Today I’m talking about plot. Not pantsing or outlining. Not story arcs. And not my muse, who is pouting anyway, because I haven’t had to resort to his tactics lately. For those of you who remember my muse (David B Coe, you may skip the rest of this para) he is a six foot, four inch tall, hirsute, baldheaded man, with a beer belly, and wearing red cowboy boots, a red speedo, and cowboy hat. Oh. And he carries a whip. He isn’t pretty, which is a reminder that writing may be part of the arts, but it’s hard work and it can’t depend on my mood or some dewy-eyed concept of the life of a writer. It’s hard work. Very hard work. I do it whether I am having fun, or it feels romantic, or not. So. Plot.
Since I’m working on a series, my usual formula needs a lot of tweaking. Not twerking. That’s a different thing entirely. And twerking in the same space as a vision of my muse is just not a pretty picture. Anyway.
In case you don’t remember my rule of thumb about plot, it is, “Something has to happen every ten pages.”
I was talking to an editor recently about the progression of a book and he was evaluating for purchase. He said, “This is really a well written book. But it’s dragging so much.”
I said, “If something doesn’t happen every ten pages the reader gets bored.”
He said, “Yeah. That’s how often the plot needs to move forward in a mystery.”
I said, “Yup. And also how often the forward progression of the romance has to occur in a romance novel and how often the reader needs to learn something about the character in a character driven story. That’s character development. But really, that’s the attention span of a reader. A writer can have the best prose in the world, but if the story doesn’t progress we can put the book down.”
And that is always true. Except it has to change just a bit in a long-running series. With a series character, a writer has to remember where the character came from, and where the character is going, and also, who the character is becoming. The writer must then write the novels with one foot in the past and one foot in the future. The reader has to be able to pick up a mid-series book and see glimpses of the character they read 4 books ago. And glimpses of the character who will be. All without being boring or repetitious, but also with being true to what has already been written.
Shesh. Prior to the Jane Yellowrock novels, my longest series was four books. I am now finishing book eight of a series. For me this is new territory. And I am not doing it all perfectly, I know. Fortunately, I have fans that forgive me and still love the series and the character. Because this is hard! Really, really hard.
So I am trying to write to the old formula, of “Something must happen every ten pages,” and make it blend with the new adage of, “One foot in the past, and one foot in the future.” I am beginning to see how that works and how I can move forward with it.
Fans will have to decide if I succeed. We’ll see. And I’ll keep learning. I’m a young chick, right? I can still learn how to do something better, do something right.
Until next time,
Faith Hunter has written the Jane Yellowrock series and the Rogue Mage series, as well as the RPG Rogue Mage. Several of her novels have appeared on the New York Times and USA Today Bestseller lists, and she has two new books under contract. Under the pen name Gwen Hunter, she has written action adventure, mysteries, and thrillers. Under all her pen names, she has 30 books in print in 29 countries.
Faith is a workaholic and playaholic who makes jewelry, collects orchids and bones, travels in her RV with her hubby and two dogs, and white-water kayaks. She also tries to keep house and cook, but since she started writing two books a year, she may have forgotten how to turn on the appliances.