Monday, May 25, 2009

Status -- May 25, 2009

Made good headway over the long weekend. I had a six-chapter sequence that dragged (“The Crumble”). Thought I could put some Band-Aids on it, but that did not work out. So, I have spent a little over a month gutting the section, replacing it with more action and drama and writing a slew of new material. I have just finished the new bits and I’m ready to stitch in some parts of the old that I am keeping.

A couple weeks ago, I went through the old chapters and line-by-line decided what to keep, what to cut and what to re-write. I now have a heavily annotated file to work from to bring things back to the main plot line.

What in this is useful for other writers? Well, I suggest reading your copy in print. It looks different, it reads different. It helped me see some problems, and some strengths in the parts I was reading and it also fueled some good brainstorming on the characters and the world. For me at least, I read hard-copy more like a read books...I will skim spots, I will get drawn in at others and I won’t be as tempted to edit each line and paragraph as I go along.

In reading hardcopy I use simple marks and only take longer notes at chapter breaks. I use a “+” for good pages, a squiggle “~~” for bad pages, “CC” for continuity check if I think I’ve contradicted myself and “OOC” if the characters are behaving or speaking out of character. I will also squiggle or circle words or phrases that need work, but I won’t rework them in hardcopy.

For this revision, I also x’ed out parts to be cut, and used “A” for adapt (as in take this part and rework to fit the new middle) and “K” for keep as is.

Also sent in the next couple chapters to the writing group here in town. Curious to see what they think.

This puts me about 2/3 through this draft, with 1 more draft and a few weeks of clean up before it is ready for prime time. Not sure that I will get there by August, in fact I suspect it will be later but I will press on none the less.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Rant: Strunk and White -- a blight on the English language

A writing topic I often find myself in arguments about is the merit and validity of the oft-cited reference The Elements of Style. Mandated by high school English teachers everywhere, this is apparently the only grammar reference many writers own.

I hate it. I have always hated it, ever since it first left a foul taste in my mouth my freshman year. Oddly, most writers--well, greater than 51% of the writers I have had this conversation with--adore it. They worship it. They cite it as an authority on grammar. Which it is not, and which it was never intended to be (really--just read White’s introduction).

Like most religious schisms, these discussions ultimately go nowhere. The Strunkians go forth grasping to their chests a dog-eared copy of the worst book ever written on the English language, while the rest of us go on to learn grammar and adopt our own styles.

Anyway, people with grammar expertise far superior to my own have now thoroughly and irrefutably debunked this horrible book. They explain its many grotesqueries and weaknesses eloquently and in great detail so I will refer you to the primary sources rather than trying to paraphrase:

Nuff said.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Status -- May 15, 2009

Still reworking the Crumble section. I had previously believed (back in March) this section would be a snap to revise...just needing a simple clean up of a couple chapters. However, I have been beating on this for over a month and it has turned into a total re-write with two new major characters and a completely different plot in this section. I am frustrated by the time this is taking, but it is starting to come together with some good suspense, better opportunities to introduce backstory, a menacing view of the villain, and significantly greater jeopardy for one of the protagonists.

Probably another week or two are needed to make all these changes, but this previously weak section is now one of the best sections in the manuscript.

As this new material is rough, it will need a few more clean-up passes before I am satisfied. At least I am starting to feel better about my progress on the novel and the project’s momentum is returning.

In other news... a pile of rejections on short stories have come in (discouraging), but one editor dropped a note that a story had made the first cut (encouraging).

Friday, May 1, 2009

Status - -May 1, 2009

The short story “’56” came out in Fusion Fragment, that is quite exciting. Have a look.

The book is trundling along--still working edits to section 4 (The Crumble). This is the second of three areas that needed to be gutted. I had hoped to get through all of them in April, but it is slow going. This is part of the process I have trouble with--going in a new direction, yet trying to retain the good elements of what is being replaced. It’s not that hard when I sit down and do it, but I feel no drive toward it and other concerns occupy my mind and I endlessly procrastinate.

The latest “done” projection was August, but I’m now about three weeks behind that and it looks like 1-2 weeks more on this section. Frustrating.

The good news is that I’ve gone back to cleaner sections for a mental break, and have found some good writing there. These sections are fun to read and I enjoy doing little edits on them. However, such excursions are really just a form of procrastination and I am trying to focus myself on the task at hand.