Thursday, February 25, 2010

Numbered Lists of Advice

The more helpful (to me) of the two:
A readers' advice to writers.

And a bunch of contradictory advice from various writers, which reminds me why I never find anything worth buying in the Writing/ Reference section at Barnes & Noble:
Ten Rules for Writing Books

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Revision Blues

I finished reading Persuasion last night. There was some giggling, as well copious tears as I read Captain Wentworth's desperate note to Anne at the very end. It's only the best letter I've ever read in a novel and so well built up to that I cried like a baby and rolled around in bed afterwards, so damn satisfied, literarily speaking. I don't cry while reading--I've done that exactly three times in my life--but I was so thrilled at the method Captain Wentworth chose and how he couldn't take Anne not knowing how he felt and his words--yeah, so I cried.

It inspired me to write a scene between Eva and Brixton, about a month before the action starts, lazing around in the Public Garden, Brix gently pushing Eva's buttons by bringing up their lack of a romantic relationship (his motivation) and Eva skirting around the topic, with Brix backing down, because he doesn't ever tell Eva what to do or make her do something she really doesn't want to--which can be good and bad.

The root of their story began with a tangled, dramatic love story--childhood friends, they have a child together though they're not really involved in any sort of romantic relationship with each other (and if you think I'm saying something negative about modern relationships, then yes, you may be right), he falls for her, she trusts him implicitly...except that, despite being an otherwise eerily calm and controlled woman, Eva is terrified of making a leap into a serious relationship; she is unable to forget her dysfunctional upbringing; she is highly independent. In that version, Brix had cancer and he kept it a secret from Eva and all hell broke loose when she found out. That was it. I couldn't write a story about cancer.

The soul swapping came in after I finished Time Traveler's Wife. Somehow, a sort-of girlfriend-of-Brix's got added in there.

But as I'm revising and adding and getting comments back on a first draft version of a few chapters, I'm wondering more and more if the soul swapping is necessary. I see it as a vehicle to propel and tell the realistic, human emotions rather than as a "ooh, let's try something fantasy-ish"--hence the proliferation of flashbacks, because I want to trace Eva and Brix's friendship and Eva's family life. I scrawled out on the outline: "It's about the moment when you decide to just take the leap into something you're deathly afraid of, because it's time or because it's meant to be."

So, yeah, after reading the non-gimmicky and sublime Persuasion, the emotions should be--have to be--enough to carry the story because they're what's important. So I'm kind of rethinking the fantasy element for a second. Of course, that would mean an even more massive rewrite, which is just exhausting to think of (and would screw with my rather inner urgency to 'get the thing done.' Funny how everyone says I basically have all the time in the world to write this, but I never feel that way). Especially since I restructured on the hard copy.

Maybe this is why I shouldn't revise during that time of the month.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Critique Groups

Found a post on critique groups at Word Wenches today: Ask a Wench: Critique Groups. Something I've been pondering over the last year or so. I know that for myself, writing whatever it is I'm working on first, then forcing it on people seems to work, if only so I can get the starts and stops of a first draft out of the way first. Then again, having this blog to complain to also helps because I can send out a large mass hair-pulling moment and get replies! Yay!

From perusing various writing craft books in B&N, here's what I've surmised about writing: there's no right or wrong way to go about it. It's subjective. Therefore, I guess, no one can really claim to be an expert, huh?

At Word Wenches, several of the authors noted that in past critique groups, the people became nit-picky instead of being "big picture" kind of people--full plot, character, setting. That's definitely something I experienced in the workshopping classes I took in college. You're forced together in those classes; you might know that something is off in a piece, but at that stage, I certainly didn't know a way to go about making the piece better. I knew what I would do in the piece, which is fine, but isn't helping the author any.

I had begun to wonder how professional authors did it. They have editors and agents to read over their work, but on a more casual "omg-i don't know what i'm doing-why is this character so fucked up/unlikable?" level, I knew a few of them had critique partners. A few have blogged about critique groups.

Not to sound snobby or "I'm so over it," but I sat in workshops. I had two at a high school writing program at Columbia University, my first taste of that sort of thing, the first time I showed anyone but my best friend and my teachers something I'd written--and I had no idea what I was doing. The second summer around--same program--I did a little better, now having gotten the point, but I wasn't sure what to make of this discourse of ideas and suggestions. I didn't have a writing voice yet.

College: Well, I've mentioned that.

The Word Wenches make a point of mentioning that finding critiquers on the same wavelength, but who are brutally honest is the most important thing. For the moment, my friends--writing, non-writing--seem to fit the bill. I don't know that it was always the case, but my first taste of writing for an audience (fanfiction) was largely for them and they also suffered the wrath of the Ongoing Saga. And really, if someone can still be your friend after going through that debacle of about a million rewrites for one whole chapter (note to self: don't try to predict the future in fiction, unless it's fanfiction. It's never going to work), then they're friends for life.

Plus, friends buy you awesome books for the birthday and let you borrow awesome books of theirs in exchange for one of yours. And they let you go on and on and on about your book, even if they haven't read one word of it...

Currently adding first new scene into middle of chapter one.

And Happy Birthday to Katie!

Editing to add: Top Ten No-Nos in critique groups

Friday, February 12, 2010

1 Whole Year of Blog!

Happy birthday to you.

Happy birthday to you.

Happy birthday, dear blog!

Happy birthday to you!

Yup. It's been one year since I started this blog and this here journey of actually writing and actually ending my stories instead of treating them as unimportant or using something as an excuse to not continue with it. I wanted a way to remember my developing process--and here it is! I wanted to reconnect with friends I felt a little distant from at the time and open up a dialogue and channels to talk to each other. I'm an only child; I have a lot of imaginary friends (you've met some of them, reading this blog), but the real ones are the only ones who (sometimes unfortunately) talk back with contrary ideas.

It's been a great year, as far as the writing goes, in a very educational year of unemployment, writing, employment, resume-sending, and studying up on what I can pretentiously call "my craft."

I think this time, last year, I was seeking a way to make my writing better. I don't know that it's on the level I want it to be at yet, BUT it's getting there. I cut-and-pasted the heck out of my manuscript today, rearranging everything I'd marked down on the hard copy to rearrange. Now I can get on with the crafting and expanding and the eternal, eternal questions of: "Why is Brix a douche?" (Nali), "Why is Brix a dick?" (Jess), "When are Brixton's good qualities going to show up on the page?","What's with this paraweirdo stuff?" (Paraweirdo=copyright 2010, Mehta), "Why does Edward Norton walk away from camera all the time in The Painted Veil? (not that we're complaining) " (Me, Shar, Nal)

I read a book called The Writer's Guide to Character Traits by Linda Edelstein, which has chapters chock full of profiles of different kinds of adult personalities, developmental stages for kids and adolescents, and the effects of events like parents divorcing, grief, PTSD, love and marriage---stuff I can definitely incorporate as time goes on.

I'm setting this up to publish at the exact time I published the very first post, when I thought that I would use this to post one story I had in mind as a centralized place to take in comments and questions. It's grown to be a lot more than I thought possible as I sat in this blue recliner, in my pajamas, unable to sleep at nearly 4 am.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

From Yahoo

Opened up my homepage--Yahoo!--and along with a headline about a 15-year-old in Japan who wrote an entire book using her phone (and therefore, her thumbs--ow!), there was this:

4 Reasons Why Twilight is Bad For Your Love Life

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

26 becomes 37

Today was a snow day--we have about a foot of snow outside here in Queens and even the kids had the day off. (Note, for those of you not in NYC: today was only the 3rd snow day in 8 years. I had two snow days growing up.)

So what does one do when snowbound?

Read, of course! Or in my case, re-number chapters. I went through each notation on my hard copy today (notes like: "Add scene here" or "Good break for a Jade scene") and parsed out the chapters once again. What was once 26 chapters is now going to be 37. Hopefully, those chapters are more focused and will improve flow and how the plot and backstory are weaved through.

Tomorrow begins the deleting of the parts I've crossed out on the hard copy, so stay tuned.

Friday, February 5, 2010

So I finished highlighting the manuscript today, which means that the quest for the Marginally OK Draft (Draft 2) is now underway. Just thought I'd share some pics.

The envelope where my ms. lives.

Hmm. So that's what 259 pages looks like.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010


Through some forced-upon discussions with friends and these early set-ups for revision, I'm coming to realize that a) not only am I telling a great deal and not showing but b) my main male lead needs a redeeming quality and c) I have way too much backstory going on here. Whole chunks of it. D) I have a lot of themes running rampant. E) I haven't quite gotten the characters into realistic-character-land yet. F) How do I get non-POV characters to be real, sympathetic people when the story is 1st person?

But anyway. Other things I've been contemplating:

How do chefs think? I have a character who is a chef.

How do photographers think? Visually, I suppose, and analytically.

What's it like having a broken leg?

Does suicide, in fact, run in families?

How does hypnosis work?

What's at the root of trust issues?

Ah...Marginally OK Draft on its way...