Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Readings: The Time Traveler's Wife

Okay, so I have joined a book club to sort of expand my horizons, reading-wise. The month of October, we chose to read "The Time Traveler's Wife" by Audrey Niffenegger. I'm just starting it, so I will post my opinion here soon.

Next month, we'll be reading "Three Cups of Tea" by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin. Again, I'll post my opinion here. Basically a loose review.

Want to read along with me? Great! Tell me what you think!

Revising: The Bane of My Existence

I don't know about you, but revising just drives me nuts. When I initially write something down, I tend to fall in love with aspects of it and am afraid of losing those pieces. I'm sure most writers feel the same way.
In my days of revising these past few years, I have tried to work with the first thing I wrote, tweaking it, twisting it, trying to get it into the shape I have in my mind's eye, only to throw my hands up in frustration and say forget it. (Only I use stronger language when I'm alone.) *Laughs*

At any rate, I remember when I first started writing, all the scraps of papers around me, crumpled and then smoothed out again as I search for a fragment I wanted to keep. As I got older and started writing on the computer more and more and using pencil and paper less frequently, I got into a new habit. Using the same file over and over, highlighting what I wanted to change and then saving the document repeatedly so as not to lose what I changed.

Well....that's where the frustration has come into play yet again. I can't tweak the same thing over and over, strengthening one area and making another completely weak. I'm currently swapping chapters with a fellow writer and "Beta Reading" their work while they read mine. Half the time I toss out a chapter that I think revised well only to have glaring mistakes pointed out over and over. Makes me ashamed sometimes.

Lately, I must admit, I haven't been wanting to send off chapters anymore. Then I decided to go back to my old way of doing things with paper and pencil, just adapting it for the computer. I have the old document open to follow, then I open a brand new fresh file, just like pulling out a clean, new notebook to start over again. The upside to this? I don't have to take out the trash every other hour or spend hundreds of dollars on new notebooks! Huzzah! Well, it makes me sad sometimes as I do like to write with pencil and paper. I still do on occasion.

The plus, plus side to this is I already have my story written out, now I can write it down differently, clean it up and strengthen every sentence rather than filtering through it all to catch the ones that are weak. I'm sure this is how other people revise and edit, maybe they've been doing it for much longer than I have. If so, kudos to them! For me, however, it is a step in a new/old direction. I'm growing and changing as a person all the time, so why not grow and change as a writer too? I haven't felt this confident writing in a very long time. I still make the same mistakes over and over, but am now learning to catch them faster when I edit and revise this way. That is how it was before I had a computer, it worked then and it works even better now!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Smash and Bash

I admit, reading my sister-in-law's post about how she's way too nice to her characters made me feel like blogging my own opinion about that. I know it seems like I already did in an earlier blog, but I sort of like putting my characters through some tough times. I'm even trying to decide how to kill one off.

Makes me feel like a bad girl.

Cheri mentioned something about why do we like to read about so much conflict? I just joined a book club and one of the ladies there didn't like the opening chapter of the book we had just read (Smoke Jumper) and asked if he had to do that for publication.

Well, my take on it is this...I'm sure others have had this opinion as well. We, as human beings, have so much going on in our daily lives, that even if we picked up a book that reminded us of our own life, we'd probably keep reading.


Because it is happening to someone else. We're morbid beings. See a car crash, you can't take your eyes off of it. Yet if you are in one yourself, you do everything possible to repress the memory, push it out of your mind. It does creep up and bite you in the rear every so often, but in odd ways. You brake where normally you would have passed the slow car in front of you or you sit for two full minutes looking in all directions before carefully pulling out where before you would just gun it.

So, if you are willing to sit back and follow the lives of others simply because you are grateful it isn't happening to you, why are some authors too easy on their characters?

Take "Smoke Jumper" for example. Don't know how many of you have read it, but one of the main characters gets the raw end of the deal most of his life. Yet the author created such a cushy life for him. He's from a rich family, he's well educated, a musician. If you have read the book, you know that in real life, it would never be that way.

Even J.K. Rowling gave Harry lots of money to make up for his hellish life. But that's different, it was an inheritance and it was only ever mentioned a few times.

If you are going to put your characters through hell and back, you might think about giving them some bright spots, some high points in their lives. People, in all reality, can't deal with stress and drama twenty four seven, so why would you ever think of doing that to your characters?

To answer my earlier question, authors are sometimes too easy on their characters because they are such an extension of themselves. Jane Austen never married, neither did her sister. Yet all of her characters found love and happiness ever after.

I've used bits and pieces of myself in all of my characters. Each one has a distinguishing quality of myself in one way or another. If you really, truly know me, you will recognize it as soon as you begin reading.

In my first book, Kayta loses her memory after a horrific episode in her life. Granted she's an all out, gutsy warrior and knows how to keep her cool in battle, but the tragedy she witnessed was the brutal murder of her family. Who wouldn't want to repress that? By doing this, I've placed into Kayta how I feel about having very little recollection of my childhood. What sort of thing could have happened to me that I would repress what was supposed to be one of the happiest periods of my life?

There's lots of theories. I blame the ozone layer.

But that is just one example. So, for the most part, I really like to smash and bash my characters, but I do try to give them hope. Even the darkest hours of our own lives have glimmers of hope.