Friday, October 28, 2011

finishing a draft

Nearing the end of MAD SCIENCE...Since this post is behind me a little in time, the manuscript is out in the world. We'll see what happens.

Also, I've joined the MAD MAD WORLD of twitter. I'm there: BrianYansky@...I kind of like it. Seems more interesting that fb or maybe it's just new.

Also, just finished a round of edits on my second alien novel, tentatively called FIGHTING ALIEN NATION. I made some good changes, I think, I hope.


Now it does feel like the right time to let the manuscript set for a while. So I was right to wait. I just have to accept that I’ll know when I’ve taken the manuscript as far as I can without taking a rest from it. Sure, there are always things I can do. I could go through it right now and find language things to change. BUT that’s not the best use of my time. I know there are bigger problems than my using the almost right word (a big problem, yes, but for a later draft) and I need a little distance to see those bigger problems.

Right now I really love this manuscript. Why pretend otherwise? It’s good. I can’t see its faults. It’s a great feeling. But, alas, it’s not true. I need to see the faults so I can make my next revision push the manuscript forward.

Honestly, I love that I love writing. I love the moments when the manuscript feels right to me and I don’t want to lose those. Delusion is an important part of writing. But it’s also important to get beyond it to make the manuscript better.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

JG rules

The Rule of John
John Gardner is one of the kings of writing about writing. He had a lot to say. He also wrote several very good novels. Two of my favorites are told by monsters, one is Freddy’s Book and the other is Grendal. You’ve got to love a story from a monster’s POV. They are certainly underrepresented in fiction.

“Good writers may ‘tell’ almost anything in fiction except the characters’ feelings. One may tell the reader that the character went to a private school…or one may tell the reader that the character hates spaghetti; but with rare exceptions the characters’ feelings must be demonstrated: fear, love, excitement, doubt, embarrassment, despair become real only when they take the form of events—action (or gesture), dialogue, or physical reaction to setting. Detail is the lifeblood of fiction” John Gardner.
Thank you Mr. Gardner.

Notice he says “good writers may tell”—you still have to find a way to make your telling interesting.
Notice “rare exceptions” because sometimes you will break even John Gardner’s rules. This may happen more frequently when writing humorous scenes and you describe feelings for a laugh.
But these and other exceptions only prove the Rule of John.

Friday, October 14, 2011

more mad science

Mad Science 21
So I’ve now been through the whole manuscript again. It’s getting closer. I’ve added more to it and clarified the narrative somewhat. Most importantly, I think I’ve given the characters more depth. Getting into each character a little more has caused me to see the relationships between some of the characters more clearly: Ash and Frank and Frank and his father, in particular.

When I’m in the draft I’m engaged by it and I’m always walking around thinking about it—at this stage I mean. It’s the nature of this place in the manuscript that there are many things that need to be worked out and worked through and, like most writers, I mull over ways to work through them.

BUT , also, there’s the struggle to make it more—more believable, more compelling, more interesting, more emotional etc… at this point. I’m looking for places where the interaction between characters in a scene isn’t quite right—that can be for a number of reasons. Wrong motivations maybe or I lose the momentum of a scene or I give into abstractions rather than finding the specific words that will reveal what the scene is about or a failure of language in some way.
This is why most writers rewrite so much. There are many, many things to be done in revision.
Mad Science 22
I think I might be at the place where I’ll print the manuscript up and take a look at it that way. It helps me look at it differently when I see it on the page so I think that’s the next step. Depending on how this goes, I might then go into my set-the-manuscript-aside for a few weeks mode. For the last few novels this has been the point where I try to get a few readers—my agent who is kind enough to read and give back comments and my wife for sure and maybe another person. Depending on the timing, I might try to get my critique group to look at part of it or all of it.

Just to be clear—I’ve had my agent for five or six years and I’m not trying to get an agent or I wouldn’t show it to one until I had the book in the best shape I could make it. But since I have a working relationship with my agent I find it’s helpful to get her feedback when I feel like I have a manuscript that’s in good shape but not ready to submit shape. She can give me some perspective and she’s willing to do it and it can be very helpful to have at a certain point when I’m heading into the homestretch with the manuscript.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Importance of situation and teen book festival


I was at the Austin Teen Book Festival last weekend (see above). That was a great place to be. Over two-thousand excited teen readers. Yes, they are out there. It was amazing to see them and I was honored to be part of it. One of the many questions asked to the panel I was on was how do you get started writing? I think, for me, writing often starts with a situation. I began my novel ALIEN INVASION & OTHER INCONVENIENCES thinking about the topic of alien invasion but narrowing it to the situation of an invasion that only takes ten seconds. That pretty much forced me to write about what happened after the invasion, which was what interested me most. Writers start in all kinds of ways, but for me the ideas and characters begin in some kind of situation.