Monday, December 19, 2011

Even My Twelve Year Old Daughter Knows About Showing vs. Telling

All I can say is OMG!

Today I let my twelve-year-old daughter read the first chapter of my story to get her opinion on its current state. Since she loves anything having to do with Harry Potter, I wasn't expecting much in the way of criticism. (She thinks any YouTube video set to the music of the Benny Hill theme song is awesome, so her bar of excellence isn't set too high).

So I asked her about the very first paragraph, and she told me that it would be better if I showed more instead of telling. I kid you not! Once I picked myself off the floor, I asked where she had heard the terms "Showing" and "Telling", and she replied, "her sixth grade English class."

I'd only heard about Showing and Telling two years ago. Man, they're teaching kids a lot faster these days.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Insecure Writer - Part II

Today is my December's contribution to Alex Cavanaugh's Insecure Writers Support Group.

What makes me an insecure writer this month?


Yes. Reading.

We’re all told that to be good writers, we need to be good readers. Read as many books as you can, they say. It’s good for you. See how published writers write. It will make you a better writer.

Perhaps. But it also makes me a depressed writer.

I read books on story structure and discover how poorly my story is structured.

I read books on the do’s and don’ts of fiction writing and find my story is chock full of don’ts.

I read fiction and discover how much more fluid everyone else’s writing is compared to mine.

The first two problems I can handle. It may take lots of practice, and oodles of time revising, but for the most part, everything I’ve read on how fiction works makes sense to me. I believe I can put together an interesting plot. I believe I can arrange my story so that I hit all the proper beats at the appropriate times. I’m confident I have an active enough imagination so that I’ll never run out of ideas about which to write.

It’s the last problem that keeps me up at night. Almost every time I read fiction, I’m reminded of how much better everyone else is at wielding words. Even in books that I find flawed (poor structure, too many dialogue tags, large wads of backstory, etc.), the authors still have a way with words that makes me envious. And I have no reason to assume that I’ll ever be able to do anything about it – no matter how much I practice.

So please forgive me if I don’t read any other fiction this month. I'll be much happier for it in 2012.

P.S. But I'll still keeping reading the writing how-to books.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Massacring Your Darlings

The keyboard is covered in blood. My desk is awash in the stuff. And don't even ask about the floor.

And for this, I blame my son.

He came down with a cold on Friday and spent much of the weekend in bed, requiring me to stay home with him while the wife and daughter went to the movies on Saturday and again on Sunday when they drove down to the in-laws for lunch.

What did this mean for me? It meant I had a ton of time to work on the manuscript. Yippee!  (Admit it, you thought this was going to be depressing story, didn't you? By the way, my son is feeling much better today, thank you very much. A win-win situation all around.)

So what was all that about a bloody keyboard, you ask? Well, a recent count of pages revealed that, although I still have several more chapters to write, my book on Hogwarts is currently going to top 700 pages. Now perhaps J.K. Rowling might be able to get away with that, but I can't, so I'm looking for places to condense. I've already reduced the manuscript's length by combining scenes and merging characters, but it's still not enough. So I spent most of the weekend cutting out huge chunks of the story.

I've been told that to be a successful writer, you need to be able to "kill your darlings." But when you lop off this many darlings in such a short period of time, it's more like a massacre. Makes me feel a little like a serial killer, if you know what I mean. I'm sure it will make the book better in the long run, but as most of you know, it's still hard to do.

What about you guys? How do you deal with it?

Friday, December 2, 2011

You may already have seen these jokes about writing, but I felt compelled to share this link with you since one of the jokes involves a chemist.