Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Art & Craft of Fiction, A Practitioner's Manual

Today I read The Art  & Craft of Fiction, A Practitioner's Manual by Victoria Mixon.

Recently I've been working on incorporating a known theme into Bon Secour and developing my "B" and "C" stories to also incorporate the theme.  Doing this work pointed out that my plot planning was not as complete as I thought it was.  A recent post in Victoria Mixon's blog, A. Victoria Mixon, Editor, introduced me to the idea of developmental editing.  And since I am as insecure as they come, I started thinking, "Do I need an developmental edit?"  And, if I do, is she the editor for me

I don't know how much a development edit costs.  But, the book is probably cheaper than the edit.  And if you don't like what she has to say about writing, you can cross her off the list of possible editors.  So, I bought the book to find out if I wanted her as an editor.

Well, I do like what she had to say.  I also like her sense of humor which might help when the deserved criticism comes rolling in. 

I have so much work to do before I would submit to a development audit.  If, in fact, I ever do.  After all it's like cleaning your house before the cleaning service comes to do the job.  You don't want them to see how messy you really are.  I've got to get my story in the best possible shape I can before I would let anyone see it.  Especially someone who is going to look in every corner and closet and find out how messy my house really is.

     "Writers who regularly attempt to plot and write at the same time are the ones who wind up drunks.
     So you mull it over for a long time, you think it all out, you make sure every plot point is necessary.  Every scene has a hook, development, and climax, every incident caused the next effect, every single twist teaches the reader something they didn't already know about life.
     Then you sit down and write your scenes, (or re-write, if you've done your planning in 72,000 words of prose), entertaining yourself mightily as you go."

This is a really good book.  Part I: Developmental Issues is excellent.  It contained both new to me information and a better explanation of topics I've read before.  I give it three stars.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Long Lost by Harlan Coben

Today I finished reading Long Lost by Harlan Coben.

I read this book as a part of my Learn to Write by Reading Project.

I like Harlan Coben.  This is only the second of his books that I have read.  So, I'm not sure I really understand how he writes.  But, I was fascinated by the way the use of dialogue carried this story.  It seems like there were pages and pages of wonderful dialogue with very little description.  He let the reader picture the scene from their own imagination.  I like that.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Selling Your Story in 60 Seconds by Michael Hauge

Today I read Selling Your Story in 60 Seconds by Michael Hauge.

I bought and read this book because I'm still under the delusion that I will actually sit my but down in the chair and write Bon Secour.  And when I do, I'll need to know how to sell it to an agent.  This book was written primarily for screenwriters but it is equally applicable to writers of novels.

"The secret of a successful 60-second pitch is to convey the most powerful elements of your story clearly, succinctly and passionately -- to get the buyer emotionally involved enough that he demands to read the script [novel]. . .   Don't try to tell your story!"  p.1

He shows you how to analyse your story and identify its most powerful elements to build your sales pitch on.  

And, if you don't have at least four of the ten elements he write about, you probably don't have a saleable story.

I give this book three stars.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Three Bags Full

He sat in his recliner journaling.  His belly was cramping.  Last night his stool was black again.  And, he pooped 'three bags full'.  He waited for the fever and the dizziness to begin.  His new surgical oncologist was out of town.  If the bleeding had to be stopped surgically, he'd rather him do it.  But for now he had to wait. 

The cramping hurt his belly and his psyche.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Dear John by Nicholas Sparks

Today I finished reading Dear John by Nicholas Sparks.

I'm a fan of movies based on Nicholas Sparks' novels.  My favorite movie based on his books was The Notebook.  I saw the movie Dear John a couple of months ago and it was still fresh in my mind.

Since there is so often a huge difference between a book and its movie, I decided to read a Nicholas Sparks book, Dear John, to see how he wrote as a part of my Learn to Write by Reading Project.

While it wasn't a Thriller like I usually read, Sparks is a very successful writer earning millions of dollars every year per Forbes.  And, which aspiring writer wouldn't like to earn millions also.  So armed with greed and curiosity, I borrowed my fourteen year-old granddaughter's copy of Dear John and began the journey to enlightenment.

My granddaughter was right.  The book was much better than the movie. 

And now I understand why he is paid the big bucks.  He writes EMOTION.  Best I've ever read.  Plot and voice get a B- from me but writing true feelings gets an A+.

He is a master at writing the emotions you 'feel but don't speak'.  And that's what is different.  Every other writer writes about the emotions we are comfortable to speak aloud.  He tackles the hard to express ones.

When he wrote the part of the story about his Dad being weak, infirm and dying, he touched a wound I thought had been healed.  I thought, My goodness you've been hereYou've felt this too.  And he is so darn sneaky and quiet.  Sparks speaks emotion with just the right volume.

I wonder what's he's like on the inside.  If he's well adjusted with it 'all together' or if he's just a really good writer.  One thing for sure, he can (as Hemmingway advised) write a true sentence.

Oh, and after telling her she was right my granddaughter now wants me to read: Twilight by Stephenie Meyer, The Last Song by Nicholas Sparks, and The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold.  It seems I've opened the door.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Off To See The Doctors

Today he went to see his family doctor and then to see his new surgical oncologist.

Surgical oncologist.  Link two of the words you really don't want to hear applied to your own medical problem.

The surgeon was very helpful.  The nodules didn't look like scar tissue to the surgeon.  To him they looked like tumors.   What they are exactly won't be determined until they are out.    He said they were most likely neuro endocrine tumors, NETs.  What we used to call carcinoids.  There, a fancy, new name for my old problem.  If they were NETs, he wouldn't know if they were benign or malignant until they came out.

The surgeon said the operation would begin laproscopically and only proceed to "open everything up" with a big zipper if he couldn't get to the three nodules the CT Scan had exposed.  When asked about using a big zipper and feeling every inch of the small bowel for NETs (the way they were first found in 2000), he said, "The problem was the amount of scaring and adhesion he expected to find.  In 2000, your gut was like freshly cooked spaghetti - slippery, unstuck.  Now, he said, your gut is like spaghetti that has been in the refrigerator for a few days.  It's stuck to itself and to the anti-hernia mesh that was put in place.  I might do more damage trying to take it out and feel it than the good I might accomplish."

Then he said, "If I do it laproscopically you'll be in the hospital about seven days.  If I make a large incision, you'll be in the hospital 10 days to two weeks."

What?  Two weeks!  They send you home in two days after brain surgery these days.  I am really going to be messed up.  He thought about the lengthy time it took to recover in 2000 and his spirits sank.  The reality of his 2000 recovery came back hard and heavy.  Post-surgical depression, incontinence, pain.  He lost twenty pounds during recovery last time because he felt too bad to eat.  And for him that's saying a lot.

The surgeon explained further why you didn't want to leave the nodules to grow and prosper in your body.   Why they really needed to come out.  Now! 

Of course, in medicalese, now, means when they have an opening in their schedule.  He always thought they'd be in a hurry.  But apparently not.  In his case, 'now' means is in a month or so.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

What Is Your Opinion?

He went to Shreveport to see his friends.  The Oncologist and the Colo-Rectal Surgeon who had pulled him through ten years before.  Men whose opinion, and knowledge he respected.  They knew what they were talking about.  They had proved that to him before.

"Why," he asked.  "Do I have to have these nodules cut out.  I didn't know I had them before they did the CT Scan in January.  They weren't connected to the bleeding.  And, as best I can tell they aren't bothering anything.  I don't want to be cut open just for grins.  Do I really need this surgery?"

"Yes", they replied.

"Oh Crap."

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Monkey's Raincoat by Robert Crais

Today I finished reading The Monkey's Raincoat by Robert Crais

I read this book as a part of my Learn to Write by Reading Project.

It's a good read but I missed the connection from the title to the book.  What raincoat?  What monkey?

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

How the Christians Felt

I got back tonight from attending a Writer's Group meeting at the CITE Beach Studios in Orange Beach, AL.  And I know exactly how the Christians felt when they were thrown into the arena with the lions in ancient Rome.

In my case the lions, weren't vicious.  But, my story, Bon Secour, was definitely fresh meat to be devoured.

Their comments and questions were on target.  The problem was my story was the target.  I like my story. 

They said we like my story too.  "BUT, we like your antagonist much more than your protagonist.  The villain is grrrreat but 'Bubba', your protagonist (no, he's not named Bubba), is borrrring."

Then they proceeded to brain-storm as a group how they could turn my story around and make the antagonist the protagonist.

Well they blew my mind.  And they had so much fun doing it.  In the end, they said, "This is how screenwriting is done in groups." 

I smiled weakly, said thank you and slunk away.

Yes, they are right.  My protagonist is boring.  But I wanted to tell the story of a "everyman" who is thrust into a Thrilling situation.  Apparently, it's okay to be thrust into a thrilling situation only if you have more problems than Lot.

So I went home and dreamed up more problems for my protagonist to have.  Bless his heart!  He's not boring anymore.