Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Helen Update

The first round of edits went to the editor last week.  Now, I am tackling the second round.  She has sent me the first 80 pages. I have run through the first 43.  I hit a wall.  Writing about hitting a wall helps me acknowledge I've become stuck and thus start becoming unstuck.  I'd been living in the world of I'm a writer, I just finished editing so I can rest on my laurels.  Or as my daughter illustrated: 

One of the first things you learn to NOT do, is head hop.  This is not taught or even talked about outside of writer circles. I'd never heard of it until I read about common mistakes writers make in the course of exploring the forums of Absolute Write. Head hopping is where you get insights into what different people are thinking in a scene that affect the scene without being voiced or observed by anyone in particular.  If you have an all knowing narrator, this is still a problem as it can be confusing who is doing the talking.   I have a few moments I need to rewrite to eliminate hopping from head to head.

Absent having characters with telepathy, which if I wrote sci-fi would be a prerequisite of writing such stuff, as conversations within conversations would be fun, you can't do it. Even if you think your book is ground breaking, you can't do it.  This give me small satisfaction, to know if Faulkner wrote the Sound and the Fury today, he wouldn't be able to confuse the daylights out of me because his editor would have flagged him for major head hopping.   Yes, I'm still smarting from my American Authors class in junior year of college and I should let that go.  

So I'm going to hit the next 20 pages today. 

With the first book in the second editing stage, I am now starting to collect the books needed for the sequel, the Book of Penelope.  Why? I need background, a blueprint and scaffolding. I don't want to make the same mistake twice. 

What mistake? 

I cannot stress this enough, I would have finished Helen at least a child and a laptop ago if I hadn't tried to write this thing without the benefit of an outline or at least a map of the story.  I knew where I wanted to go, but not how to get there.  Dead reckoning for the novice writer seldom gets you to the destination.  You can be bull headed (my favorite technique), and you might eventually get to the magical words, "The End," but only after a lot of detours.  In my case, at least 50,000 words of deleted chapters before the ones that got deleted in the editing process. 

Why bring this up?  Yesterday, I saw a comment on a writing post, "I'm a great writer and I've written a lot of little things but I want to write a book.  I don't want to do an outline, I just want the book to happen." 

I can say right now, that book won't happen. 

Books don't happen.  They may be inspired, they may write quickly, they may be clear, they may be best sellers.  They don't just happen.  Waiting for inspiration in order to write is like waiting until you are hungry to start cooking. You can bang out some mac and cheese or maybe a steak if it's defrosted, but to make a good meal, requires planning, technique, the right ingredients and time.  So also, a good book.  I don't have a genii producing a gourmet meal, and there is no book genii writing the book either.  The book genii says "Hey genius, you want to write the book?  Start outlining."  (See, your english teacher in high school was right about this). 

I'll have my same 7th-10th grade response too.  It's hard to outline a piece you haven't written.  I don't yet know all that the Book of Penelope is supposed to be about.  However,  I've learned the inspiration will come if I just get moving and it's a lot easier to craft the scenes you want than to kill scenes you've poured time into and fallen in love with, but which don't advance the story. 

So I do understand the desire to wait for lightning to strike before starting, but I've told myself, you know how this works, so get to it.

If you need me today, I'll be editing or outlining, presuming inspiration will come and maybe saying "Thanks" in my head to my high school english teachers.


Colleen Duggan said...

I'm half impressed/half exhausted by the fact your first book isn't published yet and you are starting your second. Can I have some of what you've got?

What about a rough outline? Does that work? That's what I've been using and it's helping, I guess. I'm always tweaking it (which is code for constantly changing it).

Sherry Antonetti said...

Rough outline is fine, tweaking is fine, it just has to exist, to keep you honest, to keep you thinking about the whole story arc, to keep you from making it have to be lightning striking and all the words pouring out in one full flood. The outline isn't a finishing point, it's the diving board for plunging into the pool. You can do a back flip if you want, but you have to have the board and jump from it, to get to the deeper part of the pool.

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