It’s All In The Writing, Folks and the Week Ahead in Reviews

Standard

To prepare for my time at GRL in Atlanta in October, I am trying to get ahead in my reviews for September and October.  And that means reading tons of books and of course writing about them.  And books read in volume will highlight the most common flaws I am seeing across the boards from person reading stacks of booksauthors seasoned and brand new to publishing.  Surprisingly it’s not one sided.  Just yesterday I finished a book from a favorite author of mine only to get to the end and find that not only did the story not have an ending, it was missing a hugely anticipated “aha” moment.  I was astonished, and quite a bit frustrated to say the least.

I don’t know what is going on but these same issues are everywhere and I am not the only one who has noticed.  Currently I am working on my next mini rant “The Case of the Missing Aha Moment”.  It will pair up nicely with my mini rant on missing endings.  *shakes head*  Really there is no excuse.  The most immediate remedies to these issues that pop into my brain are 1) get a great editor and 2) super concrit partners or betas.  Both could and should point out issues such as these in a person’s writing.

For a humorous look  at writing do’s and mostly don’ts visit  http://tom.mcallister.ws/?p=868. It’s Tom McAllister’s 107 Ironclad Rules for Writers Who Want to Be Better at Writing.  Some I agree with and of course, some I don’t.  But they are fun, and thought provoking.  Here are the first six to give you a sample:

1. Write every day. Except on days when you don’t feel like writing that much and you don’t have anything interesting to say.

2. Never write when you’re too hot. Beads of sweat are ideas leaking from your brain.

3. Nobody really eats turnips. They are a ridiculous food. Characters cannot eat turnips.

4. Hypnosis is the writer’s greatest tool.

5. Skinny people are often the cause of conflict. Fat people are often the solution. NO MEDIUM SIZED PEOPLE.

6. If you must write about the travails of being a writer, at least give yourself a glass eye or a cyborg hand or something.

If you want to read more, check out the link above.  Next week we will talk about the new words added to the dictionary.  Srsly?

Now on to the very exciting week ahead.  Next week I start on the third series in the offerings from the Pulp Friction authors.  This is the Triple Threat series from L.E. Harner.  It’s menage, it’s kinky, and its wonderful.   And drumroll please…….Kendall McKenna is also releasing her long awaited sequel to Strength of the Pack.  It’s titled Strength of the Wolf and it releases Sept. 6th from MLR Press.  To celebrate, Scattered Thoughts is hosting a 2 part guest blog with Kendall McKenna and a two book contest for a lucky person who comments during the contest time.  Might even be another surprise giveaway too, more about that later.  So many great things to look forward to.  Mark your calendars, and check them twice.  Hope to see you all here all week long.

Monday, Sept. 2:                   Coliseum Square by Lynn Lorenz

Tuesday, Sept. 3:                   Triple Threat (Triple Threat #1) by L.E. Harner

Wed., Sept. 4:                          Contest Announcement and Dates

Thurs., Sept 5:                        Kendall McKenna’s Guest Blog – Part 1

Friday, Sept. 6:                       Strength of the Pack  by Kendall McKenna – Review (reposted)

Sat., Sept. 7:                            Kendall McKenna’s Guest Blog – Part 2
Winner of first contest announced

For those of you here in the States, have a happy and safe Labor Day weekend.

Its Official, Area 51 Exists! Plus The Week Ahead in Reviews

Standard

alien efaniroswell_e0 wavingIts official,  The government has finally stated that Area 51 exists after all!  The Washington Post reported yesterday that after all these years of speculation and wild reports, Area 51 is a real place.  What a stunning piece of stating the obvious!  Now the government isn’t admitting that those buildings are full of  aliens or spaceships of any kind.  Nope, just saying that hey, those really were the droids you were looking for inside those miles of barbed wire, high security fencing and soldiers.  No one fake Area 51 signknows what prompted this admission after all these years of denial but it is sure to make those believers of UFO’s, conspiracy theorists, and other diehard visionaries of the unknown to press for more information,  a fuller disclosure of exactly what is contained within those buildings the government has hidden away for such a long time.

I hope it’s aliens or spaceships or something wonderful.  Wouldn’t it be great for all those movies from Independence Day to 51 to be right?  Can the X Files Mulder and Scully be finally allowed that the truth really is out there? Can you imagine the pressure to finally let people inside the gates of that most hallowed UFO ground?  I would love to be there just to people watch.  It would be fantastic!

Of course, there is also a more serious downside to this article too.  That of the soldiers and workers stationed  within Area 51 who have been reporting for years that the place has made them ill, most of them tragically so.  And all the while they have been getting sick, they have  also been unable to tell Green alien perplexedpeople where they worked or what they were working on.  Still can’t.  What happens to them?  Government is not addressing that matter either.

I have to admit part of me never wants to see those gates opened to the public.  I love the mystery of it, the imaginations that have been set loose over the years by just the thought of the enigma that Area 51 represents.  I fear the actuality is far more mundane…like weapons from the Cold War or something similar.   I want there always to exist something unknown, something to pull us in, make us think or dream or even fear.  Something that pulls us out of ourselves and into the bigger picture.  Is that so bad?tiny alien

For now the question is moot.  The government has no intension of saying anything further about the matter.  While Area 51 finally exists (duh), as far as the government is concerned that’s it.  Just a sign, folks, ignore the men with the guns beside it.  These are not the droids you are looking for.  Well, you know what they say…..once the alien is out of the spaceship, its hard to cram them back in.  Just ask Orson Wells…..

Now on to the week ahead in reviews.  It is quite the mixed bag.  I am starting the week off with a book that by all accounts should be a must read for all writing classes and workshops as an example of how not to write a story.  From schizophrenic writing styles (more than one actually in one book) to awful characterizations, dialog that makes one cringe and an ending that just stops, well it has it all, just not in a good way.  Read the review just for the excerpts. Remarkable actually when I think about it. Then I am starting on the second group of stories from the Pulp Friction authors, this time Lee Brazil and the Chances Are series,  They are really good, I think you will love them.  I am also working on another mini rant, this time called The Case of the Missing Aha Moment.  I hope to have that one for you by Saturday.  If not, it will slide into next week and I will substitute a review on Saturday instead.

Monday,  Aug. 19:                 Aching For It by Stanley Bennett Clay

Tuesday, Aug. 20:                  Chances Are by Lee Brazil

Wednesday, Aug. 21:           Second Chances Are by Lee Brazil

Thursday, Aug. 22:                Subtle Innuendos by Z. Allora

Friday, Aug. 23:                      Burden by Annmarie McKenna

Saturday, Aug. 24:                The Case of the Missing Aha Moment – a Scattered Thoughts mini rant on writing postponed

The Queen’s Librarian by Carole Cummings

Wait? That Was The Ending? A Writing Mini Rant from Scattered Thoughts

Standard

I don’t know how many times lately I have come to the end of a book and then sat back astonished, thinking “wait, that was the ending?”  Usually I am so dumbfounded that I go back a couple of pages and then forward once more, thinking perhaps I missed something  only to find that, nope, the author really did end it that way. Or not end it as the case may be. No epilogue, no afterword, nothing, just a yawning chasm where the ending should be.

Now I know I am not alone in noticing this.  I do read other peoples reviews and they are saying the same thing.   Blah, blah, blah, the book would have been fine except for the ending, or lack of one.  What the heck is going on here?

Writing basics, people.  Stories should have a strong beginning, a strong middle, and a strong ending.  Not once have I ever read that a wimpy, rushed, or just plain non-existent ending is mandatory or even to be desired.  Is this something new in writing I am not aware of?

Now I am not talking about serial stories with the expected and even anticipated cliffhangers.  I am even going to dismiss from this rant those books with dangling plot ends that are a part of a series.  Yes, I know I have whined about a few books in the past that fell in the middle of a series and felt incomplete at the end.  But I am coming around to the authors way of thinking on letting some books in a series have story lines with loose plot threads at the end or even cliffhangers (argh). Those will pull you through to the next story.  Just let us know that the book is a part of a series!  No, I am talking about the stand alone stories that, for whatever reason, have no rational or logical end to them.

I have read books where the main characters just climb into bed (nothing resolved about the future or the angst they went through),  and that’s it.  The end.  I have read books where the author can’t figure out how to end the book, so they rush it, trying to tie up every loose plot thread, and making a ton of unreadable nonsense in the process.  I have read books where the author doesn’t even make the most basic of efforts to tie up anything that has gone before.  Or the worse offender, at least in my mind, the author that takes everything that they had achieved in the story so far and destroys it completely with a ending so forced, so mind-blowingly awful that you can’t believe it’s the same book you just spent all that time reading.  I have even read books where the author put good characters through an intricately planned mystery only to skip out on the denouement or “aha” moment. They might have a secondary character relate the “aha” moment, such a cop out.  Or have a character wake up having “missed out” on all the ruckus.  Well, that leaves the reader missing out too.  Talk about feeling disgruntled and deeply unsatisfied!  Check, please !  We won’t be coming back to that restaurant (or author) anytime soon.

Remember those old movies like Millennium? As the credits roll over the sight of people walking through a portal to a new planet, the letters pop up The End or is it the Beginning?  So cheesy yet some of the books I have read lately make me miss movies like that one.  At least they were trying for something different when ending their story.  I appreciated that even if I laughed about it later.   But even they couldn’t leave well enough alone when it came to the end of the movie.

What is it about writing endings that is so difficult? Most people seem to put all their thoughts and energy into starting their novels and then seem to run out of steam by the time they get to the end.  A few authors have told me that they know where their story is going to end before they write the book.  Others have just the opposite approach, letting the story flow as it wants, uncharted and unknowing.  Neither way guarantees the reader an accomplished ending.   I can’t figure out why I am reading so many bad ones lately.  Has the rise of the eBook let too many authors through the gates that might not otherwise been published? Ah, a rant for another time.

I did run across several websites all bemoaning the same problem in writing endings.  Some of the articles are terrific, laying out pointers on how to write an ending, while some are hysterically unhelpful (kind of like writing an ending).  One Wikihow page includes pictures, like a man with a frowny face, who obviously can’t figure out how to end his story.  Clearly they think pictures will show a writer the way.  Like a sign that stating “The End – This Way” and an arrow beside it.  Oh,  if only it were that simple.

So from me and Joanna Penn of The Creative Penn to you, a few pointers :

  • Don’t cheat and suddenly have everything work out fine. This is lazy and the reader isn’t fooled. For example “And Jesus lived happily ever after”
  • You can surprise the reader but you must also satisfy them. There should be more than one possible ending to a book, so the reader doesn’t just give up as they know what will happen. It’s worth foreshadowing this ending with hints in the rest of the book though so that they are surprised but it is not entirely out of the blue.
  • Some genres have an expected ending that you can’t mess with. If your genre is romance, they have to get together at the end. There’s no getting around this unless you want to change genres! You also need to keep some characters alive if you have a series of books planned.

And from me, always keep in mind the story you started out with at the beginning should still be with you at the end.  Pull it all together in one final, emotionally satisfying product that will keep the readers returning time and again to your craft.   There are reasons you see the same author and same book titles on list after list.  It is because they leave a reader totally satisfied while still wanting more.  More of the story, more of the characters, and more from that author.

So, authors of stories with non-existent or bad endings, I am imploring you.  Find some crit partners, a great editor, take some writing classes, do what you gotta do to hone your writing skills and deliver to us, your readers, a story with all its elements accounted for.  Great strong beginning? Check.  Strong middle that moves your plot forward with great characters and storyline? Check. A strong ending that ties up in a satisfactory and sometimes surprising manner all the plot threads your storyline came with? Check.   Missing a check mark or two? Go back and start over again until someone else, not just you, are happy with the story you have written.

I don’t think this mini rant will in anyway stop the flood of incomplete or poorly  resolved stories.  Think of this as one finger (select one) plugging a hole in a dike that resembles Swiss cheese.  But at least I feel better, hoping to pave the way to better stories one rant at a time.

How do you feel about the books you have been reading?  How many have ended with you thinking, “wait, that was the end?”  Write Scattered Thoughts and tell me your pet peeves about the stories you have read lately.  Help put an end to the ends that leave us gnashing our teeth and pulling out our hair!  I want an ending to leave me cheering, or crying, or satisfied that I spent that time reading that book.  All readers do.  So go, find the path to the perfect The End.  It’s out there, somewhere.  Help it find its way home.  The End.  Or is it the beginning?  Only time and more books will tell.

– Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

Links:

The Creative Penn, How To Write The Ending of Your Novel by Joanna Penn

How to Write the End of a Novel by. C. Patrick Schulze

How to Write an End of a Novel: 6 Steps (with Pictures) – wikiHow

A Touch of Fall and The Week In Reviews

Standard

So you know that certain color of blue that only appears in the fall skies?  That is the color of the sky outside this morning.  The air has a certain crispness about it, so foreign usually in August here in Maryland.  The light is shining at a different angle, portending the coming fall and the promise of colder weather.  I even heard a flock of Canada Geese this morning, honking as they flew overhead in the largest formation I have seen this year.  What does it all mean?  Probably nothing.  But as I love autumn, I am sure that my step is a little lighter this morning and the dogs a little bouncier on this day that seems so full of anticipation.

So I will be gathering up knitting, Kindle, dogs and my coffee and heading outside to bask in the light of a fall to come.  I cannot tarry inside for I know how fleeting such days are.  Here is the week ahead in reviews and a mini rant on story resolutions.

Monday, Aug. 5, 2013:                    Dance Only For Me by Megan Derr

Tuesday, Aug. 6, 2013:                    Wicked Solutions #1 by Haven Fellows

Wed., Aug. 7, 2013:                           Faire Fugitive by Madeleine Ribbons

Thurs., Aug. 8, 2013:                         Wicked Bindings #2 by Haven Fellows

Friday, Aug. 9, 2013:                        The Beast Without by Christian Baines

Saturday, Aug 10, 2013:                 Wait? That Was The Ending? A Story Writing Mini Rant