Thursday, April 26, 2007

So How Much Does A Good Plot Go For These Days?

I've spent the past several days thinking about my book and the fact it doesn't have any real conflict. I'll be the first to admit plotting is not one of my strong points. I hear other writers talk about having so many ideas for books they couldn't possibly write them all and want to hide in the nearest dark hole. Where do they get these ideas? Is there a secret black market out there somewhere where they're bought and sold? And if there is, why don't I know about it? I mean, really I don't both kidneys. Okay, probably not. So what's a writer to do if that part of the process doesn't come particularly easy for her? I know I can make the writing itself stronger by learning to take out passive verbs, showing not telling, etc but can I learn to plot if that's not a particular talent of mine? I'm not sure. Obviously I have to do something because let's face it, a book with a smooth ride from start to finish is just plain boring. So I'm working on it, and by that I mean running the story over and over in my head and thinking what can make it harder for our heroine to achieve her goal but still keep with her character? And then I got it! Granted, it's one small part of the plot but I'm getting those butterflies I usually feel when I'm excited about writing again. It's been a while since I've felt them.....too damn long. Maybe I'll never write intricate plots like Nora Roberts. I don't have to. I just have to write well and most importantly write what excites me as an author. I don't expect to get it overnight but I do expect to get it eventually.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Continuing my recent trend of hopelessly outdated television and movie reviews, I've got a new one that's a good example of what not to write. I caught The Fast and The Furious: Tokyo Drift this weekend and quite frankly I've been sorry ever since. I normally don't care much for movies about cars or racing, but this had Lucas Black in it who was so adorable in American Gothic and Sling Blade, two of my favorite shows of all time. Of course, he's all grown up now, looking very manly (which just seems wrong for me to notice), Alabama accent in full force. I didn't expect a riveting storyline, but I thought there would be a story of some kind. The whole movie was just a string of cliches stitched together from start to finish. No coherent plot, no real purpose or motivation for our angry hero (and I use that term loosely), just characters moving from scene to scene waiting for an excuse to race cars and sneer....a lot. I'm guessing the writer got mixed up when he thought about the GMC (Goal, Motivation, Conflict) and figured the four-wheeled variety would be more interesting than the real thing.

And after I got done completely shredding this movie in my head and mentally excusing Lucas Black since I still love him, I thought about my book and its GMC. I mean, it does have one right? Of course, I didn't know about such mysterious terms when I wrote the book and with it being my first completed novel it was bound to need work, but the essentials should be there. I love my hero and heroine. I love the side characters. I even love the deplorable villain. But wait! Do I love them because I already know them inside and out or do I love them because I actually managed to translate that knowledge to the page? Let me see: Goal, check. Motivation, check. Conflict,, not so much. I know my characters have inner conflict and my heroine definitely has huge stakes to lose. But my hero? Nope, nada, nothing. He's great. He's wonderful. He's the perfect man. He's boring as hell. Oh, dear God, what was I thinking? Curse you Fast and The Furious! I was determined to learn nothing from you.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Pow! Right in the Kisser

So there I was minding my own business strolling nonchalantly to the mailbox when Pow! It hit me. Mixed oh so innocently between my Visa bill and one of those damn troll catalogs, that horror of horrors, a rejection letter. How did I know it was a rejection letter, you might ask? I hadn't opened it yet, after all, and my x-ray vision has been on the blink lately. Hah! Who needs super powers in a case like this. The letter fairly reeked of rejection......"Go ahead and open me so I may mock you some more." Naturally I obeyed. As any aspiring authors knows, one must bow at the Altar of Rejection many times before ::cue heavenly orchestra music:: one bright, sunny day when the planets have aligned just so in the universe and peace and harmony reign, a perfect white dove will fly down from clouds to........well, he'll probably poop on your head, because hey, it's a dove. But in the meantime, you may actually get the e-mail that says you don't completely suck and yes, I would absolutely adore to read more of your absolutely fabulous novel. Please pony express it over here as soon as possible. Okay, so this probably won't be happening to me anytime soon. I am still a newbie writer and this was only my third rejection letter out of three queries I had sent. ::author ducks and clings to the floor while heavy books are flung at her head:: I know, I know. Three queries are nothing, minuscule even. When I've sent out 30 queries and been rejected each time then maybe I've earned the right to cry a little about it. But only for a little while. In the meantime, I keep writing and writing and writing and writing. Why is it so hard to take our own advice?

Sunday, April 8, 2007

I Like the Way You Talk

I saw Sling Blade for probably the hundredth time this weekend. I know, I know. Given that it's Easter weekend, I probably should have watched The Greatest Story Ever Told (good movie, but seriously, Jesus in a Page Boy?). There's just something about Sling Blade. It grabs me from the opening credits and draws me completely and totally into its world. The tone and mood are set as much by the understated dialog as by the haunting soundtrack. Each song is as integral to the story as the characters themselves are. And what I love most about it is sometimes you're not even aware the music's there. My favorite part is when Carl finally decides what he has to do to insure Frank's happiness. An amazing guitar riff punctuates this scene, building higher and higher until he knows he can't put off the inevitable any longer. My heart races and my breath quickens every time I watch this, even though I already know the outcome.

This got me thinking about my own writing and wondering if I could just as seamlessly weave a soundtrack into my stories. One of my favorite authors, Michelle Rowen, creates an actual soundtrack for each of her books. Maybe we can't hear the music as we're reading her novels, but we can certainly feel it. It's in the dialog, the tone, and even the pacing of each scene. I'll admit it. I'm jealous. My soundtrack at present is more like an out of tune radio stuck playing old Barry Manilow songs. But, I'm still working on it. And hopefully one day soon, someone will tell me, "I like the way you talk".

Friday, April 6, 2007

Maybe I Shoulda Paid More Attention in English Class

In between my schizophrenic channel surfing last night, I ran onto an interesting program on PBS. It was called "The American Novel". They read and reenacted excerts from several critically praised books I had heard of (I didn't daydream all the way through high school English) but quite frankly had never read. According to the show, each book and their main characters had the same thing in common: the pursuit of the American Dream, or at least his or her own version of what that means. In Sister Carrie, for instance, the heroine moves away from her small town in search of that great American cliche, A Better Life. From what I could gather, in the beginning apparently this meant acquiring an expensive new coat (a requirement for any true social climber worth her salt), and could be purchased for the low, low price of her virtue. Of course, I may have misunderstood this as I was also flipping back and forth between America's Next Top Model. I don't believe, however, Carrie was forced to wear extensions or be berated for her "dead eyes". Anyway, this got me thinking about my own American Dream which is naturally to be a published author. After watching the show last night, here is why it probably won't happen:
  1. Many brilliant authors aren't appreciated in their own time. Okay, so maybe I'll never be brilliant no matter how many years I live on this earth. But damn it, I want a four star review on now while I can bask in it, not 30 years down the road. Somehow, I don't imagine F.Scott Fitzgerald is sitting up in the great beyond, thinking well at least they like me now.
  2. Great writing comes from great suffering. Personally, I don't like suffering and pain. It hurts me.
  3. Alright, I'll admit it. I don't have a third reason. I switched the channel after an hour to watch Medium and the sight of Jake Weber in his boxers completely wiped any thoughts of classic literature out of my head.
So, at the end of all this rambling, what truth did I really come away with? To achieve your American Dream (and I'm assuming it's the same as mine if you're reading this), Apply Butt to Chair and get on with it. Didn't you read the post below?

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

ABCs of Writing

So, I was doing my usual morning ritual of blog surfing and came across a great post by Elizabeth Hoyt over at Romantic Inks about the ABCs of writing. Very simple concept really....just Apply Butt to Chair. Not the first time I've heard this and certainly won't be the last (I think Nora Roberts has this tattooed somewhere on her body). So, if it's so easy why aren't I practicing it? And why isn't my book finished yet? Why aren't my 12 books finished yet? Oh, most of the time I do actually manage to get my sorry behind into the chair, but the writing part? Not so much. I even open Word, scan through the last page or so of what I've written, and then proceed to stare off into space contemplating the great mysteries of the universe (or at the very least that mystery defier himself, Sanjaya and how the hell he's still on American Idol). Not very productive and yet I continue to follow the same routine every day. I console myself with the fact that if I can manage even one word each time I do this, my book should be done in time for my retirement in 40 or so years. Here's hoping.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

You Mean I Have to Think of a Title Too?

As I'm writing this and editing the rest of my blog set-up, I realize I may have to change my name. For some reason, Whiny Aspiring Author seems much more appropriate. Of course, I don't mean to be this way, but I imagine none of us do. How many times have we told ourselves or our friends "I'd finish my book if I only had more time" or "Life is just too crazy right now"? While I agree that a certain frame of mind is needed to write, or at least to write well, this isn't always possible. If we wait for the ideal situation in which to finish our wonderful, undiscovered novel for the ages, get ready to do a hell of a lot more internet surfing. And while I do enjoy most of my procrastination methods, there is only so much Brickshooter Egypt a person can play. I guess this is the main reason I decided to start blogging. I don't truly imagine a lot of people will even read this, but maybe it can serve as a kind of kick in the ass I need to get myself in gear. And this isn't really just another method of procrastinating.....I mean technically I'm still writing. That's my story for now, and I'm sticking to it.