adventures in dysthymia

Thursday, October 13, 2011

My Writing Rules (or Some of Them)

The Middle of Nowhere, even though the original draft goes back to 1999, pretty much reflects my current approach to the writing of fiction. I would hope that my style has become a little more polished in the years since, but the basics haven't changed.

These are not an attempt to teach anyone how to write but here are five rules -- or maybe just ideas -- I've made up for myself, things I try to keep in mind as I work:

1) Have as much exposition as possible accomplished through dialog. If not through dialog, then through action. If not through action, then through internal dialog. Passive description may be, at times, the way to go, but try not to overuse it.

As in a movie, the narrator's voice can pull one away from the feeling of being immersed in another reality. Of course, if a story is told in first-person voice (as is TMON), that voice becomes an active part of the story's reality.

2) Be neither too specific nor too general. Use just enough description to make something real and not so much as to bore the reader with details. Do not load your story down with superfluous imagery in an attempt at 'realism.' The mind will create its own images and, coming from within, they may seem more 'real' than those we attempt to impose.

3) Every action by a character must have a reason. The reason need not be told to the reader, but the writer should know what it is. Know, also, the back-story of the character, who he or she is. Even the most minor character is 'someone.'

4) Have a point of view. You need to know what you are trying to say. No matter how well one writes, it is only words if there is no meaning behind it. The exposition of ones point of view may be subtle; the reader need not even recognize it as such. Indeed, a certain amount of ambiguity can be a good thing, adding interest and depth.

Nor need it be a clearly focused point of view when one begins writing. Authors will often find their message grows more cohesive as they work and new ideas present themselves. Concept arises from content.

5) Which brings us to being flexible. Stories change in the writing. They must grow or they will never reach their potential. Do not be afraid to change things or to follow your characters down whatever road they might lead you. You may well reach a more interesting destination than you originally envisioned.

Should there be more? Probably, but that covers it for me right now. So I'll write now.

* * *

I was finally, after considerable experimentation, able to produce an acceptable epub version (via Calibre) of my poetry chapbook, Pieces of the Moon. It had, of course, been originally formatted in Word Perfect so I had to strip pretty much all the formatting (via converting to plain text) and then reformat it in Open Office Writer.

Writer is quite good for conversion to epub, assuming it is formatted properly. This is because it also converts extremely well into html. Most e-books are, essentially, containers for html. I will do my early drafts from here out in Writer and then format for publication in whatever program is appropriate.

Theoretically, I would be able to convert from epub to the Kindle format without problem, should I decide to publish/sell at Amazon. I'm not sure I want anything to do with the company. I should be happy selling epub at Barnes & Noble and Apple, right?

Anyway, now that I know that I can pull it off, I'll tackle getting The Middle of Nowhere into epub. It's not high on my priorities, however, just something I'll work at when I have the time.

And I'll probably hold off on Pieces of the Moon until I'm ready to launch the new editions, print and PDF, that I have worked up. I don't want to publicize those when I've just released two new books.

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