Monday, August 31, 2009

Some FAQs!

Before I get to the FAQs: Check out readergirlz tomorrow; Graceling is the featured book in September.

Okay, here goes.

1. Does Katsa loiter? Does she lurk in the corner of your mind and say things like, "That is so not how I would do it!" (for example)?
*smile* No, she really doesn't. None of my characters do. There is a very clear line between me/my life and my characters/their lives, and when I think about my characters, they're always in their own world, not mine. I wish this did happen now and then, though. There are plenty of times when my characters would make better decisions about how to handle certain situations than I would. I could really use some tips from them :o)

2. I'm writing a book. It's slow going at times to try to keep my focus. I feel like I can see ahead to more exciting parts of the story, while right now I'm trying to set up the setting, which can be tedious. Do you have any suggestions for this? Should I skip ahead and write the exciting parts, then go back and fill in the build-up?
This is a really good question, and it's something that happens constantly, over and over, in the course of writing a novel. There are so many parts of a novel that are the parts without a major tension or emotion or climax or revelation.

Some people skip ahead and that works for them. I can't tell you what to do. But I can tell you what I do. I do NOT skip ahead. (The only time I skip ahead while novel-writing -- and I never skip more than a few lines/paragraphs -- is when I absolutely cannot know what's supposed to happen now until I've written something that won't happen until later. I leave a gap with a small outline or notes, and make myself move on, even though I hate to leave blank places and it makes me worried and nervous.)

What I do try to do is figure out a way to write the establishing-the-setting type things, the establishing-who-the-characters-are things, in scenes that are emotionally interesting and do have some sort of small excitement. I don't mean that every single scene needs to have high drama; I only mean that... well, for example, right now in my writing, I'm building up to some fun, exciting stuff that will be happening soon. But the parts I'm writing right now are distinctly unexciting, and it's hard to make myself keep writing. I kind of need to show the passage of time and do some exposition that feels pretty boring to me. So, I'm trying to use these passage-of-time sections to build the relationships between characters I've neglected so far. For example, if there's some information I need to convey to the reader during this slightly unexciting section of the novel, I might try to find a way to reveal the information using an unexpected conversation between two characters who haven't interacted much before. Put them in an interesting place, maybe give them a few props to work with (something to do with their hands or look at with their eyes), and also give them a few things to talk about at once -- some important topics, some less important topics, and maybe even something frivolous or funny, all mixed in together. (Don't make your conversations too linear!) If you get your characters moving around their setting and talking, revealing the way they interact with each other, your setting/characters/exposition will come to life, and the conversation/action will engage the reader at the same time as you convey the possibly unexciting stuff you need to convey. And you might learn something from their conversation that you hadn't realized before.

Does that make sense? It's only one example of a way you can use laying-the-scene to also further-the-plot and increase-inter-character-tension. ^_^ If you feel like you're bungling, don't worry too much. I don't think it's possible to write a novel without feeling that way.

3. Do I need to read Graceling before reading Fire?
This is hard for me to answer objectively, because, of course, as the purist author, I would prefer everyone to read them in the order in which they were published, and I also think that reading Fire first gives away one big Graceling spoiler. BUT, I have heard from plenty of people who read Fire first and then Graceling and say that reading them in that order totally works. Both books stand alone -- technically, you don't need to read one in order to understand the other. So I think you're safe either way! (Blog readers who've read both -- if you have a [SPOILER-FREE] opinion about this, please feel free to leave it in the comments!)

ETA: There are some strong (spoiler-free) opinions about question #3 in the comments, so do check them out if you need advice!

*****
There are so many other questions I want to answer, including questions about dealing with anxiety about publicity/appearances/etc., and I hope to have time for more FAQs soon. Happy Monday, everyone!

16 comments:

A. Grey said...

Great FAQs post! Good questions and very interesting answers. I can actually agree with you 100% on all he answers too. The only thing that I'd say is different for me is that because I write the entire story long hand before ever putting it in the computer, I will, on the very rare occasion, skip something if it's something awkward between too characters that I just haven't been able to sort out yet. But like you, I'll leave a space with a brief outline to convey the idea of what needs to be covered in that spot and then I worry and agitate until it's been resolved.

One of my ONLY O.C.D. tweaks is reading books the order that they were published. That being said I'm forced to admit that you could read either Graceling or Fire first and still have a GREAT experience. However, for me personally, reading Fire AFTER Graceling was like meeting back up with a good friend you haven't seen in forever. It was like running back to the old leather chair by the fireplace where you knew a great story was going to be told, but you didn't know what. I was already comfortable in the environment and ready to learn more, meet more folks and have new adventures.

Rhiannon Hart said...

I especially like your answer to question two. I'm a chronological writer myself and I find that those highly anticipated scenes are what keeps me going through the "down times". I agree about making the slower bits emotionally interesting too!

Laura Lutz said...

I think you *could* read Fire before Graceling if you *had* to...but I would never recommend such a practice.

LaurieA-B said...

When I read Fire (I was so thrilled to get a copy at ALA; it went into my carry-on so I couldn't lose it, and I just mailed the copy to a friend who just finished Graceling and loved it), I thought that, just like with The Blue Sword/Hero and the Crown, readers might encounter one or the other first. Whichever book they read first will give them a different experience, but it will be wonderful either way.

Of course, people who have not read Graceling will probably not SCREAM IN TERROR while reading the prologue to Fire, the way I did.

Thank you for your books. I'm so happy to read and share them with my students.

Cara Powers said...

I do think you need to read Graceling before you read Fire, because if you go back to read Graceling after Fire, some of the mystery will be gone. The mystery is a big part of the plot. I'll be saying that to my readers when I post my review some time this week (hopefully today).

http://oohbooks.blogspot.com

Jennifer said...

Very good questions have been asked and answered and I have to say that I totally agree with your answers.

Unfortunately I haven't been able to read Fire yet, BUT from the preview and such, I believe that the readers should read them in the order published, since as you said it could very well give away some spoilers in Graceling, also if you read Graceling first it leaves more of a questioning on who could have done whatever, since the characters are completely new to the reader.

Anyways, thanks for the great advice and I hope my advice answers someone else's question(s)!

Mel said...

Oh, hey, 2 was my question...
(Imagine my surprise.) I didn't realize I'd asked it...
Well, thank you for your opinion about, that really helps. A lot. Now I realize I can use that area for character and relationship development. Thanks:)
As to number 3: I haven't read Fire yet, but I read the preview, and just that gives away huge spoilers to Graceling. As one who prefers to remain spoiler-free about a book, I would recommend reading Graceling first.
I have a countdown till Fire comes out; I'm so excited, I can't wait! Usually I have a whole list of books I can't wait to come out; this time I have a whole list of movies and just that one book.

kristin cashore said...

Hey,thanks for all these opinions, everyone! I've edited the post to direct people to your comments.

MelissaKeaster said...

Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU for your answer to the question about whether or not to skip ahead when writing. I have been struggling fiercely with that one. I've been wondering if it was my OCD tendencies and not my good sense that was keeping me from going ahead and writing "the good parts," and filling in from there. I've been looking for a sign that I'm doing the right thing by writing the novel in order. I'm glad I'm not just some stick in the mud that has to write in order because I am compelled by anal tendencies rather than artistic sensibilities. I love you! Thanks! Okay, back to my normally reserved self . . . I think it is best to read Graceling first. If you read Fire first, you are denied the bit of fun of figuring out the reality of things just before Katsa and Po in Graceling. (I had to revise what I was actually going to post because it was FULL of spoilers. I hope that was vague enough.)

MelissaKeaster said...

BTW, I LOVED the Fire preview, and I cannot WAIT for October. My husband and I are currently arguing over who gets to read it first. As I am a stay at home mom, I will receive it before he even knows it's here. Then, I will proceed to hide it from him until I'm done. And then I will taunt him about how I got to read it first. :-)

Talitha Borealis said...

Those answers are so helpful...thank you very much. Do you feel your educational background has helped with both your writing process and career?

I can't wait for October, either!

Loredan Avery said...

Kristen-
I was wondering if you could recommend any books that teach more of what you discussed, ie: exposition, transitional paragraphs, how to establish setting and characterization. Or can you recommend any books on writing in general?

Your answer to question 2 was incredible, and I'm definitely going to keep what you said in mind as I plow through my own novel. Thanks so much!

Through a Glass Darkly said...

Firstly, MelissaKeaster - ROFLOL!

Secondly, thank you -so- much for your answer to #2. The book I am working on started with a vague thought of a world and six characters. I tried writing what they were up to, but I kept getting stuck because I didn't know them or the world well enough.

Every time I sat down I would have more ideas about the Before and since I have found my Beginning to start with the writing has come a lot easier. I still feel the taptaptapping of the original characters waiting for me to get back to them, but I know they'll be happier that when I DO get back to them I'll know what I'm talking about. :)

Everyone's writing process will be different, but I do think things work out better if you allow yourself the time for the building ups. And as you said, building ups shouldn't be -boring- just because someone isn't getting betrayed/killed/seduced/hijinked/plundered/promoted/reigning victorious/busting heads/kicking trash and taking names/locked up/escaping/rescued... Okay, you didn't say that -exactly-, but I think the message was conveyed.

So, yes, thank you!

I haven't gotten to read Fire yet, but if there are spoilers for Graceling in it, I wouldn't recommend reading it before Graceling. That would take away part of the fun, and when is that ever a good idea? :)

tinkandalissa said...

I always love it when a writer answers FAQs! Thank you for the question two answer! I am usually so very organized, but when it comes to writing I am not. Strange...I simply can NOT write in order. It's very difficult for me to stay focused and on track for some reason. I keep writing all over the place but when I sit down to fill in gaps and holes and write chapters that may not have lots of excitement, I get ADD all of a sudden and cant focus. This helps put that in perspective for me. :)

Rhiannon said...

hey, thanks for answering the faq's...:) as for the last question, I would DEFINATELY say read Graceling first. fire reveals an important graceling plot mystery and you have a clearer idea of the setting after reading graceling.

Hillary said...

I read Fire about a month ago and I have to say that i think it's ok to read either one first. If I hadn't read Graceling before I would have already just to see what happens if something happens. Although I loved, and I mean LOVED, Fire, I wish I hadn't read it already. Because now I have to wait extra long for Bitterblue. That's the downside to ARCs.