Monday, 29 June 2009
The main problem, they told me, was too much plot. Secretly I knew this, I think, but it's very hard to make judgments on your own work. I wrote a fabulous synopsis of someone else's novel; much better, they said, than my own. Yeah, well, I knew that too. It's easier to be ruthless about someone else's work and highlight the interesting stuff. When it comes to your own work, it's all essential!
So. There were other comments of course. More romance, for instance. This is something I had intentionally downplayed thinking it might sound corny, but it seems that was a bad decision. Fantasy readers want romance (me included), so I should make it clear there's a relatively strong romantic thread.
They also wanted more world building, more fantasy setting and grandeur, particularly at the start. This was unexpected. Thinking it was important to demonstrate I could tell a story, I had focused on plot and skirted over much of the fantasy world stuff. Stupid when you think about it, because the latter is far more of a strength in my writing than the former. However, to offset this, it's important not to use too many made-up words. There's a challenge!
So now I am working on a revised synopsis and will send it around again for more comment. Hopefully I can breathe a little more life into the next version.
Wednesday, 24 June 2009
The rules are: First fifteen you can recall in no more than 15 minutes. Tag 15 friends, including me because I'm interested in seeing what books my friends choose. DON'T TAKE TOO LONG TO THINK ABOUT IT.
OK, so here goes in no particular order:
- The Liveship Traders (trilogy) by Robin Hobb
- The Secret History by Donna Tartt
- The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins
- Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula LeGuin
- The Lions of Al-Rassan by Guy Gavriel Kay
- Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen (also Persuasion)
- My Sister's Keeper by Jodie Piccoult
- Mordant's Need (duology) by Stephen Donaldson
- Devil's Cub by Georgette Heyer (plus many others)
- Olivia Joules & the overactive imagination by Helen Fielding
- House of Sand and Fog by Andre Dubus III
- The Ruins of Ambrai by Melanie Rawn
- Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
- The undomestic goddess by Sophie Kinsella
- The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
I actually struggled to come up with this list of 15. Many of the above I have read multiple times, plus there's a lot of fantasy (and quite a lot of fantasy I left off in an attempt to keep it balanced). I'm sure there are other amazing books I have read, but I can't think of them right now. I tried to base this on books I entreat other people to read, or find myself lending to people.
Tuesday, 23 June 2009
Friday, 19 June 2009
Onto next week.
Saturday, 13 June 2009
Friday, 12 June 2009
It started with my hair a few years ago, when I finally decided that I was no longer blond and would have to commit to highlighting. Once my best feature, my hair had turned ordinary, and once I came to terms with the fact that my 'natural look' was in fact hideous, I embraced the prospect of regular salon visits. This strategy was of course helped by the fact that I could now afford it.
This progressed nicely for several years and continues to do so. But a recent spate of cosmetic parties and the close proximity of a day spa a few doors down from work have caused an escalation in my beauty regime. Daily facial cleansing, lip gloss and mineral foundation have been added to my repertoire (the latter two still in the early days of actual usage).
Moreover, a few months ago I commenced 4-weekly eyebrow waxes. Not only am I now saved the hideous task of plucking with tweezers, but I need no longer glance in the mirror and cringe at the shaggy state of my brows. There was a time not so long ago when I would scrutinise the eyebrows of every woman I came across to see if I could find anyone with brows as dreadful as mine - to make my own slackness appear justified.
Most recently -- today in fact -- I have embarked on the next phase of my beauty therapy. Eyelash tinting.
It was my eyebrow groomer who first suggested it. My lashes are fair and not very long, and since I never wear mascara (glug) I daresay my eyes were a bit of a non-event. It is something I have considered in the past and discarded, never really knowing how to go about it. But, finding myself on my back in a day spa, a few doors down from the office, I found myself agreeing to give it a go. After all, it only takes 15 mins.
So there I was today, giving it a go. It's an interesting experience. You have to lie there with your eyes closed -- complete with goop and gauze and stuff -- for 10 mins while the dye processes. But the brain is weird. One moment I'm lying there quite relaxed with my eyes closed, the next I'm struggling not to open them, just because I know I CAN'T. Instead of leaving me alone in my private darkness, Virginia massaged my hands to distract me (do you have trouble relaxing? Your fingers are like sticks.).
And then my eyes started stinging a tiny bit. Not enough to be painful, but . . . these are my EYES for heavens sake. Did she say there was peroxide in that dye? That can't be good. Peroxide in the eyes. Oh god, what have I done? Is this safe? I'm going to go BLIND!
Um . . . I say. My eyes are stinging a little bit.
Don't worry that happens. Soothing.
So is there any chance I could go blind?
No, no, no, impossible. Pause. Hmmm, maybe there's merit in not talking you through every step.
There's only 2 minutes to go.
OK. Breathless. Calm. Calm. Be calm.
Of course I'm not blind. And my lashes look brilliant, even if I say so myself! I've had them tinted blue-black and I think might be addicted to my new look already. I daresay I will never be considered 'well groomed', but I'm happy with these few small steps along the way. Who knows what will be next -- regular manicures?
Monday, 8 June 2009
Now, I don't usually do much plotting when I walk. Normally I've either got headphones on, or I end up thinking about the last thing I read . . . but this morning I was determined and all alone on the beach. Which meant of course that I could mutter ideas to myself in order to work things out.
I have found in the past that singing helps me plot -- ie I sing nonsense tunes, with the lyrics comprising plot ideas. Not the sort of thing you want an audience for, believe me. However, I have come up with some of my more spectacular plot ideas this way. I maintain that with my conscious brain focusing on making it sound nice and tuneful (as you do), my subconscious brain is able to gain some footing.
Not that I was singing this morning, but I was verbalising. (Does this make me an extrovert after all?) There were some scenes I was rewriting that were no longer going to work, given some of the other things I had changed. Which was a bit of a shame, really, since I had intended to reuse one of the chapters almost in entirety. Not anymore. It all has to be rewritten. Oh well.
The funny thing is that in the space of a morning's walk I made/planned some fairly significant changes. Not significant to the overall story, but I ditched a whole character and substituted another in her place. It makes a heap more sense now. I also changed the order in which some things happen played off against certain revelations. So I think that'll be tighter too. (Bearing in mind I still am yet to write said scenes!)
It was a productive weekend in all, although I am dismally behind in the WriMoFoFo. I have written just over 9,300 words, which puts me at 62% of target with just under a week to go. However, the next 'official' WriMoFoFo begins next Saturday, so I'll lose the last few days of this one. Nevermind. Over 9,000 words in three weeks is about where I need to be, so I'll just keep plugging away!
Saturday, 6 June 2009
I liked the book better than the Da Vinci Code, but I'm not sure about a movie comparison. I still like the plot better, but the Da Vinci Code movie has the distinction of including one of my favourite movie scenes ever. (The final scene, when Robert Langdon follows the rose line through Paris to arrive at the Louvre and kneels above the sarcophagus of Mary Magdalene.)
Upon reflection, I think the movie of Angels & Demons lacked the character development of the Da Vinci Code. So, although the latter movie had more plot holes, it had more complex characterisation. Perhaps this is why I felt a little underwhelmed by Angels & Demons, despite having enjoyed the book better.
Wednesday, 3 June 2009
The primary point made in the article is that rewriting is essential -- and rewriting well is a skill you need to hone. To quote Hemingway: “The first draft of everything is shit.”
The article lists multiple points to consider when rewriting as part of its first target area: STORY. Some of these I have been addressing, others I should probably go back and look at. It's a good list.
Have you read it out loud? Repeatedly?
Does the story communicate what you wanted it to?
Do you start the story late enough?
Have you eliminated most, if not all, backstory from the first act?
Do you have the right main character?
Does the main character change? A lot.
Can characters can be cut or combined?
Is the hero in the crusher all the time?
Do we care about the character and her problem?
Is the bad guy the one who forces the hero to change?
Have you written wonderful minor characters? Like the roommate in NOTTING HILL?
Is “place” a character in your story?
Is your story about one simple idea, and does each scene further that ONE idea?
How many scenes can be combined?
How can you add more conflict in every scene?
Can you squeeze something more about the character from nearly every scene?
Have you made us feel what every character is feeling, in every scene?
What can you do to make each scene better, more memorable, more interesting?
Does the action build in intensity as we go along?
Does the ending have enough emotion and power?
Are the stakes high and do they go higher?
Will people who care about act breaks be able to find them?
Is the script really good or do you just hope it is?
Do other people read it and say, “Wow!”?
Monday, 1 June 2009
I am rather enjoying myself though. Even if I'm not meeting my targets, I feel like I'm getting somewhere. I'm through the setup phase and into the middle section of the novel where things are actually playing out. New characters are being introduced that really start to shake things up. Lots of fun!
I think it's from about here that it starts getting easier as events get more exciting. Because I know pretty much what is happening, the rewrite is about working it all to maximum effect. I am damn well going to have this novel finished by the end of the year. Hallelujah.