It is now the second day of December. Nanowrimo has been over for two days. The last time I looked, my word counter said I would be finished on Dec 11. What happened?
First, I ran into a brain block. I got my characters into a situation I just could not extricate them from. I could not go forward. I could not go back. I decided to read a couple other author’s books.
The first book I started looked interesting. It was “Patriot Dawn: the Resistance Rises” by Max Velocity. Yes, that is the author’s name. No, I don’t think that was the name he was given when he was born although I could be wrong.
The story has numerous interesting possibilities, but I am not writing a book review. I am writing about what I have learned about writing.
My initial observation of the book was “Show, don’t tell” wasn’t on the author’s study list. The vast majority of the book was telling, sometimes as many as ten, twelve, or more consecutive paragraphs of telling followed by one or two sentences of showing. Actually, it reminded me of the first three books I attempted, before I was made aware of the ‘show, don’t tell’ rule.
A quick examination of one section of the book had 43 straight paragraphs of telling. Sorry, Mr. Velocity, this is not a book I plan to recommend, other than to use as an illustration of how to successfully break the “show, don’t tell” rule.
Another rule that got mangled if not actually broken was character development. Granted, the author did give the reader a little insight into the characters, but the characters were often painted with a roller or a 4″ brush. They were devoid of detail. Hmmmmm……where had I heard that before?
The second book I started was “The Silent Deal: the Card Game, Book 1″ by Levi Stack.
Mr. Stack, unlike Mr. Velocity, seems to have at least read about the “show don’t, tell” rule. He has, however, broken a cardinal rule introduced to me in the first critique performed on The Alberta Connection, a Ryce Dalton novel —- don’t start a novel with a prologue.
A prologue is simply an introduction, and could better be used as back story later in the novel. Mr. Stack drags the reader through five pages of back story and then jumps fourteen years to introduce the reader to one of the co-heros. In The Alberta Connection, I had three pages of what I considered a well-developed introduction of my hero. End result? No prologue, but I used every word from the prologue later in the book.
I enjoyed The Silent Deal as an illustration of technique of how to write, and in some cases, how not to write.
One of the critiques of The Alberta Connect was that it was hard to read because I frequently used sentences with three or four thoughts within thirty or more words. (The previous sentence contains thirty words, if you are counting). The suggested length for a sentence is twenty words or less.
Why? First, to contain the possible ideas in a sentence to only one. This will allow the reader the opportunity to take a mental and physical breath and for a brief moment consider what is happening in the story.
Taking the words per sentence example to the next step, the reader needs time to breathe between thoughts (sentences) in a paragraph. Far too often, in my humble opinion, Mr. Stark loads up the paragraph with too many ideas. The reader is gasping for breath trying to keep up.
I subconsciously split many single paragraphs into half and sometimes thirds. In my mind, the story flowed better, and details were more easily perceived. Suddenly, a tree could been seen where previously only the forest was visible.
It is obvious to me that “Second Cousins” will need a re-write to incorporate new techniques learned since the first word of the first paragraph was written. In my haste to complete Namowrimo, I neglected two critical books suggested by my friend. I plan to focus on class material as I struggle to transform yet another learning experience into something worthwhile to read. Yes, I might be almost home with 50,000 words, but there are hundreds of things to fix before those words reach the quality my friend expects from my pen. I plan that she will not be disappointed.