in which we have reading and writing adventures

Barker at the grounds at the Vermont state fair, Rutland (LOC)
Barker at the grounds at the Vermont state fair, circa 1941. Courtesy of The Commons, Flickr.

Dear Internet,

It’s a long, lovely holiday weekend and I’m digging into my stack of books, aided by hot tea, for entertainment. Since my own book has stalled, I thought it would be a good time to take notes on the books I’m reading to see what worked and what didn’t and apply it to, hopefully, jump start my own writing as well to see what makes me happy reading. (AKA, these notes are mainly more for me than you, but hey, if you get something out of it; Awesome!)

The number one rule you’ll see anywhere on writing is, “read more,” but is that all? Yes and no. Below are some of my notes from chewing through a few books this weekend.

If influenced by a particular era, do the research. In reading a book set during the Belle Époque (France’s version of the Edwardian era / American Gilded age), the book should have a feel for that period. This one did not and it felt what details were made available were slapped on from Wikipedia. Just no.
Alternating POV should move the story along, not show the same scene from different prescriptive.  Thus far, I’ve finished three books this weekend, of which two used alternating POV as a story device. One used it well to advance the story, spending less time on recreating the setting, while the other not so much. In the second, I felt as if the author was slapping my hand for not getting something right so they had to tell me again.
Chapters are not always necessary. Yes, they break up the scenes and action, but if done stealthy, the shift between could remain seamless without the use of chapters. Chapters may be like periods, pauses to break up the scenes, but are not necessary. Terry Pratchett was the king of lack of chapters. In one of the books I read this weekend, the switching happened with the alternating points of view and was so seamless, it took me half the book to realise there were no chapters.
The length of a book, by page number, does not necessitate how good it is. The ones on the longer side are more than likely just like to hear themselves read. Get it? (They all can’t be winners.) One book I’ve read recently, and was quite good, was a slim 150 pages. Another book that was pure dreck clocked in at 400. Length does not mean everything, as much as we like to believe.
Give the book an old college try and read the first 50 pages. I’ll go out on a limb and say this applies to writing as well; if you can’t make the story palatable within the first 50 pages, neither will your readers. And readers? There are too many good books for you to read terrible ones.
If heavily using phrases of a language that isn’t your primary language or the colloquialisms of a particular thing, include an appendix of sorts. It’s presumptuous to think your readers are going to have the same breadth of knowledge on the same topic you’re writing about. An aforementioned book set in the Belle Époque period heavily used ballet terms and dropped French like it was ice cream sprinkles. This makes sense because this was the subject matter, BUT if you aren’t familiar with ballet or spoke even rudimentary French, a lot of what was happening with the characters would be lost on you. Yes, I get it, we learn by reading outside our comfort zone but there is a difference between needing to look up “demagogue” and wondering what in the hell is “battement développé” and having translate.google.com by your side.

There were a few more main things I forgot to write down, but this is the gist of it. So it is true, the more you read, the more you learn. Hrm.

x0x0,
Lisa

P.S. Last winter I decided to put together a newsletter for those who read my stuff but can’t be arsed to check it out daily (no worries, I get it, I do!) so this is a monthly round up. I’ve decided to resurrect it again! Called Skaldic Press Presents, you can check out the archive here (http://tinyletter.com/amostunreliablenarrator/archive) and subscribe here (https://tinyletter.com/amostunreliablenarrator).
P.P.S. There are GIFs involved!

This day in Lisa-Universe: 2014, 2014, 2000, 1999

WIP: January writing schedule summary / February writing goals

Dear Internet,

Italicized is the original list. Regular text is add-ons. Bold is completion and totals.

Projects for January (apparently I was overly ambitious):

  • Plow through current library loans and ARCs from NetGalley and get reviews written
  • Collate notes on the Edwardian mystery, continue with research, and get most of the structure sorted
  • Collate notes on the 45th parallel project and continue with research
  • Research (aka read) stream of consciousness novels
  • Finish or shelve in-progress short stories and submit completed ones; submit at least one a week
    • Total submitted: 3
      • To be fair, I had forgotten about this particular goal, but, I did do it and finished three in a week and submitted all three!
  • Get most of Vol 1 of secret Kindle project formatted and edited – Completed January 31
    • Huzzah! Finished this on time and started the print version. Thank the gods this first bit is over.
    • Vol 2 (year 1999) and Vol 3 (2000) started.
  • Continue note carding ideas / quotes / etc for future projects
  • Query/submit non-fiction pieces
  • Continue shilling to get more submissions for so glad is my heart
    • Launch is planned for February 16!
  • Outline and begin 3rd Triangle novel
  • Blog writing count for January
    • Words written: 7,633
    • Number of posts: 13

February projects:
The above, plus!

  • Print proof The Lisa Chronicles Vol. 1
  • Finish organizing The Lisa Chronicles Vol. 2

Previous WIP

xoxo,
Lisa

This Day in Lisa-Universe: 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011

WIP: December writing schedule summary / January writing goals

Dear Internet,

Getting back on track after a several month temporary setback. You can get the full scoop of there temporary setback here. This won’t be as complete since I’m starting so late, but it’s a good start.

Italicized is the original list. Regular text is add-ons. Bold is completion and totals.

Projects for January:

  • Plow through current library loans and ARCs from NetGalley and get reviews written
  • Collate notes on the Edwardian mystery, continue with research, and get most of the structure sorted
  • Collate notes on the 45th parallel project and continue with research
  • Research (aka read) stream of consciousness novels
  • Finish or shelve in-progress short stories and submit completed ones; submit at least one a week
  • Get most of Vol 1 of secret Kindle project formatted and edited
    • Line edits started. Publication date set for January 31, 2015.
    • Vol 2 (year 1999) and Vol 3 (2000) started.
  • Continue note carding ideas / quotes / etc for future projects
  • Query/submit non-fiction pieces
  • Blog writing count for December
    • Words written: 7510
    • Number of posts: 12
  • Continue shilling to get more submissions for so glad is my heart
  • Outline and begin 3rd Triangle novel

January projects:

  • Plow through current library loans and ARCs from NetGalley and get reviews written
  • Collate notes on the Edwardian mystery, continue with research, and get most of the structure sorted
  • Collate notes on the 45th parallel project and continue with research
  • Research (aka read) stream of consciousness novels
  • Finish or shelve in-progress short stories and submit completed ones; submit at least one a week
  • Publish Vol 1 of Kindle project
  • Continue note carding ideas / quotes / etc for future projects
  • Query/submit non-fiction pieces
  • Continue shilling to get more submissions for so glad is my heart
  • Outline and begin 3rd Triangle novel
  • Blog writing count for January
    • Words written:
    • Number of posts:

 

Previous WIP

xoxo,
Lisa

This Day in Lisa-Universe: 2014, 2013, 2012, 2003