Sunday, July 23, 2006

Someone recently asked me, “Aren’t you done with that book yet? How much longer is it going to take? Why do you keep changing it? Just send it in—see what happens.”

I’ve been writing longer than some, less than most. Am I published? Except for a few short stories online, no. Is it in my plans? Absolutely! Yet as much as I’d love to have that first contract, I refuse to rush through it. Right or wrong, I’ve taken the same approach to writing as I have everything else in my life. I jump in head first, learn all I can, and ask questions later. I know at some point I will type the words, “The End” and mean it. That will only happen, though, when I can read through the entire manuscript without picking up my red pen.

Let’s face it, all first drafts are crap. Sorry, but I’m suspicious of any person who claims that he or she can complete a novel in two or three drafts. Personally, I've lost track of how many times I’ve edited my manuscript. Creativity doesn’t come from a set of formulas and rigid templates. It comes from a vivid imagination, an open mind, and the willingness to accept change. By the way, I found that the best changes have been the result from the most brutal critiques, but that’s another post.

I’m close. Very close. But anyone who is serious about writing understands the demands on their time. It’s been a conscientious decision of mine to do this and I’m very fortunate to have a family who understands and respects the sacrifices I’ve made to achieve my goal. What a waste it would be to not strive for the very best.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

The question of the day is to cut or not to cut.

When I began to write my WIP it was the first of three novellas. This book was actually the last to be written. It was an after thought to the other three. Therefore, when I wrote it, I had the plots and characters of the other three books in mind. In essence, I wrote it in support of my other works, to explain the events in the other works. However, after reading several books on the subject and as I developed the plot and got deeper into the characters' motivation in book one, it became apparent that my initial approach to writing it was completely wrong. I had to get the other books out of my head and focus on this plot only.

The three novellas will be expanded into novel length works--eventually, and although they will be a series of four detective mysteries, each must be a stand alone. Meaning, the reader shouldn't have to read the previous books to understand the characters, their motivation, and the events in later books.

I've talked with several authors who have series. I cringed when I heard one of them say that their readers would understand why a charter behaved in a certain manner in book two because it was explained in book one. Hello? That's a huge assumption, friends. Who's to say your reader will start with book one? What if the cover of book three is more appealing and they start there? Do you really want to risk frustrating your readers? What am I saying? Book two won't get to the shelves of your friendly neighborhood book shop if it's written like that!

The first in the series needs show the beginning, the development of the characters, their relationships, etc. It's the foundation for everything that comes later. Those elements have to be reintroduced in each book. I'm not talking about an in-depth account that will bore your reader to death, just enough to give the reader an understanding. The perfect scenario is that after finishing book three, the reader will rush out and buy one and two!

But to get back to the "to cut or not to cut" bit. I have two chapters that I really like, lots of tension in both, unfortunately they have nothing to do with the plot. They do, however, add personal conflict for the protag. Is this enough? Recently I read a writing tip from a well-known author that goes something like this: Think about the purpose of the scene. Is there anything in the previous chapters that sets this scene up? Will this scene set up subsequent scenes? Roll it around in your head and only after you have figured out how the scene will advance the plot, sit down and write it.

Last year, I read a book that to this day, I cannot figure out why the first chapter, a flash back, was left in. The characters in that chapter, other than the detectives, never materialized again and had no connection to the plot. That annoyed the heck out of me. Well, I'm afraid this might be the case with my two chapters if I leave them in. Nothing wrong with them, fairly well-written, but worthless. I cut one completely out. The other I decided to leave in, edit the heck out of it, force my protag to learn something from the experience that will help advance the plot, and possibly move the chapter to another spot later in the book. Time will tell if the edit will work.

By the way, no chapter, paragraph, scene, or great line is every really deleted. I cut and paste them onto another document and save them for a rainy day. You never know when those words will come in handy. I might be able to use them in my WIP or possibly one of the other books. I did just that a few months. After I read Todd A. Stone's definition of a window character, I decided that chapter was absolutely perfect as a way to set up the window character for my protag. I tweaked it a bit but didn't have to spend hours developing it.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

I've been working on the same book for nearly two years now. Three-four hours a day, every day, seven days a week--more on the weekends for nearly two years. In seven months it's grown from 22,000 words to over 82,000. No wonder I'm feeling a little burned out at the moment.

I've managed to do the final edit of the first twelve chapters. Only thirty-six more to go. I'm really getting anxious to get it out of my sight. Unfortunately, there have been too many distractions recently. Mostly e-mails and posts in the different author forums I just can't seem to resist.

Something new: I've discovered that I can pound out 80,000-90,000 words and have to stop myself, but I can't seem to get through a three paragraph query letter. Why is that? Gee, can't wait until I have to work on the synopsis. :)

Monday, July 10, 2006

Welcome to my blog--my first!

Recently I had a conversation with someone who couldn't seem to get past his "writer's block." The block can happen at any point in the writing process.

I'm in the final edit of my novel. I keep telling myself it's done. Yet each time I read it, I find something else that needs to be tweaked. I've found entire paragraphs or sometimes pages that absolutely scream to be replaced. Unfortunately, I don't always have an immediate solution. So my solution is to not push it.

Writer's block is akin to when you start to speak and you lose track of what you're going to say. If you go on to something else, it often comes right back to you. See my point?

When that happens, I pick up a book and read. Sometimes it’s the other author's style or maybe a word that jumps out at me and the ideas start coming in again. If it has to do with technique, I open one of my many "how to" books. The same thing happens. I can often find answers to my problems and am immediately drawn back the computer.

Here's another idea: Imagine your book on the silver screen. What do you see? Who are the actors? What do hear? What odors do the characters smell? Even rain has an unmistakable odor. What song was chosen for your movie? What are the words to the song? Do the words describe the sentiment of your story?

You say your day job gets in the way of your writing? Start a journal of the things you do, see, hear, and feel during your work day. What quirky things do your co-workers do that either amuses or irritates you? Might they make a good character in your book? One of my characters is an odd little man. I couldn’t quite see him until I went to the market one day and there in front of me at the check out was this short chubby man. He was bald like my character and had the hairiest back chest and arms I’d ever want to see on a man, but he WAS JUST like my character. After that, when I wrote in that character’s POV, I knew exactly how he looked and how he would behave.

Use your everyday life as a resource for your writing. You'll never run out of material!