Fast Forward

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If for some reason you’ve made the very poor judgment call to actually read this blog with any regularity, then I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking: Holy crap Dave you’ve written two blogs in almost as many days! (I say almost because they were each posted at opposite fringes of two consecutive days). Now, if you’ve made the even bigger judgment error of continuing to read, here’s what’s on my mind:

I’m working on Wine Bottles and Broomsticks – all the way out in chapter 9, if you can believe that. So far, it’s been fun, possibly the most fun writing project I’ve had to date. However, I’m now staring at a problem. It’s not a major problem, like a terrible character or gaping plot hole or a plot that just isn’t going anywhere. Nope. That’s not it at all.

I just reached a stopping point.

Dave?

Yes?

You’re just a little over 30K in and you haven’t even gotten to the main point of action you’re building up to.

You can see why this is a problem for me.

Okay fine, it feels like a stopping point, make 9 a short chapter and move on.

Well, that’s the sticking point.

I really don’t see how – are you making this a bigger problem than it is?

No-no, it’s not like that, what I want to do is fast-forward a few weeks. To this point in the story, things have more or less gone day by day. There haven’t been any major breaks in time, however, I’d like to skip ahead to avoid some rather tedious and unnecessary repetition. I want to jump to a scene just before the action really starts to pick up again. In order to make that work, I’m going to have to recap the previous few weeks of time. I don’t see an awful lot going on in that span of time, and I need some depth of time to pass in order for later elements to really be believable.

I think you may have already made a decision Dave.

No. I haven’t, actually. By skipping ahead, I’m cutting out a lot of time in which I can develop plot and characters, it’s just that outline-wise, I don’t have a hell of a lot to actually drop in there. Not only that, I run the risk of throwing off the pacing and making the end of the story feel rushed. No proper build up.

Okay, you know what, you’re clearly not going to take my advice, perhaps you need to get a second opinion.

That’s a great idea. Any takers?

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Progress report

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The summer is moving by so quickly, I think I might have missed it. Temperatures have been hanging out in the low 60s and cracking into the mid-40s at night giving a very distinct late summer vibe. I mean, except for the 21 hours of daylight.

I’ve been doing a bit of work on my current project, and last week I even tore through a rewrite of a few chapters that I’d been putting off. These chapters are a distinct sub-plot with a different lead character (in cliché fantasy tradition). They make up something like 1/4th of the book.

As I was going through these particular chapters, I noticed two major things. The first is that they needed (probably still need) quite a bit of editorial massaging. The second is that these particular chapters are, even with final polishing necessary, arguably the best chapters of the book. On one hand this is cool. I’ve got a few chapters that generally work. Unless a beta reader notes a major problem, these are good to go until editing! On the other hand, this is ¼ of the book. That means the other 3/4s still need a tremendous amount of work to be up to scratch. I think I’m making major progress on that score, but it’s hard to tell until I sit down and attempt another full re-write.

One theory of why this sub-plot is working better is that I don’t really care about the characters as much, and so as things start going to hell for them, I really don’t mind and just sort of let it happen. My main characters (the heroes, if you will), however, I care too much about. As a writer I’m not effectively putting their backs against the wall (more clearly stated: The MC should have a simple goal ‘right now’, simple goal right now is being blocked by a clear and present antagonist). I can’t say that this is THE problem I’m working through, but it’s definitely a contributing factor. The characters aren’t being driven from place to place so much as they are going from place to place. It seems to me that this isn’t doing any favors on the overall conflict and rising action.

So then what am I going to do about that?

I’ve already started tackling some of the problem bits. The first four or five chapters actually weren’t awful as far as this is concerned. The eleventh chapter, however, is a different story. The night before last, I completely rewrote it. It took the immediate conflict in a different direction that still managed to land the main character in almost the right situation to start chapter 12. The change also did good things for the conflict in chapter 12, which becomes something of a pivotal chapter (it always has been, but it just doesn’t have that feel or flavor yet). In any case, chapter 11 feels vastly improved from what it was, but I won’t know how much better this strategy is until I get to the end and look at the story as a whole.

So, anyhow, that’s where I am. The wife is out on the town tonight, so I’ll probably get a full chapter re-write in and if I’m lucky, tomorrow will be mostly a writing day and I’ll see if I can hammer out a few more chapter rewrites.


Photo credit: Me (don’t judge)

 

Distractions

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I finally gave up on rehearsing my presentation. Provided I can see my slides, I’ll be able to talk about them for 15 minutes, easy. The trouble will be trying to stay under 20! Anyhow, this week has been full of distractions. For lunch today, my wife and I popped down to the coffee shop in Palmer. I brought my notebook, and got to work. She commented that she couldn’t concentrate in a place like that – Too many distractions. It’s the best place for me though. Yeah, it’s full of distractions, but they’re all minor and not particularly engaging anyhow. A barista flitting by to wipe down a table, an elderly couple talking with their pastor about what’s going on in church this Sunday, the woman with too tight pants sauntering by to get her double tall quad-shot skinny late. It goes on like this for hours. This past fall I was stuck. For whatever reason, I couldn’t conjure the words to describe my way past the first few paragraphs on the second chapter of my sub-plot. My solution? Go to the coffee shop and break the jam. It worked, within a few hours, I had the entire chapter knocked out. It may have been rough, but it was there and something I could work with, and it felt good.

For me, the real distractions are work, home-life and TV. We don’t have cable, nor do we live in a place where broadcast is a realistic option, but we do have Netflix. It’s my wife’s one weakness. I don’t complain though, she needs it to wind down. We both do. The problem is that even when I really don’t care much for the show, I find myself distracted by the story-line unfolding in living color on the other side of the room. It would be easy enough to wander off to the sun room and quietly click-clack away, I do that sometimes, but I just can’t do it all the time. My wife and I work off-schedules so those two or three hours in the evening are all we get, well that and the exasperated glances over the children’s glacial routine each morning. If I don’t spend those few moments, we wouldn’t have any moments.

The past few weeks I’ve been in a bit of a rut with my current chapter, which happens to be the last chapter in the sub-plot. What I’d like to do is go to the coffee shop and spend the day with a cup and type a way, oblivious to the random happenings all around, but it’s just not possible at the moment. I suppose until I can make that a reality I’m going to continue to scratch out a sentence here and there in the cracks between responsibilities and family – and TV.


photo credit: Tapping a Pencil via photopin (license)