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Spring does come

It's gonna be a long road. At 61, I accept that I won't see the end of it, or a return to "the way things were".

Which is all the more reason to remember that every day is precious, I am not unlimited, I must give my best work to the Resistance as best I can, and that means taking a breath, and a walk, and a moment to recognize that there is still beauty and hope in the world.
Gray cat foot standing among early green daffodil spears in the leaf-litter of winter
Graydie and the daffodils. January 30 2017


Crossposted from Dreamwidth, where there are comment count unavailable comments.

Draft 8, 100%

I finished my final draft of Restraint on Thursday and sent it out yesterday to four champion fellow writers willing to read it for structure, pacing, flow, and logic. That's a big, big job.

I expect to get suggestions back for further small changes, and of course I spotted typos the instant I hit the send button. I could undoubtedly still shave a few words for style, or add a sentence here or there to fill out a minor plot point, but the novel--this novel--is finished. Any big changes at this point would be making it into a different novel.

It's a little weird, cleaning up all the files, closing all the research tabs, shutting down the gigantic spreadsheet called "Engineering Restraint" after more than two years of rewrites. The prospect of starting a new project is daunting.

But I'm starting. I'm thinking about the new political situation, and how it's my responsibility to write for the Resistance in some way. Not a dystopian Hunger-Games-ish thing--that's not who I am as a writer--but somehow a weaving of resistance into the fabric of the historical novel I'm already researching.

Crossposted from Dreamwidth, where there are comment count unavailable comments.

My homemade MFA in creative writing

Happy New Year to the few, the strong, the loyal who are still here at Dreamwidth.

2016, like 2015, has been about my homemade MFA program in creative writing. My "thesis"--which was due on December 31st and should be done this week--is a publishable final draft of Restraint. I expect 2017 to be about writing, too.

My program of study has revolved primarily around story structure and editing. As I approach the finish line, here's a roundup of the changes my studies have wrought:
  • Word count: Fanfic 230,000, Profic 145,000.
  • Character names changed: 15
  • Characters cut: 2
  • Subplots cut: also 2
  • Subplots added: 1
  • Scenes cut: I've lost track. A lot.
  • Scenes added: about 10
  • Average sentence length: Fanfic 16 words, Profic 14 words
  • Reading ease score: Fanfic 69, Profic 72 (higher is easier)
  • Number of drafts to get here: 8
Here's a rough and improvised heat map of the restructured novel, scene by scene. Green bars are scenes that end positive; red, negative. Height of bar approximates scene intensity:
a bar graph with green bars rising above the centerline and red bars descending below it, representing scene-by-scene valence shifts in the novel Restraint


Three fellow writers have volunteered to read and comment on the final draft. Assuming they find no major failings, I'll polish it up and start sending it out in March.

In other writing news, I'm taking Shawn Coyne's Story Grid Workshop in New York City in February. It'll be three days with the story structure master and 25 other writers who are ready to go pro. Since Restraint will be finished by then, I'll be applying what I learn there--and everything I've learned in my Homemade MFA Program--to my next novel, which is currently in the proto-outline stage.

Crossposted from Dreamwidth, where there are comment count unavailable comments.

Account renewal

Even though I don't come here very often anymore, and I don't know why that is*, I just renewed my paid account. I also don't know why that is.

I think it's the hope that someday, the warm community spirit of more-than-140-characters will come back to me, and to this place. It seems worth the thirty-five bucks to hang on to that hope for another year.

And I just saw this, which reminded me about my account expiry notice:



*it's at least in part, I suppose, because embedding other media here seems anachronistically iffy.

Crossposted from Dreamwidth, where there are comment count unavailable comments.

On a lighter note

When you turn 60, joke-getting-old cards actually become funny. Who knew?

This one was from my little sister, who's only 58.

birthday card front showing two old ladies in a red car with shiny sunglasses and laughing. One asks Where we headed? and the other says I don't know!

birthday card inside showing same two old ladies. The second one is saying 'I thought you were driving!

Crossposted from Dreamwidth, where there are comment count unavailable comments.

Filing the serial numbers off

The biggest difference, I'm finding, between a novel-length fanfic and a publishable novel isn't that you have to change the characters' names and give them different haircolors (though there is that).

The biggest difference is that you're writing for strangers.

Telling the story to strangersCollapse )

Crossposted from Dreamwidth, where there are comment count unavailable comments.
Robert McKee: Story: Style, Structure, Substance...
Christopher Vogler: The Writer's Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers
Shawn Coyne: The Story Grid: What Good Editors Know
John Yorke: Into the Woods: A Five-Act Journey Into Story
Larry Brooks: Story Physics and Story Engineering and Story Fix Larry Brooks

Lately I've been wooed into the left-brained world of editors and screenwriters writing about story structure. Studying these books (blogs, podcasts, presentations...) has helped me see my work's real flaws.

But because I'm more analytical than creative myself, I'm in danger of over-engineering my novel to fit a Grid, a set of Tent Poles, or a Hero's Journey. It's getting hard to tell whether I'm improving my story or ruining it.

A metaphor keeps springing to mind from a craft I'm more proficient in: sewing.

Crimson velvet and chiffon rufflesCollapse )

Crossposted from Dreamwidth, where there are comment count unavailable comments.
The second meeting of the Super Hardcore Editing Group left me a bit wrung out. The work is intense and so are the people doing it. A lot of brainpower goes into those two hours--so much brainpower, in fact, that I was worthless for anything except Twitter and grocery shopping until six hours had gone by.

We spend little to no time on our prose. Two of our four members don't even have much prose yet. Just outlines. Tent Poles (PDF). We've spent 90% of our meeting time so far digging deep into each other's story summaries, trying to place those poles accurately so that the fabric of the story can be stretched taut over them.

I'm struggling with the middle of my novel. Apparently this is a common problem. The beginning of a story tends to be clear in a first draft and not that hard to spiff up in further drafts. The final act is typically pretty clear too--it's often obvious from the very moment Inspiration plants the story seed in your mind.

But my middle 50%--that is, everything between my First Plot Point (the event that introduces my conflict and drives my protagonists on their path) and the Second Plot Point (the last bit of new information, which drives the story to resolution) is a complete rat's nest tangle of loose ends, extra characters, scenes with no arc or direction...a mess.

A roadmap out of the mess is beginning to emerge thanks to the Sheggers. But boy does my brain hurt.

Crossposted from Dreamwidth, where there are comment count unavailable comments.

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