Plotting Horse


Rewriting again and again and again
July 10, 2009, 16:56
Filed under: Rewriting | Tags: , , , ,

This is how it is. You think you’re done. You think you’ve done all that you can do. You know there are rough-spots and you do want the best story possible, but you have already been pushed to your furthest limit.  You want to say “I’m DONE!! YAY!” Have a party, send out query letters, try to get published. Start thinking about the next story.

I’ve been working on this novel for 36 months!! Out of these, 10 have been full-time and that’s when the novel has been really written.

I seriously, honestly cannot count how many times I’ve been asked by friends and family when I’m going to have it published. And do I have a publisher yet? It gets a little tough pretending to be helpful in explaining how the publishing industry works (and why I’m not a part of it yet) when I’m seething inside and really want to tell them that it’s none of their business and shut up and I never want to talk to you ever again. Seething, yes ,with anger, yes. But time and again that anger turns into anxiety. It makes me feel like I have worms crawling in my stomach and those little buggers just all want to be a part of a publishing body, and they all think I’m going to fail.

What’s really going on?

I had a talk with one of my beta-readers last night. She had great feedback for me. She sounded exactly like this whispering voice I have in my head that keeps letting me about the worst possible faults in the novel. I liked to think of them as suspicions before. Suspicions that probably only my hyper-critical self could see.

Well, either she looked right into my brain, or my suspicions were correct. I should be happy. Can you feel it? Yeah, I’m not. I have some major problems. I can’t even guess how long of a process it’ll be to fix them.

Problem 1: Point Of View. I have a totally messed up bag of POVs. I don’t know how I managed to write the story like this, but now I have to fix it. I’ve got a first person narrator. She’s telling the story, but I’ve also got chapters that she’s not in that are told in third person omniscient. Like she knows the thoughts of all these other people. I sort of thought that it would work – that it could be a hint that she’s not really to be trusted – she’s making these thoughts up. But readers don’t look at writing quite like that. If a character is thinking something, they think that the character is thinking that thing. Also, if readers figure out that the narrator is lying, they stop trusting her entirely – the whole story could just be a crazy lie! Go figure!

It’s a mess. I’m pretty sure I know what to do though. I need to get out of the other characters’ heads. Pare down thoughts and qualify them through the narrator – so she would say: I’m sure Paul thought that…

Issue: This could distance the reader significantly from the other characters.

Advantages: It would become clear that the narrator is inferring these thoughts – and I could introduce obvious contradictions in actions/dialogue and thoughts. This would strengthen my premise.

Problem 2 (which is all that I can bite off to fit in between my jaws right now): One of the major scenes isn’t believable. The reaction of the protagonist isn’t believable – what she does is not something that she would do. I tried really hard to make her do it, you see. Damn! Ugh! I’m sorry that I’m not going to tell you exactly what the scene is about, but it’s a pivotal scene, and I’m hoping you might get to read a variance one day. I have no idea of how to solve this problem.

Anyway, here is a little tiny excerpt from about the middle of the book.

Tuesday midnight.

When Aster snuck out there was a chill in the air. She locked the backdoor behind her, jabbing the key at the door searching for the keyhole in the dark. It was a full moon, already past midnight a white moon in a haze. She stared at it a moment, its spooky shine reminding her of an underwater pool light. It brought the craziness out, she knew, and she stared at it harder to convince herself that this was impossible; a moment in a celestial cycle – nothing whatever to do with human lives on earth. She felt on her forehead the dew descending and settling almost like a misty rain, and her body shook, bringing a gasp to her lips. She noticed the outline of the tops of the trees, the circle of the backyard projected skyward, darkness all around her, but up to the moon.
The grass blades shone with wet slickness as she huddled along the house and around the corner; she heard a car engine idling, looked up and saw a yellow pool of street light cast on the pavement and a car with its headlights out parked just outside the lit circle on the opposite side. There were white snakes of exhaust dancing from the tailpipe, and the outline of a man in profile in the driver’s seat.



They said Yes!
June 28, 2009, 17:21
Filed under: New job?

IKEA Communications offered me a job!

I will be writing copy for the catalogue and website starting in the middle of August. It seems like it is a fantastic place to work and I am excited about the opportunity.

My husband and I are going ‘home’ to Canada for a visiting vacation in 3 weeks. Then when we get back, I will have to start at my new job. That means I will be busy for the next three weeks. I want to have my manuscript ready to ship out before we leave for Canada. One of my beta-readers has just finished with it and the feedback has been pretty good so far. A lot to correct though. Also, one huge issue, in  that he didn’t pick up on a major reveal. Basically, the whole story changes when the reader realizes what is going on. I’m hoping that my other beta-reader will have cracked it. When I was incorporating the secret behind the story, into the story, I tried to be really careful not to give away too much; I didn’t want to be hitting the reader over the head with it. Well, seems I didn’t even touch him. Ooh, I hope the other b-reader caught it. Otherwise, I think I will have to give the manuscript to a third person for a read-through after I’ve made the corrections. Might be a good idea anyway.

Somehow, getting feedback is nowhere near as scary as I thought!



dream a little dream
June 26, 2009, 10:59
Filed under: Writing

I woke up this morning, deep from a dream.

I seem to be dreaming a lot lately, waking up either suddenly in the middle of action or gradually surfacing to consciousness as the setting fades and slows. There is no particular theme, although horses and riding have been a pleasant recurrence in the past few weeks.

This morning I’m thinking about how dreams are stories. That’s a pretty simple truth, but some people always are asking ‘how do you come up with that stuff?’ about my stories, like they couldn’t possibly conceive anything out of thin air. Well, everyone dreams, hence everyone has the story-making capacity in them. Granted, it’s subconscious. But that’s another thing: writers are always talking about that mysterious muse and that indescribable place they have to go to get their stories. That sounds much less like bullshit if that muse and that place is one thing: the subconscious.

The subconscious

The subconscious

Now, we all hate talking about the subconscious, you’re not the only one; what – after Freud and everything. It’s all so wishy-washy: maybe it’s like this, maybe like that. That subconscious is also quite a hamperer to our lives – always wanting to reveal our true desires to the surroundings, always secretly lusting (that is really just the subconscious though, right?), always making us feel guilty or angry or sad.

Take a look at Adrienne Rich’s poem Diving into the Wreck. It’ll drive you nuts, just like your subconscious. I think this poem is about examining the subconscious (or The Wreck) for information about humanity and existence.

We are, I am, you are
by cowardice or courage
the one who find our way
back to this scene
carrying a knife, a camera
a book of myths
in which
our names do not appear.

Maybe the book of myths is the bible, where there are people connected to god in a way that nobody today is connected to him. Or maybe it’s just a book of the past – the start. Adrienne Rich is a poet, so I will venture to say that at least part of the reason she is down there in the wreck is to get something to write about. Well, alternately maybe the reason she’s a poem writer is because she’s interested in exploring the wreck.

Note: I am still amazed that there are some people in the world who in contrast have absolutely no interest in that prehistoric wreck.

Margaret Atwood in the book Negotiating with the Dead – A writer on Writing talks about how writers are divided people. They have two parts to them, and they do not have much control of at least one of those parts – much like all of us with our brains, divided into conscious and subconscious. The writer often doesn’t know where the writing came from – Browning’s impulse to write Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came for example. Atwood also talks about how she thinks writing is motivated by a fear and a fascination with mortality – and so, the place the writer has to go for his stuff is as close to death as possible.

And what access point do we really have that might be close to death? In my opinion, we have sleep. It is black, we are gone, will we wake again? When we sleep we are controlled by the subconscious and presto – that is our gateway. Get the subconscious and you’ve got it all!

They do like to make it sound so hoity-toity though, them writers, don’t they? Like it’s so profound and deep. Like writers know everything and have the most dangerous job in the world. But really, it’s just the subconscious, that squishy underling of consciousness whose neural pathways we cannot thread. It’s just, perhaps, the thing that connects us to humanity via the collective unconsciousness (Jung: it is the product of ancestral experience and contains such concepts as science, religion and morality) and it just creates patterns in life and makes us notice particular things and learn the thing we most needed to learn.

Also, it makes love, right? (Not physically. I do that.)

What have you dreamt about lately?



Hrmmm, I have a query.
June 24, 2009, 09:56
Filed under: The Query Letter, Uncategorized

Having my manuscript at the beta readers, I am working on a query letter. This because I am not to worry too much about what thoughts my story might be conjuring up in my two readers, as this could very well cause me to become a psychotic lunatic. Or just supremely paranoid, or heavily depressed. So, I have decided to ignore the whole thing and pretend the story is pretty much ready to ship out. Hence the query letter.

Although, I can now say that I am happy to have started in good time. I’ve never written one before (gasp! First novel? And never written a query letter? Does that mean, never have sent anything out to try for publication?) (YES!! This is exactly what it means! Please just wish me luck!) and so it is all new to me.

A query letter is a professional letter to an agent about the work and the author. It should contain these things:

  1. agent name
  2. genre of work
  3. suck up to the agent/presentation of knowledge about agent. (Don’t ask me why this seems to be necessary! I think the guise is something like: ‘my book is just like all the other books you represent, so please oh please dear god take me on… It wouldn’t be any work for you, hardly. Please. Please!’ – Sure, agents are busy. But we are busy too! I don’t have time to read even 1 book that each agent has published. Much less do I have the money to go buy these books, because of course I’ll just look ridiculous if the books are so successful that they are in the library! I must be a humble little worker bee. Note: I may be entering this whole business from the wrong angle. Yes, suddenly I’m starting to suspect that I will need an attitude adjustment at some point before landing an agent. I’ve never been known to keep a secret, and I’m sure I would have no qualms with telling said agent about all the issues of his business. He/she might not like that. Depends how good the book is, I guess.)
  4. Title of work
  5. word count
  6. the story – not a plot outline, but a ‘grabber’ like on dust jackets. Sandra is a working mother, she suspects her next door neighbour may have murdered someone. When Sandra breaks into her apartment she finds something very intriguing…
  7. Info about me. There’s not much. I’m hoping to land this copy writing job at IKEA, as that would give me one more line. But basically, this info is ONLY to tell the agent if you have already sold other work – that you were successful and sold many copies and got fabulous reviews.
  8. Your name.
  9. Some agencies like a few sample pages, while others will vehemently throw  your query in the trash if they find anything but a single page and a SASE in the envelope. (SASE – self addressed stamped envelope). I’m sending snail mail because otherwise I will never get any rejections back! Sadly, I will need rejections to read to believe that the agent has actually received my query and worked out what it is. Is that some sort of deformed confidence – that I would be more likely to believe that the query was caught in spam rather than in the agent’s grease trap? So, check the agencies website to see if they want sample pages. 

I’ve already got a list of eight agencies, that I will be starting with.

Next is… All the other stuff.

I’ll get back to you with the ins and outs.



Well Now.
June 3, 2009, 10:10
Filed under: New job?

She said and sat back, grinning mightily. Next week I have an interview with the fine folks at IKEA. Wish me luck and professionalism!



My fictional demise
June 1, 2009, 17:03
Filed under: New job?

I have been busy writing a copy test for IKEA because they have an opening for a junior copywriter. A good friend of mine works there as a copy writer and she encouraged me to send my resume with cover-letter.

joke ikea job interview

joke ikea job interview

This would be a really fun job for me, so I’m hoping it works out!

On to other news! My plan was to hand over my novel manuscript to 2 readers this weekend. Surprise – I didn’t have time to do the final read through! Now the moment of my fictional demise will have to wait a few days. Yes, I am nervous, of course.  However, I am also 100% committed to making my book the best it can be! At this point that means that I have to get the input of other people.

I will let you know how it goes… If anyone else has gone through this process and you want to share, please do! Did anything your critics said surprise you? Are you still friends? Were you totally defeated or were you excited to move on and make the changes needed?



((3-More-Or-Less Recommendations in-1))
May 19, 2009, 22:22
Filed under: Other Books

Warning: long post ahead! Maybe return tomorrow to read what you will get bored of today? Pretty please.

Update: I finished Enduring Love by Ian McEwan. I heartily recommend it! The plot really kept me reading – and I like keeping reading,* even if it isn’t purely for the words. The author can be long-winded, and frankly, his words are too long… It’s just that I don’t have a post-secomendary edumacation… I find it boring! (Uh -I’m just trying to be funny – Ian McEwan is a very talented man and if you ever get the chance, please don’t compare/contrast the two of us.)

Go!

Go!

On with the plot! I was so impressed (in contrast with the other McEwan novels I’ve read) with his get-out-the-gate-and-go plot. There’s an air balloon accident right at the start, and then it’s just go go go. I was really so impressed that his technique could have evolved or changed so drastically, that you can imagine my disappointment when I reached the end and there was an appendix, which documented that basically the entire story is real! The main plot is not a plot at all! I don’t mind when writers borrow from real life, in fact I like it, but come on – say it in the beginning, or improve upon the story. He only invented the secondary plot lines. Nice, but still. He just got me all excited and then rolled over and fell asleep.

Let me re-iterate: This is a good book!

Recently I have also read a non-fiction book by Haruki Murakami called What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. He is a Japanese writer, of fiction mostly; he is also a marathon runner and a triathlon-ist(?), the book is about running and somewhat about writing novels. I will here admit that I think I am prejudiced against this author because he is Japanese. I just don’t like the baldness, or type of simplicity, that I believe is an Asian trait. I may just have to read a lot more Asian authors to develop this part of my literary palate…

A few things interested me: his focus on endurance, both in running and in writing. It was nice to get a clear discussion of the physical aspects of sitting down and writing fiction. You have to train your ability to focus. It is draining. It is difficult. You must train. This is my new mantra.

Also, Murakami talks about why he started writing novels (he owned and ran a jazz bar before becoming a novelist) and it is fairly bizarre, to me. He says one day he thought, “I could try writing a novel”, he never had any ambitions to be a novelist. Okay, that I don’t get. There is no explanation, no discussion of what it is about writing or about life that makes him want to to do it. This does not resonate. Soon I will write a post about why I write – and it’ll be more in-depth, but not as weird.

Finally, there’s a strange section about what happened when Murakami ran a 62 mile ultra-marathon. Wow, I’ll definitely never do that! After 47 miles he says he “passed through” something – he had pushed himself beyond everything else in his life that wasn’t running (even pain) – his entire meaning of life, purpose or whatever you want to call it, became running, in the moment. He says that when he finished the ultra-marathon he was relieved that he had accepted something risky and had the strength to endure it. He felt a knot, that he never knew was there before, loosen. All this is written in an incredibly transcendent way, but then Murakami goes on to describe how he got “runner’s blues” afterwards – a resignation to running – and he has no idea why! He had no more desire to run, but he doesn’t know why. This was just so unbelievable to me, because what he describes to a T is that he ‘beat’ running (which is life/death: everything is life/death), the relief (undoing of the knot) was relief that he could do it! He beat life/death! Now there is no more meaning in his life, there is nothing to fight for! So why should he go on running? He shouldn’t want to, is the answer. But of course, he still needs meaning, so he keeps looking for it in the same old place. Call me doctor armchair.

Magritte, surrealism

Magritte, surrealism

Murakami’s fiction is interesting; he works with magic realism in his plots, and it is very playful. However, if you’re not into people playing with you, you might not like it. Myself? I’m too paranoid and impatient for that. But, I will read more Murakami, for the simple reason that he writes like no one else, so it’s well worth the frustration and bitterness…

*If you like to keep reading too, if you really really do, then check out Stieg Larsson‘s Millenium trilogy. Just don’t buy the all three books at once unless you’re also really into insomnia, wetting the bed and starving (they’re 500+ pages each). The first one is The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo; here I have to assert that it is such a shame that the original title was translated to this boring and nondescript one, from the Swedish Män Som Hatar Kvinnor, which literally translates to ‘Men Who Hate Women’. That is a great title! It is great because it stirs sh*t up; it is suggestive; it is daring. I’m going to leave it at that, otherwise I’ll go on and on and give this blog a new feminist focus.

The second book is called The Girl Who Played with Fire (directly translated – yay! But, again, why oh why would they let the first one be a direct echo?). The third is The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest. Now, again I have to say something because this translation is also bad! The Swedish title is Luftslottet Som Sprängdes, which means something like: ‘The castle in the sky that was blown up’; not elegant, but it could be reworked to mean something similar, atleast.

Here’s the shocker: Stieg Larsson died of a heart attack before the the first novel was even published in Swedish! He was not a part of translating his books! This means that the translators took it upon themselves to change his words! That is sacrilege to a writer.

Anyway, the novels are really entertaining; gruesome, but positive, with lovable characters, if somewhat clicheed. Note: they are not ‘great literature’, but are definitely worthwhile due to themes and entertainment value.

Oh, forgot to tell you – and am too lazy, so here is a summary of the first novel. The second and third are natural sequels.