Monday, 4 March 2013

Maureen says, 'I'm Writing the Never Ending Story.'


When you think your story’s done. When you think you’ve ironed out all of the plot wrinkles. When you’ve upped the threat. When you’ve swept your characters towards the finale on a roller coaster of Oh no’s and Eeks! When you think you’ve searched out all of your writer’s ticks and squashed them between the pages of your book on grammar. When your writer friend has pronounced it BRILLIANT! When you think your story is FINALLY FINISHED. It’s a shock to discover ... it isn’t.

But you can’t kill the messenger, especially if that messenger is editor and husband all rolled into one. Who would wash up?

To say I had tears in my eyes yesterday when I saw Geoff’s pencil scrawls on my ABSOLUTELY FINAL DRAFT would be true.  Florence and the Meanies has been drafted and re-drafted so why were there still faults to find?

This is how I work.

  1. I plot on cards. One scene per card. I love doing this, it frees me up to be inventive and I can play around with the order of events. And it makes it easy to throw away an idea.
  2. I write a bad first draft. Actually, these first drafts aren’t as bad as they used to be. But the important thing is to give myself permission to write a bad draft. If something comes from my fingers that’s WOW, YAY, FANTASTIC! I don’t delete it. That would be silly.
  3. I leave it. Alone. To simmer. I don’t look. I write poems. Start a new book. I force myself not to look.
  4. I redraft a number of times checking various things.
    1. The characters: motivation, dialogue, interaction, emotional states. Does everyone have a role to play? Only two days ago, we realised we needed to reference Mr Meanie in Cupcake Catastrophe  so he could appear in the rest of the series and play a VERY IMPORTANT ROLE in book 5. Memo to me - always plot the story arc of the whole series before beginning. 
    1. Character polarity is extremely important in comedy. Silhouettes – Lauren and Hardy, Sheldon and Leonard (Watch The Big Bang Theory!), the Simpsons. Attitudes and character types – The Odd Couple. 
    2. The plot and pace. Have I named, previewed and contrasted before each event and have I reflected afterwards.
    3. Cause and effect: Is everything logical. Does a character react to information about an event before that event has actually happened?
    4. Escalation and tension. I love those will they, won’t they moments and building emotional volcanoes.
    5. www.filmreference.com
    6. The comedy. My comedy is built into the characters so here I look for opportunities to escalate the humour through their emotional reactions and interactions. I look for sentences where I can add detail – the comedy is in the detail – Philomeena gazed at the chef as if he was a bar of chocolate and she wanted a nibble could have been Philomeena gazed adoringly at the chef. I look to shock ‘Kill the prince,’ cried Hatty isn’t really what you expect from a fairy godmother, let’s add playing with expectations to this bit too. Word choices – Is bum funnier than bottom? Is bottom burp funnier than fart (I think so (the gap), thank you Mr Dahl)
  5. Then I copyedit. I do a few searches for my writer’s ticks, we all have them. These are mine.
    1. Too many sentences starting with and and but. It’s OK to have sentences beginning with a conjunction. BUT, they should be used appropriately for effect. Unfortunately, I just like to use them. BUT, it’s not my fault! They slip off my fingers without me noticing. AND then Geoff spots them.
    2. Which leads me to another word I love to oversuse. Then Usually with and and but as in But then, Florence noticed the jars of oil behind Hatty. ‘That’s it! I’ll make them slip!
    3. Which leads to another tick – exclamation marks. Oh dear!!!!!!
    4. Began to is next on the list. So passive!!!!!
    5. Passed and past I do know the difference but my fingers don’t agree and they consistently type past every time in all situations.

So, as I said earlier, why were there faults to find??? And you can understand why, when I’ve done ALL THAT and thought we could finally send Florence out into the big wide world, I had bit of a leaky eye or two. But, I’m lucky. I can have a hug from my editor who comforted me with this:

‘I’m being nitpicky. This is too important to let anything go and my job is to help you to write the very best book that you can write.’

More teary eyes!

Everyone needs a Geoff. But you can’t have mine.
My Dad By Katherine Lynas
.
PS. I'd forgotten to check the exclamation marks!!!!!!!


Maureen Lynas also blogs on her own blog which she creatively named - Maureen Lynas

23 comments :

  1. A great post and so true! My partner takes pride in being my most severe critic and I am very grateful for his input. Plus I get to return the favour on his thesis.
    By the way, I share your love of exclamation marks - here's a few more for you!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't see anything wrong with them!!!!! If they're good enough for Francesca Simon, they're good enough for me!!!!!!!

      Delete
  2. ... and more from me!!!!!!

    Fresh eyes on even the most meticulously written MS is always handy and helpful! yay for you!! Take care
    x

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    Replies
    1. Thanks, old Kitty. I always see you in a shawl with a bun. In the hair not the hand. No icing.

      Delete
  3. And then I noticed that I have a similar conjunctional issue. But at least you don't have my 'leaning' problem. It seems a lot of people and things lean a lot in my writing. I wish I knew what that meant.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I did have a lot of protagonists who fainted, when I first started writing. What does that say about me? You don't need to answer that.

      Delete
  4. What a brilliant post! And you're so lucky to have a Geoff. My problem word for weeding out always seems to be "clearly" - and I find it everywhere not just manuscripts! Clearly I have a problem...

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  5. I send my characters upstairs far too often. It was especially a problem in a story where they'd moved to a bungalow.

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    Replies
    1. But wouldn't you have fun if you set a book in a block of flats!

      Delete
  6. This is a FAB post. Off to look for tics...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Kathy. Just realised, I spelled tic wrong. Oh no.

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  7. Thanks Maureen, what a really useful checklist! I love how u get to the heart of the issue - "Who would wash up?" really tickled me!

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    Replies
    1. You can't waste years of training, Anna.

      Delete
  8. Thanks, Maureen. I really enjoyed this -and it's worth waiting for. Have you ever put your manuscript into wordle? It's brilliant. You just cut and paste it in and you'll see (visually) which words are overused. It's very revealing. I love it enough to give it an exclamation mark. Wordle! Yay. Good luck http://www.wordle.net/ Clare.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Clare. I'm doing another last draft tomorrow, I'll run it through Wordle after that. I've never heard of it.

      Delete
  9. Funny and useful and we have all been there. Maybe you could clone Geoff

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    Replies
    1. One for the washing up and one for the editing?

      Delete
  10. As an editor- I can see how something may not be finished. Ironing out as many flaws as possible is my job. Making it the best it can be for the writer so I understand where He's coming from.
    But as a writer- It would hurt to hear that and at the same time I think deep down I would know that a lot of things could be changed still if I continued forward because every time I look at one of my final pieces whether it has been published or not- I can always find something else I need to fix...so where to put my foot down is the better question.

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    Replies
    1. It must be difficult to wear two hats, Summer. This will be a better story for the points that Geoff's made. Once I got over the tears I had great fun yesterday as I killed off a character and ended up with a really tight, ticking bomb, finale.

      Delete
  11. Awwwww I want a Geoff! Can you get him in plush form?

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  12. Generous and insightful, as always. Thanks Maureen. It's refreshing to hear that everyone has their own writer's tics too!!!!! I'm always having people's hearts racing. And starting sentences with and...

    ReplyDelete

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