Friday, June 1, 2012

Friday Fictioneers: Couriers in the High Peaks

Here's my 100 word response to the Friday Fictioneers photo of the week, Couriers in the High Peaks:

Into the icy wind, Gianna and I had to go.  We were almost out of food, and the snow had softened enough that we could pick our way through the scowling mountain peaks.  If we ran short of water we could melt snow, but so far it was no problem.  We bundled ourselves into our black hoodies, scoured the cave for tidbits, made sure we had the packet, started off when it was barely light.  Moving fast over the dark slopes warmed us up.  After we passed the dormant volcano, Gianna bent over a stream.  “Look, Cosima, fish!  We can eat!” she said. 

Check out Madison Woods' blog at the link above fmi.  Here is the photo we were responding to:

Small Writing vs. Big Writing

Hi readers and writers,

I need to work on a biography that is almost finished and a novel that is about 1/3 done, the latter being a requirement for my MFA program, due by next May in its entirety.  So why is it that my mind skips away to rewriting a travel essay so I can submit it to a contest, polishing up a story about a CO who worked in an insane asylum during WW II to submit to another contest, reformatting a third story to submit for a June 1 deadline?  These contests are fine, but they're just putting off what I really need to do.

Write these books.  Concentrate.  I put my tailbone to the chair and I open the computer and then, my mind plays hooky.  I am getting tired of it, but still, day after day, I don't get down to the jobs I really need to do.

Anyone out there faced this problem and found some great solutions you'd like to share?  I bet I'm not the only one who procrastinates by "pretending" to write, working on the non-urgent jobs and avoiding the important ones.  How can I point my errant brain to what I need it to work on?  My problem is, any time I get too logical, I can no longer write (or I go into science-writing-style, using passive, chronological, logical, simplified, direct, no dialog, no "i").  But this situation is very stressful.  I'd love to get some good, constructive suggestions!


Thursday, May 31, 2012

Vinegar and Salt

Hi readers and writers,

When I write my first drafts, definitely to Anne Lamott's prescribed degree of non-excellence, I often reread them and wonder, "Where's the beef?"  The thing I tend to leave out is the tension.  One of my friends from many years ago once made a dish called Slum Gullion, essentially Beef Stroganoff with burger substituted for the steak.  She forgot the vinegar and salt, and it was so bland we had decided never to use the recipe again until she reread it and realized what she had left out: the taste, the subtle items that make you want more so you can figure it out.  My first drafts can be that way.  The bones of the story are there, but the lines between them are all slack and there's nothing urgent about how things are connected.  Revision is where I actually put together the motivation, the tension, the stress and write them into the story.

Adding tension sounds like there's no way it could work.  Not true, though.  It's implied there already, but in the written part, it's not featured.  I just need to bring it out, show the dialog with subtext and conflicting desires, let the characters try to move the story towards their individual dreams.  I often cut out text that is over-the-top descriptive or contains information in excess and replace it with these elements that ratchet up the stakes for the characters.

What are your revision strategies?  Do you need to add tension, or do you concentrate on the beauty of the sentences, or do you add subplots?

Image from Creative Commons/Wikipedia with thanks.