It Can't Always Be Good News

>> Tuesday, April 10, 2012

First, for those of you sharp-eyed patrons who might have noticed, my header has changed and this is no longer "novelists at large" but just one, me, Stephanie Barr. Although I did write three novels with Lee, with our divorce fresh and still raw and both of us scrambling to find our new equilibrium, there's no telling if there will ever be another one we write together. And it won't be the same.

Still, one must give credit that writing three novels with one's spouse, without any blood drawn, is no small achievement. I'm grateful for the perspective and recipient ear he provided, the insight, and the character traits I loved (all captured quite cunningly in various character put on virtual paper). I enjoyed writing with Lee, except for a handful of short bursts where I hated it, and it was certainly a learning experience.

I will still be writing and talking about writing here, but this was a big change and deserved mention.

Secondly, as predicted, my slow introductive start for Saving Tessa did not impress the ABNA judges and I failed to pass the second round (though my sister, Shakespeare did so feel free to give her your support).

Predicted or not, I was more devastated by this than I had expected. Perhaps, this was bad timing (Motto: Don't try to market books while you're already reeling from personal tragedy) and amplified by unrelated stress. Perhaps, as I haven't really tried marketing anything for a while (and I have a soft spot for Saving Tessa), I was still too close to it. I spent a day questioning why I keep trying to write and wondering if I'm as good as I think I am, or even good at all.

Then, as cursing the darkness only gets one so far, I went looking for a match. The strengths of my stories (or so I believe) are characters and dialog and humor. Humor, I might add, is far too uncommon in novels as a whole, or rather, good humor is. But the humor, which is a big part of this and every book (without making them comedies) was in scarce supply in my beginning. I don't want to jump into my plot in my beginning; didn't then and still think it's wrong for the story.

But, I could change how I introduced my characters and spice things up nicely with far more overt humor, which would not only make the story more interesting in the beginning, where it needs to be to interest agents, publishers and readers, but also offers considerably more opportunities for revealing why I love my characters and revealing the dynamics of their relationship without just describing it.

I haven't put my thoughts and speculations to the test yet, though I've been toying with some possibilities on how to do it, but, I'm excited by the notion, already thinking of ways I can use this new scene to streamline "narration" from others or other aspects that were bogging down the first few chapters.

And, if this brief disappointment I had ends up making this a better book, well, then it's just the tonic I needed.


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