Tuesday, 24 June 2014

PLAYING WITH TIME



We say time flies when we’re enjoying ourselves, and it drags when we’re doing something we consider a chore. That’s untrue, as it’s our perception, our awareness, of time that changes. Time moves at the same speed regardless of our activities. 

Writers, however, can influence readers’ perception of time by playing with fictional and real time. For example, epochs can be covered in a sentence. The human race pushed outwards for millennia until they attained dominion over the known universe. This is an example of fictional time, used to condense and give information about the setting of a story. Although this example is genre related, individual memories of the past can also be dealt with in this way. I remember my early childhood as one long summer.  

Writers can also extend time. She breathed in and out, soft, easy, focusing on the rise and fall of her diaphragm.  This sentence takes twice as long to read as it does to complete the action. It stretches time through insight into the character’s mind. 
 
How time is portrayed impacts the pace of the story. Do you want to your reader to linger over certain passages? Internal monologue or adding details will accomplish this. Do you want your reader to focus on action? Dialogue, as well as physical conflict and movement, can increase pace; tense arguments, accusations etc., especially if no tags or descriptions are added to distract from the interaction taking place. Dialogue is one area where time on the page appears to equate with real time. 

Sometimes the words ‘relentless fast paced action’ is used to advertise thrillers, and I like my share (in print - in moderation) of adrenaline fuelled action as much as anybody. On the other hand, too much accelerated pace leaves no time to enjoy the beauty of a particularly elegant sentence or a measured leisurely moment between lovers. Adjusting time allows you to slow down, or speed up the story and, ultimately offers a more satisfying reading experience.

Writing Update
I’m managing to edit two chapters a day, more or less, which is faster than I expected – so I’m wondering what I’m missing!

The following is not a pity post, but a short exploration of doubt.

One challenge in blogging about my writing is it brings up the question, what if, once published, my book doesn’t fulfill expectation?  I’ve had some enthusiastic feedback from one of my beta readers (book still unfinished) on what he’s read so far, which gave me a definite feeling of relief.  I keep repeating those words to counteract the waves of doubt assailing me at odd hours of the night.

I imagine I'm not the only one who experiences such nagging uncertainties. Another question is what do I define as success? I'd be lying if I said I didn't want to receive some remuneration, but knowing people are reading and enjoying what I write is certainly top of my present list of writing goals.

I guess if I don't accomplish this aim, I’ll have two choices. Pick myself up, dust myself off and work harder to achieve my dream. Or decide I've been chasing a phantasmagoria. I’m hoping I know which decision I’ll take. 

Today’s Haiku
QUESTION
you are my lover
I don’t know if you’re my friend –
get back to me soon

Useful Links
If you’re interested, but not experienced, at producing your own book cover, this link is worth checking out.
This is a bit of for haiku lovers. (Thank you, Lisa!)
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/06/17/vegetable-haiku-veggie-love-poems_n_5499674.html?&ncid=tweetlnkushpmg00000033

I’d love it if you popped over to Wattpad and read any of my posted stories...just click on the links to the right.

Join me on Twitter at: teagankearney@modhaiku  

Thanks for visiting my blog, and please do leave a comment.
To all story lovers out there, good reading, and to those of you who write, good writing.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

CREATING VARIETY WITH DRAMA AND STASIS



When we open a novel and step out of our own lives into the fictional life of another, I’m sure that you, like me, have certain expectations. However, if that fictional life is monotonous, we’ll close the book and find a new one that fires our imagination. 

One way to stop readers falling asleep is to create variety between scenes. A scene is a prolonged moment, resembling real time on the page, and scenes are divided into two basic categories – dramatic and static. Yet this isn’t as simple as alternating car chase/fight/screaming argument scenes with sipping tea in a restaurant.  

The drama in a scene doesn’t only come from physical action. A scene that on the surface appears calm can be filled with conflict. If your heroine is sipping that tea with the wife of the man she’s having an affair with, a writer can find plenty of opportunity for drama. How much inner conflict will be revealed?  Does the wife know? Two elegantly attired women, false smiles for the benefit of onlookers, yet talking in low voices as one confronts the other isn’t visually sensational but is filled with tension. Make them best friends or sisters and you have the potential for a real battle. Dramatic scenes can be used to delve into suppressed emotions, or hidden conflicts, and they’re excellent opportunities to show, rather than tell, the reader what’s happening.

Yet static scenes aren’t merely gap fillers between the dramatic actions. They are quieter than the suspenseful scenes, but unless you want to spill into the melodrama that non-stop action presents, characters, and readers, need to catch their breath. Static scenes offer respite, a change of pace, a chance to provide details that would be difficult to place elsewhere, and allow space for conflicts to build. Nevertheless, they’re not tableaux and shouldn’t stall the forward momentum of the narrative.

One exercise easy to practice is to consider what kind of scene you prefer to read – action or descriptive – and then examine your own work and see if there’s a dominance of your favourite. Looking at the balance between the two types of scene lets you know where you might need to make changes to achieve a good rhythm between drama and stasis.

Writing Update

As I’ve said before (and will probably say again) this writing thing is addictive, and I find the process of using words to create images that tell a story absorbing and exciting. Currently I’m going through my WIP, The Unforgiveness of Blood, looking at the dramatic and static scenes using highlighter pens; green for static, orange for transitions (when they’re there) and red for drama. My pages are now covered with swathes of colour making it easy to see the swing between tension and rest.
(I was going to add a photo but the pages are pretty messy and covered with scribbles, so for the sake of keeping the post neat, I omitted the photo.)

I’m also checking my telling sentences. Telling is vital to the rhythm of writing a story - unless you’re looking to detail every blink of your character’s eye from the moment of birth. I’m searching for ways to give my telling sentences more impact – either through word choice or changing the sentence. All good clean fun!

I’m still fiddling with the cover and working on the font as I want the title to stand out and not be obscured by the cover art.
And sending hurry up prayers to the god/goddess of beta readers. 

Today’s Haiku
briar rose petals
confetti the hedgerows – dance
to summer breezes

Useful Links
This post has some great advice if you’re looking for an editor:
A clear helpful post about pace in novels.

I’d love it if you popped over to Wattpad and read any of my posted stories...just click on the links to the right.

Join me on Twitter at: teagankearney@modhaiku  

Thanks for visiting my blog, and please do leave a comment.
To all story lovers out there, good reading, and to those of you who write, good writing.

Monday, 9 June 2014

WHAT'S WRONG WITH GENRE?




Do you read only one genre, or are you like me, someone who dips in and out of anything they fancy from the classics and literary fiction to steampunk? Genre novels feature a protagonist, an antagonist, a conflict with a rising arc of tension and a resolution, so why differentiate?

One reason could be because, as humans, we attempt to classify everything around us – it’s our way of making sense of the world, although that doesn't explain why genre novels are considered the poor relative to literary fiction. Aristotle first delineated the classifications of drama and poetry, yet his divisions carried no implications of superiority or inferiority.

One indisputable fact is that no-one can see inside another’s mind, or completely understand what another is feeling.  So I do wonder how can one person say that their enjoyment of a novel classed as ‘literary fiction’ is greater than someone else’s pleasure in a crime, fantasy, romance or any other genre novel? I suggest the answer is they can’t. Defining one as escapist, and therefore trite, and the other as an expression of the human condition is subjective opinion, and biased when those who adjudicate also set the rules. Is it that we’re still dominated by the cultural hegemony of the advantaged classes with their legacy of class-based hostility towards the masses?

It’s well documented that social groupings retain their status by excluding others perceived to be of lesser status. In my humble opinion the literary vs genre debate bears much of these signs. ‘Those who know best’ - the academics and critics whose reputation and jobs depend on the status quo remaining the same - lament the lack of intelligent writing, depth of characters’ inner lives and dominance of plot in genre fiction. I agree that many genre books are not worth reading. Ditto for literary fiction; a chapter consisting of nothing but a tortured soul’s musings about the frost on the inside of a window pane has the potential to render even the most tenacious reader unconscious.

Putting others down is a bullying tactic aimed at keeping them in an inferior position. When genre writers are praised yet told their books will never be seen as great literature, this attitude implies that art created for the masses must naturally be more limited than that intended for an elite. Describing genre as a guilty pleasure again hints at the unsuitability of these books to take their place at the literary table.

But times change. In 2003, the American National Book Foundation awarded Stephen King the prestigious Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters; Hilary Mantel won the Man Booker prize twice, first in 2009 with her historical fiction Wolf Hall, and again in 2012 with its sequel, Bring up the Bodies; Peter Temple won Australia’s valued literary Miles Franklin Award in 2010 for his crime novel, Truth. 

For me literary fiction is another genre, and one which like a petulant child seeing someone else in the limelight (genre/commercial novels do sell more – i.e. a lot more people read them) refuses to congratulate them – or join in the fun. Not considering literary fiction as a genre keeps it elitist, and allows it to stay in its lofty tower looking down on the rest of us.

Genre is good for writers and is a great marketing tool as it enables writers to find readers, and readers to find books. The best genre writers bend, hybridize and invert genre – which makes for exciting literature. So when asked what kind of books you write, there should be  no more shame-faced head hanging, avoidance of eye contact and mumbling of your answer as you say – I write genre novels.

Writing Update

I’m eternally grateful to my beta readers and must practice patience while I wait for feedback, but I’m suffering. When will I see you again, I sob into my pillow at night hankering for my novel. I miss you! One of my readers told me he has suggestions for where I can slow the pace. This is good news as leaving readers gasping for breath for the entire book isn’t one of my goals. Tomorrow I’ll start a read through looking to make sure I have a balanced variation between dramatic and static scenes so as to improve the rhythm of the pace.

Chapter 3 of Planet Unknown is edited, but I’m too impatient to move the WIP forward to do more at the moment, and have switched it to the back burner.

I’ve had some positive feedback from a graphic artist friend on the proposed cover for The Unforgiveness of Blood. Yeah, at least I’m making progress in one area!

Today’s Haiku
LOVE
is skin on skin love –
at that place where mine and yours touch
do we become one

Useful Links:
This article comes highly recommended!
http://entertainment.time.com/2012/05/23/genre-fiction-is-disruptive-technology/ 
If you’re unsure of what genre your story falls under, this is a fairly comprehensive list of genre categories.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_genres

I’d love it if you popped over to Wattpad and read any of my posted stories...just click on the links to the right.

Join me on Twitter at: teagankearney@modhaiku  

Thanks for visiting my blog, and please do leave a comment.
To all story lovers out there, good reading, and to those of you who write, good writing.

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

P IS FOR PUBLISHING - INDIE OR TRADITIONAL



I'm sure that you, like me, have read a number of articles on the pros and cons of indie vs traditional publishing, so I wrote this post in the hope of clarifying my thoughts on this topic. However, I discarded the long explanation I'd written about benefits and disadvantages of both sides, deciding instead to focus on two issues that interested me.

STATUS: 

There is a certain amount of status that comes with acceptance by a traditional publisher, and this step is taken by writers as an affirmation that their writing is worthy. In exchange, for access to the production and marketing channels publishers have in place, writers surrender a certain amount of autonomy. The long list of writers rejected by the establishment who later attained success also shows publishers aren't infallible. 

Choosing to publish via the independent route can be viewed as a slightly inferior way of achieving publication chosen by those whose work has been, or would be, rejected by traditional publishers. This attitude is more prevalent in the UK than in the US, but is changing as more writers, known and unknown, take control of publishing their work. As an independent writer/publisher you’re an entrepreneur who takes responsibility for every decision - a liberating and terrifying experience.

SALES:

This is something that isn’t guaranteed whichever route you take. Publishing houses drop authors who don’t sell. Books published independently won’t sell if their work isn’t up to standard, whether the flaws lie in plot, character, or editing. 

Complaints about the lack of professional standards in many independently published works are, sadly, often justified, but the world is full of things we think are no good, and negative rants are a waste of time and energy. As far as rubbish goes, why discriminate against books? I’m aware that foisting lousy novels on the public isn’t the best practice - after all, why add to the waste in the world - but like fast food, no-one can force you to buy.

If you write because you are inspired, and publishing independently fulfills a desire, that’s brilliant. If you are searching for readers to share your stories with, I wish you the best of luck. However, if you hope to produce the next blockbuster, the market will judge your work, and you might, at a certain point, have to follow another dream. Nonetheless, with the opportunities offered by independent publishing, at least you can say you gave it a shot!

Writing Update

On May 11th, the lovely Norah Colvin, who shares her love of education and life on her inspirational blog, ‘Live Love Laugh Learn . . . Create the possibilities’ nominated me for the Versatile Bloggers Award. 
                                                            

Thank you, Norah, I’m honoured. I find these awards a generous way to highlight and share blogs with others.

The rules of the Versatile Blogger Award are:

Thank the person who gave you this award: Thank you, Norah – sending you lots of hugs!
Include a link to their blog: http://norahcolvin.com/  
Nominate 15 bloggers.
Tell the person who nominated you 7 things about yourself.

Okay, Norah, here goes!

7 RANDOM THINGS ABOUT ME.

I lose pens constantly. The ballpoint community conspires to deprive me of these useful, but elusive, writing tools.


The Wire is my favourite television series of all time.

Love the scent of Mysore Sandalwood soap

One of my goals is to have my blog done and dusted by Monday night, ready to upload first thing Tuesday morning - never yet achieved.

I can almost live without chocolate & coffee despite how painful the thoughts of such deprivation are. My addiction is to sugar.


I get stuck listening to certain albums – currently it’s Bastille’s Bad Blood.

I love mountain views: from the top looking down, or at the bottom looking up -either will do.



MY 15 NOMINEES:

Nominees! Feel free to accept or decline – I’m sure many of you have been nominated by others before – I’m nominating you because I enjoy reading your blogs, and hope others will too!


Squid McFinnigan: squidmcfinnigan.blogspot.co.uk
Zee Southcombe: http://zeesouthcombe.com/
Michelle Stanley: http://writer-way.blogspot.co.uk/

Ellen  Mulholland: http://thisgirlclimbstrees.weebly.com

Vijay Nallawala: http://www.bipolarindia.com/

 

Thank you, Norah, this has been fun!                                               


Today’s Haiku
time stretches becomes
elastic - circles round - snaps
me back into now

Useful Links:
Every single link listed above is useful!

I’d love it if you popped over to Wattpad and read any of my posted stories...just click on the links to the right.

Join me on Twitter at: teagankearney@modhaiku  

Thanks for visiting my blog, and please do leave a comment.
To all story lovers out there, good reading, and to those of you who write, good writing.



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Apart from writing, I'm compiling a bucket list of places I'd like to  visit...from Iceland to Hawaii and onwards....
         

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