The End – The Most Difficult Part of a Story

posted in: for authors | 1

Another one for my fellow writers:

Some of you might struggle with starting a story, developing characters, or keeping the plot from lagging in the middle, but for me, the ending is definitely the most difficult part of writing a story.  I can tell you exactly why that is, with hardly thinking about it:  I don’t want my stories to end.  When I write my characters, they become real to me.  The only end is death.  So, until my characters die, there’s no ending for me, the author.  But no, I’m not going to write about their geriatric adventures (at least, I don’t think I am), so there has to be an ending.

Perhaps this is why I love series so much.  Whether it’s in writing or on TV, I’m there.  I like when a story goes on and on.  Characters continue to develop, change, and grow.  That makes me happy.  I’m all about characters.  But at some point, plot plays itself out, and it is time to end.  It’s inevitable.  For the reader, there must be an end.  That means the author must, at some point, sever the line between the current journey and the geriatric adventures (unless you’re willing to kill all of your characters off, which, hey, could be fun.)

So how do you approach the ending?  How do you approach the multiple endings between books in a series?  There’s no perfect answer to this question.  However, there are some things you can consider that might help.

Some of the best advice I’ve heard is to write the first few endings you imagine, and then throw them away.  Yeah, it’s kind of a waste of time, so I do my own version of this in my head.  I come up with the expected ending, and 99.9 percent of the time will not use it.  Every once in a while, an expected ending is called for.  I don’t think there’s necessarily less reader satisfaction because the ending is expected.  Not if it is well-written and done right.  But that kind of thing has its place, and I don’t think it works for what I’m writing.  So getting rid of the “canned” endings is something that really helps me.

The worst advice I’ve ever received about endings came from the professor of a creative writing course I once took.  I wish I had never taken this course, because the professor was one of those people who thought of herself as the-writer-of-all-writers, and if you didn’t write the way she did (old lady memoirs), then you weren’t doing it right.  This course killed writing for me for a long time.  Really sad.  So, to be completely evil, I’m going to pass on this horrible advice for you.  (I’m actually reluctant to do so.  However, I feel it is my duty to the universe to reveal this astoundingly awful advice and tell you, if anyone ever tells you this, don’t listen.)  So, here it is:  There are only four endings.  1. The character gets what they want and they’re happy about it.  2. The character gets what they want and they’re not happy about it.  3.  The character doesn’t get what they want and they’re not happy about it.  4.  The character doesn’t get what they want and they’re happy anyway.  *Screams*.  Aside from the fact that this reduces the art of writing to some trite formula, it is clearly not true.  It may have some truth in it… a lot of endings do fit within this scope, if you strip them to skeletal level.  But not all.  I give you Frank Stockton’s famous short story, The Lady or the Tiger? in which none of these endings occur.  I have always absolutely loved this story, and it’s ending is what made it.  So there.

So what else do you need to know?  Consider your readers’ feelings.  Yes, it is good to surprise.  If you’re writing a series, you want to leave an open door and some unanswered questions to pull your reader into the next book.  However, you don’t want them to hate you.  You want to give them what they came for.  In a series, it is particularly hard to find this balance because, of course, you still have a lot of story to tell in order to provide the answers and satisfaction.  I tried to achieve this balance for the end of E, and I think I did a decent job of it.  One of my beta readers screamed and asked me for the next book.  My editor (whose writing advice I trust beyond anything) praised the ending as a skillfully executed navigation of a difficult task.  As reviews have come in, some have thought the ending provided adequate closure while leaving the story open, and some have been… well… screaming and demanding the next book.  This is a place that I’m happy with as an author.  I don’t purposely leave my readers dangling, but there is more to this story than can be told in a single book.  And I’m writing as fast as I can to get the next one out.

So, on the topic of considering readers’ feelings, let’s talk about Veronica Roth’s Divergent series.  (Spoiler alert.)  I will give her kudos for the fact that killing off her main character was a bold move, but I felt that it was also contrived simply for the shock effect.  It did create waves.  But were reader’s feelings taken into account?  Was anyone actually satisfied by that ending?  From the way that her fans have responded, I think she got a fairly resounding “no” on that question.  (Personally, I mentally checked out about 1/3 of the way through Insurgent, when I felt the main character had no reason or motivation to back up what was happening, and my suspension-of-disbelief could just not cover it anymore.  That makes it hard to say if I was satisfied by the ending or not, though I would guess not.)

Let’s look at Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games trilogy instead.  (Still spoilers….)  Were the readers’ feelings taken into account?  I’d say yes.  I don’t know about you, but I was just yearning for Katniss and Peeta to finally be together after all they had been through.  I wanted them to have their happily ever after.  This could have been one of those .01 percent endings where it might have been OK.  Did Collins do the happily ever after?  Noooooooooo!  (And yes at the same time.)  Katniss and Peeta got together.  They did.  But it wasn’t a grand sweeping moment from a fairytale with the big smooch and all.  It was subtler, gentler, slower, and crafted with great care to emphasize the long-lasting effects of social violence.  It was about the scars.  It was real.  There was damage that could not simply be undone by a kiss.  Beyond that, Collins really seized hold of the opportunity to whap the reader with the big picture.  The kids not knowing they were dancing on top of a mass grave– that got me.  I know some people didn’t like this ending, but I think it was perfect.  I was satisfied.  I was left thinking.  This ending kind of haunted me.  Perfect.

Taking the idea beyond just the readers’ feelings, a good ending pays careful consideration to theme.  You may be writing something lighthearted– a quick and fun read– but that doesn’t mean that you don’t have something bigger to say.  I’m not saying get on a soap box or anything.  Please don’t.  But find the deeper themes in your story, and bring them out in the ending.  An ending should have meaning.  In E, (no spoilers, hopefully), I wanted to bring out the interplay of good and evil, the impact of our choices, and the weight of conscience (for starters).  To do this, I brought back some of the symbolism that had been used throughout the story.  I also added some dialogue with multiple meanings.  Sure, it can be read straight up, but there’s more to it, if you are a more-to-it kind of reader.

I’m currently trucking toward the end of my second book in the E series.  I’ve not released the title yet, so we’ll just call it TMT.  To be honest, at this point my story is getting a bit epic, and I am not sure exactly where this book will end.  I do know that there is no way I can completely wrap up the plot in this one book… unless you want it to be a thousand pages… so my readers can expect some loose ends with this one.  That being said, a good ending needs to provide some answers, and I’m working hard right now to figure out how many answers I am willing to give.  I think I have it figured out to some extent.  I have somewhat resigned myself to the fact that one of my characters’ major concerns cannot be resolved within the scope of this book.  It just isn’t possible.  However, I have worked out a milder, though temporary, resolution through an event that was going to happen anyway, that will hopefully give my readers some sense of closure.  I don’t think I could end this book without it.  The other major plot line does come to an end, or rather, a beginning.  The ending will result in a lot of new information, and a big reveal.  Of course, this leads on to new things, and more to come.  It’s not set in stone yet, but I think I’m feeling pretty happy with the decisions and they are starting to solidify in my mind.  That said, I always leave myself open for the story to take me somewhere else, so who knows.  It’s not over ’til it’s over.

I’d love to hear from the other writers out there on their battles and successes with endings.  I’d also love to hear from readers about favorite and least favorite endings.  What makes or breaks an ending for you?

…and a link to Chapter 1 of E.

Indie Doesn’t Suck… Necessarily

posted in: rants | 1

OK, so a recent email conversation really got me thinking about this.  Indie vs. traditional publishing.  A friend brought up a good point about the stigma associated with Indie writers.  Of course, as an Indie writer, I wanted to immediately protest that it’s an outdated view and there’s no reason for it.  But is there?  Well… yeah.

Here’s the hard cold facts:

  • Some Indie writing does suck.
  • Some traditionally published writing also sucks.

I have read a lot of comments online that go something to this effect:  “I have read [x amount] of Indie books, and I am never going to read one again.”  This is so, so sad.  There are a lot of truly wonderful Indie authors out there who deserve a chance.  *coughs- “Read my book!”*

So maybe here’s the problem:  In traditional publishing, agents and publishers weed out a lot of the “bad” stuff.  The reader then receives a filtered, though slightly canned, feed of “good” books to choose from.  Easy peasy.  Only, there’s no guarantee that those books are actually going to be good, or appeal to you.  It’s still a bit of a gamble.  I know I have read (or started to read) my share of traditionally published books that have then been discarded with a fling of my wrist and a choice exclamation of suckdom. <– Yes, that is a new word.  You can add it to your dictionary.

And yeah, I have also started to read many, many Indie novels that didn’t make it past page one.  There was actually one in particular that was so bad that the first incredible roadkill-of-a-line has become a quote in my family that signifies the epitome of all suckdom.  My four-year-old quotes this book.  I have no idea what book it was, or who wrote it.  Only that it was bad.  Really, really bad.  The point is, I feel your pain.  I understand the disappointment of settling down for a good read with your cup of tea and favorite pillow, and then being like, “WTF is this???”  I get it.

So how do you find good Indie writing?  A couple of things:  Persistence is one, though I assume a lot of you won’t like that answer.  The other is, be an active reader!  Review things, for god’s sake.  If it sucks, tell people.  If it’s awesome, tell people.  I know you’re busy and you don’t have time.  Neither do I.  But honestly, how many seconds does it take to click a star rating at the end of a book?  Like, about the time it takes for your cheese toastie to warm up in the microwave.  Or less.  Think of it as a favor to humanity.  If you really can’t be bothered with all that, then find a book blogger you trust.  There are tons of people out there blogging genuine, honest book reviews.  Find someone who shares your tastes.  Problem solved.

Ultimately, your participation will help out Indie authors (like me) with the dreaded Indie stigma.  So why should you?  Aren’t Indie authors just writers who couldn’t get their books published traditionally?  The recycled “bad” authors of traditional publishing?

No!  No we’re not!  …At least, not all of us.  I think it is important for the public to begin to understand the Indie author “thing”.  Think of it like this:  Authors are entrepreneurs.  There are two choices.  You can buy a franchise, which, yeah, is a safer investment, and do the cookie-cutter thing, or you can go it on your own, retain complete creative control, and really “own” what you do.  No one to answer to except the customer.  Personally, I take option two.  There might be those “recycled” authors who couldn’t get the franchise, so to speak, but there are a lot of us who never wanted it in the first place.  Please don’t just assume that Indie equals “couldn’t make it traditionally”.  For an author, Indie can make a lot more sense than traditional publishing.  I have read numerous horror stories from traditionally published authors who have felt as though traditional publishing treated them harshly.  Without going into all that, suffice it to say that I felt it was a bad business decision to sign over my soul to traditional publishing.

So, there you have it, my little rant.  If you take nothing else from this, I hope you will give Indie a chance.  And if you agree with what I’ve said, please show your support for Indie authors by taking the time to review their work.  Go Team Indie!

(Please feel free to steal my “Go Team Indie” button.)

 

You can read Chapter 1 of E here.

 

 

 

4 Major Considerations Before Choosing a Pen Name

posted in: for authors | 0

This one is for the other authors and aspiring authors out there.

Some of you have probably figured out that “Kate Wrath” is a pen name.  It’s pretty obvious, right?  When I was making the decision whether or not to use a pen name, I found a lot of good advice out there on why or why not to do it.  I’m not really going to go into that, though I will say that in my case, my real name was already used (like five times by five different writers all with the same name).  It was a definite no.  There was no way I was getting the website domain I wanted, and it would have just been confusing to my readers.  Plus, no one pronounces my real name correctly, and people always have to ask me how to spell it.  It would not have been ideal anyway.  I pretty much knew I was going to have to go with a pen name.  So what then?  How do you come up with one?

I literally spent a year throwing around names.  It was probably the most agonizing part of getting ready to publish my novel.  I felt like I couldn’t go ahead with anything until I had that name, and it eluded me.  I originally made the mistake of thinking that I had to find a name that was essentially “me”.  I had to name my soul so that the world could see it.  That would be my pen name.

Parents are supposed to name you.  You’re not supposed to have to do it yourself. –Eden (from E)

Well, let’s get real.  That’s a load of crap.  Yes, obviously you want to have a pen name that suits you, but the nature of a soul is changeable.  You can’t name a soul.  So, while you want to really ‘click’ with the name you choose, here are the actual, real considerations that you need to think about when you are coming up with that pen name:

1.  Does somebody else already use that name?

This was a big eliminator for me.  I mean, there are lots and lots of people out there.  As an author, you want to stand out.  That means that you want to come up with something different.  Either the first or last name need to be unique enough that when you Google that name, there will not be 500 hits.  I went through scores of possible pen names before settling on “Kate Wrath”.  There was only one hit on that name and it seemed to be some obscure thing that had maybe been used once on a website somewhere, and forgotten.  Perfect.  That means that when my readers search for me, they are going to find me, not some other chick (or chicks, as it may have been).

2. Can you get the .com?

Also very annoying when considering using my real name, even though there were those five other writers with my same name, none of them were using [myname].com.  But you know what?  The domain still wasn’t available, unless I wanted to pay more money than I had available to try and get it.  And yes, trust me, if you are serious about being a writer, you want [yourname].com.  If nothing else, you will be really annoyed when you are a NYT bestselling novelist and your readers all end up on someone else’s blog.  Case in point, check out blockbuster Divergent novelist, Veronica Roth.  Oh wait, that’s some lady talking about going antiquing.  Hunh???

3.  Can you spell it?  Can other people spell it?

So maybe you write sci-fi and fantasy, like me, and you really vibe off those unique, sci-fi/fantasy-sounding names….

Is that Kalaeyannea with an ‘ie’?  Or a ‘ya’?  One or two ‘n’s?  A ‘k’ or a ‘c’?  Oh, OK, gotcha now.  *looks confused*

Do I really need to say more?  Simple is better.  Make it easy for your readers to find you (and spell you).  Yeah, it’s not easy finding a simple, unique name that you ‘click’ with.  Trust me, I know.  (1 year later….)

4.  Branding, branding, branding.

You’re probably sick of hearing that word.  I know I am.  But it is important.  If you write light, girly romances, ‘Pinkie Peach’ might be OK.  But not if you’re a mystery novelist.  In my case, I liked that “Wrath” sounded a bit dark, because, yeah, I write a lot of stuff that’s a bit dark.  Like, a teeny-weeny bit.  Bwahahahahaaaa.  I balanced that out with a very normal, easy-to-spell, and grounded-but-girly first name, because that just fits me.  I am a bit of a girly girl, after all.  And I think this makes my pen name branding stretch a little farther so that it works for the broader range of my works that I am planning to bring out in the future.  (I am also working on a lighter fantasy series).

The point is, consider the connotations behind the name.  That’s exactly what expert marketers do when they name products.  Think of car model names, as an example.  Analyze some of them.  They are pretty much all engineered to bring positive connotations to your mind, whether it be travel, elegance, or badassishness.  <— Add it to your dictionaries, folks.

 

SO, there you have it, what I think are some of the most important considerations when coming up with a pen name.  If you found this article helpful, please share it, tweet it, and link it.  And as always, feel free to comment!  Happy writing!

…and read Chapter 1 of E here.

Look what came in the mail! My proof copy of E!

posted in: Uncategorized | 0

I was absolutely thrilled to receive my proof copy of E in the mail today.  Here it is:

E trade paperback

 

Now I get to spend some time reading it (for like the 2000th time) to make sure there aren’t any errors.  I think I end up with more errors from my proof-reading than I have in the first place, though.  So far, I found a stray period at the beginning of a chapter.  How did it get there?  I really don’t know.  I blame gremlins.

the offending dot
the offending dot

Also, the cover printed a touch darker than I’d hoped for, so I will be fixing that.  There is a shadow on the back cover that printed so dark it covers some graffiti.  You can see the graffiti fine in the file on my computer, but in print, no, that would be too much to ask for.  This is exactly why I am not a graphic design artist.

So, you can guess what I’ll be up to this week.  Along with that, still ticking away on the word count.  Book 2 is about 1/3 written.  43,000+ words as of today, and counting!

…and read Chapter 1 of E here.

The book trailer dilemna

posted in: book marketing, book trailers | 0

Quite some time ago, my amazing husband came up with a fantastic concept for a book trailer.  We talked about the details and he immediately convinced me that we had to do it.  I mean, he’s a genius.  And he has a substantial knowledge of film-making, so everything seemed like it was going to work.  We were gonna do it.  I was (and am) totally psyched about the whole idea.  So why, you ask, is there no awesome book trailer yet?

Well, the book trailer idea is not a series of stills.  It’s live action.  And it involves one loud, bloodcurdling scream.  I don’t have a sound stage.  Do you see where I’m going with this?

So, we were going to do the filming at home, but then the scream issue came up.  We live on a relatively quiet street.  There’s just the lovely older couple across the street, and the neighbors behind us.  We wave at them, but we don’t know them.  We haven’t lived here that long.  I put the ka-bosh on the idea of filming at home, because I just couldn’t deal with the visions of a policeman at the door and me saying “Yes, officer, everything is fine.  We’re just making book trailers in the closet.  Yes, feel free to check for bodies.  No one is dead.”

So then I considered walking across the street and informing the neighbors that there would just be a little screaming and it was nothing to worry about.  I didn’t really like that one, either.

Of course, my husband laughed at me the whole time I chased all of these scenarios around in my over-active imagination.  Then he said, “We can dub the sound in over the movie.  We’ll just go out in the wilderness and record the scream.”

OK, I’m thinking.  And then I imagine myself hiking along a secluded trail in the great outdoors, and wafting to me from somewhere far away, a bloodcurdling scream.  OMG, is someone being murdered?  Eaten by a bear?  I’d have the park rangers on my cell phone the second I got back to decent reception.  Of course, by then, the culprit/author would probably have had time to make a run for it.

Am I nuts, or is this a real problem?  What would you do?  (I understand that you’re probably not a crazy, eccentric author like me, so you are probably not going to face this kind of challenge anyway.  But you never know.)

 

 

Shhh, it’s a secret…

posted in: Uncategorized | 0

As part of Rave Review Book Club’s Spotlight Author Blog Tour, I will be featuring a fabulous author on my site!  The feature will be up on Sunday morning, so come check it out.  Who is it, you might wonder….  I’m not telling.  Yet.  So stop by on Sunday to check out the BIG REVEAL.  The feature will include author information, awesome book cover (*loves the book cover*), and an excerpt (*also loves excerpts*).

And for those of you wondering, yes, I’m still here.  I’ve been working on getting my site whipped into shape with some new bits and features.  It’s actually starting to look like a real site, woot!  I’ve also been busy with megatons of stuff.  I’m totally excited that I have finished all the formatting and cover for Createspace, and my book will soon be available in print.  I’ve ordered the proofs and just need to check that everything is perfect.  Between that and real life, I have been amazingly busy.  So I’m going to go write.  Like now.

Book Madness Week

posted in: Uncategorized | 0

Hey guys!  I’m super-excited to share with you that I am being featured today on Peace, Love, and Writing’s Book Madness Week!  Check out my feature if you have a chance.  Again, a huge thanks to Prudence Hayes for all her help and support.

Also, I have a couple more reviews in on Amazon, and they’re looking good!

Kate Wrath has a gift for solid characterization and believable dystopian struggle. – Jim Lion

 

Delicious, but you still want more! – Mary M. Brewer

 

I can’t wait to hear from others!  Hope you all have a great Wednesday.  We’re halfway through the week, and cruising toward Saturday!