Tag: novel

In a no-BS Saturday mood, what better motivation than TerribleMinds @ChuckWendig

So I’ve been struggling with getting my gorram novel written and wasting some time on the internet, I came across this from @ChuckWendig (www.terribleminds.com) – freakin’ awesome stuff.  But for today, a no-BS writing Saturday, let me just leave this here on the website.

Terrible Minds - You Wrote a Novel

After that, there’s nothing more to say is there?

 

Image:

A text list that says:

How to Push Past the Bullshit and Write that Goddamn novel: A Very Simple No-Fuckery Writing Plan to Get Shit Done

  • Write five days a week
  • Write 350 words per day
  • Write 260 days per year
  • Weekends off shit yeah
  • Fuck tomorrow, embrace today
  • Write through fear and doubt
  • Give yourself permission to suck

CONGRATS YOU JUST WROTE A NOVEL

(First Draft Only: Don’t Forget to Edit)

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National Novel Writing Month is Almost Upon Us (#NaNoWriMo)

Are you ready?

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), either you love it or you hate it.  NaNoWriMo is an annual creative writing challenge. It challenges participants to write 50,000 words of a new novel from November 1 until the deadline at 11:59PM on November 30. So approximately 1,667 words per day. The goal of NaNoWriMo is to get people writing and keep them motivated throughout the process.  It turns what is a lonely “some day” project to a social, fun, and interactive activity.  Several NaNo novels have been edited and published. Several NaNo novels are awful but the key concept of shared creative mutually-supportive fun is one that almost everyone who participates enjoys.

According to Wikipedia:

Since 2006, roughly 100 NaNoWriMo novels have been published via traditional publishing houses. Many more have been published by smaller presses or self-published. Some notable titles include:

  • Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen, published by Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
  • The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, published by Doubleday
  • Persistence of Memory by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes, published by Delacorte Press
  • Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, published by St. Martin’s Press
  • Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins, published by Dutton Juvenile
  • The Darwin Elevator by Jason M. Hough, published by Del Ray Books

A pretty impressive list.

So far, the vast majority of the Cat Vacuuming Society Writing Group of Northern Virginia (say that fast 3 times) will be participating in some way.  No, not all of us can or will complete a novel, but the idea of committing the month to rededicating ourselves to writing, and using the enthusiasm of NaNoWriMo as a boost is too tempting to ignore.

Rather than just troll the Internet, I decided to go straight to the source – the NaNoWriMo website.  Below is their collection of lovely short articles for Preparing for NaNo Success.  They’re a quick read and should get everyone off to a great start.

Preparing for NaNo Success

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Characters and World-Building

.

Plot and Conflict

 

So…let’s do this!  Good luck, everyone.

NaNoWriMoParticipant-2014-Web-Banner

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“The Spy Who Came In From The Cold” by John le Carré

The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (Criterion DVD)Again I have chosen a book which has a famous movie made from it, “The Spy Who Came in from the Cold” by John le Carré. As Hollywood continues to run out of story lines, it will be most likely be harder to find a book that has not been dramatized in the cinema. The film, released in 1965, stars Richard Burton as Alec Leamas, the protagonist, and Rupert Davies as George Smiley, and directed by Martin Ritt.

The Spy in le Carré’s story is Alec Leamas, a British spy in the height of the Cold War newly returned to London after his espionage network in East Germany has crumbled. Leamas blames one man, Hans-Dieter Mundt, an accomplished operative for East Germany. Control, Leamas’ superior, and his fellow agent, George Smiley work with Leamas to concoct a story of Leamas’ dissatisfaction with how MI-6 has treated him in his retirement and seeks to defect to East Germany where he will sow seeds of misinformation in an effort to discredit Mundt, at the least, or deliver him to the hangman’s noose, at the best.

As it turns out, le Carré was a former member of the Her Majesty’s Secret Service and based some of this story on his experience. This by no means should lead the reader to believe this is a sophomoric effort. His writing is a parachronism, including page long paragraphs, dialogue buried within prose, and some inconsistent points of view, aka “head hopping.”

The story itself is fastidiously plotted, albeit a bit predictable. A positive side to the novel is how much plot and how fleshed out the characters are within such a short number of pages, 223. My copy of the paperback is one of 1965 copies from Dell publishing, originally sold for 75 cents. This version is easily 150 pages shorter than the standard novel today. Yet, at its time, it was a compelling story and on the NY Times Best Seller list from 1964.

John le Carré has a following.  There are several George Smiley novels including this one.  However, Smiley plays more of a role in the others.  Some of the Smiley novels have been made into movies as well including the recent  “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.”  His entire filmography can be located here.

le Carré’s dialogue is at times rough, but does much to carry the tale forward. However, the head-hopping and dialogue hiding paragraphs do make it difficult to follow from time to time. I did enjoy the story, and plan on watching the movie.  I’m afraid I do have to give the book only 2 flags.

scotlandscotland


Dialect and Disability

Note from Day: For those of you just coming to Unleaded: Fuel for Writers, the post below is from Unleaded contributor Robb Grindstaff.  As mentioned in Saturday’s post, his debut novel, Hannah’s Voice is now available.  Robb also took the time to add to Unleaded’s collection of Writerly Tips.  

Dialect and Disability in Fiction

Hang with me, and I’ll connect these two unrelated topics.

Using dialect or accents in fiction can be treading dangerous ground. In my novel Hannah’s Voice, the story is set in a small town in North Carolina. I needed the characters to realistically speak with a southern accent, use local idioms, and generally sound as if they were from North Carolina.

I lived in North Carolina for several years, so I know what a Carolina accent sounds like, and I know how it differs from a Texas or Oklahoma accent, where I’ve also lived. The accent in the central Piedmont is different from the Blue Ridge mountains. Fishermen on the coast sound completely different than bankers in Charlotte or NASCAR fans in Greensboro. Even in one town, people will speak with different degrees of accents and use different phrases depending on their age, gender, occupation, income and education level. The accent can even fade in and out depending on who they’re talking to.

In fiction, every character also must have a unique, distinguishable voice. If every character sounds exactly the same, it’s hard to tell who is speaking. So I needed to write each character with a true-to-life dialect for that character. I wanted the dialect to help ground the reader in the setting, in the tone of the novel, and give each character his or her own voice.

But have you ever tried to read a novel or short story where the writer accurately portrayed, or at least attempted to accurately portray, a strong dialect? It doesn’t matter if it was a southern accent, or an Old West novel, rural New England or an urban black setting.

When the dialogue is in too heavy of a dialect, it can be almost impossible to read and very irritating. If you happen to be from that area and speak that dialect, it will feel like the writer is making fun of you. Exaggerated southern accents are common in movies and television, and usually with the sole purpose of showing southerners in a less-than-favorable light – the ignorant redneck syndrome. Isn’t that just as bad as overdoing the stereotypical African-American dialect or an ultra-heavy Hispanic, Asian, or Arabic accent?

Dialect is a strong spice in fiction. A little bit goes a long way. Too much, and it becomes so overpowering that you just can’t get it down without gagging. You can sprinkle a little cinnamon on your apple pie, but don’t try to swallow a spoonful of cinnamon. You can choke to death.

Finding the exact right amount of dialect spice is tricky. Too much, it becomes unreadable. Too little, and you lose the flavor. I’ll use a couple of examples to illustrate. This first one I’m just making up:

“Wa-al, howdy y’all. I was jes’ a-fixin’ up some vittles. Y’all come in here and set a spell afore I puts on da grub, den we’uns will stuff our faces with dese here homemade biscuits ‘n’ gravy.”

Could you read an entire novel where all the characters spoke like that and the writer spelled out all the words in a phonetic replication of an accent? Readers will stumble over every word, every sentence, have to stop and re-read on occasion and try to translate what the characters are saying. At least until they give up and throw the book across the room.

Second example, from Hannah’s Voice, where her Sunday school teacher says this about Hannah:

“What on Earth has gotten into this child?” Mrs. B stood in the middle of the living room, rubbing her hands together as if she were washing them in a sink. “Running out into the storm like that to grab a pile of snow. That just ain’t natural.”

In the North Carolina setting that’s already been established, Mrs. B speaks in a manner that fits the town and the character. But nothing there is overdone or attempts to sound out a southern accent. It should read easily and natural, whether you’re from the south or from North Dakota or California. Can you hear the accent? I hope so.

The second type of dialect I had to deal with in Hannah’s Voice was that of a six-year-old child, the first-person narrator in a book that is aimed at adults, not children. Again, I wanted to go with light flavoring, just enough to make it clear to the reader that the story is being told by a six-year-old for the first half of the book. The second half jumps ahead to when Hannah is a teenager. But if I’d precisely mimicked a six-year-old’s voice for 150 pages, it would have been as unreadable as the exaggerated southern drawl example above. Neither could I write it narrated by an adult voice and tried to keep it in real time from a six-year-old’s perspective.

I went for relatively simple, straightforward language, but I let Hannah’s voice and her internal thoughts rise a little older than a typical six-year-old, sprinkling in a little of the phrasing and idioms and thought patterns of a child to keep the reader grounded in the character and her age.

Several trusted beta readers pointed out things that a six-year-old would never say. A writer-friend who is a child psychologist gave me a lot of tips on the thought processes at age six, and I tried to blend those in naturally to help create a believable six-year-old, but with a voice that an adult could read without distraction or irritation.

Later in the book, the story jumps ahead to Hannah as a teenager. Also a bit tricky here to keep her voice consistent, and yet older, more mature in her words and thought processes, yet clearly recognizable as the same girl.

When Hannah goes to college, she is paired up with a deaf roommate. I didn’t think, “Oh, I need a character with a disability.” What I needed was a character that would play against Hannah’s character. Hannah stopped speaking when she was six, way back in chapter two, and hadn’t spoken in twelve years. Um, yes, by the way, I had to write a first-person narrator who doesn’t speak. But that’s a subject for another day.

So Hannah doesn’t speak, and the college matches her up with a roommate who can’t hear. That’s why I needed a deaf character. Ginger, the roommate, can read lips, but that doesn’t help since Hannah doesn’t speak. They have to figure out how to communicate.

Ginger can speak, however. As many deaf people do, Ginger spoke with a dialect—the natural voice of someone who has learned to speak but has never heard her own voice or the voice of anyone else.

Back to the dialect thing. I wanted to accurately convey Ginger’s voice, her dialect, the way she pronounced words, the extra sounds she would throw in. I wanted to show that sometimes people had trouble understanding her.

But I didn’t want to make it so hard to read that it became irritating to the reader. Neither did I want to make it so exaggerated that it could be construed as ridiculing the way a deaf person speaks. I wanted just enough of that spice to create the character’s voice in the reader’s head.

I went stronger with Ginger’s dialect when she is first introduced to the reader:

The dorm room wasn’t quite like the orphanage. The orphanage was a little nicer. It looked more like the shelter—block walls and worn vinyl tile floors. I covered most of the floor with a rug Suzette had given me, and stacked my textbooks for the first semester on the shelf. First in alphabetical order, then I took them all down and put them in order of my class schedule.

“Yo kind ah vanal, awn’t yo?”

I didn’t understand Ginger’s words. I shook my head and motioned for her to say again while I looked at her, like that would help since I didn’t read lips.

“I say-ah-da,” she enunciated and exaggerated each syllable, “‘ou kind ahv ay-nal, awn’t ‘ou?”

Just organized, I wrote, and she giggled.

Here, I wanted to establish her voice, and I wanted the reader to have trouble understanding that first sentence the same way that Hannah had trouble understanding it.

As the story progresses, the degree of that dialect quickly fades as Hannah (and thus the reader) grows accustomed to Ginger’s way of speaking.

Ginger told me Warren was upset.

“He finally worked up the ner-vuh to ask ‘ou out, and now ‘ou awn’t coming back-uh. He is kind-uh cute, don’t ‘ou think-uh?”

It’s still there, and much stronger than the southern accent used throughout the book for all the characters, but it’s lighter than at the beginning. Even with this lighter version of Ginger’s dialect, I couldn’t use it much. She’s a minor character who only appears in a few scenes. If she’d been a major character throughout the book, I would have gone much lighter on the dialect.

Give your characters unique voices that fit the story, the setting, and each character. Use dialect when appropriate to your story, but be very careful not to overdo it. Let it flavor the voices lightly, not overpower the dialogue. Don’t make readers work to hear the voice or have to decipher what the characters are saying. A little goes a long, long way.

 


Hannah’s Voice – Debut Novel from Robb Grindstaff

Just a quick note about Robb Grindstaff, a long-time contributor to Unleaded and all-around good guy, in addition to being a fantastic writer.  🙂  We’re proud to celebrate with him on the release of his debut novel, “Hannah’s Voice.”

Published January 2013 by EVOLVED PUBLISHING

HANNAH’S VOICE, Commercial/Literary Fiction

A little girl’s silence rends a small North Carolina community. When her silence continues into her college years, the entire country divides over her message.

When six-year-old Hannah’s brutal honesty is mistaken for lying, she stops speaking. Her family, her community, and eventually, the entire nation struggle to find meaning in her silence.

School officials suspect abuse. Church members are divided—either she has a message from God or is possessed by a demon. Social workers interrupt an exorcism to wrest Hannah away from her momma, who has a tenuous grip on sanity. Hidden in protective foster care for twelve years, she loses all contact with her mother and remains mute by choice.

When Hannah leaves foster care at age eighteen to search for Momma, a national debate rages over her silence. A religious movement awaits her prophecy and celebrates her return. An anarchist group, Voices for the Voiceless, cites Hannah as its inspiration. The nation comes unhinged, and the conflict spills into the streets when presidential candidates chime in with their opinions on Hannah—patriotic visionary or dangerous radical. A remnant still believes she is evil and seeks to dispatch her from this world.

Hannah stands at the intersection of anarchists and fundamentalists, between power politics and an FBI investigation. All she wants is to find her momma, a little peace and quiet, and maybe some pancakes.

One word would put an end to the chaos… if only Hannah can find her voice.

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Video Saturday – Advice to Writers – Amy Tan and Creativity

Today’s video (which is backdated because I’m running late again) is from Amy Tan’s TED Talk. It’s longer than my usual video clips at 24 minutes but is easy to listen to in the background while doing other things so I don’t want to hear any “I don’t have time” excuses. 🙂 It is an interesting discussion about creativity and where it comes from and the mystery of ideas and cosmological constants. So definitely worth a listen.

Amy Tan has written several bestselling novels, most famously, The Joy Luck Club. Also included are, The Kitchen God’s Wife, The Hundred Secret Senses, The Bonesetter’s Daughter and Saving Fish from Drowning. Her most recent novel Saving Fish from Drowning explores the tribulations experienced by a group of people who disappear while on an art expedition in the jungles of Burma. In addition to these, Amy Tan has written two children’s books: The Moon Lady (1992) and Sagwa, the Chinese Siamese Cat (1994), which was turned into an animated series which aired on PBS. This last of which I have seen and is really very cute.

But, lets get to the video!  And as she said, “Near death is good for creativity, as is childhood trauma.” (If you what to know what THAT means…watch the video)


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