Thursday, April 26, 2012

Assembling the Story

Jean over on her blog Discarded Darlings asked What does your moment when all the threads fall into place feel like?

What does it feel like when everything stacks up and you know you have a story on your hands? Well, since this is my first, I can only go by this one and any subsequent stories may be a different matter, but this one felt like I'd just assembled a building with no instructions, and it stood on its own.

We are Robinson Crusoe, and there is no Friday out here to help us. The people with suggestions as to how to write stories can't tell you how to write your story. Keeping in line with the assembling things vein, they can tell you how to assemble a car, but they can only get you so far because they don't see what kind of car it is you're trying to assemble. So, telling you to put screw #9 in slot #2 is useless. Yes, we can get input from critiquers and betas, but writing is a loneliest act I've ever undertaken.

I'm not happy with the chapter I'm currently working on. It's too slow. It's one of the last chapters, and it moves like an old lady with a cane leaving the church on a hot Sunday. I'm going to have to re-design the opening paragraphs somehow, and I have no fucking clue right now how I'm going to do that. My MC is too passive. I need to bust him over the chops and get him pissed off a little I think.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

New work knocking at the door

I cut a couple more thousand words from the Frankenstein chapter, and it's now down to around 13,000 from almost 18,000. I'm about halfway done arranging it. Like a sculpture, I'm chiseling away the excess rock to hopefully reveal a swan underneath, but who the fuck knows. The problem is, the closer I get to making this one a story, the more the ideas for the next thing I'll be working on battle in my head for attention. And I've got a shitload of work left to do on this one. I need a pill for this.

Barbara's working on a suspense thriller, and I've offered to give her some crits on it. It's a cool, slick novel, and even though it's about Russians, who I don't particularly have a fondness for, critting it has me in the mood to write a suspense of my own, and I've got notes on two that I'm considering doing. On the other hand, I'd love to write an urban fantasy in the spirit of Charles de Lint, but I don't have a good solid idea for that as of yet.

Choosing what's next is simple for some people, particularly those who write fast. But for someone like me, who is the proverbial tortoise, the next project has to be right, because if the next one takes five years like this one did, then it may be my last because as much as I drink, I expect to die of liver disease at an early age. Okay, I kid, but the books I'll get to write while still of a relatively sane mind will be limited. I'd like to write ten, but there's no telling whether I'll get that much time.

On a different subject, I was going to post my strategy on naming characters, then I had a conversation with my good friend Marie Dees. Marie has a degree or maybe even a masters in writing (I can't remember for sure) and she's published a bunch of stuff the old fashioned way, not the do-it-yourself Indie plan. We were discussing a writer's website on which the writer gives lessons. I don't remember if she said the writer charged for them, but even if the writer doesn't, the advice given by amateurs like myself can do more harm than good sometimes. So I decided to put up this disclaimer instead: don't listen to anything I say. It's all bullshit. I don't know what I'm doing, and if you follow any of the advice I've given, you're a fucking moron.

There, I feel better. (The name post was going to be my best one, too. I guarantee it was going to change the way writers think about names, but now I'll keep it to myself.)

Seriously, most writers' blogs are for the benefit of their friends. Nobody in their right mind peruses blogs like this, unless they know the person writing them. Generally, they're diaries. Anyone who's seen Avatar remembers the scenes in which the MC records his thoughts for science and posterity. That's what this is. A record of milestones and bullshit, half of it so cryptic because I can't bring myself to show any words from the WIP until it's done, that the posts probably don't make sense.

I actually started blogging about ten years ago over on AOL Journals, or J-Land, as it was known. They've since nuked that part of their services since it wasn't bringing in any money. At the time, there were writers on there who weren't published yet, but have published since. One of those authors I befriended on there was John Scalzi, the very talented author who has since hit the NYT bestseller list with one or two of his sci-fi books. Scalzi's blog on J-Land was riot. Now his website is boring as shit, but it's well designed to promote his novels and book signings. There's an innocence lost I think once one is published. A hesitation to show prospective clients a seedier or more amateurish side. I think that's a shame. Presenting a controlled persona just doesn't float my boat. If I'm ever lucky enough to land an agent, it'll be one of the more interesting conversations I think I'll have with him/her. Is showing one's true colors detrimental to sales? I'd like to hear how that is.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

A Little Happier With the Long Narrative Stretch

That's me, the one with the cheesy mustache, pretending to be a wino at a Halloween party. I had a mask to go with it, but it was too hot. The chick on the right was a little sister at our fraternity. I forget her name. The black book in her hand it her little black book, something we were all given upon becoming pledges. Inside the book were the fraternity rules, and interviews we were all supposed to conduct with members while we were going through the pledge ritual. She was interviewing me here. I hated being interviewed because I always felt pressure to be interesting.

Similar feelings accosted me while I worked on my long narrative section in the WIP. I got it whittled down to about a full chapter, the back half of one chapter and the opening half of the next. Still, it is scary to go that long without dialogue. I love dialogue, because I think my characters say interesting things. But I think I've got the narrative streamlined enough to take my finger off the section and move on. I think I got it to the point that the reader won't put the book down at that point. I'm pretty sure I've been on this section for at least a month. Incredibly difficult. I did my taxes today, and I'd say the two are on par as far as the pain inflicted on me.

I need a day to clear my writing palate, so I think I'll take some time tomorrow to crit.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Passed a Gauntlet

That's the boys, back before they started getting gray like me. I've trained them to give me hugs. Steeler on the left weighs in at 90 pounds. Cowboy tops out at a buck and a quarter. The brown one on the right thinks he's a lap dog, and the white one on the left thinks he's in charge. These two will be a book some day. I'm thinking it's a little too simple for YA, so MG. Definitely have to change the voice.

Anyway, I've passed the no-dialogue zone. It was a scary place, but I think I emerged with enough cuts to keep it quick and painless. Well, not painless for the characters. The next part is snapping in quickly, so I should soon get to the chapter with the greatest number of cuts to make. It's going to be brutal, deciding between which arguments to show the reader. I have to cut more than three quarters of the words I've already written and add transition and setting in without going over about 4,000 words. I don't want to slow down the story at this point because it's about to go down the ramp and the Olympic high jump. Writing should be fairly simple once I'm past this next chapter, not that I'll be done before the summer's over.

I've been fretting a lot over setting lately. I think I need to animate a couple of my secondary characters a little to add some gravy to the biscuits. One of the posters over on CC is infatuated with Updike, and he's been posting rules Updike broke. Oh, wait, they're more along the lines of guidelines.

Not a big fan of Updike's dialogue or plots, but his setting and action description is magnificent. If I'm going to get this fucking thing down under 120K words, and still give the reader a sense of his surroundings including smell, I'm going to have to come up with some innovative ways to condense setting description like Updike. Only clearer. Saying more with less is priority number one, because we have a big plot here. The three braids of the plot have to be equally clear for everything to work. Setting isn't terribly important to two of the plot threads, but it's critical to the third, otherwise, I wouldn't have to bother. Setting's the drummer that keeps the band in time.