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Saturday, October 23, 2010

AFDOC 34-36: Revisions Creep

In homage to the season ghosts and goblins wandered into my office and took a seat this week. They booed and rattled chains as I slogged through the vile task of reviewing and rewriting my words once again. This time, however, each syllable is measured against five specific criteria, and naturally given my penchant for detail, each criterion got sub-criteria. But {never start a sentence with but according to today's witch and warlock editors} it's a must at this point to lend validity to the story telling.

I don't mind sharing the criteria although the werewolf howled at the full moon last night when I made this decision. He grows more cantankerous with caution about telling this tale to any and everyone. I howled right back certain in my conviction that writers are all about sharing.

Each chapter takes one to two hours to do in this fashion - some a little longer - so it's not for the faint of heart. I apply the criteria to each scene separately and record my findings in my handy-dandy notebook. I admit that I have to stop more frequently to clear my head of cobwebs, stretch my Frankenstein-like neck muscles, and flex the skeletal portions of my hands.

Number or letter each criterion to make this easier. Do the scenes?

1. Support the plot?

2. Support subplots? Which one(s)?

3. Move the story forward? This seems like a crisp, candied apple if the first two are in place, but try it and see how many questions you ask - becomes more like a sticky popcorn ball.

4. Support a throughline? Which one(s)?

5. Ripe for deletion?

May your goblins treat you right to get it written! Mahala

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Here's to state fairs and harvest moons

The local and state fairs are up and running in many states. There are some celebrations that are no longer in operation, as is true of the Michigan State Fair, but I hope that's a temporary condition. Autumn brings a wonderful feeling of fulfillment to the hopeful labor of spring planting and summer's tending. The September sun drops lower in the sky, and October's harvest moon hangs like a yellow-gold pumpkin in the sky. Autumn is a time to enjoy and build special memories.

Yep, been there, done that, ENJOYED IT immensely. The Writers' Police Academy in Greensboro, NC, was a neat experience, and a definitely-worth-it conference. If you write anything, even a romance, that even briefly touches on a cop or a firefighter or a medical examiner or an undercover cop or Alcohol, Firearms and Tobacco action, this is the place you need to go. I know I had a great learning experience and all-around good time, and I think Tracy did, too. In case you wondered, this event follows no CSI script. The correct vocabulary and procedures are coupled with practical experience, as in Firearms Training. (FYI, by the third or fourth shot, the Glock 40 didn't feel as heavy.) This year's special guest was Jeffery Deaver--a genuinely congenial guy. Also met some very nice folks who just happened to be fellow writers.

'Course my writing has suffered because my head is spinning with so much information that needs to be included in my WIPs, but I need to be "authentic" if the stories are to ring true.

Well, y'all guys keep on keeping on, and I'll try to the same.


The Jeff Johnston photo is a kaleidoscope of rides at the Fair in Mobile, Alabama.

Monday, October 18, 2010

AFDOC 31 - 33: Weedy Patches

As the weeks passed this summer, I set myself the goal to have AFDOC polished and ready to go to readers by January 1, 2011. To that end, I sequestered myself in my office and wrote six or more hours a day seven days a week, which isn't as hard as it sounds since the temperature every day in Mobile was 100+ degrees with 85% humidity. I turned on my fifties music and wrote like a mad woman. I tend to do things all or nothing. The result has been a completed manuscript with way more words than I need. Cutting is easier than adding - right? Try telling that to my writing ego.

I have cut a lot. I really have. But alas I still hover at the 600 page level. Since this isn't an epic saga but a fifties retrospective, obviously a lot of words have to go. I cut several thousand words and add several thousand with the hope that eventually the deletions will override the additions. One touchstone I use is the axiom that everything in the middle of the book should lead back to the beginning. {It takes a lot of words to do that kind of loop!} That's logical but verbose writers {as I tend to be} can meander off the beaten path faster than you can say peanut butter cookies.

Last week when the temperature in Mobile plummeted to the low eighties with a low, low of sixty-nine in the mornings, I cut back my writing to work in my flower garden. Pulling literal weeds gave me time to consider my literary ones. After mulling over pacing and plot points, this week I am focusing on specific patches of weedy writing in AFDOC, but I'm saving my precious words {weeds} to use in another story some day. Tomorrow is another day and all that.

According to Madden's Revising Fiction which I love, after Virginia Woolf spent five years and completed nine revisions, her first book was finally published - The Voyage Out. She sat down to read it and recorded her feelings in her diary. "...such an assortment of simple and frivolous and shallow....The failures are ghastly enough to make my cheeks burn...and then a turn of sentence...makes them burn in a different way."

And that sums up where I am. In today's vernacular, Did I do that?

Write to get it right. Mahala

Friday, October 8, 2010

AFDOC 30: Risk Taking

One of the big surprises to my revision process was the decision to take more risks in structuring my book. For the past year I have focused on seeking out first time novelists and looking at what and why a publisher chose to print their work. Over and over again I found that taking calculated risks with the work seemed to make the difference. So as I carefully revised from front to back with a close eye to my throughlines and overall plot, I decided tothrow caution to the wind {not hurricane strength you understand}. I’ve reinstated original ideas and added ideas I’ve tossed around for a long time. I had avoided these with the thought that as a first time novelist I needed to follow a traditional structure to give me a fighting chance at publication.

Now, first I have to tell you that my critique group has only seen a bit and a piece here and there of these changes and not all met them with the excitement I felt, but I have forged ahead because the changes feel right and accomplish many of my goals in telling the story.

AFDOC now sports more than one point of view {first person present and omniscient past} and a series of letters that help me build suspense, foreshadow the drama, deliver backstory, and motivate my protagonist to step on the other side of childhood. I love the deliciously, intimate information that personal letters {in other books both fiction and non-fiction} share—a voyeuristic glance into character’s thoughts and feelings—and wanted to engage that closeness. While the book is full of drama and humor, it is truly a character study of several people.

So many of the books on the creative process of writing that I’ve revisited recently reminded me that an author doesn’t truly know their own book until they have finished it and started a complete revision process to polish it. While that idea at first blush seems absurd, I can tell you it is an idea I fully embrace.
Write to get it Right! Mahala

Friday, October 1, 2010

AFDOC Lives! #29

It’s been a long time coming and I’m so glad to be back on line with Lyrical Pens. Thank you cj for keeping the home fires burning. Even though I have been in electronic purgatory I have been writing up a storm and revising till my eyes burn. I rarely miss a day of writing and completed the book weeks ago. That’s when the fun {totally tongue in cheek} began.

The first thing I did was read the book from beginning to end and tightened, corrected, and moved things around for the 11th millionth time. The result of that effort was an increase in word count of 75,000 words or so—a book in itself and the addition of roughly 15 chapters. One could never say I’m not verbose. Since I have a proclivity for words ending in ing, cj suggested I seek them out and work on changing Ha! them. I labored over that as I waded back through on a mission to tighten the book. When I was done I had on 6,621 words ending in ing left. What an eye-opener!

In case all of this sounds like I’ve been on a fun excursion, let me set you straight up front. This has been weeks and weeks of hard work, not the least of which was finding Ha!that the written summary of my plot and sub-plots were mediocre at best and needed a more active voice.

So as I bring you up to speed with where AFDOC is over the next few weeks, keep me on your straight arrow prayer list as Haywood Smith writes in her novels. The good news is I still LOVE my book and hope you will too.