Friday, January 30, 2015

Plot Holes, etc.

It never fails to amaze. I can still come across plot holes, annoying lapses in continuity, the nonalignment of facts, and spots where I divulged too much information, too soon. After all this time, all the readings, and all the revisions, they are still there to be found.

I was tweaking a paragraph near the end when suddenly a word, a name actually, was obviously out of place. I had to think for a minute and acknowledge that the problem with continuity I’d discovered had its roots way back in the beginning of the story and probably snaked its way throughout all the scenes involving my oldest character and her interactions with my protagonist.

This was no small problem. It involved important points and aided in the resolution of one of my themes.

Why did it take so long to find this faux pas, this blunder? Beats me. My brain can be slow to make connections.

At least it happened now and not before someone else found it.

I went zipping back and forth through pages and pages of text, rooting out the string of changes I had to make. Not a huge problem thanks to the computer. Makes me so glad I have it. I shudder to think how I could manage without it. I am quite spoiled by technology: computers, sticky notes, Google. Great inventions for the organizationally challenged with porous memories such as myself.

I made things right, but it took time, in this case, a whole afternoon.

I guess I should be happy I am finding the mistakes. Better me now than a paying reader later.

In that case, it is a good thing.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Reading Out Loud

I’ve made my revisions, yet again. I’ve reached the end of my manuscript, yet again. So now what do I do? I start over. But this time, I’m reading everything out loud.

I’ve been told how important this step is, how essential, and I’m a believer.

So, I’ll close the door to my private space and get into the zone. This would be that special place where I can hear my characters talk to themselves, to each other, to me.

I need to hear the words flow. Find what mistakes I can. Make little changes. Add the little bits of business to make the prose better, make my people seem more alive. It’s the final polishing stage that I always disliked when I was making jewelry.

I won’t get my hands dirty or wear down my fingernails for this version of polishing. This is different. This tests me. Stretches me. It presents a challenge. Can I measure up to the novels I’ve read and admired?

I think it will be the stage that makes the most difference. The stage where I make this product my best effort.

I’m looking forward to the work. It’s so close to the real end. The point where I’m sending out the next round of query letters. The point where I can start focusing on other projects and planning the next book.

Maybe, just maybe, this will be the most fun.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

The First One

My youngest son has begun a new phase of his life. He and his soon-to-be life partner have begun the process of buying their first home. A major undertaking that will test their coping skills, but, more importantly, will give them an enormous opportunity to grow.

It has me thinking of our first house in Austin, TX. It was small, probably the smallest on the block, and situated at the head of a T intersection that gave us a nice view of a high school. We used to walk the track for exercise.

Although small, the house had three bedrooms, a kitchen, one bath, and a great room with a high ceiling. Lots of room for a young couple starting out.

That house taught us a lot of lessons:

·        How to fix the small things
·        How to deal with the big things, like termites and flash floods
·        How to replace some of the darkest wood paneling ever made with drywall
·        How that new drywall made the room structurally stronger and visually larger
·        How to start your first business out of one those small bedrooms
·        How spilling red Kool-Aid on orange shag carpeting isn’t really noticeable
·        How not to yell at your first-born for spilling the Kool-Aid

We eventually replaced the orange shag for a beige Berber when it was time to sell and move on to other houses and other lessons.

I am reminded of how important that first house was.

I’ve been told by many books on writing and at many conferences how important it is to finish that first book. Just finishing.

Getting close to that goal, I can look back and see how far I’ve come and how many lessons I’ve learned. 

Such as:

·        How to fix the small things-like punctuation and spelling
·        How to deal with the big things-like verb tense agreement, dialog, and story development
·        How to replace some sentences and paragraphs with better ones
·        How those sentences and paragraphs made the story stronger and the themes larger in scope and continuity
·        How to start the first subplot
·        How spilling the beans on motives and major plot points too soon is bad, bad, bad
·        How not to yell at people and be generally disagreeable when they make constructive comments

Yeah, I can see the similarity to that first house. From here, it looks like a good view.

Friday, January 9, 2015

This Week in Cartoons

The cartoon strip “Pickles” had a great one for the first day of the New Year. It showed the older couple sitting on the sofa. Grandma observes that they are at the start of a 365-page book. The pages are blank and await the stories that will fill up each day. She wonders aloud about what those stories will tell at the end of the year.

She looks over to Grandpa and sees that he’s fallen asleep. “Oh, I forgot. Long books put you to sleep.”

I found a variation of this on Facebook, so maybe this has been around for awhile and I’ve just missed it. I made sure to share it at a Writer’s Studio meeting.

Another “Pickles” strip had the young grandson ask his grandma about life before the Internet. Grandma ponders the question—then looks for the answer on Google.

So true. I use Google for spelling and word usage checks all the time. And for research—it’s a gem. But I know where I’d be without it—in a library somewhere up to my bloodshot eyeballs in musty, dusty books.

The strip “Dustin” is about a twenty-something young man living at home. A case study in failure to launch into an adult life with steady job and steady girlfriend. The cartoon that struck me as “writer friendly” shows the family at the table sharing a meal. Dustin asks for the salt. His grammar-conscious sister points out that he needed to say “may” instead of “can” in his request. Dustin grumbles to himself and thinks bad thoughts about “autocorrect.”

Spelling and grammar correcting features are a godsend for me. I may not agree with every one of the automatic suggestions, but I always pay attention.

The final cartoon that I saved from the last week comes from “Rhymes with Orange.” The title is “The Creative Tag Team” and consists of only two panels. The first shows the Muse arriving on the scene of an artist at work. The second shows the arrival of the Muse’s sinister sibling—Abuse.

I love it when the Muse comes to visit me. I try not to take it for granted.

But I hate it when the voice of creativity turns into the dark self-critic and tries to tell me, “It’s all garbage.”

It’s a chore to ignore that kind of internal dialogue, but it’s imperative. A writer must keep writing and have faith that one, it really isn’t that bad; or two, rewrites will make it better; or three, it’s holding a place until you can think of a better way to get your idea across.

And yes, I keep the faith that my writing will always get better. Finding a little helpful humor along the way is a pleasant gift.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Facebook Sold Me a Book

On Christmas Eve, I checked my email and found one of those ubiquitous reminders Facebook is so good at. I usually get enticing versions of the following: “You have more friends than you know” or “Do you know so-and-so?” Maybe I know the name. Maybe I don’t. I usually don’t pay much attention to these. But before I deleted this one I took a minute to search my memory and recognized Wayne Sapp as a fellow writer from a novel writing workshop I’d taken at the Midwest Writing Center.

His novel used the lingering legacy of the Exxon Valdez oil spill on the fate of Stellar sea lions and fishermen in and around Seward, Alaska to build his mystery. His work was much further along than mine. Almost done. I remembered admiring his descriptions of mist-shrouded trees, craggy coastlines, and hulking animals—both sea lion and human. He made it feel very real. 

I did a Google search for him and his name came right up on top of the first page along with information about his book, Arctic Lions.  

Unfortunately, so did the other Wayne Sapp. I made a mental note to include Wayne’s middle initial “K” in future searches.

I kept going and found him on and on When I told my husband about the results of my web browsing I was surprised by his observation, “So, you’re telling me that social media works.”

I had to pause and admit he was right, and, at his suggestion, I gave Wayne an early Christmas present—I bought his book.

Then, also at his suggestion, I joined Twitter. A move he’d been encouraging me to do for some time.

Now, I’m engaged in three platforms for social interaction on the Internet: Facebook, Blogspot, and Twitter.

I am just so “with it.”  LOL