Friday, April 17, 2009

My first major wrinkle in 'Arcane'

There is a rhyme and reason to writing books -- a certain baseline structure you must have to, well, help the reader suspend her disbelief.

There are some books where you can jump right into the story without explanation -- and that's really how you can tell good writing: If the author can fit in all the basics without making the reader feel like she is reading a resume, that's the ticket.

I've reach a point in the writing of my second book, Arcane, where I have now given the reader all of the cursory information she needs to really begin: name, location, personality tidbits and a taste of a back story. We've got intrigue, growing suspense and the hint of a mystery much more epic hiding in the coming chapters.

But, I've reached a wrinkle -- falling victim to a classic new-writer problem: the brain dump. Too much information too fast.

See, I (as a writer) want me (as a reader) to have all my possible questions answered while still leaving room for interpretation. This leads to jagged, branching writing where I take on too many topics all at once. It's also incredibly confusing for me (the reader) to process it all afterward. And the last thing I want to do is read while taking notes -- I gave that up when I left college, thanks.

Dialogue must feel organic -- and organic is messy and jagged and branching. It's haphazard, without rules and tangent-y. But no, I must resist! I need to prune, trim and harness the power of conversations to give only the information I know the reader needs to know.

But please, I can hear you begin, give me some damn context! Siiigh. Fine. But If you steal my idea, I'll hunt you down and make you wish you'd never logged on :)

In the separate realm of Enna, Drew has met up with a motley crew of characters that each have their own talent over a part of Enna. Each power is different and, in some cases, comes from different sources -- either within the person or directly from the magic. This is an important distinction, or, I should say, it will be an important distinction.

So, there are two branches of information here: the individual powers and the difference between the power sources. Back to the organic conversation discussion, the problem distinguishing the two topics is that Drew wants to get all the info she can get while everyone is gathered around and talking. She wants desperately to understand why the hell she's here in Enna and who are the people she's now being asked to trust. She wants to ask the questions -- and, as of right now, does -- while the others are readily willing to give up the answers.

But, is that OK for the reader, too? Will the reader, not being able to quite see Drew's path the way I can, be able to distinguish the details, or will they feel like it's just too much to process all at once? Should I dump all the information on the reader and main character during an intensely curious fire-side chat, or leave it up to each character to show their talents in various situations? Would it be better to have a small description of each up front, then delve deeper into the theory behind how it all works later?

Hmmm .... lots to think about. I believe that the final suggestion is the one I will go with. There is only a certain amount o f information dump that I can handle as a reader, so I'm going to try splitting it up within the next two chapters instead of plopping it too heavy and thick in the current one.

See, writing it out does help! :) Thanks for following me on my little journey. The payoff will come later, when I sign a copy of my published hardcover for each of you. Thanks so, so much.

Keep moving forward ...

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Rivers, waterfalls and other things that flow

The best days are those where the story just flows.

I'm in the middle of Chapter 3 of my new novel, Arcane. I'm still not fully comfortable giving the whole web a free preview, but suffice it to say things are totally awesome.

My girl, Drew, is getting to know some bright new characters at the moment -- and re-meet a few she thought she knew but didn't. Do they have ulterior motives? Of course. Are they what you think? Probably not. :)

Meanwhile, we've got our first glimpse of the enemy of the moment: a set of nasty twins named Evan and Elle. Are they working alone? I'll have to write more to find out!

On the Manas front, nothing new to report. I'm still embarrassed over the horrifically honest critique I got from my friend, Kathy. But, all things happen for a reason, and I've taken her suggestions to heart and learned my lessons for Arcane. Thanks again!

I even took my focus and commitment to Manas to a new level last week by getting fuchsia hightlights in my hair just like Zellie. Now I know why she loves it so much!

I can feel the story bubbling up inside right now, and I can't wait until I have another few moments (or free afternoons) at work to delve back into the alternative realm of Enna.

The best part: Inspiration comes from everywhere! So, watch what you say or do around me for the foreseeable future -- I may just immortalize your words in print one of these days! Agents and NYT Bestseller list, watch out!

On the web site front ... well, I'm sure we'll have it up one of these days :) When it goes live, you're all going to love the design -- sleek, saucy, otherworldly ... oh, it's making me shiver in antici... pation the more I think about it.

Until then, keep moving forward!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Humbling and true.

A dear friend of mine just took the time and care to read the first few pages of what I believed to be my final draft. And, in less than 20 minutes, was able to compile the following laundry list of issues that she referred to as immediate deal-breakers:

-too much passive voice (was)
-POV issues (facial expressions, etc.)
-show - don't tell (don't say "startled" - show raised eyebrows)
-do not start a sentence with the word it - ever! (okay, once or twice per book)
-too much he said, she said - show the reader who is talking
-tighten and eliminate unnecessary words to increase tension
-too many adverbs - use action verbs instead (don't walk slowly - slink)
-no coma needed at the end of dialogue if not followed by he said / she said
-use Times New Roman 12, double-spaced - google standard m/s format

I'm both embarrassed and humbled by her initial observations. Talk about a rough draft and a huge setback.

And, I still love her -- more so now that she was able to point out such specific and general issues with it. Not one of the 4-5 other people who've read the first chapter (not counting the 20+ agents) could break down the actual writing like that.

I guess I do need to realize that I'm not as brilliant as I thought -- which has to be the hardest lesson I've had to learn thus far.

Her words of praise rang a little hollow despite being full of sincerity ... "With that said, you are an amazing writer! Your ideas are great and your characters are interesting! The fact that you can churn out a rough draft in such a short time is truly a testament to your ability and your tenacity. Embrace the editing process and you will be a best selling author!" ... but I do appreciate the sentiment.

Sigh. Back to the drawing board ... or, writing desk. I'm not sure where to go from here, but I can tell you that it will be forward.

She suggested that I join a critique group or writing class. But will I actually have the ability to sign up for something like that? I'm not sure ...