Plus I wouldn't have all kinds of fears and freak outs to report and what would be the fun in that? :-)
So I sat down to write my pages for Humanesque yesterday and realized I didn't know if I wanted to start with a prologue or first chapter. I seriously spent an hour hashing this over, then went, "DUH!"
I just did an entire podcast on this, ya dork, and explained one method of deciding. So I took my own advice and went and looked through the best sellers in my genre. Now, remember I'm not really big into literary novels so this took me a while since I'm not as familiar with the genre as let's say sci fi or horror.
In the end I realized that the guidelines I laid out in the podcast were right on the money. Literary novels rarely had a prologue and the novel's first paragraph typically stared out with the hero's name.
So I sat down at the keyboard and...
Wrote a prologue! I now knew the rules, so I could break them!
But with a purpose. You see I knew I wanted the novel to start, in a very different, unusual, disorienting way but if I started a first chapter like that, it could turn off a lot of readers. But if I set this weird, squirrel talk off into a prologue, the audience will hopefully role with it.
Because we have to remember engendering reader's trust. This was a great example. Set off in a prologue I could start Humanesque off inside my lead character's POV, who is a squirrel don't forget so its not the typical thought process on the page, and the reader would trust that I wasn't going to do the entire book in this fragmented way.
Plus, in the end, I just liked it that way. I also started the first chapter with action rather than with another lead character.
I've decided to forge my own genre. Literary Action. Or Actiony Lit. I'm not sure, I'm still working on the details.
In the end, I was happy with my decision. And as a bonus it helps me clarify between Taskmaster and Zen.
By far the most consistent criticism of my philosophy is that I am advocating an 'auto-maton' type writing style. That I allow formula to get in the way of art.
Which sounds just silly to me, but I get that comment a lot so this feels like the perfect place to address the concern.
Yes, absolutely, one-thousand percent Taskmaster demands that you know the rules. She made me look up all those best-selling Oprah books. I fastidiously noted what worked in the marketplace and what the precedence had been. I know the typical formula (and YES literary novels, the creme de la creme of the literary world, follow formula) of my genre.
Then Zen kicks in and says, you know what, thank you Taskmaster for your diligent work, but our story needs a different flavor. A different opening.
So, to clarify, I always listen to Taskmaster then honor Zen. Its the only way I've found that works for me :-)
Because at the end of the day, it's your novel. I want you to be as well informed and educated on your craft as possible so that you can make intelligent, well connected, artistic decisions.
Then once you've made a decision, especially if it goes against the grain of your genre, you have got to sell it. Which to be perfectly honest, I'm not sure if I did, but ya know what? I liked it, and for now that's enough. Plus in a rough draft, my opinion is all that matters. I might make a different choice once I get feedback and write deeper into the novel. Because as much as its my novel, I am writing for an audience so I have to take feedback seriously.
But for now, I'm swimming upstream for a while, and it feels kind of nice to take a chance. Risk being criticized.
So Taskmaster encourages you to know your craft. Know your genre. Then Zen would like you to take a risk today. Have you been itching to do an entire fight scene without dialogue? A western without guns? Or maybe just a paragraph without commas?
Thank Taskmaster for all her hard-core researching, then go for it. Throw convention to the wind and see how the breeze feels through your hair!
Until next time, keep on writing and let me know how your risks pay off.