On Predictability vs. Surprise in Fiction (or, How The Force Awakens forced me to change my position on the matter. Slightly.)

 

Star Wars - The Force Awakens

**No movie spoilers**

A long time ago on a blog that’s now far away from a regular posting schedule, myself and a buddy had a debate about predictability versus surprise in fiction.

Quite unwittingly, this discussion arose on the heels of an entirely different examination of pantsing versus plotting.

(For the record on that account, I like to know where my story is going before I start and to rough out as much of the journey as I’m aware of up front, but I’m in no way wedded to it, nor do I subscribe to the notion that plotting will rob a story of the joy and magic of actually writing it.  But you can read more about all that yourself.)

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Thoughts on Nearing the End

Book near the end

I should qualify this by saying I mean the end of my novel.

(Were I talking the end of my life, my thoughts would be considerably different, and if nothing else, I’d perhaps be referring back to this post about my bucket list.)

Ending a novel is hard.  The fact that I’ve done it twice thus far in my writing career hasn’t made it any easier.  Perhaps this is because only once did I consciously do so since my “two-book” series-in-progress grew to three books initially without my realizing it.

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Planning the Perfect Vacation: A (Don’t-Ask-Me) How-To

Vacation plane

Some people are awesome at planning vacations.

These are the people who research their destinations exhaustively to discover the hottest sites to visit.  The people who book things months in advance to ensure they don’t miss out on those activities that always fill up and sell out.

These are the people who know ahead of time exactly the type of vacation experience they want, and make a near part-time job of scouring tour guides and soliciting knowledgeable friends and colleagues to transform the trip of their dreams into reality.

I’m not one of those people.  Not even close.

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I Never Miss a Deadline … Except When I Do (which is often)

Deadline

So, my WIP, such as it is, is indeed still IP.

To date, despite have been writing seriously for some six years, I’ve yet to complete anything novel-length that stands as a fully completed story – a fact that haunts me continuously.

I’d originally resolved to finish my WIP last year by my birthday, which is at the end of November.

I didn’t make that deadline, but consoled myself with the fact that I had an entire other novel to write to finish the story, my previously anticipated duology in fact being a trilogy.

But there’s still something about deadlines – something definitive and binding, which I suppose is the whole point.  I almost never set deadlines.  I really don’t like them, even though my “type” is supposed to thrive on them.

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Sometimes Magic Just Works: 4 Q&As about my WIP

Ravenswing Dress - The Dark Angel Design Company, Photography - Lunaesque

The Dark Angel Design Company, photography by Lunaesque

Time to talk about my WIP again!

I never used to do this at all, as the thought of giving the dreaded “elevator pitch” makes my stomach churn like too much greasy pizza too close to bedtime.

But like anything bearing the label “dreaded”, said dread is usually lessened over time through devoting regular thought and effort to improving at the task at hand.

In other words, I need to practice pitching and promoting myself more.

Which is why, when tagged by my blog-buddy Eric J. Baker, to answer four questions about my WIP as part of the Writing Process Blog Tour, and I agreed to participate.

The four questions are thus as follows:

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Two Writers Debate: Pantsing vs. Plotting

Eric John Baker (R) and me, clearly hoping to win this thing by sheer force of smugness.

Eric John Baker (R) and me, clearly hoping to win this thing by sheer force of smugness.

Only two approaches to writing exist: Good and Bad. Write good. Debate over!

Hold on a sec. That’s not what this post is about. This post is a point-counterpoint between two WordPress bloggers arguing the merits of two distinct writing methods, pantsing (freeform writing) and plotting (writing from an outline).

Read on as right-brained, right-coast writer Eric John Baker argues in favor of pantsing (at least we hope that’s what happens… he is making it up as he goes, after all), followed by left-brained, left-coast writer Janna G. Noelle making a case for plotting, probably with all kinds of charts and graphs and stuff.

No matter how ugly and violent it gets, they promise to return you home in time for tea and biscuits!

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Why Writers Should Spend Time With Other Types of Artists

Sun by Dawn Banning

We writers – when we discuss our work and our process at all – tend to restrict said discussion to other writers.

After all, who else could possibly understand our unique brand of crazy?  How can anyone genuinely comprehend, for example, the compulsion to sit up in the dead of the night and scribble down a story idea unless s/he too has endured the utter frustration of greeting the morning with forgotten inspiration?

Artists of other disciplines (e.g. painters, musicians, actors, etc.), while themselves not fully cognizant of what it means to be a narrative writer, might come pretty darn close to understanding us.

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