Archive for August, 2012

23,333 Words

August 22, 2012

Lots of writers work faster than I do.  Plenty of my Facebook friends will regularly post one or two thousand words a day, and they’ll do this day after day.  In fact, Stephen King thinks people are serious slackers if they don’t get three to five thousand words down. I’m just excited that I’ve finally figured out how all the revelations are going to unroll such that my character is ready to take a serious leap.  It’s so incredibly important that readers believe in these kind of choices.  Everything falls apart if the motivation doesn’t work. I’m thinking of this novel where the protagonist decides to get on a boat.  There was absolutely no good reason for the character to do this except for the fact that the rest of the novel was all about the subsequent journey.  It’s tough to sink deeply into a book when you have the following dialogue with yourself:

Question: Why did the character decide to get into the boat?
Answer:  Because the author needed her to.

22,222 Words

August 18, 2012

In the middle of May, I was about 28,000 words into the Italian Chase Novel and wondering about whether or not I needed to Cut to the Chase.  Were things moving too slowly? Was I adding in too much description? Two weeks later, my agent gave me an answer after she looked at an excerpt and a synopsis: Yes.  Not enough was happening fast enough. There was a lot in the opening chapters that could be trimmed way down.  Well, THAT was a blow because I really was trying to make things lively and exciting while establishing characters and a strong sense of place.  But there was good news as well. My agent loved the characters. I did evoke the settings.  This story could and should be saved.

So what happened? Open-heart surgery. I trimmed off about 7,000 words in two days. Two chapters disappeared in five clicks.  Snick. Clack. Gone.  (Well, they weren’t completely gone because I had carefully saved what I labeled the “ItalianChasePreErin” file just in case I wound up going a little two far. I also had an ItalianChaseScraps file which was growing exponentially.)  I took a slightly more delicate approach to make the other cuts, but I was ruthless. Certain subplots disappeared because my character would be taking a much different path than I’d originally intended.

Then I started moving forward again. This entailed a series of additions and subtractions as I took on scenes that could be saved, but needed substantial modification as I worked them into new situations and settings.   And finally, at long last, I really feel like I’ve got some forward momentum back after a series of interruptions, good and bad. Visits from family. Helping my parents clean out their cabin after a devastating flood. A fabulous writers’ retreat. The funeral of my husband’s aunt, a wonderful lady who left us all too soon. A road trip to the northernmost point in Michigan. But I believe it was Katherine Paterson who said that the same things that keep us from writing also give us something to write about.

Why Characters Can’t Rely on Authority Figures

August 18, 2012

I often tell my writing students that editors are looking for stories where the main character struggles to overcome an obstacle, solve a problem or obtain wisdom.  Certainly the main character can have help from the supporting cast, but there has to be that moment where the main character stands up to the forces of evil whether it’s a dark lord intent on world domination or that mean kid down the block.  In order for that moment to be believable and satisfying, writers need to make sure that the main character can’t apply to some authority figure for help whether it’s the parents, the police or a principal.  If the main character can easily get assistance, the story will come to a quick and less than satisfying end. 

One of the challenges of my Italian chase novel has been to decide why my character has to leave her group and take off on her own.  After all, the risks are pretty high with respect to her high school career.  Why wouldn’t she go to the police or her teachers if the bad guys are closing in? Well, everything changes if the authorities line up behind the bad guys…. 

 

USA Vs. Japan for Gold in Women’s Soccer

August 7, 2012

The gold medal women’s soccer game will be played on Thursday at 12:30 Eastern Time on NBCSN, the NBC Sports Network.  I’m expecting another dynamic game! 

The Canadians and Americans hustled and scrapped their way through the game. Both sides committed fouls, both accidental and tactical, but none of the them were malicious. 

And there was a moment of genuine sportsmanship when an American player was injured and stayed down. The Canadian women had an advantage and the ref was going to let them play on, but the Canadian women kicked the ball out of bounds to stop play.   Once everything was resolved, the Americans sent the ball down toward the Canadian keeper, but did not attempt to make any kind of play on it. So in essense, they were giving it back to the Canadians.  I love seeing that kind of caring and responsibility among opposing players even when a trip to the gold medal game is on the line.