10.16.2005

It don't mean a thing, if it ain't got that swing!


"Any advice you get from ANY source should be taken with a grain of salt..." And here I've just trashed 12 pages of a first chapter of a novel because Miss Snark said...


I said in an earlier post that I don't change a word in novels I just mark them up and send them back. That does not evoke the blood letting screams of agony I hear when the ms arrives back in Authorville. Frequently I've marked out entire paragraphs, pages and on more than one red letter day: entire chapters.

I'm not sure why this is but writers have a hard time jumping right in to the action. There's always some sort of set up like describing a sunset, or their situation or what they're looking at out the window. Out! Out!

However, that writing is not wasted even if it does go in the burgeoning trash can. Everything you write whether you use it or not is part of the process of becoming a good or better writer. It's the equivalent of batting practice. Even the guys batting .400 (damn Yankees!) take batting practice before a game. You should hear a soprana warming up to sing Wagner!

Those twelve pages are batting practice. Now step up to the plate and SWING!

6 comments:

Bernita said...

I heard and obeyed.

Bernita said...

To expand on why writers often begin that way, it's because they tend to pick the defining moment when the story deviates from the common pattern of the character's life.When it becomes a story, as it were. That impetus is usually perceived as a letter(or, ahem, an e-mail),a telephone call, someone seen walking past while they sit at a window or in a park. It's a straight-line logic thing.
And they want to avoid backstory dumps,over-done flash backs, insipid prologues and the like.
Also, they can find scads of their favorite published writers who get away with it, forgetting that a published writer with an established audience has a bit more leeway with introductions than an unknown.
I'm not defending here, just explaining possible thought processes.
My instinct was always to start with a bang, but I neglected that impulse when I began this book for a more leisurely approach. Stupid.
A few of a writer's cherished paragraphs can often be inserted further along in other chapters, dribble, by...er... dribble.
You still wouldn't touch it, Miss Snark,because of a certain plot element, but thank you. Devoutly.

kitty said...

I wish more writers would take your advice. I want action, something, at the starting gate. Otherwise, my eyes glaze over and I begin to zone out.

The irony was I never recognized that very same problem in my own writing until recently. A writer friend was the first to point it out to me, and your first page critiques hammered it home. Thank you :)

ilona said...

"I'm not sure why this is but writers have a hard time jumping right in to the action."

Warmup.

Or sometimes it's because we have a certain "vision of the book", the world, etc. It is what makes the world alive in our minds.

Btw, I do start with action, and after trial and error, I've determined that my "vision" is off by about 40,000 words.

First book, 127 K, requested cut: 40K
Second book, 160 K, requested cut: 40K
Who wants to take a bet on the third one?

E. Dashwood said...

Miss Snark channeling Tolstoy:

"I love Pushkin. He gets right into the action."

Bonnie Calhoun said...

I was recently turned on to Clive Cussler. His latest novel is Polar Shift. Reading the jacket cover, it sounds right up my alley.....I'm up to Chapter three and I'm fallin' asleep here {must be the sinus medicine.....go away rain...(chanting optional)}

A friend of mine told me that men readers like this kind of long winded process, and then again Cussler has 'been there' for a long time so I guess he can get away with it.