This is a Good Book Thursday, April 25, 2019

I ordered four actual paper books this week, which is rare for me, but it’s spring in NJ and reading by iPad in the sun is no fun. Also I wanted them on paper. I gotThe Nimble Cook, Gertie Sews Jiffy Dresses (spiral bound to lie flat with patterns in an envelope on the back cover!), and two graphic novels by Emily Carroll, When I Arrived At The Castle and Through the Woods. And then, of course, there’s the new book on my Kindle, A Natural History of Dragons, which Book Bub had for $1.99, so I had to get it. Also on Amazon for $1.99: The Goblin Emperor, which a lot of Argh people loved.

What’s new in your reading life? (Or old, we don’t judge.)

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Questionable: How Do You Start a Memoir?

Carol asked:
I have my MIL’s memoir draft. My question – Would it be a good opening for the memoir to have a “scene” of somewhat dramatic moment in her life? Then go from there. Make it a story of her story?

No.  Also no, and please no.  (I don’t quite understand “make it a story of her story” so I’m ignoring that for now.) Those flash forward teasers (on any narrative, not just memoir) are basically the author saying, “I know this is a really boring beginning, so I’m going to give you this to hook you, and then you’re going to have to slog through the rest.” 

The question I need you to answer before I can tell you how to start this memoir is “How are you structuring this?”

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Questionable: Is Collaborating on a Novel a Good Idea?

Danielle asked:
A friend recently approached me about collaborating. I think we could be great together but she is not a writer. She is a devoted reader and I trust her judgment. . . . What advice or resources would you have for someone taking on a partner? I don’t think she’ll be interested in the grunt work but in the plotting and world building.

In your case as described, I would strongly advise not to.  In fact, run away.

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This is a Good Book Thursday, April 18, 2019

I think my reading mojo is off. I seem to be obsessively re-reading instead of looking at the new books I have. Comfort reading, even though the days here are now beautiful and sunny, and taxes are over, and there’s nothing stressful on the horizon except finishing my damn book. And yet . . .

What did read this week that was comforting? Or interesting? Or exciting? Or just plain good?

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Questionable: How Do You Move a Story Through Time?

Colognegrrl asked:
I am presently working on a manuscript that has been giving me hell. I know where I’m coming from and where I want to end, but in between are a lot of problems. The main challenge is to fill the time gaps, you know like “this scene is on Sunday and the next important thing happens on Thursday, but what did she do in between? She must have met the guy, she must have done this and that, it’s too boring to tell but how do you take the reader from Sunday to Thursday …?”

This is called a segue and it’s used all the time. The easiest way is to dump everything into a clause: 

“For the next five days, Jane tried to pretend she didn’t care, throwing herself into her work, but on Thursday . . . “

If stuff happens during that time, you may need a full sentence: 

“Jane snapped at her mother on Sunday, savaged a client on Monday, kicked a dog on Tuesday, wept helplessly at work on Wednesday, and then fired her assistant on Thursday when he said, ‘This has to stop.’ Except he was right, so she rehired him and then that afternoon went to see Richard.”  Worst case scenario: It takes an entire paragraph as summary.

The key is to find out if there’s any info in that five days that must be on the page.  If there isn’t, stick with the basics:

“Five days later, Jane . . . “

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Questionable: How Do You Start and Develop Subplots?

K asked:
Do you start out knowing all of the subplots? Or do they tumble and bump into each other along the way? Are there certain ways you like to develop subplots? Or do they just come to you?  Are they villain driven?

As I believe I’ve said before, I don’t recommend my method. I never know what the hell I’m doing in the beginning.  I just write.  Characters show up.  Some of them are interesting enough they develop their own plot lines.  Some of those I have to put the kibosh on because they’re cluttering up the story (good-bye, Mort).  Some of them echo the main plot or act as a foil to the main plot, and they deepen what’s happening in the story as a whole, so I keep them (hello, Max and Button).  So for the first discovery draft, I just let them happen. After that, as always, I analyze. And to analyze I go back to basic plot structure.

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This is a Good Book Thursday, April 11, 2019

I’ve been on a Rex Stout binge (comfort reading), but the sun has come out and the ice is gone, so I’m going to try some of the ten thousand new-to-me books everybody here has loved. Thinking about either The Goblin Emperor or Murderbot, since they’re pretty much 100% Argh Approved, but I can always use more recommendations.

So what have you read lately that was really good?

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Questionable: Can a Love Interest Be an Antagonist?

K asked:
“I have a question about villains – and layering them so that they engage with each other and the heroine. Some say the hero (love interest) is the main antagonist, others say there needs to be a stronger antagonist because he’s not one by the end. What say you? What have you found works the best?  Do more antagonists pop up as you write? How do you like to layer them? Do you have a limit/rule that you like or use?

Let’s start with the basics.

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Questionable: What’s the Difference Between YA and Adult Fiction?

Johnna asked:
“What makes YA novels so popular nowadays with adults? And is the line between adult and YA fiction really there anymore, especially in fantasy and science fiction? I know that you aren’t a YA author, but with Nita, for example – is there a reason why your book couldn’t/wouldn’t be in a high school library? (other than perhaps sex scenes?)

As Cate said in the comments, the big determiner of YA is the age of the protagonist. A YA protagonist does not necessarily mean that the book is a YA, but an older protagonist pretty much means it isn’t.   YA readers have too much adult PoV in their lives already; they want to read about people like them solving problems and making connections.  The focus is also likely to be on different things. YA dystopias are different from adult dystopias; YA romantic conflicts are different from adult romantic conflicts. It reminds me of something somebody said about the difference between pop and country music: pop is about falling in love and country is about working on your second divorce.  YA fiction is about becoming an adult and adult fiction is dealing with being an adult.

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Questionable: Can You Put a Death in a Rom Com?

S asked:
“What do you think about death in the romantic comedy? Not the hero or heroine, but someone else who matters. Does this make it something other than romcom? Would readers revolt? Have been studying 4 Weddings and a Funeral – the writer was apparently advised to include the funeral to balance the sweet. . . . Had similar thoughts about the movie The Apartment which was tragic but listed as a romcom. It’s for my WIP – my critique grip is squeamish about a death I’m planning in a book that’s part of a romcom series and I’m wondering if it’s maybe too much for my reader?”

Well, first define “romantic comedy.”  I’ve never thought The Apartmentwas a romantic comedy, so I’m no help there.  My basic definition is that it’s a story of a romance that ends happily and is funny.  If you can make a death work in that context, it’s a romcom.  Obviously, there’s some calibration in there, but death is not antithetical to romance or comedy.

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