I haven't posted here in a while, because, you know... writing. This is about how my experience at last year's WUUCON, and the members of the Writer Unboxed community are still helping me find my way through the writing jungle.
You know you do it. Pick up a new book and take it to the bathroom with you, the intention being you'd give the book as long as whatever takes and the author would be lucky if you brought a bookmark. I have two piles on the desk outside the bathroom door and one of them is a lot tall than the other.
Now, I know that sounds disrespectful, but I've been multitasking since I was first inducted into Ma Bell's army in 1971. According to the Bell telephone company, if you weren't doing at least three things at once, they were paying you too much and sayonara! This morning the book was “Author in Progress”, edited by Therese Walsh, articles contributed by the Writer Unboxed community.
WUUCON was five months ago and I'm just now picking this book up. True, after Salem, I swore off all craft books to just get my first draft finished. Fairer still, I loaned my copy to someone before I got a chance to read it and didn’t think I'd see it again, but it's been on the TBR pile a couple of weeks.
This morning, I needed some inspiration. I'm on my first full day of staycation and deep in the heart of revision hell with the first draft of "Prophet's Tango" (There! I think I may have committed to using that apostrophe.)
I opened the book to a random page. 65 – Story First, Plot Second, by Lisa Cron. Ding! She had my full attention, still, I hot skipped to the bold headline at the bottom of the page - FIND THE START OF YOUR STORY and read,
“All novels start in medias res, a nifty Latin term that means “in the middle of the thing.”
I had long thought this meant, “in the middle of something, anything happening” and it looks like I'm not alone. The next line clears those muddy waters.
“Thus the fist page of your novel opens with the second half of your story; the first half creates an unavoidable problem that your plot will catapult your protagonist into.”
I felt the beginning's of a slacker's high because I have just finished changing my opening scene, because, in a recent writer unboxed post, no less a star than Donald Maass very generously read my old opening lines and thought I was writing a thriller. And that problem was squarely on me.
To be fair, I'm not even sure what genre it is yet, but a thriller, no. Paranormal Romance leads the hit parade, but with nary a vampire or shape-shifter in sight, I'm afraid that crowd would be bitterly disappointed. Except for the sex. Maybe. The genre is the least of my concerns right now.
DM's reply to my post confirmed a worry that's been nagging at me. From page one, people would not know what they were getting into. Now they will - Ghosts in a bar with two drunken strangers who are destined to fall in love. It's a start that makes sense in light of everything that follows. My new opening scene was mostly written a long time ago but recently polished with the help of a couple of fellow suffering scribblers. We get together to hash over our WIPs and scare the owner of the place, who offers free coffee and snacks.
And now Lisa Cron has confirmed that I'm at least in the right forest, in not on the right path.
Thanks to everyone in the Writer Unboxed world. One foot in front of the other, one word at a time...
A drug dealing ladies man and part-time assassin with psychic skills meets the woman he'll mend most of his ways for. A new age con artist herself, she's got her own brand of psychic ability and a troubling history of being on hand for untimely deaths. When they meet, he’s on the lam from the life and she's married to a gangster wannabe who's blackmailing her to keep her in line. Cosmic lust comes before trust, but they must learn to work together if they hope to thwart her husband's plans to sell her and her secrets to settle a deadly debt.
“So, just how do we turn this darkness into light?" she said and shuffled the cards. The deck was old and soft and made a purring sound in her hands. He picked up her thick braid, squeezed it gently and whispered in her ear, "One well-deserving motherfucker at a time.” Then he wrapped the braid around her neck, tilted her head back and kissed her between the eyes.
How long does this last? he wondered, spreading his broad hand across her belly. Inside his head, he heard her reply, closer than his own thoughts, As long as you want it to, and she looked at him with that unspoken answer in her smile.
This, from last August.... It's important I keep my finger on this pulse as I revise. It's taken a while, but I've discovered the theme of my book is touch and connections. I'm not sure how knowing theme matters when the thing is already manifested. I sure didn't think about it going in. Themes are funny things.They sneak in over time and one day, you flip back a shutter and there it is, a sleeping bat clinging to the wall, it's eyes scrunched shut and muttering "Good. She can't see me."
Not much of a reach for a stitcher, this tactile thing. There's just no denying it.
Hell is a picnic in a warm place. I am in Revision.
I've made a point of NOT reading any more craft books about writing. Not that I know every damn thing there is to know. I just can't let myself be derailed by any more second, third, fourth or fifth guessing.
But this great piece on revision popped up in the email the other day and I'm so glad that I couldn't resist Chuck's dirty mouth. It's a long and worthy read if you are any kind of scribbler. Know that I am only at #5 - Fermentation, which to an outsider probably looks like you've changed, skipped or bad need of medication.
To help with the "Hands Off thing", and to salve my aching political soul, I indulged in binge-watching every episode of West Wingon Netflix. Outstanding in every way, it ran from 1999 to 2006 and it's positively eerie and sad how the issues raised continue to be things that we are still dealing with today. In every episode, your heart will swell to the size of a football then shrink down to a walnut several times. Fully engaged you will be.