Tuesday, 9 January 2007

There's something missing

At this point I haven't read my work in progress from start to finish (I'll save that for when the first draft is finished) but I know something has been missing from my writing. What I have written so far, I feel, has been heavy on dialogue and being a first person point of view I feel a little locked into a lot of dialogue with this format. Still, I try to throw in description here and there, to show what the characters are doing, to try and give an idea of how they are feeling instead of them just saying, "I feel guilty" or whatever. But the thing that is missing is stuff like this:

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.
Stephen King, "Salem's Lot"

THAT is what is missing from my writing so far. Those poignant moments in text where the imagery is just slammed into you and the subtle nuances in what is said can leave quite the chill up your spine. I know I gave it a crack in one of my earlier scenes, trying to write something that was atmospheric, descriptive, really attempting to set a mood with the reader, and it was OK in a fashion. I won't really know how effective it is until I do a full reading. But I'm always humbled by what Stephen King has been able to make me feel with his writing over the years and Salem's Lot was only his second published novel.

14 comments:

Jennifer Talty said...

Do you want my opinion? Snort. Well, you're going to get it anyway. And you can throw sand at me if you want. I'll just throw it back.

It's missing from first draft. I don't write in first person, but I'm heavy dialogue the first pass through. And then rest feels like stage directions. There's a sofa over there, a chair and he's sitting in it with his arms folded. Yep, that sucks. When I go back after I've puked it out, I can add the details because I've lived it now. I've got a more vivid picture in my mind. I'll add emotion and senses and everything else that is missing.

My only suggestion would be to write down what you think is missing. I keep a note book and I'll make references like, On page whatever hero is feeling this way, make it stronger. Show throw action instead of just telling. Because as I'm puking out the story I'm not thinking about all that. I'm getting from A to Z. You know?

Jennifer.

PS - I answered your questions over at the flygirl blog. Thanks for visiting.

And, FTR, I come here just to see that eye. Very nice.

OzWriter said...

I love your opinion, Jennifer, thanks. And of course flattery gets you everywhere...

Once I finish this first draft I plan to read it from start to finish WITHOUT doing any editing (although I might have a small notepad if I have little ideas). I want to read it in one continuous flow before I start the task of the second draft.

Does this sound like a reasonable idea? What did you do when you finished your first draft? Was your initial reading accompanied by lots of editing, or did you try to read it as though it was a finished work (knowing full well more work was yet to come)?

Glenn

Jennifer Talty said...

You want to know what I do? Oh, this is so much fun.

Seriously, like Bob said on his own blog - everyone has to figure this out for themselves. It does sound reasonable, but I couldn't do it. I'd have to edit. Actually, when I fisnish the draft, I send it to my friend Kari, and she reads it making comments in the document and then I go from there. Make sense?

You know, some day you are gong to have to put a face to that eye.

OzWriter said...

Absolutely I want to know what you do, I have a published author not only reading my blog, but answering my questions!

My favourite Australian author and I do email from time to time as well, you should see the questions I have bugged him with over the years. He put up with my, "I really want to write but I don't think I can because blah blah blah..." for a very long time, and I attribute my actual starting of this novel to him. He's sent me a few of his manuscripts too and it was great fun critiquing them and giving feedback.

I'll see how I go with the initial plan of reading the first draft. If that doesn't work for me then on book two I'll try "Plan Jen" :-)

Oh and the eye is probably about as good as it gets, now shush.

Glenn

Jennifer Talty said...

Let me know how the plan works. It's taken me like 8 manuscripts before I figured out one I feel comfortable enough telling the world, "this is what I do."

You wrote: "Oh and the eye is probably about as good as it gets, now shush."

If you've been reading my blog, well you should now shushing me isn't going to work. The face needs to be attached to the eye.

Barbie Jo said...

Hey Ozwriter! Jen suggested I come check out the eye. So here I am. VERY nice! But if she's got that one, can you put up the other eye so I can have one too?

Oh, and thanks for visiting our Fly Girls blog!!

OzWriter said...

Jennifer said: It's taken me like 8 manuscripts before I figured out one I feel comfortable enough

Yup, under no illusions that this first MS I am writing might never see the light of an agent's or publisher's desk. But it IS my start, it is proving to myself that even though I might not be able to write great material I do have it in me to write novel length work and I do have a file with more than half a dozen "one sentence ideas" that I have built over the years.

If you've been reading my blog, well you should now shushing me isn't going to work

Yeahhhh I kinda wondered at my good sense of doing that :-P

Barbie Jo said: and thanks for visiting our Fly Girls blog

Looks like a lot of fun over there. I find it helps my own mental state to be absorbing as many things writing as possible. Ie: buying no end of writing magazines, scouring the web for author websites, going through my "how to" books, that kind of thing. I think Fly Girls will be very interesting, 'specially once we get Jen to tell us her dirty little secret...

Jennifer Talty said...

Ozwriter wrote: "Yup, under no illusions that this first MS I am writing might never see the light of an agent's or publisher's desk"

You're really going to hate me, but my very first manuscript is the first one I sold. Yep. So, be of that illusion because it can happen. But for warned, I rewrote that sucker like 10 times. I have two books and one anthology with my publisher. I have 2 and 1/2 books with my agent and a couple MS's that will never see the light of day.

They Key - persistance! Never, Never Quit. I think that was Winston Churchill.

Hmmmmmmm, you show your face and I'll consider telling you my dirty little secret.

OzWriter said...

Jennifer said: You're really going to hate me, but my very first manuscript is the first one I sold.

Hate you? No way, that's awesome news. There are plenty of authors out there who not only had their first MS published first, but they were also break-out books as well, shooting them to overnight fame and stardom.

No, I'm just being a realist. I do believe I have an OK writing ability, and I think the ideas I have are good ones, it's just whether I can tie everything together coherently over the length of 400+ pages. I'm treating this first MS as a learning experience and even if I don't submit it to an agent or publisher when I initially finish it, I will submit the MS one day when I feel I can polish it up enough.

you show your face and I'll consider telling you my dirty little secret

Now you're just teasing.

Glenn

Jennifer Talty said...

Ozwriter,

I have this friend who beats me upside the head when I put myself and my abilities down. You are very articulate - you can write, you will sell - you are amazing! Now you say it with the you turned into an I (eye).

Which brings me to the eye. Me tease? Never. But how do you know. Maybe I will tell you if you show pic. :) Then again, maybe I won't. :)

OzWriter said...

I can be articulate in little sound (blog) bites, that's easy. But the fact that I have gotten 90,000+ words under my belt so far means I have moved beyond the "I can't write" stage into the "I might just have a chance with this" stage...

Jennifer Talty said...

You know, you could always send it to me to read. :)

Karitown said...

Hey, Oz, I'm chiming in. Since Jennifer and Barbie have both your eyes, I get to call you just Oz. They can't be the only ones to have a piece of you.

Good luck with the book, and great eye;)) Still not sure you have two. Thanks for stopping by the Fly Girls. I don't get to post until next Thursday. Bummer.

OzWriter said...

Jennifer said: You know, you could always send it to me to read. :)

I might actually take you up on that offer at some point. That is if you are up to reading something that is intended as a horror/scary story line with a slightly supernatural bent to it. Hmm, supernatural is the wrong word, but yeah anyway, there you go...

I do, however, plan on buying your book when it's out in September!

Karitown said: Thanks for stopping by the Fly Girls. I don't get to post until next Thursday. Bummer.

Hi Kari, can't wait to see your post on Thursday. I might have to think up some new questions though ;-)