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.
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
The girl is copied, down to the folds of her dress! I think maybe Dutch painting, at that point, was still considered more of a craft than an art--or perhaps it was starting to break off?
What's interesting to me lately is the idea of artists in a community influencing each other. With the advent of the Internet, writers are also influenced by the way their art is received, and the way they themselves are perceived--or believe themselves to be perceived. I wonder if the Internet is having an effect on writers' creativity, taking the place of how writers used to provoke and challenge each other to change or experiment. And, if so, whether that's good; are writers tending to boldly stretch their comfort zones because they see others doing it? Or is the Internet perhaps squashing writers because it shows them a worldwide picture of the market and their potential readership?
Monday, September 29, 2008
Thursday, September 25, 2008
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Monday, September 22, 2008
I'm used to secondary characters who don't have to be in sharp focus 100% of the time because they are in service to the MC's story. They have their own real, full lives, but they can be like the guy at the edge of a Degas painting that's half cut off while the ballerinas are in the middle doing their thing. I hadn't realized till now that even though I work hard to use my secondary characters to fullest extent, they're still not extensively developed. And this ms is a real beeyotch because every time I slide over somebody just for a second to concentrate on somebody else, I accidentally drop one or another thread (plot, character, or theme) and get off track.
Saturday, September 20, 2008
Also had some thoughts re. a certain chapter farther on, and that's actually what I was dabbling around in today. It requires some extensive scene setting (for me, anyway, considering I'm not very big on description) so I'm trying to get a picture in my head of the nitty gritty.
This is not very conducive to the big picture or to forward movement, but it will have to be done at some point, and I'd better do it now before my library books are due back. Although I'm pretty sure I need to recheck one because I'll keep using it for reference.
Thursday, September 18, 2008
And I cut nearly every word of those two paragraphs I slaved over the other day. I think I might have kept one sentence, or part of one.
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Monday, September 15, 2008
Sunday, September 14, 2008
Now I'm getting the willies because I'm thinking of all the writers I know who have sent in a ms that's like this, and the editor tosses off a couple of half@ss ideas re. fixes, and the poor writer actually tries to apply them, assuming that Editor = God. Months or years later the editor sees the fixes and says, "Sorry, this just isn't working for me." And the writer is totally at sea. The horror! The horror!
Have I done this? Sort of. I keep trying new things I don't know how to do, and sometimes an editor will have input and I might or might not start feeling my way into their suggestions. Never turn down free expert advice, I say. But anybody who blindly follows an editor's suggestions is just that editor's b*tch, IMO. They don't know they're an editor's b*tch, bless their hearts. They're entering into the rewrite with a good attitude and good will and hope. But the bottom line is that they're giving up all the power, and doing so is likely to come back and bite them in the you-know-what.
It's a terrible thing to have a failed ms, but it's much, much worse to have a failed ms that's not even close to your own vision anymore.
No, far better to take your time and unsnag yourself. I had better d*mn well get a stronger feel for this ms.
Saturday, September 13, 2008
I have a vague idea that, if pursued, could help me wrap my head around this project--in other word, give it a backbone and structure and goal. However, I can't quite get the idea fleshed out and pinned down in my mind. It's a big cloudy mass of...stuff. Very frustrating.
I feel like I can almost get it. Character 3 is betrayed by a trusted friend. There's something to do here--not with the betrayal per se, but with the various characters' reactions to it. Because later Character 1 is betrayed by a trusted friend. Character 2 has already been betrayed--we just don't know it. And near the end Character 3 is betrayed again, by a different person.
But what do to with all this? Maybe look at how the choices characters make about who they trust and who they don't trust drive the plot. But there's more, because I don't know what I want to say about trust--which means the book has no point. I don't really have anything to say about trust. My personal views about trust are that you're probably better off not relying on it too much; it's more important to consistently act with integrity (whatever that means to you) so that you can trust yourself, respect yourself, rely on yourself. You can't take those around you for granted or assume that they'll have your back always and forever, no matter what.
Don't trust anybody but yourself seems like a terribly negative theme to impose on a book. It's also not what I want to say.
However, there is something I've been wanting to say, that I don't know how to bring out. Not about trust, but about standing alone and weathering trouble; that sometimes help or companionship comes from unexpected places. It's not something you'd even appreciate, if you hadn't been troubled and alone. You wouldn't have valued it--you weren't capable of valuing it--until things went very, very wrong for you.
This is likely too complex an idea for this story. What I think I'm getting at is hardship developing one's character--but not in a "When I was your age I used to walk to school in a snowstorm" way. I'm thinking more about broadening your empathy and understanding and appreciation of other people. I don't know that I can get this across in a book, because I'm not sure anybody can actually understand it unless they've been up against some kind of wall themselves. Also, this is not a very reflective story and there's not much room for digressions.
But then, that's a great challenge, trying to cram all that into a book with swordfights and kidnappings.
Anyway, I don't know if I can proceed unless I have at least a tiny glimmer of how any of this fits together. Will have to pull up the ms and think about it. Right now. Hope I don't just stare blankly at the screen for hours.
P.S. Now that I think about it, "Don't trust anybody but yourself" is the way Character 2 thinks. And look what happens to him.
Thursday, September 11, 2008
So I'm working on Character 3 in the middle of working on Character 4, in the middle of this very short bit of meeting and dialog. If the bit were in real life, it would probably last maybe a minute or two at most, but I can see that I'm going to have to put a lot of time and elbow grease in to get it working. I'm overwriting like crazy right now, and I know that most of what I'm doing will have to be cut. But it's got to be done so that I can figure out what I do and don't need.
It's discouraging to think that all this work will mean exactly nothing to anybody else. If I do it properly, the work won't show. And of course there's the whole issue of whether the ms will ever make it to publication and the added fillip that even if it does it's unlikely to be read in a market that puts out 10,000 new books a year, not to mention that the few souls who do manage to take a gander will just blip over it on their way to the other 9,999 books.
So in order not to be discouraged, I just won't think about all that.
Back to work.
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
We tossed that around a bit and wf got me to narrow down some issues and pinpoint a couple, and then it was down to mainly one, which is Character 4 and the fact that I don't "get" him yet. I described him (personality, not looks) to wf and gave some examples of people we know who are like that, sort of, and how I know what he feels because I strongly feel that way about some aspects of writing. Wf suggested that the clothing of the people we know like that sometimes shows their personality. We talked about how Character 4's personality traits might come out in what he wears. I was like, okay, he's poor and does hands-on labor, so he has one or two sets of clothes at most and they're hardly ever washed, probably patched. And he's not vain at all, but there would likely be one outward indication of this huge inner dramatic streak he has. I thought it would probably--logically--be his hat. Once I got started thinking about one specific thing (under the direction of wf) I could feel this guy getting a little stronger and moving away from the shadow of the other three characters and all the plot stuff that's fogging my brain. So I got off the phone and started working.
Specifically, Character 4 doesn't have any money, and everything he owns is worn and faded, and his hat would probably be shapeless and utile. I'm thinking it would be felt, not straw, and it's likely red, but like I said, very faded now. But...I'll bet he'd wear with a little dramatic flair, either put something in the brim, or flourish it every once in a while with a dramatic gesture, or change the angle or roll up the brim.
For some reason, this made his words fall more into place and the other characters' words recede a little, and I saw all the crap I had to cut that was me blah-blah-blahing in dialog. I didn't delete it, but cut and saved it under a separate file in case I need it again later. Now the chapter has a backbone to work with.
Thank goodness for writer friends. Worth their weight in M&Ms.
This chapter is not just an introduction of character 4 and a bunch of dialog. Something has just happened; all three other characters are in various states of surprise or shock. How they react in this chapter shows who they are. It also sets up...something. Somehow it ties into and leads into changes that are soon to come in the story.
And so to work.
Tuesday, September 9, 2008
Anyhoo. They can take away my confidence, but they'll have to pry the keyboard from my cold, dead hand. You don't need confidence, in writing. Just a word processor. Or at least a tablet and pencil.
Is it that the pace is taking a sudden nose dive?
Am I just unclear on the characters?
Does the chapter merely need a focus?
Do I need to figure out precisely how this chapter moves the story forward?
G*d forbid it should be all of the above.
Coincidentally, this very book is lying on the front floorboard of my car, where it is getting in worse and worse shape from being kicked around by kids getting in and out. I took this book to a few of the lengthy waiting-room sessions I had this summer, thinking that having nothing to do for two hours would force me to stick with it and finish it. Nope. I went and got my crossword puzzle book and did those instead.
Now, I have a lot of trouble reading any fiction nowadays. Writing fiction has ruined me for reading it. I don't know why; it's not like I pick apart everything I read. I guess picking apart my own stuff every day has dulled the part of my brain that approaches books with open enjoyment. I dunno. It's a shame, whatever the reason, because reading has always been one of the joys of my life. But anyway, I'm looking at this review and thinking about my WIP and I'm thinking maybe I don't even know what tension is. I still haven't quite figured out why I started reading The Penderwicks and somehow got sucked into it so that I sat and finished the whole thing in one fell swoop, when I set aside the vast majority of the novels I try to start. It's not like I thought anything might really go wrong in The Penderwicks. There was nothing at all to worry about. People were hanging out together eating gingerbread...scrumptious gingerbread. With cream.
I think I bought that book. If I did, it might be downstairs, unless I lent it to somebody. I ought to try to find it and look at the chapter endings.
Maybe there's plot tension and then there's character tension, and people tend to respond to one or the other. And maybe there are different levels and types of plot tension and character tension. Like I'm guessing I respond to romantic tension, which Penderwicks had, even if it was middle grade romance, harmless and underplayed. Perhaps I did not respond to the tension in the book on my floorboard because I didn't care about any of the characters. Which is interesting because the book is all about a one-sided romance (which Penderwicks also had).
I have noticed that a writer friend and I tend to cut our chapter breaks in completely different places. When this friend has critiqued for me, said friend suggests different places to break for more tension (usually it's just a slightly different place, like maybe a paragraph or two away). But the suggestions almost always feel like the wrong place to me, so I leave it the way it is. We think differently--we see tension differently, somehow.
This is all on my mind because I'm rethinking my chapter breaks now, and trying out different things. It's hard to know what to focus on in the last few paragraphs of a chapter. If it's done properly you can pull the reader onward but also plant thoughts that will echo or be fully developed later on. And that's what we call depth.
Sometimes, however, a hook is just a hook. And sometimes it's a cheap one at that. Sigh.
Monday, September 8, 2008
We'll see about tomorrow. I would like to be able to dig in as productively as today, because there's a little extra time for uninterrupted work. Maybe tonight or in the morning I can think what I want to try to do with this next chapter, which is the last chapter before things start happening and I don't have to worry so much about focusing scenes for a while. Because, you know, everybody's running around like crazy and trying to escape and rescue and such.
Maybe I should think about what I want to set up for later, what needs to be established. But I'd sort of prefer to just let the characters hang loose and interact. If they're just going to do plot chores, they're not very interesting or very much fun.
Sunday, September 7, 2008
This process is working; the story is growing and taking shape and I have a clearer view of the part I've revised. It's in order, and it is mostly functional. But at this rate...well, things may look up when I get to the middle since that's going to have a lot of new stuff. We shall hope so.
WHAT IS THE NAME OF THIS BOOK???
I feel unfocused and at a loss again, not knowing how to begin digging in today. So it's back to printing out. From the beginning; Chapters 1-5.
While I was printing, I was thinking that one thing I need to consider is chapter breaks. This is a transitional work for me ("transitional"--big word that makes me sound like a struggling arteeste rather than a loser who hasn't got a clue and should be getting a real job) and that the chapter breaks definitely reveal where I'm casting about. Some of them are artificial plot breaks, cut at moments of high tension where something is about to happen. But usually when I write I construct whole scenes (usually single chapters) that end on an emotional hook, not a physical one. I'm used to working through chapters/scenes from a completely different angle.
When I was a kid, some of my favorite books were the Happy Hollisters. Every chapter in those books ended on some kind of plotting hook like somebody falling out of a boat or the bully gripping our hero Pete Hollister's collar in his sweaty fist and drawing back for a punch. My youngest son (a non-reader) went into a Anthony Horowitz/Alex Rider zone this summer, and I think the pacing and hooks had a lot to do with that. Although all the chapters in Horowitz don't end with in-your-face plot hooks, many of them do: the tiger is in midleap toward Alex's head; the helicopter's engine is cut and it's spiraling out of control (okay, I made that second one up, but only as far as I know because I haven't read all the Alex Rider books).
So I had all these plot hooks for chapter breaks in my ms. But now I'm trying to move the ms slowly to where it's more of a hybrid of what I usually do (character) and the plot stuff, and I think maybe some of these chapter breaks are getting in my way now, messing with my head--preventing me from seeing scene in terms of character growth the way I usually do. I really like some of the hooks, but with others rethinking might help me get a grip.
Saturday, September 6, 2008
With closets you can cram tons of stuff in willy-nilly and still get the door shut if you push hard enough; not so with mss.
What I scribbled down is this (censoring out character names and plot specifics):
need to show Character 3 break up she needs to paint a touching picture of her family life
tough and pitiless till then (we see her soften at Plot Point X)
Then when I went back to bed my mind was still in that place, so it went over other stuff, and I understood some stations I could shoot for, and an order that might work. So after I got up I wrote them down because I knew I'd forget them, too:
1. Character 1 goes home in dread
2. goes to see Character 4
3. Character 2 is pissed
4. Character 3 goes to eat--sees kitchen
5. neighbor comes--warns about a search, but no one knows about character 4
6. Characters 1, 2, and 3 away
Then I noted what the state of mind of characters 1, 2, and 3 are as they leave.
This all seems very cryptic and stupid, but really it represents a lot of work and hopefully a breakthrough about the middle. There are at least six or seven scenes/chapters (probably more) here, some of which I already have and some of which I don't. The ones I do have will have to be either revamped or completely gutted and overhauled. A bunch of stuff will have to be cut--but first I've got to go through and make sure I keep the parts I may be able to cannibalize and use elsewhere.
So now I'm looking at all this--it's going to be a ton of work, a TON!--and I'm getting that feeling people have when they think they want to be a writer, that if only they had the time they would be, and someday when they aren't quite so busy they'll actually sit down and write a book. But what they're really thinking is: Dang, this is going to be a lot of work. No point in trying to start right now, because it's so much work and I've got so many other things occupying my time. And when you feel like that, what you're looking at is a long life where you sit at the end of it and realize you never actually failed at anything because you were always a wannabe who never did anything. So I'm starting today, d@mmit. I don't know where to start with it, but I'm going to find a place and try to dig in.
Friday, September 5, 2008
I'm looking at the Syd Field plotting paradigm that's supposed to do away with the saggy middle, and it's very clear to me that I have the big pieces here. I already have the inciting incident, of course. Plot Point 1 is obvious, as is Plot Point 2. The all important midpoint is there, too; everything changes for all three characters when this happens.
I just don't know what to do with this info. Maybe because the midpoint is set off by one character realizing something. That doesn't seem very interesting. It just doesn't seem quite right, like I'm missing something. Maybe I'll see if I can find some examples to look at.
Thursday, September 4, 2008
There's a fine line between self-indulgent twaddle and sharp, crisp, interesting dialog. Also I don't want to stray too far into dull bare-bones move-the-story-forward, as opposed to sparking things up with character development. But if things get sparked too much, it's like, wtf are these people talking about? It becomes completely removed from the situation they're in. Sort of like a Quentin Tarantino movie, heh.
The thing about Quentin Tarantino movies is that all the characters tend to talk like Quentin Tarantino. At least in the ones I've seen. But...he keeps the story sharp and interesting, even though sometimes he's stopping everything dead in its tracks while the people talk like him. So why is the story sharp and interesting? Maybe because his stories take such wild turns, you really have no clue what he's going to do next. And maybe he takes care and doesn't let the dialog go on too long? I don't know.
I was thinking about The DaVinci Code. I read it once, then gave my copy away, which was stupid because it was a nice copy, hardback with color pictures of the all the places and items mentioned in the book. I thought I'd never read it again. But now I'm thinking about how the author kept things moving--because he certainly did keep things moving. There was zero character development, as I recall, but for some reason that wasn't important as I was reading. I'd like to take another look at it. I wonder if I can borrow it back from the person I gave it to. Except she's off at college 300 miles away. But if I go to the library I'll end up with a bunch of books I don't have time to read, and then I'll end up reading them instead of writing. And if I go to Half-Price I'll end up buying a bunch of books I can't afford and don't have time to read. I have zero willpower when it comes to books. G*d forbid I should go to the regular bookstore, of course. I only have books one and two of Saiyuki Reload, and the others are calling my name.
Anyway, I don't know how to sort out these twelve pages. I guess the thing to do first is look to see which bits can be used to raise the stakes. Move it all around like puzzle pieces to see if any fall together. And save everything because I might end up using it.
Wednesday, September 3, 2008
Good writing day so far. It's a relief to feel that plowing blindly onward and not giving up pays off sometimes. But I'm going to try not to reread this latest rewritten chapter for a bit, in case it doesn't hold up. Better to proceed in a state of good cheer, and get as far as I can.
Tuesday, September 2, 2008
In annoying-trivia-news, wtf is that Kid Rock song? It's everywhere, and it ought to be Werewolves of London but it's not. Why can't we just hear Werewolves of London over and over? What's the difference between homage and plagiarism? Well, permissions, I guess. Kid Rock has permission. Okay, so what's the difference between homage and stale inane watering-down of the original? This is actually quite pertinent to me, because I may very well be writing a stale inane watered-down Dumas-ish type thing right now. Plus, I'd certainly be willing to deliberately write a stale inane watered-down copy of something if it puts food on the table. I'm not proud. Not to name names, but somebody's gotten rich as Croesus doing stale watered-down Tolkien. However, I suppose that since there's no way to predict the marketing sweet spot, it's best to just keep one's head down and focus on one's own work.
Monday, September 1, 2008
- ► 2011 (100)
- ► 2010 (90)
- ► 2009 (282)
- No writing today. At least, not on my WIP--worked ...
- No writing for three days. Today I picked up where...
- Worked today even though my head wasn't in it, mos...
- Worked today, picking up where I left off yesterda...
- Pludged through some of chapter nine, not sure how...
- And now I have to help son with homework about "li...
- Pludged all the way through the chapter, which tur...
- Got a very little writing done. Mostly looked up s...
- Still working. Trying to keep my head in it and pr...
- Wrote today. I'm not going to figure out exactly h...
- Worked on ms yesterday. Worked today. Still workin...
- Very, very slowly worked through a minor revamping...
- Frustrated. I would say I'm stuck, but it's more l...
- No writing yesterday. Watched Hurricane Ike covera...
- I must have put in 5-6 hours work total today, and...
- Still working on chapter eight, or whichever one i...
- Pulled up my WIP this morning and sat staring at i...
- Things to try to keep in mind today: This chapter...
- severe moment of writerly panic
- Put quite a bit of work in today, but I think I mo...
- Writer friend sent some reviews, including one tha...
- Pretty good writing day. I went over chapters 5, 6...
- Sometimes, when you can't figure out what to do wi...
- I cut the first five chapters into seven (or at le...
- I took the title off my ms and where it was, I put...
- Drudge, drudge, drudge. I "saved as" so I don't ac...
- Trees, meet the forest.
- Family stuff today--no writing. I'm looking at th...
- I'm trying to sculpt this chapter of mostly dialog...
- Writer friend sent this. If you pretend it's not t...
- Very tired. Worked anyway, and actually got a rhyt...
- There's never been any question that I have some k...
- ▼ September (33)