Guest Post for J.E. Purrazzi

Hello friends!

The wonderful J.E. Purrazzi asked me to post on her blog for her community week! I chose to talk about the semi-controversial topic of adding themes/messages to your story!! Go check it out:

J.E. Purrazzi’s blog (www.jillanepurrazzi.com/blog)

Have a great week!

 

10 Things You May Not Know About Me

So I’ve been meeting a lot of new authors and writers online. And some of you may be thinking, “Who the heck is E.B. Dawson?” So here are some fun “writerly” facts about me:

1. I have moved 24 times in 27 years and have lived in 4 different countries.

2. I dream very vividly (sometimes lucidly). I had nightmares a lot when I was little and I learned to give them happy endings to help me go back to sleep. That is really where my storytelling began. Even now, a lot of my stories were either inspired by dreams, or have dream related content grafted in.

Continue reading “10 Things You May Not Know About Me”

Who Are You Writing For?

One of my best friends just finished “Into the Void.” She texted me saying, “Never stop writing, even if you are just writing for me.” She got it. That validated hundreds (maybe thousands?) of hours of work.

It’s a huge accomplishment just to finish a novel. It is. But the market can be deadly. For a time, I queried my first book over and over to agent after agent–all with the same response. That’s when you start to feel crazy. Maybe this book is worthless drivel and I am deceiving myself. But that’s the thing…I know that it is not! I have (sadly) read several books that are worthless drivel and yet somehow they got an agent and a publisher.

Continue reading “Who Are You Writing For?”

Fiction Validation

Thank you Joanna Penn for validating me. In my last brief post on the “Self-Publishing Success Summit” I talked about how I seem to take much longer writing then these non-fiction writers. And Joanna Penn just agreed with me.

According to her, fiction takes more executive willpower, more research, and more patience.

She also pointed out that your speed per book will probably increase as you go. (She’s on book ten and has trimmed months off her time). She pointed out that books in series go much faster because you’ve already established characters etc. And there is a difference between writing “on the side” and writing as a full-time career. When it is your full time income and you have publication deadlines you are driven to get things done.

Self-Publishing Success Summit: Initial Thoughts

So, I am currently attending the “Self-Publishing Success Summit” through Self-Publishing School and hosted by Chandler Bolt. There are something like 40 speakers over ten days and it is all online and completely free, so I thought: what’s there to lose? I like to learn new things. (By the way, there’s still to jump in if you want to…)

Now, we are only on day two, so there is clearly a lot to come. But I thought I’d put some of my thoughts down as I try to process what I’ve seen so far.

First of all, I am very impressed with the down-to-earth, genuineness, and integrity of the speakers. I honestly didn’t know much about any of them before the summit began, but I have very much enjoyed hearing what they have to say.

Second, I am realizing that this summit is mostly geared toward non-fiction writers. Granted, they did vaguely imply that once or twice at the beginning. I think there is only one person specifically addressing fiction writing. I thought, “It doesn’t matter. Writing is writing.” Well, yes and no. I have picked up a lot of good advice so far, but at the same time I couldn’t help contrasting my writing process with theirs…which leads me to…

Thirdly, I am ridiculously intimidated by these guys. The speakers I have heard so far crank out huge chunks of writing in short amounts of time. They talk about productivity and focus and getting through that first draft as fast as you can and I’m like…whaaat? Granted, I’ve always known I’m a bit of a turtle, but these guys make me sound like a sloth. I am an advocate of what I call the “soup method.” I like to let my characters and plots simmer until the full flavor comes out. But when I think about it, I write non-fiction very differently. I do think if I were ever to write a non-fiction book I would plough through it much faster. I like my “soup method” and I don’t think it makes me a bad writer.

But it is worth examining my writing style and habits…there is always room for growth.

Endings: the Cliffhanger vs. the Payoff Part 1

I am excited about this one. In fact, I may even split it into two posts because I think it is worth talking about!

How to end your novel…

I have to confess that I didn’t have much of an issue with endings in my early days of writing, but that was a problem in itself. Usually, if I made it past the climax and had entered any phase of falling action/resolution I considered myself to be Charles Dickens himself and consequently halted the story as painlessly as possible, not entirely unlike a guillotine executioner. Moreover, this habit often left unanswered questions, loose ends, and unresolved conflict which I told myself was all the better- motivating my readers to read the next book (if there was a next book).

To my credit, I often went back and eventually changed these cruelly decapitated endings because they didn’t “taste right.” Aside from a few exceptions, cliffhangers never sit well with me as an author. That might be because they drive me crazy as a reader.

Minimal internet research will make any author aware that the audience really does not like a cliffhanger ending. There were a few years there where I was fooled-mainly because many of the movies and television shows that were being hailed by critics utilized cliffhangers to get their viewers addicted. But as I delved into some of them I found they had an unanticipated effect: they were wearying. What’s more, the initial flavor of anticipation and adrenaline wore off as the plot was revealed and time passed and that anticipation and adrenaline was replaced by…nothing. There was little lasting impact, and virtually no desire to go back and repeat the experience because I already knew all the answers to the questions that had kept the experience going.

In direct contrast, the television shows and movies that I find myself endlessly re-watching are the ones that delve into the characters, often take time with the plot, create a thorough experience, and finish with a satisfying resolution. It’s the difference between fast food and a full course meal (why is she using so many food metaphors?!).

The abbreviated, cliffhanger endings were appealing to me because they were easier. I have found that crafting a satisfying resolution to a complex-plot story is one of the most difficult parts of writing a novel. And I am far from having mastered it. I have heard endings are difficult because they are false. The characters’ lives don’t just end (unless you killed them all off). Life will go on for them. Your job as an author is to craft a satisfying goodbye. In life unresolved (or unexpected) goodbyes are the worst. Don’t put your reader through that!

In Part 2 of this post we will examine several different species of ending to make note of the fact that not all endings are the same (nor should they be):

  1. The Return of the King
  2. Ender’s Game
  3. Serenity
  4. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty/ Midnight in Paris

Why I Don’t Love “Downton Abbey”

I’ve heard about it for years, of course. My sister even showed me an episode a couple of years ago, but I wasn’t hooked. But recently, at the insistence of my sister-in-law, I decided to give it a chance and I took the plunge into season 1.

I am on season 3 now and although there are things I appreciate about the show, I have been a number of complaints.

  1. Characters
    1. One of my excuses to my sister-in-law (from the 1.5 episodes I had seen) was that there were too many characters. She scoffed at me, and for good reason. Ten minutes into episode one I understood clearly who everyone was. I still think there is an issue with the characters, but that it is quality and not quantity. My general impression so far is that (with a few exceptions) most of the characters exist as pieces of the writer’s dramatic puzzle. Therefore they are motivated not out of their own character, but in order to fulfill certain pieces of drama. The difference can be very subtle, but for me it is extremely irksome. Even in season 1 I began rolling my eyes at the characters’ choices.
    2. And I want to add that (again with a few exceptions) the show gives little insight into any of these many characters. In spite of all the layers of complicated dialogue, plot twists, intrigue, and romance, many of the characters maintain very flimsy shadows. The main exceptions I can think of are O’Brien (I kind of love her) and Edith (with the jury still out on Cora, Thomas, and Mrs. Patmore). Not only have they been the most consistent, but they both have fascinating layers to their characters.
  2. Drama
    1. I suppose I was warned by the description of the show that it is a bit like a classy soap opera, so maybe I shouldn’t complain. But I see the potential the show could have had if it had steered away from the “soap opera” aspects. There are plenty of trials and tribulations in real life. I can’t help but compare it to Dickens’ “Bleak House,” which contains plenty of suspense, drama, and intrigue and a host of characters, but pulls it off with sophistication and rich characters.
  3. Missing Pieces
    1. My final complaint has to do with odd storytelling. At times there are important scenes that seem to take place “offstage” and I can’t understand why they didn’t include them. One example is when Lady Sibyl is first shown at a political rally. They make an abrupt reference like, “I wish she wouldn’t go to these things” which is supposed to inform the audience that she has been interested in politics for some time. But it comes across as a little jolting. With all the hours of screen time up to this point it seems like there could have been a smoother introduction. And this occurs multiple times with the development of storylines and/or relationships. Some are done well, but many are a bit bumpy. In the development of one major couple’s relationship I found myself unconvinced. I still have no idea why she suddenly started liking him.

Although I want to like the show, those three factors can make it difficult. The costumes are beautiful, the details about the time period and how the house is run are fascinating, and I even appreciate the social and political perspectives of the time (especially dealing with servants, the aristocracy, and issues that come up at the hospital). I may continue to watch. But for now this show remains mediocre for me when it could have been great.

Do You Have to Compromise Imagination for Smart SciFi?

So I bought my dad a book for Christmas. We are both big scifi fans. I have been since my sister’s boyfriend gave me a copy of “Ender’s Game” in eighth grade. Although my dad always liked Star Trek and Star Wars, but I don’t think he really subscribed to the genre until the last few years.

I want to add that my dad is one of the smartest people I know. He studied engineering in college. He was a pilot and aircraft mechanic. He has many hobbies: carpentry, mechanics, welding, dirt biking, and generally being brilliant. So I really shouldn’t have been surprised by our recent conversation.

The book I gave him for Christmas was Ray Bradbury’s “The Martian Chronicles.” I hadn’t read it, so it was a bit of a risk, but the reviews were all promising. He read it pretty quickly, but wasn’t crazy about it, although he admitted to interesting elements. He had a hard time describing it at first and finally landed on: “It seems more mythological than science fiction.” I didn’t understand until I read it.

I still hold that it’s science fiction, but I can see where my dad is coming from. Bradbury is imaginative. He runs close to fantasy. He does not focus on the science so much. He envisions the places future science will take us and then focuses on the condition of humanity as a consequence. The science is more like the setting than an important part of the plot. I can understand that. But my dad clearly prefers the nitty gritty smart talk.

Don’t get me wrong, I do too. That was one thing I loved about one of my favorite shows, “Stargate: SG-1.” I felt like they really made advanced theoretical concepts easy to grasp. They made me feel smart. And whether or not all of their science was on par, they definitely worked hard at it.

But when it comes down to it I think I’m a bit more like Bradbury. I’m a philosopher at heart. I love the possibilities that new technologies open up. I want to focus on the ideas, the people, the impacts on society. I want to dream big and wacky without having to back it up with a dissertation.

So I think the answer to my own question is “No!” But you do have to recognize that it may narrow your audience a little bit. (I just want to add that even though he failed to impress my dad, Bradbury was a huge success!)

What do you think?