To Trilogise or Not To Trilogise?

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One of the blogs I follow is by Suffolk, England, writer Dylan Hearn, who recently wrote about Ten Things I Wish I’d Known Before Writing a Trilogy.

The trilogy Mr. Hearn is referring to, The Transcendence Trilogy, has just been published, for which I send Mr. Hearn congratulations. Here’s a link: https://authordylanhearn.wordpress.com/

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The blog by Mr. Hearn, who lives in the lovely county of Suffolk, England, just up the road from where I grew up, set me thinking (as good blogs do), which in turn led to my wondering why writers write trilogies, and not stories that span two, rather than three, books.

The facile answer that pops into my mind is that they simply don’t know what to call such a work.

A duology?

But a duology sounds so, well, unfinished, as if the writer had insufficient ideas to make it a trilogy. A duology sounds like a failed trilogy, a series the writer gave up on, shamefully, like giving up on learning the piano, just another failure in your life, another indicator of your general inadequacy and fecklessness.

A trilogy, on the other hand, sounds confident and accomplished.

Which brings me to my ongoing story, Colorland (Speaking Volumes Press), which I conceived as a trilogy, but now, with volume two, Leaving Colorland, limping along no further than a first, very rough draft, and volume three only the faintest brush of a few ideas, unfocussed and undeveloped, I’m beginning to lose my nerve, those tendrils of doubt fostered partly by Mr. Hearn’s thoughts on writing a trilogy.

And I’m wondering – should Colorland be a trilogy, or should I be satisfied with it as a duology?

The questions that arise are already noted or alluded to in Mr. Hearn’s blog:

Do Colorland’s three principal characters, Ridge, Isolde, and Wenden, have the legs for three stories? Do they have enough depth to continue to explore and reveal, and to enable them to learn and grow and change through three volumes?

Do I have the legs to write three stories about them?

Do I want to devote another year or more to Ridge, Isolde and Wenden, much as I’ve grown to like them and their company? Am I satisfied with having to leave aside the exploration and development of other, perhaps more worthy, story ideas, perhaps with more potential?

Does anyone care if I write a third ‘Colorland’? Is it worth it?

(Of course I ask those questions – Does anyone care about this? Is this worth pursuing? – with every book I start, and have to push them aside before they cripple me.)

So, for setting these thoughts in motion, thank you, Mr. Hearn.

I think.

 

Slouching towards Leaving Colorland

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For the fans of Colorland who are anxiously awaiting the sequel, here’s how it stands: It has a provocative (I hope) title, to wit, Leaving Colorland. It has a very rough, unfinished draft, in fact more of a draft plot with considerable elaboration, that so far has reached 30,000 words, many of which will be deleted. It has an opening paragraph (subject to revision, of course) starting: He feels them before he hears them. A pulse in the air …

I mention this not only to salve the impatience of Colorland fans, but also to offset the notion that a rather spasmodic writer’s blog like mine, rather than a regular blog, with at least a weekly entry, such as the promoting-yourself-as-a-no-name-writer experts recommend, does not necessarily mean the writer-blogger is accomplishing nothing.

For example: Colorland The Sequel is underway, if in painfully slow fashion. (The photo, courtesy of Nancy R., illustrates the appalling conditions I have to endure as I work on it.)

At the same time, I’ve been proofing the new edition (by Speaking Volumes Press) of my first adult novel, The Ragged Believers, for release in the next few weeks, nearly sixteen years after its original publication by New Brunswick’s own, sadly lamented, DreamCatcher Publishing.

And I’ve been dealing with the final stages of a new teen/crossover novel, Black Water Rising, due for release in September by Nimbus Publishing, flatteringly described by Halifax writer Steve Vernon as “a rolling read that will sweep the reader away like a paper boat caught up in a flash flood … guaranteed to entertain and enthrall … Rayner’s best work yet!” and by Ontario writer Rich Meyrick, equally flatteringly, as “an environmentally charged, edgy drama”.

I’ve also recently finished final proofing of a new teen story, Riot School (nice title for a book by a former school principal), due for release any day now by J. Lorimer, that explores the theme of what form should protest by young people take when they object to a decision that directly affects them and no-one will listen.

Stay tuned.

Music on a Summer Afternoon

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’Tis the season of summer music, and our band, Stepping Out, has played three dates in the last couple of weeks, all of them here in Charlotte County, New Brunswick, Canada.

(We’re not exactly a stadium band, and we don’t travel far, although if there’s someone out there who’d like to book us for a gig in, say, Greece, or the Bahamas, we’d be happy to negotiate.)

The first date was in St. George, in Magaguadavic Place, the community centre named after the Magaguadavic River that flows through the town. (The summer music series is no longer al fresco, in the bandstand by the river, because the weather close to the coast here proved too unpredictable, causing immense confusion when a change of venue had to be made at the last minute as rain or fog blew in from the sea.) Admission was a contribution to the food bank, which also sold refreshments during the intermission. We debuted Burning in Colorland, the song I wrote to accompany my novel, Colorland, taking it at a slower tempo than the recording on YouTube, giving more time for Julie’s poignant vocals to convey the anguish Isolde feels at her loss of Ridge:

And I yearn for the days before all this begun                                                                                         When we were boy and girlfriend hanging out, just having fun                                                                 But we lost all that when we made a stand                                                                                                       Said goodbye to innocence, became comrades hand in hand                                                                         Still burning in Colorland …

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The second gig was in our neighbour town, St. Stephen, on the border with the U.S., in the picturesque setting of the David Alison Ganong Chocolate Park (so named after the famous Ganong Chocolates made in the town). We played in the new bandstand, with the St. Croix River behind, so that the audience, on benches and rugs and lawn chairs, could gaze past us at Calais, Maine, on the other side of the river.

The third was back in St. George, in the bandstand by the river – in perfect weather! – when we (just the quartet this time, of drums, guitar, keyboard, and Julie on vocals) provided background music for a Community Barbecue (hamburgers, hot dogs and, of course, fresh salmon) (‘of course fresh salmon’ because St. George is an important centre of aquaculture). The barbecue, in aid of the Charlotte County chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, was also the culminating event of the Rally in the Valley Veterans’ Ride, so incorporated a display of motorbikes.

We thank the towns for inviting us to play, and the sponsors for their support, and we think – hope! – the gratifyingly big crowds enjoyed the music. Certainly the little kids who danced their way almost non-stop through the programme in St. Stephen did.

And what better way to spend a summer evening than listening to music and dancing with such enviable, happy abandon?

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Almost Speechless (2)

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Picking up where I left off last blog …

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Rather than blame the saltatory nature of writing for stalling me in my efforts to outline the plot of a new story, I could equally well blame two weeks in Scotland for leaving me (almost) speechless, at the same time justifying the substitution of pictures for words, because the pictures render words unnecessary.

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So here are Eilean Donan castle, the Highlands, Ullapool, and a rather sad and pensive looking Walter Scott brooding over Edinburgh.

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Almost Speechless (1)

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I survey this blog ruefully, noting I’ve written nothing for weeks, which (so I’ve read) breaks the cardinal rule of having a blog, namely, to write consistently, so that your followers get in the habit of checking out your latest thoughts and insights.

Which probably explains the lack of a recent blog, because over the last few weeks I’ve had only scattered thoughts, and certainly no insights, with regard to sketching out the plot of the story I’m currently working on.

But then I’ve always said writing is an idiosyncratic, situational and saltatory process, so this kind of being stalled is not unexpected.

‘Saltatory’, by the way, means something like ‘proceeds in fits and starts’. I came across the word years ago and thought it useful, but it’s not listed in every dictionary, and my spellcheck insists it doesn’t exist and keeps changing it to salutatory (‘an address of welcome’), and even now WordPress is underlining it in red, telling me to fix a misspelling. Merriam-Webster defines it as ‘proceeding by leaps rather than by gradual transitions’, and the Free Dictionary as ‘proceeding by abrupt movements’, while Roget aligns it as a noun with ‘agitation … fits and starts’, and as an adjective with ‘leaping’ and with ‘agitated’ (‘… twitching, itchy, convulsive, spasmodic, saltatory, skittish’).

Right now I’d settle for even a small leap or two.

On the other hand, I’ve just written 274 words (arbitrarily including the title), which may have no relevance to the current project, but at least have accomplished the basic aim of at least getting a few words on the page, even if they’re deservedly doomed for deletion.

 

By Its Cover

I’m looking at old and new editions of some of the books, asking myself which of each set is the most effective attention grabber, at the same time as I get a lesson in humility, as I’m put in my place by the understanding (anew) of what really ‘sells’ a book.

It would be good for my ego to think that what catches the attention of a potential reader/buyer in the book store is the bewitching prose.

Not so, I’m afraid. The first thing research suggests potential reader/buyers do when they pick up a book in the store is look at the cover. Then they flip it over and read the blurb on the back, hints about the plot or mini-reviews or both. And only then, if they haven’t already decided the book doesn’t look sufficiently interesting to pursue further, do they open it at random and read a few lines of aforesaid bewitching prose.

So in order of attention grabbiness, it’s

  1. Cover
  2. Blurb
  3. Bewitching prose

Take that, writerly conceit.

Here are a few examples of old and new editions. Which of each is the grabbiest?

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(Interesting how Miss Little was reduced to Little in the third edition. It was felt that Little’s Losers was more politically correct than Miss Little’s Losers. Hmmm.)

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Maybe we can’t tell a book by its cover. But we sure think we can.