Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Pick up the pace!

(And no, I'm not talking picante sauce. I swear, I'll never get that darned commercial out of my head.)

Ways to make your novel drag #1 - Really drive home the point by repeating yourself. This includes repeating characters.

I wanted Ms. MC to have some emotional issues in her past to explain her actions in a current relationship. She couldn't be betrayed once. Not twice. Three times sounded so much more tragic. I created three men. All cut from the same general bad guy mold. All betrayed her, though in different ways. You can just feel the word count swelling, can't you?

Yes, well, in most cases, swelling indicates something is wrong. And it was. The pacing wasn't pacing or even walking, it was crawling.

To fix this, I took the best - or worst, in this case - of all three men and lumped them into one. He got to stay and become Mr. Tragic Past. The others, well, that's where Marin and Nekar come in. Which rather explains why they are both bearing grudges and aiming guns... at each other? I didn't see that coming.

Nekar fires a bullet into Marin's armored coat, knocking him back but not down. Nekar turns to me. "Just because I'm helping you, don't think I forgive you for editing out my shape shifting abilities."

"Sorry about that. I really liked the shape shifting. Nothing personal, it was a matter of necessity to cut word count."

He gives me a conciliatory nod and then scales my chair, all the while searching for a better shot at Marin.

Marin ducks behind my box of pens and takes a shot at Nekar. He misses.

“I read what you did to those boys,” Nekar says. “A horrible death. Heartless. You deserve to be cut from the novel.”

“They were young men, not boys. Besides, she made me do it.” He points his gun at me.

An unfamiliar male voice calls out, “Over here.”

I look down to see two grinning, young men. Ah yes, more characters happy to not have to die horrible deaths. They’ve cleared a path to the door.

“Thanks, but I’d rather stay and see how this plays out.”

They look at me like I’m crazy and run.

More gunfire. My pen box tips over, spilling pens across my desk and onto the carpet. Marin is gone. Nekar jumps over the rolling pens and dashes to the backside of the desktop.

On my tiptoes, I maintain my distance as I peer over my desk. “Where did he go?”

“Back there.” He points downward.

I cringe, thinking of the masses of rabid dust bunnies and cable mazes awaiting Marin. “We won’t be hearing from him for a while. If ever.”

Nekar gives the black void one last long look before climbing off the desk and down the chair. He retrieves his crate of adverbs and walks back to his corner. “We can only hope. But just in case, I’ll be waiting.” He pulls an adverb out and holds it up. Vigilantly.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Throwing the gauntlet down

"My name is Marin the assassin. You cut my character. Prepare to die!"

"About that..." I pick up my editing knife, wondering if it will work against a character already cut from my novel. Best to back away from my desk just in case. "How about coming up with your own dialogue instead of mooching off movies?"

Marin, a muscled assassin wearing a long armored coat loaded with all the weaponry he had on him when he left my novel, scrambles up my chair. "I don't have much choice since you're not writing me anymore, do I?"

He jumps to the desktop and pulls a gun, waving it around. "You've got some nerve! I stood with you through countless rewrites. I went from being dominant, to looking like an incompetent fool. Even then I didn't get all difficult to work with like Delyn did. Yet, you still cut me."

"I wouldn't call you a fool. You got played. That's all."

"Played?" He laughs. "By you or Delyn? You meant to axe me right from the start, didn't you? That's why you didn't even bother giving me a last name."

I look down to see the Barthromians cheering and shaking their fists. "Oh, shut up. None of you even had first names." Where is that pilot, I could really use a little help right now. "Zsmed?"

Ms. Wildstar points under my desk where I can just make out some moaning. "He's busy."

Good grief! Now? Really? I don't even want to know who he's with.

With my editing knife held out like a shield, I make my way toward the door. "Marin, you might notice that I rarely give supporting characters last names."

"You gave him one." He keeps his gun on me as he points beyond the Barthromians to a man sitting alone in the corner sifting through a crate of adverbs. The words very, angrily and violently sit at his feet.

"True." I recognize Nekar Viceres, whom I'd forgotten about. "I cut him a full revision before you though. That should say something positive about you, right?"

"You cut us both, but you at least had the consideration to make him not look like an idiot first."

I notice Nekar watching us. The ex-member of the Pirate Guild stands up, his armored coat also filled with weapons. A wave of hope washes over me. Marin was right, Nekar had been cut on pretty good terms. "Hey, Nekar, how about a little help here?"

"Yeah, Nekar, how about a little help here?" Marin nods toward me.

Nekar kicks the crate of adverbs aside. A flurry of suddenlys goes flying into the hushed crowd of Barthromians. His face splits into a wicked grin. He whips out a gun.

Oh, crud.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Oh, oh! Cut me!

Way to make your MC totally unsympathetic #1: Have him kill a guy in a jealous fit of rage. I'm talking totally losing his temper and just obliterating the guy. Over the top? Pretty much.

Not to say Zsmed didn't earn is fate just a little. He was rather disrespectful and went heavy on the insults. Still, there's a point where an anti-hero can be too much anti to be a hero anymore.

Mr. MC has always had a hard time walking that line, which led to quite a few of the casualties glaring up at me from the floor. Thankfully, Zsmed isn't one of them. One of the glaring ones, I mean.

When I informed him that he was getting cut, he jumped up and hugged me.

"You mean I don't have to suffer a horribly painful death?"

I put my editing knife down. "Nope, you're free to go."

"Wait, does the mean I don't get to sleep with Ms. MC?"

"Sorry. If you want to live, I'd caution against it."

Zsmed sighed. "Fun as it was, I'd much rather live. Off I go then, thanks!"

He even took out a few of the more ambitious looking Barthromians for me. He spends most of his time flirting with young Ms. Wildstar, who has no idea what to do with the attention of a thirty-something alien pilot other than blush and giggle.

That more recently cut assassin is looking guiltier every day. He's up to something. If only Zsmed was more of a fighter than a lover, I'd put him on the task of taking the assassin out.

I wonder who else I could rely on…

For the love of sci-fi

In the very early eighties, along with every other sci-fi loving kid, I ran home from school to watch Star Blazers. They had an awesome evil comet ship, evil blue alien guys and Derek Wildstar. Really, how can a guy with a name like that not be just the coolest guy ever?

It was fitting then that I blessed my first human--I had a thing for writing about animals as a kid--character with the last name of Wildstar. This instantly made her cool, and she could do no wrong in my eyes.

The story, however, could be very wrong. Horribly cheesy wrong.

It did have some redeeming bits. Very tiny bits. Those bits slowly morphed into an entirely different story. Ms. Wildstar grew older and far less cheesy.

She looked in the mirror one day and turned back at me with a glare and the knife I'd written into the story for her in her hands. "You bettter change this stupid name, or you'll be sorry."

I took out my editing knife and waved it around. "Voila! All better."

She pointed at the typewriter and shook her head. "The first name too. It sucks."

"Right. Sorry." I waved my knife around a little more.

Anastassia Delyn looked in the mirror and smiled. "Much better. Now, get back to work."

"Yes, ma'am."

There are days I miss that young, cheesy Ms. Wildstar who dances around amidst the milling Barthromians. She was much easier to please.

"You're not watching those worn out VHS tapes of that stupid cartoon again are you?"

"Um... no, ma'am."

"Good, get writing."

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The aliens are watching me

It's been twenty years since I cut these folks, but the vile Barthromians are still out to get me. Or make me snicker. I try not to let them see me laugh, it just makes them angrier.

Not only did I slight the Barthromians by replacing them with nastier aliens, I’d cursed them with a name that sounded like they were spawned in a bar bathroom.

The problem was, well, once I got around to reading to story out loud, they made me snicker. It’s hard to be evil when you make people laugh. Not only that, but they weren’t very alien. They looked human. They talked human. They just lived underground on some far off planet that looked like a cave here on Earth. The pure fact of living underground didn’t give much weight to their evil rating.

They did mistreat my main characters, talked down to them a little, threatened to hurt them, but the Barthromians never really followed through. They just weren’t committed to being the bad guys.

I didn’t give them any warning when I replaced them. They went from the page to the floor in a matter of seconds - the first casualties of my then very dull editing knife - probably more like a spoon, actually.

The Barthromians have been milling about, shaking their fists and glaring at me ever since. Each time another character gets culled, they pounce on them, enlisting them to their cause.

I’m not sure what their cause is exactly, but I’m glad I didn’t make them very effective bad guys.

But that assassin I cut four months ago? Yeah, I'm keeping my eye on him.

Monday, January 18, 2010

So, I wrote a novel.

Eventually. It didn't start out that way.

Twenty some years ago it was six pages of scrawled pen marks. Then I took a creative writing course in school and the story grew to a hundred pages on an ancient clickty clack typewriter. Barrel of liquid white out anyone?

I wrote sequels!

At this point I realized the first story needed work. I don't remember why I realized this exactly. Sanity slipped in for a second, most likely. I rewrote the whole thing and expanded it. It was the most awesomest novel ever.

I let someone read it.

They informed me that it wasn't the most awesomest novel ever.

I rewrote it again and decided to go crazy and switch the entire novel from the pov of the female main character to the male main character. This was a great move, as it turned out, but whole loads of work. I lost track of how many times I rewrote it to get the male pov firmly inserted and the female to take the back seat. She did not like that! Not one bit. She's never forgiven me for it, in fact. Oh, but I had fun exploring the new pov. He grew and flourished and made the story everything I wanted it to be. Ah, bliss.

Then I let some one read it.

They informed me that it most certainly wasn't bliss.

What? How could they not love my 385,000 word novel? How, I ask?

At this point I joined a critique group and saw the light. And the editing knife. It was shiny. And sharp.

Three more rewrites, minus 267,000 words, and a host of cut characters and their corresponding subplots later...

I wrote a novel.