Tag Archives: novels

Most People Read Fiction Not So Much For Plot As For Company

Girl reading

Whether or not you agree with the above quote by Josip Novakovich, it’s certainly one that makes you think, and question what it is that makes you love a novel or not. It’s an appropriate quote too because today we’re going to talk about writing rules – please present your tickets to the girl on the door then come in and have a seat. Ready? Then I shall begin…

I recently read a post by JM McDowell entitled Damn The Writing Rules—What Do Readers Like? She had written this as a result of feedback she received from some alpha readers of her novel – of which I was one (I will mention at this point that I loved the story and the way it was written). Her post was around the issue of writing rules, and who they are really for. You might want to pop over and read JM’s post before continuing here to get the background on this post.

Personally, I haven’t done a huge amount of fiction writing, a couple of half-finished novels, a couple of barely started novels, an occasional short story, mainly my bits of published writing have been non-fiction. I haven’t really learned the rules of fiction writing – I’ve picked some up along the way, mainly from blog posts written by writers, but I haven’t actively sought to learn what they are. Therefore when I read fiction, whether just for pleasure, or in the case of JM’s novel, to critique it, I’m not consciously measuring it against a set of rules.

Man measuring weights

When I’m reading, the negative things I tend to notice are:

  • Something that doesn’t seem realistic within the context or world that has been created.
  • Story threads that don’t go anywhere.
  • Things left unexplained that I really wanted an explanation for.
  • Anything that seems contrived.
  • Descriptions that feel too lengthy and self-indulgent.
  • Grammatical errors.

These are things that non writers might notice too, things that aren’t particularly to do with fiction writing rules. The one thing I do notice which would come under “writer knowledge” is the show-don’t-tell issue. I can really see the value of that one, and I admire it greatly it when it’s done well, it totally breathes life into the story.

What I do wonder though is where the rules come from. I know there won’t be just one answer to that, but how evidence-based are the rules? How many of them are proven to be key to a successful novel, and how many of them were just said by someone influential at some point because they sounded logical, and have then been passed on and quoted by everyone else, but actually don’t make any difference to reader enjoyment? It’s hard to be conclusive, you could no doubt find a correlation between rule-compliance and successful novels, but you couldn’t be sure that the following of the rules is what made them successful. Of course following the rules is part of the game you likely have to play if you want a traditional publishing route for your book, and that’s probably the main driver for following the rules for many writers.

Something that comes to mind here are the TV talent shows, particularly the singing X-Factor type ones (which yes, I do watch, sorry ‘n all). So many times when I’ve watched the early audition rounds, I’ve seen people who are a bit raw, a bit rough around the edges maybe, their personality is there and it draws you in, they’re different, and there’s something special about them. But then when they make it through to the live shows, they’ve been polished up, scrubbed to perfection, turned into a formula-looking and sounding pop singer. They’ve had that raw edginess, that quirkiness, that made them great taken away from them. I understand that it’s been done by people in the industry who presumably know what is needed to turn those people into money-generators, but it’s a real shame. And I wonder sometimes if too much strict adherence to the writing rules can at times do a similar thing to the writer’s story.

I don’t really have a conclusion to make here. I’m certainly not saying that writing rules are pointless, I understand that many of them are based on solid reasoning and have value to them, and in general I’m a rule-follower, but it’s the idea of blindly following them, or thinking that they are the ONLY way that something should be done, which I take issue with. But I’m no expert, and I welcome any counter arguments below. It’s a subject that gets discussed often amongst writers and there are many different views.

Speaking of writing and novels (notice how seamlessly I work this one in), over on my Sugarness blog, I have this week started a new series of posts in collaboration with author J Keller-Ford, where I have created recipes for each of the characters in her new novel In the Shadow of the Dragon King, to be published in 2016. The first recipe is Eric Hamden’s Red Wine Apple Pie.

Red wine apple pie

What are your views on writing rules? Or if you don’t know much about writing rules, what things turn you on or off when reading fiction? Do you like apple pie?

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photo credit (red-headed girl) : Girl and book via photopin (license)
photo credit (measuring weights) : Checking Accuracy of a Scale in a Feed Mill Establishment (FDA 117) via photopin (license)
photo credit (apple pie) : Me!

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The First Day of the New Tomorrow

thefirstdayofthenewtomorrow-banner

This gal is becoming a regular around here, and that’s ok by me! I’m thrilled to welcome back author extraordinaire, Jennifer M. Eaton, yippee-dandy-do! (Hey, I just invented a new cheer!). You may remember Jennifer first stopped by for a chat last year when her story ‘Last Winter Red’ was published as part of the Make Believe anthology. I was then delighted to have her back last month to speak about her book ‘Paper Wishes’, and I’m now beside myself with excitement to see her back here with her new book, ‘The First Day of The New Tomorrow’, published by MuseItUp.

Let’s get the official bits done first, and then we’ll get down to the interview…

Jennifer, you’re up, give us your biography…

Jennifer M Eaton

Jennifer M. Eaton is a contemporary blender of Science Fiction, Dystopian, and Romance.  Her work ranges from the sweet contemporary romances of Paper Wishes, to the dystopian society of Last Winter Red and Optimal Red, with a dusting of young adult paranormal just for fun in The First Day of the New Tomorrow.

While not off visiting other worlds, Jennifer calls the East Coast of the USA home, where she lives with her wonderfully supportive husband, three energetic boys, and a pepped up poodle.

Full time team leader, full time mom, and full time novelist… what more can you ask for?  Writing help did you say?  Well, sure!  Jennifer hosts an informational blog aimed at helping all writers be the best they can be. Stop on by and chat. She loves to hear from fans! – http://www.jennifermeaton.com/

Excellent! And now the book blurb please…

the-first-day-of-the-new-tomorrow book cover

Maya dreams of perfect skin, beautiful hair, good grades, and Eric Brighton—the boy she’s been crushing on since elementary school. But no matter how hard she tries, these things elude her.

Until Now.

In the space of a day, her acne clears, her hair thickens, and Eric finally takes notice. As everything she wishes comes true, happiness is finally in reach—until a man posing as a college recruiter informs her that her newfound abilities come with a price. She will be expected to use them to stop a catastrophe.

Frightened of playing superhero, but thrilled that everything she desires becomes reality, Maya tests the limits of her power—until someone gets hurt.

Now terrified of her own thoughts, Maya will need to choose between having everything she wants, or returning to normalcy. With Eric’s heart and the fate of her town resting on her decision, Maya makes the hardest choice of her life.

That sounds awesome, so where can I buy the book Jennifer? Please tell me, I have to know NOW!

Don’t worry Vanessa, all the links are at the end.

Well ok then, I guess I can wait. Ready for the questions?

I sure am.

What do you hope that readers will think and feel when they read ‘The First Day of the New Tomorrow’?

The First Day of the New Tomorrow is all about living up to your potential, even if the thought of that is a little (or a lot) scary. Many of us not only have dreams, but real, concrete talents that go unused because of fear. It is also about opening up your eyes.  Sometimes when you think something is true, it really isn’t.

When you are reading a novel, what are the three most important elements that make it a winner for you?

Well, explosions are a given. (And yes, there is a BIG explosion in New Tomorrow) I love a good detonation (as long as there is not a body count involved.)  Action and adventure are a big hit with me, too.  And a happy, satisfying ending.  I don’t care if I KNOW it will be a happy ending. It is all about the fun of the journey to get there. 

Speaking of journeys, your blog is always full of lots of helpful tips and advice for writers to help them on their journeys, but what is the one tip that you wish had been given to you when you first started writing?

Show, don’t tell… and also a magic wand to make me understand what that means.  This was the hardest concept for me to grasp, and I still struggle with it at times.  I have a few older novels that I wrote just for fun that are great stories, but the show verses tell issues are rampant.  They’ll need TONS of editing if they are ever going to have a chance of publication.

I hear you there. Now then, imagine you’ve chosen a three month solo retreat to a deserted island (nicer if it’s by choice than being stranded right?), you can take – one book, one unlimited food item, one tool, and a solar powered portable DVD player with a box set of DVDs of every episode of a TV show of your choice. What would you pick?

Book: Hmm.  Maybe Robert Jordan’s “The Eye of the World.”  I’d like to take the time to read that again to see if I can dissect why it drew me in so much when I first read it.

Unlimited food item:  Dark Chocolate.  That’s getting all your required nutrition in every delectable bite.

One Tool: A solar powered laptop so I could still write.

 TV Show: That would be a tough one.  I don’t currently watch TV (no time) but I have been watching “Game of Thrones” on-demand when time permits.  That’s a great story.  I might consider “Lost” because I never finished the series.  I think I missed the last three seasons.  I used to like “Friends” too.  I didn’t see the last couple of seasons of that, either.  I’d probably put the three of them in a hat and pluck one out.

Good choices. I’d go for Friends myself, laughter is important if you’re alone on an island, remember that. Back to the book – if you could pick one author to read ‘The First Day of the New Tomorrow’ who would it be, and why?

Jocelyn Adams, the author of the Lila Gray series (starting with the novel “The Glass Man”)  Her writing is fluid and enjoyable.  Of the recently published novels I’ve read, she is the most talented. I aspire to be as good as she is.  I’d love some pointers of how to get there. 

I’ll put a word in for you with Joss (as I like to call her). You’re welcome.

Right. Er…thanks Vanessa.

Well it seems like this writing lark has been such a whirlwind for you over the last couple of years, but what’s next on the writing front?

I just finished the first draft of “Optimal Red”, the full-length prequel to “Last Winter Red” which was published last year in the “Make Believe” anthology. This is a New Adult Dystopian that really fleshes out the Post-Apocalyptic world I created in Last Winter Red.  It is an exciting romp through the city of Terra, which we didn’t get to see in Last Winter Red. I’m really happy with the story, and can’t wait to get it out to the world.  I’m in the editing phase now, and then I’ll be looking for a publisher.

I loved Last Winter Red, so I can’t wait for this one…hang on a minute, first draft you say? First draft! Well what are you doing hanging around here chatting like you’ve got all the time in the world huh?! Get on with writing the second draft, your public is waiting! And do come back here and talk about that one when it’s published, ok? Oh and thank you, now go!

Thank YOU.  It’s always a pleasure to come hang out!

Yeah yeah, now GO!

I’m going already! Can I just…

No!

Well folks, that was Jennifer M Eaton, it seems she had to leave in a bit of a rush, not sure why. If you want to catch up with her, or buy the book, here are all the linky links she promised:

Email | Website | Blog | Twitter | Facebook| Manic ReadersGoodreads | Amazon

Zoom to one of these links to buy First Day of the New Tomorrow, and other books by Jennifer M Eaton:

Zoom to Amazon.com to buy Jennifer M. Eaton’s books
Zoom to Barnes and Noble
Zoom to Muse It Up’s Website to buy “The First Day of the New Tomorrow”

I did it! I completed NaNoWriMo! Well…sort of…

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Not all of my blog followers are writers or bloggers themselves, so a brief explanation – NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month. It’s a challenge to write a 50,000 word novel in one month. It happens every November. There is a website which offers support, encouragement, and verification of your word count. If you complete the 50,000 words, you are deemed a winner. The website is: http://www.nanowrimo.org/

The idea is that you tell your internal editor to take a hike, and you rattle your way through it, trying hard not to judge your writing, or to look backwards, just keep going forwards. Plenty of time for editing once November is finished.

Before I explain why I said I ‘sort of’ did it, let me answer a few of the other questions that you’re no doubt desperate to ask me…

Why did I do it?

I’ve done lots of different types of writing, but had never written a novel. Like most people, it was on my list of things I’d like to do, but it just felt like such an onerous thing to tackle. I work best to a deadline, so this seemed the ideal opportunity to have a go. There was a strict deadline, and it also brought out my competitive side because you have buddies on the NaNo website (a bit like facebook friends), and you can monitor how others are doing with their word counts along the way. I also wanted to see if I had it in me to write a large volume in a short space of time. Even if I ended up with a complete load of trash, I would only have invested a month in it. Nothing to lose by giving it a go right?

How did I do it?

I work full time, I have children, I have lots of other things going on in my life, how did I find the time to write the 1,500 – 2,000 words a day required? I just muscled my way in with my elbows and squeezed out bits of time where I could. Some days I woke up earlier and did some before work, some days I stayed awake later at night. When I was cooking, I would have the laptop open on the counter and keep tapping a few words out in between stirring things. And really, I didn’t burn THAT many dinners. Weekends I was able to grab a few extra hours. I can’t say it was easy, some days when I was feeling tired and uninspired, forcing those words out was really hard work, but marathons of any sort were never meant to be easy.

Was it worth it?

Absolutely. I learnt a lot about myself as writer – I won’t go into all that now, but even if I never do any more with what I have written, it will have been worth it for what I learnt from the experience.

And finally, why DID I say that I ‘sort of’ did it?

Well, I cheated a little. Twice. On one occasion, I was really stuck for inspiration. I had something that I’ve been wanting to write about for a while, so I made my main character log into the internet, and read someone’s blog, and I then typed out this other thing I’ve been wanting to write, as if she was reading it on screen. I deserve a few points for inventiveness right? But it really was nothing to do with the story. On another occasion, again, when I was completely stuck, I had two of my characters sit down and listen to some Bob Dylan songs, and talk about how much the lyrics meant to them, and I then wrote out a whole load of Bob Dylan lyrics. I’ve let myself down haven’t I.

Now I know that lots of other NaNo’ers have spoken about doing similar things just to get their word counts up. The NaNo rules are done on trust, so there are lots of ways to cheat if you want to, but in the words of all our old school teachers, we’re only really cheating ourselves; it’s not like we’re playing for cash prizes or anything. But I didn’t want to go against their rules. It’s not that I was expecting everything I wrote to be of high literary quality, but I did expect it to all be relevant to the story, and to all be my own work, which clearly the lyrics were not.

So whilst officially I am classified as a NaNo winner, I’m really not. Those extra bits I threw in come to around 2,000 words, so I wasn’t THAT far off. Hang on a minute…there are a few more hours left before the end of November! I still might have time to replace those 2,000 words with real stuff! Be back later…

Oh, before I go, I must also give a shout out to my partner Neil, who did it too, and completed his 50,000 words! Woohoo! A big achievement as he lost over a week at the start of the month due to some technical issues. And big congratulations to the rest of you who did it too!