Month: September 2010

A novelist attempts to write a fairytale

Sonja Seawright is a woman of many talents. She’s witty, well-read, an excellent pen pal, and she can even turn a ukelele into a children’s guitar! I mean seriously, how cool is that? Sonja’s also the queen of thoughtful comments, and I always look forward to seeing what she’ll say about my latest blog post. She constantly gets me to think further, work harder, and laugh louder.

So I hope y’all will leave her plenty of good comments, too. After all, you just might win something awesome. ;)

Step 1
Decide that you will write a princess fairytale (as opposed to an animal based fairytale or whatever) and then determine that a fairytale written for young children is approximately 2000 words.

Step 2
Begin with “Once upon a time.”

Step 3
Write a long history of two nations going back no fewer than three generations in order to justify why anyone would want to kill a beautiful princess who is friends with animals, because if animals are your friends, you must be good people or people who cannot form relationships with other humans. Scrap this idea after you see you have written 1800 words and the princess hasn’t even been born yet… nor have her parents.

Step 4
Go back only one generation but add a third kingdom’s history into the mix. Scrap this idea at 800 words when you realize you will need at least 500 more words to get to the birth of the princess.

Step 5
Learn from past mistakes and start with the princess’s birth. Write in detail about her mother being in labor, how the princess looks purple and sticky when she comes out, and how her older brother (age three at the time) is terrified of this disgusting creature. Scrap this idea after it’s taken 1000 words and has, perhaps, more detail than is necessary for the preschool/kindergarten set. Feel slight pain, as the three year old’s reaction to the purple sticky alien baby was some pretty good writing.

Step 6
Start at birth of princess without any gory details or sibling rivalry. Introduce prearrangement of marriage into another royal family. Introduce bad guy who wants to stop royal marriage. Realize you have introduced a lot of things in about 500 words. Continue doggedly ahead, determined that this time, you will get it done. Describe princess’s idyllic childhood and friendship with animals. Realize that you’ve taken 1000 additional words to age the princess to marriageable age, bringing you to about 1500 words, and you still have not started the main conflict with the bad guy nor introduced her to her marriage prospects. Select virtually all of the text and hit delete button with more force than is strictly necessary.

Step 7
Start at birth of princess without any gory details or sibling rivalry. Introduce prearrangement of marriage into another royal family. Introduce bad guy who wants to stop royal marriage. Cut 997 words from the process of aging the princess by simply writing the following: “Seventeen years later…” Close your eyes and imagine the princess’s friendship with animals. You will know even if no one else ever will. Open eyes and start introducing conflict with bad guy. Realize that bad guy has been doing nothing to stop the wedding for seventeen years, which is necessary for the plot but makes no sense. Realize bad guy is now quite old and really has no reason, at this point, to kill the princess anyway. Scrap bad guy’s motivation, which means scrapping this particular bad guy, which means returning back to the very beginning. Again.

Step 8
Pound head on keyboard.

Step 9
Start at birth of princess without any gory details or sibling rivalry. Introduce prearrangement of marriage into another royal family. Age princess with three words, “Seventeen years later,” and then introduce revamped bad guy with revamped reason to kill. Have the princess meet her marriage prospects. Now you’re getting somewhere! Only to find yourself inexplicably having the princess show her marriage prospects around her kingdom while explaining to them its agricultural and building systems, not to mention the conservation (!) efforts of the nation.

Step 10
Decide that it might be best to go back to writing novels. Wonder if you had the good sense to save that bit about the purple sticky baby and the horrified three year old. Spread out over 80,000 words or so, that idea had potential…

Call me silly

Kicking off our week of fantabulous guest posts is Sarah Wedgbrow, my crit partner and friend. We met through a local writing group and, being the loudest and most opinionated of the bunch, quickly banded together. We’re both always right, even when we disagree, so watch out!

Please give Sarah a warm welcome, and remember: most thoughtful comment of the week gets a prize! (I don’t know what yet, but I promise it won’t suck.)

There’s a lot of talk out there in the blogosphere about branding, platforms, etc. I recently read an excellent post by Wordbird about the topic. Madeleine points out that it’s very important that the book you’re writing is the one you want to make as your career—otherwise you could be branded for life.

This is problematic for me. I still don’t know which direction I’d like my writing career to go at this point (other than in the money-making kind). I still consider myself an apprentice and while I am writing a YA paranormal story (ghosts, not vampires), I don’t know if in ten years time I will want to be in the same place. I would still like to experiment some more with dystopian, contemporary, fantasy, middle grade and literary. If I am to write within these genres, will my only option be to adopt several different pen names?

There is also the possibility that the need for genres will fall to the wayside as e-readers and e-books become more and more popular. Without booksellers needing to know where to shelve a book, genres may become more blurred. Still, I would think that a consumer is the deciding factor on this one. When browsing online for books, you would still need categories and ways of organizing titles. I guess it just wouldn’t limit the amount of books being “bought and shelved,” which is a good thing for us writers.

Todd Newton’s post about Lady Gaga’s platform pointed out that even if you don’t like her music or her style, everyone knows what is “Gaga” and what isn’t. Just the other day, Scott Mills, a BBC radio one DJ mentioned how he’d like to change up OMG to OMLG (oh my lady gaga). It just proves how strong her platform is and how recognizable she is as an “artist.”

At this stage in the game, for me, the most important thing I have to worry about is writing. Sounds like such a nice problem to have compared to the mania that surrounds the publishing world. Call me silly, but I still want it—the book being published, the book tour, the book readings, catching a glimpse of my book in the book store or a trailer of my book online. One bit of relief is that at the heart of my stories is my own very special brand of humor. I may not be able to bottle it and sell it, but it certainly keeps me sane and keeps me enjoying this crazy career choice.

Bon voyage

I believe that translates roughly to, I’m going on a cruise next week, see ya, suckahs!


See, when we did Disney World two years ago, Andy realized that vacations in the Gulf/Caribbean are cheaper in September. I like to call these our “hurricane specials.” Sure, you risk getting rained on every day (at best) or dying in a tempest of epic proportions (at worst). But hey, you save $300!

(Also: no kids, ’cause they’re back in school. That might be worth more than the money.)

As promised, this blog will still be rocking the suburbs while I’m gone. The lineup has expanded, so there will actually be a post every single day next week! None of my M/W/F junk. (Weird. I’m a better blogger when I’m not even here…)

So anyway, stay tuned, and please show my fabulous friends some comment-love, okay?

And hey, maybe if you’re really, really good, I’ll send you a treat. Something like… most thoughtful comment of the week wins a book? What do you think?

Writerly Wednesday

(Are you sick of these yet?)

For subtle but mind-blowing genius, check out agent Donald Maass’s post on “The Inner Journey” at Writer Unboxed today:

A journey needn’t involve travel but it does enact a transformation. For a transformation to occur, two things are needed: outward events and inward change. Great novels use both.

Then over at the Divining Wand (which is a fabulous resource for learning about authors, particularly with new books coming out) Tanya Egan Gibson wrote about getting to know people through characters, and understanding real life through fiction. One of my favorite lines was:

“I can’t imagine a life without stories. But fiction, I think, is a means, not an end; a prescription, not a cure.”

Just 2 links today, folks. I’ve been crazy busy, both with work-work and with writing-work. Since Andy and I are on vacation all next week (first cruise for both of us!) I have been rushing around the office, trying to make sure everyone’s got what they need and the poor temp that’s covering for me won’t be up a paddle without a creek. Or whatever.

Meanwhile, I’m also off and running (or maybe jogging) on the new YA manuscript, and I love it. Looooove it. It’s fun and fresh and full of adventure. It is a joy to think about, and a joy to sit down and write. Even the rough patches, one of which I hit last night.

As for the blog, don’t you worry. I’ve lined up some AWESOME guest bloggers for next week. Want a hint? One has freckles, one plays origami with the earth, one is mighty with both pen and pencil, and one sets me straight in my own comments every. single. post.

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