Some FAQs!

Before I get to the FAQs: Check out readergirlz tomorrow; Graceling is the featured book in September.

Okay, here goes.

1. Does Katsa loiter? Does she lurk in the corner of your mind and say things like, “That is so not how I would do it!” (for example)?
*smile* No, she really doesn’t. None of my characters do. There is a very clear line between me/my life and my characters/their lives, and when I think about my characters, they’re always in their own world, not mine. I wish this did happen now and then, though. There are plenty of times when my characters would make better decisions about how to handle certain situations than I would. I could really use some tips from them :o)

2. I’m writing a book. It’s slow going at times to try to keep my focus. I feel like I can see ahead to more exciting parts of the story, while right now I’m trying to set up the setting, which can be tedious. Do you have any suggestions for this? Should I skip ahead and write the exciting parts, then go back and fill in the build-up?
This is a really good question, and it’s something that happens constantly, over and over, in the course of writing a novel. There are so many parts of a novel that are the parts without a major tension or emotion or climax or revelation.

Some people skip ahead and that works for them. I can’t tell you what to do. But I can tell you what I do. I do NOT skip ahead. (The only time I skip ahead while novel-writing — and I never skip more than a few lines/paragraphs — is when I absolutely cannot know what’s supposed to happen now until I’ve written something that won’t happen until later. I leave a gap with a small outline or notes, and make myself move on, even though I hate to leave blank places and it makes me worried and nervous.)

What I do try to do is figure out a way to write the establishing-the-setting type things, the establishing-who-the-characters-are things, in scenes that are emotionally interesting and do have some sort of small excitement. I don’t mean that every single scene needs to have high drama; I only mean that… well, for example, right now in my writing, I’m building up to some fun, exciting stuff that will be happening soon. But the parts I’m writing right now are distinctly unexciting, and it’s hard to make myself keep writing. I kind of need to show the passage of time and do some exposition that feels pretty boring to me. So, I’m trying to use these passage-of-time sections to build the relationships between characters I’ve neglected so far. For example, if there’s some information I need to convey to the reader during this slightly unexciting section of the novel, I might try to find a way to reveal the information using an unexpected conversation between two characters who haven’t interacted much before. Put them in an interesting place, maybe give them a few props to work with (something to do with their hands or look at with their eyes), and also give them a few things to talk about at once — some important topics, some less important topics, and maybe even something frivolous or funny, all mixed in together. (Don’t make your conversations too linear!) If you get your characters moving around their setting and talking, revealing the way they interact with each other, your setting/characters/exposition will come to life, and the conversation/action will engage the reader at the same time as you convey the possibly unexciting stuff you need to convey. And you might learn something from their conversation that you hadn’t realized before.

Does that make sense? It’s only one example of a way you can use laying-the-scene to also further-the-plot and increase-inter-character-tension. ^_^ If you feel like you’re bungling, don’t worry too much. I don’t think it’s possible to write a novel without feeling that way.

3. Do I need to read Graceling before reading Fire?
This is hard for me to answer objectively, because, of course, as the purist author, I would prefer everyone to read them in the order in which they were published, and I also think that reading Fire first gives away one big Graceling spoiler. BUT, I have heard from plenty of people who read Fire first and then Graceling and say that reading them in that order totally works. Both books stand alone — technically, you don’t need to read one in order to understand the other. So I think you’re safe either way! (Blog readers who’ve read both — if you have a [SPOILER-FREE] opinion about this, please feel free to leave it in the comments!)

ETA: There are some strong (spoiler-free) opinions about question #3 in the comments, so do check them out if you need advice!

There are so many other questions I want to answer, including questions about dealing with anxiety about publicity/appearances/etc., and I hope to have time for more FAQs soon. Happy Monday, everyone!