Tuesday, April 23, 2013
Have you ever thought of writing a series of books? Of following in the footsteps of such writers as Orson Scott Card (Ender Series) J.K. Rowling (Harry Potter) J.R.R. Tolkien (Lord of the Rings)?
By comparison, a single novel may seem like a sprint when compared to the marathon of a series. But the lure is there both creatively and financially. What could be better than one successful novel? How about a whole set of them?
There are some great benefits to readers who can return to their favorite world you created again and again, satisfying that curiosity I’ve mentioned in previous posts. They can follow characters they feel they’ve come to know, follow new adventures in a familiar setting. Writers get a break as well. The writer of a series doesn’t have to start from ground zero and work his or her way through. The second in a series may also be easier to sell since publishers are even more happy to publish a book that will no doubt have an audience waiting for it.
But, and it is a very large but, despite how worthwhile a successful series can be for everyone involved, readers, writers and publishers, it’s still a huge undertaking and there are pitfalls. And despite the pluses, the series is more difficult than stand-alone books.
I’m going to mention just a couple of things here that need to be taken into consideration when contemplating a series.
For one thing, a story that spans a number of books takes a long time. Reality is life has a way of shifting. Years can pass between installments in the series. Even decades. Readers waiting for the next book can get irritated, disgruntled, even throw up their hands and abandon you, the writer. Publishers can bet pushy, demanding, determined to get that next book out of the writer. The writer has to ask himself if the project is of such interest that it creates in him the stamina to keep going, to complete the journey. You won’t win friends by simply dropping a project in the middle.
Another thought. Each book should, if at all possible, stand on its own. Not always possible. In fact frequently impossible. But if you think about the series you’ve read, many of them manage to by giving some closures on some issues and leaving others unresolved. In that manner the reader feels completion and yet anticipation for the next installment. It’s a tricky high-wire act. J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter is a good example of that as is Orson Scott Card’s Ender Series.
In both it’s plainly best, in fact necessary to read them in order, and yet the reader does have a feeling of ends being tied up and moving on in anticipation of the next book.
Another challenge for the writer of a series is keeping the readers’ interest from one book to the next. That means the writer needs to keep those books coming and not allow a long span of time to flow between them. Additionally, the reader expects the new book to be the same but different. What I mean by that is if the writer sticks too close to the formula he used in the first book he’ll have readers complain book two is just book one all over again. On the other hand if the writers goes too far off course the reader will complain it’s not the same world at all and be frustrated with the series. No way to please everyone, you have to write what you feel.
The hero in a series must move forward, cope with trials, learn from them, and yet can’t master every challenge or task or what would be left for the next installment? The same applies to movies – it is storytelling after all. Series like the Bond films go on and on. Other series, again, like Harry Potter, have a good long run and then conclude.
Quite the challenge. Tell me your thoughts and if you think you’re up to the challenge.
Wednesday, April 17, 2013
This is just a fun site. Great for writers stuck for a title; a way to generate them by the dozens and use them to kick start ideas of your own.
Fun for readers to click on through. play and see what kind of titles you turn up - see one that tweaks your interest? Put it below in the comments section. Who knows, maybe someone will write it!
Check out the Random Title Generator by Maygra.
Tuesday, April 16, 2013
You’re a writer, you write, but you have another life as well, family, work, whatever takes you away from writing yet you DO want to write.
So how do you sort out the time? How do you keep the juices flowing, how do you keep that brain alert and cooperating? Avoid those stones in the road?
There’s a lot more to writing than writing so I decided today I’d list a few tips I’ve used in my writing routine. There’s more, of course, but ten seemed like a good place to start. Developing great writing habits will take that writing a long way. Pick and choose which ones here and elsewhere work for you, then use them!
So here are some of mine.
1. Exercise. No kidding. Do it. Stretch or do some simple exercise in between your writing or take breaks if you’re in for a long haul and run up and down the stairs or around the house or on the treadmill or play a quick game of catch with the dog. Move. Really.
2.Write on ugly paper or print your draft work on scavenged paper already printed on one side. Not only does it save you some money but it signals the brain that this doesn’t have to be perfect yet.
3. Work on condensing and writing tight. Write a synopsis of your story, then condense that, then condense the condensation. Get down to the bare bones of your story so you know what it’s really about.
4. Stop following links on the web and write – really write. It’s your time to write, so write.
5. Write when you’re uninspired. Yep, writing isn’t about waiting for the muse to strike – heck half the time the muse is ON strike. Put your butt in the chair and write – then exercise – then write. You might throw it out later, but then again you might not.
6. Disconnect when you write – avoid the electronics and shut off your cell phone, twitter, email, social interaction. Really, just stop. Give yourself some space and quiet to write in. Set boundaries. We’re far too connected these days so a little break will do you good as well.
7. Read great writing. Read not so great writing. Read. Read. Read. It’s part of the package. Did I mention read?
8. Use a thesaurus but don’t be an idiot about it. If you’re stuck and need a new word, break it out. Use it, think about what you discover; perhaps one word will lead to another. It probably will. But don’t be like some writers who pepper their works with so many ‘new and unusual words’ that they send their readers running for dictionaries – or just running period.
9. Always ask the question, what if. A great trigger. What if the moon was hit by an asteroid large enough to break it into pieces? What if the earth cracked open under your feet? What if an airplane seemed to fall from the sky and then simply disappeared? What if?
10. Stuck? Think about dialoging with your characters. If you’ve gotten to know your characters well you might have a chat with one or more of them. See where that takes you. Try doing it out loud like you’re speaking with an acquaintance. Those conversations can lean to interesting places. Let’s face it, we writers all have voices in our heads.
That’s it, those are some ideas to consider. There are others. Many others you can pick up all over the place, but the real key is find ways to broaden your abilities, to focus and to create great writing. Use what works for you and discard the rest – well except for the exercise, don’t discard that. Really, I’m serious.
Til next time; I’m off for a brisk walk after I’ve written this and before I begin work on my nearly finished script.
Wednesday, April 10, 2013
Have a great site for you this week.
Stumbled upon Visuwords, an online graphical dictionary. In their own words, "Look up words to find their meanings and associations with other words and concepts. Produce diagrams reminiscent of a neural net. Learn how words associate."
It's a fun and instructive site for writers looking for new ideas, definitions, associations and students and readers who love words. Even offers brain training games when you go to full screen mode.
Go ahead, have some fun, play with words. Tell me what you think.
Oh, and why is this guy here? For inspiration of course, throw up some words to describe him and see where it takes you - he is holding up the world afterall.
Tuesday, April 9, 2013
Have you ever sat back and considered WHY we like stories? Why we like reading books, going to the movies, hearing tall tales? This like is universal in that there isn’t a society on earth that doesn’t share stories. Stories, well told, captivate us, draw us in, hold our attention firmly.
But again, why? Sure everyone thinks, it’s fun, it’s entertainment, it gives us escape from our daily lives. But they don’t play a necessary role in our lives today, I mean stories aren’t key to our survival. Things have changed from the way back, right?
The brain is an amazing organ. You can read all about it in a whole lot of places, but not in great detail here. Here we’re going to touch on cause and effect in reading and writing, not brain function.
Writers listen up. If stories are good, we pay attention, and from day one in the 'way back' stories gave people an idea of what to hang on to and what to reject. They gave us tools to use to envision the future, to plan for the unexpected, to leap ahead of where we started.
And what makes a reader want to read YOUR story? What makes them enjoy what you put down on paper? Is it your colorful, lyrical language? Your robust and well-drawn characters? Touching dialog? Ummm, probably not.
The brain is curious. It wants answers. Wants to know what happens next.
So, how to create a story that gives them what they want?
Here are a few ways –
Surprise. Surprise is good. Surprise gets everyone’s attention by skipping around the usual expectations. The brain is hard wired to begin figuring out what is going on, like a puzzle. The wiring comes from our general desire to know ahead of time if we’re in danger or possibly about to get a warm hug. And it’s a great idea to start with the opening sentence.
Feel it. That goes along with a post I did a while back – Make ‘em Laugh, Make ‘em Cry. Why are feelings so vital? In everyday life the brain is much more inclined to use emotion than our much touted reason to decide what matters to each of us and what doesn’t. Feelings drive choices. So, if a reader isn’t feeling it won’t be long before he or she isn’t reading.
When you write, write in specifics. We don’t normally think in the abstract, we think in specific images. Think about this. If folks think about love, they don’t think about a vague concept. Instead each person envisions some treasured images that evoke the concept of love. So if, as a writer, you write in generalizations, the reader doesn’t get hooked.
Now, so you won’t accuse me of writing in generalizations I’ll give a quick example.
Take the sentence, The weather was bad. All righty. Bad what? A hurricane, hail the size of baseballs? Blizzard? Dust Storm? Readers love specifics, their brains are wired to.
Give them what they want and they’ll love the writer in you.