Monday, April 25, 2011

Crazy new idea

Hey folks!

I know this is done a lot lately, but I've been thinking about starting a separate character blog.
The thing is, I've been spending time with two projects, and while one is over and done with, I'm in dire need to connect with my characters from the other work of art (to be read utter pile of rubbish).

So I might start a blog for them soon. (as in right now - yup, that's what soon means for me). So that I can get to know them again - and interested people can know them as well. My goal for it is to make people laugh and show the relationship between five brothers out of which four are teenagers.

Let the fun begin!

Here's the link: The Grants

That is all.

PS: I promise I'll start posting interesting, relevant articles regarding writing quite soon. As soon as the muse hits me. I'll probably cover book endings (since Hunters is coming to an end in the CC queue this week)

Sunday, April 24, 2011


Happy Easter, everyone!

Here's a complementary picture of my cat!
Teh puffeh kitteh
This is going to be a short one, so grab a warm cuppa and enjoy.

I mentioned posting the first paragraph of my first novel and show the evolution. Get ready to laugh your pants off. (in my defense, I'm not native English)

First ever draft (age: 9)

Chicago. From Freider Grant's house to his office is not far.

Second draft (age: 12 - 15?)

A rainy day. The fog came down and surrounded the suburbs of Chicago. Freider Grant's house was not far from his office, but today he took his car out because of the rain. As he headed downtown, he started thinking about his daily chores. He didn't have many, not today at least. Sam was going to take his chores at least for a week or two. Freider had been planning to take a vacation as he hadn't had one for two years. Being a detective and owning an agency sure had its disadvantages, but this was his job and he had to get used to it.

Third draft (age: 17?) - this actually made the queues on CC twice!

It was a cold rainy morning at the end of May. The sky was gray and heavy rain clouds were gathering up like huge quantities of lead above a melting pool. Sometimes lightning lit the sky for a few seconds leaving behind the roar of thunder. It had been raining all night over Chicago and tones of dust had disappeared under the refreshing shower. Now it was still early in the morning, but the day promised to be a sunny one.

  And became this - Fourth draft (age 21 - can you tell I took a huge writing break in high school? Actually, I was busy writing the three sequels I now have to hugely edit.)

“Stupid weather…” Sam Grant mumbled to himself, staring up at the heavy clouds moving ominously above him. Lightning cut the sky and thunder rolled above Chicago.
It was very early in the morning and the city had begun its daily rumble. The suburbs however were still quiet. All the equally white and welcoming houses seemed to be sleeping. Sam was the only living soul out at that hour.

Fifth draft (age 23 - and final so far, until I put it through CC again)

“Stupid weather…” Sam Grant mumbled, staring up at the heavy clouds moving ominously above him. Lightning cut the sky and thunder rolled over Chicago.
If it started raining, he was screwed. His backpack burst with books so old, they shouldn’t have left the library, let alone take a bath. What was his father doing? Building a car?

I've gone for character oriented (not main character) to zoom in omniscient narrator to main character oriented again. Also, the last three drafts have a prologue that leads into chapter one.

I hope you don't choke on something while laughing at this.

That is all.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Interview with Tiphanie Thomas

Hey Everyone!

I've been waiting to do this interview for a while now. I've pulled strings, I've bribed people and wore several desguises, but, here I finally am, with up and coming romance author Tiphanie Thomas.
She's teh Awesome

Stef: Awesome to finally have you here, Tiph. Grab a seat, a cup of whatever you like (really, we have it all)

Tiph: *Laughs* Thanks so much, Stefanie, for having me on your site. And I love that our names are so similar. I’m excited to be interviewed by you, and just to promote the book, now that it will finally be released today! It’s a dream come true.

Stef: Lol, yeah, I never noticed how similar our names are :D. Tell us a little something about yourself.

Tiph:  Well, I’m a former financial analyst from Michigan. I was laid off last year due to financial losses, and instantly I was so happy about it. I had to control my smile when I was getting canned by the Chief Financial Officer, because I didn’t love my job and knew that it would give me time to really finish my book, which I had been working on for years very slowly. I just got to do me, and it’s been a great journey of writing, editing, receiving great feedback, and finally, actually seeing the completed book in front of me.

Stef: I know what you mean. It's any author's dream come true to hold a copy of their book. So, when and why did you start writing?

Tiph: I always had my nose buried in a book, even in school. I would stay up all night to read really good books and most of them were romance or had relationships involved. I fell in love with the books and characters and thought as a teenager what a great gift to give to people. 

Stef: I know what you mean. Sounds familiar (especially the romance nut part).What is your book about?

Tiph: Heart Stealer is about love and relationships mainly between a movie star and a runaway-turned schoolteacher, but it also has a family and career element that I love very much. It’s an entertaining, touching tale of love, forgiveness, and acceptance. 
Stef:  Where did Heart Stealer come from? What was your inspiration for this book?

Tiph: That’s so hard to answer, because Heart Stealer comes from everything and nothing. It’s everything I loved, seen, heard, and read. It’s from my subconscious and conscious mind so I can’t explain my inspiration.  However, writing influences are Susan Elizabeth Philips, Johanna Lindsey, Toni Morrison, Jane Austen, and many others. 
Stef: Wow, I can never tell who my writing influences are. I believe you had many changes of heart regarding the title (yes, I stalk people - nothing new there). What made you rest on Heart Stealer?

Tiph: *Laughs* How right you are about the changes!  Titles are hard. One didn’t just pop out at me, and you always have to check to see who has the title you want on Amazon. 
Stef: Ugh! Tell me about it - The first book in my Jewels series is called Ruby, and everyone thought it was the name of a girl. Which of your characters did you enjoy writing more? Kayla or Randall? (Yes, in case you're wondering, I'm showing off that I read your book)

Tiph:  I’m a girl, so I definitely fell in love with Randall, though I do like Kayla very much. However, Randall is impossible and flawed, but so cute, chivalrous, and romantic. He’s the type of guy to make women swoon and beg for more. 
Stef: What a coincidence. I thought so too. What's your favorite scene in the book?

Tiph: I’m a romantic at heart, so the scene on the rooftop of the building with the violins playing had me grinning from ear from to ear. And all of the other moments like that because I didn’t make it easy for them. They worked for those special, heart-pounding moments. 
Stef: Awww. I liked that one too. Apart from the obvious entertainment value of your book, is there a message you wanted to get across?

Tiph: What I love about my book is that is totally entertaining and sexy, but also people can totally learn something from my book with the themes of self-acceptance, forgiveness, and redemption. We’re all striving to better our lives and so are my characters. 
Stef: Do you plan on further books?

Tiph: Definitely! My goal is to be a full-time writer, so I’m going to take a small break and recharge my batteries, then dream up the next story that will break my heart and fill it back up. 
Stef: Can't wait for your next book! But now, let's torture you with some stuff regarding you. What made you decide to self-publish?

Tiph: Truthfully, I’m sure I could have gotten an agent and went with a publishing house with more waiting. I sent queries to about twenty-five to thirty and got some bites. In fact, one agent last week just requested my full manuscript. The truth of the matter is I want to be an entrepreneur and my own boss. I want control over my book cover and my novel, and truthfully, with most publishing houses, you’re still an employee. That’s just not for me, especially when I’m doing all the hard work like writing the book and promoting it, and then they take so much of the sales and get rich off it. That’s just not for me, unless I can get a great contract, but for that, you need a good bargaining chip and fanbase like Amanda Hocking. 
Stef: Fair point. And more and more authors agree. So, What makes you instantly love a book?

Tiph: Relatable characters that are flawed, but also good people at heart. Unpredictable situations. And please, please, don’t be long-winded or talk about things I don’t care about. Stay on track. 
Stef: I hear you! (I'm trying to read LoTR). Random question time. If you could have a super-power, what would it be?

Tiph: Read people’s minds! I hate not knowing what people are really thinking 
Stef: Lol, fair enough. So, give us a sneak peak into your book.

Heart Stealer - Excerpt:  

Kayla stopped at the doorway, spotting Mama Rowe in front of the stove stirring a pot. “I'm here. What’s so . . .” Her head twisted to the right and words died in her throat.

Randall sat at the wooden table, a plate of spaghetti in front of him and a fork halfway to his mouth. He put it down, and a sexy smile spread across his face. Under the kitchen light, his teeth dazzled her with their whiteness against his warm chocolate skin, and his hooded emerald eyes glimmered.

Her heart pounded in her chest. She’d forgotten how electric his presence could be. He leaned back in the wooden chair as if in a Calvin Klein Ad. His high cheekbones, square jaw, and full mouth reminded her of an Adonis.

“Surprised to see me, Kay?”

“Of course,” she grumbled, clenching her fist as. Oh no, she wasn’t suppose to react this way. After his last trip home, she had known there could never be anything between them, but apparently, her body hadn’t gotten the memo.

The designer red t-shirt stretched over his broad shoulders and muscular chest must have cost more than her whole outfit alone, making her exceedingly aware of her frumpy sweats.

He stood and walked toward her. “Gimme a hug.” As he embraced her, her nostrils flared as she inhaled his expensive cologne. Her mouth dried, making breathing difficult. “I appreciate you looking after my mom since I’ve been gone,” he murmured in her ear, his warm breath sending tingles down her spine.

She jerked back. “Don’t thank me. How could I not when she took me in and gave me a home?”

His emerald eyes lost some of their warmth. “Well, I’m glad you’ve been here.”

Heat rose up her neck as she reminded herself the charming veneer was all an act, and she would not be fooled again.
Teh awesome cover

Stef: Well, Tiph, it was a pleasure having you here. Hope to have you again soon, when you get out there and publish your next book. I am going to instantly assume that you're happy about it.

Tiph: I am! You’re a great interviewer. Such good questions! I can’t believe it’s over. I could go on…  
   Stef: As do all writers. Now I'm gonna need a pin to pop my over-inflated head. Thanks for the compliment. So people, jump on board and grab yourself a piece of romance novel.

 Heart Stealer 
Heart Stealer (Kindle edition) 
Also, I'd like to wish Tiph a very HAPPY BIRTHDAY (since today is her B-day) and many sales.

Signing off.

Oh, wait... I'm going to be too busy to blog the following days, so HAPPY EASTER to all the peeps who celebrate it ;) (I know I am - lot's of cooking to do, the entire family coming over and all that ;))

Now I'm really signing off... 

Monday, April 18, 2011

Good idea, bad ideea. Bad execution...terrible execution

Hello, everybody!

Remember I once threatened everyone that I'll find my first draft and post some of it for a laugh? Well, I found it, only I cringe when I read it. (You will, too, don't doubt that). It's the first novel of my Jewel series.
Over the years of constant rewriting and editing, I came to the conclusion that the original story I wrote when I was nine/ten and what I have now, share the same major turning points. Wait, that's not right. Does that make me a genius nine-year-old, or a retarded twenty-two-year-old?

After carefully analyzing this find, I came to the following conclusion: In my prior versions of my work, I had some good ideas submitted to poor execution. And then there were the terrible ideas with even more terrible executions.

Before you start throwing rocks at me and wondering how I can even call myself a writer, I want to throw some reminders your way:
1. I was 10! And kept my level of dumbness until I turned 15. That's when I grew my first brain,
2. I'm not native English
3. Research wasn't even in my vocabulary back then. Fiction? That's like making stuff up, right?
4. I became active on CC in 2009 and learned how to write.

Okay, those disclaimers dealt with, let's have some fun with retarded ideas and how editing works, shall we?

Example of Terrible idea + terrible execution:

This happens in chapter 1:

"Now Sam, I don't know what you want to become when you grow up, but I thought you would like to make a few dollars," Freider said, putting his briefcase on the desk and getting some papers out of it.
"A few? If I don't get a decent pay, I'm not working for you. Just kidding. Sure I would. What do I have to do?" Sam asked and smiled, making his dad look at him, shocked. Annoying little snut, isn't he? He shook his head after a few seconds. He being Freider here - good thing I remember, else, I'd be terribly confused. Plus, in this version, Sam had some magic powers that made his dad feel like a retard. Just thought I'd throw that in.
"I was thinking about getting a vacation and I need someone to run the company, and I said: Hey, why not let Sam take care of it?" he said, looking at his son. That's some solid parenting, dad.
"Why? Jerry is older and more responsible than me!"
"I know, but I think you're more efficient than him. Besides, you know Jerry's attitude. He's worse than your mother and I guess he'll spend a lot of time cleaning around. That would mean no business, and I could as well close the agency down. I don't want that. So that's why Jerry was out of the question." Over-explaining much?

You think this is bad? I actually added a lot of punctuation marks, because it already makes eyes bleed.
The execution is obviously terrible. But why is the idea so bad? Um... let me see. Probably because Sam is 17? Well, true, he will turn eighteen in about 3 months from this point, but he's still 17.
And no, leaving Jerry wouldn't have worked either since he's 18. Child services anyone?

How did I fix this in the new and improved draft? First off, Freider only gives his irresponsible, under-aged child the task of taking his calls and sorting files for two hours -  while he's still in the same building.
What did I keep from this? Well, Freider still wants a favor that results in Sam being recruited by a secret agency right under his father's nose. And they still leave on vacation :)

Example of decent idea + terrible execution:

But as Jerry ran through the room, he suddenly tripped over something and looked at it surprised.
"What kind of box is this?" he asked, getting up. Over-tagging much?
"That's no box! That's a bomb!" Kyle said breaking Kay's ropes and pushing her out.
They all ran up the hill, except Billy who was still trying to push Alice out of th cabin. But she didn't want to move at all, Over-explaining much?
"I want Jimmy to come and get me!" she yelled decided, keeping her ground. Language impaired much?
"Come on, Alice! Move! The bomb is about to explode!" Billy begged as Sam and Tom ran to help him.
Finally, the three pushed Alice up the hill and Sam looked at the bomb. Five more seconds.
"No time to go up the hill!" he said as they all ran right, but it was too late. Telling much?
The cabin exploded and went in flames. Jerry looked at it petrified as the others turned around. And the subject of this last sentence is...? Your guess is as good as mine.
"I can't believe it," Kyle said stepping in front. "They were actually in there?" he asked and remained frozen all of a sudden.
"It can't be! It just can't!" Jessie said, looking down. "This is all one big ugly nightmare. Nothing is true!" Cry me a river.
"Will you guys get over it?" Alice asked. "They're dead! It's no dream or anything like that! We have to go on now as there is no chance of them surviving." Well, at least some of my characters are looking on the bright side.

Sorry, couldn't help myself with this one. Yes, as you may see, POV, showing, decent human reactions were all a mystery to me. But the main idea stick to this very day - yes, there is an explosion, yes, these very three people die in it, and yes, it's still Alice's fault (see, she was a bitch even in my first draft O:))

I would like to give you an example of good idea, good execution, but there's nothing of the sorts in this here book. I cringed all throughout writing this stuff. Yes, feel free to laugh.

What was the point of this post? Maybe to point out that you can still pick usable ideas from your most embarrassing drafts (I know I did/ still do). And maybe make you feel a little better about yourself.
If you want to see how my writing looks now, there are some snippets in the sidebar with some of my WIPs.

I'll do a post later with how the first para of my novel has changed through the rewrites. (Yes, more reasons to laugh at me). Hope I managed to entertain. Feel free to share your most humiliating secrets as well.

Friday, April 15, 2011

A Ranger's Tale - Book review

Hi peeps!

After my first author interview, I've decided to get on my first book review.

Disclaimer:  In my reviews, I am honest. It’s also all about MY personal preference. Just because I like/hate a book, it doesn’t mean that everyone else will too. Take this as what it is. A personal opinion. 

I’ve waited for a whole month until the united forces of the US postal service and the Romanian post bought “ A Ranger's Tale ” by Mysti Parker to my door (well, actually my mailbox, eleven floors below).
I was very excited to get reading and see what it was like. I was swept away after the first couple of pages.

Caliphany Aranea is a blonde bomb-shell, bad-ass fire mage, getting ready for her dissertation. But she wants more from her life than take her strict and famous father’s place as the next top scholar. She dreams of travel and adventure.

Galadin Trudeaux (awesome name, btw) is a ranger, ship captain and former pirate. He saves Caliphany from an attempted kidnapping and falls in love with her on the spot.

Their journey together begins when Caliphany pays him to train her in the ways of the rangers. What follows is a lightning romance, adventures, travels and a fast marriage.

Caliphany tries to bring her two lives together, but before she can even introduce her new husband to her family, tragedy strikes.

With a child on the way, Caliphany joins the L.I.O and seeks solace in her old flame, Jayden.

I won’t say more on the subject – all the twists and turns are worth reading and finding out.

I honestly didn’t expect to love this book so much. I expected to enjoy it, but not to like…love it. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt sad that a book is ending.

What I liked most about the book was how easily Mysti built the world around her characters – from names of places, months, and plants, everything felt as though it should be there, has been there all along, and will always be there. The description is not overwhelming, but enough to paint a vivid picture.

The characters are well developed, three dimensional and they grow on you. The fact that both Jayden and Galadin are decent men, both with their flaws, makes Caliphany’s struggle even more heart breaking and her suffering is well portrayed.

The romance is good. It was a little head-turning until Cali and Galadin got together, but afterwards, all flowed nicely. There’s some hotness in there as well. Nicely done, may I add. Not too graphic, not too tame, just enough to get the idea across and the heart racing.

The support characters are also very well done – the world is lively and natural and I guess that’s what drew me in the most.

Now, for my personal grades for this book:

Atmosphere – 5/5

Characters – 5/5

Setting – 5/5

Romance – 4/5

Plot – 4/5

Side plots – 5/5

World building – 5/5

Entertainment value – 5/5

So, that’s a total of…4.9 I think – which is like… Wow! Congrats, Mysti. I’m a picky reader :p

Would I recommend it? Of course. This is one of the books that I’ll most definitely pick off the shelf and read again. So, if you haven’t already, pick up a copy of A Rangers Tale and join the magic.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Interview with Katy Hanna

Hi Folks. I'm back with my very first author interview. In my case, with lovely writer Katherine Amt Hanna. Her new book, Breakdown is up for grabs on Amazon here (Breakdown)

So, with those said, let's meet our lovely writer and find out more about this awesome book.

Stef: So, welcome Katy, to my little corner of virtual space. Glad you could find your way.

Katy: It's great to be here. I love what you've done with the gravity.

Stef: Shucks, that's awfully nice of you. But it doesn't mean this interrogatory will be less painful. (I need a little devil smiley here). So, tell me and your readers a little something about yourself.

Katy: Well, until I started doing more writing I ran my own business full-time, making medieval and biblical costumes. I've let that slide a bit while I finished my book. I work out of my converted garage. I've got two great boys in school and a very understanding and supportive husband who's really hoping this is a best-seller. Oh, and I have three pet toads.

Stef: That is so awesome. And pet...toads. Wow. Kudos to you for the originality. Speaking of which, when and why did you start writing?

Katy: Freshman year of college. English 101. First time in my life I was told to write a story rather than an essay. Really. It was an epiphany moment. I discovered I actually liked writing stories. And they said I was good at it.

Stef: :) Nothing like appreciation to get you motivated. So, tell us about your new book, Breakdown.

Katy: Well, it can't be slotted into a hard and firm genre, I think. It's a post-apocalyptic tale, but that's just the setting. The book is about lost love and friendship, mending relationships, and not giving up. I guess.

Stef: Awesome. What made you decide to self-publish?

Katy: I simply have no patience. The thought of the incredibly drawn-out process to find an agent or publisher (if you can manage it) and then the years-long publishing process made me stop writing the thing altogether for more than a year. When Kindle publishing took off, I saw my solution. I set my goal, finished the book, and here we are. It's very exciting.

Stef: I agree. It is exciting :) How did you come about writing your book?

Katy: Two things. One was an incredibly vivid dream I had many years ago. Just a man walking with his son through a city I recognized (Bath, England). But it was clear that things had changed. The people around them were disheveled and ragged, the buildings were boarded up. That gave me the post-apocalyptic setting. The second was a complicated friendship I'd had, then lost, then mended. I knew how such a thing could eat away at someone inside, so I decided to use that.

Stef: Lol. I love dream inspired books. What is your favorite thing about your book? 

Katy: I think it's that these people have become so real to me. I have binders full of scenes and stories that didn't make it into the book. So, sequel, anyone?

Stef: Don't tempt me. I could write a sequel to a rock. *cough* Let's get on with it. What is your favorite scene from your book.

Katy: It's hard to pick. But I can't say, really, without giving away the ending. LOL.

Stef: Okay, I respect that (I use magic to point out spoilers ;)) So, which was your favorite character to write?

Katy: Oh, definitely my main man, Chris Price. There is a lot of me in him. But I had to ask my husband a lot of questions about being a man, LOL, so there's a fair bit of him in Chris, too. 

Stef: Nice. Now, what inspires you when writing?

Katy: Sometimes I listen to music without lyrics that has the right tone of the scene I'm writing. Sometimes when I'm stuck, a vivid dream gives me another idea. Several key plot points came from vivid dreams.

Stef: I'm starting to get jealous of all your vivid dreams. So, I will pester you instead with more questions about yourself. What genres do you like to read?

Katy: Mainstream, generally. For many years I had subscriptions to Asimov's and Analog Sci Fi magazines, and devoured short Sci Fi every month. But usually I like stories about people and relationships. If it's Sci Fi, great. Light fantasy, fine. And yeah, post-apocalyptic, as long as there aren't zombies, LOL.

Stef: I'm sure the zombies are very upset right now. Do you write out of your usual genre?

Katy: Currently on the back burner I have a speculative, a YA Sci-Fi, a ghost story, and those binders with my Breakdown characters... but you couldn't call me prolific. I have to work at writing. I can't churn it out.

Stef:  Male or female POV? Which do you like to read/write most?

Katy: So far it seems like most of my main characters are male. But I like writing women, too. Same with reading.

Stef: Lol, me too. Don't know why. Anything that makes you love a story instantly?

Katy:  I'm not sure I can answer that. I'm a picky reader. But I'm not sure what draws me.

Stef:  Anything that puts you off a story?

Katy: Brainless characters or a contrived plot where the main thing driving it is people misunderstanding each other over and over. Ugh.

Stef: Well, Katy, it was awesome to have you here and torture find out more about you and your book. Last I ask of you is a short excerpt of your work, so people know what it's like.

Katy:  Of course. Thanks for having me. 

Breakdown - excerpt:

The used book shop was located in a small side street near the abbey, still run by an old man with a fuzz of white hair whom Brian had always known only as Flynn. He had somehow managed to carry on through the worst of times, hardly leaving his flat above the store, or spending his days in the narrow aisles between shelves, sorting and cataloguing, or wrapped in a blanket in an armchair by the door, reading to escape the harshness of the changed world. The place was more of a library now, with no tourists to spend their holiday money on quaint old volumes. Brian visited nearly every week. He had brought two books back to trade in. 

Ian picked out an adventure about a young American cowboy, and Brian got a mystery novel. He gave Flynn a tin of meat, a squash from the garden, and a selection of leftover ration coupons.

“Oh, I say, Brian,” Flynn said as they were about to leave, “your old mate Chris was looking for you earlier this week.” 

Brian stopped dead in the doorway. The name jolted him. He stared at Flynn, who sat reading the fine print on the tin’s label, apparently unaware that he had said anything unusual.

Brian gulped, thinking Flynn had to be mistaken. “Um, are you sure?”

Flynn looked up. “What? Of course I’m sure. Hardly knew him at first, it’s been so long. But yeah, he asked after you, said he’d been round to your house, but you’d gone and did I know where to. I told him you live out in Hurleigh, now.”

“Chris Price, was it? You’re sure, Flynn?”

“I’m not dotty yet, Brian. He looked different, you know, but it were him, I tell you. He stayed a good few hours, asking about folks what used to live here. He’d brought some lovely muffins and jam, and we had a bit o’ tea. I told him you were out Hurleigh way.”

Good memories battled with bad ones in Brian’s head. The long childhood friendship had ended with hard feelings and harder words. He remembered the last horrible thing he’d uttered with such contempt, nearly ten years ago, and felt his face grow warm with shame.

Ian was watching him, clutching his bundle of clothing.

So,'d I do? (Katy left, she can't hear us :p). Anyone else want to fill the space with an interview?

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Plotting 102 - Breaking up plots in a series

Sorry, it seems like I've fallen off the face of this planet. I'm finally back and exhausted. But, at least, I'm doing well with my studying and critting. So, not all's lost. Sorry for missing out on everyone's blogs, but closing in on the end of higher education has sapped me of my time.

Soooo... I was saying something about discussing how to split a plot onto multiple books. Well, this is a challenge I've come face to face with since I do happen to write a series.
For me, it's been easy. I wrote the first book, and the second book, and part of the third one before I decided to actually tie them up with the same main plot line. As it happens, as dumb luck has it, I'd already unconsciously planted the links there.
But, now that I'm all grown up, it's time to do it properly.

Here are the things you should consider when writing a series.

#1. Have a common plot line

If it's one thing I admire about the Harry Potter series, it's how the main plot (Harry vs Voldemort) played out, subtly spread throughout Quidditch matches, classes, and teenage angst. There was a purpose to the series, a conclusion awaited at the end of the last book.
So, I think this is fairly important. Know your main plot - it's kinda like last week's A to B discussion, only that in this case, it's an A to Z (since the journey is much longer) - what is the underlining conflict in all of your books, just waiting to be solved?

As an example, in my series, I have 2 common plot lines that need to be solved.
A. The conflict between the Grants and Snitch Gravel (will he win, will they win OR will something utterly unexpected happen and this plot line will implode?)
B. The jewels - what happens after they find all of them? Who and what would they use them for?

There are parts of these two plot lines coming out in each and every book of the series, connecting them.

# 2. Each book should be a stand alone

I would advise against creating a - haven't read the first book, won't understand the second or third or fourth - situation. At least when it comes to the first book, it should be properly closed up. Why? Because before the second book comes out, the reader might just forget all the tension they left behind.

In order to pull this one off, you should have an alternative main plot line for each book - even if it's not the major series one.

Example from my work: In the first volume of my series, the characters search for the first jewel. They meet Snitch Gravel, face him and manage to get their hands on that first shiny rock. Both parts of the major plot are touched, and the book wraps up since they escape Snitch Gravel, come out of the jungle with the ruby, and go home. Task one, check!

#3. Don't give too much or too little information regarding the major plot

If you give too little information about that one line that pulls your series forward, the reader might later be unable to tie it up to the rest of the series - they should at least get a clue that there's more to the story, but leaving too much information out will make the (first) Book close unsatisfactory. Giving out all those nifty clues is pointless if the book ends without revealing even some of the answers.

If you give too much info - well, first off, you'll smother the book's main plot line with information that might appear useless at first. Then, the reader might realize what's going on, be thrilled, then be disappointed that the following books just seem to drag and give answers instead of rising any more questions.

So, here's what I do - (and what you can do as well) - I took my major plot and broke it off into clues which I then planted throughout the series.
Where do I want to go with this major plot? I want the Grants to find out who Snitch Gravel really is and why he wants to kill them. Okay, then I plant clues starting book 1 - things that seem minor at first - but when put together, will make the reader go Aaaah!
I wish I could go into more detail here, but it would be a major spoiler to reveal the ending ;)

So, I'll give an example from Harry Potter: remember all those times Harry escaped from Voldemort - well, it turned out all those near misses were Voldemort's fault because he couldn't foresee what killing his parents had really meant. (the creation of the Horrocrux and what not - sorry if I misspelled that).

Alas, you should try to carefully dose the information throughout the series to give the reader just enough to still find the twist masterful and also feed their interest and curiosity.

#4. Don't introduce the major plot later in the series

Really, that comes across as writing your own fan fiction - so you said all you had to say in your first book, and it's good and stand alone, but then books 2, 3 and 4 tie up together nicely. Make it a series from the very beginning.

#5. Don't stop character growth

Remember that in a series, your character mustn't  complete their arch after the first book - they have a whole load to grow from the first volume to the last. Also remember that they do have to grow in that first book. It's a bit tricky to get this right, but it helps if you take the #3 clues and try to assess how these situations change the character.

In my series, Sam grows up a lot after the first volume, but it's only until the last that he truly figures himself out and comes to terms with who he has become. He actually has an epiphany moment when he realizes who he didn't want to become :)

#6. Don't panic

Really. Writing a series should be fun. Enjoy fleshing out each book and creating many alternative plot lines around your characters. Don't leave your skeleton bare - each book should have it's own complex wire of relationships between character - make it full and clever and enticing.

#7. Don't forget to leave room for a sequel

Don't close your books all that well. Remind the reader why they want to know more, what has been left unfinished - this doesn't have to be straightforward - just enough to have them thinking, when they see your next book out, Oh, yeah! I had to find out what happened with the X.

In my work - the first book leaves Sam and his brothers and new girlfriends at the airport, as they reached home.
Things I hadn't closed up:

Snitch Gravel got away and still wants to kill them;

They are secret agents now - how does that change their lives?;

The ruby - what will the agency do with it in the end?;

And, of course, the most amusing and unimportant part - Sam's dad hates the idea of dating - how will he cope with all his children hooking up?

A conclusion

Splitting up a plot isn't a magical work of art. Most writers manage to do it following their instincts (much like me). Others have read books and blogs on the matter.
All you must remember is that, as long as it's clear inside your head, it will be clear to the reader as well (at least clearer than if you didn't have it clear inside your head either).
So enjoy every moment of writing every book and trying to surprise your readers. Enjoy the time you spend with your characters. Have fun!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Plotting 101

Hey y'all!

Basically, I'm done with my posts on characters (until I realize I left something out, at least). So, I shall continue my writing babble with discussing plots. After characters, the plot is my favorite thing to talk about. Why? Because it's deeply connected with the characters. And because it's the backbone of the entire thing.

It goes like this: The plot, is your skeleton, the scenes are the meat on those bones, the scenery is like skin, and the characters are the little things that make it all perfect - details that make the being unique. - Sorry about the corpsey metaphor. Hope it didn't gross anyone out.

What is a plot?

The plot is the reason your book exists. It's what the book is all about - that's why it's important to have that in mind and work from there. It's the glue between your scenes - the purpose of your character's existence...
You get the idea, the plot is important. It's very hard to pull off a book without a plot (In my head, it's impossible, but I do tend to think it might be possible in the genres I don't read).
So, yes, you need a plot.

How do I build one?

That's not too hard - take point A - the beginning of the book and point B - the end of the book -> your path there is your plot. It's like one of those game where you have to bring your character from A to B - with one single, but huge, difference - why are you taking him there?
So, it's a line with a big WHY in the middle of it.
Building a plot is often easy - it's the first thing that comes into the writer's head, even if they don't realize. You come up with a story - what happens in that story? John Doe  walks his dog and runs into his old nemesis and a full blown domestic war ensues. The only thing missing is their motivation to get from point A to point B - give them that, and you've got your basic plot.

Is it really that easy?

If you're writing a novel, then, no. You see, novels are huge things, and you need to keep the reader entertained while you paint out the main plot. - to keep your readers on their toes, the path from A to B is never a straight line - more like a terribly jagged one.
I'm not an expert in short stories - couldn't write one to save my life, actually - but I think you can get away with the single plot line there. Though, even those need a twist.

What is a plot twist?

It's what makes a plot a good one. It's surprising your readers when they least expect it and get them to go: 'Hmm, didn't expect that one coming. I must read to find out what happens next.'  Keep them guessing what'll happen next. And they won't be able to put your book down.

Now, there is a limit to this. If you twist and turn just for the heck of it, it could get really frustrating for a reader - especially if you don't plant clues ahead of time - then, they'd feel manipulated, get pissed and stop reading altogether. - Just thought I'd mention this.

I got my plot, I have some twists. What now?

Now, you need side-plots. Going for one goal is never realistic, since people in general get side tracked by other things easily. Especially in novels, there's something always going on in the background. Especially if you have more POV characters.

So, your main plot consists of some cops going after a baddie - in the mid-time, until they catch him, some other things happen - we get sidetracked by some romance, one of the cops has a twisted family life or some drama in their past - these are all subplots that need to be solved by the time the main plot wraps up - and everything results in character growth (see, told ya we'll be coming to characters here)

Sometimes, the subplots can be just as interesting and as complicated as the main plot. What sets the main plot aside? Solving that one, major problem closes the book - the readers feel fulfilled, and they won't rip your head off for a bad closing. It's usually a good idea to close the subplots as well (unless you're planning a sequel and then the subplot could turn into the main plot of the next book) - but you're more likely to get away with not closing those up. Unless you have a freak like me reading, who tends to get more attached to the secondary characters, rather than the main ones :p

How important is a plot?

In my books, very. Be it main or sub, they should all be well explained, logical and relevant. There's a tight link between the main plot and the subs - the subs have to somehow push (even if nudge ever so gently) the main plot along. They must be relevant.

I've been thinking, and I think that's my major problem with the Twilight series. I haven't talked about them before, because I admit (with shame) that I read all four books in fast succession. But I was very disappointed at the end. Because, there was no plot to close.
Sure, in the first book, I could close my eyes and buy that the main plot was the romance between Edward and Bella - though, seeing as they admit they're in love in the middle of the book, that's about the end of it. Everything else that's going on is a side plot.
And the next three books continue with side plots. For the love of me, I couldn't figure out what the main plot of the series is! There were just random things happening - like episodes in a soap - with nothing going for them. (reason I don't watch soaps - what's the point?)
So, that's my problem -> no main plot, no satisfactory wrap up and a series which could go on forever.

That's how important a plot is. Not having a main plot, you can't close your book, and your characters have no purpose.

These are my views on basic plotting and the importance of it all. I feel I might have rambled a bit in there. Sorry about that. But you're all used to that by now ;)

Update: Weee... my Internet connection is back on. But I have to study. Ah, well :)

How do you plot? Major to minor (like me) or minor towards a major?