Archive for the ‘Italian Chase Novel’ Category

34343 Words

November 4, 2012

While I’m not participating in the NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, I am tapping into some of its energy.  Instead of polishing words and phrases, I’m only taking them to a certain level before moving on.  I have dreams of wrapping up a draft for my high school and college-age beta testers by Christmas.  It’s been so helpful to have pictures from our trip to Italy.  I’d been able to work off of old photos from when we used to live there as well as images from the net, but some of the shots I needed were rather specialized: gates, train tracks and bus stops. 

Gaps provide opportunities

It is forbidden to cross the train tracks.


Escape from Venice!

September 17, 2012

I am pleased and proud to announce that my main character managed to escape from Venice! My character and I spent a lot of time there–far more time that I’d planned–due to my midcourse correction in plotting.

Now I have to say that I really enjoyed researching and writing about Venice. I planned the first and second chase scenes with some help from Google Maps.  For the set design, I spent a lot of time poking through the corners of the Pensione Accademia and the Ristorante San Trovaso.   I also did a lot of photo research on vaporettos and water taxis as I planned for an escape.

The Courtyard from the Pensione Accademia. Several important scenes are set here. What a stunning place with tons of character. I’m hoping to visit.

Does working from websites and photos help? Oh, yes. I’ve been getting a good response on my description from my normal critique groups and from my assigned group at one of Darcy Pattison’s revision retreats. This technique of studying photos ensured that I could insert plenty of detail in order to design my description.  Now I can’t say that my readers saw the picture above, but they might have generated something similar.

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…. 


Cut to the Chase

May 20, 2012

I’ve finished one chase scene in my Italian chase novel, and I’m in the middle of working on another one.  I’m finding that one of the challenges is deciding when it’s time to cut to the chase.  How much space should I dedicate to a description of the Scrovegni Chapel, the Basilica Palladiana or the Grand Canal?  Establishing a sense of place is important; establishing characters is even more important.  But how much is enough? How much is too much?  I always rely on feedback to help me figure out things like this.  But this time around, I have a number of friends who are enjoying the scenery, but they’re not sure whether I’m advancing the action quickly enough for readers who might not have the same level of interest.

Back to Blogging

April 1, 2012

Believe it or not, I’ve missed my little soapbox.  Every once in a while I would find myself thinking that it would be nice to pull together a nice little rant on some topic or other.  But then I’d think about my stack of undone student assignments.  I know how hard it can be to wait for feedback, so I try to avoid making them wait any longer than I have to.  And then there was the siren call of Venice for my Italian chase novel.  I was really struggling with my first chase scene along the canals of Venice. Not that I was suffering. After all, I was busy checking out bird’s eye and ground level views of Venice courtesy of Google Maps.  This is such a great tool and time-waster all rolled into one. 

I’m also keeping copies of Rick Steves’ Italy and Art for Dummies  within an armslength of my computer. These books were invaluable when it came to deciding on what to visit when my family lived in Europe. 

I remember wrinkling my nose when my husband picked up the Dummies book until I saw it was by Thomas Hoving, the former director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. He definitely made art interesting and accessible.   And now that I think about it, I wouldn’t be writing this novel in this way without the  perspective he offered on one of his favorite artists, an artist who should be better known….

Taking a Break

January 5, 2012

I do intend to get back to blogging.  If nothing else, it’s served as a great project diary.  But my husband and I are going to be moving soon.  I’m going to have to dedicate almost all my time to packing, sorting and cleaning and unpacking for the next month or so.  But I’m hoping to steal a few minutes here and there for my novel.

The Google Map of Venice has been particularly useful as I plan various incidents for my Italian Chase Novel.

Meditating on Scenes and Characters

December 20, 2011

There’s something to be said for prolonged meditation on a scene.  As my husband and I have been hunting for houses and preparing our house to go on the market, I haven’t had a lot of time for my own writing.  So today I sat down for forty-five minutes and popped out about 400 words.  I still need to add in description in order to make the scene three-dimensional, but that will mean studying Palladian architercture in Vicenza from my photo albums, Flicker and Google images.  That’s fun research when your plot demands it!


Characters Who Are Too Dumb to Live

August 22, 2011

As I might have mentioned before, one of the tricky things about writing in the suspense/mystery/thriller genre is ensuring that your characters aren’t too dumb to live.  There has to be a reason for them to keep their deadly secrets or roam through dangerous places.  In fact, there was one series of books by a mystery writer that I finally had to give up on because I couldn’t believe that the main character would keep endangering herself with no good reason whereas she had a serious and deeply personal reason to do this in the first two novels.

Today, I had a mini-breakthrough for my character. Since she was supposed to know quite a bit about art, at least for a high school student, she needed to consider an alternative. I didn’t have the first idea of how to slip it in until I was living in the moment with her. Bang.  There it was at what Jack Sparrow would call “the opportune moment.”

I have found that a lot of logical problems will sort themselves out when you get to them as long as you’re conscious of them and let the backbrain work.