I’ve received some comments back on my recent submission. I fear the structure I want to work isn’t working. Part of it still could be that I need more to ground the reader in the present moment before I switch to the flashbacks. I definitely can see that. I’ve felt that those bookend scenes have been a little sparse. So, once I flesh them out some more, I might be able to keep the structure I want. But, I’m starting to see that maybe I’m complicating things too much. Maybe linear does work.

Regardless of the structure issues, I’m still getting good reviews for plot and character. So, I feel that the story is fine & keeping readers interested. The bulk of the comments I’m getting are about the structure; so, I know that is what I need to focus in on.

As an experiment, I cut up my draft & rearranged it into a linear timeline. Now, I have 2 versions. I’ll read both & see what I think.

Tomorrow morning I’m meeting one-on-one with one of the members of my writing group. I actually really love her writing & she’s really good at helping me work through writing issues. I sent her my pages today to see what she thought. Her comments on the first couple pages raised the same issues that my class has been raising. So, no big surprises. Thus, the cut & paste for version 2. I’m looking forward to talking to her about it face-to-face.

So, keeping at it.

Advertisements

Currently listening to: Frozen Angels by Zoe Keating

Turned in my second submission this afternoon for my novel writing class. A total of 22 pages. Four chapters. A little short of the goal of 25, but close enough. The first 10 pages were a revision of what I submitted the first time. So, we’ll see if they read any better. I think I smoothed out the transitions which were the major complaint. And I think I’ve worked out the structure for the first part of the novel. Those chapters will open in the present, then flashback for the bulk of the chapter, & then come back to the present at the end of the chapter. Hopefully it’s not too confusing and works. I really hope it works. I really really really hope it works because I’ve grown attached to this structure. I don’t know if I could go back to a totally linear timeline. This structure lets me do so much more setting up of one of the key relationships.

As for the other 12-pages, all new stuff. Well, not entirely new. The plot movement is basically the same as the 1st draft, but there were a few unexpected twists this time around. I’ll have to see if it works out as I go forward.

So, now I wait for comments. And then it’s onto submission #3 in 3 weeks. I need to hit 50-pages for that one. I definitely can’t leave that to the last minute.

Off to twiddle my thumbs. Actually, I need to work on an assignment for the grant writing class I’m taking. A completely different kind of writing, & a tad less fun. But, a good skill to have.

Found this meme here. Of all the memes I’ve done, this is probably the most blog related. So, here I go…

1. Do you write fiction or non-fiction? Or both?

Both. My paying gig is doing newsletter, brochure, and web site writing. And, I should be doing some freelance writing, but I just haven’t gotten around to it. I write fiction for pleasure. I’m not quite ready to verbalize any professional aspirations there. Let me finish this novel & then we’ll talk. (By the way, I’m answering all the following questions based on my fiction writing.)

2. Do you keep a journal or a writing notebook?

Yes. More of a writing notebook than journal these days. But there’s a little bit of both in it. I carry it with me everywhere, just in case I have a spare moment to write & am nowhere near my computer. But more often than not, I need it around because my short-term memory is horrid & if I try and remember some brilliant phrase or idea to write down when I get home, it will be lost.

3. If you write fiction, do you know your characters’ goals, motivations, and conflicts before you start writing or is that something else you discover only after you start writing? Do you find books on plotting useful or harmful?

I have an idea, but I’ve found that much of my characters’ personalities, motivations, etc., only come out once I’ve started writing. It wasn’t until about half-way through my 1st draft that I really could get a handle on my characters’ thoughts and motivations. Even now, going into my 2nd draft, I’m finding that I’m still discovering things about them.

I think plotting books can be helpful, but I wish I’d stayed away from them until I’d really developed my writing practice and my voice. If I had to do it over again, I’d say, stay away from the craft books until you’ve had some time to just write. And when you do get around to reading the plot books, I would recommend reading a how to write a screenplay book. I know it helped me really think about how to frame a scene & pacing.

4. Are you a procrastinator or does the itch to write keep at you until you sit down and work?

Procrastinator. Although, I do have moments where I just feel the need to write. I wish those moments were more common than they are. The good thing is, whether it was the procrastinator-in-me or the itch that got me to sit down, once I do, I tend to stay with it for a good amount of time.

5. Do you write in short bursts of creative energy, or can you sit down and write for hours at a time?

It depends. If I have time, I can write for hours with no problem. If I’m just trying to fit it in, then I can also do a couple hundred words to just make some progress on my WIP.

6. Are you a morning or afternoon writer?

Actually, morning or night, but night more than morning. The only way I can write in the afternoon is if I started in the morning & it’s carrying over into the afternoon. Or, if I’m out at a cafe or something with the intent to use that time to write. My afternoons would be more productive if I could just take a nap. Actually, most of my blog posts tend to be done during the afternoon because it’s the only thing that will keep me awake & seem somewhat productive.

7. Do you write with music/the noise of children/in a cafe or other public setting, or do you need complete silence to concentrate?

Most of the time, music. Instrumental movie soundtracks are the best. Sometimes there are songs that just help me get into a mood or into a scene, & I’ll play that song on repeat while I’m working on it. In essence, it becomes white noise for me.

I can also work in silence. That’s usually a result of the music having stopped & me being in such a zone that I haven’t realized that it’s stopped.

8. Computer or longhand? (or typewriter?)

Computer for the most part. I only do longhand when I’m not near my computer or if I’m just jotting down some notes. But, I have found that if I’m having trouble writing on the computer–you know, a nice case of writer’s block–then switching to a pen & notebook can help clear my head. Just like a change of scenery is good; sometimes a change of method is good.

9. Do you know the ending before you type Chapter One? Or do you let the story evolve as you write?

No. Honestly, I tend to only have my stories plotted out about half-way through. After that, it’s a total & complete freefall.

10. Does what’s selling in the market influence how and what you write?

No. I’ve honestly never given it any thought. I just believe in writing well & having a good final piece that I’m proud of.

11. Editing/Revision – love it or hate it?

Hmmm…jury’s still out on that one. I’ve done professional editing and I don’t mind it. But I will admit, I’m not the best editor of my own work. I have a lot of trouble “killing my darlings.” Once I have a draft of this current WIP ready to edit/revise, I’ll be able to give a more honest answer.

Mood: Unsure

Currently listening to: Sometime Around Midnight by The Airborne Toxic Event (on repeat)

Still sitting here, rereading my last scene, trying to figure out if I’m at the end.

So, when in doubt, & since I’m in doubt, turn to the craft books.

#1: Plot & Structure: Techniques & Exercises for Crafting a Plot That Grips Readers from Start to Finish by James Scott Bell

According to Bell, there are 3 basic endings:

“…(1) the Lead gets his objective, a positive ending; (2) we don’t know if the Lead will get his desire, an ambiguous ending; and (3) the Lead loses his objective, a negative ending.”

At this point my ending would fall under #2. And for an ambiguous ending, he recommends that for it to be good it “causes strong feeling, feels right, and can generate discussion.” I think my current “ending” meets the 2nd & 3rd criteria. As for the 1st, not sure. I think it does. At least for me.

Bell also recommends that as your near the end of your first draft, you should stop and think up 10 alternate endings. Yikes. 10? Well, maybe if I’m still hesitating tomorrow. I guess I’ve already come up with 2. The one I thought I was going to write & the one I just did. Not sure where I would get 8 more. I’ll give this exercise some thought. Definitely a good idea for the 2nd draft.

#2: Fiction Writer’s Workshop by Josip Novakovich

Novakovich writes:

“Give us another look, or angle, or thought, on what has just taken place in your fiction, something that will put it all in perspective.”

I think I’ve done that. He goes on to add:

“When you are about to end a piece, decide which image or thought you want your reader to carry as the last impression…. endings with striking sensory images are often preferable to abstract ones.”

Hmmm…I agree with this. I think I have done this to a certain degree, but I could definitely do more with the sensory image. It’s somewhat there, but could definitely be filled out, beefed up. He also recommends that the writer end while the action is still going on. I would say I’ve done that. My MC has come to an emotional epiphany, but there is still much action going on around her.

Novakovich elaborates on this further when he talks about the Open Ending and how a successful example of this “answers some psychological questions and yet leaves off without resolving the action.” It lets the reader get involved in imagining what came next in terms of the action, but they’re given a sense of what the character’s state-of-mind is now so that they have a better idea of what the character might have actually done. This is definitely where my ending is.

#3: A Writer’s Guide to Fiction by Elizabeth Lyon

Lyon writes:

“One of the most popular endings is the epiphany. This means that the character ‘comes to realize’ something fundamental about self or life. In an illuminating moment, the protagonist gains perspective on his or her life–the past, the struggle of the plot events that they have just finished, and of the potential for the future.”

As I’ve already realized & said, my ending definitely falls in this category. Not so thrilled that it’s one of the most popular types of endings, but what can you do. It is what it is. Lyon suggests ending your story in the same settings where it began. I like this idea, and in the ending I thought I was going to have, that was what I was going to do. While I haven’t done that here, there are parallels between the beginning setting and the ending setting & I can probably further develop the parallels to really tie it together better. She also mentions ending from the point of view of your main character and with “a sense of peace & hope.” I’ve done both. Definitely the former; I guess the latter is subjective.

#4: Your First Novel by Ann Rittenberg & Laura Whitcomb

Rittenberg writes:

“As you finish your first draft, slow down when you get to the last page or two. The words you use to end your story flavor the whole novel…. Bring together all the power and beauty of your storytelling as you say goodbye to your readers. Show them where they’ve been–remind them what it’s all about–and save the best for last.”

Hmmm…well given that this is my first draft & that those 70,000+ words between the beginning & the end are of questionable quality, I do think the end is better than the rest. Some of the lines, maybe even paragraphs, might survive in the 2nd draft. While the exact words of the last sentence aren’t as powerful as I want them to be, for now, I can live with the fact that I’ve come to the place–physically & emotionally–that I need my MC to be at to feel that this is the end of this draft.

#5: Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

Maybe when all is said and done, Lamott says it best. She’s titled her chapter on endings, How Do You Know When You’re Done? And then in the second line of the chapter answers the question.

“You just do.”

I guess I just do.