My journey through the world of writing and everything that lies in between…

Posts tagged ‘novel’

Prologues: Should Your Story Have One?

I know I’ve been wondering whether or not I should have a prologue in my story. I’ve read that a lot of agents don’t like them and many will reject the entire manuscript because it has a prologue. Personally, I think that’s a bit overboard–I’ve read plenty of books that were published and that the prologue added to the story.

I was reading on Writing World that for a book to warrant a prologue, it needs to be one of the four following:

  1. Future protagonist–meaning that the prologue is set after the events of the novel and show why the following story occurs. It also needs to be written in the same POV as the rest of the novel.
  2. Past protagonist–It shows a defining moment that occured and made the protagonist who/what  he/she is and helps the reader further understand the character.
  3.  Different POV–Obviously this is that the prologue is a relevant event seen through the eyes of another character. The relavence HAS to be seen at some point in the book. It helps an author pull of plot twists that would not otherwise be revealed or known to the MC.
  4. Background–Normally these are used in fantasy or sci-fi novels to give a background to the world that the story is set in that the reader would not be able to pick up on in the story. Again, it has to be relavent to the story. This one is the hardest one to master and do successfully.

Currently, my novel is using a mix #2 and #3. It starts off with Kaiyo as an infant, a few months old. Obviously we don’t see in her viewpoint as she is so young, but I have it through her mother’s. In it, I briefly introduce her father–who throughout the story remains obscure to her–and show him parting from Kaiyo and her mother. I don’t go into the reasons behind it, simply to say that it’s safer for them both. I thought by using this, it would show some background to her story and thus is a “defining moment” when her father determines to stay out of their lives.

I’m wondering if it’s really needed or not, though I do like the fact that it’s there. I do have to change some of it. I figure I’ll decide on its necessity as I edit more.

Anyway, if you are writing a novel, do you have a prologue? What’s its significance? Does it use any of the four types of prologues or mix of them? I’m curious to see how many actually use them in their writing.

A Bit of a Writer’s Slump

Not surprising that I’m going through yet another one of these spells of what I like to call “writer’s slump.” Not exactly like writer’s block, just the fact that the motivation is getting hard to find. Hence the name.

Perhaps it’s because the past week has been a bit on the crazy side. First, there was the sudden death of a beloved family pet.

Then came traveling a total of 6 hours to Cleveland and back to Dayton between Friday evening and Sunday afternoon (not something I complain about–it’s nice to see my family).

Of course there was the great celebrating of a first anniversary yesterday.

And I can’t forget the myriad of new and often confusing responsibilities I’ve been given at work.

I must admit through all of this, the creative juices have stagnated 😛

It’s hard to keep it flowing when I’m just so busy all the time! I know–it’s not a valid excuse. A true writer would keep going regardless. Perhaps I’m not a true writer in that sense. I find it very hard to keep writing when so much is going on…I try but often with less than stellar results.

Still, what’s the use of complaining about it? It really gets me no where 😛 I just need to try harder.

I need to make every month like NaNo…it’s just hard for me to get into that mindset.

Awesome Novel Banners and the Inspiration of NaNoWriMo

Banner for my novel, created by a fellow NaNoWriMo Participant

Banner for my novel, created by a fellow NaNoWriMo Participant

Isn’t that the best? August. over on the NaNo forums is taking requests from people (up to November I think) for a banner.

Here’s the link to the thread:

Taking Banner Requests

Anyway, I think it looks great–they even used the singer who I base my MC’s looks off of 🙂 (I suggested it and they found a good picture).

Anyway, I know some don’t see the value in NaNo–I’ve read some comments about how it’s only for “amateur” novelists and those not serious enough to commit all the way. I know others think it’s too much hype.

Though that’s true for many, I know it’s also a falsehood, since without NaNo, unfortunately I don’t think I would have been able to write nearly as much as I have for my book–and not in a month’s time. I suppose I’m not as dedicated in some aspects as I should be…but NaNo helps fuel the dedication. It’s also helped me connect with others in the area and be a part of a critique group (again, something a great many writers say is unnecessary, though I disagree in many aspects…that’s another post though :P)

Besides, writers of NaNo have been published, and by some pretty notable companies too.

Did you know that Sara Gruen’s Water for Elephants was written during NaNo? A book that ended up on the Bestseller’s list nonetheless.

NaNoWriMo may not be for everyone–but it’s definitely something that I encourage others who aspire to write a novel to at least look at. 🙂

Accosted By Characters

It started with my MC Kaiyo. I always thought I understood her–her personality, nuances, motivation, etc. I thought I knew her and what made her tick, so to speak.

I found out I was wrong.

Though I didn’t actually work on any of my writing this weekend (surprise, surprise…), she accosted me. Kaiyo kept shadowing me the entire weekend, being persistent (as she is known for…), telling me more about herself than I’d ever imagined. She’s a lot more complex than I’d originally thought! She practically screamed at me when I was listening to Natalie Grant’s song I Will Not Be Moved  saying this was HER song; this was the cry of her heart. I never understood her completely until I heard it and now there’s a new understanding I have of her and her story.

Now that she’s thoroughly satisfied that I understand her completely, it seems she’s rallied all of the other characters, for now they are coming forward and letting me know that I need to examine them more. 😛

I’m especially surprised by Ryuji, who still tends to be on the mysterious side, but since Kaiyo’s little dare, he’s found himself slightly more emboldened to let me know how I’ve characterized him wrong too 😛 It seems that there’s a slightly darker past that he has that he never let me see before now. I never really knew how much pain he was really in and how brave he was. I’m understanding why he keeps his distance from people now.

And then there’s Iesada, Kaiyo’s estranged father…he too is very secretive and not really certain if I’m to be trusted with his story; however, I’ve discovered an entire backstory of his that he’s let be revealed through other characters…but with his permission of course. He likes to  be difficult with me, but it’s understandable–his rank as oyabun in the yakuza makes him this way.

And I can’t forget the antagonist, Kaemon (as much as I want to!). I know I tend to avoid him, because he’s so intimidating, but I can’t any longer. I’m afraid to see the true depth of his darkness, for I know he enjoys causing others pain and gets some sick joy out of it. I don’t really want to examine his character, but I know that I’m going to have to if I want to tell the story the way it ought to be. (I can hear him already laughing about what I’m going to discover….)

 I’m spending a great deal of time daydreaming and not being quite here in this world as their world and their lives come to the forefront. And of course, as a writer, I am obliged to sit and listen, for it would be a great injustice to ignore them (even though I don’t think I could if I tried!).

I know a great deal of writers are accosted by their characters at odd times and I’m sure that anyone who has characters and stories can understand this 🙂 Even though this entry does make me sound a bit on the crazy side!

Outlining Before NaNoWriMo

Throughout the past week, I’ve been revamping and changing my outline for CHRYSANTHEMUM PROMISE.  I’ve added more chapters to the beginning to better identify the close relationship between my MC Kaiyo and her mother; I’ve taken out a few characters and one sidestory that I thought would draw attention away from the main one; and I’ve added another character.

I’m figuring I probably should actually work on outlining what I’m actually writing for NaNo instead of the changes, but that pesky inner editor of mine wasn’t letting me 😛 So, the goal this weekend and the coming week is to get through most of the outline–at least to Part III.

I know I won’t follow this exactly–I always change something along the way as I’m actually writing–but at least it’s there to give me an idea of what will happen next. While I’m generally not an organized person, when I’m writing I have to be, at least somewhat. I cannot understand how writers can go without outlines–I’d be going all over the place. Perhaps they feel that an outline stifles the creativity. But each has their own style that works for them. Mine is the basic ever-changing outline.

If you’re writing for NaNo–or just writing a book at all–are you outlining it? Or do you work better without one?

The Insurmountable Task of Researching One’s Novel

I’ve discovered very early on that it’s incredibly challenging researching for a novel that takes place in a culture and in a place completely different from your own.

Since my book in set in Japan in the mid-Meiji era (1890), it’s posing to be a challenge. For one, as an American and “westerner” I’m not experienced in the Eastern culture, so I really have to immerse myself in books, videos and other sorts of research to put myself there and not make any major cultural gaffes.

And then there’s the language barrier…I don’t exactly speak Japanese (although I’m hoping to learn at some point). I know a few words and phrases; I know how people are addressed (-san, -chan, -sama, etc.). Still it’s difficult creating what I would think is semi-accurate dialogue.

And of course, it’s really hard setting my book in a real town that’s basically remained unchanged since that time and can only rely on pictures online and descriptions of it to put it in my book. Unfortunately, with limited income, I can’t really afford a two-week trip to Northern Japan to do the really great research I’m dying to do.

Oh and I can’t forget the whole aspect of involving the yakuza in my book. Finding detailed information on this has been frustrating at best. I’m thinking it has something to do with the fact that it’s still a bit of a taboo talking about this vast and incredibly complex “underworld.” I have found a few books and some information on the Web out there but not enough detail for the time period I’m needing. Most of the information comes from part of the Taisho period (1912-1926) and then a great deal during the Showa period (1926-1989). Mine takes place in 1890…I know it existed then–they’ve been around since the Edo period. And I also know it probably vaguely resembled the modern yakuza. All I can ever find for my time period is a page or two at most of info…

I’m not giving up though. I just have to find another way to go about it. And I will not sacrifice historical and cultural accuracy–books like that make me extremely annoyed as a reader; I do not want to put my readers in the same boat.

I suppose this is part of the fun of being an aspiring novelist!

Theme Songs for My Novel

A couple posts ago, I mentioned how there were certain songs and soundtracks I liked to listen to when working on Chrysanthemum Promise. And then I finally noticed I could actually post music on here 😛

Anyway, here’s what I consider the “theme” for my novel. Sort of. It’s called Nara by E.S. Posthumus. I can picture it all in my head like a preview for an upcoming movie. (Perhaps because it’s been used in movie previews…)

It’s YouTube videos with the songs; I couldn’t link to the actual songs anywhere.

The other theme song would be “Rebirthing” by Skillet–for me, all the characters (not counting the antagonist) are looking for some sort of a new life and this song captures that feeling.

Perhaps when I can actually find just the song files, I’ll load the rest of the “soundtrack” 😛

Countdown to NaNoWriMo!

National Novel Writing Month (aka:NaNo; NaNoWriMo) is about a month away! They’ve reactivated their site and I’ve been busily typing and participating in the forums.

I’ve known about NaNo for years but last year was the first time I participated. I ended up with almost 52K by the end of the month. It may have been closer to 60 if not for my bout with food poisoning the second week, but I managed to come back and meet the goal.

Unfortunately, I haven’t worked on my novel as much as I should have over the past year–I haven’t progressed the storyline at all, though I’ve gone back and edited a few chapters (the ones submitted at critique sessions) and added more, so it’s in all likelihood over the 60K mark now.

I still need to finish it though, and that’s why this year’s NaNo will be devoted to that. Yes, technically that is against the official rules, but it would be unfair of me to sit and start another book with this one unfinished. I’m going to try and meet the goal of 50K again, but I’m hoping to achieve the goal of finishing the book and typing the ever elusive words “The End.” Not sure how long it’s gonna be…I’m thinking between 110-125 K. I know that’s a rather large range but I’m not even halfway at the point I’m at now–I think I may be about three or four chapters short of it. Plus I need to add three or so new chapters to the beginning, to flesh out the relationship a bit more between my MC Kaiyo and her mother, Sophie (alias named: Sarah).

Anyway, I’m still pumped about November. I love attending the local write-ins and gathering with fellow writers in our crazy quest. (If not for these write-ins, I would not have met my wonderful critique group).

So, if you have even a smidgen of an idea for a novel, but have been pushing it off, NaNo is the time to do it! There are thousands of writers around the world that are doing the same! Though the month is often crazy and filled with some late nighters, it’s incredibly fun and worth it in the end.

Any one up for the challenge can get more information here at NaNo’s official site:

http://www.nanowrimo.org/

Critiques, Changes and Confidence

Well, needless worrying from me yesterday, as only one other member showed up to my critique session 😛 We went over my chapter for a little while and then over my story as a whole. I received a great deal of insight and how to progress further. For one, I know for certain that I’m sticking with third person POV. I was told that I convey it very well. So no sense in messing that up by changing to first person.

I also figured that I am going to cut back a bit on the other viewpoints.  It seems like the other characters’ stories are taking over (but it is the rough NaNo draft I’m reading…). There will still be four different viewpoints (My MC Kaiyo, her father, Iesada, the love interest, Ryuji and the villain, Kaemon). The other three will be shown only occassionally as it pertains to the story. It’ll probably take a great deal of adding/removing/changing as the book progresses, but at least I don’t have to worry about too much sidestory.

I’m still going to have to research the yakuza of the time…even though I don’t think they were called that just yet in 1890…and even though I’ve looked all over for books detailing this period, I only ever get a paragraph or a page at best. So that’s still a bit of an issue. BUT I managed to find this really nifty book about traditional Japanese furniture, so now I’m not completely in the dark about that.

So overall, my critique went well–I was told it was the best chapter written so far. So I KNOW I have it in me to write a compelling novel. Sometimes I struggle with the whole confidence thing–always have–but last night’s critique built it up considerably 🙂 I haven’t gotten any of the other critiques back, as they were all absent last night, so I have another week to wait before I see the varying opinions (as some are a lot harsher than others). Still, I know that at least one person likes it (and he tends to be one of the harder reviewers), so there’s something there…:P

Overcoming the Fear of Critique

Tonight’s my turn to be critiqued in my writer’s group. As much as I know this is necessary, I still dread it everytime 😛

I always know it’s not a personal criticism of my ability to write…still, it’s always a bit painful to watch as your carefully planned and written chapter is dissected and analyzed to shreds. Of course, I know in the long run it will make it better, more marketable to an agent or publisher, but being the overly emotional person I am, it feels as if my very heart is ripped out each time…

BUT, on the positive side, I always know that each and every reader will see it differently, so what one critiquer might like, the other may hate (which has happened every time in the dozen or so times I’ve been critiqued). No matter how much I may perfect it, no reader will see it the same way and there’s no way that every person will like it.

At times, I think I’m also my own worst critic.

I’ve gotten better over time; once, not so long ago, I wouldn’t even let people read my stuff, so overly critical of it I was. But, I found a Christian writers’ website and started entering their mini writing challenges…and the first one I entered placed and was put in their quarterly anthology (hasn’t happened since then, but a few times have been close). So, I’m not as bad as I once thought.

So, though it’s sometimes painful, I’m very glad that I’ve been able to be a part of these critique sessions…even though that shadow of dread creeps upon me every time 😛

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