Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Business of Writing and a Side Story

Some excellent points have been raised on this blog about professionalism that speak to me particularly at present. I’ve just been sent the contract for the book that is coming out in February. I’m rushing to meet a deadline and end up with a quality product at the same time. It’s important to me to not only finish my new book, but to do as good a job on it as I can. I’ve been out of circulation for awhile, and in some ways I feel like I’m having to start all over again. I want not only to show that I still have it in me, but I want to know that I still have it in me.

Every book you write is different, even if it’s the nth in a series and is populated with characters you know like the back of your hand. Each book requires something different from you. Some flow out, some are dragged out screaming. Some take more research than others. You always have to respect your reader’s intelligence. Avid mystery readers are often more savvy about how mystery plots are routinely constructed than the writer is, so you’ve really got to be imaginative and on your toes to fool them. And fool them in a logical way.

Same thing with readers who love historical novels. The writer has to be really careful not to make egregious mistakes about the time period - events, language, clothing, tools, conveyances. No Reeboks for Caesar. That’s easy. But what about Reeboks for your character who is on his way to Woodstock in 1969?

It’s a tightrope. An author wants to create as authentic a world as she can, but the whole point is to engage and involve your reader in your story, not to write a history book (or handbook on police procedural, or treatise on forensic psychology.) A novelist should strive to be accurate enough not to alert the anachronism police.

As for how your manuscript looks --Rick’s statement that even it you don’t yet write well enough to be a professional author, you can behave like one, sums it up perfectly. If you are trying to get the powers-that-be to seriously consider your work, you’d better give them a manuscript that convinces them at first glance that you know what you’re doing.

If you can’t even be bothered to follow submission directions or check your facts, you’re not a professional, you’re a dilettante.

And now for a bit about a side story: Adding a new character to a nearly-finished book isn’t that easy, let me tell you. I’ve ended up writing what is basically a side story that I am now integrating into the standing novel. This entails weaving in the new material and then going back to the beginning and reading the entire book with an eye to changing anything that would now be an anomaly. Have you ever crocheted a lace panel into a blouse, Dear Reader? It’s kind of like that.

However, I have to admit that this new material had really added some depth to the story and has especially fleshed out a couple of the characters. That is the whole point of side stories, and side characters, too. To add depth. To create a real world where lots of things go on at once and most of them have to do with the everyday business of living. Janet Evanovich said she thinks of the side story as a braid that weaves in and out with the mystery. It gives the main character a human life and makes her someone you can relate to.

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