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The New Year is starting off with a bang! While my packing up the place in Parks is going slower than planned due to the fact that I have a cold, I may already have a buyer. I also got a confirmation call this afternoon for a gig playing at an attorney’s conference in February. (Things are finally starting to move on the music performance front. Woohoo!) And, though I haven’t been working on the novel at all lately, I had a major plot breakthrough this morning. Evidently my subconscious has been toiling away on it, unbeknownst to me.

The unexpected gift from my deeper mind was particularly exciting. The two closing scenes that it delivered up to me as a sort of “mental movie” as I groggily awakened solved several character motivation problems and tied up some loose ends in continuity – no mean feat when you are dealing with beings that bend time and travel between different dimensions. I was ready to start writing immediately, but had to limit my enthusiasm to some brief outlining. Snow is expected here in the high country and I’ve got waaay too much packing and cleaning to do before I have to beat it back down to Phoenix on Friday morning to stay ahead of the approaching storm.

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My Half-Novel

The critiques of “Return of the Shadow Lion” that I have received so far are fairly consistent and there is a relatively simple solution to 90 percent of the difficulties my dedicated readers had with the story. All I have to do is stick Books Three and Four in the series together, and “Presto!” the problem is solved. I should be happy, right?

I am, actually. It’s just that I am feeling a bit daunted at the thought of what I have to do to implement this wonderful solution. Book Four is written; Book Three is not. That means that I really only have half a novel written (where I thought I was just looking at a rewrite) and there will have to be some changes (relatively minor) in the points of view in Book Four to make it fit together with Book Three.

In my efforts to follow conventional wisdom about writing (and selling) stories in the fantasy genre, I planned to divide my epic into a series of fairly standard lengths. I broke the story line at what seemed like logical points. Now, Book Four has proven to be too dependent on story material that is contained in Book Three. Oops.

It seems my decision to start “en media res” was ill-advised, or at least miscalculated. I started Book Four in the middle of a lifetime, forgetting that the whole series spans three lifetimes of the main character… Reincarnation really complicates things.

Of course, by starting the novel at the beginning of [one of] the protagonist’s life/lives, the reader gets to learn about things as our hero grows up and discovers them. All of the details of the society – it’s religion, culture, mores, and history – can be divulged in a much more leisurely way. Believability problems with both story line and character development, particularly with my villains, disappear when I can take more time to reveal incidents and indulge in more descriptive detail.

The more gradual approach takes a lot of the complexity out of understanding an alien world. It also flies in the face of some of the early advice I got about writing to sell: Do not write about a protagonist’s childhood, do not start at the beginning, do not, do not, do not…

Scroom. I have thrown all that nonsense out. Now, my constant question to myself is, “Does this serve the story?” Let the story dictate how it will be told. I’ve spent too much time and effort trying to make the story fit into some supposed profile of saleability and the story has suffered because of that. Odds are, it will never sell anyway. If I’m going to spend the time on it, it jolly well better be for the art and the heart of it!

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I’m so confused…

Having dedicated readers from an online writer’s group critique one’s novel is a whole new experience for me. I’m not sure what to do with all of the ideas, suggestions, corrections, and criticisms. Each person has had something valuable to add; each person has also at some point missed something that I thought was startlingly obvious. My knee-jerk reaction is to rework everything to try and make it clear to everyone, but after much thought, it has become plain that that simply is not possible.

The assessments are in some cases diametrically opposed to one another. I made some changes based on one early reader’s comments – cutting out some episodes with minor characters to simplify a overly complex story line – only to have a current DR wonder where a certain group of characters were…why weren’t they represented? They were, until I cut them out to make more room for the main story line.

In another instance, a DR chided me for the quick emotional turnaround of the main character, thinking that it was an unbelievable episode because it happened in a matter of minutes.  It would have been quite unbelievable if it happened in such a short time.  I thought it was clear that the story had progressed from the middle of the night to morning. Several transitional sentences used a change in action and a visual description of the sunrise to cue the reader.  Or, so I thought.

Such misunderstandings leave me to wonder if my writing is that unclear, or if readers are skimming or simply not picking up on the clues. I sincerely want to write well and plainly.  I want to get the story across in an interesting way that does not underestimate my readers’ intelligence or offend their sensibilities overmuch. At the moment, I’m stumped as to what to do to accomplish that.

Overall, the increase in detail on this last rewrite has gone over well.  Except for the sex. One reader said, “Too much.”  Another said, “Too little.”  Another one said, “Wrong kind.” I throw up my hands and say, “I have no idea how to write sex scenes.  If they weren’t integral to the story, I’d cut them all out!”  Kind of hard to do when the story revolves around the trials and tribulations of a couple of soul-mates, so I’d better learn.  Sigh.  Let’s not even talk about how I need to do a better job of making the physical details of an alien race’s sexual mechanics understandable…much less the differences in mores and cultural expectations.

It’s a good thing I’ve got 157,000 words down in a fairly readable form. I’ve gone too far to turn back now!  And, really, much of the critting of the manuscript is spot on and useful.  Several of the DRs put in considerable time and effort.  Wrestling with their critiques will make me a better writer and will improve the story.  It will also harden my writerly hide and force me to make some tough decisions about how to best tell the story.

For now, I’m considering all the different viewpoints and letting it cook while I wait for the last few crits to come in.

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I’m still debating whether to take on NaNoWriMo this year.  I want to, but I am still up to my eyeballs with moving and jobbing and everything else I’ve got going.  I wouldn’t even consider it, except that “RSL” is complete and being critiqued. I don’t expect the crits to be done before December, so I have no other writing projects going right now. My fingers itch for the keyboard…

Will this blog be enough?  Oh yeah.  Flamencophile.com languishes for lack of attention, too.  Maybe not.

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It’s been over a week since I last posted, so I thought I’d do a brief update at least…

I spent most of last week in Phoenix job-hunting and apartment-scouting. I’ve got a line on a guitar teaching position at a music store, which I will know more on at the end of this week, and I’ve narrowed the search area considerably for housing. Good progress and the weather was gorgeous. And, as always, it was a joy to see my friends.

Despite my dismal practice record of late, I got a Tangos and a Sevillanas vocal at my guitar lesson. I nearly made myself hoarse practicing the vocals on the way back to Flagstaff and I’ve gotten them memorized already because of that. Best of all, the lesson seemed to turn around the musical block I’ve had going for weeks and I’ve been practicing every day since. Funny. Practice really does seem to make a difference…

I’ve been back home for a couple of days now and have gotten the “Music by Ariel” site up and running with Drupal. Flamencophile now has blogs, a calendar, and a forum operational. It’s still in development and behind schedule, but it’s progressing. I’m roughly on track with my novel edit, too, only about two days behind my schedule, and I’m hoping I can get caught back up by the end of the week.

My exercise program has been wavering a bit, but is not forgotten. Lifting boxes and the amount of driving I did last week has been a little hard on my legs, so I’m still at the earlier level and taking it all very easy. I expect that to continue until I actually get settled in Phoenix. I have lost two more pounds in the last month, however, so my old rate of weight loss seems to have returned, which makes me quite happy. I’ve still got some more to go, but at this rate I’m within a month of having lost 40 pounds. Yeeha!

While I was gone, the temps took another dive into the 20’s. My maple tree turned red and dropped most of its leaves while I was in Phoenix. The aspens up on the San Francisco Peaks are turning golden and I hope to take a drive up that way in the next few days before it’s back down to the Valley for another round…

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Living a Real Life

Got a post up in another blog carnival… This time “Jump. Fall. Fly.” is over on http://thetallpoppy. blogspot.com, who is this week’s host of the “Living a Real Life” blog carnival.

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NaNoWriMo Looms

Ah yes, NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writer’s Month – lurks just beyond the horizon. I got an email that they are reworking their website in preparation for an October 1 kick off.

Has it only been a year? Close to it, anyway, that I scrapped the screenplay I was writing and started fresh with the novel that is currently being read and critiqued. Wow, a lot has happened in one trip around the sun.

Guess it’s almost time to pull out the outline and notes for one of the other novels in the series and see if I’m up for another round of the insanity of writing 50,000 words in one month.

NaNoWriMo is what convinced me that I actually could write and that I had enough material to push ahead and attempt a novel. Wonder what I”ll learn from it this time?

More writerly news: Another blog carnival – the Happiness Carnival on thinkhappythoughts.com – has one of my posts listed. This time it’s “Jump. Fall. Fly.

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