Critique, Editing, Excerpt, Fiction, My Books, Novel, Revision, Words, Writing

1,000 Words

I submitted to strangers once again this week. Miss Snark’s First Victim opened her blog for submissions of the first 1,000 words of your novel for critique by her readers. A previous version of the first chapter of my novel-in-progress The Brevity of Roses was critiqued by over a dozen other writers, but only a couple had read the revision. So, yesterday I submitted the revised excerpt and hoped for the best.

There are shortcomings in such a format. For one, no blurb or setup was part of the submission, and I think that is a liability. A reader picking up a published book would have this information from the back cover or flap before reading the opening pages. Some questions I’ve received in comments would not have been asked, if I had been able to give a little setup. Also, italic formatting was lost in translation to the blog, so a few sentences meant to be italicized indicating direct thought, inspired questions whether these were POV slips. [Turns out, I did have a minor POV problem, just not in these lines.]

Despite these shortcomings, I’ve had some very good feedback. Some of it funny. I discovered my Meredith is a lush! This impression came from the fact that I pictured her being served those two-ounce glasses of wine served in expensive restaurants, while most others apparently pictured full glasses [like I usually pour myself 🙂 ]  One person even suggested an actor to play Meredith in the filmed version … may it be a box office smash!

Thank you, Miss Snark’s First Victim and her readers. I am thrilled to have such generous writers offer their help to me. I’m off to edit and tweak … again.

Characters, Critique, Editing, Excerpt, Fiction, Group, Novel, Revision, Writing

My neverending story?

A few days ago, the five year-old in my life, was having a bad moment. Denied her request for Coke, she’d been crying for several minutes when she sobbed, “I’m afraid this is never going to end!” I know how she feels, though I’m not referring to tears (yet). My writing has been up for critique twice this week, once in my regular writing group and, for the first time, I submitted an excerpt for a “blind” critique at MissSnarksFirstVictim.

Although I appreciate any bit of praise I get (believe me, I need it) I also know that my writing skills will not advance unless I understand where I’m lacking. People who don’t have to look you in the eye, or even speak to you again, can be more honest in critique. Some of the comments I received in the blind critique were mostly favorable and helpful, a couple were not helpful because this was a chapter ending contest and the reader was confused not knowing what had come before this excerpt, another couple were not favorable nor helpful, but a few, though not favorable, were helpful because they pointed out valid problems. In the end, I learned what I thought was a good chapter ending—is not. It should be the opening for the next chapter.

Once I accepted this, I looked back at the previous scene and realized that I’d tied up that one in a pretty bow too, so it wouldn’t make a good ending either. But here’s the thing, rereading that scene I realized I hadn’t conveyed the real import of the character’s thought at that point. The addition of a single line, not only corrected that mistake, but gave a hook to lead into the next chapter.

I’d written, edited, revised, and re-edited this chapter in question, and still hadn’t seen these problems. So today I’m thinking about the time-frame for completing this novel and crying, “I’m afraid this is never going to end!”

Excerpt, Fiction, Musings, My Books, Novel, Power, Theme, Writing

The power of three

Before Renee could say anything more, anything about Meredith, Jalal took off at a run, heading back home. Passing not another soul along the empty street, he cut across the bridge and wound through the lanes, every house looming dark and silent, every pounding step echoing from the vacant spaces, every heartbeat taking him down and down and down toward the shore.

tri_gld_prplOne of the themes in my current work is the number three. There are three main characters. Three lives with three stories of love, loss, and redemption. The quote above illustrates my natural tendency to compose in repetition of three: street, bridge, lanes; every house, every step, every heartbeat; down, down, down. My brain does not let go at two or four; it’s satisfied at three.

Maybe, it comes to me from my Celtic ancestors with their copious use of triadic symbols, but likely I’m expressing archetype, a universal law. Consider:

  • Body, soul, and spirit (echoed by: the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost)
  • Maiden, mother, crone
  • Primary, secondary, tertiary
  • Past, present, future
  • Morning, noon, and night
  • Up, down, and all around
  • Thought, word, and deed
  • Animal, vegetable, and mineral

Expressions of three are … well … here, there and everywhere.

Excerpt, Fiction, Novel, Writing

Running to and fro

Today I write. Today Jalal runs. And today Jalal begins to respond:

As Jalal feared, the tide had not receded enough for him to run past Blue Point, so he doubled back and then continued south. Not far past his house, he spotted her. Running forced him outside his zone of solitude and, in the effort to stave off unwanted contact, he learned to stay aware of his surroundings, to be alert to what moved in and out of his peripheral vision. Renee stood on the first landing of the steps leading down from the pathway.

Her face was in profile. She looked out to sea, or possibly, she looked at nothing. Bundled against the chill and damp, with only a few flyaway tendrils escaping her hooded sweatshirt, he was surprised he knew the shape of her. Her stance, her coloring, the line of her jaw, somehow committed to memory already.

Surely, she would see him in seconds—three, two, now—he passed below her. He didn’t look up. She didn’t call out to him. He felt relieved and disappointed in equal measure.

Excerpt, Fiction, Writing

Literary Tag

I was tagged twice today by fellow writers Kasie and Candice. Kasie says it’s called Bookwormed.

Here are the rules:
1. Open the closest book – not a favorite or most intellectual book, but the closest at the moment – to page 56.

2. Write out the fifth sentence on the page, as well as the two to five sentences following.

3. Then open your ms to page 56 and write out the fifth sentence, as well as two to five additional ones.

4. Tag five (or more) buddies to do this same exercise.

So, here’s this from Charles Frazier’s “Cold Mountain”:

The houses were dark inside, even on a bright day. Those with shutters kept them pulled to. Those with curtains kept them drawn. The houses smelled strangely, though not uncleanly, of cooking and animals and of people who worked.

And now, my WIP:

Meredith and Jalal ran laughing onto the porch. They had gone for a stroll along the beach walkway after dinner, but just as they came back in sight of his house, a windswept rainstorm surprised them. Now, just as they stepped over the threshold, lightning splintered the air with a sound they felt in their bones, and a velvety blackness swallowed up the beach road. Jalal reached out and flipped the light switch with no result.

I tag all writers who read this and would like to participate. Anyone? Anyone?