The reasons for this blog: 1. To provide basic author information for students, teachers, librarians, etc. (Please see sidebar) 2. I think out loud a lot as I work through writing projects, and I'm trying to dump most of those thoughts here rather than on my friends.

Friday, December 12, 2008

I have been working, but had to stop and take care of daily stuff, and now am trying to dig back in.

This is what's going on the past few writing days: I'm retreading, going over the pages and trying to hone them. The format means that everything has to be clear and sharp, so there can't be any unnecessary comment. No extra words or phrases. No excess thinking or explanation from the MC's pov--and the best thing is if I can write a tight, evocative sentence that automatically leads the reader to have that thought or explanation for themselves. Everything has to have a purpose and direct the reader toward something.

Now, I know these are all goals I must necessarily fall short of. It's not possibly for anyone--or not me, anyway--to write that perfectly. But it's the general idea I'm shooting for.

So what I seem to be finding--and it's striking me more with this ms than with regular prose, which is more forgiving of a bit of excess here and there--is that if I break down what I have and look at it in smaller and smaller sections, it tends to make the proper shape of the story more clear to me.

I do this with regular prose, anyway. I think most writers do to some degree. You take a scene and go over and over it thinking from the MC's pov and everybody else's pov and the reader's pov--everything from where all the characters' hands are at any given moment to where the light's coming from to sensory details to what minor Character X secretly feels about what minor Character Y just said.*

But with this ms, every time I do that, more opportunities open up. And unfortunately, more choices have to be made. Like right now I'm in the middle of this part where the MC follows her mother's pet slave out of the women's quarters and to the kitchen area. I have a description of what she sees when she walks into that kitchen (or rather, kitchen-y room, because they didn't really have kitchens like we do). I have been focusing on the fire; I spent a good amount of time before this enjoying myself by describing the fire and working it in later in the ms and such. The smoke, the flames, the wood being fed to them, etc. etc.

So today I get to this part and I've got these two slaves in the kitchen-area, and I realize I said what they're doing, but not what they look like. Okay, I can figure that out. So I start figuring it out, what's important about it, what I need to pick out to write down.

But now I'm thinking, Whoa. This is a huge deal. Two slaves that my MC has never seen before. She's never been to this part of the palace before. I have this moment of awkward silence where the slaves are shocked and don't know what to do, and the MC is staring back at them.

And that's it. I've just blipped over and moved on to the fire. But here is this excellent opportunity--it's almost called for--to stop and figure out what this encounter does in terms of the entire story. The story is about the MC's finding out how closed in and powerless she is. This scene is before she even has an inkling how tightly bound her choices are--and here is a moment hanging with these two slaves, who of course have no choices at all. I need to use it, if only in a very small way. I'm just not sure how.

That is why I'm blogging instead of actually poking around in the ms at this moment.

I cannot sit and think logically about what needs to happen, or what the MC might logically realize or wonder. I have to go back and in my head try to feel out, from the beginning of this section--and maybe farther back--what she would really be feeling or thinking at this moment of silence as she looks at them. It's not leaping into my head. I don't know if that means I lost my way before this and something is wrong, or if I've just got off track a little because this ms is a mass of spaghetti and I've already forgotten the earlier part of this particular strand. It could be that I just need to go find the beginning of the strand and follow it and it will lead to the proper way to fill out this silent moment. Except that the beginning of the strand might be hard to find, in this mess. And if I find it and start working on it, I might forget that I'm supposed to be following it all the way through to this scene with the fire. Sigh.

Oh well. Back to work.

*Except I hate it when sensory details are thrown in that don't have a purpose except to be sensory details. Like if your understudy actress MC is standing in the wings awaiting her big chance to go on and finally get in the spotlight, and there's a line like "I smelled the scent of hand sanitizer from one of the stage hands." It's like, why the f*ck is that in there? This may come from my having the attention span of a gnat--maybe it's literary description and I just can't handle it (I know I have a problem sitting through literary descriptions). But maybe it's just bad writing. I don't know.

And sometimes I have a hand sanitizer moment and other people just don't get it. I'm like, "It's a recurring theme of cleanliness that underlies the MC's entire journey! Are you blind???"

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