Thursday, August 25, 2011

More Mad Scientist's Son

Mad Scientist 14
Doing this blog is making me aware of how much I’m changing in this version of Mad Scientist (version number 3 if you count the discovery draft). It’s not down to just language yet by any means. My changes that attempt to clarify theme earlier in the manuscript are making me think I need to cut characters and completely redo the next few chapters. It feels like I went off the path here. By theme here I’m talking about what is lurking beneath the surface story—what ideas and issues are being worked out in this story.

Mad Scientist 15
I realized some things about the main characters that I didn’t understand earlier. I just kept working on adding to manuscript and finally it seemed clear.
Why oh why couldn’t I see this before? I don’t want to seem ungrateful to the writer Gods. After all, it was a glorious morning, seeing the way to go. I praise them effusively. But this process is so damn messy.
You know what I’m grateful for though is the ability of self-delusion. It is so helpful that I’m able to think I’m writing better than I am at each stage of the writing. Okay, I know there are problems, but I still manage to find pleasure in a good sentence, an insight into character, etc…
So today I see the motivation of an important secondary character which will effect Frank, too, and more especially another important secondary character, and it’s so much better than last draft, so much more believable within the context of the draft.
But here’s another thought, back to the last paragraph. Maybe it doesn’t matter when I come to my insights in writing as long as I come to them. And that ability to be happy within the context of a draft, that self-delusion, is a kind of gift.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

mad scientist 13

Mad Sceintist 13
What I’m struggling with today is something that I thought yesterday and that I’ve been mulling over since. Mulling is the writer way. Mull while you eat your Frosted Flakes (an admission that I eat kid’s cereal for breakfast), take your shower, walk your dog, exercise or avoid exercise, and so on. Mull, mull, mull. Most writers are mullers.

But back to the point. My main character changes but I don’t really have my secondary character changing. She is supporting my main character but that’s not good enough.

This is definitely analysis here but I am in revision stage so I need to stand back in places.
1. I need to look for places to make my main character’s CHANGING more dramatic.
2. I need to look at secondary characters and make them change more.

There are two concerns here. One is with narrative structure, that arc of character that people are always going on about and how it influences the arc of the story. The other is about characters, the heart of fiction. Really. If people don’t care about your characters, then, in the words of movie Mafiosos, “Forget about it.”

That was why, earlier, it worried me so much when I felt my characters didn’t have heart, another way of saying they didn’t feel flesh and blood yet.

So for the sake of story and character I need to clarify the changes that they go through in this story. I figured out one change that wasn’t there before yesterday and today I’m going to go back through the first hundred pages I’ve revised and see if I can make that change work.

Also, if it does then it needs to be “in” the manuscript from the beginning. Any change made on p. 80 needs to connect to p.1.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

more mad scientist

Still working on my mad science novel. I've been writing some blog entries as a kind of diary of the work and to show how I worked through problems in a specific novel I was writing. The blog entries are a little behind real time now. It's a strange, strange novel, so I do worry that I'm writing one that won't find a publisher. You never know, especially if you take chances in your work, if it will find a home. Even if it does work (and you're not certain of that either until you finish and sometimes not even then), your publisher--even if you've published a few books--might say no for a number of reasons. Still, you have to write what you have to write and the real enjoyment and pleasure in writing comes from that. But I can say that my agent has read a version of the novel and loved it. That's encouraging. Still more work to do, but I feel good that she didn't just say, "Now what is this again? Tell me again what you've written?" More later...back to the journal.....

I have to keep working on the language because one of the things I discover in revision is that I put a filter between the story and the reader too often. Yes, you have to summarize sometimes but when you’re trying to involve the reader in a scene the filter not only distances the reader it makes me unable to see the deeper aspects of some interaction. I have to make the connections to deepen the writing.
Specificity of language helps me find my way and I keep working on that. You can write your way into deepening a character sometimes.
This is my third rewrite of the whole manuscript though some places have been rewritten more than that. Thinking about character today. Fiction is ultimately about getting readers to feel and experience what your characters experience so they care about them. Ideas behind all that are interesting if they’re interesting ideas, but they aren’t the reason the reader will read and care about your story/novel.

Okay, so one thing I’m doing today to try to deepen the characters is strengthening the relationship between the father and son. And what I just did was have a flashback and not long after that a flash-forward.

Flashback helped. It helped me see more of dad and son and I have to keep working that. I need to feel more what’s at stake between them.

Flash-forward is me trying to say indirectly what the consequences of what’s happening in a scene might be. This has to come out of character though. It can’t be thought up. It has to flow organically from the scene. What it adds, besides character development, is a hint at the possible future of the story.

Friday, August 5, 2011

bang your head against the wall school of writing

I interrupt my regularly scheduled MAD SCIENTIST posts for an important message. As I was banging my head against the wall this morning trying to create a coherent sentence, I suddenly realized that this was my method of writing. I am of the bang-your-head-against- the-wall school of writing. True, it does lead to a slightly misshapen head and if you get carried away there is the danger of concussion, but it’s my school just the same, my alma mater. Go bang-your-head-against- the- wall writers.

If you write and write and write WITH a constant eye toward what you’re doing wrong and right in each piece you work on while, when perplexed, banging your head against the wall for guidance, you will eventually find your way. I am a believer.

Or so I think today.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Mad Scientist's Son #8.9

Okay, reading through the beginning of The Mad Scientist’s Son and I think that the emphasis in wrong. I do think about structure more than I used to in revision because I know it’s a weakness of mine. There’s a lengthy flashback near the beginning and I’m going to have to cut. It takes the reader away from the main current of the story too soon. So not only is it a distraction but it may actually take the reader in the wrong direction. You don’t want to take the reader in the wrong direction.

This relationship begins with unrequited love. Frank keeps saying, “My friend, not my girlfriend” because he has to keep reminding himself. I need to connect this to his NEED TO FIT IN—which is important to where he starts this novel.

So one thing I see is Frank’s POV is a little distant. I didn’t see that before. Why can’t I just see these things in draft 1? I don’t know but I can’t. And I’m not alone. Stephen King in his book on writing talks about how he finds big glaring train wreck problems in his manuscripts in revision. It’s part of the process, I guess. And it sucks because you think once you finish a few novels you could avoid the glaring train wrecks but, like life, afraid not.
Maybe sometimes. Maybe.

But now, with Frank, focusing on POV and getting closer and making him see out of his POV instead of forcing an external POV , the language is changing and I’m writing myself closer to his character.

OLD VERSION: It was then that a hologram carrier pigeon fluttered above us and landed on my shoulder. Old bird eyes stared into mine in that flat, declarative way of, well, old birds. The technology for holograms was so good now that it was easy to forget the bird wasn’t real.

NEW VERSION: The fluttering above me made me look up and there was a hologram carrier pigeon asking permission to land. I gave it and it landed on my shoulder, claws pinching my skin. Old bird eyes stared into mine in that flat, declarative way of, well, old birds. He seemed real and even intelligent, as if he had something to say. I mean more than a message.
This was a wrong thought. If I spoke it to others, they would frown.

There’s something about seeing from the inside out, working from that place inside and coming out instead of trying to force the description in-- that adds more to a scene and also helps making connections inside a character. The things I start seeing because of a closer relationship to my character allow me to deepen that character.
I’ve just got to keep on. Of course they’ll be tightening at the sentence and word level but this gives me a way into my character and story.
Or so I think today.