Sunday, March 22, 2009

Books That Are Helping Me

This week I've managed to fit in two very important scenes that will help to build the tension in my book. It doesn't sound like a lot, but this conflict is central to the story, and I didn't figure that out until I was three quarters of the way through the first draft. That is what editing for, but the one thing I know I have going for the book is my pacing. And so when I change things, add scenes, and move things around, I naturally worry about my pacing. I think these changes are going to work though.

This week I've started reading two books, (nonfiction) and read a fiction book. They have all helped me a lot. When I read nonfiction I tend to read several at a time. I'm not all that into nonfiction books, but I go through phases--I'm actually reading three at the moment, but one has nothing to do with writing.

My fiction book that I read was The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley. She's been one of my favorite writers (top ten) since I was in middle school. I love her strong women characters, and the fantasy worlds she creates. As I read this book again for the bazillionth time (I'm a rereader), I noticed that she has a pattern to her stories. She starts out with a woman who is living a fairly normal existence. Then something happens that throws her out of that normal world. She may suddenly be in a new country, be hurt by someone or have responsibility thrown on her. The middle of the book focuses with her dealing with the adjustments of her new world, and learning to control the new powers she has discovered as a result. Finally she goes on a journey or fights something virtually alone. With her special magical powers there is a massive magic scene in which the forces of opposition are overthrown.

She uses this basic plot in Beauty, The Blue Sword, Deerskin, Hero and the Crown, The Chalice, and Sunshine.

And yet I love everyone of these books, and they are all very, very different. She is masterful at building the different worlds that allow these very different characters to exist and have their problems. Every book is unique, and you care about each character. The obstacles they face are different, but they all follow the same pattern.

This may have come to my focus because I'm in the middle of reading a great book: Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell. This book is just what I needed to help me really focus on fixing the right things in the editing process. It is a good book, full of examples, but the thing I like the best about it are all of the questions he keeps asking about the characters. It is helping me make my conflict more focused, and hopefully my book more enjoyable.

The other book I just started is Hooked by Les Edgerton. Honestly I'm only a few pages into this, but it seems like a solid read, full of good advice, and similar questions to Plot and Structure. I'm also planning on reading The First Five Pages in the next few weeks.

My husband, who is very supportive of my writing, bought me these books for my birthday. He really knew how stuck I was in the editing process, but these books are helping me look at what needs to be fixed, and giving me suggestions (in the form of questions) on what to do in order to fix them.

How did your writing week go?


Cindy said...

Glad to hear you writing week went better (at least in the sense that you made progress by reading other helpful books). My writing week was just wonderful. I am inching ever closer to finishing the second book in my trilogy. I think if I had several uninterrupted hours to work on it every day this week, I could finish it but I am not sure that's going to happen. We'll see! Have a great week!

jessie said...

I am with you on reading a few non-fiction books at once. Just not quite so captivating as fiction...but necessary. And so many books follow patterns, and we can learn SO much from those patterns. And mostly, I think, because those patterns are so familiar to the readers. The story can be unique while the pattern is not necessarily unique. My writing has picked up recently-thank goodness. Good luck!