Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Writing Alchemy - Resurrection of a Manuscript

Now I know what Victor Frankenstein felt like when he created his monster. Well... sort of.

My manuscript created in 1999-2002 "Vampire Legacy", was in a large box within an even larger bin, filled with my writings. I recall that it went well beyond manageable length.
Well over 800 pages.

Yeah. I had way too many threads, too many characters, and the plot went all over the place. And I had the gall to try and interest an agent with it. When she responded to me, asking me to cut it down (in half), I was excited and went to work on it, and in a month I sent it back. She said I still didn't do it right. In the end, she rejected it, saying "Didn't you learn anything from the books I recommended?" (In other words, REJECTED)

Oh, well. Back to the drawing board...

It was shelved. For a long time, obviously.

In the meantime, I guess I learned how to plot and a few other things with my writing. You see, you have to learn how to write before you can get this shit straight. Plotting is something you need to understand before you can proceed.

"No one can teach you how to write." 
Someone somewhere said that. I think a couple of teachers. Maybe Gandhi, too.

Somewhere along the line I have figured it out, apparently, or I wouldn't have gotten a publisher (as small as he was), and my many nice reviews for Vampire Ascending, and Vampire's Trill.

So, last weekend I took out all of this manuscript, which was in more drafts than I can count. I spread it all out over a couch, a couple of tables and a few boxes, the floor, and sorted through it all trying to discover the workable parts and the not-so workable parts. Those I put off to the side. They are like mini stories, basically. I never throw out anything, if I can help it.

When I was finished, my lower back ached for days, but I had found the latest draft (because of the type-font/printing). But I kept the draft(s) before that on hand for anything I might have missed.

So, I began the typing up of the mss. in my computer. I began Chapter One using the scenes in Chapter Three. Because the original beginning was too boring. Really. It was terrible. Nothing happened, too much back-story, too much information dump--all of the no-no's I'd learned since then not to do. (God, I hope so!)

I was going along, replacing one scene for another, and then I got to my character Izora Crunch. She's a librarian. I kept vacillating as to whether or not I needed her. In my original she comes in handy, but fills two rolls, and when I came to this one spot where my second main character (Phil Green), goes to her about something, I said, "Hold on. She doesn't need to be the person in this scene." But she needed to come in to help my detectives earlier than I had her (which was way-way at the end), and I needed them to learn something very important, yet so mind-blowing that neither detective really wants to believe it--because it spells V-A-M-P-I-R-E. But Jan Vladislav, who is part Gypsy and Romanian, knows about such things, and there are things about his birth even he doesn't know about (yet).

So, when I say this is like being the creator, but taking something that already exists and making it into something new, and breathing life into it--I'm not pulling your leg. This is work. But a work of love. I absolutely love this story. If I didn't, I would have tossed it a long time ago. I merely need to cut out things that I don't need, and stitch in sections elsewhere (like that monster Frankenstein made--only this will be better, and prettier).

At this juncture, I can see what is wrong with this mss.--big and little things--and can fix. I am moving things around. I'm taking out certain character's POV because it gives away too much. I want the reader to discover the vampires along with my hero, Detective Vladislav--who, by the way has amber eyes, which he disguises with brown or blue contact lenses (I haven't decided which color, but since he's dark, maybe I should have him use brown--but his daughter's eyes are like her mothers, which are blue. And I love the contrast. But I digress). He also has a cool tattoo. And I've seen this tattoo on someone who is Romanian, and I am going to get a picture of his arm if it's the last thing I do! It's a crucifix, and there's a story behind it, and it relates to Dracula--I do not lie!

And as I went through this, and put Izora into this chapter with the detectives, I wondered where her description was. Oh... there it is, with Phil, my other vampire slayer.

This book's title was "Vampire Legacy", but since I've got a series with the word 'vampire' in the titles, I knew I needed to change this. This is where I asked myself: "What is the book was about?" Well, it's about a couple of vampire hunters--one by nature (he was born one), one by necessity.

Romanian belief is the background for the whole book. A dhampire  is someone who is born from a vampire-human mating. They have certain physical atributes that makes him stronger, more agile and more able to detect and fight a vampire. So, with this in mind, the new title is now Dhampire Legacy. It might be confusing to some people who have never seen this word, but believe me, once they get into the story, it will be explained.

So, I'm up to chapter seven or eight. I've found Mrs. Crunch's description and I'll be plopping that into the areas I need to, and re-writing this section of Phil Green's to include a priest, instead because he returns a large gold crucifix and tells his story of why he has it in the first place, and it belonged to a deacon whose neck was twisted horribly 20 years ago--and Phil actually saw the murder, but was too young and frightened to tell anyone about it.

Hmmm, since I'm not Catholic, anyone out there able to help me with a scene? Specifically with the confession scene? Let me know in the comments.

Who among you are doing this, or have gone back into an old manuscript and began to work on it?

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Quality vs. Quantity Which Are You?

How many words a day do you crank out? A thousand? Two? More?

Is this important to you? If so, why?

I just wanted to throw those questions out to you. Get you thinking a little bit.

But here's another one. Is the reason you do crank out thousands of words a day, or say 10,000 in a week, is because you're working to put out a short story, a novel or what have you, in order to keep the number of published works up so as to compete with other titles out there so that you are "discoverable" at Amazon?

Hmm. Really?

There are a number of writers--like Ray Bradbury--who wrote a story a week and could not only put out the quantity, bu also the quality without a problem. Other famous authors do too, but at the moment I can't recall some of them. Their names are household because most writers can't hold a candle to them. But you can emulate them as much as humanly possible. Good luck with that. In my younger writing years, I wanted to be like Stephan King. Not so much now. I've found that I like what I write much better. It's because I've found my "voice".

When I began writing it was either pen/pencil and paper, or the typewriter. In either case if you made mistakes you had no spell check. A bummer for me since I'm a lousy speller (better now, but I've been writing for 40+ years, and when you can see spellcheck you usually begin remembering how to spell some word you eff up all the time). I've told the story of my having to clean out my father's house after his death and I found all my writing from when I lived at home--which included journals--and thousands upon thousands of pages of my writing. Three grocery bags full. Most of it was awful, unfinished and rife with bad grammar and spelling. From my calculations--since I left my father's house to live with my husband in 1988, this would be approximately 16 years of work compiled. Was it any good? No. The ideas, might have been alright, but I was a novice. Yeah. I spent about 25 years being the novice writer. It took me a while to understand plot, and to have a natural in-born system that gave me ideas (in our circles they call it a "muse"), where as I write, or go along (I'm basically a panster), I allow problems of what comes next and why come to me naturally. I don't force-write. I've found that it frustrates my natural abilities, and this is why I shun NaNoWiMo. I'm not capable of churning out words without going back over things. I'm what I call (and maybe it's a word), a layering writer. I layer in details. I may not have the description of a room, a person, at the moment I write the scene. But I might have it tomorrow or the next day or the next--or I'll come back when I'm ready to work on the second draft (remember that term, I'll come back to this). This is how I write, it's like I've dug myself into a nice little writing hole and that's what I'm comfortable with.

Plotting is what it is. If you choose to write something that is easy to plot and you find these are easy to churn out, wonderful. Go for it.

I'm not a fan of easy plots. Not to read and not to write. For some reason I need to make it hard to do. It's the reason I don't like romances. Who winds up together at the end and do the nasty about half a dozen times? I can tell you probably in the first few pages. Boring me to death is not good. I've tried to read what is called "paranormal romance". It's romance between (usually) a human female or male and a supernatural (vampire or werewolf, or dear God, no a zombie). Off the top of my head authors of this would be Lindsay Sands, Michele Hauf, Cynthia Garner, Jeaniene Frost. I've read these authors, and out of all of these Lindsay Sands bores me the most. So, I've learned to steer clear of any of these.

Why does it bore me? I don't know. I've never made a point of watching soaps, I'm not a huge fan of any romance anything. Romance happens in my books, but it's more on a reality loop. Most people (men and women differ as to why) don't believe in romance, but if they did it would happen like in a book, or a movie. That's not reality. Real life and emotions have to be hit for a reader to react, or be reached on an emotional level. Your character can't always win every battle, even when it comes to romance. Something bad usually happens, and that's what I write, when it suits the story line.

Because of this I need sub-plots and a complicated story. Nothing that I can figure out how it will end. That's why with my Sabrina Strong series, if there is romance, its usually sexually oriented. The guy or gal who should win love, doesn't. Why should they? It happens so infrequently in reality, and I try to make the things that happen feel more like reality, because I write about fantasy. I need you to believe this could happen. The people in the story have to seem real, even if they might be a werewolf, a vampire, or a smart-ass leprechaun, or maybe a witch. I need you to feel that they might exist at least on the page. To do this I have to not just write one draft, it's many.

Oh, there's that word again. DRAFT. Does anyone really write drafts any more? You know. You write the work and go back through it again. Make adjustments, find mistakes and then put it aside, work on something else and come back to it for a third time... That's what a draft is, and it's not something you can do in a month or even two months. This is my work and I need to do the work (unfortunately I don't have a magic wand). Besides, I sometimes have ideas come to me two books down the line (in other words, I'm writing on the 8th book, and something occurs to me that maybe I should have put in the 6th one and I go back and put it in). If the work is already out there, it's sort of too late for me to change some detail. You send something to an editor, they don't touch anything but mistakes you've made in spelling and grammar. At least that's what they're supposed to do. If you've put a book out there that has some minor or large mistake in it, well... For example, I got a freebee from an author who I won't name, and read along and at this one scene the characters were watching the moon go down through a window and then they watched the sun come up--in the same window. Uh, HELLOO! The sun or moon rises in the east and goes down in the west. Needless to say, I could not read another word because of this. And the story seemed to drag on, anyway, so I didn't loose sleep over it. That's an easy example, and how the author or anyone else who read it didn't catch it, I don't know. But really, that's a big error that should not have happened. Possibly a rush to publish was part of the problem.

I know I've been guilty of this too. I'm trying to clean up my act. I'm not going to put out a work unless I'm sure I've gotten as many boo-boos as I can find corrected, and the only way to do this is going over and over it, and getting a couple of betas to read it through too helps.

I also do research for most of my novels. I might need to dig into historical facts or such things as styles of dress, as I did for Vampire Nocturne. I may research a number of things about each book before I can even write about it. Like my fourth novel. Even though I did write Vampire Caprice in a matter of three months, because it simply came out of me, it wasn't finished in three months. Not really. I had to research cars, missile solos, GPS devices, Nephilum, and other things. These things take time. I've had certain people contribute their knowledge toward something I was absolutely unfamiliar with, like the scene where someone looses a wrench under a car and it lands somewhere unreachable in the undercarriage. Someone who knew components of a car gave me a wonderful description, I wrote it, sent it to him and he told me I did a super job on it. I couldn't have done that scene without such a person. It's what makes the story feel like reality. If I tried to dummy it up and a mechanic read the scene they'd probably want to throw the book across the room. I'd never have that reader touch another one of my books again. I don't want anyone throwing a book (well, they're now eBooks), across the room for any reason because I neglected my job as a good writer.

This subject keeps coming up the fact that some writers are trying to churn out more and more work, and publish it quickly so as to beat the odds that someone will find your work out there. Here is one such link.

If you write and publish frequently, and do a great job of it, that's great. You're one of a kind. But there are those who put out work that is far below excellence that muddies up the waters, so to speak. My thought is that hopefully they no longer sell because their work is so inferior or they continue to get bad reviews, and they just decide that maybe they can't really write and quit, freeing up some space for those of us who can.