Booking Through Thursday: One or Many?

Vampira2468 asks:

Series or Stand-alone?

I know this question is about reading books, whether you prefer reading a series or a stand-alone novel, but since I’ve answered that before (somewhere… don’t quote me) with a resounding “Well… both….” I’m going to instead look at this today from a writer’s point of view.

Forgive me if my answer stays more or less the same. Do I prefer writing a stand-alone novel or a series? Well… both.

If you look at my “Works” page, you can see that my two main WIPs at the moment (though really, I’m letting the one wait in line as I finish the other) are a stand-alone (Daughter) and what I at least hope might have the meat to pull off a series someday (Jethro). Both of them are very different writing experiences. One is an epic-fantasy-adventure that’s somewhere between The Princess Bride and Anastasia (figure that one out) and the other is about a bunch of high school kids in a small town who have to face the fact that they all have unexplained powers. One is focused very closely around one main character and a few of her closest connections, while the other technically has a main character, but also has an ensemble cast list as long as my arm.

I cannot tell you which one is more fun to write.

I really can’t. And I’m not going to make any comments about it being like picking between two children (though really, it is) but what I will say is that both stories have their own challenges and benefits, and I love that. So let’s talk about those challenges and benefits… let’s call them bonuses, though, because that’s what they really feel like.

Writing a Stand-Alone Novel (One or Two Main Characters)

 Challenges:

  • Typically you only have one (or two) perspectives to work with, even if you’re working in third-person. Unless of course you’re working in third-person omniscient, but that’s not often the case. This can make it hard to show the audience something without letting your character see it, which is sometimes vital.
  • Your character also has to be strong enough to carry a full-length novel. There’s really no half-ways-ing on this. Either you have someone who feels like a real person and is exciting or relatable, or you don’t have anything. Really. Because if your character doesn’t hold up, nothing else will. There’s no room for it to.
  • This is your one shot. Everything you want to say in this story, has to be said in this book. It’s a little bit different with the internet now, because we have the opportunity to do ebook tie-ins and things like that, but it doesn’t change the fact that if there was something you wanted to happen in this story and it didn’t make it there, it will never be there. The end.

Benefits:

  • The story has a clear-cut ending. This may not be the case with a series, at least with an ensemble cast like I’m planning. The story could well go on forever in an ensemble piece, but with one character, it’s easier to see where to say goodbye. (Clarification: this does not make it easier to actually SAY goodbye!)
  • You get to really fall in love with your characters. Not saying you can’t do this in a bigger cast (and obviously you can if your series is all based around one character, but that doesn’t seem to be the way I work), but fictional characters are often enigmatic and untrusting, and it takes time to peel away their layers. You get to do this if most of your time is spent with only one or two of them.

Writing a Series (Ensemble Cast)

Challenges:

  • Think making one character strong enough to carry a book was difficult? Now you have to have half a dozen (or more!) characters and they each have to be different enough to feel like different people. No use having a lot of characters if no one can tell them apart.
  • You also have to be very, very careful that your characters don’t fall into archetypes. Or if they do, that they have something about them that really makes the archetype worth it. Make sure there’s a twist. If the character just really needs to be an archetype, make sure that they feel organic. Avoid clichés as best as you can.
  • You have to make sure that your ending lets everything be said. Again, this is a little different now that we can offer side novellas and what not, but if you have half a dozen important characters, you have to make sure they each get their due and that their storyline ends by the time you say “The End.” This may not be an easy thing to balance out.

Benefits:

  • So. Many. Voices. Really that’s what’s fun about an ensemble cast and the time a series will give you to feature them. You get to experiment with so many different characters and write in their distinct voices. You don’t get “stuck” with one or two characters.
  • Time. Really a big benefit of a series is that you have room and time to get to a lot of things. In my case, a lot of different characters with personal storylines that play into the bigger story arch. You can even end a book halfway through one character’s personal struggle… it will bring some back to read the next book, to see how it turned out.

So… sorry to turn a reading question into a lecture about writing… but really, I’m not. I wonder if anybody else can think of benefits and challenges to the two?

Writing? What’s that? Oh that’s right… my DREAM.

This photo is kind of a free-association of what my life has been like this past month. Not bad, per se, just so ridiculously busy that when I wasn’t working or stealing a spare few hours to be human with my husband and friends, I was sleeping. But mostly, I was working and sleeping. I have never felt that falling into bed warranted the word “crashed” so often in one month before. There have been many, many days where I intended to do one thing, or six, and instead fell asleep. My last Tales From the Hollow Tree short, “Mooniversary,” was written the day it was supposed to be posted, and last Friday’s still hasn’t been written, and it’s the next Thursday already.

This has largely been because I have recently acquired a full-time job. This full-time job is graveyards. I don’t really blame the full-time job or the graveyards, though both of those things have been factors, but it was the fact that I was (am) still working my first, part-time job that really has been the clincher on my time, because as I said above, whenever I wasn’t working the night job, I was sleeping in preparation or recovery of it, or I was working the other job.

I worked so much this last month that besides missing my Hollow Tree story—which I hate to say I still have not written, but may be written tomorrow… ish… possibly—but I also missed my deadline of having my manuscript completed by the end of June, which was a very important initiative for me that I’m very sorry to have failed at, and I was frustrating people at the part-time job in the meantime. And so, I have decided to part ways with my part-time job. It’s a little sad, because it was a fun job and I’m going to miss interacting with both my coworkers and the customers, but on the other hand, I can’t deny that for the most part I’m counting the days.

Because the fact of the matter is, giving up writing, or postponing the writing of my book is not worth three or four hundred dollars extra each month. And I mean, that’s not an easy thing for me to say, because before I got the full-time position, this part-time one was the first normal job I’d had in… well, years. And the first job either me or my husband had had in a little more than a year. Basically this job saved us in more ways than I can count, and walking away from it feels a little ungrateful, but again… it’s not nearly enough to postpone my dream. Especially when I’m so close I can taste it. I mean, I’m still a long, long way away from being on bookshelves anywhere, but I’m close to having that finished product, that whole, gleaming manuscript.

To be honest, I was expecting my manager to be disappointed in me. To be frustrated that I was walking away when I wasn’t even fully trained. And I was expecting to have to justify myself, to say “No, see, I know it sounds crazy, but I already have two jobs, and I’ve been neglecting my primary one as a writer since I started the third.”

But thankfully it didn’t work out half as dramatically as I was worried it would. I have three shifts left at my part-time job. And a new adeptness at staying up nights. I think this writing thing will work out just fine.

How are you all doing, you lovely people?

Music Monday: Skylar Grey – Love the Way You Lie

It’s my day to post at the Dojo! Hop over there and see about going through the motions—in a good way!

I know you know the Rhianna/Eminem version… but have you heard the original? It’s gorgeous. And apparently about an abusive relationship with the music industry, which makes it much more interesting than the “I’m sticking around for because my man is mine” whatever story the more popular version tells.

Just think about that. Think about how packaging changes the way a story is told, especially with something as subjective to the reader/listener as a song is. Some may say that as a writer you have to make your “point” clear to your audience. Others would say just the opposite: you can’t make your version real for the audience, what matters is their account.

Me? I’m somewhere in the middle on this. I don’t think that I can write a story about one thing and have it secretly be about something else. Not intentionally, by any means. I don’t demand for readers to see  the story exactly as I see it either, though. I want readers to get a chance to come to their own conclusions about certain characters, actions, etc.

What do you think?

Five Things Friday: Five Awesome Things About NiNoCon

What are your plans for next Saturday? Have you heard of NiNoCon? Or of writing ninjas? Did you know that there are writing ninjas that will have a writer’s conference on February 4th? It’s going to be seriously awesome, and here are five reasons why:

1) THIS CONFERENCE IS FREE. There is absolutely no cost to participate!

2) THIS CONFERENCE IS ONLINE. Have trouble getting to writer’s conferences because you live in the elbow of the middle of nowhere? As long as you have an internet connection, this conference is for you! And hey, you can show up in your PJ’s and your curlers, we won’t tell. (We won’t even know!)

3) THIS CONFERENCE IS INNOVATIVE. The publishing world is changing, and this conference is going to teach you all the hows and whys of “nontraditional” ways of publishing. If you’re even considering self-publishing, this conference is for you.

4) THIS CONFERENCE HAS CREDENTIALS. There is a panel of experts and and authors who will be available for you to pick their brains on all things writerly, bloggerly, or self-publishy. Thy all want to help YOU. For free! That’s how awesome this conference is.

5) THIS CONFERENCE HAS PRIZES. Oh, did I mention? There are going to be giveaways. How do I know this? Well, because I’m donating one! A full-manuscript edit from Type Set, Inc is going to go to one lucky participant.

So mark your calenders, ladies and gents! There’s no need to pre-register for this event, just head over to www.ninjaswrite.com. The more the merrier!

Tuesday Talk: The Art of the Possible

- G.K. Chesterton

My title comes from a song in Evita, which calls “politics” the art of the possible. I think writing is really the art of the possible, though. Even if we like to slip into impossible once in a while. Because really, we deal in possibility. If _______ happens, what could possibly be the result?

What would it be like if an elven-year-old boy got a letter saying he was really a wizard? If a teenage girl saw her younger sister picked to fight to the death? If a boy turned into a wolf when the weather got cold?

Maybe these things aren’t likely to happen—but that’s not the point. The point is, in order for fiction to work, the reaction has to be real. The consequences have to ring true. Every character, every place, every society has to have an echo of truth to it, or it will not read as true. It will not hit home for the reader with the force that it’s supposed to. Science fiction has to be based on science. Fiction has to be based on fact.

Now, I’m not saying that all books have to be autobiographical, of course, but that people can tell the difference between something a writer understands, and something they’re just hoping will sound good. Someone who’s experienced pain and loss can tell if your character is really feeling pain and loss, or if you’re just hoping they’ll take your word for it. Someone who’s fallen head-over-heels in love will know if the connection between your main characters is there, or if you’re only hoping that it is.

There’s a reason why people say write what you know, and a reason why they say that writing is like opening a vein—people want stories that feel lived, because each of your readers have lived, and they want to feel like your book is another life they can slip into. Whether that new life is something familiar to them or something they can only dream about doesn’t really matter. It just has to feel possible.

Does your book offer that?

Music Monday: Somedays by Regina Spektor

“Somedays” by Regina Spektor

Background: I love Regina. I really, really do.

Favorite Line: “They’re so much stronger than the friends you try to keep/by your side.”

My song history: I found this when I was immersing myself in as much Regina Spektor as I could lay my ears on, and this is one that kept coming back to mind.

What drew me in: I love this idea that a day can work outside of you and against you. That some days “come and go like someone else’s days/They come and leave you behind someone else’s face/And it’s harsher than yours.” That last bit is SO key for me. Because you know it’s true… there are days when you say things and you react sharply to other people, and you know it’s not you, but you couldn’t stop yourself in the moment.

For my writing: This song is for my dear Savannah. She’s a character in Jethro that I know a lot of people won’t like. She’s gorgeous, untouchable, and she rules Jethro High with an iron will. But Savannah is also vulnerable. She’s been hiding behind the mask of perfection so long that when things start to get out of control she just about loses it, and she tries her best to make enemies of the very people that should have her back—she just can’t feel comfortable with the fact that they also know all her secrets.

Five Things Friday: Five Things I’ve Learned…

So, as I’ve mentioned, The Mr. and I recently moved into a small apartment complex that we’re fixing up and going to be renting out and managing. We’ve been here a couple of weeks, and been on a tight budget, so things still aren’t up to rent-out-able states (this is a fairly old apartment complex!) but I have learned a few things along the way, and I thought I’d share a couple with you for today’s Friday Five.

1) VINEGAR is basically the most amazing thing in the world. It’s the best cleanser you didn’t know you already own. It kills most mold, bacteria and germs. PLUS it’s chemical-free and the smell dissipates completely after drying. You can clean anything with vinegar (seriously, you can even use it in your laundry instead of bleach, it’s a natural whitener). If you can’t get something off with vinegar alone, pour some baking soda on it—you get an instant scouring solution. Cheap and chemical free. You’ve got to love that.

2) (Somewhat less informative) Fitting into size-down jeans (even with your sweatpants on under them!) is slightly less exciting when the first time you squat in them, you split the inner-thigh. :: blasé face::

3) You CAN find time to write, even if the world seems to be falling down on your head. (So long as you have someone to share your responsibility with you.) (Probably even if you don’t, but I can’t claim personal knowledge to that!)

4) Sometimes things sell well on your Etsy site when you literally do not have time to touch it with a ten-foot-pole for three weeks straight. (I suspect this is partially due to Etsy’s new “relevance” search—when you looked for things on Etsy, results used to be itemed by “most recently listed”)

5) (More for me than for you) I really can’t complain about never winning a Kindle off of those big joint bloghops when I know full well that I’d rather have a Nook. And I do sometimes win books. So I really can’t complain. (Again not really relevant, ah well!)

Back to the grindstone for me, then. Or should I say, back to oven cleaning. Oh, joy.