Thursday, January 16, 2014

Habitual Writers

First off, this is your last chance to enter the contest to win a paperback copy of Book 8! Go here to sign up and do it before January 20th!

Second, the offer to get a goodie in the mail if you post a review on Amazon is still open, and will continue to be open. So send me an email with your snail mail address if you posted a review, no matter what you said in the review, or how long or short it was, and I will send you some Asian charm and maybe a bookmark.

Third, if you are in New York City on February 9th, there is a Book 8 launch party at Madras Mahal, a kosher Indian restaurant in Manhattan. I am doing it there because (a) it is fairly inexpensive (b) I want to eat there in general. So the Facebook group page and RSVP if you are interested. Bring a book if you want it signed, or tell me if you want a free copy of any of the books I wrote as Marsha Warner, because I have about 25 of each lying around my apartment and I need to get rid of them.

Authorial Intent

Writers have ticks. Hopefully not literal ticks. Check your legs after you come inside from playing in the woods, guys! No, the kind of ticks we don't see but show up in our writing. Because so many people have looked at my work, I've become aware of some of mine, though there's very little I can do to stop them. For example, I have a tendency to think faster than I write, so I'll put in a word that is supposed to appear in a sentence later and it won't get flagged because it's spelled correctly, and Brandy will have to call me up and say, "When you wrote soup, you meant boat, right?" I am also partial to characters meandering about, something my friend Alex picked up on my very first novel, The Adventures of Joey, which I wrote when I was in third grade and my handwriting was arguably slightly better than it is now. I'm more interested in characters than the arc of a plot, which is a problem for me, and I'm given to slow starts.

Recently I've been doing research on two books that are a series and part of the Amazon Kindle Worlds program, Amazon's premiere site for published fan fiction. They have certain properties and you can write fan fiction about those properties and they will sell it as an eBook. My agent recommended it to me as a source of easy publication and I picked a series that looked like it would be relatively easy to write for, Blake Crouch's Wayward Pines series. In the last few weeks I've been re-reading both books, underlining every important character, place name, location, and important statistic, then recording them all in a handy word file. (Somewhere towards the end of my series, I finally learned to start keeping track of characters, but mostly because I was spurned on by Brandy) What I've discovered is ticks Crouch probably isn't aware of - his partiality to M and B names (out of about 30 characters there are 7 M-names), his inconsistencies with the date of certain events (they alternately take place in August or October, depending on the scene), and various minor mistakes in the timeline, mostly due to him not going back to book 1 a lot when he was writing book 2. Also, almost every store exists on "the corner of Main and [Some Avenue]." I'm not actually bashing the author here - these are very easily mistakes to make when you're caught up in the suspense of writing a thriller and trying to keep the reader on the edge of their seats. These decisions don't seem like a big deal at the time. If anything, you're trying to minimize these decisions and get back to describing the various guns the protagonist uses, a common thriller trope. Are there 800 or 600 people in Wayward Pines? You're writing something and you spit out a number that sounds good, then you move on to get the next scene done and maybe you completely forget you used that number. When it comes up later, you've forgotten it or you don't want to look it up because editing sucks. That's what copyeditors are supposed to be for, but publishers today are cutting way back on copyediting.

Yes, I actually wrote this book.
I was once at a panel at Worldcon and an author (I think it was Richard Sawyer) was lamenting that some fan had written him to say he'd changed the color of a character's eyes, describing them as blue in one chapter and green in a much later chapter. "Is this really important? Seriously," he said, which I thought was reasonable. Of course, I write in historical fiction, where I get hit for much worse things than that, or I used to in the first couple books before people either gave up on the series or decided to just go with the flow. (Also my research got better) But when you're writing fanfic for pay, it's actually very important that you have all these things right about the original content, so it's frustrating when there's mistakes. I remember when I was writing the second Greek book (Best Frenemies) I was called out because I'd mentioned that someone's bedspread was a floral print, which it wasn't, and I had to go rewatch two episodes and figured out that they'd actually changed the sets around between seasons of the show even though only 8 hours had passed in the narrative (the new season picked up the morning after the finale of the previous season), but clearly no one told the set designer that this was important and she changed the comforter and sheets of said person's bed. I corrected my mistake and moved along, but man, what a crazy contract job that was. If you ever think that those crummy tie-in books to TV shows and movies are not written by authors who work hard for their paycheck, you're wrong. The books may not be classics of literature but hey, we do what we're paid to do, and we're given very little time to do it (I turned over the second book in 3 weeks). If offered, I would take one of these contract jobs again. I hated doing it, but the money was good, and I'm a working writer. I have to be realistic. 


Shari said...

Just finished your Wayward Pines - The Redundant Man. It was one of my favorites in the Kindle Worlds series. Had me laughing out loud in certain spots. Kudos to you.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Shari! Always happy to meet a new reader.

If you want to help the series along, leave a review on Amazon and sell others what you think of my work! It helps promote the book.

Marsha Altman said...

Thanks, Shari! Always happy to meet a new reader.

If you want to help the series along, leave a review on Amazon and sell others what you think of my work! It helps promote the book.

Shari said...

I will certainly do that.