Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Ego controlled, mission accomplished

A COMPROMISE HAS BEEN REACHED! In Becky’s last blog she talked about a scene we were viewing a little differently. I made a suggestion she wasn’t wild about but after digesting it a while, she reworded my suggestion to satisfy us both. Here’s the final clip:

Svinster heard what sounded like car doors slamming—five of them. Distant whoomps that he knew were gunshots in the tunnel, not car doors.
Dante looked out the window for only a second, and Svinster saw Kelly shift her position on the floor. Instead of settling in for more book sorting, she lunged for Dante’s legs.
She hit him below the knees, but it was like hitting a tree. He shook a leg loose, and off balance, kicked her over onto her back, and fired his weapon.

            So, did I win or did Becky win? The answer could be neither or both, but the real winner is the story. There are a lot of good things about writing with Becky and her ability to set her ego aside may be the best part. She’s able to step back and look at things objectively, without the threat of physical violence, and make a determination from that. 
I try to follow her lead, I try not to be picky or too stubborn but sometimes it might seem like it. When we have a difference we each allow the other to make their point without dismissing it as stupid, which is hard because I can come up with some really stupid crap. More than once, I’ve come up with something idiotic and to my amazement, she saw some merit in it. Thanks to her open-mindedness our story is a little richer.
I know it must sound like we are always praising each other, but we really DO work well together. In our situation ego is a killer. We all have them, but if we can keep the monsters in check, writing partnerships can work. If not, it’ll be a tough row to hoe.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Do logical and realistic coincide?

Final chapters are being edited. Final nerves are being frayed. Final decisions—yet to be made.
Larry sent me an e-mail with his changes for chapters 29 through the end of our book, and this is one of the changes he suggested:

As text currently appears in our story:

She hit him below the knees, but it was like hitting a tree. He shook a leg loose, kicked her over onto her back, and fired his weapon.

As he wants it:

Suddenly there was a faraway rumbling that almost sounded like underground gun shots. “What the…” Dante instinctively turned to the direction of the sound. Kelly lunged for his legs. She hit him below the knees, but it was like hitting a tree. He shook a leg loose, kicked her over onto her back, and fired his weapon.

This prompted an e-mail discussion.

ME: Kelly was going to do this anyway. The shots wouldn’t trigger her into action even if she recognized the muffled sounds as gunshots. I know you’re not satisfied with it, and I have disagreed with this change all three times you’ve tried to make it. Since you refuse to give up and I refuse to give in, I’ll look and see if the group bought it (because you know they don’t buy anything). They can be our tie breaker. That’s what they’re for.

LARRY: Dante might recognize them as gun shots which would distract him, giving Kelly a better chance to catch him off guard. I think someone would hear something and that would be worth including. Why is it important to you that they DON'T hear the shots? I think of this as a minor change and a logical one.

ME: I don’t think it’s important that they don’t hear the shots, what I think is important is that it’s at least 100 yards from the house AND underground, why WOULD they hear them? It seems unrealistic to me rather than logical.

Although I think I’ve figured out a way to satisfy us both in this particular case, there are other changes in what he sent that will warrant additional, perhaps lively, discussion.
Some chapters are easier than others. The epilogue for instance—it’s clean and very easily edited. Larry made only a few suggestions.
This is not to say that Larry is being difficult. He’s including in the changes suggestions from the group as well as his own. So sometimes it comes down to him and me—if the group didn’t have an opinion one way or the other, then we have to hash out what is best for the story.
The benefit of having a partner far outweighs working alone. We’ve turned out a much stronger piece of work because of our creative differences, not in spite of them. Those differences have led to better product because we have to stop, address, and convince each other of what we’ve done and why it’s important.
I’ll be working on the chapters he sent in the next few days, and our story will turn out stronger for the additional torment. I’ll just have to remember to be reasonable, and he’ll just have to remember to give in.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Of lost hair and body parts

They say stress will kill you. So far I’m losing only my hair and my mind, but when limbs begin to fall off, I’ll let you know.
It’s times like these that having a writing partner is a blessing. You don’t have to carry the load alone—remembering all the details of the story, where you are, what you’ve changed, and what still needs to be done.
            As I sat counting my blessings and had reached my left pinky finger, I received this e-mail from Larry:
“Where are we at? I think we are at chapter 32 part 1 in the book but on my computer I have 3 different chapter 33s and one of those is 32 part 1. Didn't we just finish chapter 31 ending with, "Bella blacked out?" My 32 part 1 in the book starts out, "Svinster hated feeling helpless." I'm dazed and confused, wore out? Burnt out? I'm trying to cut back on Coke. Let me know where I need to start up again.”
Surprisingly, my scattered brain remembered. We had so dramatically revised chapters 29-31 that he needed to go over those again before we declared them finished.
Even so, we’re still ahead of schedule, and it’s thanks to him. I’ve had trouble with migraines my whole life and started dealing with chronic adrenal fatigue five years ago, which makes the migraines worse. I’m lucky to go even a week without having to take prescription medication for pain. I produce when I can, and sometimes my memory is better than others. Having Larry there for support as not only a writing partner, but also as a friend, makes more difference than anyone can know. I hope to eventually pull my act together and make him proud of me.
Right now, though, I’m dealing with migraines and hair loss, but when I start losing body parts, it may become more difficult to
ho y Cra ! there g es a fin er!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Redneck Mule

“Go someplace you feel most like yourself.”      
That’s a quote from The Lake House with Sandra Bullock. When I first heard it, I wondered, “Where do I feel most like myself?”
In spite of what I might lead people to believe, it’s not in a college classroom or a corporate conference room. I’m good at those things, but that’s not who I am. I’m a farm girl who plays those roles as an end to a means—paying the mortgage. Most of my job is customer service and I’m required to smile when I might prefer to scowl and tell people to bite me.
I grew up hooking weeds from beans, scooping manure from stalls, bucking hay bales, and riding horses and dirt bikes. I was a bit of a mule. Corn fed, as my husband likes to put it.
So now, to balance the goody-goody stuff of my everyday life, I write comedy and grit. I never grew out of being a redneck mule, and I don’t want to. That’s why Larry and I write alike. Because deep down inside, we are a lot alike.
Writing humor is fun. I can make the characters respond to a situation differently from how I normally would—they don’t have to smile and say, “Yes, of course!” when they can respond, “That makes zero sense!” For me, that’s what makes writing fun. The comedy. The action. The grit.
In those things, I feel most like myself.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Smart vs Smart Ass

Liar, liar, pants on fire! When I was a kid, that’s what we used to chant when someone told a fib.
That’s what you must be thinkin’ about Becky and me. We claim that our writing styles are so similar that after a while even we can’t tell who wrote which scene in our story.
But our blogs are nothing alike. I write like I’d be talking to you, face to face. I’m far from eloquent. Forty-one years in the construction trades kinda steers your speech in a different direction from someone in a corporate conference room. I lean toward plain talk bordering on redneck. It’s too late for me to pretend to be smart.
Now Becky—she is smart! That girl’s got smarts, a corporate job, and a couple of college degrees to boot. The degrees don’t impress me at all—I’ve known plenty of educated idiots—but she truly is smart, and it shows in her blogs. They’re far different and a hell of a lot better than mine, if you’re looking for intelligence, and I’m assuming you would. Becky’s smart, and I’m just a smart ass. Sometimes she gets carried away and her “egg-head” side shows, or she comes across too corporate (gag me with a spoon), but in our story, she’s different.
So… how can we be such different people and write our blogs so differently, yet the scenes in our story come out so much alike?
I’ve come full circle again, and usually when someone talks in circles it’s because they’re hiding something, or they don’t know what the hell they’re talkin’ about. Well… it beats the shit out of me. I don’t know the answer. Let’s ask the brainiac.
Well, Becky, how about it?

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Moon Pool

Reading tends to affect my writing in one of two ways:
1)    Wow, this is great! I wonder if I can learn something.
2)    Wow, this sucks! I can do better than that.
Right now I’m reading a #1. It’s The Moon Pool by Abraham Merritt, an early classic of science fiction. I couldn’t find an exact date, but it was first published as a novella in 1918, and has that old-fashioned writing style that generally sends me screaming into the streets. This one, however, may be able to teach me something. I’m not sure what yet, but I’m fascinated by how he can keep me reading in spite of a first person narrative from a scientist’s point of view. Generally, those for me are a big snore.
I am all about action and dialogue. If Larry and I have more than three lines of description in our novel, I break it up with something. I can’t abide long narratives. So how Merritt keeps me turning the pages, I have no idea. It’s definitely worth some study.
How did I even stumble across something that old? When I got my Kindle, I couldn’t afford a bunch of books, so I looked for everything free that I could find. I like sci-fi, fantasy, mystery, all sorts of books, so of the 80 novels that I have on my Kindle, I think I actually paid for maybe four.
This has taken my reading in different directions than I would have expected. Had I been browsing in the bookstore, I probably wouldn’t have picked this one up. Had I picked it up, I’d have flipped through the pages, saw that it was written in an Edgar Rice Burroughs type style and put it back down.
Maybe my attitude toward description is evolving. Maybe I’m going through a phase. Or maybe I’m stubborn and give every book on my Kindle 100 pages to grip me before I hit delete.
What I do know is that the man was on to something, and I will seek out more of his work, and maybe by osmosis (I mean, who really wants to study!), I can absorb the knack it takes to develop description without zombifying the reader.
Or maybe I’ll just read him for entertainment. The Moon Pool. Free from Amazon. Check it out.