A Change of Scenery

I have a friend, a fantasy writer like myself, who I have known for over ten years.  We finished college together; in fact we met in a writing class; we moved onto the same street somehow, and we see each other occasionally.  I managed to convince her to join my writing group a few months back and she’s been fairly loyal about coming.

Because they split us up for critiques based on how many people there are and how many have brought something, she has not always been in my group.  However, she has enough to see some of the differences when I’ve made changes. After our last meeting, we discussed both our works on the way home.  I made a few comments about things people have said in the past as well as that night and how I’m not sure how to change them because the two characters don’t meet again until the end of the story.  I need the back story to set the whole novel.  She told me that perhaps if she read the entire thing she could give me better suggestions.  So I got her a copy.

Saturday she came to my house and brought the first chapter.  I haven’t read all the notes she made yet but the first thing she said to me was that the story picks up after the first chapter.  This got me thinking again about how to incorporate the back story into this work so the reader understands the relationship between these characters.  The conclusion I came to is I might have to completely change my first chapter.  I might have to take out all the back story, start the chapter later in the scene, and add the back story later.

I haven’t really put flashbacks in my work yet and am not keen on doing it now, so while the notion of changing the first chapter appeals to me, I am still working out how to include the back story without a flashback.  I have a general idea but need to put it into practice first to see if it will work.

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Got questions, Open your mouth

Well after many, many meetings where I took the first three pages of my novel and heard the same things repeatedly, I finally decided to open my mouth and ask a question.  You might be wondering why it took me this long to do it and the reason might be silly.  I thought that the changes I was making to the chapter would solve the problem

While some of it is better from the comments and my editing, obviously not all of it was.  The biggest comments were that the chapter needs to be from one perspective (working on that but apparently need to make it more obvious) and the other has to do with the background I give of the two characters introduced.  I kept being told to add that info later because, while it obviously is important, it’s too much in the beginning.

So my question was how I accomplish this because I actually can’t.  The two characters don’t interact until toward the end of the novel and at that point there is no time to go into this info.  The answer I received pretty much had to do with one of the characters thinking about some of that back-story later in the book but the other not knowing.

This will change the whole story since one character is telling the other much of this to get a shock reaction but somehow I will make it still work.  I’m glad I finally asked though.  It gave me lots to think about though.

Do you have the gall?

While I am editing my work, I am also reading books.  When I write for NaNoWriMo I don’t touch anything except magazines and non-fiction books, and even those I limit.  I have enough which influences my writing; I don’t need it when I am concentrating so hard.  Currently I am reading “A Dance with Dragons” by George RR Martin.  I love his writing, the fantasy world he’s created without using D&D style elements.  But it burns me that he has no regard for heroes’ lives’ and will kill a character off, almost willy nilly.

I can see why he does this, to move his story ahead, but it’s aggravating all the same and makes me dislike the man.  I want to finish the series (whenever he decides it all ends) but during the reading I will lament.

Of course many writers don’t kill of main characters.  Probably because they don’t want to lose their fans who can become enraged over their favorite being gone and thus feeling there is no need to continue reading this person’s work.  Martin, obviously, has no fear of that.  In fact I know many people who joke that you shouldn’t fall in love with ANY character because there is a chance they will not survive long.

It does make me think though, should people have more gall to kill off a character which people love or identify with?  I have to admit I want to do this myself.  I want to have a character which people love (or love to hate I’m not totally sure which) that I take out.

I did not steal this idea from Martin.  I have been thinking about it since I wrote my first draft of my first novel.  Not the one I am editing, but the one which I decided after 32,000 words wasn’t working anymore and was never going to be finished.  I just hadn’t figured out who and why.  I loved the characters too much, even the ones I hate (yes I have my own).  So, this idea is floating around my head and I will figure out who and when at some point.  Until then I will just keep working and see how the story would benefit from this.

Would you have the gall to kill a main and beloved character?

Boring yourself

Last week I spoke about striving for perfection in my novel.  While I am in a way, I also came to realize that I am starting to get bored reading these same few pages over and over to make them better.  Now does that mean I think a potential reader will be bored with the story, no.  But I do see that I need to move on in the story before I decide I don’t like it anymore and want to stop working on it altogether.

I have to admit I never thought I would get to this point.  I mean I love my own characters, even the ones I hate, because I created them; or at least made them my own in the case of some.  So how could I get bored with them?  Well I think it’s because I want to get on with the story and see what comes next.  It is the same way when I read a book.  I want to keep going so I can see what happens to the characters I like, or despise.  The really, really good books make me want to keep reading until I am done in one sitting.  For some books that is not possible and I rue having to stop.

Now some might ask how I can want to get on with the story when I know it.  All I can say is it has been long enough there are some things I forgot and there are some things that need to be changed so the story becomes better.  Also, I have some ideas for my world that I didn’t when I began writing this story and need/want to incorporate them into the novel.

It could be that boring myself is not the correct term but I cannot think of anything else which fits.

Have you ever been working on something and got bored trying to make it better?

Strive for Perfection

As I have been editing the first three pages of my novel I like some of the new things that have come about.  However, it has me thinking, am I striving for perfection in those few pages?

In a way, I think I am.  I want them to be as perfect as they can be.  I also need them to be good so that the reader is engaged enough to continue the story.  So those first few pages are highly vital.

On the other hand, I don’t think I am.  For pretty much the same reason: I need the reader to become engaged in the story and continue reading.

The rest of the story needs to be good as well but the beginning is where you get people so I think those pages require more critical thought and scrutiny.

What about you?  Do you strive for perfection in your entire story?

Go Tell it on a Mountain

You’re a writer right?  Even if you are unpublished you still consider yourself one right?  Well don’t be shy to tell anyone you have a friendly acquaintance with.  No matter the subject you write, unless maybe you write erotica because many people are sensitive to that, don’t feel like they will think less of you.  There will always be those not interested in the genre you write but even those that might not be possible buying customers someday will find it fascinating that you do write and ask questions.  I say tell them because you never know what may come of a simple conversation.

Case in point for me, my neighbor has known for years I write.  When her daughter was in her early high school years she expressed an interest in the same genre as me and we did some exercises together.  Later the daughter quit because compared to my writing, hers was not stellar (her words not mine).  I still encourage her to keep doing it because she will get better the more she does it, so far she hasn’t.  However my neighbor occasionally asks how my writing is coming along and we discuss it for a few minutes.

Yesterday I get a message from her on Facebook; she was speaking with a co-worker of hers about the fact that I have a book completed which needs editing.  The co-worker has a brother in the same state but a few cities away who writes a different, although similar, genre and the co-worker said might be willing to look my novel over and give me some advice for making it better!

This is not something I neither requested nor asked about but due to some simple conversations the chance is there.  So get out there and let everyone know you write because you never know what it might lead to.

Silence is Golden…or is it?

Editing a novel can be a complete pain in the rear.  As the writer you don’t see the glaring and especially the non-glaring errors that others do.  It can make you want to run screaming the other direction when you are told to go back and edit your novel again, because you’ve done it once of course you found all the mistakes the first time around.  If only it were that easy.  In thinking about my own novel and how I don’t want to start editing the second one yet I have come to the conclusion that it is time to try one of the tricks you read in books and hear from people a lot.  I plan to read my novel out loud.

Now if you are like me, you don’t feel comfortable doing this in front of ANYONE.  I want to do it when I am alone so when the obvious to others but not me mistakes come out of my mouth, I will not feel stupid for missing them in the first place.  So I have decided that I will do one chapter per night I am alone.  It may take me a while to get through the whole novel this way, I really don’t know how many chapters I have since I didn’t number them, but I think the benefit will be worth it in the long run.  Some of the chapters are shorter than others so it may end up that some night I read more than one.

I do have another hope in doing this; I hope that I can find what doesn’t work to distinguish some of my characters from another.  I have a feeling I will be surprised at the ones which sound the same.  I think this will also make the novel better.

So I’ll let you know how it goes next week since tomorrow night I will be able to put this in affect.