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, October 15, 2010

I haven't had time to work on any of my own writing for a week, but today I sorely needed a break from everything else, so I worked on the dystopian ms. I think the part I need is coming together--slowly--and that I may actually have a good solid six or seven chapters to show my agent whenever I have a chance to get it done (and done properly). Today's work was a special treat, though--I need to put the ms aside for a couple of weeks and tend to other responsibilities.

I moved randomly over chapters five, six, and seven (and parts of three), just doing whatever I felt like doing. The biggest thing I accomplished was seeing what the main throughlines were--the main emotional point in each scene and section--then removing the clutter of backstory and side issues. That was a big relief. I clipped all the excess out (in pieces) and stuck it on the end of the ms where it'll be out of the way. Later I'll have to figure out where it all can go without draining energy and momentum. Right now the focus is on getting these chapters right and readable. I hope I'm one step closer to that, but of course will have to wait and see.

I don't know why things fall into place more easily on some days than on others. Last week I hadn't so much as glanced at the ms in weeks, yet couldn't see it as clearly as I saw it today. Or as clearly as I think I saw it--like I said, I'll have to wait and see.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Yesterday I spent a disproportionate amount of time on my ms, and need to try to make up for that today by not looking at it. If I don't keep things balanced, I'm going to get myself in a tight spot come the end of this month.

Basically what I did yesterday was open the floodgates for this one scene. I let every bit of story and backstory and setting and action and dialog that came into my head spew forth onto the page. That's the kind of writing where I usually don't feel like I've accomplished anything after I've done it, because now there's a big unsorted mess on the page. It'll take a lot of trimming, moving, smoothing, and shaping, to get it to amount to anything.

I have to admit I'm also a little concerned about the way plot stuff keeps happening. I don't have any context for how plot-driven pacing is supposed to feel while I'm in the middle of my spaghetti bowl of a ms, drowning in strands of story and character.

However (I remind myself), that's one of the points of writing this ms. I'm going to bloody well get a feel for it, even if I have to open my skull and rewire the same part of my brain every day for 20 years.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Yesterday I chopped and moved things, and have some scenes lined up in an order that might work.* I didn't think they were very interesting, though, until this morning while walking Tyson I was trying to figure out how to get started on this one particular part. I haven't been able to get into my head what kind of place this is (the setting for a certain scene), so I was mulling that over, trying to get something that felt workable--a good combination of what's best for story and what seems most realistic--and thinking about who would be in the scene and why.

The basic reason for this scene existing is for the MC to get some information. In other words, it's just a plotting thing. That means I'm bored to tears by the whole scenario and it's also probably why I haven't already written it. But as I thought about the layout of the place, I realized that it would be laid out in the same way as the MC's childhood home. The place is walled and guarded, and they'd keep the area around it cleared of trees and brush, so the guards would have a clear view of anyone approaching. And they'd shoot anyone who disobeyed their directions and tried to approach without permission.

I have a backstory scene already sketched out that I really like and have always intended to use--the MC's first time to kill somebody. It took place in those exact circumstances, when he was a child--he shot somebody from the defensive walls, somebody who didn't listen when the guards didn't clear the person to approach. I wrote that before I really thought much about this present-day place, but now I see that this is where that backstory scene goes. As the MC and his girlfriend go to the place where they'll get the plot information, I'll of course have to describe where they're going, and that will be a natural spot to put that backstory because he'll automatically be remembering that, and it also brings up the dangers of the present day scene. And it neatly ties back to the basic ideas that are driving me to write this book, thoughts about mercy and empathy. So that was a good morning's work, even though I haven't written a thing and probably won't till later today, if at all. I have to get some other things done first.

*or might not. There's only one way to find out.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Looks like I need to abandon my skipping-ahead idea for the dystopian ms and try to muscle my way through the saggy part.* I printed out the first five or whatever chapters and looked at them, but they're still pretty much etched on the inside of my eyeballs. So I guess what I'll have to do is reason my way into a faster-paced arrangement of the many scenes and pieces I have on hand (any of which could go in that part), then ask around for readers who can tell me what I'm not seeing. I already know everything that's going on in the story, so I don't have a clue what the reader wants or is most curious about at this point.

*Why? E-mail from agent, that's why.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Yesterday I skipped ahead and wrote a scene where my MC is suffering emotional torment. That was a lot of fun.

I need to figure out how to keep this ms simmering on a front burner over the next month or so, and not let it get pushed completely aside.

And I need to figure out what to do about that &%$@! saggy part. It's driving me insane. I just want it to be fixed so I can move on. Is that too much to ask? I don't think so.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Am trying to get a grip on larger picture of ms using sticky notes on the inside of a cardboard box, because a poster board wasn't large enough. I've got the end idea I need to come around to* written in front of me so I don't lose sight of it. I've got a different color of sticky note for each thread I'm trying to deal with. Each sticky note contains one scene I'm pretty sure I want to write.

It looks like there are two main threads to be woven together. One follows a certain secondary character and mostly appears to be plotty stuff. Another follows a different secondary character and mostly appears to be character-theme-ish quiet scenes. Hmm.

It looks to me like there's a turning point, and after that there won't be room for much of anything except plotty stuff. That might be the last third or so of the book. Not sure. But once that turning point happens, the MC is going to be obsessed and unable to think of anything else.

However, if there's mostly only quiet stuff for a huge chunk of the ms before that, I've got a problem: sagging story.

One thing I've wanted to do since I started this ms was to use the idea of six bullets as a ticking-clock device to pull the reader through. However, the way it stands now, four of the six bullets are fired in the last third of the book, which is already going to be moving quickly (if the story really does go this direction). So...I think I can move one of the bullets up somehow, and not lose anything. I think it can go in a third colored thread, which belongs to yet another character/storyline. Except I don't know how this third thread/storyline fits in with the others yet. However, I do know it's part of the middle, and it's not quiet, so that's good.

So, hmm, hmm. Right now I could write out a couple of scenes to feel out some stuff, or I could freewrite a secondary character's backstory, because I'm going to need to have that firmly in the back of my head in order to write the middle.

Oh, yo. Revisions on w-f-h just popped up in my inbox. Well, there's no way I'm going to put all my lovely different-colored sticky notes aside just yet, mere hours after I got them out. I've skimmed the e-mail, and will digest its contents while proceeding on dystopian ms for the rest of today's writing time. Tomorrow I will look at the commented-on w-f-h ms itself, egad. By then my loins should be fully girded.

Okay, so anyway. Not to put too fine a point on it, I need to figure out when my MC has sex with a certain character before I can understand how the third colored thread weaves in with the other two. And the problem I'm having there is that my MC needs to visit the same place twice, when he doesn't actually go there very often, and only one of the visits is exciting, plot-wise. The other's boring...except for the sex. Only he won't know he's going to have sex till he gets there, so there's nothing to compel the reader. Therefore: sagging story.

*Or rather, two ideas: mercy binds the group and strengthens it; mercy to oneself is necessary as well. These are the things that drive the book, underlie all the character arcs, and pull everything together.