Pacing: I Might Have Been Wrong

I’ve been working on cutting the first act of Lavender (too slow) and dropping in and out of reading The Thursday Murder Club, which has been illuminating.

The thing about The Thursday Murder Club is the pacing. It’s slow, but measured, releasing information while reveling in character. The point of view shifts not just from character to character but from first to third limited to third omniscient, which should annoy me because it slows the pacing and creates distance. But it also means that you can drop out any time and then rejoin and find something really fun to read without forgetting the plot, or at least any part of the plot that you care about.

Which made me think about pacing in a different way. My take has always been “as fast as possible” which I constantly fail at in the beginnings of my novels. But The Thursday Murder Club has me reconsidering because it’s such a pleasant murder mystery. I don’t care who killed Tony Curran, I don’t even care if he, she, or they is caught. I just want to read about all these people manipulating each other over lemon drizzle. It’s restful

Which is not the same as boring or dragging which is what Lavender’s first act does. Continue reading

Revising Scene: Nita’s First Scene AGAIN

I started Nita in 2016 (I think) and there’s a page in the Works in Progress menu here that shows six revisions of the first scene, one for each year from 2016 to 2021. (Don’t read all six. If you’re curious read the first and last one, reading all six will make you hate the book.) So now it’s 2022 and this is the last damn time I’m doing this because it really does get to the point where I’m washing garbage.

So here’s my method for revising scene.

I do not do this for every scene in the book. It would make me insane. But there are two times I need this kind of analysis. One is for a scene that just is not working but that I know I can’t cut. Like the first scene in the book that introduces the protagonist. The other is for a major scene, a turning point, that has to be absolutely precise in what it’s doing. Like the first scene in the book that introduces the protagonist. So here we are, using the “analyzing a scene by beats” method to fix the first scene in the book that introduces the protagonist. Continue reading

Revising with a Plan

So I got my part of Act One done on Rest In Pink, and now I’m looking back at Lavender. In particular at the Act One there which is sloooooooooow. The first act of Pink is 35,321, which is also too long, but this is rough draft, so close enough for now. The finished Lavender Act One? 38,579. Attention must be paid.

A quick look down the scene list with the scene word counts pretty much shows me that Bob is not the problem. Bob’s writing is compact, almost terse. No, I’m the problem. Five thousand words out of my stuff, not his.

So the first thing to do is update the scene list with word counts of the scenes. That’ll show me where I lost my grip. And sure enough there are four scenes where I went over 2500 words. That’s not a magic number for scenes, but for me that’s where readers get tied of reading.

But it’s not just word count. Bob is doing the heavy lifting on the mystery so I’m doing the romance. And to make that work, I need Liz and Vince together as often as possible. And there are six scenes in Act One where they’re together, sometimes only in passing. Three scenes when they’re together for the whole time and focused on each other. How many scenes are there in Act One? Twenty-two. Three scenes out of twenty-two to sell my romance. No.

But there’s also the story to consider. There are a lot of subplots here and Liz’s romance plot interacts with Vince’s mystery plot; I can’t just jettison everything but Liz and Vince (tempting, but no).

So to figure out how to fix this, I need to condense what I’ve written down into sections/scene sequences.

So Scene Sequences for Lavender’s Blue, Act One. It reads like a synopsis but there are no spoilers beyond the first act.

Continue reading

This is a Good Book Thursday, April 21, 2022

I keep going outside and thinking, “Wow, it’s really warm now, spring came early.” Then I realize it’s April and spring is right on time. Yes, we’re a third of the way through 2022. Remember when we thought nothing could be as bad as 2021? Good thing there are good books to read. I’ve just started David Chang’s Cooking at Home Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying About Recipes (And Love My Microwave) and I love it. It’s a non-recipe cookbook and very laidback and free and non-judgmental and I need all of that right now.

What are you reading that you need right now?

Revision Ramble: Act One

You know, it’s a miracle anybody ever finishes a book. Somebody once said that novels aren’t finished, they’re abandoned, and that’s so true. I would have published this one two years ago, but since it was rejected I’ve been rewriting it ever since. It really needed rewriting, too. No wonder it got rejected.

• Here’s a big problem: I know everything that happens in this story. That means if there’s something that’s not clear, I can explain just fine, so why put it on the page? Because it’s not clear to the reader, you dumbass (that’s directed at me, not you). I’m going through Act One, which is that first stretch of story when the reader knows nothing, and thinking, “You know, if I didn’t know what was going on here, I’d be really confused.” It’s not that I have to explain things, it’s that I have to put things on the page so the readers can figure it out if they want to. Clues. Foreshadowing. The layering that means when they read the book again, they’ll think, “OH, it was right there all the time.” That stuff. Once I’m out of Act One it’s not so bad because the foundation is in place, but Act One . . . ARGH.

• Someone asked how to revise for snark. You really can’t, snark comes from character. Nick doesn’t snark, that’s not how he thinks. Nita does, but it comes from anger–make the joke, don’t kill anybody. (Yeah, she’s a lot like Agnes.). Rab’s too innocent to snark. Jeo can but he’s mostly too polite. Keres is all snark. So is Max. Button is stealth snark, unleashing it mostly on Max, whom she also shoots, basically the same action. So when I said revise for snark, I was wrong. What I need to revise for is juice on the page, the stuff that makes the reader turn the damn page. Where’s the excitement in this scene? If it’s two people just exchanging info, there is no excitement. Where’s the conflict? What’s at stake? Where’s the sizzle? What makes this scene fun even if it’s so sad the reader is sobbing? Where’s the reader investment, why do they care about what’s happening? Yes, every damn scene.

It’s a miracle I ever finish a book.

• I have one scene that I use “emotions” or “emotional” five times. I’ve been writing this sucker for years and I never caught that before. It’s easy to catch in other people’s work–I caught Krissie repeating a couple of times which never happens because she’s a pro (“He has to stop growling,” I said; never ask me to beta, I’m obnoxious), but when it’s your own stuff, after the fifty-sixth revision, it’s hard to actually reread the thing. If it’s just a copy edit, you can read it backward, sentence by sentence, so you’re just looking at sentence structure, but I’d rather be dragged through a hedge backward than read this backward. But look at this:

Emotion. That was new.
• “The guy has no emotions, he’s like a machine.” Except today, Nick was having emotions.
• He looked up at Nick’s face and saw the exasperation plain there, more emotion than the dead guy had ever shown before.
Emotions, he thought. Big ones. What happened to you on Earth, Nick?

That’s not just in the same scene, that’s in the same seven pages in the same scene. How did I miss that? I fixed it, but still.

• Then there’s the “I just have to get them from Point A to Point B” problem. Nita meets Button and fights with Jason, Nick talks to Rab and Vinnie, that’s fine (although I had to shorten it), because it’s our protagonists (well, protagonist and love interest) in conflict setting up the meet. Then there’s Nita meeting Nick and drinking scupper, that’s all action and directly romance/cute meet (well, not that cute, but you know). Then Nita goes home to a home invasion and Nick goes upstairs and they have suspicions about each other and decide to look into each other. That last bit is short because I cut the hell out of it, so that’s okay. Then next morning Nita goes to breakfast at the diner and Nick joins her and the relationship starts. And then , , , oh, dear god, then they go to work separately, Nita’s ex shows up with a new suspicious partner, Nick gets a new shirt and finds out stuff at the historical society, Nita hits the bar and the shirt shop to ask questions about Nick, Nick goes to the B&B and Motel Styx to investigate his lost agents, Nita goes to the B&B to talk to Astoria and then to Mr.Crome, and then she gets called to Motel Styx and Nick goes to Mr. Crome and gets yanked back to Hell . . .

You see the problem. First of all that’s a ton of non-sizzling prose. Second, it’s a ton of prose with no Nick and Nita together (say it with me, this is a romance). Third, although it’s full of information I want the reader to know, it has no information the reader wants to know. It’s the Bermuda Triangle of fiction: you have to go through it to get to the rest of the story, but your story is going to die stranded there. That was my fix-it yesterday. Well, I also took out a lot of “emotion” from the repetition scene and I fixed some clarity gaps in the smite scene, but mostly it was trying to get a wind blowing in Part Four of Act One, aka The Bermuda Dull Spot. Part five and six move, but none of that matters if the reader DNFs because Part Four just sits there in the doldrums like a lump, lecturing to them.

• The good news is that One, Two, and Three weren’t bad, I’d already chopped the hell out of them, and now they feel thin to me because of the chopping. Still, I don’t think I lost anything important.

• Those of you who’ve read Act One in all its multiple versions, here’s the outline of the scene sequences:

One: Character Intro: Meet Nita (and Button and Jason and Frank), meet Nick (and Rab and Jeo and Bella, foreshadow Max). Set-up, create expectation of Meet.
Two: The Meet (Assumption): Nick and Nita meet, Nita gets drunk on scupper which humans don’t do, Nick orders her investigated.
Three: Aftermath: Nita and Button argue about Nick, Nita has a home invasion.
Four: First Move (Attraction): Nita and Nick have breakfast, argue about investigation, Bermuda Triangle.
Five: Turning Points to Change Everything: Nick goes to Hell, Nita goes to Motel Styx, awful realizations for both, turning points.
Six: Second Move: Beginning of Partnership: Nita and Nick try to save Forcas, fight Richiel, Nita knows the supernatural is real (Big Turning Point for Our Protagonist).

So that’s the direction of Act One: intro the lovers and get them attracted to each other while kicking their worlds out from under them so they have to grab for each other to survive.

• Act Two: They fall in love and make real progress in solving all the mysteries and their problems until it all blows up at the end turning point. This is the mess I have to focus on now, this act is the traditional love story, but at least that will be fun.Plus, I have plenty of Diet Coke and frozen pizza, and I am not afraid.

Yes, I know this post has no organization. It’s a ramble. You know those are always a mess. I can revise posts or I can revise novels, people, and I’m picking a lane.

Okay, I’m Back

I’m feeling very pro-active because I am finally back to work. I’ve been checked out for awhile, and that’s not good, but I think I’ve got myself in gear again. I’m almost finished with the Act One rewrite of Nita and I am never rewriting it again. I don’t even care if it’s lousy (it’s not) I’m not looking at this again. There’s just this one section (Part 4) that needs tightened because it’s just information about what they did all day, and the info is important but they’re not together and that’s death in a romance novel, so I just have to sharpen it so I don’t lose any readers and make sure the parallels are strong. Make it faster. More snark. It’s 5000 words, I can revise that in an hour or two. Continue reading

So Nita Act One

Writing is hard.

Now that my whine is out of the way, I really thought when I sent the severely rewritten Act One to Krissie and Bob that I was done. I knew it was kind of slow, but you know, it’s Act One, so there’s some set-up there . . . .

Nope, it’s slow. I have analyzed this sucker, charted it, looked at conflict boxes, I’m ready to scream. And the horrible thing is, I can hear the wrongness of my rationalization even as I make it: But I need that information.

Readers don’t need information, they need story. Must tattoo that on the inside of my eyelids.

Continue reading

Crusie First Lines, a Critique

I’ve been thinking about first lines, mine in particular (it’s always about me). They’re supposed to be hooks, so intriguing that the reader must keep reading, but I’m less and less likely to agree with that. Keep reading, yes, but not necessarily with the force of a hook (supply your own visuals here).. Mine tend to be too long because, I have just realized, as an author who is against long set-ups, I try to get all of mine in the first sentence. (Yes, I’ve been writing for thirty years and just noticed this.) I have a rule (for myself, not for fiction in general) that the protagonist has to show up in the first line, characterizing herself in thought, spoken word, or action. This can lead to crimes against intro paragraphs if I don’t keep a grip on my ambitions.

For example: Continue reading

HWSWAnswers: Revision, Cliches and Tropes

Cate asked:
Any tips for revising? Right now I read it and fix the parts I don’t like, then my beta reader reads it and I fix the parts that she doesn’t like. Which works good for putting out a finished product that is lacking in bad parts, but seems a little lacking for putting out a finished product that is rich in good parts.

I trust my antenna for revising. If something bothers me, like the 707 above, it’s wrong. Needs to be fixed. I print out every 25,000 words or so and get the red pen out because it looks different on paper. With this new mss I’m going to print out a good draft, then randomly pick individual pages and line edit those without focusing on story until I do them all. Continue reading