Post #51 – Prologues and Epilogues

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12/13/18

I’ve read conflicting views on whether a novel needs either or both a prologue and an epilogue.  One sci-fi author I’ve read says every one of his novels has a prologue.  Others say if the start to the story is strong enough, no prologue is necessary.  The same likely could be said about the need for an epilogue. If an ending is written well enough, there is no need.

ProWritingAid had a recent piece on Does Your Story Need an Epilogue? This piece laid out when it is advantageous to include an epilogue, such as there are loose story lines needing wrapping up or new elements are introduced (usually after a time jump) that set up the next book.

A prologue that stays with me until this day is that found at the start of George R.R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones. I hope the consensus is Martin’s writing is good enough to stand on its own without a prologue. Regardless, I think the prologue to A Game of Thrones is perfect. It not only sets up that book but the entire series. Does the book need the prologue in any way? Not really. It does introduce the ultimate villains, but Martin does that later just as well. I think the prologue is perfect because it sets the tone for everything that follows. I’ve always thought the tag line for the series should be: Everyone You Love Dies.

Being a short story author (until NaNoWriMo this year), I never needed a prologue or an epilogue. Then I started writing the first chapter in my novel. I had grand ideas for what to include and thought the chapter would run a couple thousand words. When I finished it, the chapter totaled 595 words; and it didn’t feel like a true chapter. It did feel like a prologue and a good one for introducing a central element of the novel. We’ll see how I feel about it once the first draft is done, but for now, my WIP has a prologue.

When I get to the end, I’ll let you know if there is an epilogue. I hear readers and publishers these days want a series, and an epilogue can help set up the next book. If need be, I have ideas for at least one more book in the universe of my WIP. I just need to finish the WIP to know whether I need an epilogue to bridge the gap. No pressure.

Let me know in the comments your thoughts on prologues and epilogues. Always necessary? Story dependent? Or never in this lifetime or the next?

Photo credit: Ramdlon via Pixabay

Post #50 – 2018 NaNoWriMo Recap

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12/6/18

Last week, I finished my first NaNoWriMo. I didn’t do too bad, for me. My grand total was 15,616 words written. That’s easily the most I’ve ever written in a month. The least amount of words I wrote in any one day was 110, and the most was 1249. I averaged 520 words a day.

I wrote something every day of the month. That was my biggest achievement. Though I didn’t even get to half of the 50,000 word NaNoWriMo goal, I’d never written every day for an entire month before.

I’m not exactly sure what my expectations were going into NaNoWriMo. I knew I wouldn’t make 50,000 words, but I didn’t have a feeling for what progress I could make. I’ve never tried to hammer out that many words on a single project. I’m still not sure I can, but I intend to keep trying. I plan to continue working on my novel, though not every day. It has a ways to go.

I enjoyed the sense of community created by the NaNoWriMo website and community, though I could have participated more. There were numerous write-ins in my area, not to mention the virtual ones online. My writers club even hosted a write-in, but otherwise my only involvement was watching my friend’s (Michelle McBeth) word count surpass, then double, then triple mine. Like me, she has two small distractions at home, so I’m impressed she found the time. She also has done this before, several times. This is her fifth novel. Congrats to her for winning NaNoWriMo 2018! Check out her work here and grab a copy of one of her novels.

At least with my 15,616 word total, I already reached my word goal for the fourth quarter. Everything else written in December will be gravy. That takes the pressure off, especially since I had a light October. I may even forgo trying to write for most of the month and focus more on reading. I’m feeling the need for a recharge. I always can use my morning runs to plot more scenes in the novel and then use the holidays to write when I may have more free time.

Let me know in the comments if you completed NaNoWriMo. If you didn’t, did you reach your goals? Do you plan to continue adding to your WIP?

Photo credit: StartupStockPhotos via Pickabay

Post #49 – Characters

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11/29/18

The essence of any story is characters in conflict. To increase that conflict, or at least make it more interesting, some of those characters need depth.

Most of my writing has been limited to short stories. That form doesn’t provide room to dig much into a character’s background or motivations, at most a couple hints here and there. So when it came time to work on my novel this month, I didn’t have a lot of experience with developing characters. In prior months, I’d jotted down a few notes. This character’s parents died in an accident. This character’s brother saved him when they were kids and has suffered ill effects ever since. But I never fully developed them, probably because I didn’t know how.

I’ve attempted to read up on the subject. A Writer’s Path posted an interesting exercise titled Things I ask My Characters. By way of an interview, the author can get to know his/her character’s. The same blog then posted 3 Ways to Flesh Out Your Character’s Motivations as an additional exercise guide.

For a more classical view, Andrea Lundgren analyzed Victor Hugo’s techniques in Writing Lessons from Les Mis: Characterization.

ProWritingAid has had a series of blog posts this year examining Oscar Scott Card’s Elements of Fiction Writing: Characters & Viewpoint.  The most recent is How to Nail Third-Person Narrative. I found these lessons helpful. This is a book I wanted to read last year when first starting to seriously write, but the book is out of print. Coincidence or fate?

Since I’m new to the novel writing, and thus character development, thing, what I don’t know is what works better for me. Should I develop full backstories for my characters before starting the novel? I am a plotter after all. Or should I come up with a few key points for each character and see what else the story demands these character be? That seems to be more a pantser technique, though it provides the greatest flexibility when writing.

For my current WIP, I’m following the latter course by necessity. I may wind up determining that after the first draft, I need to think through each character again and fill in their stories as I conduct an initial edit.

Let me know in the comments how your develop your characters. Do you map out their entire lives first, or do you wait and let the story dictate who your characters really are?

Photo credit: aixklusiv via Pixabay

Post #48 – Writing Every Day

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11/22/18

Happy Thanksgiving!

Hopefully you are at home with family and friends either recovering from an early afternoon feast or about to dig in.  How’s that conversation with Uncle Ned going?  How many glasses deep are you into the cranberry prosecco?  (It’s available at my local Trader Joes’s, and it’s delicious.)  Has everyone fallen asleep watching the game?

If you at least answered “yes” to the last one, then this post is for you.  Now is the time to write.  Everything I read says to be a better writer you must write (and read, but who has time for both?).  I can’t recall the number of times I’ve read I should write every day.  There’s even recommendations on how to write every day.

I would like to write every day, but if I want to do anything else, that is not realistic.  For example, this month, for NaNoWriMo, I committed to writing every day.  So far I’ve succeeded but at a cost.  I’ve pretty much given up my morning work out.  I try to squeeze that in at lunch but am not always successful. I also usually don’t get enough sleep because I’m trying to get things done in the evening in order to wake and just write.

I’ve done the majority of my writing in the hour before my kids wake up. I usually complete about 400-500 words a day. It’s slow going but progress nonetheless. The problem is it’s progress at the expense of my health. While not working out and sleeping is fine for some, it’s not for me. Once NaNoWriMo is done, I plan to return to my usual routine.

So where does that leave me–going back to doing at least one writing related activity a night. Some nights that will be actual writing. Some nights that will be submitting stories to markets. Some nights it will be researching new markets for story submissions. Other nights it will be learning about the craft of writing. Oh and some nights I might read, as crazy as that sounds.

Current, the NaNoWriMo website says at my current pace I’ll complete 50,000 words by the first week of February. However, my goal is 80,000 to have a fighting chance at a marketable book. When I started this month, I thought I would finish all 80,000 words by February. Now I’m thinking I’ll be lucky if I finish by Summer 2019.

If I go back to my old routine, I no longer know what a manageable goal is. 11,000 words a month? That’d mean another six months. This year I’ve averaged a little more than that over each quarter, so 11,000 words a month may be aggressive. Plus I’d still like to work on new short stories and continue to submit those I’ve completed to various markets (and submit them elsewhere as the rejections roll in).

I still have over a month to figure out my 2019 writing goals. That’s plenty of time, right?

Let me know in the comments if you successfully write every day and what you give up to do so.

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Post #47 – Novel Revising

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11/15/18

Since I finally started writing my novel, I thought I should research how to revise a novel. I’d saved a couple relevant links in the hope of one day needing them. Below are two.

How to revise a novel in 9 key stages

Then there is Casey Carlisle’s Editing Your Novel post.

Editing an entire novel seems daunting. It often takes me days (i.e. multiple sittings due to limited time) to edit a 6000 word short story. I do this the old fashion way by printing off the story and using a colored ink pen to mark it up. That process necessitates another day or two to insert my changes into the file.

I anticipate using the same process to edit my novel. How long will that take when applied to such a lengthy work? A long time.

First, I plan to let the novel sit for several weeks. Stephen King says he waits six weeks after finishing an initial draft before beginning the first edit. I don’t know if I can wait that long, but the goal is to gaining enough distance from the story and characters to be objective. That’s when I’ll do my first round of edits.

Then, I’ll send the novel to my beta readers. I anticipate they’ll have excellent suggestions requiring additional edits. I usually input those changes directly into the file, saving a little time. After that, I plan to revise the novel at least one more time, requiring the sacrifice of another tree and the spilling of additional ink.

At that point, I’m debating hiring a story editor. I want this to be the best work possible. After those changes comes the hiring of a copy editor, though they could be the same editor. I don’t plan to ask my wife to copy edit an entire novel. I like being married to her and want to stay that way.

My goal is to have the novel ready to send to the professional editors by next year’s NaNoWriMo. (I need to be free to write that next novel!) Maybe by Spring 2020, I’ll have a completed manuscript to shop to agents. It seems like a long time, but I suspect it will fly by.

(When NaNoWriMo is over, I also plan to read Dean Wesley Smith’s How to Write a Novel in Ten Days. At this point, that premise sounds ridiculous.)

Let me know in the comments if you’re editing process is similar to mine or if you take a different approach.

Photo credit: quinntheislander via Pixabay

Post #46 – NaNoWriMo 2018

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11/8/18

It’s here. Like a baby that takes 12 months rather than 9, it’s here. It’s National Novel Writing Month.

What have I done so far, and what do I plan to do the rest of the month? I’m so glad you asked. I initially debated whether to keep writing several work-in-progress short stories with the 50k word goal in mind or actually work on my yet-to-be-started novel. Then it dawned on me the name of this activity has “novel” in it. There’s my answer.

So I began. No more procrastinating. No more character development, though the characters need it. No more developing the various settings, though they need it too. I’m finally putting words on the screen for the novel.

Luckily, I already had mapped out the four settings and three of the four main characters in the novel, so I wasn’t starting from scratch. So far, I’ve written an introductory chapter for each of those three characters. I’m also pleased to report that while doing so, the fourth main character coalesced in my mind, and I’ve written her introductory chapter as well.  Now I’ll see how much further I get. The holes in the backstory for these character is coming to me as I write each chapter or as I do my plotting during a run. I’m making a real effort to avoid the info dump and sprinkle that history in as I go, not only in the introductory chapter but in later chapters as well.

I’m enjoying the process, but it’s still daunting. As of today, I’ve written 4395 words, essentially a short story. The small number is a reflection of my limited time to write rather than my commitment. I’ve managed to add to that total every day this month, and I hope to continue that streak to November 30. Even so, my biggest fear is I’ll end up with a novella length work rather than a novel. If that happens, I’ll have to decide whether to continue adding more conflict to get to novel length or polish the novella and submit that to willing markets. I should be so lucky to have to make such a decision.  I plan to have a follow-up blog post the first week of December to confirm how I did.

Let me know in the comments if you’re attempting NaNoWriMo this year and how’s it going.

Photo credit: Free-Photos via Pixabay

Post #40 – First Publication!

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9/28/18

It’s finally here. The first time my words appear in print. The Fall 2018 issue of Stinkwaves Magazine contains my story “Cramping Your Style” about a boy whose soccer injury may cause unintended consequences. The issue will be published October 1, but feel free to pre-order here! There are print and ebook versions. Both versions also are available through Amazon here.

If you have a child falling in the middle grade age range (or read up to that range), treat them to the Fall 2018 issue of this fun literary magazine. Back issues also are available through the magazine’s website and Amazon.

Added bonuses:

  • The magazine is published by, thus purchases support, a small, independent publisher.
  • I finally can establish an Amazon Author Page.

If you do purchase on Amazon, please leave a comment with your thoughts on the magazine.  Thanks!

Photo credit: kconcha via Pixabay