Fiction Writing and Other Oddities

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

June 2009

It's June already? What the heck is going on with time, anyway? It seems to compress at random; needlessly, too, I might add.

Good News (If Any)

I'm awaiting word on my paranormal manuscript with The Wild Rose Press. The editor who read the manuscript liked it and is recommending it to the powers-that-be for purchase. So that's a small, tentative hurray with hopes that the powers like it and buy it. That would be sweet! Especially since I got not-so-good news from another publisher who was looking at one of my historical mysteries. She liked it, but due to the current economic climate, the company is restructuring and may ultimately decide not to do it. But I was thankful to her for giving me an honest assessment of the situation. That shows true graciousness and thoughtfulness that is rare today. I hope they are successful at restructuring and that, even if they decide not to do historical mysteries in the future, there might another genre/place for me with them in a few years.

Still awaiting word on a few queries and submissions, but realistically, I doubt I will hear anything before August or September. In the meantime, I'm going to be bundling up query packets for a mystery I'd like to find an agent to represent.

Other good news: my dog Molly is doing fine now after getting bit on the upper lip by a Copperhead. And even better news, my husband and I saw a King Snake on the path and King Snakes eat Copperheads and Rattlesnakes. So I have every hope that the King Snake will eat the Copperhead that bit my dog. It would be so just if that happens!

What I'm Reading Now

Just finished Gold of Kings by Davis Bunn. Great adventure story with just enough romance to be really satisfying to me. When we first meet the hero, Harry Bennett, he's in a Caribbean jail and there's not much worse that can happen to him. Or so we think. But he gets sprung on orders left by a dead man, Sean Syrrell, only to be immersed in an adventure to find a treasure lost for centuries. Accompanying Harry is Sean's niece, Storm, and Emma—an FBI agent who can't seem to stay out of trouble, either.

There's a crafty and nearly unstoppable assassin on their tail and the FBI want to arrest Harry for the supposed murder of another person interested in the treasure they seek. After the first few chapters, Harry might actually have had a more restful and better time of it back in prison!

I thoroughly enjoyed this book—mostly because of good old Harry. The guy just can't stay out of trouble and that is my favorite kind of character. He was a little quirky and a little different and very lovable. Bunn did a fabulous job with Harry and I'm glad Bunn didn't stoop to the obvious and set up a romance between Harry and Storm. The two characters like each other, respect each other, and save each other's bacon, and I enjoyed the interplay between the two a great deal. The relationship was handled with grace and subtly—something rare in many of today's novels.

Storm Syrrell was less entrancing to me, and I have to say I'm a little sick of these "unique" and artsy-fartsy names. I class the name Storm in the same category as Hawk for a man. Get over it already—can't she just be a Jane or Mary? Maybe not Mary, because that rhymes with Harry, but Jane would do. And frankly, after a surfeit of these "romantic" names, Jane actually feels unusual and unique to me. It's even spelled properly.

Sorry, didn't mean to digress about the name. But Storm did seem a little less real to me than Harry—for whatever reason. But it did nothing to mar my enjoyment of the book. If you get a chance to read it, do!

And I just picked up Road Dogs by Elmore Leonard and am enjoying that. Nothing beats a good crime novel, especially with a delicious, understated sense of humor.

What I'm Writing Now

I'm struggling to write at the moment, mostly because I keep going back to edit things so I can do some more submissions. I guess that's progress, too. However, last night I wrote a few more lines in my Christmas novella. I won't make the deadline for it, but maybe that's okay and I can submit it for next year (Christmas 2010). If I can finish that, I want to write a mystery. Not sure if it will be contemporary or historical, but it will be one or the other.

What—If Any—Thoughts I have


What is backstory? It's when an author digresses from the current time/storyline to give the reader some background about something. Usually, it's junk that happened in the past that made the hero into the man He Is Today (or the heroine into the woman She Is Today). Everyone tells you to cut out all backstory. Obviously, you can't cut out all of it, otherwise the reader won't understand what is happening or why the character is acting the way he is. But you can certainly trim it back, usually to just a phrase stuck in where it is absolutely essential.

There is so much written about backstory already, but I think I can boil it down to a few salient points:

  1. Don't include backstory that's just history. That is, that has nothing to do with what is going on RIGHT NOW in the book. For example, Melissa Sue is facing a decision about whether to move to the country because she just inherited a huge house. Backstory would be: Melissa Sue was orphaned when she was seven and went to live in a children's home in the Ozarks. And in this instance, the fact that she lived in a children's home in the Ozarks is completely irrelevant and should be excised from this passage. It's only marginally relevant that she was orphaned, and that detail can be inserted in a small phrase, if it's necessary to know that the inheritance was a surprise because of it. That's all. There is absolutely no need to go on and on about the children's home and what the Ozarks looked like, etc, unless it has direct and dramatic bearing on the events at hand.
  2. Don't include characters (and character names) in backstory for characters who will never be mentioned again. They have no relevance in the current story. Do not take attention away from your main characters by throwing in a bunch of names/characters who aren't even in the current story. For example, if Melissa Sue inherited her house from her great-aunt, that's all you need to say. You don't even need to give the great-aunt a name and history—unless that fact has some relevance to Melissa Sue's current problems.
  3. Information must be critical to the current problem the character faces. See item 1. And only reveal that information when it is necessary to describe the character's immediate problem. Otherwise, the reader will just be jarred out of the story, tension will be lost, and your pacing will suffer.

That's about it.

Best wishes for a successful week!


1 comment:

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