Arkansas was blanketed with snow yesterday, up to 2 feet in NW-Arkansas, and about 6″ (officially) in central Arkansas, although it looks like much more to me.
When you have an unexpected day off, what do you do?
Read. I had already bought Paolo Bacigalupi’s book, Shipbreakers, which just won the Printz award for best teen fiction. So, I read it. Great book. It’s a great example of how to start action in media res, and keep the action going. This is a futuristic world, almost a dystopia. But we don’t have a prologue that explains all this, rather the information is given naturally as the story progresses. We don’t know information until we need it.
Learn. I also watched some YouTube videos in my on-going self-education about book trailers. I found this video to be an interesting introduction to the book/CD of The Selfish Giant, with musical adaptation by Dan Goeller and great new illustrations (March 1 release date). Maybe I just liked it because I’m snowed it!
Observe. Finally, I went walking in the snow, taking pictures. I snapped pictures of birds at my feeder: rufous-sided Towhee, downy woodpecker, tufted titmouse, chickadee, blue jay, cardinal, house sparrows, house wren and more. In other words, I filled the coffers with sights, sounds, smells, textures, temperatures and more, so that when I sit down to write, I’ll have something to draw upon.
Today–I’m back at my computer, even though the world outside glitters and beckons. Because that’s what writers do: we write.
I know it takes time to revise. Again.
But it’s so necessary; in fact, your book won’t sell unless you revise. Sigh. I know. I hate it, too.
And really, what should you revise? Should you take my advice and do that BIG revision? Or will the story do well if you only polish it? Who knows?
One editor might fall in love with your characters and your voice and buy it; then she’ll work with you on plot or whatever else needs work. Another editor might not even glance past page ten because something stops her cold right there.
There’s no way to know.
So much of this business is “personal” (read: crap shoot.)
So much of this business “depends” (read: crap shoot).
Given that everything is a crap shoot, the only thing you can do is please yourself. Well, don’t you want to please ME, too? No, you’re right. Please yourself. Really. It’s the only thing worth doing.
And everything else? It just is.
Nothing you can do about it.
We all know that a character must grow throughout the course of a novel. But how do they grow and how do you Show-Don’t-Tell that growth?
It helps to know the beginning and ending points. And often, I like going straight for the end to see where I’m aiming. Let’s say that a person needs to decide to become a doctor. The opening scene is going to entice them somehow: they react to a medical emergency and do a good job.
Great. But something compelling–internally–also needs to keep them away from the medical profession. It can’t be just outside factors such as, my parents don’t want me to be a doctor. If this is the internal arc, it’s got to be something else.
For example, it might be that I want to be a great novelist instead. That was Michael Crichton’s dilemma: he went to medical school and paid for it by writing novels.
What readers want is to experience with the character the internal struggle: art v. medicine. Entertain v. heal.
Once you know the conflict that must take place, then you must devise intermediate steps. The enticement to heal v. enticement to develop your artistic skills can take several forms. IF you want the character to say YES to the medical field, then s/he needs to be firmly committed to the artistic field and fighting against every encounter with the urge to heal. S/he will only give into that urge when the situation demands it: perhaps, dear ol’ Dad is sick and the character must help heal him. (Or course, our character can’t do it entirely alone, since s/he is untrained, but s/he can do something to stave off an infection, give first aid, etc. until real help arrives.)
Once you know those intermediate steps, then you can go back and make each decision extremely painful for your character by playing with the plot.
It’s not easy to see this progression sometimes; but it’s essential.
We’ve done several 30-days series over the last few years. I’m considering topics for a couple “30 Days” series this year, probably March and October. What topics would you like to see? Plot, publicity, career, voice? Something else? Leave a comment, please, and let me know what interests you!
Book Trailers: Is It Budget or Aesthetics that Matters?
On my sister-site, BookTrailerManual.com, I’m having a discussion with Melissa from YABookshelf about teen book trailers. What’s the most important thing in the success of a trailer? Is it the budget, how much you spend on the trailer? Or is it the idea, the aesthetics with which you approach the book trailer? Come and join the conversation.