Being a balls to the wall week into the writing of this new endeavor, (and as an aside, I smell like sand dunes and sunshine right now.) I’ve realized a major part of why I am having such luck hammering through this bad boy is due to a single blog post I read in April of this year.
What an pretentious blog title, you say? That’s actually the name of the blog. It’s Rachel Aaron, and she deserves a hearty thank you, from me.
Why? Because she said in words I would actually listen to, exactly what I needed to hear.
So, before we get ahead of ourselves, go read her blog. I’ll wait.
Alrighty then, here’s the quote that stands out for me -
As soon as I realized this, I stopped. I closed my laptop and got out my pad of paper. Then, instead of trying to write the scene in the novel as I had been, I started scribbling a very short hand, truncated version the scene on the paper. I didn’t describe anything, I didn’t do transitions. I wasn’t writing, I was simply noting down what I would write when the time came. It took me about five minutes and three pages of notebook paper to untangle my seemingly unfixable scene, the one that had just eaten three days of my life before I tried this new approach. Better still, after I’d worked everything out in shorthand I was able to dive back into the scene and finish it in record time. The words flew onto the screen, and at the end of that session I’d written 3000 words rather than 2000, most of them in that last hour and a half.
Toss the fancy metric and hullabaloo, here’s the meat of it – Plotting.
Now, I am NOT going to tell anyone with a fly by the seat of their pants nature as myself to sit their ass down and waste quality writing time trying to remember your sub-categories and what not – seriously, outlines are the biggest drag on the planet. Yet, despite my seething hatred of all things outline, I had finally come to the realization that an enormous amount of planning was taking place in my brain. I knew what happened in each of my stories, to some extent, and all that info was ‘filed’ away in my mind. And by filed away, I mean thrown about the room by an angry toddler who is more than likely the spawn of Satan. Still, the info was there, the details were there – but fuck you outlining! You sit in your fucking tower!
Ah, but plotting I realized, was what I was doing in the firing of each synapse, and not writing it down wasn’t doing anyone any favors.
So I gave it a whirl, took her advice as I came careening toward the last chapters of my last novel, and jotted down, chronologically what I saw happening in its approach to the final scenes. In doing so I realized, HOLY SHIT, I’m almost done! Shortly thereafter, I realized having that springboard to fall back on when I hit those lulls every 600 words kept me moving. Words poured out, word count kept coming, and as a result of having those notes, I always had something left in the well to start up the next day (or that evening, as when you’re close to done and the scenes are spot on, its hard to resist the story’s call).
That book reached its completion in record time for me, and above all else, I’d broken an unfortunate writing tick.
When you’re trudging through a scene, trying to decipher what’s happening in those in between moments, you dig, gauge, and chisel through the earth and find when you’re done, yes, you found your treasure, but there’s also this massive pile of dirt all around it. Guess what, dirt has to go somewhere.
That’s usually on the cutting room floor, as they say.
Thousands of words, pages of meandering, needless poetic waxing that in the end will never be read by anyone. This approach cuts that down enormously.
So though I make no claims of writing 10k a day (my brain taps out between 3 – 5 on my good days), I can claim that I come back to the page everyday. I don’t dread the drudgery, as there isn’t any anymore.
So thank you Rachel Aaron. you helped me get my shit together. In the immortal words of Elmore Leonard:
“Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.”
Working on it.
Man, working with actual publishers has turned my brain to oatmeal. Finally back at it, Mothertruckers!
**Trigger Warning – Sexual Assault
Daily Words THE WHITE DOE – 9/11/2014
Patience struggled beneath the grain, pulling her arms upward, straining against the weight. Her hands broke the surface, and she pressed her palm against the worn barrel cover. The clatter of the storage house door stilled her.
The voice was jovial and frighteningly close.
“Hey fellas! For an older one, this one’s real pretty.”
There was a syrupy weight to the words, the man’s boots scuffing across the dirt floor. There was a tussle, the sound of fabric tearing and the sharp crack of a hand across the face. The sound of the slap was followed by a familiar wet sound – the sound of Georgia spitting in the man’s face.
“Oh, you do that again, old girl, and I’ll kick your teeth in and fuck your bloody mouth.”
Patience stifled a whimper, clamping her hand over her mouth. She couldn’t lay hidden while these men hurt her mother. She couldn’t. She shifted in her hiding place, forcing the muscles of her legs against the frame of the barrel, willing movement despite the great weight that held her in place. The grain began to shift around her; she was rising. The shrill, cry of anguish spurred her onward, but a new voice gave her pause.
“Jesus, Kevin! You sound like a god damn woman. What the hell’s wrong wit ya?”
He gasped a moment. “God damn it! The bitch bit my ear off!”
The heavy thud of skin pounding against skin caused every muscle in her body to tense. The sound took on a rhythm of purpose, the sound of the man beating her mother.
“Hey now! Don’t be ruinin her for the rest of us, y’idjit!”
“Ain’t no man gonna want nuttin to do with this bitch if they got a lick a fuckin sense!”
Her mother cleared her throat and spit, and was rewarded with another attack. Patience hadn’t a clue what good she’d be to her mother, had no strength to speak of, and could barely get herself out of the grain barrel, but she couldn’t just listen and do nothing. Patience flattened her palm against the barrel cover over her head and pushed.
“What kind of trouble are we getting ourselves into here, then?”
The lid fell back into place with a soft thud as the two men cleared their throats.
“Sorry, Lieutenant. Just – this one’s giving me a bit of trouble.”
There was silence in the space, the kind of silence one keeps around a sleeping beast, wary and ready. The man’s boots ground into the dirt floor as he moved across the room, slow and deliberate.
“I can see that, Chambers. That looks painful.”
The earless fellow grunted his response, but offered no words.
The Lieutenant’s voice was softer than the other men’s, and hinted an accent from the old country that she couldn’t place. He continued to move across the room, his footsteps coupled by reverent silence. He was drawing closer to Patience. She lowered her hand from the barrel lid, splaying her fingers over her head as though to hide behind them.
“Now, what brought you in here, if I might ask, my dear?”
“Not a damn thing.”
Georgia’s voice was clear, though thick from what Patience knew must be blood.
“No? Not a damn thing?”
The sound of knuckles wrapping at the wood by Patience’s ear startled her so wholly, she feared she’d never breathe again.
Georgia chuckled. “It’s a storage barn, fella. Thought you lot might pass me by if I hid in here.”
The Lieutenant wrapped his fingertips in slow rhythm on the lid of the barrel. Once, twice, then again. “Hmm. Well, I’m sorry it didn’t work out that way.”
The man tapped one more time on the barrel and exhaled.
“What you want us to do with her, sir?”
“Not my concern. Take her outside.”
The one Patience knew as Kevin Chambers began grunting and laughing with the effort of moving his prize. She was fighting with everything she had, by the sound of it. “Jesus, Frances, gimme a god damn hand.”
“Clean death, fellas.”
The room fell silent.
“What? Sir -”
“You heard me. Clean death. Don’t play with this one.”
“She took a bite out of my god damn ear, sir. I think I deserve some -”
There was an inhale of breath from the two men, a startled reaction to something Patience couldn’t see.
“Precisely why this one deserves a good death. I appreciate a woman with some spirit.”
“God damn it!”
The second man answered, his voice low. “Yes sir. It will be done.”
Georgia growled in protest, her feet scuffling over the dirt floor as she was dragged from the storage barn. Patience listened, breathless, the Lieutenant still just a few feet from her hiding place. A moment later, Georgia Fields’ voice carried through the warped walls of the storage barn.
“Rot in hell, you son of a bitch.”
The gun shot splintered through the quiet barn, echoing across the nearby hills. There were no frightened cries to proclaim her death. There was no one left to protest. The Lieutenant took a few slow steps across the barn, whistling to himself as the men laughed outside.
That was the last time Patience ever heard her mother’s voice.
VOYAGER by Diana Gabaldon
Rating: 4 1/2 stars
Having read the second installment in the Outlander series, one naturally throws themselves headlong into the third installment just to get some emotional release. The end of DRAGONFLY IN AMBER was one of the most emotionally cataclysmic reads of my adult life. I sobbed uncontrollably for hours listening to Davina Porter read the final chapters to me, wanting to curl into a ball and simply sob. Instead, I finished folding the laundry and sobbed.
In Voyager we meet Brianna and Roger, the adult children of characters either now gone, or now twenty years older, and we get to watch as Claire makes the decision to give up her modern world for the chance to go back and find her soul mate.
The writing is as expected, beautiful and descriptive. The voice of Claire is familiar and snarky, while combining the new approach of third person sections told from Brianna or Roger’s perspective. The sub plots begin to really cut loose in Voyager and succeeding novels in this series. As per usual, it was an effing tome and without the benefit of audio book I’d have never read the whole thing cover to cover by now, but it certainly kept me coming back to the audio everyday.
The great event in Voyager is the reunion, which was so necessary for my sense of personal peace, you have no idea. Still, for a split second during their reunion, I was disappointed. I wanted more spark, more drama. It fizzled a wee bit, which didn’t deter from my continuing to read, but it did make me question for a moment whether the author stepped in a little more than she should have in a moment where he characters wanted to be unleashed.
Nonetheless, the tome that is Voyager is my favorite of the series due to that reunion, but I didn’t give it five stars. Why? Well, for the instantaneous fizzle in the reunion scene, but more for the plot device that by now Diana has become extremely fond of – separating our beloveds. If it isn’t through time, it’s through the sea, if it isn’t through the sea, it’s through island calamity. Over and over we are thrown back into the drama of Claire and Jamie NOT being together after this enormous separation and I just wanted it to be done with. Still, despite it becoming an old hat, it did keep me reading. Every single time.
Perhaps she threw us for so many loops in this novel because she knew she would need to stop doing so for a while in the near future. (And instead turn that evil hand toward Brianna and Roger)
This novel did wonders for my desire to spend some serious time in the Caribbean, it resurrected old foes that propelled the dynamics of time travel even further into the mystical, and it damn well helped me sleep at night.
On to the next – and the next, and the next.
Revision and Self-Editing for Publication by James Bell
It’s a fantastic tool for any writers out there getting ready to self-publish or submit to agents or editors. You might not feel you need this kind of help (you might be an expert on fine tuning your own work and fart diamonds for all I know), but reading and processing another person’s language for the process can often ignite new synapses, new connections in your addled writer’s brain.
I for one had an epiphany in my own work while reading page four of this bad boy.
Alright, back to work you.