New blog gives you a few ideas on developing character’s voice. Includes a personality test 🙂 Check it out at Susansantiago1871.com.
Please go to my blog at Susansantiago1871.com to read about revising your rough draft during the first read through.
“If the sleight of hand works, we will not notice a comma or a quotation mark but will translate each instantly into a pause or awareness of voice; we will not focus on the individual letters of a word but extract its sense whole. When the mechanics are incorrectly used, the trick is revealed and the magic fails; the reader’s focus is shifted from the story to it surface. The reader is irritated at the author, and of all the emotions the reader is willing to experience, irritation at the author is not one.” Janet Burroway
What do authors do that rip you out of the magic of the story?
In October of 2010 I sat in a suit jacket, jeans, and scarf on the patio of a bistro that was nestled into a narrow street of Old Quebec that beckoned foot traffic and brimmed with a variety of boutiques. It was lunch time. My husband was attending a conference. My children were back home with my parents. And I sat, enjoying a bowl of french onion soup and drinking a glass of red wine, for lunch, mind you!
A small park butted up to the patio. It was no larger than a small backyard in middle America. I vaguely remember fall decorations dotting the landscape. On the far end a woman with a long gray pony tail played the spoons and tapped her foot on a square piece of wood. The wrinkled man next to hear donned a beret and played his fiddle. The french folk music filled the air and set the mood.
After being romanced by my surroundings and having my spirits lifted by the wine, I was inspired. I pulled the narrow notepad from my purse and removed the cap from the pen. And my story began. I had been pouring over books about the Great Fire and had finally worked up the gumption to apply ass to chair and pen to paper.
As I wrote, I knew it was awful, but I persisted. I’d write a little and take a little soup. Write a little more, sip a little wine. The writing was atrocious! But it felt so good.
Over the last two and a half years I have dabbled with it when I could. I rewrote the beginning ten or twenty pages so they flowed better. The more research I did, the more vivid my story became. I wrote the first 10,000 words and got stuck in revisions. I couldn’t move forward. And I stayed stuck for a long time. I took months away from it.
At last I gave myself permission to write something awful, as long as it was new words. And that is what I have done. I give myself daily permission to write awful, but new words.
I attended my first writer’s conference in November of 2012 and my second a few weeks ago. Every writer I listened to had her own unique process. Susan Bartoletti Campbell writes for 45 minute increments with fifteen minute breaks in between. Linda Sue Park writes two new pages every day. Julia Durango sets her timer for fifteen minutes and types away; she can do anything for fifteen minutes. And I read that Stephen King’s goal is 1000 words every day. My process in still mushy. A timer helps. A quiet house helps. A coffee is good. Something to occupy my anxious jaw is sometimes needed. I have even learned how to make french onion soup and keep some wine in the house just in case. And applying my ass to chair is required.
So at last I have written 62,302 words. 62,302 of some of the most awful words that have ever existed on the page. 22,302 more words than the upper limit for the average middle grade novel. I am telling, not showing. My sentences are passive, not active. I think I lost my plot somewhere in there and I may have too many characters. Plus a slew of other problems I have not yet unsurfaced. But guess what? MY FIRST ROUGH DRAFT EVER IS DONE!
Do I really? That is debatable. And easily. While I did enjoy writing throughout my education, and I have a compulsion for buying journals (and day planners – but that is a different issue altogether!), I admit, I write very little of anything just for the fun of it. I can pretend that if I had all the time in the world, I would journal, and create, and write a thousand words for a picture, and try the 12×12 picture book challenge. But would I? I am definitely objective oriented. And I have started this blog to force me to write and to process what I am learning about writing and myself as a writer. Because like most people, life is pretty busy over here.
So, luckily, I think. I do have a deadline – sort of. By next Friday, the first of February, I am to have my rough draft finished. I am participating in a writer’s conference at the end of the month in which manuscript exchange groups will convene and discuss twenty pages of each writer’s work. The goal is the first ten and last ten, so I will forget that my group is flexible to any twenty pages. And that is due on the first.
So, I have been writing. And most of it is garbage and uninspiring. But I am going to get to the end! I am going to finish this! And I am going to ENJOY IT! Well, I will enjoy it when gets to my standard. I have introduced a few new characters, some enjoyable, some not. Some historical figures, some fictional. Some plot is evolving, a lot of spots I need to further research to help it come to life. I look forward to the rewrite when I can pitch a lot of it and bring it further to life.
Do all writers feel this way when they are starting out? With how much time I have invested in this, I sure hope to get it to a readable level. Publishable? Doubtful. But maybe. For now I must “Just keep writing, writing, writing. Just keep writing, writing. I love to write! Thank you , my daughter, for your love of Finding Nemo. Dory has influenced my life!
I am now about 28,000 words into my rough draft. My goal is to have this cranked out by the end of February. After I wrote the first 14K or so words, it felt like my story had risen and concluded and I hadn’t even gotten to the main event of the story (the Chicago Fire). I had spent a great deal of time rereading and revising these first 14K words and I didn’t feel like I could move forward.
But now I have a deadline! No, nothing to do with a publishing house or agent. Ha! This is my first book , like a first child, there a steep learning curve and you hope you are doing more good than damage! But I am attending a conference in February where we are supposed to have our first ten pages (which I have rewritten at least 20 times) and our LAST TEN PAGES! Good grief! That means in order to get to the last ten I have to write all the stuff in between!
Now I am plugging away. Having a deadline helps. But I realize that while I write I am really focusing on the action and moving my character forward through time to GET TO THE END and as a result, I have really lost all plot. Granted man versus nature is a plot line, but I want more for my main character. I want him to grow from all of this.
So, do I type away, creating the skeleton? Words that I am certain will not still be there in the fifth rewrite? (I am changing my approach to writing! Thanks to Prairie Writer’s Day and Susan Campbell Bartoletti. Intentional plug for attending writing conferences – you don’t know what you don’t know until you learn something new!) Do I forge ahead and see what develops? Though I have a good feeling it will mostly be the events of the fire. Or do I stop to learn more about plot? Redirect already made mistakes? Give my story more to work with and less to change later?
I say forge ahead. My first ten pages hardly resemble what they once were. And I expect that to be true to whatever I write at this juncture. So I might as well fill the coal tender and proceed full steam ahead. Will something organically come from this? Maybe, but probably not. Here is to many weeks of self administered torture. Why did I decide to give writing a shot again? Oh ya, this stay-at-home-mom’s brain needed a challenge. Mission accomplished!
What have you done to tackle plot problems?