Sunday, August 31, 2008

It's Bleeding! Emergency Surgery Required!

Ok, I did it. I cut 8000 words out of my plot and replaced it with 6000 words. Emergency surgery is now required to suture it into place, stop the hemorrhaging and prevent system shock.

Only time will tell if I can perform plot surgery like this:


Or like this:

(For more info on the artist of the above painting, click here.)

Ok, I'm done with all the overblown comparisons.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Patching Plotholes

Does your story ever feel like this?


I look at this picture and I think, wow, now that's a lot of potholes. Of course, this is a dirt road, so maybe that's to be expected. However, the poor sucker who has to fix these potholes has quite a job cut out for him. I kind of feel that way right now about my espionage fantasy.

And you can only work on plotholes one at a time.

In order to repair a pothole, sometimes it's necessary to bring in some heavy equipment. And sometimes, that heavy equipment causes new potholes to form. I'm dealing with this as well. "Ok, so I've rewritten the entire catalyst scene from scratch, but now I have a dangling plotline where this didn't happen the way it did in the old scene, and at least ten or fifteen scenes further on down the line absolutely depends on this happening."

If I'm not careful, I'll be repairing this thing forever, and when it's finished, the patch will look like this:


when it needs to look like this:

 

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Cowboy Muscle Car Story

I've finally finished the science fiction story I blogged about last month, the one with the muscle cars. I'm very happy with it. It's about 5000 words. I don't know if I'll sell it, but I learned a few things that I think will help me write future short stories.
  • Keep the subplots to a bare minimum. I have two plots in my story. One is an overarching theme about having to do without fossil fuels. The other is the story of two brothers. I really had to keep it from growing. I wanted to add an aunt in there who was carrying on with the leader of the gang. But to resolve that plot would have required another 2000 to 5000 words. The more plots, the more words. If you get much over 6000 words, the number of markets you can submit to start getting limited.
  • Keep the number of characters to a minimum. The more people, the more words the story requires. The aunt would have been nice in a story that is just about 100% male, but her part in it would have just complicated matters.
  • Give it some drama. I get so impatient with many short stories--stories by seasoned professionals who sell lots of fiction--because they have no plots. There might be an interesting situation, or a fascinating bit of technology or magic, but no problem to overcome. As a reader, I need a problem for the story to keep my interest.
  • Cut, cut, cut. Everything that isn't absolutely necessary has to go. That's why I eliminated another character that I liked--a younger sister. This was the story of two brothers, so I didn't need the sister. So poor Betsy had to go.
On the Starcaster front, I decided to rewrite a lengthy scene from scratch. It had so many plot holes that you could have used it as a sieve. It was also one of the earliest scenes I wrote for this story. I think those two facts are related. The replacing scene (or scenes) will be about half that length, I think. And, it will integrate better into some plot-lines that I thought of later in the story.

But still, over 8000 words was hard to cut from an 85,000 word novel. That was 10 percent!

What's the biggest chunk you've ever cut?

Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Read-Aloud Phase

Finally, after being sick for almost two weeks, I have progressed to the read-aloud phase of my novel. This time, I combined the read-aloud phase with the hardcopy phase, in an attempt to kill two birds with one stone. For my last novel, I first printed it out and marked it up with a red pen, then after I incorporated all those edits, I read it aloud. I seem to notice different problems with each pass through the novel, but this time, I decided it wouldn't hurt to attempt to do it all at once.

Plus, this time I have an audience for my read-aloud. My heroic husband--who already read the rough draft--has agreed to listen to my read-through. (We occasionally read books together; we read Tom Sawyer and Huckelberry Finn in this manner, and I read him most of Janet Evanovich's One for the Money before he picked it up and read it himself.) We got through 42 pages today before my throat gave out in a coughing fit.

I am pleased with how it's sounding. With my last novel, I made quite a few changes during the read-aloud phase, as what seemed fine on paper didn't quite sound right when read aloud. I'm not making nearly so many changes this time. I think this is because the voice for this novel was so firm in my mind that I was actually able to hear it as I wrote it. For my last novel, the voice really was not this distinctive. First person really was the way to go for this novel.

About 260 pages left to go!