Suspense vs Mystery: What’s The Difference? A guest blog post by Allison Maruska

I like the infographic: Mystery, Suspense and my favourite HORROR

Dan Alatorre - AUTHOR

As a sponsor of my Word Weaver Writing Contest, you get a free guest blog post!

Oh, you’re having a writing contest?

Yeah:

Word Weaver logi FINAL trimmed 2For details on how you can win valuable prizes and get a critique of YOUR writerly work by ME, click HERE


Today, contest sponsor, bestselling author, and friend of the blog Allison Maruska uses her guest blog spot to discuss a writerly topic.

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renovatio-ebook-v4Before I start, I want to thank Dan for hosting the Word Weaver writing contest and for having me on as a sponsor. My donated prize is an audiobook copy of Project Renovatio, my YA sci-fi/mystery. In brainstorming topics for a guest blog post, Dan and I had a conversation that went something like this:

Dan: How about something about the trilogy? Maybe about their genre?

Me: They aren’t exactly the same, though. Renovatio is mystery. Liberatio and Ancora are suspense.

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The Great Creative Writing Conspiracy (not really)

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I jokingly told someone recently that the purpose of any advice/discussion about writing on this blog was actually intended to mislead other people to thin out the competition.

Now not that I’m far too good or ethical to do such a thing it just seems like a lot more effort that I’m willing to expunge, and I might need a few more followers to actually effect a change.

It lead to an interesting discussion about how maybe there is a grander conspiracy at large among established writers to keep the new talent at bay. Maybe adverbs are quite good, maybe telling is better than showing, MAYBE people want stories with unrelatable character and lots of info-dumps.

Anyway I don’t think that such a conspiracy is in effect. But again on another tangent it did lead me to think about a sort of natural selection in creative writing advice which may be a barrier to aspiring writers: First bear in mind that advice is driven by the free market, whether it be blog views, books sold or whatever anyone who peddles writing advice isn’t rewarded by how much their advice leads to success but by the consumption of said advice.

Suffice to say that topics and advice which is more enjoyable to absorb becomes more popular and gets peddled more often. Thusly, we end up with post after post and book after book about things like characters, plots, tension and world-building.

Now that’s an unfair representation, as I’m consumed a fair few ‘on-writing’ books over the years and learnt heaps about all manner of aspects of fiction, but I do notice that across the blogosphere and the ‘chatter’ most discussions are about characters and plots with a fair dose of fantasy lore. What’s so wrong with this? Well nothing exactly, but in my opinion most people are quite capable of penning good characters and plots, and pretty good at designing a world. What I think most people struggle with is crafting a good scene with style and power within their prose.

Of course all of the above are important for a good story, and it’s pretty understandable that so much is devoted to this sort of content, I mean, even saying all this I don’t want to read that much about scene building and prose. But I think it can be misleading at times to see so much discussion about the content of a story with comparatively little on style. As I mentioned above I think this is a sort of natural selection, where these are the topics which are fun to talk about so it makes sense they’re everywhere, its just also important to keep an objective eye for what you really work on in your own projects.

 

What are your favourite topics in writing discussions?

Do you think the material available out there is misleading?

 

Ten Types of Authors Who Can Go Fuck Themselves

Well it made me laugh, but I probably have to do F@ck myself now!

CLASH

So yesterday I was thinking about an upcoming piece I’ll be writing for LitReactor and chuckled at the amount of reactions I’ll surely get. You see, I’ve been doing the columnist thing for almost a decade. It all started back home with a monthly political column. By the time I stopped writing it in early 2016, I’d received four death threats. In any case, I tweeted this: “Everyone who’s gotten angry at one of my columns should hear the stuff I don’t even bother to pitch.” The result was almost immediate; a bunch of authors said they wanted to read it. I’m all about making my friends happy, so here we are. Thank the writing deities that we have crazy, brave venues like CLASH. Let’s get started, shall we? Here are ten types of authors who can go fuck themselves (God I’m good at making friends!):

1. Authors who hate…

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Editing and Compromise

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I guess you’ll be seeing a lot more blogs procrastination about revision and editing in the near future, but I swear this post was inspired by a genuine convo I had with someone re: editing and compromising on your work.

The discussion was around something that many aspiring writers think about: whether to compromise the ‘artistic integrity’ of their work for marketability.

Personally I think its a false dichotomy.

It’s a weird topic because the two options are hardly as clear as they appear to a novice writer. First of all the editing process is hardly an untweaked work being fired off to a publisher who demands some sell-out change of the work. Far more likely is that by the time a draft even reaches the eyes of an agent and a publisher an author has already made many compromises, tweaks, major rewrites… everything! It would be pretty odd if by that point a writer hadn’t started to develop the skills to navigate this sort of back-and-forth. Without sounding snobbish (heck it’s not like I’m published) its only really folk who are sitting around imagining getting published who think they might get asked to change something they don’t want to in order to be successful. Most experienced writers realize that there is a tonne of editing to be done especially in novel manuscripts, its not like they go straight from author to publisher with only the barest of change (mostly).

On the flipside, it’s not like people walk around with this constant option to ‘sell-out’ and just make money. When an editor suggests changes to a story, sure it is typically intended to increase marketability, but its not like there is a popularity performance enhancing drug that can be injected into your manuscript if only you’re willing to give up artistic integrity. Trying to predict and achieve popularity is pretty much an artform in itself.

Getting slightly deeper into the issue is the question of whether a story needs an audience. Or rather, if a tree reads a book in a forest and has no-one to tell about it, does it count as a story? My point is not that ‘you’re only a real writer if you publish or have a big audience’ but rather that there is no magical cannon for your story that only exists in your head. Yes it’s your story, and you have the right to pursue whatever tale you want to write. But I don’t think that artistic integrity = being too stubborn to make your work accessible to others.

Now don’t get me wrong there are compromises on different levels. For example if a publisher say doesn’t want to publish a minority group as a main character, and as an author you want this – that’s not the sort of compromise I’m getting at here.

I understand that as authors we tend to get attached to our work, and because we know it inside and out, its hard to understand how other might want to change something, and even think it might make it better! The truth is this is exactly why we need other people to suggest changes to our work, so that we achieve the outcome we want with our work, not just cling to the dream.

 

What are your thoughts on compromise and editing?

 

Have you ever had to, or decided to change something major in a WIP? Care to share it?

Time to Edit this Bitch

Sorry for the profanity (not really)

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Editing is not my forte. Drafting is (mostly) fun, word-count goals are clean-cut to work towards, and editing just feels like a potentially never-ending hamster wheel of torture.

Okay its not quite that bad, to be honest its nice to work knowing you have a complete piece in the bank, even if it is terrible. I already know my WIP has a lot of work to be done, it’s probably not even truly ‘finished’ as its half the size it needs to be. (I know most people edit down, but I draft very light on description, character development and basically anything that worries me will become boring to a reader – thus I compost fairly frenetic first drafts)

I’m also aware that there are some very tropey things going on in the story. My main character seems to get imprisoned and captured a lot. I think this reflects that I want them to interact with their antagonists while preserving a sense of their conflict, but I doubt this will be very tolerable to most readers and I’ll have to brainstorm how to maybe make some of the initial interactions more subtly sinister than the MC being caged/handcuffed/magically warded.

Sexism may also be an issue for my story, not that my female characters are raging stereotypes or horribly objectified, they just kind of revolve around my MC, which makes a bit of sense as they’re the one telling it, but again probably won’t be that tolerable for a reader.

Finally I’m very aware that my scene-craft is sub-par. When I write I have zero sense of how to balance ‘setting the scene’ with the core action, I’m happy with the majority of my basic conflicts, choices and so forth, but not so happy with my scenes essentially rushing towards them as quickly as possible.

 

In the past my editing process has been, as I imagine is has for most aspiring writers, a fool’s game of rereading a draft and trying to write it ‘better’. This has a lot of problems with it, at best it tweaks some of the prose to a higher level, at worst it drives you into a hellish loop of second guessing, and missing actually useful editing, like structuring events properly, character development and so forth.

My plan from today is to first essentially synopsis my draft, i.e. read through with a notebook and get the major events and any side-notes down and see if that looks like a palatable novel on a structural level. I’m relative confident that there is a sense of rising stakes with highs and lows throughout, but I’m very sure that the character appearances and development are a mess. I think between showing and telling I’ve tending up avoiding telling and been in too much of a rush to show either!

Once I’m satisfied with the synopsis level of events, I have an unorthodox plan. I’m going to grab a favoured book in the same genre, and imitate its scene-craft. I’m not going to plagiarize or mimic the actual events or plot, but rather I am going to hone my individual scenes to look more like publishable material. As I mentioned above I have no to very little concept of the pacing of an individual scene, anytime I’m not writing something intense I think a reader’s going to get bored and I need to study the pros more closely.

After I’ve done all that I guess I’ll start on the nitty gritty, show don’t tell, murder adjectives, all the rest. I suspect if I manage all the above I’ll probably need a decent percolation break from my draft anyway…

 

What are you editing processes?

Are there any editing pitfalls to avoid?

Any advice on what sort of book (urban fantasy) I should peruse for crafting scenes?

Writing Fiction That is Believable — A Writer’s Path

by Katie McCoach Imagine you are sitting amongst fellow writers in a workshop class or critique group. You’ve just finished reading your work and this group is providing constructive criticism. You are nervous, of course, we understand. This writing is a piece of you—anything you write is. This group understands that as well, and […]

via Writing Fiction That is Believable — A Writer’s Path

5 Tips for Writing a Great Opening Line (for a Novel or Short Story) — J. Young-Ju Harris

There is a lot of weight on opening lines, perhaps more so than on any other single line in your story. And in some ways there is good reason for this. The opening line is the reader’s first impression of your story. If they don’t like it or don’t find it intriguing or engaging, they’re […]

via 5 Tips for Writing a Great Opening Line (for a Novel or Short Story) — J. Young-Ju Harris

Seeking Cures for the Drafting Woes

Ug.

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No really its not that bad, still there is really something exquisitely grueling about drafting a novel. I’ve posted about trying to keep sane and generally healthy as a writer before, but I feel this post is more just a general rant/catharsis on the subject, sans many solutions.

Are we nearly there yet?

The sheer length of novels is a considerable battle in itself. I’m the king of procrastination at the best of times, with the whole daunting aspect of writing a whole book making it more palatable to do battle with my own willpower than an actual on paper project. And the worst part is that feeling doesn’t seem to lesson as you actually start to progress. I think the problem for me is that when I’m reading I like to put a book mark in and look down at my book to see how far through I am, and typically as I get towards the end I’ll devote more and more time to reading to bust through the last pages, not to mention that with good pacing comes faster reading as a book concludes.

This isn’t quite the same as when you’re writing, sure fast-paced writing might be somewhat fast-to-write but usually requires even more planning and careful attention as other passages.

My point is that, if like me you pen ~500 words a day, that’s still going to be 500 words whether you’re almost finished or not, whether you’re feeling good about hitting tens-of-thousands of words or whatever. Not that I’m that close to finishing a draft to be honest, but I have to confess the impatience is real.

Damn you inner editor

So I’m a huge fan of ‘vomit-drafting’ this is basically a cure for analysis-paralysis, anxiety, perfectionism, and just generally being blocked. In case it isn’t too clear this means allowing yourself to just vomit words onto the page, whatever you thing of at that time, without a care for quality. It’s not quite stream of consciousness as you can plot and plan but it is a great way to just get that draft onto paper. The theory is that good writing is re-written anyway and its easier to correct bad writing than put great writing onto a blank page.

But there is a flaw to this process, a major flaw. It does risk an incredibly poor first draft, as even as you spew words onto the page one can’t help but feel like the errors accumulate like a massive pile of dirt just waiting to crush you in your own dug grave.

 

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Coming next – the zombie second draft

I know I’m overreacting a little, but it one of the most difficult issues to confront, requiring considerable mental and/or philosophical gymnastics is knowing you’ve got some major problems in your work and being able to ‘park’ them and persevere with the tale until such time as you can better confront them.

And speaking of zombies

Writing is hard work and will affect you as such!

A good friend of mine (Hi Anna) mentioned to me how tired they’d been after producing a novel draft in a short space of time. I have to confess that historically my writing has been in such fits and bursts, and my procrastination has been such that I haven’t felt too tired with it (although on an odd side-note writing does make my dreams more vivid at night, kinda creepy).

Lately though, I have managed to kick my own arse and get into a routine and to put it bluntly, holy shit I’m tired. I feel good that I’m devoting energy to something that I love, but I don’ think I’ve ever been quite so zombified by writing yet. There’s something weird about the topic where you don’t really think about how it might drain you, well I think we’ve all felt drained by the dread of the slush-pile rejections, but compared to exercise, work, socializing my head doesn’t seem to accept ‘writing’ as something that will wear it out, until that is afterwards!

 

Anywho, that post might have sounded a bit negative, surprisingly though it is pretty cathartic (maybe there’s a reason there are all these over-personal blogs in the world). Sometimes we just need rant I think.

 

What are your drafting woes? How you do deal/not deal with them?