Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The Fiction Writing Wars


I went out yesterday and bought a new netbook to take with me when I travel or go on my writing retreat or to a writers' conference. Well, now they are all called chromebooks. I guess google has taken over the computer industry. I think there may be a learning curve coming. And the computers come with google-docs which I have never used so I will need to try that out before I have to go on the road with my writing.

So what is this war I speak of? Well, it's nothing new but I am always at war with myself about whether I should write novels or short stories. Here are my thoughts:

With a novel I have a long journey to just write a first draft. Then the hard work of several revisions comes along and then the long process of seeking a publisher or agent. Sometimes it seems too long a trip to take.

When I write a flash fiction story I can knock off a first draft of 1,000 words or less in an hour, revise the story in another hour and send it out to several literary journals by the end of the day.

The other issue is that I believe my true writing voice comes out in short fiction and poetry and the voice I hear when reading a scene from my novel sounds like someone else--too simple and lacking the polish and poetry of my other writing. Of course that could all be fixed with a meticulous rewrite.

Writing a novel is just hard work, though work I love to do. This morning I wrote ten new pages on the present novel-in-progress so it is possible for me to write a novel. I just have to value these day to day leaps of progress.

Craft Notes
My subject for today has to do with first drafts. I am a pantser, I seldom outline and if I do at all it is very sketchy, just imagining the curve of the story from start to finish. I don't outline every scene but I always know how my books will end when I begin to write.

Whatever way you choose to compose a first draft I suggest just writing straight through. Pick a time of day and span of time or number of pages. Just write. Don't over think it and don't try to make it perfect. Just get the pages down and go back for revisions when you're done. Even if it's a rough first draft the feeling of getting from chapter one to the end is a wonderful motivator for future progress.

How to Books
Jack Bickham's book, "Scene and Structure" offers some great lessons in constructing a novel that will engage readers.


He guides you step by step and scene by scene in creating great action and suspense and engaging characters. There is even a template to tell you what action goes where in the book. It may be only one possibility but it offers some great guidance.

Novel Reading
I just finished reading Hank Phillipi Ryan's latest suspense novel, "What You See."

This latest installment of her Jane Ryland series will keep you up into the wee hours reading because you just won't be able to put it down. The twists and turns and surprises are phenomenal. Ryan's writing is amazing and tight, her characters fly off the pages and into your heart. While I couldn't put this book down I wasn't so eager to see it end because I wanted to go on reading. I will anxiously await the next Jane Ryland book which can't come soon enough for me.

Today's Prompt
Your antagonist opens a box wrapped in brown paper that was left at his front door. What does he see inside?