Sunday, March 28, 2010

2010: Day 85 -- Will the Guilty Please Step Forward

By now, it should be clear to anyone following this blog that I'm not afraid to edit, cut massive amounts of work from my manuscript, and rewrite entire chapters if that's what it takes to make it right. My second novel, "The Devil Can Wait" (2008) began life as a novella. I expanded it into a novel and set it aside to write "Silenced Cry." When my publisher asked for TDCW, I thought it would be a matter of adding a few subplots and some minor edits. But when I read through it for the first time in a couple of years, I nearly gagged. I ended up cutting over 45,000 words from the MS and rewrote it in 83 days—spent the next seven months editing that version—it went to print two months later. Last May it won the 2009 bronze IPPY. Trust me, cutting out a scene or a chapter is nothing new to this writer.

When I outlined "Shroud of Lies" in June and began to develop the scenes and characters, I was pretty sure of the direction it was going to go. Since then, I've edited it several times. Each round added greater depth to the plot and the characters. Still, the plot and the ending seemed too predictable and I didn't like it.
I always start with the crime and the motive so naturally, I knew who the killer was going to be, but the more I worked on the chapters, the less convinced I was that he was the right man for the job. Don’t get me wrong, there's no doubt he could pulled it off, he has the means and opportunity. The problem is motive--forcing this poor guy to commit murder is like ramming a square peg into a round hole.

So ... after writing over 67,000 words and only a few chapters of edits to go, I decided to change the killer. I know, I know, but for this book to have the impact I want it to have, the killer has to be the person closest to my protagonist. It has to be someone she trusts and believes in and yet someone so cold and calculating that he become a chameleon and is beyond suspicion.

Before I did this, I outlined the character's motives. I then went back to the very beginning, and checked each chapter to see what needed to be changed. To my surprise, the changes were small and I found subtleties in the text that work beautifully with this new twist. Since this is written in first person, the reader knows only what the protagonists knows and that POV hasn’t changed. However, because of this change, the story has suddenly blossomed and I’m loving every minute of writing.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

2010: Day 78 My Character Took Off Without Me

So what happens when the main character uncovers the truth seven chapters too soon?

Thus far the edits were going so well that I really thought I’d have the manuscript done this weekend. Evidently Rhonie Lude had other thoughts. But the way she thinks through the evidence makes perfect sense (if this MS ever goes to print, I’m referring to chapter 40). What this means, however, is that I'm going to have to rethink the last six chapters.

Okay, so this is not entirely a bad thing. After all, we all know early drafts are a smorgasbord of ideas (some better than others) that are waiting their turn on the chopping block.

In chapter 40, she has discovered that the one person she has trusted from the beginning was keeping important information from her about the case. The only logical next step is for her to confront him. The question is, how much rewriting will this minor change require? I’ll let you know after a bit of reading.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

2010: Day 75 Looking for the right word

Ever have one of those days when you can't find the right word?  I have tons of references; everything from the old Webster Dictionary to Roget's  "Descriptive Word Finder" and "Thesaurus of Phrases" to Dave Dowling's "The Wrong Word Dictionary." Still, some days my mind goes blank so here are a few links that someone out there might find of interest:  cool scrabble game here.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

2010: Day 70 Attended A Workshop Today

I attended a four-hour writers' workshop today in town sponsored by the Midwest Writers Workshop. I was pleased to run into a few of my friends. Some I hadn’t seen in several years and didn’t know they had an interest in writing. I enjoyed catching up with what they were doing these days. As for the workshop, after going to a few of these, I often find that there isn't much variation in the type of information presented. However, I have to admit I was pretty impressed with today's three speakers. The discussions ranged from what agents and editors are looking for, to freelance writing, to the difference between good and great dialogue.

The one line that I walked away with today is: Sometimes the best dialogue is no dialogue (when a stronger message is sent by a character's silence).

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

2010: Day 66 Past the Mid Point!

Well, I think I might actually get this manuscript finished this year. Today, when I turned to chapter 33, I found I had written all types of notes and highlighted them in yellow during a previous edit. I do that when I'm giving it a quick read, know something isn't right, or want to record my thoughts about a paragraph or scene without stopping to take the time (at that time) to develop it.  Right now, the opening to the chapter is a little heavy on the narration. I'm not sure I like that but we'll see what happens.

In the meantime, I received my Writer's Digest newsletter. This time the article that caught my attention (because of all that narration) was titled, "How To Enrich Your Descriptions." You'll find the article here, It's a good piece that discusses not only the use of the right words, but also the sounds of the letters and their ability to create the right mood.  The following quote stood out to me.
A word’s definition appeals to the intellect, while its connotation appeals to reader’s emotions. Beyond that, words can affect readers subconsciously, subliminally. This has more to do with the shapes and sounds of the words than with their explicit or implicit meanings.

Interesting. A short article worth the read.

Monday, March 08, 2010

2010: Day 65

I've had several excellent writing days lately (which is why I wasn't here blogging). But all work and no play makes for a dull day. So I did stop to watch a couple of movies over the weekend. I don't mind watching old ones either. A good one, if anyone is interested, is “The Upside of Anger.” (2005) Read a review here.

I love this quote for the end of the movie:
"Anger and resentment can stop you in your tracks. That's what I know now. It needs nothing to burn but the air and the life that it swallows and smothers. It's real, though - the fury, even when it isn't. It can change you... turn you... mold you and shape you into something you're not. The only upside to anger, then... is the person you become. Hopefully someone that wakes up one day and realizes they're not afraid to take the journey, someone that knows that the truth is, at best, a partially told story. That anger, like growth, comes in spurts and fits, and in its wake, leaves a new chance at acceptance, and the promise of calm. Then again, what do I know? I'm only a child."

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

2010: Days 58, 59, & 60 A New Decision

Life seems to have gotten crazy lately--again. Not bad, but just very busy. Lately I’ve been getting pulled in too many directions, some of which are places I don't want to go.

I began the year with the idea of making changes in my life, my goals, and schedules and although I think 2010 is already a huge improvement over 2009, I'm afraid of slipping back into the rut that kept me away from my writing for nearly the whole of 2009.

I’m grateful to the few good friends who have stopped by to offer their words of encouragement here. I don't if anyone else reads, follows, or cares what I post on this blog, but the point of rededicating it on January 1 to my writing journey, was to make me accountable for my writing time. Sound crazy? Okay, how's this? When it comes to making a public commitment, I'm ten times as likely to follow through.

Today I made the conscious decision to cut back—I mean drop my membership completely--on a number of social blogging sites. I must belong to 30 or 40 places. I had the very best of intention of making regular contributions to those sites, but let's face it. If I'm blogging, I'm not writing and it certainly shows.

This week I'm going to start deleting my pages from several of the sites (I'll keep only three). So aside from my three blogs, this one, Murder By 4, and Novel Works, you'll still find me on Facebook, Twitter, a handful of NING groups, and Gather. I'm considering staying on one or two Yahoo groups, but that's it. It's not fair to the memberships in those groups for me not to contribute, and it's not fair to me to spend my time trying to keep up with all the discussions instead of dedicating my attention the WIP.

So, right or wrong, crazy or not, this is the only way I know to keep my sanity and my focus on the writing.