Some of you may have noticed that TG has been greatly remiss in putting up any new entries here for the last several weeks. That’s because Allen Appel was off at Art Camp (VCCA.com) working on his latest entry in the Pastmaster series of novels that can be found here and purchased by anyone who is a historical or time travel fan, or who is just tired of waiting for the next Game of Thrones novel to come out.
For our first digression of the day, TG would like to pass along that George Martin, of Gameof Thrones fame, is presently worth fifty million dollars. He earns 15 million a year from the books and the TV show. Now, some of you are going to say, “But TG, you always say there’s no money in writing, that we shouldn’t expect to make anything writing novels. But that’s money, that’s BIG money!” And that would be true, Little Ones, the difference being that George is immensely talented (and fat!) and you probably aren’t. Talented. But, as TG has pointed out many times, talent isn’t all that important in this business, so maybe you do have a chance. Always remember that TG has made some money in the business, and he has never considered himself all that talented when it came to writing. Also, George works real hard and has for years. I have a feeling he doesn’t waste much time reading this blog instead of writing.
So while Appel was at art camp, he worked very hard on his book, always keeping in mind TG’s excellent advice, Sit Down, Shut Up, Get to Work, and while he was there he cranked out 210 new First Draft Pages. The manuscript is now complete, coming in at 103,000 words, around 410 pages. Note that TG said First Draft Pages. Anyone who has read this blog over the years knows that these are not Finished Pages, or even Pretty Damn Good Pages. A first draft is not designed to be good, it’s designed to be done. TG supposes that there are writers out there who are able to turn out polished, finished, fiction first drafts, but he’s never really met any of them. Mostly he thinks writers who say that they routinely write great first drafts are full of shit and their books are dull, lifeless things. But don’t get TG started, he’s raved about this before.
So, while Appel was giving agonized birth to these aforementioned pages…
Appel: Whoa, whoa, whoa, TG, hold up a minute. “Agonized birth?”
TG: Yeah, it’s a metaphor. Or maybe a simile. TG can never remember the difference. Look, do you want to take over here, smartass?”
Appel: Maybe that’s a good idea. Ahem. (Sound of throat clearing.)
Appel here. We’ll just let TG go sulk for a while. While I was producing my first draft, I was forcefully reminded of one of the biggest problems that a fiction writer comes up against, especially when working in the novel form: doling out exposition. Exposition is information which needs to be in the story to explain something in the story, but which isn’t necessarily part of the ongoing story. Writers go to incredible, often laughable, lengths to impart information that a character already knows, but the reader doesn’t. This can be done through interior monologue, flashbacks, flash-forwards, foreshadowing, dialogue and straight narration, among other techniques. I laughed the other day when I read someone define these exposition moments as the, “As you know, Bob,” paragraphs. Writers, particularly beginning writers, are terrified of these moments because they’ve had the rule, “Show, don’t tell,” drilled into their heads almost as much as they’ve been told to always “Write what you know.” These two pieces of advice have killed more novels and writers than cholera or women and children have ever done, to paraphrase a famous quote.
TG: Enough with the quotes. Can I have my blog back? I can explain this better than you’re doing.
Thriller Guy here. Geez, that guy goes on and on, doesn’t he? Here's the deal, when you’re writing, and you’re suddenly stuck on how to put in some information that the reader needs, and you can’t come up with a clever method, just put in the goddamn information! You can fix it later. Or not. Readers will not give a crap about this as long as you keep it short. They’ll read it and move along if your story is compelling. If it’s not, you’ve got more problems than a clunky paragraph or two. So go ahead and put it in.
But never, ever, start out by saying, “As you know…”