Oh no! How did this happen? It seems another Wednesday has crept up on me and I was caught unprepared. I had a topic in mind for this week’s blog, but things have been so incredibly insane that I didn’t get a chance to put any real thought behind it and get it written. So instead, I will share with you another poem that I wrote about a month and a half ago. This poem epitomizes my “adventures in novelizing”.
Up all night burning the midnight oil.
Tap, tap, clickety, clack, the sound of my toil.
The screen fills with a sea of words
Ideas chirping away in my mind like little birds.
By day I don’t live up to my potential
Slowly but surely going mental
For someone else I slave away
Just to earn a meager pay
I work tirelessly to hone the craft
Unsatisfied living life in rough draft
The thought of it makes me cringe
So all night long, on words I binge
When I come up with a concept for a series I typically have a broad overview of the story. Think of it like looking at the earth via a satellite image. You get the big picture, but you really need to zoom in to see the details. The very make up of the planet is virtually invisible until you take a closer look. This is where I encounter problems when I sit down to write.
I have yet to come up with a concept that I feel would fit into a single book. Each concept I have come up with spans a minimum of four books. So I know how the series will begin, I know how it will end, and for the most part, I know the major conflict that my MC will overcome to get from point A to point B. What I struggle with, are all of the “molecular” details. A series can’t consist of just one high level conflict. And stretching a single conflict out into four books would be overkill on the reader without giving them something more. That would be like giving someone a 20 oz bottle of water and sending them off to spend a week in the desert, during the peak summer months, with nothing more to sustain them.
This is where subplots come into play. Rather than rushing through a story that spans several years in a single book or painstakingly plotting every minute detail to bulk up the four (or more) books, it’s all about finding that right balance. Subplots can help drive the story forward or help take it in a whole other direction when needed.
As I write this blog and research subplot creation, it brings to mind something else that contributes to my struggle. Often you hear that outlining is essential to novel writing. I have attempted this before, but it has never panned out and the story tended to go running in the opposite direction causing me to abandon all the prep work I had done. But perhaps this is because I have a very limited view on how to outline. In school, I was taught to outline in chapters. The story should be broken out into chapters and for each chapter, you write a brief description of what will be discussed in that chapter. This technique has never worked for me. Picking apart a story, chapter by chapter, makes more sense than building one that way. I know, it sounds crazy, but until I actually sit down and start writing, I have no idea how many chapters my book is going to have or what each of these chapters will consist of. My brain refuses to cooperate in this fashion and prefers to tinker and rebuild whenever possible.
But after doing some reading on subplots, the concept of the arc (and no, this is not the first time I’ve heard of an arc) got me to thinking. Perhaps instead of trying to force myself to do this chapter outline that seems to be the bane of my existence as an author, I could try doing a sort of graph outline, one that plots the main story arc and each of the sub plot arcs. It would seem that this is where my Accounting and Finance background will actually help my writing, something I never thought possible since I write fiction and none of my characters work in related fields.
I am now excited to boot up Excel and toy around with graphing out my story lines. I
can already see how this will help me with my newest book, the first of four books in a coming of age series. Aside from the main arc of the MC’s development, there will be several subplots that explain how she becomes the person she does. Each book will focus on a different stage of her growth, but the subplots will be the driving forces behind these stages.
If this works out well, I will give it a shot with the Eye of the Vampire series that is still a WIP. Maybe it will help me get past some of the hurdles that are making it difficult for me complete the edit of the first book and complete writing the second and third books.
Off to the drawing board I go. Wish me luck!
After working on my vampire series for a little more than three years now, I am still only about 60% done with the first book in the series. The story is done, but it still needs a good amount of editing before it is anywhere near ready for publishing. The second book is only half written and I have about a quarter of the third book written. But after all this time, I’m starting to feel like I might have missed the window of opportunity where this series was relevant.
With the frenzy generated by the Twilight saga now over, are readers over the latest
vampire fad? The thing with fads, you need to catch the wave at just the right time or you’re sunk. Did I miss my wave? Or is it possible that if I work hard to get these books written, edited and published, that I will be just in time to hop on at the start of the next wave? Or even be the catalyst that creates the next wave? Which wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing, because I don’t want my series being viewed through the Twilight microscope.
I also have to consider the fact that this is not a classic series. It is not something that will stand the test of time. So when the time comes that I am ready to finally publish, I have to make sure that references to technology are up to date so that it doesn’t feel old when it is hot off the press. I need to make sure that the story is still relevant.
Then there is my other series. A coming of age series that compares growing up with one of nature’s transformation processes; think along the lines of the ugly ducky becomes
swan, only I’m not writing about a “swan”. The idea for this was conceived long before the vampire series but for some reason I had difficulty getting started. This series is much more classic, focusing more on experiences and feelings that readers of any generation should be able to relate to in some form or fashion. A month or two ago, ideas for the series were beginning to become something of a whisper in the wind. Now, they are practically screaming at me, thundering in my head so loud that I can’t ignore them. Whether I like it or not, my focus has now shifted to this series.
I’m following the advice I have heard time and again and just getting the writing done, whatever it may be. Instead of fighting to stay focused on the vampire series, I am doing the work for which inspiration has struck. So many times, we look to our muses for inspiration, so how can I ignore it when it comes just because it wasn’t quite the inspiration I was looking for?
My fear with all of this jumping around is that I will never complete a project. How many novels will I start but never finish? How many will I write that are left unpublished due to lack of editing and polishing?
“Purple prose” is a term that I’ve recently become acquainted with over the last few months. Naturally, with purple being my favorite color, I immediately thought this was a good thing. But after reading a few reviews, I quickly learned that whenever purple prose was mentioned in a critique, it was most definitely not a good thing. So, being the inquisitive person that I am, I went searching for the meaning.
What exactly is purple prose and why is it such a bad thing? The answer to this question will vary based on whom you ask. In general, purple prose is a term applied to overly verbose writing, or as some call it, “flowery writing”. It is when an author uses large words, for the sake of seeming more intelligent or goes into far more detail than necessary, coming across as melodramatic. The term applies to any prose that pulls the reader out of the story and causes them to focus on the “offending” imagery.
Have you ever been reading something and been completely rapt in the story only to come across a phrase or sentence that has your mind tripping over the words, completely breaking the spell? If at any time you have found yourself saying “wait, what?”, you have been a victim of purple prose. But because everyone’s mind works differently, what one person might view as purple prose, could be viewed as a vivid description by another person.
So how can I, as a writer, avoid purpling my prose? As I’ve mentioned several times before, the best way to improve your writing is to be an avid reader. Think back to a book you were reading where you couldn’t help but roll your eyes and say “oh please!” Or a time where you were yanked out of the story because the author unnecessarily used a word that is not commonly used and it did not offer any added value to the story. Once you can identify these things, you can avoid making the same mistakes in your own writing.
Another way to avoid purple prose is to remain true to your own voice. Are you writing something that you would never be caught dead saying in real life? Putting made up sci-fi or fantasy vocabulary aside, do you actually use these words in your day to day life? Or are you just using it because you want your readers to view you in a certain light? More often than not, readers can sense when an author is not being genuine and the last thing you want is for your readers to feel like you are putting on airs.
So, a term that I once thought of as pretty, has taken on a whole new meaning. Now when I think of purple prose, I can’t help thinking of the song “Flying Purple People Eater” by Sheb Wooley. It was a one-eyed, one-horned, flying purple people eater… Anyone else remember the movie with Neil Patrick Harris?
Beware the purple prose!
Sometimes I sit down to write and the words just come pouring out of me. Other times, try as I might, I just can’t seem to get the words to come together. So what changes from one session to the next?
A few days ago, I read some notes that I had written for one of the series that I am working on and I got my answer. When I write based on pure emotion, that is when I do some of my best work, when the words flow so effortlessly. Is it technically perfect? No. There is always editing work to be done and punctuation and I have a bit of a love hate relationship. But the content has more depth, allowing the reader to get lost in that emotion.
Those times when I find it difficult to write are usually when I need to build a bridge connecting one swell of emotion with another. The transitional passages are my weakness. The origin and the destination are both great, but the journey between the two leaves something to be desired. The entire time I’m writing, my subconscious is asking “Are we there yet?” and the writing becomes robotic and lifeless.
I think this is why I have been writing so much poetry lately. Poetry, or at least my poetry, is all about emotion. It is about laying my soul bare on the page for all to see.
What is the driving force behind your writing? What fuels you to write with abandon?