Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Step Away from the Keyboard!

This day and evening, by dint of neglecting ten other things I should have been taking care of, I finished the last of the major edits I've been sweating through on my novel The Single Eye.  In other words, this revised draft is done.

To mark the occasion I've sent it off to two beta readers.  Until I hear back from them, I solemnly swear to leave this manuscript the heck alone.  I'll pretend these readers have the only copies and I can't look at it or lay my hands on it at all.  I'll keep up that fiction for the next two months, after which I might be able to regard it with more objectivity.

If either of these readers uncovers some major structural issue no one else has caught before, that's another story.  But I'm hoping it will be just little things like typos that I can deal with when I do my final read-throughs in March.

We'll see.

In other news, it looks like I and two others from our Pennwriters area will be starting a new critique group on the 28th of this month.  Did that sound tentative?  Yeah.  That's because I've wanted to be part of a face to face writers' group for so long that it's hard to grasp that it's finally coming together.  I'll be workshopping my second novel, and it'll be an experiment in psychology to see how well I shift my head from the world of novel No. 1 to that of novel No. 2.  I mean, when the interaction between your protagonists is so much more fun than anything you're involved in in real life . . .

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Home Stretch

I just may be in the home stretch of this last set of major revisions to The Single Eye.

I've done some minor rejiggering to make my female protagonist's motivations clearer as she convinces herself to do what she does at the novel's climax. A lot of that involved taking scenes out of the male protagonist's point of view and putting them into hers. All this is good for the book in general because it highlights her character arc. And I'd wondered if that was getting obscured.

One of my latest beta readers complained about the way I switch the POV back and forth between my two main characters in the course of a single chapter. She's pretty sure, she said, that that's not something an author should do. I paid no attention to this. Good and great authors do it all the time, and it's particularly kosher if you put a line/scene break between the POVs. Which I've done.

But as I communicated further with this beta, I learned the POV shifts that bothered her particularly came at the novel's climax. Far from speeding up the action, the switches between the female main character's point of view and that of the male MC only slowed things down. My reader kept having to stop and wonder, "Whose head are we in anyway?"

No other beta has mentioned that, but I think this one is right. So I've rewritten that bit so it's entirely in the FMC's point of view. This has enabled me to cut out a chunk of business from the MMC that wasn't really material, making the scene tighter and more dramatic. (Besides, the more I can cut out, the happier I am.)

I've also cut out a plot wrinkle I put in about a year ago. About that same time I got into listening to the Writing Excuses podcasts, and more than once they've emphasized that it doesn't really work to throw in one more challenge after the climax. Your reader's reached the big climactic high, they want to release their tension, and it's not fair to make them ratchet their emotions up yet again. More than that, it's hard to make them care enough to try. This point was reiterated in an episode I was playing this past week, and the penny finally dropped. I edited that plot wrinkle out today. I'd only put it in to keep knowledgeable readers from picking holes, but I'll deal with that another way.

The last challenge has to do with my FMC's character arc. To get that right involves rethinking the personality of a minor character, a county sheriff. I have to transform him from a generic intelligent nice guy into a by-the-book hardass who'll grudgingly concede a point when the facts tell him he has to. My FMC has to come out of the conversation struggling with herself over whether she did the right thing in the climactic scene or not--- and come to terms with the fact that everything in life is not cut-and-dried and under her control.

. . . Just writing that last line has got me clearer on what her arc is about. Which I hope makes this really long post worthwhile.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Escaping the Morass of Stupid Tropes

So I'm lying in the dentist's chair this afternoon getting my teeth cleaned, when it hits me that I may be on the verge of committing an authorial sin I've always condemned in others. That's the trespass of having the plot depend on one of a loving couple, who have always communicated closely and openly, suddenly refraining from giving her lover a crucial piece of information, which lack of candor results in trouble, grief, mayhem, misunderstandings, and maybe even dandruff and the Heartbreak of Psoriasis.

What am I gonna do? It won't be a matter of letting him misinterpret something she's already done; rather, she wants to keep him in the dark about something she plans to do, something dangerous and daring and more than a little foolhardy. And she has to do it for my plot to reach its climax. How can I escape unspotted from the morass of stupid tropes?

Hmmm. I've been thinking about this the past couple of hours (happily, no longer in the dentist's chair). And I believe I can make it work by having her reason that she's keeping him in the dark for his own good because she loves him so much. She's got a strong protective streak in her . . . And she'll keep her mouth shut about her dangerous plans because she knows he wants to protect her, and if he knew he'd probably stop her. "Leave it to the police," he'd say, and ordinarily, he'd be right. But my FMC doesn't trust the police to handle it.

Ah, nothing like clarifying character motivations to get you out of Stupid Trope Prison. At least, I hope so.