Friday, July 29, 2011

The goat died of cirrhosis

I've been writing brief prompts since 2002. Some of my writer friends also do prompts and if you spend any amount of time with me, you know that I'm always looking for great prompts to write from. Today at Writing Friday lunch, my friend Eileen announced that she was going to be reading her poems at a goat roast. After the inevitable jokes about saying deprecating remarks about goats, Sue told a story about an alcoholic goat from her past, a goat who loved beer and who died of cirrhosis of the liver. A prompt if I ever heard one.

I'm closing in on completing the 100-prompt challenge I set for myself. Such challenges are usually a do-one-a-day idea to keep us writing. Write a poem a day. Write a chapter a day. Write a prompt a day. But as I have said before, in spite of my rather overdeveloped sense of personal responsibility and discipline, I rebel at the tyranny of once-a-day practices (except brushing my teeth and journaling) so I tend to follow through on these writing ideas in my own fashion. This morning I wrote 6 prompts. Three of them revolved around an interesting new character named Muriel, who was last seen at the bowling alley Friday night (prompt was "last seen"). Then I wrote a personal story about the one night I spent in Montreal and two other fictional bits with new characters. I'm pretty restless today and if it hadn't been Writing Friday and if Pam hadn't wanted to use my computer for a while, I might have been in my office working and pretending to write. As it was, I sat out on terrace in the cool summer quiet and kept asking myself to sit still and I wrote those prompts. I stayed at it long enough to get past the obligation and into the stream of things. So glad I did.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Making revisions

At Writing Friday this past week, I spent the day on my mystery novel, making deeper revisions and considering the suggestions of my early readers. Some of the ideas didn't resonate with me. One reader thought I made too many references to food but when I read all those passages, they seemed okay to me. I hadn't fallen into the amateur's need to describe food in detail and I noticed that most of my food references had to do with smell. "Ellie woke to the sounds of Danny fixing dinner, to the smell of meat and garlic." And I rather like that way of putting readers in touch with the senses.

A second suggestion had to do with using people's names in dialog. In one embarrassingly long interchange, I had my two policemen using each other's names over and over and I could see how stilted it sounded. And I found other places where I had included the name. But even though Story Engineer Larry Brooks, in a recent post, advised against ever using a name in dialog, there were a few places where I decided to leave them. In each case, there was something serious going on and something emphatic. "Listen, Ellie, it's just not going to work." And I realized I would do that naturally in my own speech patterns and so I left them in.

Next, I increased the creepiness factor by inserting my psychopath in two small ways earlier in the book. I'm very pleased with how I resolved this suggestion and think it works well.

That left two more substantial considerations to deal with. First was rewriting the climax so that my tired hero had a bigger place in the rescue of his beloved. No solution immediately came to mind but I have let myself mull it over (I'm a great believer in the work of the unconscious mind to solve problems), and I came up with something that I think is going to work without a complete rearrangement.

Second is rethinking my heroine's relationship with her husband, whom she does not yet love. Can she? Will she? In four or five places in the novel, she has interior dialog about this but for some reason, my readers did not find that enough. Now I need to go back, print out those pages, read them through, and delve deeper into her motivation, her longing, and her reluctance.