Monday, April 12, 2010

Writing a Novel: Step 1

Usually when someone asks me about my approach to writing a novel, I offer the answer: Everyone writes differently. This is very much true, and it is what often makes "How to write a novel" books frustrating. Some writers outline a novel, some don't. Some layout the plot chapter by chapter, others just start typing. There really is no right way, except maybe the way that works best for the writer. That would be the "right" way.

Now that I've given a few reasons on why a post like this shouldn't be helpful, let me see if I can turn it around. There are some common elements in all writing approaches. While their priority might vary from person to person, these elements tend to be the foundation to all novel writing - and short fiction writing. So to start with I'll try to offer up a few things that will cover the early groundwork:

1: Write about something you enjoy.
This seems obvious, but often writers get frustrated and start writing whatever they think will get published. There is nothing wrong with writing what publishers are publishing, but try to match that with something you enjoy. In the end, if the writer has no passion for the subject, it will come through in the writing.

2: Write about what you know.
We've all heard this one before. But I'm not sure everyone interrupts it the same way. It is important to have knowledge of your subject, but it doesn't have to be limited to the knowledge you already have. Research can help. And, it is possible that you might have a passion for a topic you know nothing about. Does that mean you shouldn't write a novel on the subject? No. It means you'll want to spend some time researching it, getting a strong grasp on the matter, and then venture into it. Once again, passion for the subject will likely carry you through the research, making it all the easier.

3: Read.
This one is pretty easy. Before you start your novel, read a few books in the genre. Learn what the readers expect and how the genre is usually approached. You don't have to read every book out there. In fact, I'd suggest you avoid even thinking about that. All you want to do is read enough to comprehend the form of the genre. In other words, if you're writing a mystery novel, know that usually someone is murdered in these genre novels, and quite often the reader expects someone to be murdered. Again, passion for the subject should help here, and if you have passion for it, you've most likely read a number of books already.

Along with this suggestion comes a warning. Some writers are "mimics." That is to say, they write in the style of the author they most commonly read, or enjoyed. This sometimes leads to a writer appropriating the style of another author. To avoid this, put some time between the genre reading and the writing. In fact, it might be a great time to do research. I usually put a few months between my writing and any reading in the genre - even though I love the genres I write. This also helps me find new approaches and create characters and plots that are hopefully unique. Mind you "unique" in genre is difficult as there are certain things which are expected. Monsters must appear in a novel about monsters - well, at least they should. And typically someone is killed in a murder mystery. With that said, feel free to play with the "form." It is important to understand and use the form of a genre without becoming "formulaic."

Friday, April 02, 2010

Blood and Devotion Anthology

Here's a new anthology to try.

Quoting from the copy:

The clash of steel. The scent of blood. The heat of fire from heaven. The cries of the dying and of the dead.

Brave warriors and devotees to the gods follow the paths their faiths have put before them, and when religious fervor meets skill of arms and magic, kings will fall, armies will collide, and men and women will perish for their beliefs.
I'm pleased to post that this anthology is now available. I have a tale of war, magic, and treachery in the anthology (the fire from the Heavens tale). The anthology has several wonderful interior illustrations, and the editor William H. Horner (W. H. Horner) did a fantastic job in putting this project together. He even tolerated my dry humor!

I urge anyone interested, or slightly interested in the book, to read all of the stories. They work together quite nicely. Below is a TOC:

Editor, W. H. Horner
Cover Art. Nicole Cardiff

Introduction by David B. Coe

“The Daughters of Desire” by Jay Lake
“In the Light of Dying Fires” by Gerard Houarner
“Hammer Song” by K. L. Van der Veer
“The Treachery of Stone” by William Jones
“The Perils of Twilight” by Peter Andrew Smith
“The Gifts of the Avalea” by I. M. McHugh
“Eye of the Destroyer” by Aliette de Bodard
“Greatshadow” by James Maxey
“Magic’s Choice” by R. W. Day

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Zombie Literature banned by U.S. Supreme Court

Below are some snippets from the L.A. Daily (Lapeer Area Daily Newspaper). The article from the newspaper deals with the surprising Supreme Court decision to ban zombie literature:

...In an unexpected pronouncement, a unanimous decision by the highest court in the land called for the immediate banning of all fiction "associated or related to the walking dead, undead, or commonly termed 'zombies'."

No one in Washington is commenting on this startling ruling. All members of the U.S. Supreme Court have refused to discuss the issue. This silence extends to Congress and all the way to the President himself. One inside source revealed, "there is a growing concern about zombies in politics. Not to say that all politicians are zombies, but quite often they share some of the traits of the undead, and don't want to be mistaken for one by overly zealous fans of the genre." The insider went on to explain that there is a general fear among politicians and the corporate elite of being attacked, mistakenly, for being a zombie. The insider also revealed that vampires are next on the Supreme Court's targeted list.

Locally, the decision drew attention by several university professors. While none were willing to have their names printed, at least one agreed to offer some insight:

"Washington's fear of being mistaken for zombies is decades old. Mostly it was due to unfortunate timing. George Romero released the cult classic, 'Dawn of the Dead,' and soon the Reagan administration was under fire with charges of being zombies. Naturally, the glassy-eye gaze of President Reagan, and what some termed 'voodoo economics' didn't help the image.

The fear has continued ever since then, culminating with several Congresses that seem to be unable to make decisions, or find their way back to D.C. But this problem isn't limited to the U.S. political system. Every day in the halls of my university, I come face to face with zombies. Blank-faced students, seemingly asleep, yet able to walk, and text one another. They moan and grunt and groan when asked questions, and randomly lift their hands in the air when no question is asked. On several occasions, I have covertly taken their temperatures, only to find they were no higher than room temperature - which can be in the hundreds at a Michigan university in June or September.

Personally, I see this as a growing threat, but one that doesn't need to have all literature on the subject be banned. Clearly, the Supreme Court is trying to hide something, if not themselves, from the public eye. It is important that everyone be aware of how to identify a zombie, and how to avoid contact or stop an attack. Banning the literature is moving in the wrong direction. In these desperate times, the public needs more of such literature. This growing threat is moving from every direction. Fast food restaurants, schools and colleges, hospitals, local and nation-wide politics. It is obvious there is an overthrow in progress, and the U.S. is shambling into that revolution with the walking dead leading the charge.