Thursday, October 30, 2014

Can You Push Your Main Characters Too Far?

I have read a couple articles recently about needing to “kill your darlings” when you are writing. If you’re too close to your characters, it can be hard to make them fall and face (seemingly) insurmountable conflict that you need for your story.

When the time came for me, I didn’t just shove my main character off the cliff, I threw her. There were times when I was uncomfortable with some of the things she needed to do, but I would take a deep breath and tell myself, “You have to go there.” Sometimes I challenged myself to go even darker. It’s not easy and it can break your heart to write about some of the things your characters do. I still get emotional at the end of my story.

I used a friend as a beta reader for my novel and she came to see me yesterday to let me know she finished. I’m always excited to get feedback so I asked what she thought. She told me that she had an issue and wasn’t sure how to tell me because she didn’t want to offend me. A little surprised, I asked what it was. She explained that she had to put down the book part way through because she didn’t like what was happening to the main character.

I wasn’t offended at all. I’m always interested in the different reactions people have to my work and, if it’s sincere feedback, I want to hear it (positive or not). I was thrilled that she was so attached to the main character and that I was able to evoke such a strong emotional response. That was a major victory for me.

On the other hand, what if she hadn’t finished reading the book? You don’t want someone to put down your book with no intention of finishing it, especially when there will be more in that series. She did finish reading and was pleased with the outcome. She also asked when I would be finished writing the next book because she wants to read it as well (yay!).

Her comments have me wondering: Can you tear down your main characters too much?

In Shadowed Soul, the main character loses herself and changes dramatically, leaving the reader to wonder if she will find her way back. My friend didn’t like the person the main character became, so it wasn’t that the story was bad, she was just upset that the main character turned into someone she didn’t like very much.

She’s the first to have this reaction and I still have a couple more beta readers working through the book, so I’m going to wait for their remarks before I decide if I need to reel in the conflict or not.

It’s a very interesting issue, and one I hadn’t thought of until now.

Have you faced this issue before, either as a writer or reader, and how did you deal with it?

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

What If...?

My attitude towards my writing and journey to publication swings to extremes a times. One day I'm ready to take it on, other days I wonder if I know what I'm doing. Many things can trigger this, the weather (it's been raining here for a week, which has been quite draining), a peice of information I come across that sheds light on my journey to being a better writer and getting published or my own inner critic.

Today seems to be one of the down days, like I mentioned earlier, this cold rainy weather is getting depressing.

Today I wonder, what if I don't sell this this book? It is a possibility in the post-Twilight daze (though my novel is adult and nothing like that series) where publishers and agents don't seem too interested in anything with vampires.

If I follow that dark road, it's easy to think of all the time "wasted" through writing, revisions, researching agents, etc.

Then I give my head a shake.

I didn't sit down and say, "I want to have a book published." When the idea first came to me, I said, "Hey, that would be a great story to write."

And that's what I did. I started writing.

I write because I have always loved to write and create. Ever since I was little I have wanted to be a writer. I didn't start my first blog to have a career as a blogger, I started it because I love to write and thought other people could benefit from reading about my parenting (mis)adventures.

I wrote a book because that's what I wanted to do. Then when I finished, I realized that I had something I wanted to share, something that people would probably want to read.

Was the time wasted? No. I loved becoming lost in the story and characters as I wrote. So much so that I'm working on a sequel. Actually, the characters wouldn't quit whispering to me so I didn't think I had much of a choice in carrying on their story. It looks like the whole series will be four books.

What if I don't sell the first manuscript?

I'm confident that there is an agent out there who will champion my story, and if I'm wrong, then when I start the other story idea I have, maybe that one will sell. Two things I have going for me: I'm extremely stubborn and not afraid of a challenge.

In the meantime, I will continue to write and query every agent in North America that accepts fantasy, paranormal, urban fantasy and possibly even suspense.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

One Lucky Vampire - Book Review

I’m still making my way through some of the paranormal (romance) books a customer brought into my store. I have at least three books on the go right now from various genres. Too many books to read and not enough time unfortunately.

Lynsay Sands’s One Lucky Vampire was one of the books in the pile my customer brought in. I read the back and cringed, another romance. When I started the book, I was surprised to find it set in Ottawa. I looked up Sands and was pleasantly surprised to find she is Canadian! I like to support Canadian authors and musicians when I can, so that was a big mark in her favour.

One Lucky Vampire is part of the Argeneau series, which follows a family of vampires, though according to the main character in this novel, they aren`t really vampires, they just have vampire tendencies. It’s the bio-engineered nanos developed in the lost city of Atlantis that gives them their abilities and they need blood because the nanos use more blood to work...more about that in a moment.

In the book, Jake Colson is still adjusting to his life as a vampire, which he didn`t want. He ran away to Ottawa to get away from his vampire family and is working as a bodyguard. Matriarch, Margaritte Argeneau, finds him and asks for a favour; he needs to pose as a cook/housekeeper to keep an eye on mortal Nicole Phillips until her divorce is final because it seems someone, likely her husband, is trying to kill her.

Naturally, Nicole expects a woman to fill the position and is surprised when Margaritte brings her nephew Jake. The attraction is instant but after the horrible way her husband treated her, Nicole isn’t ready for a relationship, let alone with her now employee.

When I first started the book, I was a little reluctant because I’m not a fan of romance novels. I like a good love story but not the writing style most romances tend to have. It took me a while to get into the book but, when I did, I didn’t want to put it down.

I loved the humour and laughed out loud at several of the awkward situations Sands incorporated, especially the scene when Jake has to reveal that he’s a vampire to Nicole and the part about “eating out” – if you read the book, you’ll get it. The writing flowed well, making it a light, easy read, which was nice for a book I was only reading while I ate and didn’t need anything too deep.

Nicole is a fun, sexy character. I liked her strength and honesty, as well as the fact that she’s independent and doesn’t rely on a man to support her. I also liked that she wasn’t sexually timid and would take control in bed at times. Jake is your typical yummy vampire with the sensitive side yet could kick ass when needed. I liked him, though found there were some lines of dialogue that seemed a little uncharacteristic for him. The heat and attraction between them definitely came across well.

The story lagged a bit in the first part and I kept waiting for an action scene, but everything picked up further in. I was more than half way through the book on a Friday and left it at work for the weekend since it was my lunch time read, but found myself anxious to finish it.

Because I enjoyed the characters and wit so much, I was able to get past some of the hokey romance writing and that everyone did things “wryly” (hey, all writers have their go to words). The plot was good given the audience it’s geared towards, for me it was a little weak and I wasn’t keen on the outcome as far as the attempts on Nicole’s life (no spoilers).

I did get hung up on the “we aren’t vampires” protest yet, through the book, they are referred to as vampires. Either they are or they aren’t. Jake protested the term so forcefully that it made me feel that they really shouldn’t be called vampires. Maybe it’s different in the other books...I’ll keep you posted.

Overall, yes, I think I would read another Lynsay Sands book if I needed a break from the darker fiction I tend to enjoy. Any author that makes me laugh out loud is good in my book.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

The Search Continues

Rejections from literary agents are trickling in for my paranormal novel, but that's okay, I was prepared for that. I'll add them to the radio ones I received when I was starting my career in news. Eventually an agent will give me a shot, if not for this novel, then my next (how's that for optimism?).

When I first started reading about the query process, it was very intimidating.  Agents seem like an untouchable entity that sit between you and your goal to get published. They want you to write a letter that gives them a small, yet exciting, glimpse at what your story is about and a bit about yourself. Sounds easy enough...but it's not. Getting that synopsis just right to spark their interest so they ask for more is challenging,  especially knowing they look at dozens of queries a day and only accept a few new clients.

As my rejections arrive there's one thing I have appreciated; most of the agents say thank you for giving them the opportunity to see your project. I expected to receive short emails stating, "No, not what I'm looking for. " The emails I've received so far aren't much longer but at least they sound appreciative, even if they are likely a form letter.

I've started reading blogs for several agents, which are often very interesting. One blog I read that has stuck with me is by a new agent (she was the first to turn me down with a very nice personal email). She posted a piece about writers who lash out at agents that have rejected their work titled Things I Wish Authors Knew. It made me realize the importance of having an agent who loves and is excited about my work. I was lucky to read this before I really started querying. I've come to view finding an agent like finding any partner, not everyone will be right for me so I have to wade through the choices until I do find the right one...of course while constantly reevaluating my query letter.

So I continue to research agents (which seems to border on stalking) and learn as much as I can to improve my chances.  If nothing else I'm discovering lots of great blogs, some of which are listed on the right side of this page.

How is your journey going?