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.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Continued refining (I hope) first part. I still keep slipping in little pieces of info, though, because they slide in very naturally and it seems like they belong. Then, of course, I find that the scene has fuzzed out again, and have to fix it.

I need to get this part of the ms relatively under control and send it to writer friends for a reality check, because I may have taken a bigger wrong detour somewhere in here, and if I did the whole thing needs to be rethought. Maybe in the next day or so.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Worked on dystopian today, trying to get a clear flow for the first five chapters. I think they're basically working, maybe, and am now trying to trim out anything that heads down the smaller types of dead ends. By "smaller types of dead ends," I mean paragraphs that distract the reader from whatever the scene's really about. Sometimes a paragraph or two explains and deepens what's going on, and sometimes it muddies the scene or derails it or makes it peter out. I don't know any way to tell which is which except by revising the piece over and over and over, and seeing what reads best. And that's what I've been doing today.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Thinking about the Hobby Formerly Known as the Former GN. Glanced through it, feeling very dissatisfied. It's got a lot of purty writin'. To which I say: So what? I'll bet my dog could write purty, if I trained it to type.

I thought about why I want to write this ms--obviously I do, because I keep sticking with it even though it's just purty and nothing more. The reason I want to write it is because I'm annoyed and angry--but not super angry, just sort of smolderingly angry.

Then I thought about where the ms picks up and gets interesting--the places where it gets more than just "purty." It perks up and gets a spurt of energy in the places where my snarky smoldering annoyance slips into the third person narrative.

This story is set 3,000 years ago. The points I want to make are from today's perspective. I've tried to make those points staying in a 3,000 year-old POV, but every time I go through the usual process of getting the reader to come to their own conclusions by experiencing a sequence of events along with the MC, it clearly warps the ms. There's too big a gap between today's world and the world of the book.

If I look at what I have, I've got a ms where I've consistently taken my own snarky conclusions out and tried to make the reader "get" the same conclusions on their own. It's clear that this process is not working.

I think a big part of this is getting the right third person voice and understanding how present I need to be in this ms.

A big part is also figuring out how to transition from piece to piece. I like the floating-around thing, and it's fun--but it's not satisfying me as far as actually getting something said. If I wasn't annoyed or smolderingly angry, I could probably float around the story forever and be content. But you can't float around a ms and be angry; the two just don't mix. Anger has purpose and direction.


I've got at least three different types of story going on here, and I don't know how to transition between them. They take place at different times and on different continents. In some the same people have different names. I don't see that I can just label the transitions by place and time, because it's so confusing that labels would be meaningless. On top of which sometimes the people in the sections are the same and sometimes they're not, and sometimes they're the same but the reader might not know it yet.

I pulled out my Scott McCloud, as an aid to thinking about transitions and spaces between. He lists five choices about visual storytelling: choice of moment, choice of frame, choice of image, choice of word, choice of flow. They also apply to textual storytelling, IMO.

Choice of moment: which moments to include and which to leave out.
Choice of frame: distance and angle.
Choice of image: Characters, objects, environment within the frame (scene).
Choice of word: the actual writing part.
Choice of flow: guiding readers from scene to scene.

More things to think about:

Choice of frame affects reading flow.
Choice of flow includes clearing the readers' path of obstacles.

Also, the types of transitions are: moment to moment, action to action, subject to subject, scene to scene, aspect to aspect, and the non-sequitur. The ones I'm having trouble with are scene-to-scene, taking the reader across space and time. McCloud points out that deductive reasoning is often required in reading scene-to-scene transitions.

Hmm. I need to look at what I have (which is about 250 pages worth of stuff) and see what idea storyline A could end on, that would echo or pick up on an idea in the first scene of the next section, which may be storyline C, but it may be B, I dunno yet. I don't know if storyline B and C need to go one at a time, or intercut.

I also need to get storyline B, the main storyline, carved to a bare minimum.

I also need to write out storyline C, because I only have some of it.

It also occurs to me that you can remove all obstacles by repeating a sentence or paragraph that opened or ended a scene earlier in the book. If you repeat it again later, the exact same way, that puts the reader right back in the same scene, at the same place where s/he first heard it. That would be a strong and effective way to transition the three storylines back together near the end: repeat the exact same words from storyline A--carry the reader straight back into A, only now knowing everybody's baggage and being fully invested in the stakes.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Was thinking about the end of the dystopian, and the main ideas that need to come to a crux there in the choices presented to the MC and the reader. Also thinking about who embodies those choices. This is helping me figure out the middle. I need to go back and plant a few little references in the beginning section, then also insert a new reference as I'm heading out of the beginning and into the middle. Those will be stepping stones that tie the beginning to the middle and to the end, while also shifting from the problem that starts the story to the one that actually provides most of the conflict and forces the MC to make decisions.

It's still very confusing because there are so many things to think about at once, all needing to be woven together--but confused is good. If I wasn't confused about all these threads, something would be terribly wrong with the book.

I'd better pull up the ms and quickly put in some of these references so I don't forget them. It took me too long to work through other lines of thought to get to them; they'll fade quickly from my head. Then it's back to other writing-related work. I must not forget myself and get caught up in the ms.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

While researching, I remembered this one plotty-idea I'd been toying with for a while, but had set aside because it didn't seem to have a place in the story. Now I think I might be able to use it as a, um, seed kind of thing. To plant a seed of plot-suspense, I mean.

The story starts off, then it slowly loses steam, and I don't know if the second-kind-of-suspense questions (who's this character? what kind of trouble has he brought with him?) are enough to carry the reader through to the middle of the book. I'm now thinking that mentioning the plotty-thing (MC finds an unmarked potentially crippling pig-sticker trap* in the woods) at the right place in the story, combined with the second-kind-of-suspense questions, may be able to carry the reader through till stuff starts happening again.

However, no time to think more about it right now. If I don't set this ms aside other obligations are going to start piling up in an unacceptable and unprofessional manner.

*When I first thought of this, it was a pit-trap, and that didn't resonate with the story, but then while double checking other snare-related info, I read about a pig-sticker trap, which is pretty horrific; a bent sapling has a sharpened blade attached to the end and it's pulled back so that when the line is tripped, the blade whips around and sinks into the prey. Then I was like, Oh yeah, that makes sense and ties to some of the other stuff I've got going on. The pit-trap didn't. So...we'll see.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Now that I think about it, this "suspenses" problem is also one thing that's messing me up with the swordfighting ms right now: not understanding what needs to be revealed to whom (including the reader), about whom, and when. That can all be used as an engine to keep pages turning. It's also very much tied to how each character feels in every scene. It requires knowing the story from everyone's POV, in order to find potential "reveals" and to know what pushes everyone's buttons so that I don't miss more "reveals" that would be triggered by their reactions. It requires a very light hand on the reins, writing-wise, but full and mindful attention in all areas of the ms.

It probably is one place where plot and character meet for me. Could be that, in the swordfighting ms, I need to use it to structure the entire story.
Iced in, and using the time to juggle several different projects and obligations.* One of which is the dystopian ms; I'm looking at it and thinking the order of scenes in the first 60-70 pages might be workable now. I may decide later that it's not, but I'm going ahead and splicing it together as is.

It's tough to write a book that moves properly, because I already know everything the reader doesn't. I can't tell what hooks the reader to read on and what's just boring. The only thing hooking me as a reader of my own ms anymore is that I like the characters and the situations they're in. Sometimes I look at this ms and think, boy, something needs to be happening pretty quickly here, or the story's going to be in trouble. Other times I think, wait a minute, it's already happening because the reader's wondering about ______.

I think maybe there are at least two kinds of "suspense"? One is...I guess it's conflict? Anticipating plot events? Like OMG, what's going to happen when they open that door? But there's a second kind of suspense, that's more along the lines of Who the h*ll is this guy? What's his story? What kind of trouble has he brought with him? It's not conflict/plot stuff, exactly, because it's all up to me how I parcel it out. It's not dependent on any particular thing happening; it's writer-selected, and most of it relies on stuff like conversation or realization. And it can go almost anywhere in the book.

So...that means it's a tool, and if I apply it mindfully, I can use it carry the story for a while, till something starts happening again.

Hmm. Maybe these two "suspenses" are the same for most people, but for me maybe the second one is a crux where plot and character meet? Because to me the two "suspenses" don't look like the same thing at all. They may look the same from the outside, after you've read a book, but while the book's being worked on, they're derived and selected in completely different ways. For me, anyway.**

So perhaps it would behoove me to figure out this other thread, whatever it is. There's the plot thread, where stuff happens (like doors being opened and guns going off). There's the character thread, where the emotional story lies. And then there's this other thing, that I don't know what to call. I don't think it's suspense, exactly, because that word covers plot as well. It's got to do with noticing the way I spool out information to the reader, and getting the most bang for my writing buck out of it.

It's also got to do with what the reader knows, vs. what I know, vs. what the main character knows, vs. what the other characters know. Everybody knows different things, and there are about ten million different kinds of "reveals" to choose from, in order to keep the story moving. And at any second the reader could suddenly get sick of it all and just want something concrete to happen.

I find this all very confusing and overwhelming, so for now will just make a stab at keeping it in mind as I work. Maybe as I sort out what it all means, I'll be able to use it to stronger effect than when I just stumble onto something that works.

*rather than just sitting down to one project and finishing it, which is what I definitely ought to be doing. But my head has overloaded on trying to get a satisfying storyline while also teaching kids about onomatopoeias. Once my head has overloaded on one idea, that's all she wrote, until a little break gets it cleared out again.

**the second one, for me--in this book--comes from understanding the secondary characters and knowing their stories.