Tuesday, February 25, 2014

"Ab ovo" versus "In medias res"

"From the beginning" versus "In the midst of things"

I have heard two very different schools of thought on where to start a story.  It is such a contested subject that there are words for both methods.

Ab ovo: From the beginning.  Followers of this method argue that a reader cannot car about a story if they do not first care about the character.  In this method the story starts with the main characters day to day life and gives you an opportunity to get to know them and care about them.  This does not necessarily mean you see the them from birth, you just see their normal life before the inciting incident (the event that happens to the protagonist to change their life from the norm and sparks the action of the story).

For example: We see Dorothy in Kansas before she goes to OZ.  We see Katniss in District 12 before the reaping.  We see Harry with the Dursleys before the owls start to show up.  There are many who start their stories in the most logical of places, the beginning.

In medias res: In the midst of things.  This school believes that the story should start as far into the action as possible with out confusing the reader.  The idea is to let the action grab the reader and hold on.  Your feelings for the characters come as you get to know them.  Backstory is delivered through flashbacks, frame narrative and various other plot devices.

Examples:  When we first meet the Pevensie children they are escaping the air raid in London.  Mr. Bennet has already lost his fortune when we find the Bennet sisters vying for wealthy suitors.  Shakespeare himself started many of his plays in the midst of action.  We do not know why Capulet and Montague despise each other, but the war is so violent that we want to find out.

So now I am facing a dilemma and I would like opinions.  My story as it stands begins with the inciting incident.  We meet our heroine just as her life changes forever, but I find myself wondering if we need to see what her life was before.  Do we need to see just how horrible it was to understand how she is able to leave it behind so easily?

So here is my question: Backstory or action, where do you start?

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Every failure is a step to success.

Well, today is the 12th and no email.  That means that I was one of the 29 eliminated from the YA category.  I'm not going to lie, it hurts a lot more than I thought it would, but it isn't the end of the world.  It certainly isn't the end of my writing.  In fact, it's just the beginning.

So, where do I go from here?  Truth is I don't really know.  I am hoping to hear from the judges who had my entry.  I want to see if they can give me some insight into why they didn't pick me and what I need to do to improve things.  I know I need to add a few thousand words to the manuscript.  I need to find a freelance editor, though I have someone in minds if she'll have me as a client.  After I have this thing perfectly polished and tweaked I'll try querying some agents one on one.  If that doesn't work I guess I'll self publish.

Thank you all for your support and positive thoughts, please know that this is not over, not by a long shot.

A nice little fact to keep me going here is a list of famous authors shoe were rejected repeatedly.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

I'll begin at the beginning.

I have been writing, in one way or another for most of my life.  From little poems and stories when I was small, to longer fan fictions for my kid sister in my teen years.  For the last ten years I have been working on an original series.  I made it about 17 chapters in only to have it be destroyed (this was before online backups and external hard drives).  Then, discovering that the plot line needed a lot of work anyway, I dove into intense research, plotting and outlining.  By January I had outlined a trilogy. Earlier this year I sat down and put pin to paper (well, fingers to keyboard) with the goal of finishing book one before the years end.

As fall approached I had nearly 20K words, but it was nowhere near what I needed.  Hoping for helpful push, I signed up for my very first NaNoWriMo.  In 30 days I wrote 29k words.  Again, it wasn't what I'd hoped for but it was amazing.

In the end, I didn't finish by New Years Eve, but on January 24th I finished my first novel.  It was an experience I can't accurately describe.  I cried.  I felt like throwing up.  I called everyone I could think of.  It was relief, joy, fear, excitement, and so many other emotions all wrapped into one.

On January 29th I submitted that novel to Cupid's Literary Connection's Blind Speed Dating contest.

I will find out on February 12th if I have made it through round one.

To end this post, I have some "thank you"s:
To my sister Leslie - for being my biggest cheerleader.
To my best friend Sandy - for grounding me and making me work.
To Brad, Meg, Leigh Ann and sooooo many other friends - for helping me with things when I was stuck.
To Taryn Albright - for helping me with my query and always saying encouraging things.

That is all for now.  I will update on the 12th when I find out whether or not I've moved to the next round.  If so, I'll explain the next step in the contest.  If not, I'll lay out my plans beyond that.  :)