Talking Books

Krissie has gone home and I’m talking to the dogs again, but for five days. we talked books, mostly our work-in-progress books.  We’d read drafts of each other’s books so we knew enough about them to talk about them, and we discussed different problematical aspects of each WiP, arguing over some points (she was right on some, I was right on others, bless Google how did we ever work without it?) and taking apart some ideas.  It was tremendously helpful and now we have to get to final rewrites.

One of the big things for both of us was the Unsympathetic Heroine, and I think it came down to the same problem for both: no vulnerability.  Invulnerable characters have such hard, slick surfaces that it’s hard for readers to attach.  Her character, as she said, is wealthy with a great job and great breasts; my character is surrounded by people who respect her and never has an uncertain moment.  I told Krissie to go for less money. and smaller boobs, and I’m going to have to go with more isolation and uncertainty for Nita, and probably some loneliness, too.  

After that, for both of us, it’s looking at the big picture and the Usual Suspects of Fiction: Central Conflict, Plot Arc Through Acts, Character Development, etc.  And then some little things.  I let things drop in the story so I have to weave them through again (Vinnie is crucial in the beginning and then just disappears, Rab needs at least one more Brilliant Idea, etc.); meanwhile Krissie has to check some historical stuff although she was right about “cruising for a bruising,” they definitely said that in the forties.

One way I’m doing that is by obsessively making tables that trace characters through the acts.   That helps me make sure I haven’t dropped anybody (if I have, I need to either make sure they show up in each act, even if it’s. just to wave, or delete them entirely; sorry about that, Mort).  And after all my obsessing about the team, (yes, I have a table for that, too) it turned out that I do have a five-man band. Okay, it’s a six-man band, but it was nice to see everybody fit into the trope: Nita (mastermind),  Nick (thief), Button (hitter), Max (grifter), Jeo (lancer), and Rab (chick/heart).  I know, Nick’s really more of a lancer, and then Jeo assists him, but this has to be Nita’s book, plus Nick’s so confused for all of Act 3, that Nita has to mastermind.

So it is finally all coming together.  This part of the progress always feels like the August of the book,  the tipping point, the eve of completion, the point when the book just  needs a check (all those tables) and a polish.  All the big problems are identified,  we know how to solve them, and we can see the end of the process rushing toward us, after which, the summer of our disconnect from reality ends and we have to face the cold non-fiction of the publishing business.  

But right now, it’s still August in my mind, and I spent the past week talking books with my best friend. That’s a great end to a summer and to a writing process.

27 thoughts on “Talking Books

  1. Sounds brilliant. Hope it’s all downhill from here.

    I’m just off to see if I can have some fun with my camera. I’ve been feeling blocked, which has been my default feeling about my photography for five years now. But would really like to play today: my holiday’s been rather bumpy so far.

    1. I hope your holiday improves, JaneB, and you get to have fun with your camera.

      My 3-day weekend was rather taken over by sick kittens, so I definitely sympathize with your bumpy…

        1. Yeah, the first three weeks of fostering were mostly bliss. Then mama got mastitis and almost died, and then the kittens got sick. Not so much with the bliss. Or the easy. But I’m grateful that I know how to deal with sick cats, and that they are responding to treatment. It could all have been much worse.

          Of course, now that they’re feeling better, they all rush the door to the upstairs room when I enter and leave, and I have to be careful not to squash anyone. It’s a good thing they’re cute.

  2. It sounds like it was a very productive 5 days! Yay for figuring things out.

    I’m still feeling my way with the protagonist in my new WIP. I think I need to give her more spine.

  3. Jenny, did you expect to be completely rewriting the Nita book before your publishers said they weren’t interested?

    Part of my question is straightforward. Depending on your answer to that, would you consider taking it back to them now?

    I’m off to coastal Maine for a week — a close friend’s daughter is getting married. I’m leaving most of my research at home. I’m going to write. No excuses.

    1. I’m notorious for completely rewriting. My editor used to say she’d send a book back to one writer and get it back with the mistakes fixed but basically the same book. She’d send mine to me and get a completely new book. (This is not always a good thing.). If you give me more time on a book, I tend to go deeper into it. Which means Nina is about in China now.

    1. She’s seven hours away, so she drives down with an empty car, we clean another room in my house, and she drives back with a full car. Win/win. She’s coming back in Nov. but I’m hoping to lure her down sooner with a garage clean-out. There’s some great stuff in there.

  4. The summer/fall transition stage is a great way to frame things. So fab when you’ve got someone whose opinion you trust to bounce ideas around with and gain focus. Sounds like your visit was lucky timing for both of you. Nice:)

  5. My mother used that phrase all the time in the 50s and 60s, although until I just now saw it typed out I never really saw what it meant. (!!) Like so many other phrases from childhood that were just sounds without references. (Such as the awful but ubiquitous “get your cotton-picking hands off my stuff” and its variants. No question but it’s a racist society.)

  6. Hahahaha. “Less money and smaller boobs” – this description ha made me the the perfect Anne Stuart heroine.

  7. I’ve got Act 3 down to 31,000 words. Act Four is right about 15,000. Act One is 34,000 right now.
    Unfortunately Act Two is about 45000 so that’s what I’m going to be doing for the rest of the week. Expect bitching and moaning; I do not like to suffer alone. I’m aiming for 30,000 for that act. I can do this.

    Bitch. Moan.

  8. Such a great post. Interesting, full of good news, and enough bitching and moaning that it means we too can bitch and moan on argh as a safe space. So generous!

    I’ve been thinking about unsympathetic heroines too because of I book I read and commented on last Thursday. What was annoying to me was read differently by someone else (lots of people actually, the book is well reviewed). Actually maybe I was more annoyed than felt her unsympathetic, but my point I guess is reader response is going to be personal. I liked Nita as I’ve read her so far.

  9. Cheers for the friendship! Cheers for books being set straight!

    Our book committee works like you and dear Krissie. We’re friends, and we discuss aplenty and trust each other’s judgement. A book gathering a long-dead horticulturalist’s columns, not much scope for creativity and individual input, you think. You’d be wrong. So proud of almost every aspect – no, strike the “almost” and make that *every* aspect. The committee would approve.

  10. That other writers’ group to which I belong has both written things, and solicited suggestions, though none of us are in position to visit nor exchange the contents of rooms. And as I live in the garage, I am not prepared to offer its contents to anyone. 🙂

    Beth said she had an idea for a SF/Romance that will take place on a water world. The natives have the ability to switch from a merman (merperson) physique to an imitation of human form. The possibilities abound. She was soliciting possible alien names for characters and locations and even the planet.

    I suggested that the native language was likely unpronounceable for most humans, so what mattered was what the outsiders (Terrans/Imperials/Republic) called them was what mattered. Say the system was discovered by Alvin “Chip” Monk, who exercised his rights as discoverer to name the system after one of his eleven daughters, and the planet is therefore Betsy VI, or as spacers like to call it (being a water world), “Betsy Wetsy.” It will turn out that the natives call their world, “Ocean.” Hey, we call ours “Earth.”

    Beth may be talking to me again by October.

    1. I was saw a skit where 2 angels were trying to remember the name of our planet. One called it ear-th as in “ear”+ “th” (like in fifth). This stuck with me and I will often call our planet ear-th.

  11. I went on a hike in the gorge with a friend and sat and looked out at Mt. Hood, so that was great. Exhausting, but great. And then I got the first edits on a romance novel I’m ghostwriting. Pros: money, practice writing from the gut without being too precious, the discipline that comes from having to stick to a set writing schedule, writing a story in my genre and having it actually get published

    Cons: the creeping fear that I’m signing away my best lines to someone else and I’ll never write anything as good ever again

    I’m trying to mentally treat this like grad school/ a training program, and tell myself I have four years to learn as much as I can from this. And then after that I have to cut ties and start writing my own stuff. Not that I’m telling the new employers that.

    1. Never save anything for a later book because that book never comes but better things show up for the next one.

    1. She has great charities up near her for some of it. And some of it she keeps.
      Right now they have an old one room shed/cabin out back that she’s turning into a writing a cabin, so she’s taking anything white I own that I don’t want, and since I have a thing for white furniture, she’s taking carloads down.

      Also I’m behind on my laundry and she takes that with her, too. She’s a good, good friend.

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