Stuck in the middle…
“Hey you! Yes you! Why you no payin’ attention, lame-brain? You listen up! I slappa you around the head. I said-something’s wrong wid dis writing pizza da…”
“Ah shuddupa your face.”
My hind-brain is a nasty fake 1950’s mob mamma.
And yeah, she knows better than me. Gives me lots of slaps, for disrespect. And for stupid. She’s right though. Because the story does talk to you, and tells you when it’s not right. At least it does to me anyway –and sometimes in the oddest of accents. What the accents are often trying to do – to me, is tell me what is missing. When a book sticks for me – and I’m not talking about fatigue, poverty stress, or real life intervening, I’m talking great story… I’M STUCK it’s telling me something. Typically for me happens around 40-50K in (and sometimes at 20K) – so many times… you’d think I’d learn, which is what I have tried to do and share.
I am a plotter. I’ve had a whole book in my head before I start in detail, a good many times. Not always of course, but more than a few times. It’s only typing speed and sudden Mamma intervention that stop it.
It usually is at least one of the following problems: 1) The plot and story are opaque, or one-dimensional; 2) The plot is waffling; 3) The story is bigger and hinges on something else; 4) The gap between scenes is bigger than I thought.
Everyone’s mileage differs. I can only tell you my recipes which sometimes work for me.
A) Reread the story. It’s usually a lot better when you see it in one short chunk, rather than spread over months, and sometimes deficiencies leap out at you.
B) Get someone else to read the story – if they’re getting it, great.
C) Explain the story to someone – this works amazingly well for me as it makes me put into words to explain feelings and thoughts, and makes me define characters.
D) Look at the ‘whys’ – why characters do things. Motivation is often what I find wrong.
The above almost always sort out 1) and 2), with the exception of the dimensionality. That’s inevitably an issue – for me, with POV. Adding a Point of View character has solved my problems over and over. I’m just naturally mean, I hate doing it.
3) and 4) are often ‘back to the drawing board’ for me. I’ve had to do this thrice now, twice with success. What I do is to make myself a vast sheet of paper, and map all the incidents/scenes onto it in time order. Um, and I did each POV in different colors. This may not work for you! I felt pretty silly doing it, but I did spot that one color was very occasional, and it was lacking in motive – and when I added a motive and the effects thereof I had a miles stronger story that tried to write itself.
So? How do you find best to respond to your inner ‘this is not right’ voice?
The final tally for the month was AMW 105 (I’m pleased) and The Forlorn 5.
On a tangent: In the latest bit of scuttlebutt from the increasingly odd world of traditional publishing – http://whatever.scalzi.com/2013/06/28/reporting-harassment-at-a-convention-a-first-person-how-to/#comment-485695 – they’re gnawing their own vitals again, in the latest purity witch-hunt. No I’m neither surprised nor sympathetic nor even doubt that something happened, although I still prefer trial by the normal processes, instead of condemnation by internet. Me, I opine that this is yet another example of the result giving absolute power to the publishers. While it is currently fashionable to pose it as yet another white man being a predator or at least a PITA, abuse is often more often caused by too much power than anything else. It also didn’t come from nowhere. It came from authors being willing to put up with shit, and in some cases to reward it (let’s not pee about here. I suspect quite a few authors owe their success to what amounts to trade – their bodies and favors in exchange for success. Without any trouble I can think of one known lesbian author-agent relationship and one heterosexual publisher-author relationship. Of course that could just be a wonderful meeting of minds, and borne out of the trust established. Yeah. Maybe. And maybe like the casting couch in the movie world it never ever happened, and not one of the now outraged ‘victims’ set out to use sex or coquettery to get their goal, or were rewarded for doing so.). Power corrupts and absolute power –which was an accurate assessment of the old status quo — sure did a wonderful job. The fact that happened at what is known to be a far-out feminist con, in the middle of a discussion about Marx and China Meiville with one of the close friends of the Tor powerbrokers, with enough nannies for an 19th century English country house is enough to make it all seem a surreal farce set in alternate universe. With any luck they’ll continue to digest themselves, in a rapidly decreasing pool of readers. There is real harassment out there (mostly, methinks by the powerful, or historically so) but I think this will end up hurting those real victims, because all of this will be grandstand and over-swing-the-pendulum for the benefit of the victimization-farming crowd. When the over-swing swings back, as it will, the real victims will get screwed (probably literally) again.
When I dared ask just what he’d actually done – not that I doubted that something was done, or care what they do to their once Teflon overlords, just curious as to what the line was now (it’s a highly flexible one, it seems.) I was told that the victim didn’t have to say, because having to say made them reluctant to do so, and that false accusations were rare, and that the moderator was ‘disappointed’ in the way I was thinking. I have to laugh. Alas. I’m afraid more disappointment is in order, because I don’t do group-think-bandwagon. Fortunately, the only humans I worry about disappointing is me, Barbs and the kids, and find disappointing this sort of bloke quite a compliment. I’ve met genuine sexual harassment before, and I won’t put up with it, not to me or anyone else I can help, but this strikes Dumbo-the-disappointing here as replacing one problem with another. Shrug. It’ll end in tears, and I’m somewhat sorry for the poor people (and it will be both sexes) who won’t get the problem fixed.