David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas

Writing has rules. There are a lot of rules you are supposed to never break. Don’t argue with me, because I’m right.

I’m halfway through David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas (yes, the one the movie is based on) and so far he has broken almost every rule you’re supposed to follow. He has six different protagonists. He uses six different narrative styles. He even headhops from character to character in the same chapter, the same paragraph.

So why is he forgiven for all these violations?

Because the book is that damned good.


Gimmick-Free Zone

Writers, I am declaring December as Make a Reasonable Writing Goal and Stick To It Month.

If you’re working a full time job, raising a family, and watching football on Sundays, maybe you only have 5 hours a week to write. Make them five good hours and set a goal of 2,000 words. Go for quality.

It’s like weight loss. No gimmicks. Set yourself up to do things the way you want to. Then do them.

How You Title Your Novel

You author-types out there, I’m curious how you approach the naming of your book. I like to choose a title that has double meaning, and both meanings connect with the story.

Virtual Silence is about an oppressive government that almost silences dissent, but not quite. And it is about an activist group that seeks to shut down the government’s means of control, which is the virtual world of the internet.

Fugue in C Minor is about a composer who is trying to write a great song, but struggles because of a brain injury that has caused significant memory loss.

My third novel is about an English Major so intent on saving his beloved language, that he fails to pay adequate attention to his marriage. It is called The Dying Art of Conjugation. I still expect to have the first draft completed by Christmas.

One reason I pose the question about book titles is that in Kindle Boards’ Writers’ Cafe, one of the discussions is about keeping novel titles very short. I am opposed to that.

What do you do? Or, as a reader, what does a title say to you?

Milepost 80,000

My work in progress novel is now at 81,500 words. I’m almost at halfway through the manuscript. This is where the line blurs between composing and editing, because some of the text that lies ahead was written 25 years ago, some 20 years ago, and much of it was 10 years ago. I just re-wrote a chapter from 25 years ago and ended up discarding the entire original. My intent was to clean it up, not re-write it. But you do what you have to do. I want readers to enjoy it, after all.

Great Ideas

I get all these great ideas for blog posts when I’m in the kitchen cooking. Then I come upstairs to the computer and forget them completely. Maybe they just weren’t that great.

I was talking with my wife about a story that has been brewing for a while now. A ghost story. I’ve been watching Ghost Adventures for kicks. So I open up the file for my ghost story and I realize all the stuff I’ve had floating in my head for months has not been written down. None of it! So I spent an hour writing down all these notes, arranging timelines, fixing dates that couldn’t possibly work. There are two novels that intersect at a certain date, so everything that happens before and after in these two stories has to work out logically.

My work in progress novel, the one about language and divorce, is at 78,500 words now. I’m still on track to finish it by Christmas Eve.

The Personality of Your Novel

My work in progress novel is now at 77,000 words. I’ve mentioned before that I outline every chapter before I compose anything. But what still comes serendipitously is the personality of the novel, and that is starting to take shape in a way I would not have predicted two months ago. It’s still technically a romantic comedy. But it’s a moody one, and not because of a bad relationship. The main character is coming to terms with “his place” in the world, which my personal belief says you can change with the right plan, connections and effort. But he doesn’t see it that way. So he must suffer.

The Latest Gossip

It’s still Sunday here, so I’m entitled to post a sermon.

I was getting a haircut today at this cheap place I like. Getting my youngest son’s cut, too. The boss, a nice lady from Thailand who doesn’t say much, was cutting my hair. “You like?” That’s all she really needs to say to me, anyway.

But in the next chair was a lady getting her hair done, not just a cut, see. She and the stylist were talking about some guy they both knew, and then a former boss, and then a whole bunch of other people, and they were berating them all like they were criminals. In fact, one or two of them might have been criminals at one time. Anyway, they were investing so much energy in talking badly about all of these people and I just wanted to say, “Enough!”

It’s so easy to say something negative about other people. We all have foibles. We’ve all made mistakes. Some people make lots of them. But to spend all your waking hours saying nasty things about other people just makes you look like a nasty person.

“Some weather we’re having, eh?” the boss asked me. “I love this kind of weather,” I said. “It’s a beautiful day.” Even though it was cloudy and windy.

The other two ladies kept gossiping. Nothing was good. Nothing was right. Everyone was an idiot. Everyone was trash. All that energy wasted.

So have a nice day. No, really. Have a great day!