Friday, November 28, 2014

Thanksgiving 2014

I am thankful for:

·        Going over 50,000 words on Thanksgiving Day.

I made my pumpkin pie and got to type away thanks to a very helpful husband who put the turkey in the oven and watched it until it was golden brown and done.

·        Still having more writing to do because my novel has more than the minimum 50,000 words for NaNoWriMo.

·        Liking the changes I’ve made so far.

The change to first person from third person is going well. I find myself satisfied with the results more often than not. Actually, I haven’t found anywhere that it hasn’t worked out for the better.

When I’ve read comparison pieces at the Writer’s Studio, the results were always evenly split. No clear winner.

·        Having this opportunity to work on my novel. So many things could have gotten in the way.

Too bad it’s taken so long to get it done. But I wanted to make it the best effort I could manage. And let’s face facts—I had a lot to learn.

Best thing to be thankful for:

·        I’m in the home stretch.

I have so much to be thankful for.

Friday, November 21, 2014

First Person, Present Tense

How do I improve the “immediacy” of my novel? The request has me thinking. Do I go with first person point of view over third person? There are advantages and disadvantages.

I like third person. It goes a long way in shaping the story. I can reveal information and have multiple characters speak their minds. Important stuff on the way to developing theme, motivation, as well as action. Works well for the new writer.

But, I can see how first person shines the spotlight on the protagonist and forces his or her character formation to take center stage. A pretty good thing for me to consider.

However, what becomes problematic about this quest for “immediacy” is the use of present tense over past tense for my verbs.

Using present tense flies in the face of most writing advice. To avoid fuzzy abstractions and passiveness, I get lots of encouragement to “swat your Bs.”

The Bs in this case: am, is, are, was, were, be, being, and been.

I’m currently reading two books for local book clubs that feature first person, present tense: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins and The Art Forger by B. A. Shapiro. I’m finding lots of Bs in both books. Lots. But they don’t appear to stand in the way of developing action or story. Every once in a while, there’s a really awkward sounding sentence that makes me pause and reread. Not good for the flow of the narrative, but then I am being picky.

I have to be picky if I’m going to consider such a drastic change in my manuscript. After all, it is one thing to practice first person, present tense in a small piece such as a blog post, it’ll be quite another to keep it up for an entire novel. 

And what about all those other voices I want to hear from? Those voices I feel the need to hear from. I have to find a way for them to speak their minds and add other dimensions to my work, more layers of meaning.

Such is my experiment in progress for this year’s NaNoWriMo.

Wish me luck. I’ll need it. 

Friday, November 14, 2014

Focus Group

Last weekend I attended a focus group meeting for the Midwest Writing Center.

We had a good discussion of MWC's present programs and services and gave our thoughts on what we might want in the future.

When I got home, I decided to go through my pile of MWC workshop folders and handouts.

I’ve saved everything since I started attending events in 2008. I like to dig them out every once in a while, sort through them, and see if I can throw anything away. Never happens. It's all good reference material for some part of my writer's journey.

The current finds:
·        Jane VanVooren Rogers's tips on editing, 2008.
·        Vonda N. McIntyre's manuscript preparation, 2010.
·        Vonnegut's eight rules for writing fiction, 2011.

Five years from now--the MWC needs to be right here fulfilling its mission so the shy, quiet people in the back of the room can continue to develop and grow into real writers.

Survey question #10: How will the world be a better place when MWC fulfills its mission?

My answer: When my book is finished, published, and for sale.

My husband’s answer: The world will be a better place with a community of fully aware and independent thinking readers and writers.

He had the better answer.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Tighten, Tighten, Tighten!

I spent last week editing down a submission for Chicken Soup for the Soul. This lead came from a recommendation on the Funds for Writers website. Apparently a lot of people have their first freelance writing sales with this series.

The topic for the prospective book I was aiming for: Hope and Miracles.

I thought I had my story in pretty good shape from an earlier essay submission that didn’t pan out. No rejection via standardized email, just nothing. Not unexpected from a national magazine that would have had thousands of entries.

The website for Chicken Soup for the Soul had guidelines for its submissions: what they should be—what they should not be. The final note: Tighten, Tighten, Tighten!

I began rereading my piece smugly thinking, “This won’t need much tightening. I’ve been over it lots times already.”

My writing style usually involves a rough draft with a great many rounds of rereading, rewriting, taking a break, and then doing it all over again—more times than I care to keep track of.

When I began reviewing my essay, I was initially dismayed with the mistakes I found. So much for my proof reading ability. (I definitely need to develop a better eye—or hire someone.) I kept at it. Every time I would think “This is it. I can’t go any further,” I’d take a break and come back to find more spots where I could make cuts and not hurt anything, even make it clearer, stronger.

The editing took my word count from 1125 to 979 over two days. It became a personal contest with each reread: What can I take out? How much fat could there be? Do I really need that?

Stephen King’s book On Writing strongly encourages taking out 20 percent. My trimming took out 146 words for 13 percent.

First to go, those pesky and unneeded adjectives and adverbs: big, quickly, etc. Next, those dangling independent and dependant clauses I have a habit of inserting—not needed. The real prizes—whole sentences. Windfalls to stringent editing.

Tighten, Tighten, Tighten! Probably a good motto for all short stories and flash fiction. However, I’m not going to go overboard for my novel. I need to keep those extra juicy little tidbits of color and drama to make things interesting—at least for now.

I mention this journey because this philosophy of economy, this appeal for brevity runs totally opposite to what’s needed for National Novel Writing Month. The first rule for NaNoWriMo is: turn off your internal editor and write, write, write!
I’m glad I got the editing out of the way last week. Now is the time to write with abandon.