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.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Finally sent in sample chapter, two days past the deadline I set. It just sucked so bad, it would have been unprofessional to put it on someone's desk and expect them to spend work time reading and responding to me about it. I still am not thrilled with it, but it's readable. There's a point in w-f-h and in auditions where you have to just say "scr*w it," and send it in anyway, but I'll be d*mned if I'll send in something I know is a painful slog of a read.

So anyway, while I was working on that I was thinking about its structure. At first I had an opening scene, then a lengthy flashback, then back to real time, picking up where the first scene left off. Discussion with editor enlightened me to the fact that they want plot more than character--so I cut the flashback entirely. Now it's all real time, very short, and I just characterized like I was told to characterize, without trying to understand anything.* But as I was going over and over it, trying to get it readable, I thought, you know, I could actually start the whole thing with the second scene, just skip the first one entirely. I didn't, but I thought that I could have.

The whole thing was actually pretty interesting, because I had to sit down and think closely about what the reader needs from a beginning--and this is absolutely related to my difficulties with the swordfighting ms. In the w-f-h sample ** I first started with character/thematic problem then went into the plot problem. Then for revision I trimmed the heck out of character and took out the thematic problem--but I still started with a little scene to set up the character. If I started with the plot problem, to me there would be nothing to get hold of in the second chapter, because you wouldn't have a clue who the MC is or why you should care. Also, the first chapter hook is going to be undercut and disappear right at the beginning of chapter 2. Without something else to care about, why should anybody keep reading? I probably wouldn't. I felt like the chapter needed something else besides plot hooks laid as a foundation, in order to support 200 more pages of book. I could be wrong, of course, because I'm not a plotter, but that's how I see it at the moment (note to self: reread The Da Vinci Code).

In the middle of working on all this I was thinking about the swordfighting ms, and how it's okay now, but it doesn't grab me. I thought, that's because it doesn't start with The Problem anymore. It used to start with The Problem and was real grabby--but the ms was dead because the reader hadn't connected with the characters. The Problem doesn't actually come up till well into the story. By that time there's no way to get in the masses of characterization and motivation that make the reader (or me, anyway) connect emotionally.

In essence, the problem and the story don't start at the same time.

I thought, okay, I know other books don't always have story and problem starting together. I haven't had time to think about it much, but Lord of the Rings immediately comes to mind. It starts with Bilbo's party. (Doesn't it? No time to check.)

However--pulling myself back into line here--it doesn't matter if other writers can do it. What matters is whether I can, or whether it works for this ms. And to me, something feels like it ain't quite right. Something feels like it could be better. So what I think I want to do is play around with time jumps, integrating the old plot-hook version with the newer, more developed version, to see if there's a way to have problem and story at the same time. I'm well aware that this may turn out to be an extremely unproductive tack to take, so I'll just putz around with it and quit if it starts feeling too weird.

*Speaking frankly, here. I've decided that although it's always unwise to blog frankly in this biz, I'm not going to lie about writing process. Period. The reason being that--in this biz--you don't sell your soul all at once, but tiny pieces of it, a dime and nickel at a time. My soul is definitely for sale, but only certain parts of it, and I must sell it mindfully, keeping firm lines as to what's up for grabs and what's not. Otherwise, one day I'll wake up to find that I hate writing and want to quit.

**My agent says it's not w-f-h, and it's not, technically, but I don't know what else to call it. It's not packaging, either.

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