Don’t Force It: 2013 365 Challenge #185

Creativity in the garden

Creativity in the garden

This morning I read Kristen Lamb’s latest post about the Five common tactical errors in Self-Publishing:

I’ve read this before on Kristen’s blog, but it is always useful to have a refresher, and compare where I am against where I should be.

This is the list of common errors:

1. Publishing too soon (before understanding and honing the craft of writing)

2. No prepared platform (that is, author platform – blog/website/social media etc)

3. Believing that, “If We Write it They Will Come” (self-publishing doesn’t mean less work, but more)

4. Misusing FREE! (giving your book away for free without understanding the benefits)

5. Shopping one book to DEATH (instead of sitting down to write the next one. It usually takes 3 books to have any kind of success)

Giant paint pallet

Giant paint pallet

I agree with them all: Reading Class Act now, I can see why Mills and Boon rejected it. I sent it off way too soon. There’s so much back story at the beginning even I can’t work out what’s going on. I’m still working on the others, and learning painful lessons (like coming out of the KDP Select program with Dragon Wraiths and not selling a book for five weeks!)

The only bit I struggle with is a line she uses often (it comes here under point one): “Too many new writers do not properly understand the antagonist. They don’t grasp three-act structure, and most don’t have any idea what I mean when I mention POV, Jungian archetypes, or the phrase, “scene and sequel.””

Of course, I struggle with it because I have no idea about half those things, particularly the Jungian archetypes. I’m sure my writing would be better if I did (if I understood structure better, for example, I might be able to fix Class Act quicker). However, I think you could write a great novel without knowing what all these things are called. I know a reasonable amount about writing grammatical English but, until last week, I’d never heard of a comma splice. I have looked through my writing and, instinctively, I write to a three-act structure, I use scene and sequel and I at least understand POV, even if I don’t always use it well in my writing (Baby Blues is a prime example). 

Daughter's Masterpiece

Daughter’s Masterpiece

Before I get a hundred comments telling me I really need to understand these things – I know I do (there are some interesting posts on Jungian Archetype in the related articles below). I also accept what Kristen says, that self-published authors need to be better than traditionally published authors, to compete in the same field. I am working to get better, and I read as many writing craft books as I can fit in around my writing.

Another blog I read today, which reinforces point one (don’t publish too quickly), was over on Karen Woodward’s blog. Her post, Stephen King on Storycraft has a main message: Don’t force it.

When trying to pull a story together, wait until all the pieces click, rather than trying to make it work. I guess it’s the difference between learning scales and playing a concerto (Kristen uses music as an example of how you need to know the nuts and bolts of something to excel at it). You need to know the craft of writing, but you also need the story to flow (and these things, for me, can be mutually exclusive).

One of the great things about self-publishing is the ability to get a wide range of feedback on your novels, rather than waiting a year to find out why agents are rejecting it (assuming they even tell you.) So, yes, you can publish too soon, but you can learn from it too (I hope).

This evening I sat with a pad and pen, while Andy Murray played his nerve-wracking fifth set (I needed a distraction) and worked out an additional six scenes that should hopefully remove most of the pesky back story in Class Act. I’ve been musing on it all day and then it just clicked, without forcing it.

I don’t know if the story fits in a three-act structure or exactly who the antagonist is (harder in a romance than, say, a crime novel I think). I know it still needs a heap of work. But I really enjoyed reading it this morning: reminding myself who the characters are, and getting absorbed in the dialogue.

Now on with the work so I can hurry up and publish! Assuming my three books need to be in the same genre, I’ll only have one more to go to find success 😉

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Below is the next installment in my novel Two-Hundred Steps Home: written in daily posts since 1st January as part of my 2013 365 Challenge. Read about the challenge here.You can catch up by downloading the free ebook volumes on the right hand side of the blog:

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Claire looked at her mother over the top of her mug of Earl Grey and waited for the interrogation. Her mother’s restraint thus far was beginning to unnerve her.

Perhaps it’s too early for the Spanish Inquisition stuff. Or maybe she doesn’t care that her youngest child just turned up on the door step at 7am when she was meant to be at a wedding.

She tried to remember if her mother even knew about Kim’s marriage. As she’d only found out herself a few weeks ago, it seemed likely that she hadn’t told her about it. I seem to have told all the wrong people all the wrong things.

Claire sighed, and wondered why her mother was being so reticent. I guess there’s only one thing on her mind. Deciding that was as good an opener as any, she set down the mug.

“How’s Ruth?”

“She’s okay. A bit low. Sky wants to be outside playing – now the nights are getting lighter – and she doesn’t have the strength to keep up with her. I think the poorly-parent novelty has worn off.”

Claire tried to read through her mother’s words, searching for the accusations. If they were there, her mother was adopting a subtler approach than usual. The only impression Claire got was of a tired woman battling on with the hand life had dealt her.

“I’ll stop by later, take Sky to that farm she kept raving about.” Claire recalled that she’d promised to take Sky there with Kim and Jeff, and hoped Sky’s memory wasn’t as accurate. She didn’t want to think about them, not yet. She waited for her mother to start the questions, but she had disappeared back into her own thoughts, head bowed.

“Mum, is it okay if I stay for a night or two?”

Her mother glanced up, and nodded, without speaking. Claire felt wrong-footed. In the still of the kitchen, she listened to the clock ticking until it felt like the countdown of a bomb.

The silence stretched like a gaping void, pulling her in. Oh, what the hell, she’ll find out eventually, even if she clearly doesn’t give a toss.

“It was Kim’s wedding yesterday. We had a fight.”

Her mother nodded again, without looking up.

“I’ve had an offer of work, which will mean going overseas. I came home to get my passport, and to talk it over with you and Ruth.”

Again the silent nod. Claire swallowed down an urge to scream.

“Mum, are you listening? I said I might be flying halfway round the world. Do you even care?”

Her mother raised her head at last, and Claire saw that her mother’s eyes were red and circled with dark smudges.

“Mum, are you okay?”

Her mother dropped her eyes again, as if making eye contact were too hard. She gazed at the table and twisted her fingers.

“I think your father is having an affair.”

And then she let her head fall on her hands, and her shoulders shook with sobs.

***

9 thoughts on “Don’t Force It: 2013 365 Challenge #185

  1. Kristen’s blog always makes some great points. I think she’s right about the need to master one’s craft, but I also think one can get a lot of craft intuitively by reading a lot. Not that reading alone will do the trick, but Stephen King mentions in ‘On Writing’ how one can learn from any writer he choses simply by reading (and analyzing) their books. That might be why story structure seems to come more easily to some writers than others. (And thanks for the link, I’m off to check it out. BTW I just committed a comma splice. 😉 )
    Jungian archetypes? Really? Guess I’ve got some learning ahead of me!

    • I like ‘On Writing’, I think Stephen King has a great attitude to writing. I think the point I was trying to make (badly) is that you don’t necessaily need to know what something is called to be using it. That said, my next couple of posts are likely to be about stuff I’ve learned in the past about craft that I forgot I knew! My Mummy brain has misplaced so much good stuff!

  2. Pingback: Memoirs of a Geisha Moments: 2013 365 Challenge #187 | writermummy

  3. I read Kristen’s post today too and your summary here really reinforced it. I liked your sharing how you’re applying it to yourself – that makes it much more valuable for me.

    Nancy

  4. I agree! There is so much out there about writing and the art of doing it well that it feels that there is no way to get it right. I’ve read probably way too many books about different important aspects that my head is a muddled mess. In the end we got to do our best with what we have, get help when we need it and try and try again!

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