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Organizing a Novel (That is Half-Written)

January 25, 2015 Leave a comment

As part of the generation that uses online search engines for many things, I took to the internet in search of some help.

Help doing what, you ask?

You see, I have this half-written novel that I have been working on and dreaming about for a while now. My dad took a pass through recently to find any bugs (misspellings, inconsistencies, etc). He was also supposed to offer advice on where characters need to grow, how to advance the plot to the ultimate ending, etc.

My dad is a voracious writer and he has read many a novel, so I expected plenty of criticism. Criticism did not come. Instead he told me he enjoyed it and got hooked.

Ego boost, truly.

What about the missing scenes? The poor transitions? Where do I need to add? Where do I need to take away?

We discussed several of these issues prior to him reading the draft because I am well aware there are missing scenes and missing transitions to make the story coherent.

Alas, here I am with a half-written novel and no idea on how to organize it.

Here is the issue: I started the novel as a short story.

The short story became a small novelette.

Trusted readers (friends, family) read it and suggested it was too “big” to stay a short story or novelette.

I agreed…I enjoyed the story too much and it had grown into more than a small idea. So, I wrote more.

Unfortunately, when I write fiction, planning is my detriment (writer’s block seizes me hard when a plan is in place). Oddly enough, I do not have this problem with non-fiction (academic or otherwise).

Anyhow, I do not have an outline. I have half a novel haphazardly pieced together, scene next to scene in a somewhat sensible order.

The hardest part? The internet has nothing to give me.

Most of the articles i could find pertained to organizing and planning a novel BEFORE it is partially written.

The most promising I could find was the first option when I put it in the search engine: an article from Writers Digest. Even this assumes that the end result be an outline.

Some of the tips are useful, however. Especially the parts about filling in the gaps (of which I have many).

Any help the world of writers can provide would be more than appreciated.

I am going to try anyway, without much direction as it is.

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Why Aren’t Short Stories More Popular?

January 22, 2015 Leave a comment

My writing thought of the day.

Short stories are enjoyable to write. However, good guides on writing short stories are hard to find. I did a quick search online and didn’t find any “how to” or “tip” pages that I found worth sharing. Part of this stems from the seemingly difficult way of explaining how short stories are, in fact, different from novels. (And boy, are they different).

I suppose the best way to figure out “how to” write a short story is to continue to read them. Only recently did I become interested in reading short stories from my preferred fiction genre (science fiction). Previous to that, I read plenty of short stories. I am a strong believer that the best American literature can be found in short story form. I believe it so much that I have more short story collections in my room than American classics in novel form. I even gifted my brother’s foreign girlfriend two short story collections after she told me she did not like American literature.

However, short stories are no longer as popular as novels. At least, it appears that way to me. When I ask people what they are reading, they never tell me they are reading a short story collection or they recently read a great short story by so-and-so. No! It is always about novel-length works.

Why aren’t short stories more popular?

I love them. A short story by Tolstoy is what introduced me to the fantastic world of Russian literature (and now I am addicted to Dostoevsky). A short story by Raymond Carver inspired me to put more into my short story writing during college.

Short stories are excellent, neatly packaged pieces of prose.

Why aren’t they more popular?

SciFi Short of the Day: 01/17/15

January 17, 2015 Leave a comment

From Clarkeworld come a funny SciFi short brought to us from the POV of an AI contemplating human ethics and his role in helping. “Cat Pictures Please” by Naomi Kritzer is available to both read and listen to. Check it out. If you are in the mood for something both science fiction and humor, this is the short story to read.

One of my favorite lines: “Fortunately, I already knew that humans violate their own ethical codes on an hourly basis.” Too true.

Read What You Want to Write

January 14, 2015 2 comments

Should one read what one wants to write or should one read a variety to further what they want to write?

My initial reaction: variety.

Why? As an English student, I used to be offended by professors who trash talked genre fiction.

I am less offended now.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy genre fiction (a lot), especially science fiction and fantasy. However, I have a weird, loving relationship with literary classics from Nabokov as well as Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Pushkin, etc. I enjoy an occasional recent “literary” read as well.

It comes down to prose. There are great genre prose writers out there, but most genre fiction is mostly great story writing. In contrast, most literary fiction is made up of damn good prose.

I think I will continue to read a little of everything with the hope that it in some way helps my writing.

Thoughts?

Dad Editors

January 11, 2015 Leave a comment

I love my dad. Really, I do.

I trust him so much that I handed him my first draft of a SciFi novel I am in the process of writing. I asked him for edits and feedback.

He edited (albeit, far less than I suspect may be lurking within the manuscript). However, there were no comments at the end as I anticipated.

I asked him about it this evening. His reply?

“I was sucked into the story.”

Disbelieving, I asked, “Are you saying that because I am your daughter?”

My dad is a bad liar. When he looked at me and said, “No, I really liked it,” I knew he was being truthful. He didn’t have that glint in his eye or the smirk he gets when he is trying to get away with something.

Maybe dad editors can help a writer’s ego.

Anyhow, I am shipping it off to another reader to check out, too.

I would love to hear from anyone regarding their editing experiences.

My Fears of Even Authoring a Book

February 2, 2014 Leave a comment

I like to write.

So do, I don’t know, hundred of thousands of other people. One of my many struggles with keeping up with my own writing is my doubt. I doubt I am any better than the next “writer”.

Another fear I have is this: promoting myself. So, when I read a post by Kameron Hurley (a good science fiction author who I have tried my best to support by buying her books and following her blog), I was struck by the fact that I am not the only one who worries about this aspect of writing.

Here’s the link: “Surprise! I Have No Idea Your Book is Coming Out”

Kameron admits something I relate to entirely: she is an introvert.

I tend to feel like a lonely introvert in this world because I know very few people who are introverted. It almost appears that I have surrounded myself with extremely extroverted individuals. So, when one of the authors I look up to admitted that she, too, was an introvert, I looked at her words of wisdom just a little closer than normal.

If I am ever good enough to get published, I am going to have to promote myself, no matter how painful a task it is. It comes with the territory.

This got me to thinking about my last post: a book review on Hugh Howey’s Wool.

When I did some preliminary research on Hugh Howey before reading his novel, I found out that he wrote Wool in installments before it became a full novel. People actually read his story and wanted him to write more. They convinced him to put money and time into what he had created.

I wonder, did Hugh Howey in any way promote himself or was he one of the lucky ones Kameron Hurley mentions in her post? I would have to research it further, I am sure, or try to ask Hugh Howey himself.

Here is what I am now wondering: Can I bring myself to play the extroverted game one day and promote myself? How necessary is self-promotion in our every day lives now? Do we live in a world so centered around social media and gossip that we need people following us at every turn to succeed?

I want to here what others think.

 

Wool: A Review

January 25, 2014 Leave a comment

As this is my first review, I decided I would outline how I am going to “grade” what I read. I am sure this method will be tweaked with each review until it is perfected, but one always needs a starting point, right?

There will be a couple grading categories: the prose, the characters, the plot, the setting, the originality, and, the most subjective of all, how great a book it was to read. I will rank each from 1 to 5: 1 being low and 5 being high. Additionally, I will write a small blurb about each to justify my rankings. At the end, I will average all the rankings and give the book an “overall” score.

Quickly, the prose will refer to how well-written the book is. Simple writing will garner a lower score; sophisticated writing will garner a higher score. The characters will refer to how believable the novel’s characters were (again, a 5 indicating very believable and a 1 indicating less-than-believable characters). The plot will refer to the overall story arc (well-crafted plots will score higher and poorly thought out plots will score lower). The setting, of course, will refer to the setting…this will matter more when I review science fiction novels as they tend to have worlds which require, to an extent, well-thought out settings. The originality will refer to how original I find the novel to be: I know everything has been thought of before and there are likely books that could be compared to any of what I choose to read, but I will rank it on what I have read before. I am always willing to hear from other readers why or why not something is “original.” And, finally, how great a read the book is: I will rank this solely on how much I enjoyed reading the book. All categories are fairly subjective and, again, I am excited to hear other opinions. I will try my best to include examples from the novel to justify any of my categories.

So, let’s get to it.

Wool by Hugh Howey

From Hugh Howey's web site

From Hugh Howey’s web site

Background: I read this book for a reading group I will be attending soon. It was the first book on our list of “end of the world” novels, so I was looking forward to a strong start.

The Prose: 3 of 5
I almost feel bad ranking any part of this book lower than a 4 because I enjoyed it so much, but, if I am honest with myself, the writing was not exactly “sophisticated” by any means. However, I would not go so far as to say it was “simple.” Especially when I am going to rank this book higher in other areas. The author’s writing is the vessel for the characters, plot, and setting. If I follow this logic, then if the writing were “poor,” the other areas could not be held in high esteem.

The writing was not sophisticated, but it was not too simple either. I would consider it pretty average in terms of how well it flowed. It was not poetic, but it worked well enough to convey the characters and the story. The more important piece of the book, truly, is the characters.

The Characters: I liked most of the characters in the book. They were believable people. I don’t want to give much away, but the “primary” characters in each part were human. They had flaws, they had histories, they had life. Juliette grew on me (as I was a little unhappy with the shift in characters near the beginning of the book. Again, I don’t want to give anything away). There were a couple secondary characters that were slightly bland, in my eyes. Especially a character named Shirly. She sort of became important near the end of the novel and I was actually a little bored by her. She lacked some depth the other characters did. She had a recent history that the reader witnesses, but for some reason this history does not translate into any sort of empathy/sympathy from the reader. What saved these parts of the novel were other characters like Walker. He was also a secondary character who could have used some more depth, but he was interesting enough for me to wish I had more information about him. Even Solo, a character from other silo (explained below) made me want more, but when all is said and done, Hugh Howey did a great job crafting characters I cared to follow through an unfamiliar world.

The Plot: 4 of 5
Hugh Howey does a good job of crafting a believable story. In considering the plot, I am considering the crafting of the plot. How does Hugh Howey move the story along? Both effortlessly and frighteningly. At one point in the novel, I actually became afraid that I would not get to follow a certain set of characters for any length of time. But, somehow, Hugh Howey made me forget this fear almost effortlessly by introducing new, engaging characters as well as new layers of the story each time. I gave the plot a 4 because I felt the story moved along well. I was never bored. The story was always evolving in some way: the reader learned something new every chapter or so. When a writer can keep a story interesting at each turn of the plot, that writer should get a kudos.

The Setting: 4 of 5
I gave the setting a 4 as well because of the author’s story crafting. Any time a reader begins a new science fiction novel, the reader has to become acclimated to the new setting. A setting has to be immediately somewhat believable or it is harder to invest the time and attention to the story. Hugh Howey introduces his readers to the silo immediately by showing Holston, a main character, ascending the spiraling stairs inside the silo. In Wool, a silo is a large, underground city of people. There are numerous levels, each with housing and hydroponic farms. At the bottom of the silo, the mechanics work to keep the city running: power. At the top of the silo, the mayor works to keep the silo working in a different way. At the top of the silo is the door to the outside. Hugh Howey slowly introduces parts of the setting at each chapter and part, slowly fleshing out his unique world….

The Originality: 4 of 5
…Which leads me to originality. I gave the book a 4 once more because the setting is so good. I kept telling my dad while I read the book that it was so interesting. Hugh Howey truly conceives an “end of the world” scenario (which is revealed slowly) that is completely believable. As long as you can suspend your disbelief at the beginning that an underground silo can exist as a city, you can enjoy an incredibly engaging world. The silo is simply a large bunker.

Good Read: 5 of 5
You have probably already guessed that I enjoyed the book. It was one of the better science fiction books I have read in a while. I read it quickly. I found excuses to read it. I found extra time to read it. I wanted to read it all the time. I had minor issues with certain characters and certain shifts (near the beginning), but I found myself devouring the book (something that I find happening less and less the more I read).

Overall:

Although the writing was pretty average, the story was engaging. The setting was especially believable and entertaining (very important for any science fiction novel). The silos and the inner workings of the silos were well explained and conceived. The characters were believable and properly enraged/confused/unaware of their past (oh, they were very unaware of how humans got to be in silos).

I especially enjoyed the title of the book, Wool, which relates to the wool that “cleaners” use when they leave the silo and wash the camera lenses. This is pretty important: those who wish to leave the silo are taken out to clean. At the top of the silo is the entrance to the silo from outside. There are cameras looking out across a grey landscape. It is these cameras that need a nice cleaning every now and then. And those who choose to see the outside never come back. They go out to clean with wool…effectively pulling wool over the eyes of those inside (and, in turn, the wool is pulled over the cleaner’s eyes as it turns out).

Anyway, try the book out if you like end of the world stories. I welcome opinions.