Monday, October 24, 2011

Separated, But Not

I'm not sure if anyone will be able to relate to this post, but here it is. My collection, Bonded, is unique for me in the fact that it's three novellas that could easily stand alone, but will be published together. Because of this (and at the request of my publisher for when I submit the final copy to my editor), I recently dumped all three stories into one document. I feel like these books have to connect in more ways than before. They'll be read together, compared to each other, etc. They all take place in the same world although only a few characters cross over the stories and time periods - and only minor ones, at that.

If you've ever read Flannery O'Connor, you might understand how stories can interweave without actually being connected in plot or characters. Although I haven't read any O'Connor for years (I really, really need to pick her up again), I remember she did this connecting so well in her stories and novels that I feel like there's some secret town somewhere with all her characters living together. Way cool.

I want a similar feel for the three novellas in Bonded, but if they are ever published separately, I absolutely want them to stand alone. They are fairy-tale themed, and that connects them. Each of the main characters falls in love with an elf, and that connects them. They each explore vastly different themes, but do contain a few similar layers, and that might connect them. I guess my biggest frustration as I finish the third and last novella is how much do I really want to tie these stories together? How much do I want to go back and add little pieces that connect more dots? Or should I allow them to stand more freely as I originally wrote them?

It's not that I am worried so much about what my readers will want, but what will eventually satisfy my complete vision. The problem is that I don't know exactly what that complete vision is. Some writers seem to know concretely what they want before they even start. Me - I let things grow organically. I've reach a point, however, where I have to make some solid decisions with this book/stories/novellas, whatever this thing is. And, quite frankly, I'm stuck. I've been stuck on this decision for months. I've procrastinated by blaming this block on releasing my other book and having too many other things going on, but those are lame excuses. It all really just boils down to the fact that I can't decide what to do, and I need to decide soon.

I suppose the answer lies in the fact that if I'm a good enough writer, I will connect these stories in some brilliant way outside of what I've already done, but they will also remain completely separate. I wish I knew what I was doing...

15 comments:

  1. If all else fails, go with your gut.

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  2. Rick, that's so not working right now, but I'll keep trying.

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  3. You must have created one charming elf!

    You're right not to worry about what your readers want. It's like writing a pop song geared for a specific market. Pop songs are rarely, if ever, art. Personally, I love interweaving stories and I'm looking forward to when you release them.

    I have tons of stories to tell about the future I've created in 'Shores.' They're not planned sequels, (although one is,) but different stories altogether. So, I know where you're coming from.

    And who knows what they're doing?

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  4. You've sort of set yourself with a paradox, Michelle.

    1) You want to write your stories organically. (Great!)

    2) You want your stories to have common thread between them. (Great!)

    But since that common thread hasn't been part of the organic growth, you're asking impossible. You can't write three stories as more less independent, organic entities and then hope to retro-actively apply a theme or a weave that is just as organic as the individual stories.

    As far as I can tell, you have three main options:

    1st - You can impose a thread.

    2nd - You can continue organically and let there be or not be a thread as it happens.

    3rd - You can sit back and organically conceive a thread and then, just as organically, conceive how those works might incorporate the thread.

    If the thread's no there as they stand, then the thread's not there.

    That said, as a reader, I see threads all the dang place between the three, and I think you're mostly blinded by the mechanical, industrial aspect of the endeavor. If you detach a bit from the end goal and sort of meditate on the three, I think you might see them, as well.

    Or, maybe not. Sometimes readers and writers never do see a work the same way.

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  5. Charlie: Hah! Well, it's actually three different elves, but they are all charming, yes. :)

    Yeah, I like companion-like books, but it's hard to find a good balance.

    Nevets: Ok, you're right, and thank you for laying out things like that. It helps me see things a lot more clearly. This is what I was hoping for - a little more insight into my predicament, thank you! And maybe it's not a predicament at all. I just need to step back a little...

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  6. Whew. After I posted that, I was thinking, "Way to mouth off, Nevets." :)

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  7. I might be inclined to just think of "Scales" as its own story, and write it out to see what happens. Odds are, because it's you writing it, there will be themes and images common to "Thirds" and "Cinders" coming through even if you don't put them there consciously. In other words, perhaps the author is the force tying the three tales together?

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  8. Let someone else read them and see of they can see a link.

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  9. I was thinking the same as Scott. Your voice is the thread that ties them together.

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  10. Hi Michelle! A post! For me, the important thing to remember is that neither choice is right or wrong. This is a matter of preference. When I putting my collection of shorts together or when I was working on my novellas as a collection, I liked the idea of keeping them separate but having parallel themes like religion running through them. In my two novellas, for examples, I included religious differences, and for me that works to unify them. But part of the fun for me in putting collections together was to have things feel somewhat eclectic. For me, making them fit in too much suddenly feels like I'm only writing one thing, a novel, which of course isn't bad, but not what I wanted at the time.

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  11. And I just tried to type Malasarn, but wrote Lamasarn instead.

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  12. I like the idea of having the stories being stand alone, yet still connected. What I see as the power of making the connections is that readers who know all three stories will see the connections and will feel as if they know a secret others might not know. These connections work like inside jokes that give those in the know an additional shot of pleasure.

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  13. For what it's worth, I've always interwoven threads throughout all my books. They are stand-alones, written that way if you only read one of them. But together they form a series. Even in my contemporary romances, there's always a character from a previous book, who ties into the theme, albeit with a different perspective.


    Like Lester said, an inside joke, between you and the reader.

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  14. Hi, I hope you don't mind but I've included you in a writing related tag on my blog. Hope you'll come check it out!
    Emily

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  15. Nevets: No worries! You always give great insights. :)

    Scott: I think you have an excellent and really logical point there. I should give that a lot of thought...

    Martin: Hehe, good point! I'm sure my editor will help, too. She's good at that. :)

    Linda: I sure hope my voice ties them together, but of course I find myself worrying about what will people think about this plot point and this plot point over here not quite matching up? Ugh.

    Davin: Yeah, it's not right or wrong, and that puts me at ease to think of it that way, so thank you!

    Lamasarn is a great variation! Hehe. :)

    Lester: What a great point! I have something like that running through all my fiction, actually. I wonder if anyone will ever pick it out. :)

    Anne: Ooo, I didn't know you did this! How cool! I'm so excited to get all your books, hehe. :)

    Overdue: I'll have to check it out, Emily. Thanks.

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