My YA Paranormal Fantasy Realm of the Goddess is available for free download Dec 27 and 28, 2014. Grab a copy if you like Indian mythology, kick-ass heroines, romance, exotic locales and lots of action.
The process of editing has me so frustrated that I have decided to turn to other bloggers for advice. I am having several plot issues and over the next few weeks I will be writing posts about these in the hopes that I will get some feedback from other writers and bloggers out there on how to handle these. Let me just say in advance that I will appreciate any and all thoughts and comments. At this point I feel that I am ready to just give up, but I know that I cannot and that I must finish this novel and publish it. I tried to do it alone and I feel that at this point the opinions of others who are not so attached to this will be a great help.
So here is my issue of the day:
As some of you may know, I am writing a Young Adult Paranormal Romance novel based on Hindu mythology. Although the heroine is from North America, obviously a lot of the action takes place in ancient temples and the jungles of India.
My question is this: How much explanation should I provide of terms and actions etc, that might be unfamiliar to North American readers? For example, Namaste is a traditional Indian greeting. Having lived in North America myself for over twenty years now, I feel that many people know this. Of course I plan to weave an explanation of many things related to Hindu mythology and Indian culture into the story, but some of the terms aren’t really that unfamiliar in today’s ethnically diverse population. I also don’t want readers to think that they are reading a lecture on cultural issues. After all, this is a Young Adult novel. I would love to hear what you all have to say.
Since I started writing a couple of years ago I realized that there are some occupational hazards of being a writer. These include :
-Your sleep being hijacked by your characters as they live out the scenes from your book.
-Your friends no longer sharing intimate details of their lives with you as said details inevitably find their way into your book.
-Being unable to go to any social functions without mentally categorizing people and their quirks for future use in your book.
-Listening with disturbing intensity when coming across anyone with an accent, in case you can use it in your book.
-Shushing people at the movies because they dared to fidget as you are trying to mentally record a scene that might help you with your book.
-Having difficulty concentrating on what your friend is saying at lunch because you are fascinated by the way she chews her food and you might be able to use it for a character in your book.
-Developing an unhealthy habit of imitating grimaces and other facial expressions as you try to write them, but forgetting that you are in public.
-Mentally practicing combat moves for your fight scenes, not realizing that you are acting them out while sitting at a Starbucks and people are beginning to stare.
If anyone wants to add weird habits they’ve picked up as writers, I would love to hear about it.
I have been having this on and off relationship with the Prologue for my novel. I feel that it needs one, but then everything I read tells me that agents and editors hate them. Well at least the majority of them. Because the lives of the characters in my novel are intertwined with the gods and goddesses from Hindu mythology, I feel that it is important to set the scene, so to speak. I personally love prologues and I find that for certain stories they can provide valuable background details. I decided to delve deeper into what people are saying about prologues and here is what I learned:
1. Never use your prologue as an information dump about your characters or the setting. It is better to cleverly work that into scenes and dialogue.
2. Don’t use your prologue as a hook. That’s what the first chapter is for. Also readers will feel cheated if the prologue reels them in, but the chapters don’t deliver on that promise.
3. Your prologue should not be overly complex. This will just confuse readers and possibly turn them off the book entirely.
4. Never, never write a prologue that doesn’t connect with the main story. It will leave the reader wondering and not in a good way.
5. Ask yourself whether your prologue can just be the first chapter. If yes, then that’s what it should be. Apparently many people don’t even bother reading prologues. In that case, if the prologue contains information vital to understanding the story, you’re royally screwed.
Clearly there is no single answer to the question of whether or not to write a prologue. But at least there’s a lot of good information out there on how to do it right. Since I am the boss of me and I love prologues, I will keep mine. I have a strong gut feeling that my readers will appreciate it.
Here are a couple of links I found helpful:
The Prologue – When to Use One, How to Write One by Marg McAlister: An excellent dissection of the prologue, its advantages and disadvantages by Marg McAlister. She lists several questions to ask when deciding to use or not to use a prologue.
http://www.writing-world.com/fiction/prologue.shtml: An interesting take on the multiple roles a prologue can play in your novel. If your prologue is not doing any of the jobs it’s supposed to, then it doesn’t belong in your novel.
I seem to have painted myself into a corner while attempting to edit my novel. I started out making small changes here and there. But then, like bunnies they multiplied and before I realized it, so much had changed that my characters started turning on me. One of them didn’t like the way I made her look, the other doesn’t like his personality. So what do you do if your characters refuse to be who you want them to be? In my mind I’m the boss, but just as it happens in real life, this is just a figment of my imagination. Which is really my point. They wouldn’t even exist if it weren’t for me. It’s like I tell my children sometimes (read everyday) , I gave them life, therefore I get to make important decisions. But just like my children do to me, my characters lured me into a false sense of believing that I actually control them. It turns out that I don’t. Most of them are refusing to do the things that I ask, so I started making more changes to make them happy. So now I have to figure out a way to coax them all back into the little darlings they used to be when I first started writing this novel. Good luck to me.
I was thinking about the stories we all grow up with. No matter where we spend our childhood, when we move to another part of the world we carry these stories with us and consciously or not, they make their way into the stories we write or tell our children. The folktales we listened to as kids or the stories that Grandfather always told at dinner seep into the world of the characters we create and soon we experience a wonderful fusion of cultures in which the bedtime stories a child might have heard in India merge with the stories of the Brothers Grimm. Thus we create new fairy tales for another generation. Almost every culture has some version of the knight in shining armour who saves the princess. Or the brave warrior girl who outwits the evil genius. And then there are all the mythologies. As a child growing up in Germany I devoured the Grimm Brothers’ fairytales. But I also loved the stories that my Bengali father told me and the comic books he bought me from which I learned about Hindu mythology. I grew up in a Muslim home, reading stories about Hindu deities, along with old German folktales. I lost myself in the Arabian Nights and listened to the bedtime stories that my Pakistani mother told me. Fantasy knows no boundaries and stories flow effortlessly across man-made borders. As writers, we are in a unique position. We can create characters and stories which reflect wonderful aspects of different cultures and enrich the literature of our times. And never has this been easier than now, when we can reach such a large audience so quickly and easily. I am grateful for the opportunity to share the stories that created such happy memories of my childhood.
When the freelance editor I hired returned my manuscript with many helpful comments and critiques, my initial reaction was one of relief. I was glad that I found someone who understood the story I was trying to tell and was familiar with Indian Mythology. I read through all his comments, excited by the prospect that soon I would sit down and polish the manuscript and then it would be ready to go out into the world. After all there was nothing that could stop me now, right?
Wrong. I sat down to get started and hit a wall. Metaphorically, of course, but it felt like an actual wall. My head hurt and my heart started to race. It could have just been the aftershocks from the horrible flu I was still getting over, but the panic I felt was real enough.
I had to talk myself out of the dark place I found myself in to get going again. Luckily, no one in my family finds it strange when I talk to myself, and soon enough I got going. Now I’m on a roll again, but it was scary for a while there.
So, my question to you is:
What is the best way to approach the editing process?
On our trip to India two years ago we visited Fatehpur Sikri. A lot of the action in my book takes place in old temples and palaces, so this was a perfect spot for some great inspiration. The Mughal Emperor Akbar had this palace city built in the late 1570’s when he relocated the capital of his empire from Agra to Fatehpur. The architecture is a dazzling blend of Persian and Hindu styles. The design bears testament to the religious tolerance that Akbar was well known for. While the Mughals were devout Muslims, Akbar chose to educate himself on the tenets of Hinduism, Jainism and Sikhism, as well as Christianity. In the palace he dedicated a large hall, called the Ibadat Khana or Room of Worship. There he invited scholars and leaders of other religions to meet and discuss their faith with the goal of enlightenment and brotherhood. Surprisingly forward thinking for his time, Akbar even invited women to join these weekly gatherings. But he didn’t just stop at gatherings and discussions. Akbar tried to create a new faith which was an amalgamation of all the faiths he had encountered. He called this faith Din-i-Ilahi, Faith of the Divine. Unfortunately for him, the ministers of his court were not quite so open-minded, and prejudices got in the way of his tolerance. Those closest to him began to worry that his open acceptance of the other faiths would pose a threat and political circumstances did not allow the new religion to gain popularity. Sadly, a few years later, Akbar’s court abandoned the palace at Fatehpur Sikri due to a water shortage.Today, the city still stands, nothing more than a ghost town of courtyards and surrounding pavilions. Walking around the complex you can almost hear the echoes of children playing in the gardens while the Emperor’s wives lounged by the pond. Inside the empty palace it is easy to feel the intensity and passion that must have filled the Ibadat Khana when Akbar led the scholarly discussions on the some of the world’s major religions.
As a writer there is nothing more inspiring than a place filled with so much history and intrigue. Every room seems filled with secrets and stories just come alive as you walk in the footsteps of so many who made and changed the circumstances of their time.
As parents we often have to tread carefully to avoid stepping on the fine line between good parenting and over parenting. How do we know when enough is enough? Is there a magic age when we can say that we have done all that we could for our children and that the time has come to step back?
I thought I was a helicopter parent. I hovered in preschool, in elementary school and would have continued to hover in high school if I had not walked into that invisible wall as my oldest daughter went off to her first day. It wasn’t an actual wall that stopped me…it was a look of sheer horror and embarrassment on my daughter’s face as she realized that I was stepping out of the car and following her. That look stopped me in my tracks. I realized that I had gone as far as I could. I stood outside her school like an abandoned child for a few minutes, before it hit me. This was it. No more greeting the teacher as the kids walked in and hanging around the classroom if they needed parent helpers. Apparently, once your kids hit high school, parent helpers are synonymous with the plague. I realized that I needed to get a life of my own, hence the desire to start a career as a writer. Also, I had some time to transition since I had another child and her teachers to harrass for a few more years.
Which brings me to the article about helicopter parenting. Apparently it is a real affliction. It seems that there are parents out there who haven’t heard of the invisible wall I was talking about. And if they did, they may have just crashed through it anyway. I’m not judging because I know I’m just as guilty of hovering, but I do draw the line at calling my children’s prospective employers or future university profs. But extreme hovering tactics aside, when do we let go? Do we deprive our children the benefit of our experiences and failures and allow them room to make their own mistakes? Is it hyper-parenting to want to spare your child the disappoinments that you have faced and give them an edge? I don’t have the answers, but I do know that it is a daily struggle to decide when to step in or back off. After all, it is our children’s future that’s at stake.
My editor sent back the first twelve chapters of my manuscript and I must say that the feedback was very helpful. It’s as if we share a brain except he knows just how to organize the thoughts and I’m still all over the place. It was incredible reading his comments and realizing that he picked up on all the issues I was having and suggested ways to make them better. Am I lucky or what?
Now I am looking at massive rewrites, but that’s better than not knowing whether my concerns are valid or just the product of self-doubt. There was an interesting thing about his feedback when I received the second batch of chapters. I noticed that he gives compliment sandwiches. He’ll say something positive, then point out things he didn’t like and end on a positive note. Interesting…I wonder if that’s something all editors do or if my editor is just really nice.