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Friday, April 8, 2011

So Many Good Books, So Little Time

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I have a pretty daunting "To Be Read" pile (OK, it's a bookcase ... see pic below). The other day I finally finished reading THE WEE FREE MEN by Terry Pratchett, which is an awesome and hilarious book by the way! (Also, I just saw that it might be made into a movie - squee!) Once I was finished, I had to pick a new book to read.

My eyes skimmed the titles that I acquired in January at the ALA Conference in San Diego, plus several others that I just hadn't gotten around to reading yet. Was I in the mood for another fantasy? Or should I choose a light romance? Or maybe historical fiction? I had so many choices, and it took me a while to finally make a decision. (Plus I keep buying books for some reason - I should probably stop doing that.)

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My choice was inspired by what I felt would help me most on my WiP. My novel has several elements: fantasy, romance, humor, a contemporary setting. I just introduced a love interest for my main character, so I figure reading a romance will help spark some ideas for making those first awkward moments feel genuine. I also really want the reader to feel what my character is feeling and, most importantly, stay interested.

The book I chose is ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS by the super awesome Stephanie Perkins. I've only read the first two chapters but I am already getting a lot of ideas. I tend to write through a scene too quickly. Stephanie takes us through the scenes more slowly, and the reader learns so much during a simple scene about Anna's first morning at a boarding school in Paris. The actual scene may only be about 30 minutes in real time, but in that time we learn about the other characters, their relationships and the conflicts just by Anna's observations in the cafeteria. And we get those first few awkward moments - yay!

When I'm writing, it's like there's a movie playing in my head and I'm writing down what I see. Perhaps my scenes feel too quick because I just don't want to hit "rewind" and describe the scene in more detail. Maybe I'm just afraid the reader will get bored and want to get back to the action. Or maybe I just don't know how to describe the scene better to give the reader better insight into the story.

Another problem I've been having is how do you get from one main scene to the next? Do you write the scenes you know first and then go back to the filler scenes later? Or can you write straight through?

There's probably no real answer to this. You just write what comes out and/or try to plan with a detailed outline. That's why I read other books for inspiration. So far, I haven't figured out how to make the story flow naturally.

Any advice? What writing problems have you struggled and have you found ways to overcome them? What motivates you when choosing which book to read next?

Here is about HALF of my TBR pile (notice that it's two rows deep). Most of these I grabbed off the "Free ARCs" tables at the ALA Conference so I'm not sure they're my style, but a lot of them have awesome reviews and I'm excited to read them. Plus I just got a book in the mail today (A Touch Mortal by Leah Clifford, who is doing my 10-page critique), and I will be buying one on Saturday when I go to Cindy Pon's FURY OF THE PHOENIX book signing. Eep!!


  1. I think you're right, and there is no answer to this. Some directors only ever film a movie straight through from beginning to end. Some film scenes out of order. Personally, I write straight through. Sometimes, I will go back and add things in, but everything plays out linearly in my head, so that's how I write it.

  2. Hey there Keriann! I haven't been on twitter today (self-imposed isolation in hopes to get some wordage in). I told you I'd RT this, so I might pop in there tomorrow and do that (though I fear it will suck me in--lol).

    It's like Andrew said, there's really not a right or wrong way to write a book. You just write, and figure out what works for you. I used to have a crit partner who wrote tons of diff scenes from diff parts of the story. Then she'd have to go back later and write transitional scenes to tie them together.

    It worked for her, but I could never write like that. I have to plow straight through it. All that matters is you get out that book so you can start the revision process. That's when you piece it and polish it. Great post!

  3. @Andrew - I think I will try the swiss cheese method for now. I'm sure I'll develop my skills the more I write and hopefully will be able to write straight through someday. That's my goal.

    @Anita - You're so sweet! Thanks for helping me promote my blog. I'm still learning how I write and I guess that's the hard/frustrating part sometimes. I just hope to get to the end somehow and have a finished MS. I would be so disappointed in myself if I just gave up. But I don't think I will let myself give up so that gives me hope :). Plus I really like my story and I want to tell it!

  4. Hi Keriann!

    It's always reassuring to read about the struggles of other writers! I'm a go-straight-through kind of gal, but this makes me end up writing long. Really looooong. I include too many filler scenes and then I have to cut, cut, cut HUGE chunks! I've learned to look at those scenes, figure out where there's vital info, and insert it elsewhere.

    I think this will always be an issue for me. I've just learned how to better handle it. That might be a way to think about these kinds of problems-- write in whatever way feels natural to you. You can always make changes once you've gotten it all down! Good luck!

  5. The title of this post is the number one dilhema of my life lol. Though I think your TBR pile exceeds mine at the moment. Have fun reading!