Tag Archives: Novel-writing

Writing an Epic Family Saga by Novelist Linda Spalding

Posted by January 10th, 2014

The Purchase 2

The following is a guest post by Linda Spalding about her historical novel THE PURCHASE, winner of the 2012 Governor General’s Literary Prize for Fiction. The book tells the story of Quaker Daniel Dickinson and his family, and their new life at the Virginia frontier – where slaves are the only available workers and where the family’s values and beliefs are sorely tested. 

Here Linda talks about intertwining the story of antebellum America with family history to create an epic family saga. 

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Every family is an epic. Even a single generation has so many stories tucked away that ten thousand pages would be required to tell them all. A family is the perfect proof of chaos theory – the one where a butterfly causes a blizzard in Florida or an airplane crash in the arctic. Your mother tickles you on your left foot while you snooze in your cradle and you develop an allergy to walking barefoot on grass in your middle age.

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What is a Scene: BLUEPRINT YOUR BESTSELLER Book and Sweepstakes

Posted by November 5th, 2013

sweepstakes_blueprintToday we have as our guest Grub Street writing teacher and author Stuart Horwitz. His newest book, BLUEPRINT YOUR BESTSELLER: Organize and Revise any Manuscript with The Book Architecture Method (Penguin/Perigee), introduces his system for organizing and revising any manuscript. It’s the perfect guide for participants of NaNoWriMo, who’ll have a first draft of their novel at the end of November but will still need help restructuring and polishing it later. We’re giving away three copies of the book to Book Country members. Click here to enter the BLUEPRINT YOUR BESTSELLER Sweepstakes!

In this excerpt from BLUEPRINT YOUR BESTSELLER, Stuart introduces the Book Architecture Method and answers the question: “what is a scene,” the basic building block of every manuscript. ~NG 

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The basic premise of the Book Architecture Method is this: Your book has ninety-nine scenes. If you find your scenes and put them in the right order, you will be all set. I don’t believe this is easier said than done—or harder said than done. It is what it is. There will be periods of questioning and there will be periods of joy; there will be divine inspiration searing across the page like a cosmic flame, and there will be fidgeting with things until they fit just right. All I can say is that it does happen. I have seen writers line up their ninety-nine scenes in the right order. When they do, the rest is just details.

When you start offering methods to people, their first question is, “Does it work?” The Book Architecture Method is a method, not a formula; as such, it needs to be applied. Does your book have exactly 99 scenes? I doubt it! Your book has 72 scenes, or 138 scenes, or another number that you won’t know until you are done. I chose ninety-nine for the sake of discussion. I chose it because it feels one shy of completion. You cannot achieve unity, the goal of any piece of writing, by trying to be comprehensive. No matter how hard you try, you will never completely cover your topic—all you can do is be consistent and coherent. Perfectionism can appear in many guises, but it is always an impossible task that likes to present itself as something that isn’t. We need to adjust our definition of perfection to mean “getting your ninety-nine scenes in the right order”—and let the hundredth come when it is good and ready.

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Meet Writer Rebecca Blain

Posted by May 13th, 2013

Book Country Member Spotlight Q&A

rjblain_theeyeofgod_author

“I like the idea of leaving behind the mundane for other worlds.”

Rebecca Blain is a fantasy writer from Montreal, Canada; she’s also a speed-reader, freelance editor, artist, and fantasy fan girl. Rebecca has been a Book Country member since we launched, and we always recommend her wonderful how-to guide for new members. We wanted to catch up with Rebecca and find about her debut novelThe Eye of God.

Nevena: Thanks for joining us, Rebecca. The Eye of God will be released in July. Congrats! Tell us more about the story.

Rebecca: Thanks for having me.

The Eye of God is the story of Terin and Blaise. Terin’s a slave in a world that’s reminiscent of ancient Rome, and Blaise is someone—something—that has been watching over the world and a few of its more interesting denizens for a long, long time. When the balance of power in the empire is shattered, it falls to the two of them to restore order before everyone close to them has their souls devoured.

Nevena: How has the novel evolved over time? What was it like working with an editor and a cover designer? (The cover is gorgeous, by the way.)

RebeccaThe Eye of God is the novel in which I really figured out how to write. “Showing versus telling” clicked for me, and I got a much better grasp of immediacy and limited third point of view. My developmental editor loved the story—the characters, the plot, and the general arcs, but it didn’t have the base writing of my other WIP, Storm without End.

My marching orders were simple: Rewrite the book from the ground up, but recapture the same plot and characters.

Working with my editor is a lot of fun. She’s a great sounding board for me, and she isn’t afraid to tell me when something just isn’t working. And, she deals very well with me when I’m bullheaded and don’t want to make changes I need to make, which is exactly what I need in an editor.

As for the cover art, this was my favorite bit of the process. I met the cover artist, Chris Howard, through one of my editorial clients. We hit it off right away, and I hired him. I told him a little about the world and about Terin, and he started sketching over his lunch break.

The sketch of the cover came back almost perfect; I asked him to change the style of shirt and make Terin’s hair a bit longer. The rest is history. A very short time later, I had cover art that I am really, really proud to have on my book.

TheEyeOfGodCover_rjblain_bc

Nevena: So you have a great team helping you! The book you’re currently working on, Songbird, is a romantic fantasy, which is a new direction for you as a writer. What’s been the most challenging part of the writing process so far?

Rebecca: Writing the female perspective. The vast majority of my books have male points of view. Writing Kara has been a huge challenge. Ranik, the main male character, comes a lot more naturally to me than Kara.

Nevena: To say that you’re a huge fantasy buff wouldn’t be an overstatement. What draws you to it?

Rebecca: I like the idea of leaving behind the mundane for other worlds, for things that make me ask questions, and that make me see a little bit of magic in our own world.

Nevena: That’s quite poetic. Are there any fantasy conventions or clichés you’d like to see disappear?

No. Even the most boring cliché can be turned to magic in the hands of a skilled writer. When I encounter a cliché in my clients’ works, I don’t tell them to remove it—I tell them to enhance it so that it becomes original to them. If they can’t do that, then they should consider cutting it out.

A cliché or convention exists because many people love the same thing. It isn’t that you use them that matters it’s how you use them.

A perfect example is Brandon Sanderson’s Elantris. I didn’t realize it included zombies until he told me when we met at World Fantasy Con. That is skill, and turning something old into something new.

Nevena: Let’s switch gears. Tell us more about yourself. When did you realize you wanted to be a writer?

Rebecca: Me? I’m boring—okay, well, maybe not. I am a natural-born punster. (You got off the hook this time.) I have a spouse and four cats. I turn thirty on the 16th, and I’m really excited about it!

As for what started me wanting to be a writer, I blame Mercedes Lackey and Larry Dixon. The Black Gryphon nailed the coffin closed for me. Valdemar just ensured I’d never leave the Science Fiction / Fantasy section of the bookstore ever again…

Nevena: Happy birthday! You work as a freelance editor and writer. How do you manage to fit your own writing into the mix?

Rebecca: A lot of dedication, discipline, effort, and heartbreak. That, plus 12-14 hour days.

Nevena: What’s your Book Country story? How has it helped you grow as a writer?

Rebecca: I came to Book Country with one of the waves of beta fishes. I’d followed Colleen because I wanted to query her when I was ready, but then she upped and changed career paths! Still, it worked out for the better. I think Book Country has been a huge influence on me in terms of honing my writing skills.

I regret nothing!

Nevena: That’s awesome! You’ve written a couple of amazing pieces—on the forums and on your website—about how to use Book Country. What is the #1 thing you think new members should know about the peer review process?

Rebecca: Thank you!

All I can say is this: pour your heart and soul into the peer review process. Sure, your help doesn’t make your book immediately better, but it’ll help you open your eyes to your own writing with time. The more you help others with their writing, the more you will be helped. It’s true—it’s really, really true.

Let me say this again: Give your honesty, your integrity, and your professionalism to others. Pour everything you have into it. Give it your absolute all. Sure, you may not get a review out of it, or a publishing contract, or a job as an editor, or even a thank you, or some form of gratification, but you will learn. That learning will help you find the problems in your own writing.

Nevena: Amen. Is there anything else you want to share with the community?

Rebecca: Writing is hard. Don’t give up—good things happen to those who put in the effort and aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty and their fingers bloodied making their stories come to life.

Nevena: Thanks for chatting with me, Rebecca. Good luck with The Eye of God!

Connect with Rebecca on Book Country and follow her on Twitter at @rebeccablain. Visit her on the web at her website. Oh, and Rebecca has graciously invited everybody to help themselves to a copy of the wallpaper of The Eye of God’s cover art.

*Cover art by Chris Howard

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