Very quick post. I’m nearing the end of Pocket Full of Tinder (yay!!!) and I want to get back to it. Plus, this weekend is Easter and next week, my kids are on Spring Break, which means less writing time for me.
[added later: I left my original intro to this post in here so I could laugh at myself. “Very quick post” = 1,700+ words. Guess I had more to say than I thought. There are headlines to help you navigate this beast and questions for YOU are in red.
Read my post. Enjoy your spring!!]
What have I been up to?
Pocket Full of Tinder – the aforementioned ms. I haven’t yet written THE END, but it’s in sight. Always an exciting time. This book will probably need more internal revisions (before I hand it off to an editor) than any previous book. But that’s okay. I have a revision process that I like. It’s the initial draft that’s always the hardest for me.
(WARNING: some meandering ahead…)
So, a few thoughts about structure for beginning writers or readers who enjoy behind-the-scenes type stuff:
Most of you have heard my “do as they say, not as I do” speech. It applies here sorta. The best advice everyone gives about writing is DO WHAT WORKS FOR YOU. Excellent advice. But kinda general. The trick is to try to learn as much as possible about ALL the methods out there and then pick and choose what works for you. Fine.
Structure generally – if you are BRAND NEW, you should at least be familiar with these concepts: three act structure, hero’s journey, and GMC (goal, motivation, and conflict).
Structure specifically – When I first start plotting, I write GMC for main characters, a rough synopsis (which almost invariably ends in a way the novel WON’T, but it gets me started), some work on the BIG LOCATION of the novel, and a quick description of chapters. Obviously, it’s a fluid, dynamic outline – more of an organic skeleton with all sorts of interconnected, moving parts than a rigid, inorganic, metal scaffold.
I’ve mentioned previously (maybe here? definitely elsewhere) that I name my chapters. In the past three Noon Onyx books, we took out the chapter names because my editor felt like they foreshadowed too much. I agreed, but I love chapters with names. I’m toying with leaving them in for Pocket Full of Tinder.
[Writers: do you name your chapters? Readers: do you like chapters with names or do you even notice that?]
The chapter names I love the most add another layer of meaning to the story (yep, it’s a thin veneer) but I love it when the name of the chapter gives readers a little clue as to the chapter’s meaning or purpose or when it IS a warning of what might lie ahead.
But sometimes, chapter names are just descriptive sign posts. Sometimes, I think of chapters in the same way I think of movie scenes. (Back in the DVD days, if you wanted to watch a particular scene in a movie, you could load your DVD into the player and pull up a list of scenes in a submenu).
Revising Tip You May Have Never Tried: Label your chapters. Your label can be perfunctory, but it will give you an immediate idea of what the chapter’s purpose is in the story. And if you are struggling to name it… examine it more closely. It probably needs more work. Or maybe it doesn’t belong there. Maybe it belongs somewhere else. Or maybe it needs to be deleted entirely.
I follow Chuck Wendig’s blog (most of you probably do too; his language is often colorful but he’s hilarious). The other day, E.J. Wenstrom, one of his “Five Things I Learned” guests said (in the context of much other good advice) that, “Writing a book is a hot mess.” Ain’t it though? I laughed out loud. Pocket Full of Tinder is a hot mess right now. It is one stinking pile of poo. But I will shape that mass of steaming tauri merdam (is that even right? I have no idea. “Track down woman who helps me with my Latin” is #2,097 on my To Do List) into a GREAT NOVEL come Halja or high northern mountains! 😀
As an aside to my aside, I also follow Scalzi’s Whatever blog (his writer guests share their “Big Ideas”), The Qwillery (Sally interviews debut SF/F authors and also some cozy mystery authors), Suzanne Johnson (who helps me keep up on new releases and shares interesting thoughts on writing and publishing; her new book Wild Man’s Curse comes out on April 5th — go pre-order! 🙂 ) I also started following Magical Words recently (don’t know how I missed it before; GREAT posts by Faith Hunter, Diana Pharoah Francis, et al.) There are others I follow too… don’t have time to look through my in-box. Will try to do more comprehensive list later about people I follow as both reader and writer.
[In the meantime, if you have a great blog you follow for writer advice or new release info, please share in the comments!]
Final thoughts on structure/chapter names/my chapters:
Now that I have four tables of contents in front of me, I can see the general structure I follow for each Noon novel (although Dark Light of Day, as the first, doesn’t follow my “formula” as closely).
In the first third of the novel, I set everything up. The central question, the main characters, Noon’s assignment, hopefully some thematic elements. These scenes are always in there:
- Introduce Noon to the reader
- Her assignment
The trick with each novel is to make each of these scenes feel different. I don’t want the books to feel like repeats. Here’s a comparison of the “intro” scenes from the first three books:
Dark Light of Day
Chapter 1 “Winter Garden”
Noon was introduced as a character with fire magic whose touch instantly kills growing things and whose mere presence threatens them. Because of its destructive nature, Noon hates her magic and dreams of living a different life, becoming a different person.
She feels young, even a bit immature. But her reluctance to embrace herself comes from a good place. Noon wants to heal people and grow gardens. And if her tone sounds grumpy or rebellious… well, I think defiance can sometimes be a good thing.
Fiery Edge of Steel
Chapter 1 “Carne Vale”
A carne vale is a demon execution. Noon’s grudgingly accepted her magic, but she’s still a pacifist at heart. She’s honestly not sure if she can kill in cold blood, even if it’s a rogare demon, which are “the worst Halja has to offer… the lawbreakers, the criminals, the unsanctioned sinners…”
Noon doesn’t feel – as much – as if she’s the victim of fate or things beyond her control. She’s still headstrong but she also recognizes that she has duties and obligations to fulfill. A minor theme of Fiery Edge of Steel was noblesse oblige (or optimus obligatus as it’s called in Halja).
White Heart of Justice
Chapter 1 “The Gridiron”
The most immediate thing I wanted to establish was how much Noon had changed since the first book. The Gridiron is an underground sparring area where St. Luck’s MITs are trained. I opened with Noon in the midst of a fight with Ludovicus Mischmetal (a.k.a. Vicious), who knocks one of her teeth out.
After defeating Vicious, Noon calmly picks up her tooth, pockets it, and asks if she’s still on track to be her school’s pick as the upcoming Laurel Crown Race contender. If she wins the race, she’ll have a say in her future. Noon feels super strong, but also aware that she is a cog in a bigger wheel.
Other quick updates
Pocket Full of Tinder Cover
In the works! Which is also very exciting. My cover artist sent two preliminary sketches to me last week. I might do a bonus newsletter sharing them and other cover thoughts in the future. I’m still mulling over cover reveal options. You all know this is my first time self-pubbing so I need to work out the logistics of pre-pub promo, pre-order links, etc.
The bottom line is that covers are fun and I’m really happy with the direction Pocket Full of Tinder’s is heading in and I can’t wait to share it with everyone!!
In the meantime, if you haven’t signed up for my newsletter, here’s the sign up link: http://eepurl.com/bAzF7n. The March edition went out already, but I’ve been sending links to it to those people who’ve signed up since. (Will probably do that again next week).
My March giveaway is a pair of fireball laser cut wood earrings + a small SWAG pack –OR– a $10 eGC to Book Depository (winner’s choice). Newsletter subscribers who share via social media or who email me their favorite quote from the books get an extra contest entry. The last one I received was, “The demons’ll get me one day.” (Bragging rights to you if you remember who said that and in which book).
What else have I been up to?
Last weekend, we dyed Easter eggs while it was snowing out. (The Northeast’s weather couldn’t have been weirder, huh?)
My husband’s getting ready to become a beekeeper… Bzzzzz….. (more on this later… maybe)
I missed celebrating National Puppy Day, which is kinda nuts since I have a puppy! In honor of it, and the movie everyone’s buzzzzzing about (haha, couldn’t resist), here’s a picture of Tug:
[Are you going to see Batman versus Superman? Who do you think would win in a fight – Batman or Superdog?]
And here’s a final picture my younger daughter took. If you celebrate Easter, have a happy one! If not, best wishes for SPRING!!!