“A funny thing happened on the way to staycation…” or “Happily Ever After as a breeding ground for faith”

So, just as I gave up on blogging about books during summer break, my husband mentioned something tonight so post-worthy, that I just had to share.

Mr. K. has been reading Searching for Dragons to my children at bedtime for the last week or so. Tonight, he noticed a pattern in our youngest, just six years old: at peak points of suspense, when the story gets really “scary” for her, she starts to panic. Usually, he reassures her that there will be a happy ending. Continue reading

This story does not stop here!

For the last week, I’ve been struggling with a major rewrite of a short story. Basically, the character was not so likeable, her journey was boring, and the ending was very, very lame.

The problems with my Lame-O story:

This was already the third or fourth draft of the story. I’d originally written it for a particular venue, who rejected it. Later, it was accepted for a different one, conditional on me completing a satisfactory rewrite.

The main structural changes the editors asked for were the removal of one subplot (and the scenes both where it was introduced and where it was resolved) and a new ending.

I cut out the subplot. No problem. I wasn’t entirely attached to it.

But still not done!

Now my story had a new problem Continue reading

In the Courtyard of the Novelist: An interview with Ruchama King Feuerman

I’ve got a treat here today: an interview (conducted via email) with award-winning author, Ruchama King Feuerman. Her latest book, In the Courtyard of the Kabbalist, just came out in September as an ebook. Recently, she signed a contract to expand the release to paperback. I became acquainted with Ruchama through Tablet Magazine online, where both of us have published essays. She was gracious enough to send me a copy of her new book and even more gracious to answer a few questions the novel left me with.

R.K. – In your first book, Seven Blessings, the central figure is a very strong female character. In this new book, you primarily follow two male, unmarried characters. What was that like for you as a married woman?

new book from Ruchama King Feuerman

In the Courtyard of the Kabbalist, now out from NYRB LIT

R.K.F.I prefer writing from the male point of view. This way I don’t worry about slippage, about parts of  my personality leaking into my characters, it’s just cleaner — what’s me is me, and what’s them is them.  I feel much freer to invent and have fun when I write as a man.  I do tend to prefer singles maybe because they are inherently dramatic. Continue reading

Avoiding the dreaded DEAD END

Dead End, Black and White

As mentioned in a couple previous posts, I’m wrapping up my Novel-In-Progress. This has been a long, somewhat traumatic process, but it’s getting done. About two weeks ago, I realized that I had to scrap the ending entirely. Why? Because my ending wasn’t The Ending.

Confused? Let me clarify.

To be a good ending to a novel: 1) there has to some resolution to the major problems faced by the central character/s (this doesn’t mean there is a happy ending, just that you see things are settled); 2) the conclusion should share the themes addressed at the beginning of the book (even if it’s to turn the initial beliefs of the characters on their heads); 3) the end should be consistent with the details and personality brought up earlier in the novel; and 4) the reader should feel satisfied that they didn’t waste their time.

While some books have many possible “Endings” that flow logically from what precedes, there are also many “endings”–dead ends that leave the reader disappointed. You can’t expect a reader to be satisfied by the last minute introduction of a character (never before seen in your novel) to save everyone from destruction. Unless you’re trying to be funny, it probably won’t work for a character to act like their personality has been switched with the hero of a different story entirely. Consistency helps your world become believable to the reader.

The ending I wrote in my outline was replaced long ago with another. However well this ending resolved the characters’ dilemmas, it didn’t really address the same themes as the initial chapters of the book, nor did it satisfy the readers. Everyone who read my first complete draft seemed to sense that I was holding back certain details of how the book should finish. The truth was, I was afraid to write the Ending the way it should be written, because I was afraid it would become unpublishable.

What do I mean by “unpublishable?” All publishing houses use a style guide. Normally, this governs mechanics like punctuation, capitalization, use of American English vs. British English, and the like. However, Orthodox Jewish publishing houses have an additional level of what words, topics, and the like that they think are appropriate to include in their books. Truly, other kinds of publishers have similar guidelines, just must less stringent ones. Then magnificent Ending I have just written has just crossed a few too many of those guidelines most likely to be found at an Orthodox press. However, the book is VERY, VERY Jewish. Like probably wouldn’t make sense if you didn’t have a sound foundation in Yiddishkeit.

I think I have now written the Ending the way it should be, but it’s just as unpublishable as I feared. Seeking sympathy and advice, I spoke to the ladies from my writing group. They think I should keep the new conclusion, since it is after all the Ending.

And so now, I will have to revise yet again, to see if I can make this book into something someone (other than myself) would publish.

Picture courtesy of http://etc.usf.edu/clipart/68000/68050/68050_123_W14-1_b.htm

Another existential crisis in the life of my Novel-in-Progress

So, if there was any one thing that every single person I’ve had read the Work In Progress has said, it’s this:

You call this an ending?

Otherwise known as: time to find another way to end this book.

I’ve been avoiding this issue a bit as I’ve been rewriting, because I’m still not sure what would be a better ending. However, I’m almost done resolving the other issues in the book. My new ending must be found. Preferably soon rather than later.

It’s not that I don’t know where my story’s going. Or at least the general neighborhood. It’s just the details.

I’ve been looking for some inspiration online, and have found a few great links to help me out. I’ll share them with my readers, in case any of you are in the same corner as me.

Post from The Other Side of the Story with Janice Hardy http://blog.janicehardy.com/2010/03/end.html

Post from the Creative Penn http://www.thecreativepenn.com/2010/08/09/how-to-write-the-ending/

From How to Write a Book Now http://www.how-to-write-a-book-now.com/plot-development.html

Article by Holly Lisle http://hollylisle.com/how-to-finish-a-novel/