WHY RHYTHM AND PACE ARE JUST AS IMPORTANT AS CHARACTER. THE RISE AND FALL OF A NOVEL.

Haute Tension

Haute Tension (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Tap, tipetty, tap, tippetty, tap, go my feet along to my favorite songs on the MP3 player. Easy as pie, my head hears the beat and my feet they automatically know what to do. Oh dear fates now I am singing along and I have a voice that the local foxes and tomcat would be proud of.

When it involves music, its instinctive, you hear the beat and something in you knows what to do, connects on that cellular level that we are all instinctively looking for when we write. Music moves us, and we don’t have to do a thing……

Writing is different, it takes a lot of shitty firsts just to get the language right and once we’ve completed that and it’s readable we then look to structure. How long is this bad boy? Do I really need 120,000 words to say this or could I use fifty grand instead?

Where do I show? Start as close to the end as possible you say okay, “The End”, doesn’t seem that effective, begging your pardon. Use a hook for every paragraph? Are you fecking kidding me?

Okay, now I am exhausted reading it, so that doesn’t work.

This is my nemesis now, the rise and fall. I am not writing a thriller. So having my characters fall from one calamity to the next every paragraph doesn’t quite suit, I want drama and tension to come through, but I don’t want to manufacture nasty stuff to happen just because everyone tells you that you must have your character in deep doo-doo all the time. I am not sure it’s right.

Tension,is what I am trying to create and then resolution and then further tension, my novel should rise and fall like the ocean, sweeping the reader along with it. Disaster, then climax then build again. I want it believable and musical. I want my readers emotions to travel with them on the journey and whilst some of this is achieved by likeability and hateability of the central characters. A lot of this will happen via the structure and flow.

My perfect reader will be on a journey with my characters towards realisation. Not all my characters make it. In fact many that start the journey will fall and their friends and family will be irrevocably altered by their loss. Some for good and some for ill.

It’s creating that wave-like structure that I am finding the most challenging (along with everything else.) I seem to either have too much happening or too little, it’s such a fine balance.

I’d welcome suggestions from others who’ve struggled with the topic of pacing?

Are there any great craft books, you know of that deal essentially with this topic rather than anything else?

Why it is not so hot to find out you’re a plotter 6,000 words from “The End”

Scrivener (software)

Scrivener (software) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Oh dear, TTWI has just gone and done it again. I was six thousand words give or take some dialogue away from writing those two little words  “the end”. When my inner editor thought it would be a great idea, no, the best idea ever to have a look at the structure. Maybe even do some cork-boarding on Scrivener.

 

This was not a good idea, in fact in the history of bright ideas I’ve had recently this is in the bottom two.

 

I’ve just cut my darling to shreds, so we’ve gone from 73,456 words to 32,245 words in my still unfinished novel. It gets worse. I have to do some research and some plotting as well. The story in its original form wasn’t working, happy coincidences abounded and I hate these in other work. Person A just happens to be in the right place at the right time to intersect with Person B y’know the sort of stuff. My geography was all over the place and even worse people’s names were changing? How did I manage that?

 

So the current state of play is that I have a still unfinished novel…..

 

The upside to this is that the novel is one I’m happy with and I guess being happy and content with the 32,000 words I’ve got is better than having a steaming pile of finished.

 

There’s some real work to do. As easy as it would be to throw the net-book in a drawer and cry myself to sleep, it’s not happening. I always knew this was gonna be hard. Probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done and that’s okay.

 

40,000 to go….

 

I’m doing it. I am not giving up!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Are you a writing Screw-Up? Five things I learned the Hard Way.

English: Opening logo to the Star Wars films

English: Opening logo to the Star Wars films (Photo credit: Wikipedia) A story that should have flopped.

We all secretly wish to write award-winning, book/article/blog selling perfect prose, the minute we lay our fingers on the keyboard and we all are slightly disappointed with our first drafts, when it turns out they are less than perfect. We may all understand that “crappiness” is part of the process but that doesn’t mean we have to like it.

There are five distinct screw-ups I’ve made that have taught me how to get better at this writering and I’d love to hear from you about what you’ve sucked at and how it’s helped you improve. So, here’s my Top Five.

1. OBSESSION WITH W.I.P. TO THE EXCLUSION OF ALL ELSE

I have been guilty of putting my writing ahead of absolutely everything and become obsessive about it to the point of a detriment to my day job (the one that pays the bills) and my personal relationships. This sucks and has not made me a better writer. Nothing, not even this writing means you should stop interacting with life at least some of the time. Don’t look at me like that, writing appeals to the loner in all of us, but without life experiences our writing is in 2D, it’s thin and lacks authenticity.

2. NOT PUTTING THE EFFORT IN

Okay, this is where I go the other way and hang out on social media and try to loosely prove to myself that “building a platform” is more important than the W.I.P. What is a Platform anyway? I’m not an oil-rig worker, I’m a writer! I’m a complete idiot when it comes to building authentic relationships via social media and that’s the new BUZZ message? Communicate, make friends and be real. But in  150 characters or less.

Or then there’s Procrastination which sounds like a disease and has the same ravaging effects. Whilst cutting yourself some slack is a good idea, there are times when you just have to sit down, suck it up and string sentences together.

3. PANTSER OR PLOTTER?

I am a Plotter who Pantses. I am now only about 10,000 words away from the end of the first novel and I am going to have to go back and plot and cut and re-draft. The second book will be fully plotted out before I start. It’s easier in the long-term and I’ve noticed a butt-kicking awesome lift in my productivity when I have a clear idea of where the work is going. A structure allows me to take the work in a different direction. A plan doesn’t restrict, it frees my creativity. Currently I have a lot more work to do because I didn’t do this the first time.

Whether you are a Plotter or a Pantser, just accept it and move on. Plotters don’t understand Pantsers and Pantsers don’t understand Plotters. We are two seperate sides of the Force. Of course I now realise that Pantsing is the DARK SIDE…..

4. REPETITIVE WORDS

There are lots of turns of phrase and words that as a new writer you are going to find a lot of in your work. I’ve listed mine in an earlier post. We all struggle to move our writing on. I thoroughly recommend creating a list of those words you overuse and then searching them out in your prose. Don’t remove every instance where you use them, as there will be occasions where they are completely correct and fit. Again we are back to the word balance…

5. THINKING ABOUT MY AUDIENCE

There will always be room for great stories and I need to accept the fact that all the storylines have already been taken. I don’t think there will ever not be a place for writing about all the great archetypes in our world. Yes, things do go through a cycle and you may find for a decade darker style fiction where everyone dies and there are no happy endings are in vogue, the next decade happy endings, hope and redemption win out in the light. My best example of this is Star Wars, a tale of heroes that became a major success in the same decade that gave us Scarface and Taxi Driver. Some stories will always “just” work.

Write what you want to write and stay true to yourself. Although some more fiction for grown ups and not teenage girls would be nice. Just saying.

COMMENTS, AS ALWAYS WELCOME. May the force be with you…..

Scenes from My Novel and some stuff from my life.

The book gets written, scene by scene and moment by moment. I’ve taken to getting up early and really working at it. I don’t edit as I go any more. Getting the first draft out is more important. I’ll worry about the spelling and the grammar later. I’m a plotter too. Through and through.

The scene below is inconsequential really except for an exchange with Gadrial, the Gypsy who’s about to sneak up on our poor bard below and scare the living daylights out of him. Kenrati, is a difficult character to write as I don’t like him. He whines and he’s a coward. But I do understand him, he’s arrogant and self obsessed and difficult. People don’t listen to him because he bores them. His heart is empty. It makes him a pretty rubbish bard but actually a really interesting character to write.

I guess not all characters are heroic types. You have to have some balance, the world is full of a myriad of different souls and who would believe if they were all the same?

So here’s a scene, we’re at chapter 12 here I think. As always it’s a first draft.

Campfires and hot salty broth have caused Kenrati’s delicate disposition to want to rid himself of the food in the most expedient way. He’s wandered some way from the camp not wanting the others to hear the noises his arse is sure to be making, a dead weight laying on his stomach.

He makes his way through the trees. Damn gypsy talking about the world like he owned it. Kenrati is not a warrior or a scholar but he knows the teachings of the Chantry and he’s studied in the old archives with the original scripts from just a thousand years after the cataclism. Who did that old man think he was. Everyone knew the gypsies were not to be trusted. Possessed by Demons half of them, probably. They wouldn’t submit to giving up their children if they had talent like all the others. He is unsure why the Chantry tolerates it. Something about laws made when the Elanati had assisted in a war some thousands of years ago. They were left to manage their own when it came to the talents.

The world is changing, he smiles to himself and wonders how long before the Chantry manages to overturn the old laws. It’s said that the Gypsies are spreading some sort of plague because of their contact with demons as the talented have no watchers. He stubs a toe on a branch and curses under his breath. He giggles, now the language he just used wasn’t exactly fit for the Chantry either. He looks up between the branches of the trees’ in the clearing and looks for the constellations he learnt at Black Rock. Master Briggs, had hit their hands with a birch cane if they’d got even one stars name wrong. His memory hadn’t made him popular with the masters or the other students. He’d been hit with that birch cane across his hands and back a few times too, even though he’d never got a single test wrong. Something about teaching him humility. He’d never really been sure why those monks had hit him. Whatever they’d been trying to teach, he could never remember. He shivered lightly. He’d been eight when his parents had left him there. They’d thought him possessed by a Demon, his memory was so good he could remember everything he read and anything that was said with perfect clarity. It was the headaches that made them fearful and then the terrible fits.

He hadn’t been a popular child, he’d been fat and preferred the books in his father’s library, to playing with the other children.

For fates sake, the Easenters may use slaves but at least they gave their children up. Make sure the world remained safe from the underworld. His thoughts have taken him a little further than he’d like but there was nothing for it. He unlaced his trousers pulling at the string fastening, once loose he pushed the soft moleskin fabric down over his thighs and as he crouched he felt his bowels loosen, not a moment too soon, he thought.