Friday, July 8, 2011

When Your Story Sags, Kill Someone

This is so true. Lately, I have been experiencing what I lovingly call "a writer's funk". Nothing is sounding right. Everything that I write seems hopelessly lacking and it's these times when I think, should I bother being a writer at all?

Sometimes I feel this way when I read something amazing and subsequently convince myself that my books will never be of the same caliber. Sometimes this funk is a result of comments from others that come way out of left field making me feel like I have been delusional all this time believing I was on to something good. And sometimes it's because I am stuck. My plot sags, my vocabulary reservoir has dried up and I am at a loss of what to do.

What can you do? Kill someone off. Nothing revives a plot, a sense of danger and intrigue like the piling up of bodies. Now mind you, it must make sense, and there is usually some ground work that must be done to set up the death but as a technique to get the creative juices flowing, it really does work.

I am currently in 'the meddlesome middle'. I'm 40,000 words in and know exactly where my end is, but how do I get there and not loose readers to boredom? I started to think about my cast of characters and which one is least important this far in to the story? Who is the next on the bottom tier? Eventually I found the perfect character to kill off, and one readers would not be expecting. An excellent twist with perfect timing, just when my protagonist feels he has a handle on the situation.

Not only has this dramatic change revived my plot but it's also revived my writing. I have written over 4,000 words in the last 24 hours (intermittently) and I now feel my plot is on track to keep readers turning the page. An excellent solution if I do say so myself. Good show, Watson, good show!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Negative Feedback

Rejection is inevitable. Writing is an art and as such certain styles don't appeal to everyone. I may not be a fan of modern art but I enjoy impressionism. Same with writing. Not everyone is going to like everything and rejection, or negative feedback, can be hard to take.

I am involved with an online critique group. Five mystery writers who all write in different sub genres. I'm working on a historical mystery set in Victorian times. One person is writing a modern day espionage thriller, another one is writing a cozy mystery, another still in writing about a campy heroine who is always getting herself in to sticky situations.

We all have our different time periods, style and preferences. A debate raged and battle lines were drawn recently over the use of contractions. I prefer to stay away from contractions in my descriptions. Thoughts and dialogue notwithstanding, I feel contractions in historical novels take away that feeling of the past. I am not saying they can not be used, contractions have been part of the English language for centuries. I simply choose to use them sparingly and only in dialogue if it suits the character. This personal style decision does not sit well with some of my critique partners who have said my novel does not flow because I have omitted them. Again, it's all about choice.

I receive comments about my choice of words, my sentence structure and the like. I use terms and phrases that are more often found in Jane Austen, Charles Dickens and Lucy Maud Montgomery but are not found amongst modern literature. Is this wrong or a matter of style choice?

My use of repetition to create literary emphasis has been put under scrutiny as well. Again, is this a matter of style or a matter of right and wrong?

Critique groups can be good to point out obvious flaws and holes in the story. But when it comes to personal style I think too many writers try to impress their own style onto the people they are critiquing.

It's been hard for me not to take the negative feedback to heart. I have to remind myself that everyone has an opinion and if I ask for feedback I can not control the type of feedback I receive. I have to take the good with the bad and learn what I can from it. Above all I must keep writing because that is the only way I will be able to get to where I want to be. Published.