Saturday, May 12, 2012

The Frankenstein Effect

A few years ago I completed a manuscript of about 100k words. Long yes, but super cool...or so I thought. Then my writers group worked it over and gave me great feedback, so many places to tighten the plot and cinch the story into shape. Please note that I was more than willing to 'kill my darling sentences', chop subplots, and had cut it back to 80K words before these edits began. This was not a first round issue. The problem I faced with all the great feedback was HOW to implement it. I took all the ideas and totally Frankensteined my story into a monsterous mess. Fitting all the chopped bits together without leaving gross scars in the story posed a problem.
The good news is, I recognized my best efforts weren't working. So I shelved it and started on something else. The starting on something else here is key. Keep writing.

Recently in helping a friend work through her manuscript I was able to explain that a great edit will bring the pieces of your story together like a mosaic. Fitting interesting new bits into the context of the larger picture, or taking out the ones that confuse the image.
How do you know when you are editing the right aspects of your story?

Well this is what we came up with:

Much like this mosaic of fish all swimming in the same direction, a good edit, addition or cut, will help all the elements of the story "swim together" instead of being forced into a stitched mess. Working with Inker Debbie the other day, she suggested a change to her finished manuscript. As we discussed the change, other plot elements suddenly became more relevant. It added to the motivation of her characters in subsequent scenes and it brought a WOW factor to a lot of what she had already written. This is a mosaic change, one small piece that makes the other pieces of her story look better and feel more real.

A Frankenstein edit is one that puts a strain on the other elements or causes you to dissect what is working and stitch something else in to keep it consistent.

Let's put it in a practical situation:
Imagine Cinderella without her ugly stepsisters-an interesting idea that would put major holes in the plot and create a dilemma for the author who has to invent new ways for Cinderella to suffer so that we can sympathize with her. (Potential Monster edit)

Now imagine Cinderella with one evil selfish stepsister and one kind sister-both more beautiful than she is...this opens new avenues of suffering and character development where the future princess can show compassion and sisterhood but might find she feels insecure in her beauty when compared to her sisters. This works within the elements that already work in the story. The sisty uglies already work as antagonists we're just making them more interesting bad guys.(Potential Mosaic)

Monday, May 7, 2012

Random Poll

Today I was talking to Inker Donna about cloning and a question came to mind:

If you had an exact clone of yourself, would you be friends? Why or why not?

I came to the conclusion that I wouldn't be great friends with myself. Luckily I have surrounded myself with patient and long suffering friends...if it were me, I'd drive myself crazy :)

How about you?

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Point of View Preferences

I've started work on a new project (women's fiction/romantic comedy) and have been debating myself over whether to use a first person POV, like in my first completed novel, or use third person. I've only written half a page, but I chose third person because I thought it would be good to get out of the first person mindset.

However, I keep wondering if first person wouldn't be better, and I think it's mostly because I tend to like to read stories written in first person. I like getting inside the head of the main character and taking the journey with them. But, since third person is the most commonly used POV, I'm thinking there must be good reason for that, leaving me questioning if I'm leaning toward first person because it is easier for me.

So, rather than continue my internal debate and going in circles, I'd love to hear from you about your POV preferences. Perhaps your feedback can help me to make a choice and get going with it already. Because, to be honest, I'm beginning to wonder if this struggle isn't an excuse to procrastinate digging in to the new story. ;)

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Keeping my word

Writers and runners have a lot in common. Both begin with seemingly impossible goals and all the optimism in the world. Both need training and patience to build the skills to finish the race.

The stages of a race are much like the stages of writing a novel. You need to know the course, but no matter how well you know the map it will not be the same when you hit the road.

Then there is the hard middle when the enthusiasm of the start line is far behind and the glory of the finish line is still out of sight. This is the time when both writers and runners have to dig deep and it is also the easiest time to quit, tap out, or start walking and hope to pick up some momentum after catching their breath.

Those who push through and chisel away at the distance will eventually close the gap to the finish line and then it is a matter of mind over body. The Final Sprint. In the end, scores are tallied and performance is measured but in the moment of crossing the finish there is a split second of pure joy in accomplishment. The END. The Finish Line. The applause and the crowd. That second of time is why runners run and writers write. Why they suffer the hard middle and worse the gut wrenching, nauseating, lung twisting final sprint. If it were easy everyone would do it, but its not and they don't.

So what?
For anyone caught in the hard middle or the dizzying challenge of the final sprint on any goal in life, especially in writing. Keep your word. Keep your promise to yourself that you will at least cross the finish line.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Zoom In

At Writing For Charity, the writers conference I mentioned a couple of months ago, I spoke to Jeff "The Genius" Savage (my nickname for him, not his) and he gave me some great advice that I've thought of many times since he spoke it. You know when advice crosses your mind repeatedly that it has to be great!

He talked about setting a scene in your writing. We start zoomed way out, surveying the setting, catching a few glimpses of the world we're in, what life is like. Then the camera zooms in and we catch a few specifics, and as the camera narrows in more, we get to the point of the scene and that is our focus.

Something I have a tendency to do is once I get to the focus of the scene, I can inadvertently veer away. In analyzing several scenes I've written, I've found that this is a common problem for me. Right when you get to the good stuff, you don't want to diverge to a less important conversation, or wax poetic about the color of the sky. Imagining the scene as a camera lens slowly focusing in really helps me to stay the course.

Great advice from a great writer. Hope it helps!