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
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
HWSWA Question (on the subject of tact): I love how seamless your co-written books are, especially given your different writing methods and also typically different subject matter. I wondered, have you read each other’s independent books, and if so, which are your favourites and why? I think maybe this is a question about how your writing works together, when on the surface it might seem unlikely?
Favorite books of Bob’s: I still love Bodyguard of Lies and there’s an earlier one, Cut-Out, that’s great (we need to talk about that ending, though). And now I need to check out the Will Kane books. Continue reading
Two posts on revising Nita over on HWSWA, first one is up now, second should be up . . . soon. Nothing you all haven’t heard a million times, although the thoughts there are moving me closer to dumping my TV for a white board. I miss my white board.
I am now deep into revisions with the entire book written, which means lots of analysis. Do not do this during discovery drafts, it annoys the Girls.
Basically, I ran the Act Two plot through the analysis wringer five times:
Once to look at the action only.
Once to look at the antagonist conflict.
Once to ramp up the antagonist conflict because it was weak.
Once to look at the romance.
Once to look at the Button/Max foil romance. Continue reading
I’m very happy with Nita’s Act One. It’s 36,000 words which is 3,000 too many, but since it should be 1/3 of the book, that would make the finished book 108,000 words, and that’s within the normal contract requirement of 100,000, give or take 10% either way.
Then there’s Act Two, which is still a freaking mess even after I’ve been working on it. It’s been awhile since we talked about Nita, so here’s the rough outline:
I read this piece in the NYT about the Broadway show of The Addams Family, and it was so reflective of what’s happening with Nita, that I was comforted. The underlying theme of the article is that sometimes it takes awhile to get it right, and even when you get it right, sometimes it’s a long way from where you started. Continue reading
I will be the first to agree that taking over four years to write 100,000 coherent words of fiction seems excessive. Actually I wrote 145,000 words of fiction and only some of it was coherent, which is one of the many reasons why the rewrite is taking so long. But one good thing about taking that long is that I can really gain insight into my characters and my story. The bad thing is that after awhile, the story’s dead and I’m not rewriting, I’m just washing garbage, and I’m about three days away from washing garbage here, but another good thing is that I really love this book. When I finally let it go, it’s going to be the best I can do, which may not be good, but I’ll be proud of it anyway. Continue reading
So when is the decision to beef up your villain into the antagonist, and when is the decision to shrink the villain so that the focus is on the primary relationships? I remember that a common complaint has been that Marvel villains are weak, but for several of those films, that worked, since they didn’t get in the way of the primary relationships. But when does the complaint that the villain is weak become an actual issue?
There’s a lot to unpack there. I’ll tackle the first question at length and then hit the second on the way out.
One of my favorite poems is Wallace Stevens’ “Anecdote of the Jar.” I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately for several reasons, and it’s just occurred to me that it might be a great metaphor for teaching the impact of identity in characterization. It’s such a slippery concept, and I’ve never thought I was particularly good at getting it across, but then I recently went back to the poem for the reasons and thought, “Oh, it’s right there.” So let’s try this again (waving to McDaniel students).