Tuesday, April 21st.
This past week has been a busy one. I enjoy teaching the writing class. It’s a small group of fascinating women, each in various stages of writing development. Since I primarily teach fiction writing, those who expect a course in poetry or how to write for magazines will be disappointed.
I have short-term memory problems (is that age or is it just me??), so I wait until the day of the class before preparing the evening’s agenda. Putting things off makes me nervous and uncomfortable. I like to get busy and accomplish what I set out to do. In this instance, though, I believe waiting until the eleventh hour is best for all concerned.
Progress continues on Upside Down and Whopperjawed. If I had nothing else to do and devoted most of my time to this story, I could finish in about six weeks. Maybe less. April Grace Reilly often seems to sit on the corner of my desk, telling me about her day and the crazy people in her life. Recording her tale in her sassy, witty voice ensures that the story basically tells itself.
Not every novel I write is this easy or this much fun. But that’s another topic for another time.
Monday, April 13, 2015
I’m batting around in my head (ouch) my writing projects for the next month and a half. When several contracts and deadlines occur close together, this can be a balancing act designed to bring sleepless nights.
My inclination is to work on Upside Down and Whopperjawed until the end of May, and if it isn’t finished by then, turn my attention to Honey Dipped Secrets because that deadline is early July. That editor (HDS) wants a very detailed outline of the story. Since it is something I don’t do, it’s going to be a challenge. Twenty pages or thereabouts, single-spaced, broken down by chapters. This is not the way I create stories, but in this instance, I feel it’s the smarter way to go. After all, it’s nice when an editor likes and trusts me, and if she finds a flaw in the plot, we can work it out before the book is written. Who knows? I may love being a hard-nosed plotter. (I doubt it, but I’m keeping an open mind)
Let’s not forget the other book that I have yet to complete. Deadline? August. Eek. That one isn’t even on my personal schedule yet. Double eek.
I had to step away from this journal for a few days. I wanted to make sure my readers could subscribe and receive each day’s update, if they wanted to. Add to that, we had a long-anticipated guest come to visit, and I preferred to use my time with him rather than with my computer.
For several weeks, I’ve been wrangling with the first book in The Cassidys Series. Although I have eagerly anticipated launching this new series, I just could not lay hold of it in my mind. I’ve learned if you have to fight with a story, forcing your way through it is far from the best way to go.
My publisher gave me the nod to put that series on hold for a while, as long as I can give him something else by the deadline. One thing I have plenty of is ideas. They practically ooze from my pores and puddle around my feet. I mentioned a couple of book ideas, and he chose one that I had started years ago.
I dug it out, blew off the virtual dust, and began familiarizing myself with the story again. Uh oh. This book needs work.
Thank God for editors who are willing to look at old, rough drafts and brainstorm to help you get restarted. So I sent those 100+ pages to my editor today. While I wait for her to get to it, I might as well get started on the fifth April Grace story.
Or finish outlining Honey Dipped Secrets for Annie’s Publishing.
I am slogging my way through a novel to glean a few necessary tidbits of information buried somewhere within the text. When I say slogging, I mean slogging. I’m forced to read things like, “She turned on the light. Then she turned on the furnace.” OK, not so bad, really, but then the author shows the character doing every little detail when simply writing She got the house ready for company would have been far shorter than the two pages of dish-washing, bed-making, vegetable-chopping, table-setting, etc etc etc.
There is also a lot of this type of snooze-fest:
“How are you?”
“I’m fine. How are you?”
“Please come in.”
“You’re welcome. Please sit down.”
This is not what you want your reader to do when he’s reading your book.
None of this led to anything other than a guest coming into the house. If you are going to go to this much trouble with so many mundane bits and pieces, there needs to be poison in the soup, or a long-lost relative waiting on the sofa, or some other reason to build tension. If you’re going to spend time turning on each light and the furnace (and I mean more than a passing mention) then the furnace needs to blow up or in the now well-lit room we should see something significant, new, or frightening.
Most of us write this way, especially when we are first finding our way. I am guilty of it myself from time to time. And there is nothing wrong with it in a first draft. But if you leave these details in rather than edit them out, you will bore, bore, bore your reader until they put your book away, never to pick it up again – or anything else you ever write. When you edit, please think of your reader and double-think these details.
Ten ways to kill your story, and quite possibly, your career.
- Choose a worn-out, generic title. Maybe no one will even bother to pick up the book.
- Create a soft protagonist who doesn’t have enough grit to take action.
- Open with a long sentence about the weather that has nothing to do with the story.
- Open with a long description of the room where your character is, especially if the room has nothing to do with the story.
- Open with a long narrative of your character’s background, including when and where his grandparents met, especially when it has nothing to do with the story.
- Record every bit of dialog spoken, along with descriptive little tags for those bits. Be sure to include bits that have nothing to do with the story.
- Add filler.
- Repeat yourself.
- Whatever you do, tell us what’s going on with lots of passive description, but never, ever engage us by showing the action.
If you follow these ten easy steps, no one will finish your book or want to look at anything else you write.