The Joys of Copy Editing

Joe’s Post #181

Who knows more about great suffering, I ask you?

June 5th, Yager’s War was finally sent to an agent who’d requested it. Like most things worth doing, this was not achieved without great suffering. Or at least great silliness. Especially when it comes to the copy-editing,

The writing of the novel was fun. The rewrite a lot of work.  A LOT. Then I did up the first final draft and sent it off to my trusted readers. They came back with suggestions, ideas and concerns. I dealt with them all.

Then came the dreaded copy edit. Now, some people have minds fo copy-editing. Smart people. People who can do the NY Times Crosswords in pen. The people who beat Jeopardy winners to the questions. People who can quote Shakespeare instead of Snoop Dog.

Not me. I am like that dog in Up. I get distracted very easily. My mind’s always thinking of something. Like where did I put my Def Leppard tape from the 80’s? Or why did Ares try to convert Wonder Woman when clearly, she wasn’t all about the whole ‘let’s kill mankind’ thing.

But I got some help from my friends and did the best I could. I went slowly. I used Gammarly. I blew up the font to be so huge, it could be read from space (so I wouldn’t start actually reading the story and get all lost in it.)

And then, after a freaking month, 459 pages, I finished.

But for laughs, here’s what I found.

I had to look up the crazy stuff like is adam’s apple capitalized? Well, it turns out, yes, yes it is. Adam’s apple. (I’ll take stupid things the English language does for 200.

Or you can ask Bill Maher. Wait, too soon?

Alec.)

I found that I had written gate instead of gait. Oh, I knew the difference, but somewhere in my brain, gate came out. I did the same thing with hanger and hangar that my critique group still giggle about.

I actually wrote, “bowels of soup” instead of “bowls.”

Looked up if herring should be capitalized (grammarly said yes, but google says no, so, I, ah, guess it’s kinda dealer’s choice.) I went without.

I wrote, “at the there.”  Yup. Dunno how, but that came out.

Later, I wrote, “on the table above the table.” I had to wonder if I’d been drinking that night. Or just up too late.

But seriously, WTF!?!?

Then I found that I’d written, “whipped the anger from his face.” which made me giggle.

From the Huff Post. They know their women’s bits.

I spent an hour, I kid you not, trying to find good words for lady bits. Then another hour reading about the time-line of genital slang. Then briefly thought about using stiff deity instead of erection. But, my cop, being from Chicago and all, would probably not have used that term. Makes me want to write a novel using that as a title. (See how I can get distracted.)

I made lots of comma errors, plenty of ‘he’ instead of ‘the’ mistakes, buggered up the paragraphing somehow from one document to another, and even accidentally copy-and-pasted a deleted chapter back into the final draft.

Oh, fun times.

This is how I imagine the book cover. Only with the shadow of a man in a coat and hat looking all detectivie

But it’s all done. Yager’s War, 109,000 words is out there. A story set in Amsterdam in 1940 about a Chicago Detective who races against the clock to find his missing sister before the Germans invade.

It’s the best writing I’ve done.

Wish me luck.

(Copy edited by the Prettiest-girl-in-the-world).

Writers, how do you kill your self-editor?

Karalee’s Post #102

I’ve put my writing aside over the last few weeks. In November and December I’d written a fast first draft, well, nearly to ‘The End’, and I find it’s helpful to put my work on the back burner for a while before readdressing it with fresh eyes.

I’ve also put something else on the back burner for over twenty years that has to be addressed ASAP! My only daughter is getting married in July, and I have 40+ video tapes that I’d taken during my 3 children’s childhoods that need to be formatted on to DVD’s. Technology is amazing. So is the amount of time it takes to watch them. I’m not done yet either…. Then comes the editing….

I’m also committed to have a finished manuscript this year, complete and ready to publish. That includes formatted, edited, book jacket done, marketing platform up and running, etc., etc., etc.

Yikes!

So, I’m back at my manuscript again, intending to read it from start to finish, intending to lock my self-editor where she can’t find the key.

No such luck! I find it very unfortunate that I’m one of those writers that rewrites way WAY before I should rewrite. And I tend to keep rewriting, ESPECIALLY the first few scenes.

My self-editor seems to have a life of her own and can go on and on until I feel like this skeleton picture. Really.

Boy do I want to, but I haven’t yet found a way to kill her or even maim her until she can’t function properly.

2001 A Space Odyssey

My self-editor is like Hal in 2001: A Space Odyssey. She takes over, looping my story around and around,  rearranging words from here to over there, adding sensory stuff and emotional ties to my characters before deleting it and adding something else, and on and on……. She takes complete control, stifling much of my creativity and ignores me like I’m not even there.

Do you get stuck like this too?

Believe me, it’s not a romantic relationship, not even a love-hate and let’s-kiss-and-make-up relationship. It’s a war. And I must win!

I would love to take my self-editor and tie her up like this (or worse) and force her to sign a contract that said, ‘Do not touch until your creative half finishes reading, digesting and getting excited about the manuscript again.’

Then I would have a chance of making progress.

And of course, once the contract was signed, I would tie her hands behind her back to make sure she behaved.

What do you feel like doing to your self-editor?

________________________________

Progress this week: not much. Need to kill you-know-who.

Pies, cookies, cakes and muffins eaten: none, but felt like going to our neighborhood bakery and not coming home to you-know-who.

TV/Movies watched: Last half of Downton Abbey Season 4. Did not invite you-know-who to join me.

Goal next week: skip first few chapters in my manuscript in order to ignore you-know-who and get my work done.

Book I’m reading: To Rise Again at a Decent Hour by Joshua Ferris. First book of his I’ve read and I love his humor and the style of his writing.

Happy Writing!

 

 

To toss or not to toss

Joe’s Post #101

Throwing Sh*t Away

hoardersI have a problem with this. A big time problem. I can always think of a use for something or something is tied to a memory or something is put away for so long that it just becomes a part of the landscape. Like the broken wheelbarrel rusting in my backyard. I greatly fear that one day I’ll be featured on the hoarders, a 500 lb lumpy writer surrounded by tattered writing books, empty Cheetos bags and crumpled up rejection letters.

But, as in life, in writing you have to throw stuff away. Sometimes it’s a word. Sometimes it’s a chapter. Sometimes a whole novel.

That’s what I spent my writing time doing this week. Tossing out what doesn’t work and writing lovely new words.

As a new writer, long ago, when the world was new and crusty-looking crabs ruled the world, I couldn’t throw away anything. A chapter? Get real! A whole novel? Are you insane?

Now, older, creakier, greyer, I know that I can toss stuff out and – are you ready for this – come up with new stuff. Even good stuff. It’s not a small glass I sip from, it’s a well tied to an aquifer, tied to monsoon, tied to a planet that’s 2/3rds water.

Now I’m not saying that I’m David Sedaris or Stephen King or that lady who wrote that book about that thing, no, I’m not any of them. They all have massive talent. I’m more of a workhorse writer. I couldn’t come up with a purdy phrase if my life depended on it. But what I hope I do, like Patterson, is craft a good story. Or, let me put that another way, I want to be like Patterson and craft a great story.

To do that, you have to kill your darlings.

It’s a phrase we hear a lot in writing workshops or read on writing blogs and writer’s tombs.

So here are some of the signs you have to look for if you’re going to find those darlings (or broken, rusty wheelbarrows in your yard).

ryanDo you have a minor character that you fell in love with and who took the story in a whole different direction than planned? Hey, it’s ok. Maybe they’ll become your main character. Or, like GRR Martin, you just write 100 books with 1000 pages each. But if you have a story to tell and that handsome rogue hijacked it, stake him to the ground, and bring him out only to serve the plot.

Too many pretty phrases or long descriptions? The hardest things to cut out sometimes. Why? Because by and large our critique groups like them and other writers like them and, like, we often don’t get compliments so when someone says, omg, that’s so beautiful, you’re gonna want to keep it. If you’re writing a literary book, hey, keep it, but we all have to remember it’s the readers, not college creative writing professors who’ll be reading it. Know your target audience and apply descriptions according. A romance? Avoid detailed, but brilliantly written descriptions of torture and dismemberment. Focus on the hero’s pecs, how his body shimmered in the moonlight and how his eyes looked at the girl.

Something’s not working and you just can’t put your finger on it? You know what I’m talking about. It’s that inner voice telling you something’s off. Sure you can try to fix it, make it better, somehow, maybe move a comma here or delete a word there, but if it’s a struggle, come at it, again. Start new. I’m talking paragraphs, scenes, chapters, whatever. Listen to that inner voice. Not the Gollum one that says everything you write is crap, no, spank that one and stake it to the ground beside the rogue, no the voice that says, hmmm, yeah, not working. Change location, change POV, change starting or ending point, change style, change anything and everything and see what shakes loose.

dogsIf you find yourself skipping, then what are your readers going to do? It could be a whole chapter about the hero’s dog taking a poo. It meant something to you when you wrote it, but now it’s just a dog taking a poo. It’s a neat little story, maybe, but if you skip over it when you read your manuscript, cut it out. Lean it out. You want to keep yourself entertained.

The main thing is, don’t be afraid of tossing something out. You actually get better and better the more you write.

Don’t believe me?

Go back and look at writing you did years ago. Writing that you thought was super awesome and full of such brilliant words that they should not only buy the book but sell it with a gold cover and fireworks. I bet you you’ll find a lot of stuff you could do improve upon. There might be some lovely descriptions, some penetrating insights into the human condition, a handsome rogue somewhere and a side story about a dog taking a poo, but if you tossed out the whole thing, you could do it all again, and maybe even better.

At least that’s what I’ve learned.

Now, I have to go deal with that wheelbarrow.

The editor lurking within

left-brain-right-brain

Silk’s Post #85 — Joe asked an important question in his last post: how do your get out of your head as a writer? He had a pretty decent answer to the question, too. But then, Joe isn’t you. And he isn’t me.

I have a terrible confession to make. In my heart of hearts, I harbour an editor. An editor who continually harasses my writer. Oh, maybe I forgot to mention that I have a lot of personas in there. There’s probably a diagnosis for that – Multiple Persona Disorder or something.

Maybe you have a few of these conflicting personas, too. No? You sure? Well, here’s something I know you have, and it can be just as paralyzing, or liberating: you have a left brain and a right brain. Ever wonder why we were designed that way? You should. We all should. It’s probably really important.

But back to the editor lurking within.

It’s just a good thing I never became a teacher. I probably would have scarred countless students for life, pointing out all their mistakes and deficiencies. It was bad enough that I had a 35 year career as a creative director, where the only people I critiqued (and critiqued and critiqued) were exceptional, professional designers and writers and art directors who had already developed healthy egos (quite healthy in some cases), despite their microscopically thin skins. I knew they were good (that’s why I hired them). They knew they were good. It was all good. I perhaps flatter myself thinking that I spurred them to be better than good with my nitpicking and inspirational pep talks.

But I couldn’t help it. It was that editor inside me. And now, most of the time she has nobody else to work on except … me. (And my 5writer friends, whose blog posts I admit to occasionally “cleaning up”, fixing capitalization errors and removing errant punctuation marks).

Here’s a statement I’ll probably regret making someday: editing is easy and writing is hard. I hope there are no editors reading this, but in case there are, let me amend that claim. Editing can be hellishly hard. But writing is harder by about 400 degrees Farenheit.

So when I get in that stuck state – that mental bog where you know you have to pull yourself out of your head before you get sucked down into the quicksand to die a horrible, plotless death – I have a surefire but ironic cure that works for me. And maybe for no one else in the world.

I find something to edit. Or even proofread. I focus on the easily recognizable, easily controllable minutae of writing and it clears my mind. It’s like washing windows or vacuuming or some other boring, zen-like household task. The process and rules are clear. It takes some concentration and some effort, just enough that you have to dismiss that irritating creative fly buzzing around in your head. And when you’re done, everything looks cleaner, tidier, better. More cared for. More cared about.

When I go back to what I’ve just written and fuss over it, the reason is often that I simply don’t have enough momentum going to get through the swamp that leads forward. So I go backwards and tweak. My editor within is pretty good at tweaking and, oddly, it puts me in a kind of meditative state.

While my left brain is obsessing about commas and nuanced turns of phrase, my right brain sneaks off to its room and locks the door. On a good day, it does the intellectual equivalent of smoking a joint, releasing my imagination and intuition, and exploring intriguing (if often illogical) connections, patterns and directions in my story world.

Of course, it doesn’t work every time. On a bad day, my right brain just sulks.

It’s on the sulky days that my left brain editor becomes a bit messianic, and then progress on my story can grind to a halt. Oh, I may write and write and write, but it goes nowhere. I can’t write anything very compelling from my left brain. Maybe nobody can. That’s just not the left brain’s job. But when my right brain is in a pet, the editor lurking within begins to get a little frantic. Do something! it thinks. So it tries to fill in for my imagination, and of course fails miserably and becomes frustrated.

Its time will come. Later. After the first draft.

Eventually, this “stuck” cycle comes to an end, although sometimes it takes a while. If you define “a while” as anything from a few hours to a few weeks. Maybe this is what people call “writer’s block”.

My “happy place” (I wish no one had ever invented that phrase, it’s such a crutch), is where my left brain and my right brain are in cosmic balance. Where my editor within tends to its disciplined business in my left brain, while my imagination and creativity roam my right brain at will, never giving a fig for punctuation or earth-bound logic, just skipping over swampy literary ground on sure, light cat’s feet.

I need them both, really. Even though I sometimes roll my eyes at my internal editor – or have to push back against it when it tries to take over and become a dictator during the dry spells when my imagination is AWOL. Truth be told, I actually have some affection for both personas.

So how do I get “out of my head” as a writer? That’s a pretty metaphysical question (says my right brain). It’s just a matter of discipline and good management (says my left brain).

My editor lurking within just copes with it by finding something to fix.

 

A story in there… somewhere… waiting to get out.

stray_dog_filth_01

Paula’s Post #67 –

So, another shocking admission. Occasionally, not often, but occasionally, I need to actually ‘search’ for a subject for my weekly 5writers post. But we 5writers like to ‘riff’ on a theme, and Silk provided much needed inspiration when she started us off this week with a great post yesterday entitled ‘Artful reality and cutting out the dull bits.

So let the scissors fly.

Snip, snip, snip.

stray_dog_filth_02

Silk’s post of yesterday was about cutting out the dull bits to improve pacing, conflict, tension, paring away to the essence of a story so that only the ‘drama’ remains, illustrated by Alfred Hitchcock famous question: “What is drama but life with the dull bits cut out?”

Quite independently, I’ve been thinking about paring down, too. And not just my busy schedule. Yes, It’s been another hectic week here in the desert. March is the best month to visit Greater Palm Springs, and between the La Quinta Arts Festival, Polo in Indio and the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells.

Nary a dull moment.

Up this week?

Home tours for clients, bocce tournaments, tennis clinics, margarita parties, and entertaining a couple of very special house guests. Admittedly, my ‘writing time’ is more or less confined to just rolling story ideas around in my head, hoping to find settings, characters, plot and most of all, beginnings, middles and ends in the nascent jumble of ideas that is my next novel.

This is fun, but not always easy.

I know that when I’m ready, I’m going to need to apply a bit more discipline to this process of ‘finding’ my story, a process that is both creative and judicious. A process that requires keeping those scissors close at hand.

stray_dog_filth_03

On the one hand, I’m excited because I have a general idea of my story, some settings, characters, plot and sub-plots. But right now, the ideas are all a bit of a jumbled mess, ricocheting around in my head.

I haven’t written much down yet. Unlike my 5writer colleagues Joe and Karalee, I’ve yet to start on my outline.

I will, I promise, but for the past 9 months my husband and I have been ‘living out of a suitcase’ (at least metaphorically speaking) since the sale of our home in West Vancouver and the purchase and renovation of our new little house in the tiny coastal town of Gibsons Landing, B.C.

So yes, I feel adrift. I need a place to call home. A place to set up my writer’s ‘corner’ and start writing. (I doubt I’ll snag a whole room – this time I’ve promised that my husband gets the one and only room we’ve officially designated as an ‘office’ in our new little ‘downsized’ house. But a corner would be nice.

In the meantime, I’m thinking about the essence of ‘story’ and why some people make it in this ‘biz’, while others, equally talented, equally motivated, equally creative… fail. We’ve all had fantastic story ideas that have failed in their execution. The fast-penned YA thriller I whipped out in under 5 months during our 5writers5novels5months challenge an excellent case in point.

I know I had a pretty good story idea, a great premise, the genesis of some strong, quirky characters and plenty of action. But all this good stuff lay buried, lost in a jumbled mess. Somewhere… a story lay trapped, waiting to get out.

stray_dog_filth_04

Someday, I may cut away not just the “dull bits” of my story, but also the bizarre… the confusing… the dropped threads… the repetitive and the extraneous, until I find my story.

stray_dog_filth_05

Yesterday, I stumbled upon a site, (new to me at least) called ViralNova, featuring trending stories on the web. If you haven’t ‘clicked to it’ by now, the photos above are from that site. The ‘story’ of a poor little stray dog, literally a filthy mess when found on a road way. At least this story had a happy ending.  This lucky pup got an extreme makeover. The photos of her transformation are now making their way around the Internet, going viral.

It turns out the stray Shih Tzu was rescued by La Société Protectrice des Animaux de Québec (SPA) (Quebec Society for the Protection of Animals) in Canada in 2011.

My story?

Hopefully the one I’ve already written will one day get rescued, too. Oh, and the one in the planning stages, I’m just hoping there’s a story in there, waiting to get out!

 

stray_dog_filth_09

You can’t win if you don’t enter

Karalee’s Post #54

My children will often call on a friend’s cell phone if theirs is out of battery, so I answered an unfamiliar number the other day.

“Hello, you have won…”

I pulled the phone away from my ear and was about to hit the ‘end’ button when I heard “… the eyeball counting…”

The what? The subject caught me off guard enough that I kept listening.

“… eyeball counting contest.”

I didn’t remember entering an eyeball counting contest, but when the voice said it was my optometrists’ office, my memory slid into place and I remembered the jar on their counter. eyeball jarI had donated some money towards their cause and guessed the number of eyeball candy I thought filled the jar and then left without thinking about it again.

Then I got the call and not only did I become the proud owner of a jar full of chocolates the day after Halloween, I was also credited $250.00 on my account.

Well, I was feeling pretty smug and glad I hadn’t hung up the phone, so when I went into my email on my regular routine before writing, I had to laugh when I saw the Writer’s Digest email. Karma must be at play.
WD contest I think most of us are a bit superstitious or at least feel that some days things go our way for whatever reason.

I didn’t have to ponder about the energy in the universe or the stars lining up my way or such for me to think that maybe I should dust off a couple of short stories I have filed away in my computer and send them in.

I’m working on rewriting one that was short-listed at the Surrey International Writer’s Conference a few years ago. It’s 4800 words and this contest is a maximum of 1500 words. I take this as a good challenge for me to put to task what I’ve learned the last couple of years.

No matter, it has jump-started my creativity again so all is good.

The top twenty-five will be notified by February 28, 2014. I will let you know if I do the happy dance!

Wish me luck. Maybe other writers out there with short-stories in hand will send their work in too?

Happy writing.

Conferences and what not to do

Joe’s Post #55

adult contentFirst of all, a warning. This post contains adult content. At least more so than usual. So, anyone offended by foul language or naked pictures of me, please log off now and go to a safer site like the one with that nice girl from Hannah Montana…

wait, she’s doing what now?

OFMG! Never mind.

Anyway… conferences. I’ve decided to go to the Surrey International Writer’s Conference, where (last year) we were the 5 writers, 5 novels, 5 months people. It was kinda cool and my fellow writers were amazingly awesome at marketing themselves. Now, it’s time to pitch the book that I wrote. But it’ll just be me. 1 writer, 1 novel, 1 day (ok, 2 but 1 sounds cooler).

So, 10 things I can tell you from personal experience NOT to do if you’re going to a conference to sell your book.

1) Don’t hide in a corner, in the bathroom, in the back of the workshops or behind that tall, thin guy who’s just written a space epic about a vampire hunter with enormous boobs. Get out there. Talk to the agents and editors and, if you really have to, the writers. Super, super tough for me since I am, at heart, an introvert. But I will be chatty-Joe for 2 days. I have to be.

2) Do not, I repeat, do not drink too much. It’s ok to have a drink in your hand (though, perhaps, not in the workshops at 9am) but don’t go too far. Otherwise you could easily sound like this. “Heya, whash up? Yer like an agent, like, right? Shooo cool. I want an agent jusht like you. With your pretty face and hair and stuff. Will you pleash be my agent? Pleeeeeash.” (followed by crying when she says no.)

3) Do not talk about how great you are at blowjobs. Yes, I learned this the hard way, though strangely enough, it had nothing to do with rule #2 (nor was it actually ME talking about that subject.) Now, normally you’d think when a pretty woman sits down across from you – and right after I ask her what book she’s written, she goes on to tell me all about her oral history –  that this would all be awesome. You’d be wrong. It was very uncomfortable. I mean, what do I say to that? Errr, good for you? You did that hanging from a chandelier? And was it really Mick Fleetwood? Anyway, my advice, steer clear of conversation about sexual prowess unless you have a whole different agenda for attending the conference.

4) Do not dress like an idiot. Dress well. Not tuxedo well. But if you are pitching something, look professional. Leave the 2-sizes-too-small t-shirt with the holes in it that says, “Hand Solo,” at home. In fact, burn it. Even if you’re a girl. I think it matters how people see you and if they see you’re not taking this too seriously, why should they?

ignore5) Do not talk to agents or editors in the bathroom. This should be a no brainer, but call me crazy, the last thing I’d want if I was an agent and trying to get rid of 12 cups of coffee is someone standing beside me and talking about their latest children’s book entitled “The Best Things to Drink Under the Sink.”

6) Never pitch something like “The Best Things To Drink Under the Sink.” Unless, you know, it’s super funny in which case, change the title. But know who you are pitching to and what they want. Don’t pitch an angel novel to someone looking for vampire books only (yes, that one was me!) See next do-not.

7) Don’t give a bad pitch. I don’t think you have to have a perfect pitch, and you certainly shouldn’t let an obsession with perfection get in the way of a good pitch, but try your best not to make it a bad pitch. I should know. I’m the master of bad pitches. “So, it’s like this story about some people who like do things and then stuff happens and I want Sandra Bullock to play the lead and please tell her the nudity scene is integral to the plot.” So, with help from my writing friends, my writer’s group, I’m agonna work on a good elevator pitch.

8) Don’t bring gifts, sacrifices, donations or trinkets for the agents/editors. A pair of earrings or bouquet of flowers is fine for your girlfriend, but will not be well received by the agent/editor. Severed heads are also discouraged. Let your writing speak for itself.

9) Never lie, fib or misrepresent yourself. “Why, Joe, I see here that you’re a veteran police detective with 20 years on the forces, 7 citations for bravery and a noble peace prize. Plus, wow, it looks like you’ve given a kidney to Gandhi, taught blind, Afghan school girls to see and invented a cure for small penises. That’s pretty impressive.” No. Just no. Now, I would love to have done all those things but at the end of the day, I’m just me, justjoe and here is what I’ve written.

10) Don’t take this all too seriously. I may need this one tattooed to my forehead. It makes a good talking pointserious (hey, why did you get that put on your forehead?) and it’ll remind me every time I look in the mirror, even if it’s all backwards and stuff. Writing should be fun. Talking about your book should be fun. Meeting agents and editors should be fun. I just need to remember that.

Now, all I have to do is finish the rewrite. I’ve cleared the decks of commitments and I will GETTER DONE! I love deadlines. I can totally do this.

Someone smarter than me

don0027t-leave-me---final-cover

Joe’s Post #49 — As much as I love my CHEWASS system, I wanted to pass along something I read in Writer’s Digest. It’s from one of my fav writer guru’s, James Scott Bell. He has a much bigger brain than me.

The whole article is here. The 5 Biggest Fiction Writing Mistakes (& How to Fix Them). It’s awesome. But let me look at his 5 points for a moment.

1) Happy People in Happy Land – One of my earliest realizations. Was Harry Potter happy in Potterland? Nope. Was Katniss? Nuh-uh. Even Frodo, living in an idyllic little hobbit town wanted more, wanted adventure. So, all my stories – all my characters- always begin with something bad happening. Something that will change their world.

2) A World Without Fear – Another great suggestion. He talks about the fear of death, but I think fears drive us as much as hope sometimes. I love confronting my characters with their fears, smashing their hopes, threatening their lives or those that they hold dear.

3) Marshmallow Dialogue – So easy to spot in other people’s writing. So hard to spot in your own. Best advice, read it aloud. It’s embarrassing sometimes, but very useful.

4) Predictability – Ah ha. Another Bell gem. I started using this one on my rewrite right away. It’s such great advice. How can you make a scene just a little bit unpredictable? How can you challenge the reader to really, really read your story (without, you know, being all confusing and stuff?)

thCA7NKPBW5) Lost Love – Oh this is a good one. He talks about yearning. “We yearn because we feel a lack, a need, a hole in our souls. So yearning is about connection.” Brilliant. So, thought I as I drank my forth glass of wine, what do my characters yearn for? Not their ‘want’, their goal, their driving force. What, deep down, do they need in life? That made me think a lot more about my characters and the more I thought on it, the better my characters became. Try it out on your characters and see what happens.

I guess the point of this blog was that even during the rewrite stage, even after writing one or two novels, I can still learn something. I can still do better. I can still add something more to my writing to make it sing.

Joe on Joe one more time (and no, it’s not kinky)

conscience

Joe’s Post #47 — So, I thought I’d have a wee chat with myself. I do that sometimes. Apparently insane people do that, too, but whatever, I need to see where I’m at.

Conscience: Hey, there.

Me: Go away.

Conscience: Just wanted to know how it’s going? Getting lots of work done? Still on schedule to finish by Sept 5th and get that exciting new YA novel out there?

Me: Bite me.

Conscience: Oh dear. Come on, you can tell me, what’s up?

Me: I did a map.

Conscience: Oh glorious hallelujah.

Me: A pretty good one actually. A beautiful woman even looked at it and said, ‘I don’t understand how you can get lost in a parking lot and yet produce such an incredible map.’ Pretty cool, huh?

Conscience: You get lost in a parking lot.

Me: You’re missing the point.

Conscience: So this map, what, helps you write?

Me: Helps me world build. All history stems from geography, right, so I needed to make sure that I had my world properly envisioned. With mountains and rivers and pretty little trees for the forests and some place for my evil villain to hang out.

Conscience: Hooters?

Me: No. Hello, it’s a fantasy world.

Conscience: And Hooters is not? Hmmm. I think I’ll save that for another time. So, maps, good, I get it. And the writing?

Me: Maps are part of the process. Now, I have a richer history to draw upon. I even came up with a devastated part of the land where mighty magical was fought. The more detailed I drew the map, the more I knew about the world and the people in it.

Conscience: Let me repeat, ‘and the writing?’

Me: It’s coming along. I’m using the CHEWASS method, but it’s kinda embarrassing sometimes.

Conscience: Oh, how? Like getting-your-willy-stuck-in-your-zipper-just-before-a-public-speech embarrassing?

Me: Not quite, and who told you about that? Anyway, I had to rewrite a section where I completely forgot ‘want’, you know, a goal for my character. I mean, I completely forgot. What kind of writer does that?

Conscience: You, apparently.

Me: So, there was my main character, literally up a tree, and she’s just lost her brother and sister and does she even think about them? No. No she does not. Not until nearly 50 pages later. Now I ask you, how is that possible? HOW?

Conscience: You’re right, you should be ashamed of yourself.

Me: I know. But the good news is I’m spotting these things. The good news is that I’m cutting out the crap and making the story IMPOSSIBLE to put down, even adding… wait for it… emotion.

Conscience: Oh, be still my beating heart.

Me: So, I guess to answer your question, it’s a bit behind schedule, but I’d rather produce a quality product, one that will make an amazing series, than do less than my best. But don’t give up on me, that deadline is important to me.

exerciseConscience: Great! Awesome! So, ah, how’s the exercise going?

Me: Go fuck yourself.

The unsung hero of the writer’s retreat

IMG_0492Joe’s Post #40 — Well, my turn came and went. I survived and found, once again, that things I think are working just fine… aren’t. Other things, though, seem to work just fine or at least that’s what I took from Paula bowing to me.

It’s exhausting work, this critiquing, sitting in a room, listening, trying to understand, writing out notes, delivering or receiving critiques. More so for an introvert like me.

But the amazing thing for me has been how much better we’ve become as critiquers. I’ve found that even when other people are on the ‘hotseat’, I’m busy writing notes about how to make my own story better.

Things like…

“Don’t delay information too long, it drives the readers nuts.” Hmmm, this one may apply to me as well.

“Characters are more than just a page of details and features, they are a sum of their past and their experiences and their hopes and fears.” (Wait, can I quote myself?) Either way, I have one character I may need to take a look at.

“Put characters in motion.” I love this. All characters in my novel who sit and have tea will now be shot.

It’s remarkable, really, how it’s easy to see what opportunities exist in other people’s writing and yet, in our own, we’re completely blind sometimes.

The trick, I think, will be to walk away from here and remember what makes good fiction when we’re writing. We don’t have to be perfect, but we have to be good enough to entertain, to draw the reader in and not let that book get put down.

So, on to the unsung hero of the retreat. Poor Vegas the dog got dragged up here and though she has had some adventures in the woods, this is not her home and she has had to be vigilant about guarding the room against maids, coffee deliverers and, while she has not actually seen any…  bears.

However, she has had one very important job. Choosing who reads out their critique first. The video show this, I hope. And though it goes dark at the end, you can still hear me shouting, “Let go!” as we try to retrieve the name.

Good times.

Lots of hard work ahead, though.