Friday, March 25, 2011

Jump Right In or Tiptoe Into the Water?

I'm writing a mystery novel and have read so much advice along the lines of, "Get to the action right away! The body needs to be there asap, maybe even on the first page! Don't waste time 'setting the scene' - we want blood now!"

Sigh. That's not how my novel starts. And I know it's the first draft and all, and I might trash the first several thousand words, in second draft, but still ... setting is important to me. I like to know where the characters are in the world, Earth or whatever world they're inhabiting. I can't help it -- I like geography. I think where people live affects their lives.

And I like knowing about the characters. I want to know a bit about their psychology, what their unique thought patterns are.

So my WIP starts with a bit of characterization and a bit of place setting. Yes, I talk about the trees, and the ocean, and some quirks of the local people, as seen through the eyes of my main character, who is new to the area. I show it as she experiences it. Maybe too much, but as I said, it's first draft and can be edited down later.

Anyway -- I was glad to read the opposite viewpoint from another mystery writer, on the blog The Kill Zone . Here's a couple of paragraphs from writer John Gilstrap:

The point of all this is for the author 
to take her time developing the characters. 
Make me care for them before you put them in harm’s way. 
If we know what the normal normal is, we can start the 
scene where the author originally started it, and from 
Amy’s point of view, the change to the new normal 
will be genuinely frightening.

I fear sometimes that we here in The Killzone 

violate my overarching rule for creative writing: 
there are no rules. We tell people to get right 
to the action. Sometimes, that’s not what the 
story really needs. Maybe we should tell people 
to get right to the interesting stuff.

I guess then the question becomes what he considers "the interesting stuff" because that's subjective. I think the stuff about the setting interesting while others may not care at all. So then it's a matter of moderation, perhaps. Put in enough to keep me happy, but not enough to bore the pants off someone else. 

Really, it's so hard to know which pieces of advice to take under consideration and which to just disregard with "Pffffttt!" I'm hoping, that when I get the first draft done and am rewriting for second draft, that I'll have a clear mind and a good red pencil, and use it as necessary. And then I hope for good beta readers who will be equally strong in helping to shape the manuscript into the best it can be. 

And then I hope to find an agent who likes a bit of setting and a bit of characterization. 

Friday, March 11, 2011

Location, Location, Location

New blog location! I've moved to a different area of the blogspot universe with a "new and improved" url.

Thanks to a friendly online writer who explained how to do it without losing any of the content or followers, so I think things are ok here now.

Oh Dear, How Embarrassing!

Today I accidentally stumbled upon another blog with a similar URL to this one [the previous url, which has now been changed] - except it's on Wordpress, not Blogspot. And it contains book reviews, which is close enough in subject to make me uncomfortable. And it was established several months before mine, and is active.


So now, what to do? I don't want to crowd the other blogger's space, or cause confusion. Yes, I know, all's fair in love and blogging, but that's not my style.

So, I think I'm going to have to change the URL of this blog and hope, hope, hope that my followers will follow me over there. Not sure how to accomplish that. How to let them all know about the change, I mean.

Especially since many of them came from the Crusade and may not notice the change anytime soon.

Well, I've got a new blogger URL and will be transferring the pages from here to there. Hope to see you there. And I've reserved the same name at wordpress and livejournal, so maybe I won't have this happen again.

So sorry. What a cyber mess I've made. Grrrr.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Is Writing a Priority?

What are the priorities in your life? Is it a job, your family, friends, hobbies, watching television - what? Where does writing fall into that list?

For many writers, writing is secondary to something else. For me, I have a job, with unusual hours, that helps pay the bills. I also have a family which includes humans and animals, and they all need attention. And a house which also needs attention from time to time, although housework isn't high on my list. And we have a yard which, though pretty low maintenance, could be better groomed and designed.

I've made it a priority to attend a weekly writing critique group. It keeps me somewhat accountable with my WIP, wanting to have pages to bring in to read. Plus critiquing others' writing helps improve my own. And it gives me a much-needed social experience with people who understand the writing process.

But I still haven't gotten into the "write every day" mindset that a lot of others have. It seems as if that's a mantra of many successful writers. Come hell or high water, they're writing.

I traveled to the other side of the country recently for an unexpected family event and took my laptop, but didn't get much, if any, writing done. Too many distractions. Sorrow. Planning. Family to take care of and spend time with. Or those were my excuses, anyway. Valid, I think. But maybe someone else would have found time to scratch out some lines on paper, or write some at night at the hotel, while spouse was watching tv.

Some days I have bits of downtime at my job when I could be outlining, or editing, or trying to solve plot problems. I carry a folder around with me that has my basic WIP info in, with characterizations, plot bullet points and the last few pages. I could progress, move ahead ... but I usually don't.

Why? What will it take for me to push my writing ahead, make it a priority?

I'm working through the mushy middle now of a cozy mystery. I've finally figured out Who Dun It but that's caused more problems. :-) So now I need to address those, make it all fit together.

I have a deadline in mind. I want to be finished with the first draft by mid June, so I'll have it ready to query in early August. There's a writer's conference with Open Pitch nights, with agents that listen to three-minute pitches and give suggestions on querying. Last year I went just to watch. This year I want to pitch.

I'd better get my game on.