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Sunday, April 25, 2010


Thirty-two chapters and counting. Backstory and I have become the best of friends because I think I've figured out what to do with a lot of what I want to keep, how to express it and weave it and ignore it to make it work. I probably could have woven a rug with the amount of time I spent this week with backstory. I put aside the direct line to the end and went backwards, forwards and sideways - well you get the idea. I scanned the book from front to back with a somewhat jaded eye and found out the pacing and plot are moving forward in a somewhat logical manner. I've been so bogged down in the words and phrases and ideas of my critique buddies, I got lost.

High on my list of "thank my lucky stars" is Wanda, a member of my Wednesday Writers critique group. Wanda and I commiserated over being lost 3/4 of the way through the revisions of our novels, and I was reminded once again, that I'm normal {as normal as I get} and right on target with feeling frustration at this point. Thanks, Wanda. I was able to get in about eight hours of revisions after we talked. Up till then, I was ready to shove the whole thing under the bed, in the drawer, or maybe through the shredder, but I'm back on track now - a little wobbly but on the track headed towards the end of the first revision. Did I say FIRST?

David Madden's book on revising is chock full of examples of revisions made by some of the greats - Welty, Faulkner, Fitzgerald, Joyce, Wolfe. It's so helpful to read what they orginally wrote and how they changed it and some of them kept making changes through the printing after printing. At least there's hope for me - if rewrites are what make you famous, I'm a shoo-in.

Everything I've said today makes about as much sense as this did, but what can I say? I'm living in the 50s for the time being. I've cautioned my family to watch me if I go into a carpet store. I might buy avocado shag carpet in this frame of mind.


Saturday, April 17, 2010


What a week this has been! Got 5 contest entries in and worked on AFDOC every day. I've always known I had a bit too much backstory, and I had moved some of it to active but didn't get the nod from my critique group, so I went back to the drawing board. Unfortunately, as in real life where I can't draw a stick figure, my writing drawing board was in a foul mood this week and all I produced was more backstory. I know how and why I want them to tie into the overall plot and drive the characters' personalities and decisions, but my brain wasn't in sort mode this week, so they're sitting on the page waiting for me to make a decision. Very painful to hit the now-what? wall so hard I couldn't even bounce but slid down it into a pile of pure-T frustration.

I pulled out David Madden's book Revising Fiction to get some serious studying done, but alas, it was not to be. I read the excellent passages and advice and repeatedly went outside and sat my not-so-usually-lazy butt down in spring fever mode and enjoyed all the green and pink and white in my yard while the cool breezes blew.

A 1950s reminder of what happened when the "tube" went to sleep for the night - apparently I'm in this mode because I can hear the humming in the background.


Sunday, April 11, 2010

AFDOC 14: Epiphany

Fourteen weeks have gone by - 25% of 2010 has come and gone and I'm about 70% finished with the first revision of AFDOC. This week brought an epiphany or apostrophe as Smee calls it in the Peter Pan movie staring Robin Williams - one of my favorite lines.

I had an apostrophe! I read three pages into a new book and out of nowhere came the answer to a question I've been laboring with from the very beginning of AFDOC: how to get the reader to realize in the first chapter that the book is more than a 50s family on a picnic. It is a serious retrospective on the changes WWII brought to the US, the impact that death of friends and family have on our psyches, and a true coming-of-age story for a naive twelve year-old-girl. I put down the book I'd just started, grabbed a pad and pencil, and rushed to get my ideas on the paper before I lost them.

Setting up a hook in a mystery or other plot driven book is not easy by any stretch of the imagination, but setting up the hook in a first person, present tense, character driven book seemed almost impossible. Foreshadowing is essential, but neither the protagonist nor any of the other characters know what's going to happen, and I despise hokey set-ups, so my alternative was to use words - ah, beautiful words - and a few slight-of-hands to take the reader where I want her to go. Since no one but me has seen the revisions I can only hope at this point that I finally got there. I'll keep you posted.


Saturday, April 3, 2010

AFDOC 13: Weeding those Words

AFDOC saw a complete revision of two major chapters this past week. One I compacted into 3,000 words or so from over 5,000. It's so difficult to read your own work with the eyes of an editor but so absolutely necessary. Pruning and weeding in the yard are apt analogies for what we must do to our precious words if anyone else is going to get to the majesty our work without being forced to wade through our diatribes to get there. And the important point here is that most of us as readers won't take the time to do that. Until a few years ago, I stood fast in my resolve to finish any book I started - give the author a fighting chance. However, I now resolutely refuse to give them more than a chapter or two. If I'm confused or bored or disgusted by that point, it hits the floor. {This is not a metaphor. I drop my books next to my bed where I gather them up in a stack to return to the library. It was only recently that one of my family members informed me that every time I drop one, they wake up thinking it's an intruder. Lest you think they are being overly dramatic {which is compulsive habit in our home} I sleep on an antique rice bed that requires a stool to climb onto it. So from four feet up, a dropped book does make quiet a noise.} I gently lower them to the floor now and pick up another from the perennial stack on my night table. And before you get your knickers in a twist, I do not throw books on the floor. I drop them gently, but it still makes a resounding thud.

I read every day from a writing book of some sort, and this week, among others, I revisited the hilarious and succinct book on getting published - 78 Reason your book may never be published & 14 Reasons why it jut might. When discussing the worst manuscript ever submitted to him, Pat Walsh brought me to this discussion of hitting the delete key repeatedly. In his ribald style, he says the "manuscript was so self-indulgent, smarmy, and shoddy" it made his eyes bleed. I would never want to be responsible for making anyone's eyes bleed, and I will just die if someone says my work is shoddy, so I'm back to editing AFDOC with a carving instead of a paring knife. Here's to removing those slabs of fat before sending the prime rib to an agent. This carving set from the 50s has Bakelite handles. And yes I know I switched metaphors.

May you all have a Blessed Easter. Mahala