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.
Saturday, March 31, 2012
The other ms is the very first book I ever started or finished, the first book I ever wrote. I began it back in, ahem, 1992. I learned to write on that thing. I rewrote the entire ms from scratch, over and over, off and on for years. Whenever I hoped it was good enough, or simply didn't know what else to do to it, I'd send it to an editor and would get back either a form rejection, or a brief but nice (and vague) personal note.
I do not know why I woke up this morning at some ungodly hour thinking how the opening chapter should go. But I did, so today I wrote it.
Friday, March 30, 2012
So I moved a wee crucial piece of that second-person stuff to right before the MC makes his climatic decision. I will figure out exactly what to do with it later; probably it will turn into dialog.
Now that it's in place, though, the ending scenes are starting to feel less blobby in my head. Now the plot-story ending-sequence of scenes and the internal-story ending-sequence are starting to be the same thing. It's a very nebulous and sketchy same thing, but the point is that scenes are lining up less blobbily and I can now see that both types of story will be happening in each one.
I have no idea how this came about, but there it is. I believe I now have the nebulous and sketchy building blocks to make the book work.
As a writer friend likes to say: Trust the process.
Thursday, March 29, 2012
This has made me realize that I've gotten to a point where I need to work out a good map for the story world. I've been sticking to vague general layouts in my head, but I need to pull them together on paper and get them nailed down--including distances and direction--because I can't get this thing grounded properly until I do. I also need to get specific sites in my head for some of these scenes I'm adding, for the same reason: proper grounding.
Today I made myself start filling out the big conversation between the MC and the main secondary character, the one that's the "reveal" for the book. As I did so, I had to go back to side documents where I'd moved freewriting and background work, and had to copy and paste bits over into the main document. As I did that, I admitted to myself that the reveal seems stupid and gimmicky and hokey, and I noticed that the side pieces give the "reveal" heft (in my mind, anyway) that makes it not seem quite so stupid.
I also see no way to work those side pieces into the ms** without doing what's been in the back of my mind all along, which is suddenly cutting, after 20 or whatever chapters, to another POV character. And not only that, but doing it in second person.***
I have avoided committing to anything about this part of the book because it's an extremely terrible idea to suddenly snap into another POV and voice, especially so late, after the reader's quite firmly entrenched in the MC's POV and voice. And it's most especially a terrible idea to do it using second person, which requires an even greater leap from the reader--a leap which quite a few readers are never able to make. But this growing feeling that my crucial plot information is stupid and hokey has driven me to go ahead and let this one breakout chapter go the way it wants to go, against all sane self-advice. If nothing else, it'll eventually help me see what absolutely has to be there, that might be worked in in other ways. And maybe if the book gets published I can put the chapter online, if it's totally messing up the book's flow.
*On the bright side, my teeth have never been so well flossed.
**Because there's no way my characters would discuss all this in any depth, much less the depth that would make the reveal seem less gimicky.
***The reason it's in second person is because that's the way it came out and that's the way it wants to be. Later, another option might be to try putting into first person and letting it be an extended monologue disguised as dialogue. However, it has resisted going this direction so far--hence, the side document storage rather than placement in the full ms.
Monday, March 26, 2012
After I was done writing (in fact, I quit a little early) I was cranky because I made myself do plot stuff for most of my writing time. But it has to be done; it needs to be put down on paper so I can see what has to be there and what doesn't. Also because wee tiny tangents can creep in that add up to tell me more about the deeper story--like, today's half-a-page tangent tied to maybe three or four other threads.
But, still. Sigh.
Sunday, March 25, 2012
Saturday, March 24, 2012
I have nearly 100,000 words of this ms. There is no excuse for spending months and months and months spinning my wheels when most of it is already there on the page. So I'm going to try to be very strict with myself about this.
I do use outlines, but along the way, as a writing tool. They're not something I follow, but something that helps me step back and see the big picture all laid out at once. This is the outline I have from chapter 13 on:
3. P. visit
6. P. has it
7. find out K.
8. blank (may be backstory; I know I'll need something here so the reader can absorb 7)
10. Night attack
11. take K. in
12. T. attack
14. on to P.
15. climax/end sequence
So I've got this all laid out (cryptically, but I'm the only one who needs to understand it, and I do), and all I bloody well have to do right now is fill out these scenes where stuff happens. That is all. And it's what I'm going to do.
Friday, March 23, 2012
I passed by the TV as Harry Potter 2 was on, and it was the scene where Harry and Ron are in the forest with the giant spider. I paused for a second to watch it, because I suddenly noticed that it was one big dumping of plot information, given by the spider to Harry. That was the main way the scene moved the story forward: Harry had to get ___ info from the spider character.
So I was thinking, if you're writing from scratch and you've got a spider with ____ information that your MC must have, then you don't have to make your MC go into the forest. The spider could show up anywhere, or somebody else could know what the spider said and pass it on, or the info could come across in some magic way, etc. etc.
Now, the thing I've always noticed before about this scene is poor Rupert Grint having to make scaredy faces the entire time. I always think, Wow, his face must have gotten tired. But this time I was thinking, that's what gives the scene its tension. Ron is scared of the massing spiders, and his fear and the growing danger we see are what's ramping up the scene while while the plot info is being dumped on the reader (and Harry).
Honestly, if I were writing this, Harry probably would have just gone and talked to the giant spider and it never would have occurred to me to have more spiders closing in on Harry and Ron. At most I might have noticed that the giant spider could decide to eat the boys, and he might have chased them out of the scene. Maybe, if I was having a particularly good and open-minded writing day. But by g*d, I need to start being able to think like this thoroughly and at will. I can't afford to keep not having this type of option on the table, writingwise.
Somehow I need to figure out a way to practice it so my brain gets used to it. I need to wear a pathway along these particular synapses. Even with un-worn synapses and without even really having a clue what I'm doing, I can spot two places in my ms right off the bat where my Harry goes into a forest and just gets his info then leaves.
Maybe I need to tape a picture of a spider to my computer. Or get a spider tattoo on the back of my hand so I see it while I'm typing.
Friday, March 16, 2012
And, dude. It was all gone.
I normally back up every day's work, but this time the computer had crashed before I shut it down (it does that sometimes, and normally, no biggie--I had already saved the ms and shut down the word processor) and so my only copy of this lovely humongous step forward was, along with the rest of my ms, cut up into bits of what looked like Klingon mixed with scraps of the old Apple game Zork, and scattered in unintelligible pieces over thousands (yes, thousands) of pages of document.
I spent a day figuring out that the only thing I could do was get it most of it back (not all; I'd still lose some work) without formatting, and then try to remember where I'd revised and try to copy and paste those things into the previous uncorrupted version, while retyping them so it made any goddamn sense whatsoever in the English language. The problem is, I'd revised, rewritten, and moved tens or hundreds of pieces of story into place--work that was scattered over at least a hundred pages--and I'd also rearranged them over and over as I did so.
So now I'm about halfway back to where I was, but I'll be damned if I can remember what was so brilliant and made me so happy that last glorious day before God decided to smack me down.
Such is life. I remember one time years ago when the family computer died and I was so in love with my novel-at-the-time that I wrote the entire thing out longhand. That novel sucked, but boy, was I happy writing it. It's not the hand-cramps I remember most now, or that gut-punch disappointment of realizing that my computer was dead, but the joy of spilling my heart onto the pages. I still have all those notebooks somewhere.
That's not happening here, but at least I'm not wasting more than a few hours being miserable about lost work. What's gone is gone, and at least it's easier transcribing 30 or 50 or whatever pages of Klingon than writing an entire g-d novel longhand.
And, just as Scarlett shook her fistful of dirt at the sky and swore that she'd never be hungry again, I'm shaking my fist at the sky and making a commitment to try to finish a full draft of this thing by residency in July. I'm nowhere near this goal, I know I'm extremely unlikely to meet it, and I know that by stating this out loud I'm daring--nay, begging--the writing gods to come f*ck me up some more. So be it. Writing gods, you're on. You will have to pry my cold dead fingers from the keyboard if you hope to make me quit this thing.
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- Worked on other projects today, then in the evenin...
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