Monday, October 23, 2006


Wow. I finished the most recent edit. The manuscript is now 106,000 words. Down from 121,000 at the end of the first draft. It has truly evolved over time, and is so much more polished and tighter now. Most of the word cuts weren't real large chunks. There were a couple of three and four thousand word passages that were cut, but the majority of those 15,000 words were cut out one, two, five, twelve words at a time. I didn't cut out every single adverb, but I damn sure cut out a bunch. I thought I'd been careful as I wrote, not to over-do the adverbs. Going back through with a careful eye, though, I still found way too many. The dialogue flows much more smoothly now (oh, no, an adverb), and the descriptions are better using fewer words. Subtlety is the sign of a true artist, and I'm working on that.

I checked out some Randy Wayne White books at the library last week. Someone who read my manuscript said it reads similar to his books, so I decided to see for myself. Overlooking the fact that he is a better writer than I am right now, there is some similarity. Similar tone and style. I'm reading The Mangrove Coast, and I see that his characters are very thoughtful, and he allows them to explore some tangential ideas that don't necessarily pertain to the story, but it is interesting narrative and doesn't disturb the flow. One thing I find interesting about this book: it begins with the requisite body in chapter one, then the next 180 pages are backstory to get us back to where the book opens. According to some schools of thought, this is a no-no. This book was published in 1998, though, and maybe it wasn't a big deal at that time. Trends in style and structure seem to be somewhat dynamic and constantly shifting. I don't mind it. I was into the story quickly and the backstory was compelling. I'm looking forward to finishing this one and reading the other two, which are more recent, published in the last couple of years.

My next story is going to be something entirely new. New characters, probably keep the setting right here at the beach, but I'm going to experiment with a little different style. A little darker, I think. We'll see. Still haven't decided if it'll be first person or third person POV. I've got to come up with the crime. I'm going to approach it more methodically this time, and it is going to be a more "traditional" mystery. The protagonist is going to be a bounty-hunter (that's all I know right now), and there will be a body in the first chapter. I'm going to write a plot outline from the perspective of the murderer, as recommended by some "experts". Now, I have to come up with a murderer and a crime. This will be interesting. Fun, too. Lots of decisions to make before I start writing.

I'll get back to querying agents next week. The manuscript is ready, I believe. One more walk-through, and then I'll start picking out some agents. My query letter is ready, now, too. The agent blogs have helped tremendously, and I'm looking forward to positive results this time around.

Still trying to get over this damn cold. I feel better but my voice still sounds like I'm dying. Maybe it'll be better in the morning. Vitamin C and OJ for all the lovely people...

Sunday, October 15, 2006

It's been a while since I've written a blog entry. No reason for this, just lazy I guess. I've been editing, still editing. I've also been reading a lot, both fiction as well as books on writing. I'm learning, and the more I learn, the more I realize how far I still have to go in my writing.

I have the fundamental skills, I believe, to be a good writer, but these skills need more polish. I read my manuscript now, and think "How did I not see these flaws before? This is the twelve thousandth time I've read these pages, how could I not see the weaknesses?". I'm beginning to realize it was because I didn't know what to look for. My skills had not evolved to the point that I could identify the weaknesses. I'm sure I'm still not seeing all of the flaws, but I'm identifying and correcting a bunch of them. I'm taking out words, sentences, and paragraphs that might be well written but they just don't belong. "Self-indulgent" is the tag that most writers cringe about, but really that's what a lot of it is. Words that I might like when I write them, the way they sound or something, so I force them into the story. In many cases, these words are "telling" rather than "showing", but not always. It could just be a comparison I've come up with that I think is clever, so I try to squeeze it in.

Subtlety is the sign of a true craftsman, and I'm trying to develop that aspect of my writing. There is good argument for leaving some ambiguity in your words, and allowing the readers' imagination room to work. I fall prey to the same inclination that many amatuer writers have, which is a tendency to over-describe settings and characters, when fewer words will paint a more lucid scene. This is where the editing must provide a higher-level view and cut out all but the necessary details. I don't mean to say details aren't important, but that the details be well chosen for their purpose, rather than a rambling description filled with minutiae. Don't underestimate the imagination of the reader, and use subtlety to make the prose memorable.

On a different note, the more research I engage in regarding the publishing industry in general, the more difficult it is not to become cynical about the whole business. I'm forming an overall impression of a blood-sucking, life-draining process filled with rejection and uncertainty where luck and timing play a larger role than I ever suspected. I'm not a cynical person by nature - in fact, I'm rather naive in many ways - but in the books and the blogs I read, it seems to be a relatively thin and stable upper crust, while below that it is a roiling mosh pit of unpublished and mid-list authors vying for the attention of mercenary agents and editors.

Right now, I write because I love it. I love creating stories and characters and I love studying the craft. But like anyone else, I'd like to get paid for it. If I keep doing what I'm doing, hopefully one day I will get paid for it, and I can make a living doing what I love. In the meantime, I'll keep trying to grow and enjoy writing for the sense of fulfillment I get from putting together a beautiful paragraph. And I'll try to maintain a posture somewhere between naive and cynical.

I'm down with some kind of cold or flu or something the last two days. NyQuil gel caps are my friends right now. And orange juice. OJ and cran-raspberry juice combo. Hell of a concoction. Fortunately I'm off on Mondays, so if I'm not feeling better by tomorrow, I don't have to worry about going to work. Sucks to be sick right now, the weather is gorgeous. The reason I live in Florida. The good thing about it is, the weather will be like this for the next couple of months. Seventies and sunshine. Or at least, that's the norm. Can't take anything about the weather for granted anymore, it seems.

Chicken and broccoli casserole for all...