Tuesday, February 28, 2006

One Step Up, Two Steps Back

Today I wrote 512 words in Key. I took a break from Day for reasons I'll explain in a minute. Most of this entry will be about writing, which will probably be of interest only to Sue. The rest of you can skip down to the end to find out what funny thing came in the mail for Eugene. I swear I had nothing to do with it!

Anyway, I got a couple of reviews on my latest chapter that really got me thinking. Both people commented on the lack of tension in the chapter, while the second person also said that I was going over the same ground that I've already established in previous chapters. I can see why my reviewers said that, and the rest of the reviews were well-written, balanced with strengths and weaknesses of my chapter. The problem with reviews like this is not with what they say; it's figuring out what I want to do to address their comments. I've heard it said on the OWW mailing list that quite often critters don't point out the real problem, but they do point out areas that need to be fixed. I'm not sure if I agree with that, but I think the reason the chapter turned out the way it did has to do with my writing method. I'm what they refer to as an organic writer, someone who has an idea of how she wants to begin and end a story, along with some landmarks along the way, but doesn't have every scene outlined in advance. I tend to improv a lot as I write, and I'm beginning to think that's why when I look at an early draft, I throw everything out and start over; I think of new things I want to do and add them for the sake of adding them. I have tried to outline a couple of my novels before writing them, but I never finished the outlines. Sue suggested outlining after the fact so I can get a better overview of what I've got. I think I should do that with Day. To be honest, I'm not happy with how this rewrite is going. When I posted the opening chapter, I got some comments on it that inspired me to rewrite the whole thing, but after the reviews that version got, I wonder if the original version was better. I wonder now if I should have just posted the original version of Day without trying to rewrite it first. Hence the same of my entry tonight; I feel like I'm going backward, which is not a good feeling after all of the work I've spent developing my writing abilities. Still, if there's one thing I've learned along the way, it's that protagonists don't give up, and I'm certainly stubborn enough to keep going. While I don't want to change methods in the middle of a writing marathon, I think I need to develop an outline of Day before I go farther with it. Good thing I have Key as a backup, but if I encounter a rough stretch with that, I may pull up a backup backup short story I want to write about Ollie from Key and try that one again.

OK, now that you've suffered through a long paragraph about writing and stories you haven't read, here's your reward. Today Eugene got an offer from the AARP. Yes, that is the American Association of Retired People. Their letter said he was eligible to join with full benefits, and they even included a membership card. For the record, he's a few months younger than I am, and I'm not getting these offers. Should I be miffed at the omission or happy? And if the AARP gives him permission to retire now, can he take money penalty-free from his IRA? For some reason, I highly doubt that.

OK, I think I should try that outline before I go to bed. Tomorrow will be another day and another opportunity to blog.


makoiyi said...

What are your instincts screaming at you?

I'm using Rivers as an example. I'm not changing the basic storyline, because, as I've said before, my first drafts are often the most vivid. But, I could see without being told that I wasn't focussing enough on what mattered. To achieve that I am now writing the story with two distinct threads and intermingling them. I am not changing the story. I started off having Dean just be part of the crew and having them fire at Icarus, Icarus crash and then Somerset crash and Dean being left on his lonesome to be rescued by the aliens. Now. That isn't working. He needs to remain who he is -the Legate - but I am going to have Kate stay with Haen. But the story mingles again at the same point it does now. What I've got after 15 is a load of crap. I keep looking at it and thinking, no way can I post this, and I might not. I might just start again, because my mind is full of the changes.

What have my probs got to do with yours? Not alot -grin- well, actually they do. I completely stopped writing for other people, and, oh joy. Much as I appreciate reviews they can sometimes send you down the wrong track because different individuals want different things/identify with one character etc who they then want more of.

And I do believe that comment about what a reviewer picks out is right. If something distracts a reader there is something wrong, whether it is a word, continuity or an unanswered question. One thing I've learned - you don't have to explain everything, but you've darned well got to have an answer for it.

I cut too much out of the latest version of Rivers leaving people going huh, well the huh part drove me up the wall, but that's another story... coughs and clears throat ..why did I do that? In the interest of brevity. That's bollocks. I've found already by concentrating the two threads I've already cut down the wordage. I'm focussing on what matters.

Follow your instincts and tell the story how you want to tell it. If I think it's cuckoo I'll tell you, but don't try and change it into something else.

And, yes, I would outline and diagram. The diagramming clearly shows you the balance of a piece. I did that with Rivers scene by scene, so it was easy to see that Haen disappeared for 7 chapters, where i switched pov too many times etc. It also firmly anchors in your head 'what is going on'. I know I'm no expert, but these are things that have helped me clarify stuff.


Sandra said...

Hi Sue,

Well, my instincts are telling me to go back to what I had before I started rewriting. I think what I'm going to do is outline it (I didn't get too far last night) and see if I can get some people to look at the overall story. Would you be able to do that for me? Do you want me to comment on your outline in return?

makoiyi said...

I am more than happy to look at your outline, just send it when you've finished.

As for Rivers, yanno, I've been thinking about that. I'm gonna do the marathon, but it will probably be more editing than rewriting. As yet. I'm gonna need some serious nitting soon, so perhaps I might just start again, after the marathon. We'll see.

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