Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Just how long is this novel going to be?

The other night at our weekly meeting, Larry made a suggestion for the rewrite, which included adding a scene and possibly a new character.
Dude! Are kidding me?! We’re supposed to be cutting our manuscript not adding things.
He’d say something like, “Maybe we can write a scene where…”
He'd finish his thought, then I’d nod and say, “Sure, we can do that. And by ‘we’, I mean ‘you.’
So then he’d say, “Or we could…”
Then I’d say, “Sure, we can do that. And by ‘we’, I mean ‘you.’
He totally ignored me and kept making suggestions.
Then he hit on an idea that made me laugh out loud.
Okay, now I’M thinking about adding a scene or two. We chatted it out and decided to give it a go.
However, we didn’t decide who was going to write it.
And by ‘we’ I mean ‘we’
…this time.

Friday, March 25, 2011

A Quest for Writerly Ways

         Ok, I’ve been staring at this blank page for 15 minutes trying to figure out some writerly way to say what I want to say.
I don’t know how they do it, those writers who lock themselves away, pour over the keyboard for hours writing and rewriting until they turn a perfect manuscript to their editor.
Maybe it’s a myth.
I’ve often said that writing is like trying to see yourself in a full-length mirror from about 2 inches away. You can’t see that mustard stain on your shirt or hole in the knee of your pants. You’re too close to it.
The same with writing; you’re too close to the story and the characters to see the obvious. You see it as you think it should be instead of as it is.
Thank God for readers. Becky tries her best to show me what’s in the mirror, but best of all, our critique group sets us straight.
I have a character I love. He’s pro-active, gruff, illogical, stupid, goofy—in short, everything I aspire to be. He brings chaos every time he enters a scene and dominates the page. He’s someone we all can look down on and still feel good about it.
I love him—too much.
For me, he takes a humorous story and makes it a funny story, but I’m 2 inches away from the mirror. He’s getting in the way of the pacing, and he has to be taken out or scaled back—we’ll know soon. After the critique group reads the last 2 chapters we’ll get their feedback and decide what to do with Captain Chaos.
I’m rooting for him.
But I’m rooting for the story more.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Slow on the Uptake

We’ve completed our novel and begun revision—that is to say Larry has begun revision. We’ve got only one hard copy, and I’ve been waiting my turn.
Occasionally, I’m a bit slow on the uptake. I don’t need to wait my turn. I can put it on my Kindle! I can make notes on my Kindle!
I had NO IDEA how easy it would be. So now I have the novel in compact, portable version and can work on it during lunch hour in the cafeteria, or at the lake, or at the doctor’s office, or whenever I have a few minutes.
Now I’m thinking that maybe revising doesn’t have to be accomplished only during set-aside hours one day a week (usually Sunday afternoons). I can work on revision any time that I have a few minutes and my Kindle—and I ALWAYS have my Kindle!
I don’t know yet how well this will work, but I compare it to keeping house. I can set aside an entire Saturday to sweep and do laundry and dust and the myriad of other housekeeping and yard chores…OR, I can clean up after myself every single day, do little bits at a time all week long, and housework won’t be such an enormous, exhausting chore once I do get to the weekend.
Ditto writing—I can just enjoy the rewriting process we’re presently in.
Enjoy revising?
Okay, maybe “enjoy” is an over romanticization of the task, but at least it won’t be so overwhelming when the weekend does arrive.
And, granted, eventually I’ll have to plant my butt in the chair and sit in front of the computer to input our notes, but I figure the more I can do away from my computer, the less time I’ll have to sit at it.
            Who wants to sit in front of the computer when the sun is shining, the birds are singing, and the husband is packing the boat to go fishing?
Not me. I’m packing my Kindle and a whole lot of sunscreen!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Doilies, Socks, and Dirty Dishes

Help! Becky’s driving me crazy! She wants me to do what I should do without being told to do it.
She’s starting to sound like my wife.
But that’s not the way men are programed. We’ll get it done…pretty soon.
“Can you take the laundry up stairs for me?”
“Pretty soon.”
“Can you reach this off the top shelf?”
“In a minute.”
“Did you pick up the kids from school?”
“Crap, I forgot. I’ll get them after the game.”
Women just don’t seem to realize that what’s important to them isn’t necessarily important to us, at least not right away. After being reminded (their word) or nagged (our word) several times, it eventually becomes more important to relieve that nagging noise in our ears by doing whatever it is that just can’t wait until a commercial or maybe next fall.
Emergency! Emergency! Straighten the doily on the table. Thank God it’s straightened, the president might stop by to ask advice about the mid-East crisis, and he can’t see the house in such disarray. He might think we are not worthy of being United States citizens and exile us to Greenland.
Emergency! Emergency! Bring the dirty dishes into the kitchen, they might draw ants, which will draw other bugs which will draw mice which will draw cats which will draw dogs which will draw lions and tigers and bears.
Oh my.
When I have more dishes on the coffee table than we have in the cabinets, I’ll bring them in. And I rearranged that doily that way on purpose to cover up the coffee ring on the end table, so she would have one less thing to complain about. And who cares if the coffee cups are on the glass shelf and the glasses are on the cups shelf!? GIVE ME A BREAK!
Ok, ok, ok, I’m getting a little carried away, but women can be so damn annoying sometimes.
Ok, ok, ok, there I go again! Deep breath… breathe… relax.
And that’s another thing! Focus my wife tells me. How the hell can I focus on folding towels when the game is going into overtime!?
Ok, deep breath… I’ve got it now. Sorry.
This little tirade mirrors a tirade of Becky’s I witnessed the other day. Hers was about her husband leaving his socks in the middle of the living room floor. She thought, “I’ll wait, he’ll see them and pick them up without being asked.” Well, it didn’t happen, so she waited another day, and it still didn’t happen. She was getting pretty animated telling the story. 
The point of the story was that he should see his socks and pick them up on his own, like I should realize that the deadline for my blog is approaching, and I should get it done without her having to remind/nag me. She phrased it more delicately, her voice was soft and sweet, but the point came across loud and clear.
I didn’t ask what happened to her husband and the socks, but after witnessing her tirade, I’m not taking off my socks at her house.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

I Love Heathcliff and Gertrude!

Larry stated in the previous blog that he had a vision for Casey—that he should be loosely based on Red Skelton.
I, however, saw something totally different. As I read Casey’s first few scenes, I thought how laid back, normal, and Everyman he seemed to be. “Hm.” I thought. “He’s just like Larry.” That’s how I came to write Casey with Larry in mind.
In retrospect, Larry might be more like Red Skelton than he realizes.
Interestingly enough, I never really had a vision of any of the characters beyond that. As new characters were added, they just sort of developed as we went along. Oh, wait, yes, I did. Detective Rush, who works undercover, is based on Patrick Swayze in that surfer movie, Point Break.
Anyhoo, back to Casey--at one point, Larry told me he didn’t care for a scene because it made Casey look stupid. I argued not stupid, ignorant. Casey didn’t know something and tried to bluff his way through, which didn’t work, to really good comic effect.
            Larry asked, “Is that how you see me? Stupid?”
            “Of course not.”
            “But isn’t Casey based on me?”
            “Not anymore. He was in the beginning, but his character has taken on a life of its own.”
            Characters need to change and grow with their story experiences—if they survive. Larry also had a vision for the end of the book. He’d planned for one of the characters to help the bad guy get away. Larry even said he was trying to “direct” me in our writing to arrive at a certain ending.
            Too bad I killed her.
            I’m sure there are many lessons to be learned from planning versus not planning. Not planning, you can develop a character any way you need to in order to tell your story. Planning means you have to not only carefully plot your story, but also plot your character’s development.
Half-planning, however is not a good idea. You end up at odds as Larry and I were on Casey’s character.
Honestly, the only thing I knew about Red Skelton was the seagull bit with Heathcliff and Gertrude. Casey was supposed to be THAT?
In which case, maybe it’d be a good idea to discuss characterization and a plan.
Or your character might end up dead.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Wild or Wimpy?

When Becky and I started writing our story, I had a vision of our protagonist, Casey. I wanted his character to be sweet and gentle, mildly goofy, a little naïve, but the kind of guy that things just happen to. 
I thought of Red Skelton.
But not as goofy and maybe with a slightly harder edge.
I think Casey’s characterization was mostly consistent, but came across to some members of our critique group as pretty wimpy. And the worst part was that when I was writing Red Skelton, Becky was writing me.
Me? Wipmy?
When I was writing Red, it was a challenge to keep with the tone of the story and not get too wild and crazy, but that did occasionally slip out. When someone at our writing group commented that a certain section was “over the top” Becky said that we should put something in that was REALLY over the top. 
And we did, but it must’ve been fairly mild because no one challenged it. Maybe in the rewrite, we can come up with something truly over the top.
If we want something wild, and we’re basing Casey on Red, we’ve got a better shot. But, if Becky’s basing the character on me, we’re going to have to be really creative, because I’m not exactly what you’d call wild.
And for the record, I’m not wimpy, either.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011


I don’t get much writing done lying on the couch…and that’s exactly where I’ve been off and on for two weeks. Last week I was sick and missed half a day of work, and this week I had a week-long migraine. Now I’m exhausted from not sleeping, and I don’t expect to get much done this week, either.
Larry, on the other hand, read through ¾ of the manuscript, made chapter notes for an outline, and should be done by our next meeting.
Then he got sick.
I suppose that’s how partnerships work. He’ll blaze for a while, then I’ll do the same. What’s really magical is when we’re blazing at the same time.
Partnerships imply 50/50, but they just can’t always be. Forest fires burn themselves out.
So now we’re just dry tinder waiting for the next spark.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Suffering *chuckle* Revision

          I expected the rewriting phase of our novel to be sheer torture—and that’s how it might end up—but apparently there will be a few gems to rediscover along the way.
Sitting in McDonald’s, I was going over some early chapters of the manuscript, and I chuckled at something I read. I don’t remember if Becky wrote it, or if I wrote it. It’s not even anything big or particularly memorable, because after all, I’ve forgotten it already, or I’d tell you what it was.
One small line brought the chuckle, and it brightened my day a little.
What else is in there that I’ve forgotten?
It won’t be like a reader seeing it for the first time, but a lot of time has gone by since I’ve seen those early chapters. I’ll have a different perspective, making it at least newish to me.
I read by feel, and it feels less rough than I expected. Becky’s style and my style blend well. Some things need reworded and some moved around, some things added, some deleted, some characters introduced earlier, and some need a bigger part.
But even so, it feels about right, like we’re on the right track.
Now I’m looking forward to getting back into it to see if I will discover another gem. And if I find enough unexpected chuckles, I just might make it through.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Competent + Stubborn = Talented?

          In his blog, Nathan Bransford said, “One of the most important skills every writer must master is also one of the most elusive: trusting their own talent.”
Talent? Hang on while I check the cabinets to see if I have any.
I mean, I can string together a sentence. Writing is easy. Great writing is difficult. I suppose that’s where the talent part comes in.
I’ve just finished the Hunger Games series, and Suzanne Collins is a talented writer. How do I know? Because I stayed up until 1:00 in the morning to finish the first book, then I ordered the other two in the series to devour and display on my bookshelf for re-reading on rainy days. I love them THAT MUCH.
But I suspect that not everybody finds her novels so fascinating.
Then is talent, like beauty, in the eye of the beholder?
Since I don’t have an answer to these smoldering questions, I did what I always do: I Googled it, and found the best answers on Yahoo!
·         “You don't know right away…People will tell you if you are talented.” Emma
·         “Talent must exhibited and judged by some sort of standard...You will be    judged by your peers and others who are in the business.” Sal Monella
·         “There's no such thing as talent. There's only such thing as determination and perseverance.” Eat a Cactus

Thanks, Eat a Cactus! You give me hope, because I wouldn’t call myself talented. At best I would say that I’m competent and stubborn.
So does that mean Nathan is wrong? No, I’m sure it doesn’t, because Nathan really knows his stuff. But I will have to locate my talent before I can trust it.
Maybe it’s under the bed…