Posted tagged ‘writing a novel’

Unmeetable Deadline? Last Gasp.

February 3, 2012

Trying to work on new novel tonight!  Rather trying to work on completing the revisions of an old novel.  (Ho-hum.)

It is a new novel compared to the finished one (NOSE DIVE), which I urge urge urge you all to check out!

But it is an old novel in terms of feeling, at times, like a very long haul.

Finishing–i.e. truly finishing–a novel is a lot of work.  That is, getting all the “i” dots, t-crossings, plot twists, right–is a lot of work.  Cutting out a bunch of that work–extra verbiage, descriptions, scenes, dialogue, even whole characters–that weigh down the plot–is even more difficult.

This novel will not be truly finished in time for my deadline (which is sometimes towards the end of this weekend.)

Trying to meet this deadline has haunted my last few weeks, though, in truth, I’ve only really focused on it during certain late-nite, early-morning jam sessions.

Even so, the deadline sticks in the craw.  The problem is that I’m a “last gasp” sort of person, meaning that I usually don’t quite give up until absolute hopelessness sets in.

And this, unfortunately, means that it is likely to be a stressful weekend.  (Unless, I just decide on hopelessness right now.  Ah, there’s an idea!)

The novel, by the way, is called “An I For An Eye.”  It’s a young adult fantasy.  (Yes, I know.  Crazy!)

Nanowrimo Update – Thanksgiving

November 25, 2010

Nanowrimo Participant At Thanksgiving (And Pearl)

Finally, a free day (well, putting aside chopping, cooking, washing dishes, socializing and trying to get some air!)

What I truly mean is that I am getting down to the wire with my Nanowrimo novel and I should focus today on upping the old word count.

(Nanowrimo, if you are new to this notion, is National Novel Writing Month–a time when would-be novelists/masochists devote themselves to their dream activity.  Sort of.)

The problem is that I suddenly can’t summon the will.

Is it Writers’ Block crashing down? The other side of the ManicD equation?  Simple fatigue?

Is it the fact that I find myself in the middle of a family gathering, with an expectation that I will do something other than work on my computer?

Is the old September NYT crossword at my side really so fascinating?

All of the above is true.

But, oddly, the main cause of my current withdrawal is a kind of success.  As I wrote a couple of days ago, I finally discovered the connection between the disparate characters in my nanowrimo novel, a connection that has some kind of emotional “rightness” (if not, resolution.)

This connection has taken the manuscript (the potential manuscript) to a whole different level.

All of this is good (I guess), but also daunting.   Suddenly, the proposed novel does not feel so much like a what-comes-next game, a free-fall through the unconscious, but a project.  Something that could be worthwhile if I could just devote about a year or more to it.

The coincidence of Thanksgiving brings me to the only helpful response I can come up with:  isn’t the human mind amazing?  All those nooks and crannies where stories, characters,types, lurk.   I readily admit that mine are all stolen–from life, reading, the heard, experienced; only somewhere in this dreamlike process of making one’s self write madly, a mishmash has occurred, a regrouping.

I don’t know if I will have the luck or drive or year (or so) that it will take to actually write the novel that started through this rather random exercise.   It’s another huge leap of faith to think that anyone will read it!   Still, something to be thankful for.

Nanowrimo Update: The Quandary of the Corn Dog

November 21, 2010

Corn Dog?

Agh!  Everything changes.

Especially when you are writing a novel in a month.

Which brings me to being a Gemini (the sign of the twins, twins encapsulated in a single person).  I do not particularly believe in astrology as a means of foretelling the future–at least not since the big stock market crash in 2007 which was totally NOT foreseen by Jonathan Cainer.   Nonetheless, I have always found myself to be an absolute down-to-the-bone Gemini:  quick, shallow, communicative, changeable, inveterately bi-tasking.

The propensity to do two things at once is reflected consistently in my fiction writing.  Almost every manuscript I’ve ever written, whether for children or adults, tends to be told in two voices, the perspective of two characters.  I can’t somehow stick to one track; as a result, I’ve grown to like the kind of interchange that two different points of view, or even stories, provides.

But when you are writing a novel without much of a plan, and with limited imagination, this kind of structure can be a problem.  In my current nanowrimo manuscript, for example, one of my two subplots has become quite a bit more compelling than the other.  I just haven’t quite gotten the gist of the other one yet:  who are these people?  What are they doing with each other?

They started out in a suburban house in Sherman Oaks, California (part of LA).  The swimming pool went green; one decided to leave, the other tied her to a chair.  She has escaped now to a motel in Venice Beach.

But this move to Venice Beach really is too early in terms of the other subplot–that’s the crew traveling through Nevada, troubled by modern art (among other things.)

So what now?  While California girl is in Venice, she has to DO something.  She can’t just sit there awaiting the arrival of characters she’s never even met!  And, btw, I realized today, she is also  going to need a whole different past, and a whole different vocation, a basic remodeling.

So, once more, now what?  Do I just forget about California girl for a while, give up my typical back and forth, and focus on the guys in Nevada?  Do I go back and re-write California girl’s whole first half, move everything forward (or backward)?    This makes a certain sense, but would probably require me to give up whatever unconscious structure has happened in the initial writing.

Alternatively, do I come up with something new and exciting for California Girl to do right now?  At the moment, all I’ve been able to come up with is the eating of corn dogs.

(In case, you don’t know, these are hot dogs on a stick, dipped into corn meal, deep fried.)

Not somehow enough.

Nanowrimo – Week 2 – Coasting Through the Bogs (Baths)

November 9, 2010

Would-be Coasting (Notice Book Is Read Rather Than Written)

Nanowrimo organizers warn that the second week of Nanowrimo is especially hard, the exuberance of the first week draining, the adrenalin of the oncoming finish not quite kicking in.

I figured these warnings didn’t apply to me;  after all. my first week wasn’t exactly exuberant.  No, now that I finally had my story, I would coast.

But when I got home from work last night, I had all kinds of non-coasting activities to attend do.

An idea for a blog!  Sure, I wasn’t going to actually write one, but get Pearl to help me.  That shouldn’t take long.  (Ahem.)

Then, well, I should really keep on exercising.  Since country music figures in the novel, I’d dance!  To Dolly Parton!  (Downloading some was a snap.)

OMG–look at you, Pearl!   Yes, it’s a bit cold tonight, but it’s not getting warmer.

Bathwater was run.  No point in a bath without a trim.

Then (I’m not completely heartless) came an hour of holding a shivering Pearl in a down parker next to a heater.

It was getting very late now, and I realized that the time for coasting was sliding down a very slippery slope.)

I would take my notebook into the bath.  (This is one of the best features of sore computer eyes.)

Oops, had to clean the tub.

Okay, so, I told myself, if you are not going to coast, you can at least be workmanlike.  (It’s true that maybe the bath is not the most workmanlike writing studio, but I did have an extra towel handy.)

I set down to writing the scene I had in mind.  Only the country music had put a bunch of other scenes in my mind.  Scenes from further along.

I set down to writing the scene that was supposed to come next.  Only I just couldn’t bear to write that scene–a kind of dinner party–and jumped straight to the after-party late night confrontation between an ancillary villain and one of my female protagonists.  I was going to fit some good (ancillary) character to help her out, not because I felt the young woman needed to be helped so much but because I had a great idea for a snipy kind of line that one of these ancillary characters might use against the villain.  (It involved the Dia Foundation!)

And finally set pen to page.  Only, as I wrote the scene, the dialogue was incredibly sweet, too sweet for the villain.

A couple pages in, I converted him to to one of my male protagonists. an important good guy.   (Who, unfortunately, would not refer to Dia.)

Oh well.

In the meantime, Pearl parked under the down parka, having had enough of Week 2.

And it's only Monday!

All Words And No Play (Err… Plot) –A Dull Beginning To Nanowrimo

November 1, 2010

All Words And No Play

Did you really think I would leave you?  For a month?  Promptly At The Beginning of that Month?

I did start working on Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month)  this morning, but frankly, all I’ve written so far are words.  Close to 3,000 of them–I was on a fairly long train ride with a computer handy–but they are hardly more interesting than “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”

Or Jill.  (Dull girl.)

This is one of the problems of not having the time or emotional energy to plan a novel before beginning.    (Yes, I’m whining already.)

Of course, you can be inspired to write things you have been longing to write about, words you may even have been storing up–but, ideally, a novel should not be a tool for revenge on close family members.   It’s best (if you want to keep your family intact) to suppress some of that energy.  Or at least channel–ahem– disguise–it.

It’s also useful when you sit down to write your novel to keep in mind the types of books you actually like to read.

I look at myself.    If I start with no plan, if I just “let it rip”, I can end up churning something out that is vaguely gut-wrenching; but it also risks being a more violent form of navel gazing.

While the books I most enjoy have stories.

I will include my morning’s words as part of my word count for Nanowrimo purposes, (i) because I’m competitive, and (ii) a bit of a cheater.  And, more importantly,  because I think you do have to work off some dross when you are doing something arbitrary.   And you might as well give yourself some credit for that.

But what I tell myself that I have to remember is that for all the jokes,  I am  trying to write a novel here–not a diary, a rant, a collection of memories.   I am trying to write something that can be read, and not just written.

Enough said.

(PS–No, I’m not posting old novel yet as I’m concerned it will dissipate focus even more.  Agh.)

Blocking Writer’s/Editor’s Block – Major Restructuring? (Maybe Focus On the Laundry)

October 24, 2010

A bit of a dreary Sunday.

The good news:  This morning, I finished a re-write of an old Nanowrimo novel.  This does not mean that I actually finished re-writing it, but that I finished another complete round of revisions.

The bad news:  I haven’t done my laundry yet and the laundry room here gets really crowded Sundays.

The good news:  This afternoon, I started another round of revisions on this same old Nanowrimo novel, going through it one more time.  For a while, the whole thing just seemed to work.

The bad news:  Then, I ran into a chapter that I seem to have over-edited my last time through, trying to break up the scene.  Now I think I have to seek out some of that old deleted material.

The good news:  I have a bunch of laundry to do.

As I’ve mentioned before in posts on writer’s block, my block does not arise in my initial writing, but in the editing and revising.

Part of my problem is that I sometimes want to make the manuscript to take a shape it doesn’t want.   I will try a major restructuring, hoping that certain kinds of manipulation–flashbacks, changes of view–can supply the momentum and drama that the plot is lacking.

This type of re-organization may work for some writers.  I’m not sure I’m not one of them.

Please understand that I am not saying here: “first thought best thought.”  I strongly believe in revision and editing.  (Except perhaps on this blog–sorry!)

But, for me, the editing sometimes works best on a sentence to sentence basis.  Or, even better, through cuts.   (One can get very enamored of sections that don’t move a story forward, especially when you’ve heavily re-written these sections on a sentence to sentence basis.)

But changes that involve fitting the manuscript into a different framework, or inserting a… device… tend to be less successful for me.

A good test of whether structural changes are useful is whether you can actually carry them out.  If, as you go through the manuscript, the changes feel increasingly hard to write, they are probably not helping you.

Again, I’m not saying that re-envisioning of a manuscript is not sometimes important.  Filling in blanks or making blanks can help you find your voice and your audience; it can feel both creative and compelling.

The key word is “compelling”.

Good writing does not re-write itself, but if it becomes too much of a tussle, you might consider a return to your initial, rawer, vision.  This at least will have a certain energy and drive.

Here’s the point:  be realistic about the true nature of your first draft.  If you have made an amuse-bouche, don’t try to stretch it into a full course meal.  If you keep trying to inject further substance into it, you may end up with something that can hardly be chewed (much less digested).

Now, about that laundry….