jennygordon: (Froud)
Funny, the games we play with ourselves as writers.

After a year of barely being able to write at all (due to Life with a capital 'L' happening), I recently settled down with some enthusiasm to a project called FallingBook. It was a reworking of an existing manuscript of a story that's been with me for around 15 years. At least, it was to have been a reworking, because as time passed, I realised that it's not exciting me. Curious, I peered into my head and heart to see what the problem was, and ultimately discovered that FallingBook isn't what I'm supposed to be playing with at all.

Maybe it's because my head's not in the right place. Maybe I'm being a flake. Maybe it's because I should simply leave the manuscript as it stands in its 2010 version; not because it's a thing of beauty, but because it's time to move on from that particular story.

More than anything, I think I was unconsciously playing games with myself. See, returning to writing after a year of effectively not, is scary! I suspect playing around with an existing story was my brain's way of easing me back into it.

So, I've bitten the bullet, set FallingBook aside (for good? Maybe. Maybe not. Who knows?) and begun a brand new project. And you know what? It's scary as all hell, and it's thrilling as all hell. I'm fairly riddled with doubts - can I even do this writing thing after so long without? But I'm mostly ignoring them and simply sitting down with notebook and pen and letting my imagination romp.

I'm feeling a little fragile and superstitious about the whole thing at the moment, so forgive me if I don't reveal anything more about the project for now. Suffice to say: it's fun. After all, that's what this writing lark should be.
jennygordon: (Froud - Green Woman)
"When it comes to your creativity, listen to your heart, not your head" the signs and symbols and wise women kept telling me, which puzzled me, because I thought I was. I thought FallingBook was what was in my heart to write.

But then I realised that my approach to FallingBook was a 'head' approach — lots of practical planning, because I'm reworking an old version of the story. Maybe this was what the signs were trying to tell me. FallingBook wasn't the right thing for me to be working on after all, because it was coming from my head, not my heart.

So, I went away and looked deep and wondered if the random opening line that dropped into my head a few weeks back was the signpost I should follow instead. It was completely unrelated to FallingBook, or to anything else, but it shone brightly, and so I followed it for a time, writing longhand to see where intuition took me. It took me out of my writing comfort zone, and was a lot of fun.

Then, the message came again: "Listen to your heart."

So I went deeper still and listened hard, and eventually my heart whispered to me.

"FallingBook," it said.

All along, it had been FallingBook, and now I don't believe the message has anything to do with the fact that I've been doing a lot of practical planning. I think the message is telling me something bigger. Something quite intimidating. But I'm not easily intimidated, so I retreated to my hermit cave and reworked around 20,000 words of FallingBook.

And you know what? My love for it fills my heart.
jennygordon: (Froud)
I've read a couple of books recently which deal with a series of events that took place in the past, and a series which take place in the present. The point being that the former impacts on the latter in some way. In telling the stories, this particular author opted to alternate chapters between the two time periods. So far, so good. It works. The chapters are fairly long, so the reader has the chance to immerse themselves in what's taking place in each before the switch to the other. There's also a narrative ploy involved in that you want to keep reading in order to return to the events of the other time zone, which are usually left on a cliff-hanger of some kind at the end of each chapter. There's the comfort in knowing that you will get your chance in the next-but-one chapter.

It's a pretty basic structure. It works perfectly well, and the books are a good read, however ...

You could sense there was going to be a 'however', right?

However, I've found myself pondering the different ways the author might have approached the telling. I'm mainly thinking, I guess, of books like 'Rebecca', in which events that took place in the past are crucially intertwined with those taking place in the present. The ghost of the first Mrs de Winter haunts every page. And it's that 'ghost' aspect which intrigues me from a writerly pov. It's a classic Gothic narrative ploy. We see the events of the past through the stain they have left on the characters in the present. There is very little narrative 'telling' of what actually took place; instead, we have the various characters memory of the first Mrs de-W, very much coloured by their feelings for her.

Other other books include 'snapshots' of the events that took in the past, rather than devoting whole chapters to them, perhaps in the form of memories, diary entries, or ghostly visions.

While there's certainly a place for the first approach to a dual (or multi) time-period telling of switching between the periods and showing the reader the events as they took place, I continue to be intrigued by the narrative tricks and manipulations of the 'Rebecca' approach. After all, the purpose of this sort of story is often to explore how the events in the past impact on those in the present. And, more to the point, how they impact on the characters. Of course, if the characters in the present don't have any sort of connection to those in the past (or if they're not aware that they do, and past of the discovery is precisely that connection), then it's trickier to use the 'Rebecca' approach.

Since FallingBook is very much this sort of story — the devastating events of twenty-five years ago have badly damaged the characters involved, along with characters who weren't even born then — the pondering of different approaches to the telling is a regular pastime for me. I'm constantly asking myself, "what's the best, most impactful, most effective, most engaging way in which I can tell this story?" I want to do my very best by a story that has been with me for the past 15 years.

So, I was wondering, can anyone recommend a book(s) in which they've found the handling of this sort of story tackled particularly effectively? Do you have a preference for the way such stories are best approached? All and any thoughts welcome.
jennygordon: (Froud - Green Woman)
This morning, I went on an adventure. From my new home, it's a fifteen minute walk to a beautiful country park (and thence to the open countryside beyond). This morning, for the first time, I walked that walk, though it took me twenty minutes because I took several wrong turns — but hey, wrong turns are all a part of having an adventure. I arrived, and that's the important thing.

And this is what I arrived at:

IMG_3243

I met these guys:


And these guys, who were making a right racket:


And befriended more new Dreaming Trees than I thought possible, but you'll have to wait for another time to see those photos.

Now, I'm finally sitting at my PC, writing a proper blog post, with a box of chocolates to hand, and this album playing softly in the background (seriously check it out; it's gorgeous!) I say 'finally' because life has been seven shades of crazy for me over the past many months, some of the shades difficult, some frustrating, but all, ultimately, to the good. Because now here I am in my very own home. While I'm sure life will discover some new challenge to throw my way, the trials and mayhem of house-buying are over, which means I can tiptoe into the dusty corner of the attic and rouse Writer Jenny from her slumbers. It's been so long since I've written ... well, anything ... that I'm most certainly feeling the fear, which is why I'm devoting the next two days before I go back to work to writing. No distractions. No chores. No excuses!

A couple of months back, I started work on FallingBook, and although, by necessity, I've had to tuck her away for a while, thoughts of her have hovered on the periphery of life's chaos, eagerly awaiting the return of my attention. I read this post by Kristin Cashore a while back, and decided it was a technique that might prove useful for me, so a few days ago, I made my own version:

Planning Board

(For those of you who are interested, it's good thick curtain fabric, hemmed, and with a bamboo cane threaded through the top. Rubber bands at either end prevent the string it's hanging from rucking the fabric. The three ribbons you can see divide the board into Blake Snyder's four acts. Each 'scene card' is pinned on, so it's all easily re-jiggable)

The plotting cards are rough, but they're enough to give me a scaffolding for the story. Since the story already exists in old versions of the novel, it's been a matter of working through it and figuring out which scenes are core to the telling. When I last worked on the cards, I discovered I had a gaping hole in Act Three, yet with the distance of two months, I've thought again, played around with the ordering, added a pinch here, a tuck there, and I think the framework is pretty much ... there.

All I need to do now is face the fear and get writing ...
jennygordon: (Rossetti - Veronica Veronese)
Talking of pretty notebooks, as we were last time, I spent a chunk of days earlier this week with the one I've allocated for working on ideas for the reimagining of PaintingBook. I had a constructive few days figuring out what's wrong with it, where it walks a line too close to the ideas and themes of FallingBook, and how to engineer a divergence so I don't come off as a one-trick-pony. I now have a clearer idea of my path, but more importantly, it's become clear to me that playing with PaintingBook was just a distraction from FallingBook.

See, after hitting the 18K mark with the FallingBook reworking, as I did two weeks ago, I reached a sticky point where I will need to do more thinking and planning to work out how to tackle the next part. And that's hard! So, of course, my brain scrabbled around for distraction, and settled on PaintingBook, because thinking about that was so much more fun.

But I wasn't kidding anyone, least of all myself. It was a temporary distraction, albeit a fun and constructive one. No time spent writing, planning writing, or even thinking about writing, is wasted time, after all.

So, reworking PaintingBook is earmarked as a project for the future, and this weekend, it's back to FallingBook I must go. Ee-aye-ee-aye-oh!

Delighted!

Jun. 25th, 2014 02:52 pm
jennygordon: (Tortoiseshell Butterfly (purple))
I have just spent a glorious few days working on FallingBook.

Yep, you read that right - I've been writing! (*crowd goes wild*)

In fact, I've had something of a mega-writing run, having reworked something over ten thousand words of FallingBook during this four-day window. Excuse me while I type that again ... more than TEN THOUSAND WORDS!

My word count is already up to 18K, although that's mostly illusion at this early stage. Still, it's heartening to cross-check with Blake Snyder's Beat Sheet and note that I'm hitting all the beats pretty much dead on so far, which means my instinct about the new shape of the story is playing me true.

I've been playing around with the opening Act of the book. This has meant rewriting some of the existing early chapters, and rejigging material from elsewhere in the 2010 MS to move it to the early part of the book instead. It's all very rough and first-drafty. In fact, I'm thinking of this as a 'Zero Draft', mainly because there's something liberating about the term. I know, I know, the games we play with ourselves!

Ten thousand words sounds — and is — a lot, but beginnings have always been the easiest part of any story of me; it's when I reach the middle section that I start to stall out. More than anything, what I'm doing is creating the scaffolding for the work to come. I know the story like it's my own life story (although it's absolutely not!) Getting under the skin of the characters again is like meeting up with dear friends I haven't seen for a long time. Messed up, extremely difficult friends, some of them, but friends all the same.

It's so much fun!
jennygordon: (Froud - Green Woman)
Life Crap has finally eased and is allowing me a window of writing time this weekend. It's sheer bliss. I managed a good few hours yesterday, and am back at my computer today to squeeze in a few more. While I miss writing all the time when I'm not able to do any, it's only when I am finally able to sit down and write that I realise how truly bereft I've been without it.

I know this window won't last; there's more Life Crap on the horizon, I'm sure, but I'm relishing this gift of writing time I've been given and embracing it so tight it might *pop!*

Enough of this writing about writing. FallingBook is calling ...
jennygordon: (Froud - Wood Woman)
Now don't get me wrong, I'm not saying I subscribe entirely and wholeheartedly to everything Mr Snyder says in 'Save the Cat'. However, as well as proving immensely useful in matters of loglines, his advice on planning out a project on notecards stuck to a board, which is gridded according to the four acts he proposes, also showed me a thing or two.

A mighty useful thing or two.

Initially, I only glanced through the chapter in question, and dismissed it, being congenitally adverse to tying down a story so specifically in advance. But then, I found myself reconsidering, in a 'what the hell?' kind of way. I duly dug out a pack of three-by-fives and set to work. Some time later, I set out the cards within the four proposed acts, and it was instantly clear to me where the gaps are in my story.

I already knew from re-reading the 2010 MS of FallingBook that I had a lengthy set-up (Act One, if you like), a goodly chunk of Act Two, and a decent Finale and Closing Image, but then ... oh, yes, but then ... Where was the rest? In my eagerness to reach that Finale, I had forgotten to build the other components necessary to telling a satisfying story.

So, while I was already aware of the gaping holes in the 2010 MS, Mr Snyder's exercise of laying out each scene in act order has given me a far clearer idea of precisely where those holes are.

I still won't be notecarding the whole thing in advance. I'm a Plotter with Pantser tendencies, as I certainly need to have an element of freedom remaining to me beyond the planning stage. If I nail everything down too precisely, my enthusiasm for actually writing the thing fizzles and fades.

Just goes to show how dangerous it can be to dismiss something out of hand without at least trying it for size.
jennygordon: (Froud)
Thanks everyone for your feedback on my fledgling logline. I have duly scrumpled it up and tossed it in the circular filing cabinet!

Which is to say, I went back to the drawing-board last night to have a good hard ponder (see avatar!)

This is the first time I've written a logline up front (or in fact a synopsis of any kind or length). Normally, my 'process' is to get some planning done, with particular reference to my final destination. (I've learned that if I don't have a pretty clear idea about how the book ends, it'll fizzle out and fade at some point along the way). Then I write, write, write.

FallingBook, however, seems to want me to approach it differently, largely because it's a reworking of an existing MS. Also, for certain Life Reasons, I have limited time and energy at the moment, so am not able to indulge in delicious swathes of writing. So, bite-sized exercises such as writing the logline are very useful.

Useful in lots of ways, as it turns out.

As I mentioned last time, Blake Snyder advocates writing the logline before you write anything else, and I can see the sense in doing so. In figuring out the key elements of the logline — who is it about? what are they struggling against? what are the stakes? what do they need to do? — it reveals where the gaps are in the story. This is immensely helpful, as it means I can fix things at this early stage, instead of realising it 100 pages and 1000 hours down the line, swearing a lot, and plunging into the Writerly Doldrums.

Specifically for me, it has raised the question of who or what my antagonist is. Who or what is the MC struggling against?

At the outset, I was pretty certain her estranged daughter filled the role. And to some extent, she does. However, when [livejournal.com profile] authorwithin pointed out that my stakes in the logline aren't high enough, it made me rethink my position. And what I've realised is that the daughter isn't the antagonist at all. I've gone full circle and arrived back at the point where I started 15 years ago when I wrote the short story on which the novel is based. Intriguingly (for me, at least) the antagonist doesn't appear in person until well into the book, and then it's in flashback form. We don't meet the antagonist in actuality until the closing chapters. It reminded me of this helpful little piece by Donald Maas.

Such fun, this novel-creation business!
jennygordon: (Froud)
Thanks everyone for your feedback on my fledgling logline. I have duly scrumpled it up and tossed it in the circular filing cabinet!

Which is to say, I went back to the drawing-board last night to have a good hard ponder (see avatar!)

This is the first time I've written a logline up front (or in fact a synopsis of any kind or length). Normally, my 'process' is to get some planning done, with particular reference to my final destination. (I've learned that if I don't have a pretty clear idea about how the book ends, It'll fizzle out and fade at some point along the way). Then I write, write, write.

FallingBook, however, seems to want me to approach it differently, largely because it's a reworking of an existing MS. Also, for certain Life Reasons, I have limited time and energy at the moment, so am not able to indulge in delicious swathes of writing. So, bite-sized exercises such as writing the logline are very useful.

Useful in lots of ways, as it turns out.

As I mentioned last time, Blake Snyder advocates writing the logline before you write anything else, and I can see the sense in doing so. In figuring out the key elements of the logline — who is it about? what are they struggling against? what are the stakes? what do they need to do? — it reveals where the gaps are in the story. This is immensely helpful, as it means I can fix things at this early stage, instead of realising it 100 pages and 1000 hours down the line, swearing a lot, and plunging into the Writerly Doldrums.

Specifically for me, it has raised the question of who or what my antagonist is. Who or what is the MC struggling against?

At the outset, I was pretty certain her estranged daughter filled the role. And to some extent, she does. However, when authorwithin pointed out that my stakes in the logline aren't high enough, it made me rethink my position. And what I've realised is that the daughter isn't the antagonist at all. I've gone full circle and arrived back at the point where I started 15 years ago when I wrote the short story on which the novel is based. Ingriguingly (for me, at least) the antagonist doesn't appear in person until well into the book, and then it's in flashback form. We don't meet the antagonist in actuality until the closing chapters. It reminded me of this helpful little piece by Donald Maas.

Such fun, this novel-creation business!
jennygordon: (Star Gazer Lily)

This weekend, I picked up a copy of Blake Snyder's 'Save the Cat', which is a how-to guide on screen-writing, but whose techniques can equally well be applied to writing novels. I've often come across writerly folks recommending it, and now I can see why.

I spent an incredibly productive day on Sunday working through Snyder's Beat Sheet with this related tool, and plotting FallingBook accordingly. I can't begin to tell you how enlightening and helpful it was.

The first thing Snyder tackles in 'Save the Cat', since he recommends that it's the very first thing any writer does before getting to work on their script/novel is the Logline.

Definition: The Logline (or One-Liner) is a one or two sentence "grabber" that tells us everything you need to know about the book. (It equates to the Elevator Pitch, for those of you who know what that is).

There are four components to a Logline:

1. Is it ironic and emotionally involving, presenting a dramatic situation that is like an itch you have to scratch?

2. Does it create a compelling mental picture; is the whole book implied, including (often) the timeframe of the story?

3. Is the book's audience clear?

4. Does the book have a title that says what the story is and does so in a clever way?

So, that's the lesson; here's the fun part.

Snyder says it is vital that you have a successful logline from the outset. If the logline fails to hold interest, then likely the story itself will fail too. He recommends pitching your logline to anyone who will stand still long enough. This is where you guys come in. Here's the logline I've come up with for FallingBook. Please can you take a look at it, with reference to the above four points, and let me know what you think. Does it grab your interest and make you want to read the book, or do you glaze over somewhere between the third and fourth word?

"A broken artist must reconcile the ghosts of her past if she is to save her estranged daugher from making the same mistakes."

The title is "Still Yesterday."

Any and all contructive thoughts welcome. Ta everso.

***
Blimey riley! Talk about synchronicity! Not long after posting the above, I was catching up on my F-List when I came across this by agent Mary Kole, about ... loglines!

jennygordon: (Star Gazer Lily)

This weekend, I picked up a copy of Blake Snyder's 'Save the Cat', which is a how-to guide on screen-writing, but whose techniques can equally well be applied to writing novels. I've often come across writerly folks recommending it, and now I can see why.

I spent an incredibly productive day on Sunday working through Snyder's Beat Sheet with this related tool, and plotting FallingBook accordingly. I can't begin to tell you how enlightening and helpful it was.

The first thing Snyder tackles in 'Save the Cat', since he recommends that it's the very first thing any writer does before getting to work on their script/novel is the Logline.

Definition: The Logline (or One-Liner) is a one or two sentence "grabber" that tells us everything you need to know about the book. (It equates to the Elevator Pitch, for those of you who know what that is).

There are four components to a Logline:

1. Is it ironic and emotionally involving, presenting a dramatic situation that is like an itch you have to scratch?

2. Does it create a compelling mental picture; is the whole book implied, including (often) the timeframe of the story?

3. Is the book's audience clear?

4. Does the book have a title that says what the story is and does so in a clever way?

So, that's the lesson; here's the fun part.

Snyder says it is vital that you have a successful logline from the outset. If the logline fails to hold interest, then likely the story itself will fail too. He recommends pitching your logline to anyone who will stand still long enough. This is where you guys come in. Here's the logline I've come up with for FallingBook. Please can you take a look at it, with reference to the above four points, and let me know what you think?  Does it grab your interest and make you want to read the book, or do you glaze over somewhere between the third and fourth word?

"A broken artist must reconcile the ghosts of her past if she is to save her estranged daugher from making the same mistakes."

The title is "Still Yesterday."

Any and all contructive thoughts welcome. Ta everso.

***
Blimey riley! Talk about synchronicity! Not long after posting the above, I was catching up on my F-List when I came across this by agent Mary Kole, about ... loglines!

jennygordon: (Skywatcher)

I took an impromptu bath last night. Well, I was going to spend a bit of time with FallingBook, but on the spur of the moment, decided to pickle myself in hot, rose-scented water instead (and most glorious it was too, thanks). I took the book I'm currently reading with me, and had no intention of doing anything other than relax, which I successfully did for a lovely, long time. And then ...

... From out of nowhere ...

... Inspiration struck!

And dammit, there was no pen and paper in reach, so I had to get out of the bath with all due speed before the idea scurried off again.

Actually, it was less an idea than a solution. See, there's this secondary character in FallingBook who I've already decided I need to rethink in terms of his role, but I was a bit stymied as to what direction I needed to take him in. I don't know whether it was the pickling in hot water or the rose-scented bubbles that did it, but I realised - he's not an observer, he's a catalyst!

Of course he is. It gives me a whole new way of looking at the story.

(Note to self - must keep pen and paper in the bathroom in future!)

In other news, I came across this yesterday and thought you guys might appreciate it.

jennygordon: (Rossetti - Veronica Veronese)
I've spent an interesting few days pondering and playing with FallingBook. I think I may have resolved the quandary of the opening (i.e. how to avoid the whole dream thing without losing the elements that I feel still work). Following the advice of you wise folks out there, I'm not dwelling on it overmuch at the moment.

The trouble with reworking an old MS is that there's the temptation to simply polish it up, rather than dismantle it down to the bones and then rebuild. What I'm doing at the moment is playing. I've made a rough first pass of the opening chapter, reworking it without the dream element, and I've revised the second chapter. These two chapters feel pretty much established to me, in terms of the order of events and the set-up. They work as establishing chapters. Everything beyond them is negotiable, which is why I felt the need to get the foundations laid by reworking those first, before I return to plotting and planning.

That said, in actuality, absolutely everything remains negotiable at this stage. It needs to be, otherwise I might be blind to other opportunities.

I have options, and that's the important thing.

The other important thing is that I spend time re-rooting myself in the story, the world, and the mood of FallingBook. To that end, I've just re-read "Angels Dance and Angels Die", by Patricia Butler (subtitled, "The Tragic Romance of Pamela and Jim Morrison.") I could explain why that particular book is great inspirational background for me, but that would be giving too much away ....

More than anything, it's simply wonderful to be falling all over again for FallingBook ...
jennygordon: (Magpie)
Thank you everyone who dropped by to offer your wise words and thoughts about dream openings in novels. I can't tell you how wonderful it is to be able to bounce ideas and quandaries off a circle of friends like that. You're all fantastic. Here, have some fairy flowers:

IMG_3072

Aren't they pretty? They're a new discovery of mine.

In other news, I had to go to Oxford for work the other day. Once my meeting was finished, I had some time to kill before my train home, so I swung by the Ashmolean Museum to inhale a few Pre-Raphaelite pictures. And then, down in the shop ....

... I found A, who is a character in FallingBook. While I've long had pretty clear images in my head of what the other main characters look like, somehow A has always eluded me. But no longer. There he was on this postcard:

Samuel Palmer

Such a modern image isn't it? But in fact, it's a self-portrait of artist Samuel Palmer (1805-1881). I couldn't believe it. There I was perusing the postcards, and there he was.

Love it when that happens.
jennygordon: (Magpie)
Thank you everyone who dropped by to offer your wise words and thoughts about dream openings in novels. I can't tell you how wonderful it is to be able to bounce ideas and quandaries off a circle of friends like that. You're all fantastic. Here, have some fairy flowers:

IMG_3072

Aren't they pretty? They're a new discovery of mine.

In other news, I had to go to Oxford for work the other day. Once my meeting was finished, I had some time to kill before my train home, so I swung by the Ashmolean Museum to inhale a few Pre-Raphaelite pictures. And then, down in the shop ....

... I found A, who is a character in FallingBook. While I've long had pretty clear images in my head of what the other main characters look like, somehow A has always eluded me. But no longer. There he was on this postcard:
 
Samuel Palmer

Such a modern image isn't it? But in fact, it's a self-portrait of artist Samuel Palmer (1805-1881). I couldn't believe it. There I was perusing the postcards, and there he was.

Love it when that happens.




jennygordon: (Clematis)
So, I have a question for you guys.

Currently, FallingBook opens with a dream.

Which is a big cliched no-no.

It's not the kind of set-up where I reveal that 'Ha! It was all a dream!' in the next chapter. It's more a premonition combined with a flashback in the form of a dream, which sets up the question of M's sanity and mindset, along with what she wants and what she fears. I make it clear in the first couple of lines that she's dreaming and she knows she's dreaming, so I'm not playing tricks with the reader.

The trouble is, I'm having trouble thinking up another way to open the book with the sort of mood and questions I want to establish at the outset. The dream solution in its current form ticks all the boxes nicely. On the other hand, I desperately don't want to be Cliched No-no Girl.

So, I thought I would ask you guys for your thoughts/views/words of wisdom about books that open with a dream, and how you feel about such books.

Thanks in advance.
jennygordon: (Blue Butterfly)
Yesterday, I spent a fun few hours with FallingBook. In my eagerness to begin, I leapfrogged the 'planning' part (just for the day), and decided to have a play with the first chapter, which belongs to M in the present time. In the 2010 MS (the most recent version of the book), she's written in first person, past tense, but I've more-or-less completely decided that I want to switch her to third person, past tense. Same with F (whose story is also in the present time). Twenty-years-ago M will remain in first person, for the power and immediacy of that voice. It'll take too long to explain why, but this feels right for the balance of the story.

Well, okay, I'll explain a bit.

*Look away now if this sort of thing bores the pants off you!*

See, the book I'm currently reading (which is a wonderful romp) is written in first person, past tense. But it would lose nothing at all if it were simply switched to third person, without altering anything else. See, the first person voice isn't distinctive enough to make any difference to the telling. It's simply 'I said,' instead of 'she said.' To me, that's a waste of a first person voice, which should be distinctive in its language choice and vehicles of expression. You should be very much inside that character's head and persona. The 2010 MS suffers from more or less the same thing, with the exception that I was mindful of the language choices I made for each first person voice.

So why not work harder on my first person voices? Well, using third person provides a nice distance from the characters which suits the story for the two threads told in the present, contrasting nicely with the immediacy of twenty-years-ago M's first person. And also, switching to third person gives me freedom for narrative flourishes I wouldn't be able to indulge in were I to stick to first person.

Ask me again next week, and I'll probably have changed my mind again!

*Okay, boring technical part over.*

So anyway, there I was, happily transposing from the old MS into a shiny new document, and you know what struck me?

Man, I used to be wordy. Stupidly wordy. Honestly, I went on ... and on ... and on. So much so that I've reduced the chunk I worked on by almost half without breaking sweat.

It just goes to show how far I've come in the four years since that MS was completed. A lot of that progress, I put down to the fact that I have spent those 4 years writing Young Adult fiction. By their nature, YA novels tend to be considerably shorter than adult ones. You need to be concise and economical with your wordage. It's been a valuable lesson for me.

Plus, it's heartening to revisit something I wrote as relatively recently as 4 years ago, and see the undoubted progress my writing has made since then. Hopefully it'll aid in finding my way with this new version of FallingBook.
jennygordon: (Froud)
One of the head-scratchings I've been puzzling over with regards to FallingBook is whose story it actually is.

Well, I say I've been puzzling over it, and it's really not such a big puzzle: it's M's story. The thing that's puzzling me - and has puzzled me all along about how to go about telling her story - is how best to do it. See, currently, the story is told by M as a young woman (20 years before), M in the present, and her daughter, F, also in the present. It makes sense to me that all three voices should be there in the telling, but at the moment, in terms of word count, present F and present M are about equal, with 20-years-ago M weighing in with by far the greatest word countage.

This is definitely skewed. I need to weight it far more in favour of M in the present. But how? How to do that, without losing the important aspects of the story that F and 20-years-ago M bring to it?

Hmmm ... more head-scratching required, I think. Much more.
jennygordon: (Great Grey Heron)
Turns out I lied to [livejournal.com profile] readthisandweep last week when I told her I didn't think I'd be turning to plotting tools, such as Blake Snyder's 'Save the Cat' worksheet, or this one, which proved very useful when I was writing SeaNovel. Almost as soon as I told her that I think the structure of FallingBook is already there in the old MS version, I started to laugh at myself and my delusion. It was soon very clear to me that using plotting tools was precisely my next step with this project.

As a result, I've spent extremely valuable time over the last couple of days with my beloved EXCEL, creating a spreadsheet which sets out the stages of a novel's structure, then alongside those a chapter-by-chapter breakdown of the old MS, ticking off where each of the stages appears, where they're strong enough, where they need further work, not to mention ... er ... where they don't exist at all!

I can't tell you what a useful exercise it's been. (Well, I can, and am). Truly, it's going to be a great starting point for working out where I go with the new version of FallingBook. My next step is to transpose the notes I jotted whilst reading through the MS next to each chapter summary, then to start playing around with the content so I can see what works of the old MS and what doesn't. It's enormously satisfying seeing it all set out on a spreadsheet. EXCEL really is a brilliant place for planning in this way.

So, this is me eating my words (nom, nom, nom, gulp) and sending some beautiful wisteria by way of apology for my fib - it smells heavenly too.

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jennygordon

January 2016

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