In a few short weeks I'll be sitting in on ACFW's early bird session on Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass, so I thought I better re-read his novel and take a look through the workbook again to be prepared. So, from now until conference I'll be sharing a little of what I've been reading in at least a couple of my posts each week. It's about time I get back to sharing the art of studying craft on this blog. I've always found that it helps cement the concepts into my head too.
Whenever I study a craft book, I pull out my trusty highlighter. Love that invention! In my first read through, I used yellow, but this time I'm using blue. So when something ends up greenish (blue on top of yellow), I know I've hit something that sings to me. So I'll be sharing a selection of those noteworthy lines in these post for us all to learn from. Can't share them all--I'm noticing way too many greenish lines so far to do that! So, for starters:
"Breakout novels are highly detailed and generally complex." (Pg. 28)
Okay, now that poses an issue for me. I'm not a complex person, nor do I like stories that take me in several different directions at one time. But is that really what this means? I'm going to refer to Twilight often in these posts, because I believe that it is one of the most widely and most recent known breakout novels published. Is it highly detailed? I'd say yes. But it isn't riddled with such on every single page. Stephenie Meyer chooses carefully where to put detail and how much to include, whether intentionally or not. And that's what keeps the story moving and not overwhelming.
Is it generally complex? Aw, well, do vampires really exist? How does Meyer's make Edward seem so human, yet he's a mythical "vegetarian" vampire? I think the key word in this is "generally" for one thing. Generally gives a lot of leeway, so that it doesn't go over the top of most peoples' heads, but yet it's sufficiently different from the norm that it grabs and keeps our attention. Do we need to tap into the untrue to achieve that, though? No. If we write strictly reality driven stories, then I believe to make it "generally complex" we need only dig deeper into the issue we're creating the story to portray. Make it something that the reader will learn from, or at least start pondering their own view on, so that it becomes "generally complex" to them.
I write inspirational romances. A lot of people frown on any sub genre of romance, as if they have no real value. I sat watching my family eat at the popular Kawartha Dairy ice cream on vacation last week and looking around at all the other patrons sitting at picnic tables, glider swings, and on the grassy hillside, I noticed several "couples". Each couple told a story (at least in my mind they did.) Everywhere I look, I discover more couples. Our world revolves around relationships, relationships with God, relationships with co-workers, relationships with your doctor, and yes, relationships with the love of your life. If you don't have a love-of-your-life, the odds are you're looking for one. So, you tell me, is writing an inspirational romance that depicts a healthy, yet sufficiently complex enough courtship, that also delves into a "generally complex" issue (as if finding romance isn't complex enough) worthless?
It isn't to me. Romances written to inspire and stretch the human realm of emotions, are as valuable to me and my growth as a human being, spiritually and otherwise, as a new study and cure is for heart disease to a Cardiologist. And it's something I can much more relate to, also.
So, how are you making your stories, whatever genre, detailed and generally complex enough to possibly become the next breakout novel? Or, if you're a romance writer, how do you validate writing in a genre that is so widely criticized and snuffed off as irrelevant or petty?
Surrendering to Him,