Thursday, May 28, 2015

The Lights Will Stay On by The Walkabouts

There are some moments that are so defining for you as a writer, moments that seal your fate, and you can never shake that moment off. This moment for me was a phone call to my sister-in-law. She and I had been very close and shared all our darkest secrets, our love of writing, religion, and folklore. We were so alike in so many ways, and I think I was crushed when she moved away, and became so involved in her family's life. I was jealous. Because she was such a good friend to me and I could always rely on her for the truth, the kind of truth I needed from someone. We used to laugh that we were both mystics. I think that's true. This book will be dedicated to her, because she loved the idea of it.

Life can be so cruel. She moved away, and it was probably at a time when I could have used a really good friend. The same was going on for her. But she had her loving daughters, so I shouldn't whine. But she got sick, very sick, and was soon dying. I couldn't believe it. I had so much going on in my own life at that time that I couldn't believe that the one person who was my mystic half was dying, far across the country and I could do nothing for her. I could hardly talk to her and I didn't. I pulled away, because she was so sick and she barely made it through most days and as I have said, she had the ones she really needed, the ones she wanted in her life and I knew and understood that.  But one day, Fred and I were riding around in the car, and I just thought of her and had to talked to her. So we pulled over and I called her. And we talked. I remember exactly what we talked about and how it all came back to something that really took hold of me on this story. She died a few days later.

At her funeral her daughter told something that gave me the shivers. She told me that when her mother got off the phone with me, she turned and looked at her and said, "It's time. I am going to die. Janie's called." And she did die, two days later. I was thinking how we had really never said goodbye to each other. We had only talked about things we loved and each other. We laughed. This song is about that, how life goes on, and it also gave me the title of my book.

After she died, I watched my father die a slow miserable death that had been coming on for years, and then my beloved Aunt Belle died, and then my own mother died, followed by a beloved cousin who was my gardening buddy. Those were grueling years of suffering and loss. I never wrote a decent word in those blight years, for that is what I call them.

But lights do stay on and we pass through sorrows and then go on....

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

More revising on plot, running out of spoons

That's me standing in the back. Soon I am going to have another birthday and this book is not finished. Oh, dear. I feel drained. I am revising and FIXING. Sometimes it feels like I am in a game. I used to be good at all kinds of games, like croquet and Rook. Most of the adults on the street hated to see me coming if they were going to play either and I was only eight years old. I am always pretty good at what I want to do. And I want to write this  book, I want to finish it, and sell it before I fall out in the floor!  For a day or two, ( I am scheduling all the posts this week but this one and the one on Tanith Lee), I have been going over the text I am keeping and the new plot notes, which are highly detailed. Today, I finally figured out how to fix everything and scratched out notes, but I have to sit down and work out all the wrinkles in the plot and retype up the notes. I am so tired.  Lydia came over today and we played all day, including doing puzzles and Candyland and a movie, along with a tea party with imaginary guests and food. Of course, we had all the proper decorations and dishes. I don't remember that other girl in this picture, I am not sure who she was, but I am sure I won. I was low on spoons even then. That never stopped me, but I guess sooner or later, I will be stopped by something.

63 Sections, Mostly Scenes

I just replotted the entire book, section by section. The book is on a board. The entire thing. I am now going over the plot board, using The Scene Book, which is used in colleges now. I love this little book, precisely because every section in your book may not be a true scene, but it must have a purpose, a meaning, and a beat. I have 63 Sections, most are true scenes, meaning they have a goal, a conflict, and so forth. Some are half-scenes. But I found it easier to write in full scenes this time around. In other words, I thought about Evan Marshall's old rule of action, consequences, and then choice.

63 Scenes is a lot of scenes for a novel. Most scenes take at least 8 pages. Do the math. I've done something in this book that I have not done before. I've let each section stand on it's own. They are like the chapters. They might be 1 page or 10. And each of them has a title that helps with development. I also had a definitive page number that I could not go over writing a scene. That became difficult.  The odd thing about plotting this time is that I've been very detailed. I guess I could do this because I've written a draft and then some and I knew what didn't work and what worked. That has been the only saving grace of this abominable process. But if I had thought it all out in detail before, I would have probably arrived at much the same place, though who knows, I might not have seen some things. So let's just say, I have forgiven myself for the mess and am happy with what I have.

63 Scenes means a 500 page book.

That's a lot of words. But I wanted the book to stand alone and have series potential.

One of the things I discovered in detailing out all the plot was how the scenes functioned and in what mode they functioned. Dialogue. Action. Feelings/Thoughts. Summary.Descriptive. Background. And how I mixed it up and so forth. This was one of the questions I had and couldn't really answer before. I couldn't look at the book and see the modes and how well I had mixed them up and how I had mixed them up. After reading a lot of fiction last year and this year, I knew I had some failings. I tried to talk to a few writers about this, but I never could get a good discussion going, and so in 10 very good novels I read, I went through and labeled the modes.

This book is really not about that, but I had notes from Evan Marshall on this from years ago. I got to thinking about how a book moves and the kinds of modes and I remembered Evan talking about this and I thought, I need to be sure I understand that.  In some of the books I read, I realized what made a good read differ from a great read was how the modes were placed. And I realized, sadly, that some people thought they had written action scenes with dialogue and they had not. That narrative must be driven by either character or real action if it is to succeed. A good many writers don't do this well enough, me included.

I think this is an excellent book, especially when plotting a book, and if you don't plot (bless your heart) then it's a good book to analyze your scenes once they are written. It's a very good book and I HIGHLY RECOMMEND keeping it on your writing desk.

For the next few days, I'll be thinking and reading and revising this plot, not shifting scenes, but detailing them down to some fine points. Some of them I've written in some form, some have been revised. And I need to be sure I follow each of the main character's emotional journey. I also am going to cut a couple of things that I feel the story doesn't really need though I loved them. One of them was one of my favorite things. But there comes a time when you when you learn to step back from your convictions and do what is best for book. I kind of want the book to go another way now.

There are three things I have wanted to do with this book

1) Write better action scenes, meaning scenes that engage many characters and contain real action, not movement and not dialogue.

2) Write better dialogue. I've been reading about dialogue for the last year. Good dialogue is suggestive and creates conflict.

3) Write more descriptively. Fantasy is nothing without emotionally invested description. The reader needs to see and feel the world. 

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Tanith Lee Has left this world (1947-2015)

I first read Tanith Lee in the mid-1980s, with this collection of short stories. I've been reading her ever since, and occasionally I gloam all her work for details such as this:

"The shuttered house too was gaunt in the moonlight. Was it not somewhat like a tall thin skull, eye-socket, nostrils, cave of mouth with its teeth knocked out. And what about that phalanx of round attic windows above? Of course, the scars of bullets which had gone through the brain and killed it long ago."-- Stained with Crimson, Book of Paradys. 

Emotionally invested description was her gift. She painted her stories like an artist. She paid attention to color. And I reread her all the time just to see the words, all those beautiful and yes, sometimes, very dark words.

Tanith Lee has died, and I am so sad to hear it. If you look on Goodreads, you'll see that she was in my top five favorite writers, always has been and always will be. Others come and go, but she remains. She was very prolific and I have heard she wrote some 300 short stories and 90 novels. I can't even imagine that. But I want to read them all. I think I had to write this today, I had to post it, because it's difficult to believe there will be no more stories and that she was ill and well, we distant readers, do not ever hear of such things. And now she has died and left this world. 

Another hole in the soul that cannot be filled.

The piano version of In the End by Linkin Park


These posts are color commentaries on certain songs I chose for my writing soundtrack and why.

I didn't realize until this year how important music was to writing this book. I never even acknowledged that music had anything to do with my writing. I had a soundtrack and it helped me focus in some scenes, but now in my head, as I have done all this work this year, I've decided that my writing soundtrack was pretty good at helping me tell the story, too. A lot of this happened by walking to this soundtrack on days I could not walk outside, which was basically winter months. Somehow the music began to sharpen things in my mind. It began to influence some actual scenes. I don't know how that happened, but it did.

The piano version of In the End by Linkin Park is like the book's theme song, it would be that melody that goes all the way through the book, like the a theme song to a movie and you hear that theme song played on Oscar night. Smiling. I suppose it highlights a reoccurring theme and extended metaphor that I've carried all the way through the story.