Questions, Questions

Crossposted to the Deadline Dames! There are giveaways and tons of other cool stuff. Check us out!

First, the news! The Jill Kismet series is spotlighted during January over at Barnes & Noble. And I am considering–only considering, mind you–how to turn the Squirrel!Terror chronicles into a paper book. (I have to look at what editing, formatting, and a cover would cost and decide if it’s worth the time investment.) I’ve also spent the last couple weeks talking with Audiobook People about pronunciations for the Valentine series. Tres exciting!

So this morning, I had no idea what I would do for a Friday post. I made the mistake oferm, had the bright thought of asking for questions on Twitter and Facebook. I only have time for two or three answers, so here goes:

* Steelflower and Cover Models. Many of you asked about Steelflower. I appreciate the interest, and there are two more Kaia books in my head. (One deals with Redfist’s homeland; the other deals with G’maihallan under siege.) The problem is, I am contracted pretty tightly for other things. Kaia is on the back burner for the time being.

Many of you also ask me about cover models, for example, the lovely lady featured on the Strange Angels covers. I am not the right person to ask, because I have about as much control over the covers as I do over the weather in Russia. The best way to get that question answered is to ask the publisher, they’ll be more than happy to help you out.

* ARCs. I get tons of requests for Advance Reader Copies. I hate to break it to you, but I don’t generally get ARCs of anything other than the very first in a series, and I normally only get two or three of those. When I do get copies of my books, it’s usually slightly after bookstores get them, or, more often, when bookstores put them on the shelf. I also, as a matter of policy, do not send out e-versions for review. (Blame the e-pirates for this. Seriously.) If you have a review blog, if you want a review copy, please contact the publisher of the series in question. Ask for their marketing department, explain that you’d like to get on the list for review copies, and see what happens.

* Broken stories. The most interesting question was from friend and Reader Monica V:

Might be neat to hear your take on whether or not a story can be “fixed.” I say sometimes? No.

Sometimes yes, sometimes no. It depends on where it’s broken. If it’s a question of the story being too thin to hold up the amount of wordcount you’re expecting, the fix can be turning it into a short, a novella, or a vignette rather than a novel. It can also be a signal that you need more conflict, or you need to discover the deeper conflicts and motivations that are already there.

If it’s a question of one writing oneself into a corner, then the fix is a little harder. If I hit one of these (and believe me, I have) I usually set the story aside, work on something else, and sleep on the problem. Usually, upon waking the next morning, I find my unconscious has been busily chewing over the whole thing and will either present me with a relatively elegant solution that takes into account little details I didn’t remember writing before (always fun) or a less-elegant solution that involves me getting rid of a chunk of text.

If the latter is called for (which is infrequent, thank goodness), here’s a tip: save the chunk you’ve lopped out in a separate file. I title mine “title of work BITS”, and stick it in the same folder with the master draft I’m working on. Sometimes that chunk is just in the wrong place because I got excited; sometimes, with a little alteration, it can be pressed into service elsewhere. Stick it in the graveyard and let it ferment, don’t totally erase it. (And don’t ask me how I learned that unless you’re prepared for a bitter, bitter rant. Heh.)

Of course, this presupposes that a story is truly “broken” instead of laziness or fear being the problem. How can you tell if a story is broken?

This is incredibly difficult, because you are too close to it to see it clearly. The only way to figure out when a story is broken is to have practice in finishing stories, so you can understand your process a little better. Practice will help you distinguish between a truly-broken story (one you cannot write because there is no fixing it) and a story you need to work around (characters without motivations, motivations that don’t make sense, plot holes, plot painted into a corner, characters behaving without rhyme or reason, the list is endless) to find the proper way of telling. Each story is unique, your process is unique, so you are going to have to practice to learn the art of distinguishing “broken”.

Generally, I try to rule out everything else before I decide a story is irretrievably gone. I tend to view a roadblock in a story as a case of user error instead of bad programming, so to speak. To use another analogy, I treat it as if the story is being broadcast, but my decoding of the transmission is off in some way that causes error or, more frustratingly, creep. Once I’ve ruled all that out, and once I’ve banged my head against the wall of the story enough, I’ll either ask for help from my trusty beta, or I’ll move on. There are stories I thought were broken, but when I come back to them on my periodic runs through the graveyard I’ll find out they were actually pretty okay, I just needed time/distance/a little more maturity to successfully deal with them.

Whew. That was a long, circuitous answer. It’s an interesting and difficult question, with many layers. (Like ogres. Or pie.) I’ll probably come back to it later and chew it over some more, but I’ve got to jet.

Tune in next week for talking about fight scenes! That was another question this morning, and one that deserves a whole post to itself…

Over and out.

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