Monday, September 30

Open Call: What Writing Questions Do You Want Answers To?

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

I've mentioned this before, but I've recently learned that when I'm not writing fiction it's much harder to think up blog topics.

And the ideas in my "blog posts to write" file just stare at me when I try to write them. It's like they're saying, "don't ask me, you had an idea when you put me in here, you figure it out."

So let's open up the mailbag and see what you guys are struggling with, or what questions you might have!

Fling 'em at me, and I'll do either full posts or a round-up for smaller, easier questions. Or say nothing and enjoy the sound of me bashing my head against the keyboard (grin).

No pressure.

29 comments:

  1. Lately, I've been pondering whether writing a novel in a particular point of view pigeon-holes me to that POV only. Say I get published in first person POV. Will agents/editors expect me to continue writing this way or can I mix it up? Any insight is appreciated;-).

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  2. In my WIP, I have three POVs (a lot...) but one is my favorite character, the MAIN MC (1st person), the other is a girl who does not like her at all (1st person) but is very influential in the plot, and the last one is third omniscient for when the second MC isn't around, but my MAIN MC isn't capable of continuing of telling anymore.

    Is this too many POVs? Do you think readers will get confused with the change between 1st person and 3rd person?

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  3. Maybe I'm a sucker for plot, but I'd be interested in big picture plotting thoughts (Aristotle, 3 act, "save the cat", type stuff) in practical application... I could be a minority of one on that though. :)

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  4. Oh man, there's always so much to ask about writing! I guess I'm with Adrian on this one - I love getting more and more information about plotting techniques and tricks.

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  5. Adrian,

    You are not alone in looking for a structure oriented take on plotting. That has always been a shortcoming for me as well. I can come up with great setting, characters speak with a comfortable reality, but what to make those characters do on the way to the long term goal is what brings me to a stop. It never seems like there are enough pieces to make the story worthwhile.

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  7. Is there any rule against writing a novel in first person and the sequel in third?
    And I echo Romantic Diva's curiosity: will publishing in one POV lock me into that particular mode of writing?

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  8. Would love some posts on plot like Adrian mentioned and how to keep the pacing tight.

    Also on different character voices and how to make them sound different.

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  9. How do you decide what project to work on next? I'm at a major crossroads now, with my third novel submitted to my publisher, one self-publishing project underway, and trying to decide what to send to my publisher next.

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  10. Unlike some of the others that have already commented, I have less trouble with plotting (although I always appreciate posts on methods, perspectives, tricks, etc.) than I do with character, setting and descriptions.

    Having read lots of blogs, opinions and books on character motivations, I still have trouble developing "fresh" goals and motives -- many seem to be repetitive (such as a character seeking love, or redemption for causing the injury / death of a loved one in the past).

    Also, based on some of my recent writing, I apparently need to be reminded constantly that setting isn't "JUST" an interesting place and unusual description, it also should include how the character reacts to the setting -- what Donald Maass once called "the psychology of place."

    Finally, I'd be interested in some posts on applying your thoughts and concepts to short stories, in addition to novels.

    Just my 2 cents worth ...

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  11. I'd love some practical advice on how to "make a living" of some sort after that first sale, especially if starting on the smaller side. School visits, conference appearances, etc. More about the business side of making this into a career!

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  12. My latest spoke on the craft wheel is learning to see the 'line'. Any tips you have on getting just the right amount of description, plot/subplot tangles, and internal thoughts will be appreciated.

    Now that I've reached the higher side of the curve, the 'line' seems to be the capstone I need to make it to the next level. It's so hard to be objective about exactly where that 'line' is.

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  13. Maybe do structural analyses of some of the published works you consider exceptionally good?

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  14. I agree. I need help with plotting too. AM writing from 2 POV and realize I need a character arc for each character--but I guess I need one for the two of them together too? Thanks for asking!

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  15. Perhaps you could do a post about naming things: countries, towns, characters, titles of books. What makes a good name/title? :) Kind of a different topic but one that a lot of people would probably find interesting.

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  16. Two ideas:

    1. If we have writing/publishing work experience, but it was long ago, should we mention it in a query letter? I was the managing editor of a magazine way back in 2000/2001 (I had copy- and research-editing jobs before that and wrote for all of my publications), and I would like to mention this in my letter, but...I fear it would look like I must have sucked or quit since I'm no longer in that business. The truth is, the turn of the millennium was rough, economy-wise. After 9/11, lots of publications went out of print. I became a lawyer when my final magazine shut down and I got tired of getting laid off. But since one shouldn't talk in a query letter about work experience that's not relevant to writing, my whiny lawyer story will remain untold. How do we explain good, writing-related work experience that is...old?

    2. Is it okay if we haven't read some of the "household title" best-sellers when trying to obtain an agent? I've tried to read FIFTY SHADES OF GREY and can't get through it. I read every day, even things I don't like. But I haven't read every best-seller. Is that neophite-ish of me, and should I just suck it up and choke some of this stuff down? In essence, do you have a "20 books you have to have read to be able to talk to your potential agent" list?

    Thanks! Your blog is fantastic and has talked me off a few ledges during my current WIP.

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  17. When I'm querying an agent a second time (for a different project, of course), what happens to the "I'm querying you because of your attributes X, Y, and Z" line that I put into the previous query? Was it good for my first approach only? Can I include it again because they won't remember anyway? Should I not have it in a query letter in the first place?

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  18. I know you've written about internalization, but I still struggle with getting it in there without it feeling told. Plot is always good. The structure of a scene is something to keep at the forefront. A post on character arc is helpful - including when your character arcs counter one another. Even if it is something I've worked on before, it is always good to hear again. I love revision ideas too.

    Thanks!

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  19. I am always interested in learning as much as possible about how to plot better.However, after reading your post that asked if we were character or plot driven readers I came to the realization that I am more of a character driven person. With all that said, I am in agreement with Rick B who mentioned wanting to see more material on interesting/different character GOALS and MOTIVATIONS.

    MY WIP has also made me realize how important it is to have a GREAT antagonist to make your more story interesting. I would like to see a fresh post around that topic as well.

    Swati's post about doing a post about the structural analysis of the published works you like would also be great.

    Oh, and please bring back the mini writer contests. Those were great!

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  20. What if you're watching TV and across the screen comes a soon-to-be-released movie that is (depressingly) very similar but not at all "identical" to your WIP? Should you scrap your book? Will agents think you simply copied the movie if you proceed? Should you revamp the book and try to take it down another road and keep what you can? More than being deeply bummed, I'm stymied. Not sure if agents will laugh my book to town if I proceed. Unsure whether its wise to invest the energy in finishing my WIP. In general, if a movie or another book resembles our WIP, what should we do?

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  21. I would love examples of different settings per genre and how you can use setting to your advantage

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  23. I'd like to learn more about writing the antagonist. Specifically writing an antagonist your MC (and reader) doesn't know is his/her antagonist because it is someone they trust. How do you plant the seeds of both trust and deceit? Hope that makes sense!

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  24. I know this was an early October post but recently stumbled upon a question I'm wondering about. I asked a question on a writing forum and someone brought up an issue of legality within the novel's plot. My MC is a 12-year-old boy who is recruited by a secret part of the FBI for various reasons including his recent alien abduction. I was trying to decide if the parents should know about his job or not. A commenter asked about the legality of having his parents not know. Of course in the real world that would be an issue but how/when do you worry about those things in fiction? Specifically in a sci-fi or fantasy setting where the rules of real life are already being broken? When do you twist legality for the sake of plot?

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    1. I still check old posts (even if it takes me a while sometimes), so no worries. That's a great question. I'll add it to the list unless you need a faster repose.

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  25. I have a question too, if you don't mind... maybe you won't be able to answer it personally because it isn't your personal experience, but maybe some of your readers/authors will!

    My question is: how do you manage to set up your own world and achieve a decent novel when you are used to other kinds of writing?

    Let me explain: apart fort short stories when I was a young teenager, all I ever wrote was a few (poor) fanfictions, but mostly tons of role playing game.
    I think I am rather good at it, building characters (actually that's my favorite part) and improving their personality all along their (mis)adventures.
    But it feels SO different than writing a story of your own, because the story actually has to go somewhere, and the writing itself seems to be a very different process.
    But on top of it, you are on your own: you can't rely on a partner to bring in fresh ideas to keep it alive, and to cheer you up when you're afraid your last post wasn't so good.

    So this is a topic that I would like to read about: how does a simple RPG player unlearns their old habits and relearn how to write in order to make a good novel?

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    1. You asked the right person (grin). I've been a gamer all my life, created and ran my own games for years, so I totally get what you're saying. I love putting two of my favorite hobbies together, so I will definitely do this one as a post!

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    2. Yay you just made my day, Janice! Thanks!

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