Friday, 16 March 2007
I've had it happen a few times writing the first draft of my novel, times when my brain refused to go forward no matter how much I cajoled, threatened, begged or even beat upon it. when the despair would be close enough to be palatable it would come to me, that mental movement that I required to either see my issue in a new light or deal with a situation in another manner.
Right now I am trying to get that mental shift to come to me again. The process I need to make whatever part of my grey matter realise that it has a job to do and the sooner it just accepts it and gets on with the job the sooner both of us will be happy.
So what am I waiting on my mind to work out? It's simple, I have to get into my head that despite the fact I have faced my demons and written near 500 pages of a first draft, I now need to go back and start from the start and work on that draft. Take it from my basic idea and turn it into something engaging, something that others will want to read so they can leave their own lives behind just for a few chapters at a time. They want to be stimulated and taken places that their own imagination can't take them.
If I can get this next draft done I'll be close to taking them there. I just need to hear something. That little snick. That mental shift.
Tuesday, 6 March 2007
In the April 2007 edition of The Writer magazine (US) there are two FANTASTIC examples of before & after writing relating to showing more emotion in your writing. Unfortunately I can't reprint it here due to copyright issues but I'll give you the detail for you to check it out for yourself.
The first is actually an example of clarifying a Turning Point, but I think it also doubles as a great example of emotion v's dialog. It's the Before and After on page 27
The second is an actual example pitched directly at emotion and is another excellent example of how to get into the head of a character instead of listening to them talk. It's the Before and After on page 46.
So, how about an example from me? I'll give it a go:
"So do you want to come down to the park?" asked Jack.
Jill fidgeted, "I don't know. Looks like it might rain."
"What do you mean? It's a clear blue sky."
Jill couldn't look him in the eyes, "Well it might, you never know. And I don't like to get wet."
"Why don't you admit you just don't want to go? You're never upfront with me," Jack said before storming off.
Ok, that is some lousy dialogue, but what I am trying to go for there is showing how Jill doesn't want to go anywhere with Jack. I could re-write it with more dialogue, try to get across my point in words, maybe they could have an argument. Or I could try again, with the same amount of dialogue, but this time with more feeling and see which one has greater impact to the reader:
"So do you want to come down to the park?" asked Jack.
Jill felt a lurch in her stomach. Jack was always asking her to go places with him, but he creeps her out so much. She's never felt comfortable around him and his incessant gaze is just too intense.
Looking down she played with a thread at the hem of her shirt and said, "I don't know, it looks like it might rain." Out of the corner of her eye she could see his hands open and close by his sides, clenching into fists.
"What do you mean? It's a clear blue sky."
She kept her head down knowing that if she looked at Jack he would see the real truth in her eyes. Her pulse quickened with fear. What would he do if he realised she wasn't interested in him, in that way? "Well it could rain, you never know. And I don't like to get wet."
She winced, immediately knowing it for the lame excuse it was. But what could she do? Jack always scrambled her thoughts and she just hated that she could never come up with those fast snappy responses that quick thinking people can. People smarter than she is.
Jack's voice lowered, "Why don't you admit you just don't want to go? You're never upfront with me." He turned and stormed off.
Ok, a pretty bad example I think, but it's an off-the-cuff scene. I like to think the second scene has stronger impact even though they havn't actually said anything more than in the first attempt. Do more "words" equal a better scene? I don't think so, as I could have made it a lot heavier on the dialogue and still not gotten accross what I intended with how Jill felt.
If none of the above helps, or you think I am talking out of my ass, then get yourself a copy of The Writer and see what I mean for yourself. They really are great examples.
Thursday, 1 March 2007
I usually get a favorable response to the critiques I give and it is something I enjoy doing. Not for the first time I was told this week that if I can look at someone elses work with such a clinical eye then my own work will be fantastic. Well unfortunately some early critique of my own early work shows that is not the case. Because of this I have been trying to work out why I seem to do such a good job at examining other people's writing yet fail a bit of some really obvious stuff regarding my own.
I think I know why.
It's not that I was expecting to be a brilliant writer with my first novel, far from it. But I think I missed a lot of basic structure in my first draft and first read because I have half an idea of what's coming next.
Because I think I know where my own story is going I am probably not giving it the writing detail that I should be. When I am critiquing other peoples' work I, of course, have no idea where the author is going so it is much easier for me to identify when I think a story or character is weak.
Like with everything I guess I just have to make myself write the same way technical documentation is written, with the assumption the reader has no idea about the subject and needs to be told everything.
Of course this then runs into the risk of over telling, so of course there is a fine line between improvement and making the story worse.
But hey, it's my first novel, I have a long way to go and a LOT to learn.
Wednesday, 21 February 2007
I finished my short story and after a quick edit of the first draft I sent it out to a few people for comment.
The resounding feedback from Jen I got was not enough detail in the ever so bad things that happened to the three guys in the story. In fact, the only blood in it was from one of them who got punched in the nose. Now for a short story with a mysterious beast that basically rips them to shreds (although is never explicitly stated) well this is something worth pondering. Thanks, Jen. Your feedback AGAIN is invaluable.
Today over lunch I was also talking to my friend Cravon and he commented to me, the same as Jen did, that he felt there should have been more description for the bad things: blood, gore, general painfulness, that kind of stuff.
From both Jen and Cravon it's a valid comment seeing as there really is no description of those things at all.
So I said to Cravon, I said, "I think I was avoiding it being too chunky because I might want to submit it to a writing competition one day..." *WHAM* There it was. Instead of writing the story I think I wanted to write, I pulled my punches being all concerned about whether a magazine might look at it or not based on the bloodiness.
Naughty naughty naughty!
It is supposed to be a horror short story for crying out loud. Horror. Does horror worry about namby pamby magazines? No! Does horror worry if someone might think something is too gory? NO! Does horror worry about the body count? NO! I say NO!
One of the number one killers of an interesting story is writing to a perceived audience. Or writing in caution because your thinking about who might read your book one day, such as your mother. Barroom brawls are less violent, cussin' and a fussin' is not as effective, and raunchy sex scenes basically stop before anyone can get started.
So I'll be going back and doing a third draft of this work - to be honest I actually hesitate to call what I sent a second draft - and I'll be pulling out the stops, as I should have done from the very beginning.
So forgive me, I will try harder next time. Honest I will.
Thursday, 15 February 2007
So far I have resisted pulling out my manuscript and starting any work on it, but it's been tough. It calls to me, it calls to me with the siren song of the cooling fan on my laptop.
To make sure I don't pull it out before I'm ready I've started a short story. Very short, target word count about 2,000. I'm going to use the process to try and hone my scene setting and description skills. You have to be tight in a short story, extremely tight, so it will be an interesting process.
Even though I can write 2,000 words in a couple of hours, even an hour if I'm on a roll, this is more about delicate and deliberate writing than a purge of my brain onto the computer screen. This means my 300 words a day still stands but I won't be looking to do much more than that each night in an attempt to make each 300 of those words actual "good" words. If that makes any sense...
Once I've finished doing the short story, probably a week or two, I'll start the revision of my WIP.
So that's me.
Friday, 9 February 2007
Ok, so my computer is in the lounge room, no books in here. The next closet room is has one of my book shelves, that is about six meters long and floor to ceiling. Oh and full of books. Crap.
Fine, so I grabbed three books which are up there with my favorites. I've read these three numerous times already and I'm sure I'll read them a lot of times again in the future.
GHOST BEYOND EARTH - by G.M. Hague (Graeme Hague)
Normally the outer door was opened by pushing a single large button - large enough to accommodate the bulky gloves of the spacesuits. However, this would also start a chain of reactions, including bleeding the atmosphere from the airlock chamber. This was to prevent the astronaut from being spat out into space with the escaping air as the door opened.
THE REALITY DYSFUNCTION - by Peter F. Hamilton
Thetis retreated, his subconscious grousing away. But he knew better than try and argue with his sister when she was in that mood.
We're going after it? Oenone demanded.
MAGICIAN - Raymond E. Feist
Her body trembled as she said, "I don't have words, Pug. You're the only one who tried to ... understand me. You see more than anyone else."
Oh and why not what I have been writing....
UN-NAMED WORK IN PROGRESS - Glenn
I blanched, “What?! You can’t give me a bath, you’re both old enough to be my mother!” Straight away I wished I could take back my outburst. Azaya’s eyes narrowed and Julie hissed at me to shut up.
So who am I going to tag...? No freakin idea as I am sure all the Fly Girls have been taken and I don't seem to have any other fans ;-) Tell you what, give it a crack and let me know in the comments so I can link to your blog
Thursday, 8 February 2007
Man, I don't know. I've reached the end, but I don't know if I have done it cleanly. Have I wrapped it up properly? Or have I finished it in the spirit of a "first draft"? Have I just wrapped it up for the sake of a finish and will revisit the finish in the second draft? I don't know.
I was working on it for a while last night and the events progressed to the finish, using the same ending I wrote a month or two ago, but ultimately I was just pushing words around on the page.
I could have fiddled and tweaked and massaged it all to hell, but in the end I thought screw it, this book is ending.
So is it finished? It feels finished. So I guess it must be.
Now it goes into a drawer for a few weeks before I do the first major revision.
I wonder what I'll do in the meantime?
Are you disappointed with my post? Thought I would be more thrilled? Yeah, me too.
Sunday, 4 February 2007
Man, it feels like it has taken a long time to get to this point, but fact is it has been not much more than three months since I started. So what will I do when I finish the first draft? Shelve it. Shelve it for a minimum two weeks, maybe four - if I can resist that long. I'm just going to print it out and stick it in a drawer and attempt to forget about it.
Already I know there is some major work to be done in the second draft. I've had some mythology that has been evolving while I've been writing, and attitudes at the start of the book seem to have matured somewhat by the middle which will necessitate changes to the early part.
Not long now, the light at the end of the tunnel is getting pretty bright.
Tuesday, 30 January 2007
On Writing is a little different to most of the other texts out there on writing fiction. SK starts out the first third of the book in almost autobiographical fashion so you can maybe gain some insights into his head space when he writes. Lets just say for someone who is oh so very famous now he came from oh so very humble beginnings. A very poor family, terrible ear infections, dead end jobs and even alcoholism and eventually drug addiction to boot (can't even remember writing Cujo). The one constant he had through all those times was writing. Writing writing writing and a never say die attitude. I think this is one of the things I admire about him most, despite all the rejections, despite all the setbacks, despite being truly dirt poor white trailer trash, there was always writing.
The middle of the book talks about how SK writes today, his regimes, his thoughts on the craft and his utter, utter disdain for the adverb (have I used one yet? God I hope not...) and his ideas behind plot and story. It's interesting to note that SK is another author who doesn't do a lot of pre-planning or plotting before he starts to write. He just gets his initial idea, shuts the door to his office, and dumps everything out of his head in his first draft. It's the second draft when he "writes with the door open", when he lets others see it. But that first draft, it's just one big ole purge.
The end of the book talks about almost dying after being hit by a car while on one of his daily walks. This man came so very close to death, and then crawled back from it. Maybe it was payback for the author he tortured in Misery :-)
I really enjoyed On Writing as SK talks about most of his writing coming from a gut feeling, an instinct, and not worrying too much about what is going to happen next because your characters will let you know. He talks about doing his 2,000 word a day quota and if he is done by 10:30am then great, if he is still plugging away at 3:30pm it doesn't matter, just as long as he gets that 2,000 in. Now that I am writing every day SK's book has been very inspiring and I'll keep working to my goal.
For my next book - yeah keep talking positive - I'll be upping my daily word quota to a minimum1,000 a day. I'm hitting that mark most nights now, but for the next book I want to get really serious. When I get to book number three and I have quit the day job because of the $300,000 advance I'll get, then I'll go to 2,000 a day just like SK.
Yeah so anyway, if you are keen to buy another book about writing, but are a bit tired of the same ole "You must know the book's premise" etc (not that it doesn't have it's place) then On Writing is something you can enjoy a bit more for it's very readable quality and advice.
Sunday, 28 January 2007
One, I still need to write, the very thought of not writing for five days was something that concerned me greatly. To the extent that I even got my daily quota out of the way on Wednesday before I left just in case I didn't do them later for some reason. So I actually only wrote for four days. But even today, still on holiday knowing that my computer was only a few hours away, I still did a few pages while sitting in a cafe enjoying a coffee.
Two, I can write by hand, but I hate it. I hate it because it is too slow, it takes too long. My brain is galloping ahead with settings, dialog etc, and my fast cramping hand is still scrawling the first sentence. I did 2,500 words over the four days where I was writing in a journal so I did well and above my self imposed minimum 300 words a day, quite happy about that.
Three, despite being able to do that meagre output, the massive downside is when I got home this afternoon and I typed it into the computer I gave myself a splitting headache and actually started feeling a little queasy. I suspect this is a combination of looking at the journal, down to the keyboard, up to the monitor, down to the keyboard, back to the journal etc etc etc (I can type reasonably fast, but I can't touch type). This is actually a real shame because I did enjoy scrawling in the journal when my hand wasn't giving me grief. I wouldn't do it all the time, but a change of scenery without looking like a pompus twat in a cafe with a laptop would have been nice. The headache and nausea is going to rule out transcribing from paper to computer in the future though.
But I did survive, there was output, I made it, and now I'm back. I don't think the handwriting I did was of the greatest quality due to not being able to delete and re-write an entire paragraph in a minute. But it was enjoyable all the same and tomorrow I'll be keen in getting some more words done on the ole faithful puter so I can get into the home stretch of this my first novel.
Tuesday, 23 January 2007
Sunday, 21 January 2007
From this coming Wednesday I am supposed to be away on a long weekend camping trip and whilst I am looking forward to it, I can't help but think about what will I do if I don't do any writing for the five days I'll be away. I don't have a laptop and running the computer in the tent isn't exactly an option. Mind you, as a highly intelligent friend at work oh so cleverly suggested, what's wrong with a pad and pen? Well for one, I am a reasonably quick typist and for two, I hate writing by hand. At the end of the day that's probably what I'll do because I just can't bear the thought of not writing for that long.
Last week I was in a meeting with some managers, very important things were being discussed I'm sure of it. But personally I was thinking about the character I had just killed off. I have no problem with killing characters, no problem at all. My issue with this particular character is that in killing him I am possibly putting the stops on my protagonist being able to leave to do the next thing he has to do. So I spent the whole meeting tossing up the pros and cons of killing the guy v's just almost killing him but not quite. To say I got nothing out of the meeting is an understatement...
So I'm always thinking about writing. Like when I'm lying in bed. Or driving the car, or on the motorbike. Doing the shopping, cooking dinner. Just about anything, in the back of my head I'm non stop thinking about what I am doing with this book and the things that have happened in it and the things that still need to happen yet. It doesn't stop, make it stop!
And when I'm not thinking about this book, I mean actually NOT thinking about it, what am I thinking about? I'm thinking about which story idea I want to write next. For crying out loud!!!
Thursday, 18 January 2007
I made no bones about the fact that the scene was pretty much straight from my brain onto the paper without the benefit of any editing. At first I thought I had done the wrong thing by sending her an un-edited version of my brain dump. As it turns out the things she has picked up on I don't think I would have fixed in an edit anyway. And I agree with everything she has shown me.
So what advice has Jennifer given me?
1st: I need to watch the length of a lot of my sentences. They can be too long, with too many commas, when shorter sentences can give more impact to what I am doing.
2nd: I need my protagonist to be a bit more involved. This was supposed to be a powerful scene where he was witnessing something quite disturbing. I had failed to show what he was going through mentally and physically and instead left him almost a viewer of his own scene.
3rd: She picked up on a couple of instances where I had really overstated what was happening when it was already quite obvious.
4th: She rearranged a couple of sentences for me to show how they could have greater impact compared to how I had done it.
And heaps of other ideas, tips and techniques.
Being shown those things has really opened my eyes. They are great suggestions, she has spotted stupid mistakes I have been making AND she gave me examples in every case of how it can be improved. So you're probably thinking I'm now going to go back and re-write that scene and make it perfect and glowing using all of Jennifer's recommendations. Well if you are, you would be wrong.
No, Jennifer hasn't wasted her time, quite the opposite. She has basically opened my eyes to some things I sub-consciously already knew were there, and some other things I hadn't realised at all. These are all going to be featured in some form or other throughout this entire manuscript.
So instead of trying to fix this up now and possibly end up stalling myself in the process, I will be sticking with Plan A and forging ahead to finish this first draft of my book. From this point on I will most certainly be conscious of what Jennifer has said, and trying to apply wherever possible, but at the same time it's even more important to get this draft finished and put to bed than it is trying to make it a literary masterpiece in this first run.
Jennifer, I am indebted to you. I asked for an opinion and most certainly got one. Your delivery was great and I wasn't at any point thinking, "Who the hell is she trying to tell me how to write." (although my reply email might have got her on the back foot momentarily (hehehe)). Certainly once the second draft is done you will be getting the whole schlamoo in one hit and you will see where these silly ideas have come from.
Sunday, 14 January 2007
Yuh that's right, 100,000 words, or 101,297 to be exact. Hey what do you know, I have a novel on my hands. Doesn't mean they are readable words, but there is a lot of them all the same, and I think I have close to a quarter, or half as much again before this project is finished.
I think my writing has improved immensely since I started this project and I find myself thinking a lot more about how the characters are interacting with each other, how the settings are impacting on them, and trying to do my best to evoke emotion in the reader. I certainly know what I did today evoked disgust with what I wrote, but it was good disgust.
Let me explain. I needed a powerful scene, powerful emotion, I needed something that would hopefully hold a reader the same way a train wreck is about to happen that you just can't look away from.. I think I got it, or at least I'm getting it, I might have gone a little overboard with how the characters are talking to each other in some very confrontational scenes. The second draft should tighten it up a bit, focus the words a little more.
So yay for me, another month or two and I might be done with this first draft *sigh*
Friday, 12 January 2007
I was messing around with some work mates filling the Inbox of a colleague who had the nerve to be on holidays while we were at work. So we were just sending stupid emails back to each other for the sake of it. I thought I would mix it up a little and try to include words starting with the same letter in different emails. The following gibberish is the result:
I've been frequently frustrated by my foiled and failed attempts to provide forthwith a flurry of furious humour of what would no doubt be personal faux pas, instead I'm forced to resort to fabricated follies of flatulence.
Well I wouldn't want to prevaricate on the possibility of procrastinating positions of power with the prevailing pervasiveness of posturing by prominent pedestrians in the halls of this place.
Do you think the culmination of consecutive correspondence may have the consequence of convincing her not to continue her crusade as a contributor to our all conquering cavalcade of curiously compulsive contact?
What did I discover by doing this? It's a great way to take your mind off whatever it is you are struggling to work out! The rules are simple, a silly sentence using words that start with the same letter preferably of multiple syllables. Try to avoid using a thesaurus if you can so you are flexing that mental muscle to the fullest.
Give it a go, you get to waste a little time and you might actually have a chuckle in the process.
Tuesday, 9 January 2007
There was a ruined church along the way, an old Methodist meeting house, which reared its shambles at the far end of a frost-heaved and hummocked lawn, and when you walked past the view of its glaring, senseless windows your footsteps became very loud in your ears and whatever you had been whistling died on your lips and you though about how it must be inside - the overturned pews, the rotting hymnals, the crumbling altar where only mice now kept the sabbath, and you wondered what might be in there besides mice - what madmen, what monsters.
Sunday, 7 January 2007
What's my point? Well if I didn't have a backup of my novel on a USB stick (plus CD-Rom) my 90,000 words I have done so far - and all my other very important files - would be gooooooooooone...
My personal regime is copying my novel onto a USB stick every night when I am done for the day. Every other week I also burn a copy of my novel onto a CD-Rom. I do this because USB sticks aren't renowned for their reliability, so I make sure I have a backup, backup.
What else do I do? Well what would happen if (god forbid) my house burnt down? In case of this I also have an offline copy of my novel in the form of an email sent to a friend. Sure, if my house burnt down loosing my book will be pretty low on my priorities, but the thought of going back and starting it from scratch isn't a thought I relish and it takes me all of thirty seconds to send a copy to a friend.
Now I'll just wipe the sweat of fear from my brow and see if I can concentrate enough to punch out a page or two tonight. So what have you done recently to protect your work in the event that your computer blows up?
Wednesday, 3 January 2007
The syllabus looks very interesting and covers everything from starting, plotting, characters, scenes, sex (yes sex), publishing, editing and a whole heap more. In the site's FAQ they make no bones about that the intention of providing this free series of courses for the next twelve months will lead to a published non-fiction book on how to write.
Hey, if they deliver the online content for free, who am I (or anyone) to begrudge that?
Anyway, the first "lesson" has been published encouraging people to think about their one sentence idea, that sentence that basically kicked off your book. I had a think about mine and came up with:
“Can a *** based on an ancient myth surrounding *** be the answer James has been seeking to cure him of his ***?”
I've deliberately censored the key words surrounding my plot idea, but it was an interesting exercise all the same in trying to keep it down to a short concise statement/question of less than 25 words.
Is not telling anyone my idea a sign of the true novice writer, someone so naive that they would actually think someone else could "steal" their idea? Well I don't care if it is. Check back with me after I have published my first book and see if I think different.
I've added the site to my own bookmarks and plan to check it out to see how it goes. If you want to have a look at He Wrote, She Wrote: How to Write then follow this link.