor of my shoe out of my mouth, I want to know if you all understand what I’m saying. Do you think there’s a difference between readers and writers when it comes to reading your manuscript? The value is there for both, of course. The average person who buys your novel will be a “reader” so you don’t want to discount your primary readers opinions. But writers look at things differently. We appreciate sentence structure, deep characters and solid plots and we know how to tell you how great that is. Or we can spot the flaws in all three and know how to tell you how to fix it.

I’d love to hear your opinions!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

I have No Patience

I need help, people! I’m done with my edits and I have readers plowing through my novel as we speak (btw, I still need a beta that’s an actual writer or editor. My readers now aren’t writers, they are family and friends and we all know you need someone with a critical eye. Here is the synopsis of the ms, let me know if any of you out there is interested—thanks!). Now I’m at the point where I have to physically stop myself from sending out a query nearly everyday.

I don’t do it, because I know the repercussions of querying too early, but man am I eager to start. I need you all to talk me down from the ledge and keep me from leaping into query hell prematurely.

What do you guys do when you’re suffering from premature query-lation? Think about baseball? Chew your nails to the nub? Eat chocolate? Write other things? Shop? Or all of the above?

Monday, July 19, 2010

When Did I Write That?

As I’m in edit mode on my current novel, I read each sentence, each word carefully. Sometimes I have no memory of writing a certain sentences. I remember creating scenes or chapters, but the little bits that constitute a scene or a chapter…I usually can’t say, I remember the day I wrote that sentence.

I found myself explaining this to a friend and I mistakenly told her that’s how it is for writers, that no one remembers the tiny nuances of a chapter or a completed novel, but who am I to speculate?

Maybe there are some of you out there who can say, “I wrote that sentence on the fourth of July.” I think the reason why it’s different for me, and I expect many of you, is because while I may have a detailed scene in my head, when I sit down to write, but then something takes over. I may not stick completely to what’s in my head. And then it’s all organic after that. Sometimes I really like what I’ve written and think, “Wow, I must’ve been on a roll that day.”

Sometimes I’m like, “What was I thinking when I wrote that?” Mostly, it’s a joyous thing and I’m happy to be at the point where I’m revising. I stumble across things that make me smile, laugh out loud or tugs at my heart and I wonder if the reader will feel the same in those places.

Am I the only one who forgets certain sentences, and then is surprised by how good they are? Or are you the type who can’t remember writing every word of your novel?

Friday, July 9, 2010

No Imagination

I was having a conversation with one of my coworkers and had a sudden realization…this woman lacks any sort of imagination. It all started from a comment I made about wanting a dog just like my sister's…as seen here with Santa and I planned to name him Sirius Black. Well, my coworker had no clue who that was, which is fine. Not everyone is required to know Harry Potter.

When I explained it was from Harry Potter, she went on a tirade about how stupid the books and movies are—even though she’s never read or seen any of them—and that it’s just dumb to write about people flying around on broom sticks. For a minute I just stood and stared at her while my other two coworkers—who’ve read and loved HP—went about telling her how great the books are.

Her counter argument was, “Why can’t people just write about normal stuff?” This was her honest-to-God answer and belief. Now, I’m not one to mock someone’s beliefs because I’d hate for someone to do that to me, but the interaction just made me sad.

What would the world be like if people only wrote about ‘normal stuff’? People are well within their right not to like fantasy for whatever reason they choose, just as I’m well within my right not to like books on science or math. But wow, I have no clue what I would do if I had no imagination. I certainly wouldn’t be a writer.

This coworker is, overall, a decent person. She makes me laugh and we have fun when we hang out, but I could never have a conversation with her about ANYthing other than beer—which I don’t really drink—annoying patients, or family. She has no interest in history, has no clue about current events or even pop culture. Sometimes there is a vast nothingness that comes across her face when you say something to her that you think would be common knowledge. And I just want to point out that I have no plans to change her, because who am I to tell her she shouldn’t be this way? She’s happy, she’s a good person and I really do like her, but my heart just hurt for her today. I know that’s dramatic, but being someone with such a vivid imagination, I almost felt like I should transfuse her or something.

I don’t mean for this blog to sound like I’m ragging on her, because it’s not. It was just something that I saw and as most of the people who follow me are writers, I thought you all could relate and maybe give me some ideas on how to deal with someone who thinks something so valuable and important to me is just a big ball of ridiculousness.

So this is my question…Do you have people in your life—close or not—who think it’s bizarre that you write? Or have you come across people who can’t even begin to wrap their minds around fantastical worlds or think they are a stupid waste of time—especially those of you who write fantasy, urban or otherwise, paranormal, or sci-fi?

Monday, July 5, 2010

From Songs To Novels

Have you ever listened to a song and a whole freakin’ scene just popped into your head? It happens to me all the time. Most times I ignore it because it’s usually so fragmented that it can’t sustain a full 200 or so pages. But lately, there have been a few CD’s that seemed to have conspired to give me an entire novel. One of the CD’s is The Script.

It all started with their song Breakeven. I heard this song for the first time awhile ago as I was driving. I wasn’t really paying attention to the radio, just driving and writing in my head. Well the song starts with:

I’m still alive, but I’m barely breathing
Just prayed to a God that I don’t believe in

And I went, “Whoa, I need to listen to this.” So I turned up my radio, quieted my brain and fell in love. A few days later I hunted down the CD and to my delight discovered that Breakeven wasn’t even going to be my favorite song on the CD. What happens with me is that I fall in love with several different songs and currently I’m in love with a song called, The Man Who Can’t Be Moved.

The song is about a guy who stands on the corner where he first saw the love of his life. He has a sign and her picture hoping that if she changes her mind and wants him back, she’ll come back to that corner. People think he’s homeless, but he’s just heartbroken…okay, when did I become such a sap, because that hits me right where I live.

There’s a part in the song that watered the seed of a novel for me. It goes:

And maybe I’ll get famous as the man who can’t be moved
And maybe you won’t mean to, but you’ll see me on the news
And you’ll come running to the corner ‘cos you know it’s just no use
I’m the man who can’t be moved.

Well, now, thanks to that song and several others including tracks from Kings of Leon and Adelle I have an entire novel added to my list of future projects. Thank God for music!

Just from reading other blogs out there, I know a lot of you have playlists while you write, but have any of you ever been inspired to write a novel based on a song, or CD or a combination of a few songs from different authors?

Friday, July 2, 2010

I Love Books!

Sorry I’ve been MIA for a while. I’ve been doing edits on my manuscript, trying to get it ready for my beta readers (if any of you are interested in reading for me, send me an email at kdrose at g mail dot com and I’ll tell you about the book and we can see if we can swap ms if you want).

I’ve been reading a lot. Sometimes I get into a habit where I read/listen to two books at a time. I just finished listening to The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo by Steig Larsson and reading Kill For Me by Karen Rose. I have to say, I almost fried my brain. The two stories were different enough for me not to confuse plots or characters, but they both had TONS of characters in them.

If any of you out there have read any Karen Rose novels you know she gives you lots of people to play with and some of those people aren’t who they say they are. They have different names, nicknames, secret identities or no identities at all. You have to stay on your toes when you read one of her books, but as this novel was part of a series, I already knew most of the characters so I didn’t have so much trouble keeping track.

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo…OMG! I don’t know if any of you have read it—I mean, I know I’m late to the game and somebody has to be reading it for as long as it’s been on the bestsellers list—but what a dense novel. Admittedly, I struggled in the beginning. My manager has read all three books and warned me that I might have a hard time getting into the beginning, and that was no lie. I was two discs in and I was like, I don’t know what’s really going on. My manager said, “Karen, promise me you’ll stick with it. It’ll be worth it.” I stuck with it and boy was it worth it. I really loved the book and more over, I loved the way Larsson wrote.

It struck me when I was about halfway through the book that as an unpublished writer, I’d probably have a hard time getting an agent if The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo was my first novel. It’s a brilliant story and once someone gave it a chance, they’d see the brilliance, but it’s a story that’s heavily told. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard from agents, editors and authors that you should show and not tell. But somehow Larsson tells about 70% of this story and shows about 30%, but it WORKS!

So if any of you are out there looking for a good thriller I whole-heartedly recommend The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. Yeah, all both of you who haven’t read it by now-lol. If any of you like a little more romance with your thrillers then pick up a Karen Rose book. You won’t be disappointed.

This combination worked so well for me that I just got The Girl Who Played With Fire on audio and another Karen Rose book, Silent Scream, so I can read some and listen some. God, I love books!

Everyone have a safe fourth! Don’t eat too much and keep your manikins away from fireworks because every year the news show those poor manikins getting their hands blown off…when will they learn?