Fiction Writing and Other Oddities

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Mystery of Titles

NaNoWriMo is over for another year, at least for me. And I managed to write my latest mystery in a month. Initially I called it Twilight, but someone told me that title was taken, so I later renamed the manuscript to The Adventurers. I should mention that when I originally thought of the story, it was called: Grave Mistakes. Because everyone in the story makes pretty grave mistakes. However, once again, I discovered that another writer had a mystery with that title. I hate reusing someone else's title if I can help it. So, since one of the pivotal moments occurs on a boat called The Twilight I decided to use that. And you know what happened. Hence: The Adventurers.


Title are obviously subject to change. Which is unfortunate since the title is crucial to my mindset and my general feeling of the book. So I try very hard to come up with a title that reminds me of the concept, especially when I'm writing it. Once that is set in my mind, any later changes to the title never really "settle in" for menever really encapsulate the essence of the story.


For better or worse, my current publisher has never suggested I change a title. However, I know that most publishers regularly and routinely force their authors to change their titles, usually to something wretchedly bland and vomit-inducing. Particularly for historical-set books with any kind of a romance in them. You usually end up with some sort of peerage, e.g. Marquis, Earl, or Duke; in combination with some adjective having to do with his amorous abilities or general bad-ass-ness, regardless of how well this does or does not fit the story. All these titles are interchangeable and all equally forgettable. Lately, I've been wondering if the publishers realize how they trivialize the books they are selling with these horrible, formulaic titles.


If I buy one of these, it is in spite of the title and horrific cover.


Maybe that's why I tend to be instantly attracted to the often ironic, satirical, if not downright black humor of crime fiction and mystery titles. The Weight of Water, Suicide Blonde, and the story-encapsulating Ghosts. Great, evocative titles. I wish I could come up with something like: The Weight of Water. Of all the titles I've run across over the years, that is, by far my favorite (although not my favorite book). Despite my terrible memory, I've never forgotten that title.


Do titles make a book? Will it make or break your sales?

Heck, no.

As I said, I've occasionally purchased books in spite of the titles and terrible covers, if the blurb on the back of the book interests me.


But when faced with rows upon rows of books, my glance will often et caught by the weird, the wacky, the different title. And I'll pull the book out and read the back, the first step to buying.


So in a way, the title can make the difference.


Or maybe not.


In the end, it's really a crap shoot. No one knows what book is going to be insanely popular and which brilliant book will not. I just need a title to work with.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Quick Update

National Novel Writing Month is blazing by in flames.  I've gotten 150 pages written and am right on schedule.

Except I just realized that I'm behind the times.  I picked the title Twilight because it is the name of a sailboat in the story, but just found out that there is some hugely successful book/series with that name!  ARGH!  So I shall have to pick another.  It started out as "Grave Mistakes" but I decided I didn't like that and changed it to Twilight.  Now, I'm thinking of "The Adventurers".

Hopefully, I'll finish it by the end of November (yay NaNoWriMo!) and can then let it rest before starting to edit the heck out of it.

In the meantime, after November/NaNoWriMo ends, I'll be working on getting a vampire novel in shape to submit to The Wild Rose Press.  I just hope they like it.

This has to be short because I'm working my fingers to the bone trying to complete "The Adventurers" (or whatever I end up calling it).

Happy dreams and I hope everyone is having the best November, ever!

Friday, November 07, 2008

Food for Thought

I'm not supposed to be blogging at the moment so I'll be quick.  This is almost a note to myself about a couple of a-ha!'s that have recently sunk into my pea-sized brain.

The a-ha!'s are not new information.  They are old pieces of junk I acquired at some distant point in the past, stored away in the cellars of my mind, and periodically dusted off, intending to think about them but never quite doing it.  (And how's that for a run-on sentence?  I am the total Queen of run-on, curly writing.)

I like to write these things down because verbalization helps my thinking process.

A-Ha! One

Sensuous, or even sexy, writing is not about the mechanics of who stuck what where.  It's not even (entirely) the use (or overuse) of exotic-sounding words and adjectives.  Or the use of similes and comparisons to rocks (jewels), fabrics (satin, silk, velvet) or flowers (roses and cherries). 

It's about description.  Now a lot of authors just layer in those adjectives and comparisons to the point where it annoys you just to read it.  I'm totally not a fan of that, and my desire to avoid it lead me astray.  I convinced myself I didn't need to write a lot of descriptions.  I don't like writing descriptions, and I generally don't like reading them (with a few exceptions).  So I "excused myself".

And got further into the weeds, and lost sight of my goals because I began to associate description with sensual with erotic with bad writing in general.  (At this point, I'm sure many of you are in a "hair on fire" mood.) 

Epiphany:  that chain of associations is totally wrong in almost all aspects.  There are excellent erotic writers (stick your flaming head into the shower and put out the fire).  Sensual doesn't have to be erotic.  Descriptions may or may not be sensual, but it is your total best friend for developing deep, complex characters and making your audience "feel, see, hear, and taste" the scene.

Descriptions don't have to be over-written.  But they do have to be written.

If you're not writing descriptions, folks aren't going to get into your characters.  Your story will fail.  Boo hoo.

A-Ha! Two

Problems are food for the brain.  If you give your problems to someone else to solve, they will get the food and grow strong, while you starve and grow weak.  And you then can't blame them when they get the promotion/glory/money.

The last few months, I've noticed some of my team members not monitoring NTFRS replication on our domain controllers (okay, that's technie talk for "they weren't doing their jobs).  So I looked at it and found The Nightmare on AD Street.  I mentioned it to them.  They messed around with it and even called Microsoft and then basically threw up their hands.  They did a few things Microsoft suggested, but here's the thing:  any time they reached a point where the Microsoft said:  and evaluate the results, they stopped and threw up their hands.

They didn't want to think.  They wanted explicit instructions they could follow precisely without making a complex decision or understanding what they were seeing.

So I sighed, put aside what I was working on, and picked it up.  I joined one of their calls to Microsoft--didn't hear anything new, but just wanted to touch base.  Then I took a look around.  I found a huge nest of problems that stemmed back a freakin' year--which is how long these people have been ignoring things.

Now my NTFRS replication skills were rusty, but I tried a few things.  Discovered the problems were even worse than I thought.  Called my boss, made a few plans for some heavy-duty repairs.  Went to bed.  Woke up with an idea for a way to get some things repaired and make the situation easier to do the big heavy-duty fix.  Implemented them.  Got two out of three problems resolved, leaving one easy fix to be done on the weekend to take care of the last problem.

All of that is the explanation for how I grew my brain on this food--because now I have freakin' unbelievable skills with NTFRS (and wrote several new internal Wikis for my team members on it).

And my team members still have squat. And their little brains are shriveling even as I write this while I'm growing bigger and stronger.

And the real irony is that there are some higher grades opening up.  And they are going to complain if I get a promotion because it isn't fair.  Maybe I won't get the promotion, either, but...

They gave me their food.  They didn't want it. 

Don't give up your food.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

First Week of NaNoWriMo

For the month of November, my blogs are going to be short 'n sweet.  I'm participating in National Novel Writing Month, NaNoWriMo ( because it lets me concentrate on just writing.  This November, I'm pledging to write 50,000 words in 30 days on a new Regency mystery called 'Twilight'.

Thus far, I've written: 

15 pages on Nov 1; 10 pages on Nov 2; 7 pages on Nov 3; 5 pages on Nov 4.

Honestly, I realize it has been a downward spiral so far, but I anticipate getting back up to 10 pages per day and hanging in there.  I won my goal of 50,000 words last year with my Regency romance, Love, The Critic, and I fully intend to win this year, too.

And I'm trying to work through my disappointment at the Romantic Times review of "I Bid One American" which got a measly 3 stars (my last book 'Smuggled Rose' got the full 4 stars) but the only thing the critic could find wrong with it was that Nathaniel didn't solve the mystery until the end of the book.

Well, frankly, if that was their only problem with the book, I'm good with that.  Because generally speaking, mysteries aren't solved until the end of the book.  Well, duh.  And as a writer (not to fill this blog with self-justification) there were certain events and clues that had to occur/be found before the mystery could be solved.  This necessarily meant that I couldn't just wave a magic wand and "voila" solve the mystery.

So I feel okay about it, even if they did give it a measly 3 stars.

One other thing I would note.  I've been reading a lot of reviews lately and I've seen a distinct bias *against* humorous novels.  To a large degree, I believe this is another factor in the 3-star rating.  For some reason, unless a book is full of angst, fear, and generally over-the-top anguish, critics seem to think it "less worthy" of a good rating.  Same with movies.  Comedies almost never win awards.

But I have to tell you, writing something that is light, frothy and funny is really, really hard. In fact, I would argue that it is harder than writing all that serious anguish.

So...onward and upward!

Have a great week!