1. xanadu
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    xanadu Contributing Member Contributor

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    Xanadu's progress journal

    Discussion in 'Progress Journals' started by xanadu, Sep 29, 2015.

    So I think it's about time I take up some of the real estate here. I doubt very much I'll be using it as a proper "progress journal," with % complete statistics or word counts (subject to change, of course), but more like a general wordvomit minddump kind of deal. Some kind of narration while I plug away at whatever it is I decide to work on at the moment. Mostly just to give me a kick in the rear to get going again.

    I'm at that awful "overcoming the inertia" stage where I've been sitting still so long that the simple act of starting again is a physical effort. But slowly I'm getting over it. Once I build the momentum back it'll be easier, for sure.

    I've been active on these boards mostly for two separate periods of time--back in 2008 when I first joined, and for a good eight months or so in 2014. While I was "away" between those two periods I wrote first drafts for four novels. Between the time I left last year and now, I've written nothing. Not a damn thing. "The World Below," a story I entered into the short story contest here a year ago, is the last work I completed. So needless to say, I've been itching to churn out some new stuff.

    I have an idea for my next novel, but it's not developed enough in my mind for me to put pen to paper yet (or, in my case, fingers to keys). It's getting there, but I've still got a few more details to iron out before I'm comfortable. Shouldn't take much longer. But in the meantime, I thought I'd help the easing in process by redrafting one of my older projects. My first novel is beyond repair, and that's perfectly fine--it's pretty junky, but it served its purpose long ago and is no longer really needed. My second novel, on the other hand, should be workable with enough editing. I've redrafted it a few times over the years, but this last push will, hopefully, get it to a point where I'm comfortable showing it to other eyes.

    So for the time being, I'm going to be keeping track of my "progress" in redrafting my second novel, Song of the Silver Fox, while novel number five finishes brainstorming itself into existence. I'll likely deviate along the way and throw in some stuff about the brainstorming as well, if only to keep track of all my brilliant ideas. But as I do my editing I'll jot down my findings and my thoughts, in the off chance that they could be useful to the world at large (maybe a bit of a stretch). They'll certainly be useful to me.

    I have on my coffee table the first chapter printed off, using tiny font size, no margins, and fast draft printing style to conserve paper and ink. Right next to it is the same pen I use when critiquing stories for the forum here. I plan to be just as ruthless.
     
  2. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Looking forward to reading it!
     
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  3. xanadu
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    Chapter 1 was fairly easy to get through, mostly due to the fact that it's been redrafted many times in the past. Occasionally I'd start a new draft, get through chapter 1, and procrastinate until I totally lost interest. So this one had a lot of the work done for me already.

    Layla West did not believe in magic. That's the opening line. It's been the opening line since I opened a brand new Word document and typed it onto the otherwise blank page. Originally I thought it was a fantastic line, and it does in fact sum up just about everything you need to know about Layla West going into the story. But over the years of learning and practicing and editing, I've come to feel a bit more conflicted about the line.

    It's telling instead of showing. Showing would be something like: There was no such thing as magic or Believing in magic was a waste of time or something to that effect. Instead you're being told something about the main character by me, sitting next to you, pointing it out. This is the kind of thing I hack apart, even in my own writing. But telling isn't always bad--writers who know the rules and understand them know that telling is just as important as showing. But every time I see that opening line I think to myself, is there really no other way to phrase it to put the reader in Layla's head from the start? It's something I have to learn to get over, because I'm leaving that line exactly how it is.

    "Show don't tell" was thrown at me from my very first posts here. I didn't understand it then, and it took a real long time for me to fully grasp what it meant. We writers have a lot of these snappy sayings that, on reflection, don't necessarily simplify anything at all--in fact I think they tend to make these rules more difficult to understand, at least from a new writer's perspective. New writers aren't told that it's okay to tell sometimes--they aren't told when the best times to show and to tell are. They're often told, "show don't tell" with an implied "n00b" at the end (of course, most people are nice about it, but the assumption is that they'll just get it). I'm guilty of it, too. And I'm guilty of harkening back to those days every time I write a telling line...double- and triple-checking to make sure that yes, it is an appropriate time to tell, that I do have a very good reason for doing it.

    It's an interesting thing for me, since I now do understand the rules. I'm a big proponent of showing, because I love how deep I can get into my character's mind and subtly hint at things. Telling often feels wrong, even when justified. But I'd argue that my struggle to figure out why the adage was being thrown at me, and how to effectively throw it around myself, has taught me over a long period of time exactly what it means and how to use it. Would explaining it to me, as a new writer, have been as effective? It's hard to say.

    In the original draft, I opened on Layla West at work, behind a counter doing boring things. She and her boss had a conversation that essentially set the scene and the situation before I sent her home to play guitar on the bench outside her apartment. While sitting on the bench, she struggles with her desire to play music for the world, maybe catch the eye of a cute guy, conflicted against her absolute terror at singing in public. When I wrote the scene, I was proud of myself--how I'd managed to get everything set up and her conflict going within the first couple of pages.

    But then I read over it a year later and fell asleep. And that's when I realized that "start with action" doesn't always mean car chases and explosions. I would hear that line and think, yes that's nice but I don't have any "action" in my book. But action is really just a misnomer for conflict. I'm handholding the reader. Does the reader really need to know exactly what's going on--that there's an annual music festival coming up and that Layla's booking reservations for it--right off the bat? Or would the reader rather open up on Layla just before she's about to reach the first verse of the song she's playing, conflicted over whether or not to sing or softly hum to herself? The background info can be trickled in later.

    I made that edit multiple drafts ago, and I'm still very happy that I caught on so soon. But it's another one of those rules that I get the feeling is often misunderstood by new writers. I see it taken to extremes--literally, people thinking it has to be explosions and car chases, because yes, readers really are that impatient. But hooks don't have to be big, or high-stakes, or adrenaline-pumping. They just have to make the character uncomfortable. And in doing that, especially from an internal POV, you can pretty effectively get the reader interested.

    The majority of the editing I had to do for this chapter involved cleaning up action micromanagement. Lots of useless beats to avoid dialog tags, lots of explaining how she took steps across the floor and pulled the chair aside when I could just say she walked in and sat down...things of that nature. Fixed some dialog that hadn't been sitting right with me, altered a magic trick she witnesses to something I've seen done myself versus something I just made up. Got a little deeper into Layla's head than I had been previously. Now I think it's pretty decent--we see the main character, we get a feel for who she is, and her world gets shaken when she sees an amazing singer at the karaoke bar. It gets further shaken when--who would've thought?--that same singer happens to catch her eye the next day while she's out playing music again. What could possibly happen next? :p

    Printed off chapter 2. I know this one'll need much more work.
     
  4. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I was glad to read that you've decided to keep it because I think it's an excellent opening line. It leaves so much still to be shown/told - why doesn't she believe in magic? Why is she thinking about magic? Is something about to test her belief?
     
  5. xanadu
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    I'm glad you're asking these questions, because that's pretty much exactly the point of the line.

    This isn't a fantasy story, so "magic" doesn't actually exist. But a very important character (a "mentor," I suppose) is a retired stage magician whose career mimics the events of Layla's musical endeavors. And in this scope, the concept of magic gives me a ton of metaphor fuel. Literary gimmicks ahead, no doubt about it.

    But she's cynical. She equates optimism with gullibility. And exactly...you see a line like that, and you have to think, "All right, so how's this author guy gonna get her to believe in magic?" Magic, of course, not having to literally be magic. That was one of the core concepts behind the novel--an idea I had pretty early on. Which means I was able to set it up along the way without making it feel contrived (at least, to me anyway :)). "I'm a magician, I can fool people, but I can't do real magic." "I can't bring something back when it's really truly gone, that's real magic." The ending writes itself.

    Things have been a little busy, but I did manage to get through the second chapter. I'll post my thoughts about it when I have more time.
     
  6. xanadu
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    xanadu Contributing Member Contributor

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    So the second chapter can essentially be summed up as the "Chapter of Excessive Incidental Dialog." I chopped a record amount of words out of this chapter (probably over 1000) simply due to this problem. It's one I knew I had to a degree, but this was incredibly enlightening.

    One of the big problems I have in writing is action micromanagement. I have a tendency, especially in my earlier stuff, to have my character turn the knob, push the door open, step across the floor, pull out the chair, sit down, and scoot in. Which is exhausting to read. I'm not writing a screenplay--I don't need stage directions at every turn. But I've gotten much better managing this problem and eliminating it from my writing.

    But the same thing applies to dialog...cue the lightbulb.

    Apparently I'm very afraid of losing the reader, or skipping logical transitions within a conversation. But here's the thing--dialog does not reflect actual conversations. We can telescope. We can summarize. We can chop out all the bits that don't contribute to anything, and the reader, believe it or not, will still be able to follow it because readers aren't stupid. Lesson learned. I anticipate this being a problem throughout the majority of the book, since a lot of the scenes are dialog-based. That's going to be very interesting, and I may be hemorrhaging words from my word count in the near future.

    But there's a bright spot as well...I've found plenty of areas where I'm telescoping when I shouldn't be. A lot of this story was written before I knew the "rules" as well as I do now, and as a result I can see places where I should have applied certain rules and didn't. Telescoping during passages that should be more internal and in-depth is one of them. Which is great news for me, because it gives me an opportunity to kill that summary and open up Layla's head a bit more. I get to dive back in and explore once again, and I've gotten a few good insights out of it that hadn't been present in the text before. I'm giving the narrative even more flavor through her voice, which is much more interesting to me.

    So we explore the backstory of Layla's new singer friend and we get a glimpse at the difference between their social lives. Layla's a bit of a loner and her new friend is the life of the party. They begin to play music together, and while Layla's a bit shy and reserved, Coral's confident and itching to get noticed. And when old Mr. Wallace, the nice old man who works in the same hotel as Layla, gets wind that they're playing music together, he's all too willing to provide encouragement and offer to help them out--he was, after all, a notable stage magician in his day and has a bunch of good contacts.

    This chapter was a bit interesting for me, without a doubt, as it blew open the door on a writing problem I now know is quite prevalent in this story (and likely other ones as well). It's just another thing to watch out for as I keep going. But the opportunity to get deeper into Layla's head at points where I was just summarizing before really helps to offset that.

    I've got chapter three printed out. Gotta keep on truckin'.
     
  7. xanadu
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    xanadu Contributing Member Contributor

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    So I've discovered that it's incredibly easy to find time to hack apart my printed-out chapters. But to actually sit down and implement those edits into the manuscript? Ain't nobody got time for that.

    It's been a bit busy but I do have a relatively free weekend coming up. I've gone through chapters three and four with the pen of doom but have yet to implement either of them. I definitely plan to get chapter three done before Sunday.

    In other news, I think my new novel idea is done simmering in the background. I've got some solid stuff now, some real reasons for things, motivations, backstory--details I only had minor glimpses of. It's interesting to me, because I had the initial idea about a year and a half ago after reading Cloud Atlas and subsequently seeing the movie. The whole concept came, ultimately, from my desire to craft a character worthy of being played by Tom Hanks in the movie :)

    But most of my story ideas are pretty simple, slice-of-life, real world stories. Even the one set in a "post-apocalyptic" future was pretty mundane, for the most part (not boring, just simplistic in setting and scope). But Cloud Atlas made me want to play timey-wimey ball and see what could happen with a more complicated plot. Enter the time-lord character, currently named Belvedere (after the bottle of vodka sitting in my freezer). He's a demigod. But he's not God.

    I've liked the whole multiverse idea for a while, where every possible outcome of every possible event exists in a separate universe. But there's no way a single being, god or not, could govern an infinite pool of universes. So Belvedere is one of many, who watches over a small handful. But he spends a lot of time in ours. Because reasons. I'm not telling yet! Character backstory.

    Then we have our heroine, Noelle Ainsley. She's a nerd. Like, a supernerd. Like, with a cape and everything. She came from the idea I had while re-reading Harry Potter, the one that went something like, "What would Luna Lovegood be like if she were a Muggle?" I envision lots of crazy, mismatched socks, cosplaying, a deep knowledge of literary tropes and the instinct to call them out. She likes sci-fi and fantasy stories. She'd love to be in one. Enter Belvedere, the guy who can step between different universes--maybe one where we're stuck in medieval times, or one where we're super advanced. So the question becomes, how do I get Noelle and Belvedere together, so that she can actually take part in a fantasy and sci-fi story? I have a few ideas for now.

    Ultimately I was planning to make this more of a serious thing, similar to Cloud Atlas, but my dry sarcasm will not let me. Noelle HAS to be a smartass. When weird fantasy and sci-fi stuff starts happening, she HAS to call it out. She won't be afraid to call me, the damn writer, out for hand waving stuff.

    That said, it'll likely be a blend of comedy and drama, just like the rest of my material. I'm looking forward to planning out some plot details soon.

    However, in the meantime, I do need to get those edits done. Chapter three was interesting...chapter four maybe a little more so, as it contained some elements I initially forgot about. I'm definitely excited to get into all that when it comes up.

    Hopefully I'll be posting my thoughts on chapter three within the next day or so. Fingers crossed!
     
  8. xanadu
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    xanadu Contributing Member Contributor

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    Chapter three didn't enlighten me like the others did--I didn't find any new problems in my writing. However, it did reinforce a lot of what I'd already noticed. I found a good bit of action micromanagement (that may be an understatement) and incidental dialog, though not as much as in the last chapter. But one thing that was fairly prevalent was my insistence on handholding through transitions. Personally, I like stark transitions from one scene to another, and as a reader I'm perfectly capable of following when an author uses one. But as a writer myself I sometimes find that I don't use them enough.

    "Over the next few days" or "for the remainder of the weekend" just seems so...blah...author-ly...to me. Telescoping time is fine, but if it's just a single sentence? Maybe it's best to just leave it out and start the next scene. One such moment in the chapter involved Layla coming home from dinner with her friend, going to bed, and waking up to rain. Rain is disappointing, because it means she can't play music outside. But I used one of those transitions to show that: "The remainder of the weekend was a bit dull, mainly due to the sudden change in the weather." You know what else is a bit dull? That sentence. I mean, really. So I dropped that sentence completely and added the bolded bit to the following sentence: "The pouring rain the next day forced her to stay inside despite every fiber of her being yearning to play music in the park again." It gets me focused right back on Layla immediately, without that "meanwhile back at the ranch"-style scene-setting.

    Other than a few of those, a handful of spots where I needed to get deeper into Layla's head, and the above-mentioned incidental dialog and action micromanagement, there wasn't a whole lot in this chapter that needed changing. What I need to really focus on is keeping things from sounding too author-driven--during transitions, but also just during description. When I go to the park, I don't need to be told that sounds were heard. I need Layla to notice the sounds. It's something I preach a lot, and I think my more recent work follows it much better, but my early stuff doesn't. It's definitely noticeable. But it's also good practice, and I'm glad I'm finding these incidents as easily as I am.

    Goes to show that critiquing has honed my editing skills. And this book is old now--I started it back in 2012 and finished in early 2013--so I have the much needed distance from it. Though I haven't been this ruthless with my own work before, I'm not finding it particularly difficult. I still need to implement the changes for chapter four, and then I'll get started tearing up chapter five.
     
  9. xanadu
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    xanadu Contributing Member Contributor

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    Chapter four was the most interesting one so far. In this chapter the annual music festival actually occurs, and a good chunk (maybe the last third?) of the chapter is Layla at the first show. So there's a lot of description of the live concert going on. Which I'm aware can be a polarizing thing. This book is a novel, not a critic's review of a concert. But on the other hand, Layla kinda is a music critic--not professionally, but it's something she'd reasonably think about while watching a show. So there's a definite balancing act going on--how much do I squee over live music, and how much do I pare down for the sake of keeping the plot moving?

    Over the course of my drafting attempts I've chopped off chunks of narrative. So I think, at this point, what I've kept is worth keeping. Some of the descriptions were authorial, so one of my big goals was to fix that and make absolutely sure that everything was coming from Layla--that's super important here, due to the nature of the writing.

    But to take it back a bit, there's also a lot of planning and suffering through the day job in this chapter. There are three characters going to the festival together, and I actually had a scene where they sat down and planned it out. In detail. Oh God. What have I done. No no no, this is all wrong. This is fiction. I don't care about how they're meeting up, who's sending who a text message, what time they're going to head over. Bah! Second chapter was full of that kind of garbage as well.

    Luckily for me, that scene had a second purpose, which was to also discuss an event that happened in a previous scene. So I made that the focus, threw in a line or two about going to the festival, and the scene now has much more utility and much less incidental information. Lucky save. The suffering through work has another purpose as well--Layla's ambitious and loves the hospitality industry, and she sees festival season as an opportunity to prove herself worthy of promotion. So by focusing on that instead of the daydreaming and mounting excitement (which is still there, just taking a backseat), I can make that scene actually have real plot relevance instead of just taking up space.

    But the real fun from this chapter comes at the start--I introduce a special character. Because this story is so focused around music, I knew I didn't want to rely on existing bands/artists to carry things forward. So I invented a few of my own. I'm not going to claim that the Foo Fighters played an imaginary festival, right? I invented some bands--like The Wandering Free, a kind of parody of all the indie-folk bands out there, and Jimmy & the Musketeers, a more swamp-rock bluesy band. But then I kicked down the door.

    I've always been a fan of crossovers. I like when every song on an album is a chapter in a story. When I was making video games as a kid I found a way to connect all my projects with one over-arching story. I'm a huge fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, if only for what it's done to modern storytelling. So here was an opportunity for me.

    I have a novella I wrote eight or so years ago. It was the first writing project I finished and was actually proud of. The story was, in actuality, a collection of three separate stories all taking place at the same time and interacting with each other. But one of the characters was a young musician writing his first album and trying to get a record deal. Hmm. Song of the Silver Fox takes place about twenty years later. So who do I pick as the headliner to this festival show?

    And this gave me an interesting idea--having a subset of my stories take place in the same world, though not necessarily being sequels of each other. My third novel also exists in this world, though the connections to Song of the Silver Fox are buried deep. And I have another novel in my head that exists here, too.

    This is far from innovative, of course--Thomas Hardy and James Joyce come to mind immediately regarding sharing fictional locations or characters. But it's something I definitely want to explore further. It's all real-world stuff, and there's no real endgame. I think it's more like a "see what I did there" kind of thing for me. The aforementioned musician character references a lot of the ending of that novella and it relates to certain events in this story, if only metaphorically. So I anticipate a lot of that. I dunno. I'm still exploring.

    From an editing perspective, there was a ton of stuff I was able to cut out--mostly transitions, incidental dialog, and all the usual suspects. But I did get to add a good bit in on this one, and by changing sections to read through Layla instead of from an authorial perspective, I definitely like the flavor of the text much more now.

    Chapter four is an important one. Layla and Coral experience the festival first-hand. They've been toying around for a while, practicing playing music together in the park, getting some very limited attention (well, Coral is getting attention...Layla is getting a little ignored...that'll probably be important later :)). But at the end of this chapter, Coral turns to Layla and says the line that surprises no one: we're going to play the Equinox Festival next year. And we're off.
     
  10. xanadu
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    xanadu Contributing Member Contributor

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    I get the feeling that this is going to be par for the course for the entirety of my redrafting. I've completed the edits of chapters five and six, yet still haven't "found the time" to implement the changes into the manuscript. Ah well.

    It's bad, because now that I have the ideas for my new novel I want to start working on it. But I won't let myself until I finish this, because otherwise this will never get finished. It won't. So this is the stick the carrot's tied to. Finish the edits and you get the reward. At least I have that level of discipline!

    The goal is to implement chapter five changes tonight. As chapter five is the shortest chapter so far, I think that'll be pretty doable. And this weekend should be fairly unexciting, so I should have no trouble editing chapter seven and implementing chapter six. We'll see how it goes.
     
  11. xanadu
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    xanadu Contributing Member Contributor

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    Chapter five was a lot of the same. On one hand, this makes editing very boring. On the other, it means I have some very specific, consistent problems in my writing and now I know what they are and how to fix them. I think that's a pretty fair trade-off.

    This was probably the shortest chapter (maybe even in the whole book), and it essentially kicks off the second act. Layla and Coral have decided they're going to play the festival next year, so they have to start getting their shit together. So they start getting their shit together.

    However, it comes to light as they're practicing that Layla has some original material she never told anyone about. Well shit. Now Coral wants to hear them. Which means Layla has to sing. In front of Coral.

    And how do I handle this situation (that perfectly recalls the opening scene, no less)? By summarizing it. Look how clever I am, I thought. Layla's blocking it out, trying to get through it as quickly as possible, hurrying along...so summarizing it is the best way to capture it!

    No.

    Wrong.

    Don't summarize good conflict, dummy! Don't gloss over internal struggle! Spell it out! Dig in deep! Isn't that the shit you tell everyone else to do? What makes this an exception?

    So I dug in deep. I expanded that half-paragraph to two or three full ones, fully expressing all the shit going on in her head while she's playing her song for Coral. The terror, the constant desire to stop, the gut-wrenching embarrassment. All of it. And in doing so, I got back just about all the words I'd scrapped from the chapter. Which is good, because the word count's getting closer and closer to 80k (from its 88k starting point) and I still have about eleven chapters to go.

    Luckily, I think chapter six has some similar situations, where I should be able to dig deep while she's playing music. That should get me some words back, too.

    It's tough being this ruthless, but I'm definitely happier with this draft so far than I've been with any other. I think that means I'm on the right track!
     
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  12. xanadu
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    xanadu Contributing Member Contributor

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    Chapter seven is taking a long time to edit. Which isn't surprising, because it's surely one of the longest chapters in the story. But it's dense. It's an important chapter with a lot going on, and most of my editing notes so far have been along the lines of..."expand this bit here." Which isn't bad, per se, but it's going to take a lot of work to get the edits implemented.

    I already know chapter eight is going to need a lot of trimming, so hopefully I'm getting the harder work done first. Luckily I took all of next week off for the Thanksgiving holiday, so I should be able to get a good bit of editing done, and maybe even get a start on my new project. Or play Pokemon. One of those.

    Always tough to keep the editing momentum going. That's why I have no final drafts despite having four manuscripts. Is there an app that will shame me on social media for not meeting my editing goals? :)
     
  13. xanadu
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    Actually managed to get some stuff done over break. Not as much as I wanted, but I expected that. I did finish editing chapter seven and am about 3/4 of the way through chapter eight, though I still haven't managed to implement anything from chapter six onward. Ideally implementing chapter six will happen this weekend, as long as nothing unplanned pops up and I'm able to stay disciplined enough. Ha!

    I also managed to get about 700 words written of my new novel. Not much, especially when I consider that once the momentum is in full force I typically hit 1000 words a day, but for two writing sessions on absolutely no momentum I think it's pretty solid.

    Getting there. Eventually. It'll happen.
     
  14. xanadu
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    Not much of an update, but I did manage to finish editing chapter eight and get halfway through implementing the changes for chapter six. Chapter six is shaping up to be more of the same, really--transitions that would benefit from being starker, and a whole lot of places where I can dig deeper into Layla's head.

    I have been working on a couple unrelated things, as well, so that's partially to blame for the distraction (plus, you know, the whole holiday season thing). But even the little progress above is better than standing still. Either tonight or tomorrow I plan on finishing chapter six, at the very least. Seven and eight had less stuff that needed to get added/expanded, so those will probably be easier to implement.
     
  15. xanadu
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    Implemented chapter six and started the editing of chapter nine. At this point, all the issues are the same. More summary that needs to be expanded into POV digging, transitions that need to be dropped, dialog that needs to be pared down...all that good stuff.

    This chapter did have a lot of summary. The whole first scene is Layla and Coral playing music in the park, debuting one of Layla's originals. As before, I had a whole bunch of tell-y summarizing during this part, and much of the editing work for the chapter was to expand all this out into introspection. Get into her head while she's playing instead of describing the mechanics of her guitar skills. If I want to see guitar skills I'll watch one of my Rush Blu-rays. When reading, I want the character's inside-the-head stuff. So I had to add a LOT of that here, and I think the end result is much better.

    Then I had the fun of ending the session and having Coral get a bunch of attention and Layla getting almost no attention. Hey, Coral's hot. Layla's, well, not as hot. According to "popular opinion," anyway. So very slowly we plant the seeds of the upcoming conflict. As Layla walks home she gets inside her own head about her frustration, which I originally did reasonably well. But there was definitely room for improvement. That was the easier part, but still a lot of work.

    So the chapter ends with Layla having a chat with old Mr. Wallace, who's promised to help get them some paid gigs using his network. He also throws in a literary gimmick--when trying to fix a broken microwave he determines it's too old to fix. Layla jokes about using magic to bring it back. He replies that you can't bring back something that's really, truly gone without "real magic." I bet that'll be relevant later.

    Chapter seven will be equally tough to implement. Chapter eight should be a nice break, though.
     
  16. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    This is a good example of why 'show don't tell' is not an absolute rule. It's not even a mostly-always rule.

    Telling has its place and your opening line is a good example of effective telling. I like the line and if it fits, I hope you keep it.

    The reason (in my opinion) you hear 'show, don't tell' so much is new writers often tell the story in their head before they learn how to show the story in their head. Once you've learned how to show, the 'rule' applies much less often.

    [I now return you to your regular programming. ;)]
     
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  17. xanadu
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    xanadu Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yep, it definitely takes a lot of time and experience to learn the true meaning behind the "rule." And I think it goes to show how damaging (for lack of a better word) it can be when even I, as someone who knows what the rule means and has a pretty good understanding of when to invoke it and when not to, can feel uneasy about using a tell line effectively. In the back of my mind I keep thinking, "but that's not in Layla's POV!!!!1one" despite knowing it's an effective line.

    It's no wonder new writers get confused and frustrated.

    This paragraph was from the same post you quoted, and I think it sums up my opinion on the matter pretty nicely:

    I think, as so-called "more experienced" writers, we have the ability to make it easier for new writers to understand these rules. We can continue to just spew them around in the hopes that someone somewhere will learn to understand them, or we can take the time to explain what they mean and why they're effective (and often badly named).

    ETA: And yes, that line is staying. No matter how much I think about it, there will never be a better line to open the story (until the publisher's editor tells me what it is...oh, the problems we wish we had!).
     
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  18. xanadu
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    xanadu Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hoo boy. This desolate wasteland of abandoned dreams. It's been calling me. But I've got caller ID.

    The good thing is, at least this tells me where I left off. When I do decide to get back to this exercise (which was, despite my overall laziness, going rather well) I'll actually know where I stopped and where I need to pick up from.

    It's been a long time since I've written music. I was really prolific in college (of course), but then I got a lot more serious about writing fiction and music kind of fell by the wayside. I did have a fun gig for a while where I'd jam with one of my friends who liked to sing, so we'd go bother the elderly folks in our local park for an hour or two every once in a while, but that was all covers. I wrote a song or two here and there, but nothing at all like I used to.

    Also, living in an apartment kind of limited me to acoustic guitar, since I'm not quite willing to be that guy.

    However, my friend moved out of state recently, which kind of left me in a spot of "what's next?" in regards to music. No reason to keep learning acoustic covers, outside of just wanting to for its own sake. That's when I started getting the itch. Hey man, it's been, what, five years since you last wrote more than a song or two? Maybe you wanna get on that?

    The convenient thing is that my parents' house isn't too far, and all my electric guitars, amps, bass, drums, etc equipment is over there, so it's not much effort to hop over for the weekend to get some wildly unprofessional recording done. The problem is having material to record. That means writing.

    All that to say, I've been away from fiction for a good while in order to try to churn out some new music. It's been pretty steady for a while, with the only real issues being on the recording front and not on the writing front. Got some stuff I'm pretty happy with.

    But it seems that it's one or the other--set aside fiction to write music or set aside music to write fiction. I haven't really been able to balance the two very well over the years. I'd like to try. I'm getting close to finishing the "album" I'm working on, at least from a writing standpoint, so it seems my return to fiction-writing is imminent. We'll see how it goes. Luckily I have two unfinished projects here waiting for me!

    I did work a little more on the new novel--I'm partway into the second chapter, at least, though that was also a while ago now. I definitely plan to pick it up again, though with some heavy editing once I start, at some point in the near future. And I definitely need to get the editing project done--I was almost halfway through, after all, so it makes little sense to abandon it after all that!

    I'm moving this coming weekend, so hopefully after that I'll be all settled again and can get all my old notes out of the many boxes they're likely scattered across.

    No promises. I ain't committing to shit :)
     

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