Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Ok, So It's Not THAT Bad...(ramble included for free)

I am very surprised to find that doing these revisions hasn't been that bad - so far. In fact, I'm kind of having a bit of fun at the moment. Of course, that might be due to the fact that I'm revisiting previously written scenes that I loved at the time I wrote them. The basic plot of the story hasn't changed in all of the many versions so cobbling scenes together isn't that much of a chore - yet. In fact, a scene I wrote as a flashback has now become the opening scene, with some minor changes and a major addition.

I just spent (counting on fingers) several hours today slaving over the second scene, which was a conversation in yet another version that, with some minor changes, I could make it fit as a follow up to the opening scene. All the work was well worth it to hear some high praise when I read it aloud to my small writer's group. It became a necessary info-dump scene that presented the plot catalyst so it was important the scene really worked well. Apparently, I nailed the info-dump without it sounding like an info-dump.

Aside from the timing of the plot catalyst, in reviewing scenes from the most recent incarnation of this novel, I quickly realized that somewhere along the way, my plot had become so convoluted that even I had trouble following it. That version was very close to 100,000 words but was nowhere near the beginning of the end. I seem have this issue with the passage of time in my novels. Everyday something must happen. Not sure why I feel this is necessary.  I just always have and it's hard to break a lifetime habit.

Not that a novel taking place over a short period of days versus weeks, months or years is a bad thing. I've read novels like that before. Most of what I've read, however, does take place over a longer period of time. The author condenses the time down by a short narrative between key scenes. It's telling instead of showing but I suppose if the telling is brief enough, it's ok?

Which brings to mind to one of my biggest issues with revisions and polishing a novel for publication and just fiction writing in general - the rules of good writing. Sometimes, I think writing was much easier before I learned that writing rules actually existed.

As writer's, we hear phrases like "show don't tell" and "active versus passive" narrative. Ok. But what does that all mean? How do I show a scene in an active sense? I kind of know but what if I only think I know but I really don't know?

Or, many times I've read that to write something like, 'He went to the cupboard, looking for something to eat', is mixed tense. 'He went to the cupboard' would be past action while, 'looking for something to eat' is currently happening action. Yet, I see that kind of writing all the time in published works, even in debut novels. Is it ok sometimes but not all the time? When is it not ok?

One tutorial tells me to not use so many dialogue tags. Another says to use them all the time so the reader can more easily tell who is speaking. So which is it? I'm confused.

During my Writer's Digest course, I was told by the instructor that I shouldn't start dialogue with action. The action should come after the dialogue. But sometimes, in my head, I see the action first then hear the dialogue - how many others see their novels in their heads as movie and just write what they see? I do.

Because I see the action as a movie in my head, I also sometimes commit another writing crime by breaking up a line of dialogue with what the character is doing while they are speaking. People actually do that in real life, don't they? Especially if it's a difficult conversation. Rarely do people, in normal conversation, spout paragraphs of dialogue without some kind of action during said spouting.

I guess I am rambling on here but this is what I mean when I say writing was much easier when I didn't know these rules existed. Forget that the rules seem to change periodically.

Perhaps the best course of action is to just write the thing and worry about the rules later, maybe even break a few if it makes the words flow more smoothly. That's why an event such as NaNoWriMo is so much fun. A writer can legally gag the mouthy critic and editor for 30 days straight. It frees a writer to just write the darn novel and not worry about things like active versus passive or showing instead of telling or dialogue tags. How many readers even know those rules exist, anyway? I didn't until I learned about them after I'd been writing for a while.

Even though I'm in revisions now, part of those revisions involve additional scenes that have yet to be written. With the exception of the scene I worked on today, I'm hoping to write any additional scenes like it's still November. Get in the writing flow and don't worry about the rules until after the scene is finished. Who knows? I might find that revisions aren't even necessary.

That sound you just heard was collective heads of my inner critic and editor exploding.

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