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  1. Musical treats

    August 20, 2016 by Diane

    Gone Fishing

    Okay, I really have gone fishing. Well, not literally. I’m taking a two-week vacation to sit by the lake and contemplate those unanswered questions about life. And read.

    I’m not avoiding my rewrite.

    I’m taking a break.

    In the meantime, I leave you with these musical treats:

    Stay Humble and Kind by Tim McGraw:

    The weirdest brass band:

    And this, a beautiful piece of music:

     

     

     


  2. How to Rewrite a Novel: Step Four

    August 14, 2016 by Diane

    hand opening red curtain on white.

    Rewriting a novel is like sitting on the edge of a pool. The water’s cold. You can dive right in, get the discomfort over with, splash around to warm up, and then lose yourself in the steady stroke of limbs through water.

    Or, like me, you can hang out on the edge while the sun bakes your skin and your feet turn into prunes.

    Welcome to week five of my novel rewrite.

    This is how rewriting my novel looked:

    I attended an outdoor concert with a Meetup group from The Sierra Club. The club turned out to be a bunch of lively women, ages sixty and up, and a grizzled guy who may have been a sea captain. Another guy, wearing a goofy beach hat, stood around grinning like babies do when they have gas. I sat in my low-slung chair behind a woman in a sleeveless blouse who shaded her eyes with one hand, cutting off my view of the stage with her underarm flab. Occasionally, she dropped her arm, so my view became a vision of Michael Jackson–if Michael Jackson was middle-aged and fifty pounds overweight and stuffed into black leather pants–strutting and doing that pelvic bump, while a four-man horn section dipped and pivoted like the backup for The Temptations.

    After three songs, I folded up my chair and left.

    The next day, I went swimming. The pool was packed. I swam laps in the shallow end. The woman sharing my lane trudged back and forth in hiking boots, talking on her cell phone the entire time. One hundred dollar hiking boots. In chlorinated water. And a cell phone.

    Some days, I stood in the middle of my room, thinking.

    Had I stumbled once again onto Resistance Highway? Or was this non-writing activity actually accomplishing something?

    Well, a little of both.

    I was noodling loglines.

    It’s part of my action plan for rewriting a novel. I had arrived at:

    Step Four

    Write a logline.

    What’s a logline?

    It’s a sentence that describes the novel, and answers the questions:

    Who is the protagonist?
    What does the protagonist want?
    What’s at stake?

    Ya gotta know the who, what, and why-bother, otherwise, how can you rewrite the dang thing?

    So, I contemplated. I gnawed on ideas. I engaged in other activities. And then I took a hike with my niece, who was on a whirlwind visit through town.

    We talked writing. She wanted to know what my novel was about. I launched into a lengthy description and ended with an exasperated, “I just wish I knew what’s driving my protagonist!”

    And my niece said, “It’s funny, we wonder what our characters want, but we’re the ones making it all up.”

    We’re the ones making it all up!

    D’uh. Head slap.

    All I needed to do was pick something, and go with it.

    Write ten possible loglines. Twenty. Twenty-five. Whatever. Then PICK ONE.

    Jump in the pool.

    Stuck? Or Avoiding?

    Sometimes, we get stuck in our writing, and need to occupy ourselves elsewhere so the idea we’re searching for can swim into our consciousness. But there’s a fine line between taking time away, and staying away because the water’s too cold.

    That’s where those vows come in handy. You know, the ones that start: I promise to show up for my writing every day, no matter what.

    So, how do you know what side of the line you’re on?

    Look for signs of resistance.

    I know I’m in resistance when I start doing what comes easy, rather than what comes hard, like rewriting. “I’ll just answer a few emails. Shuffle papers. Blog.”

    I know I’m in resistance when I force myself to write, and I lose track of time.

    But If I force myself to write, and resent it, I know I need to go back to noodling. Nothing wrong with that.

    At least this time, I recognized the highway, and hitched a ride out. I was digging through some boxes of books in storage, looking for some good reads to bring on my vacation, and found a copy of Sell Your Story in a Single Sentence, by Lane Shefter Bishop. A whole book about how to write a logline! Had my intuition guided me to that box? Could be.

    I read the first few chapters. Jotted down a rough idea. Refined it. Refined it again and again and again, eliminating excess words, homing in on the want, the stakes, until…Bingo! I had my logline.

    Is it the perfect logline? Maybe, maybe not. But it’s something I can work with.

    Onward, to Step Five!


  3. How to Rewrite a Novel: The First Three Steps

    August 7, 2016 by Diane

    hand opening red curtain on white.

    In junior high school, I had a math teacher who was part hipster, part geek. He wore white dress shirts, skinny black ties, black glasses, and always had what he referred to as “a plan of action.” I don’t recall what his plan was, or what action it required, but his call for one appealed to my need for control.

    When I write, I plunge in without a plan of any kind. I’m like a detective on a mission of discovery, following a character to see who she is, what messes she gets into, how she gets out of said messes, and how she changes as a result. It makes for an exciting first-draft experience.

    Then—groan—comes the rewrite.

    Here’s where a plan of action would come in handy. My “plan” in the past has been to read through the manuscript, rearrange parts willy-nilly, make a mess of the whole thing, and stuff it back into its cardboard Kinko’s box.

    I had no clue how to tackle a rewrite. Oh, I had read books galore on what’s needed plot-wise, character-wise, theme-wise, and every other wise. Then I’d strap on my monster backpack like Cheryl Strayed in Wild, weighed down by all the knowledge I had crammed in, and forge ahead on the long trail to rewriting glory, stumbling down roads that many have gone before:

    • Resistance Highway
    • Distraction Detour
    • The Avenue of Doubt
    • The Street of Avoidance
    • The Rearranging Roundabout
    • A pit-stop to ask for directions
    • The Valley of the Critic
    • What looked like Plot Paradise but was really a pothole
    • Recharge Vista Point
    • Busyness Boulevard
    • Quitting: a dead end

     
    On I stumbled, hither and yon, ending right back where I started: with a pack of knowledge, and a manuscript snipped into pieces and stuffed into a cardboard box.

    But not this time.

    This time, as I rewrite my novel behind the writer’s curtain, I’ve got a plan of action. I’m mapping the journey step by step. Starting with the first step.

    Are you ready?

    (Drum roll, please)

    Step One

    Set the manuscript aside.

    Whaaat? That’s a step? 

    Believe it or not, it is. A step back. We need the perspective, and our writing needs some breathing room.

    What do we do while it’s breathing? Well, we can do any of these fifteen writing exercises, or work on another writing project, or catch up on our reading, or tackle any of those household chores we’ve put off—if we haven’t already done them as a way to avoid rewriting that novel.

    When the month is up (or whatever time we’ve allotted), we’re ready for:

    Step Two

    Read the manuscript.

    Oh, this is just too easy.

    Not really. When we hunker down and read the thing we might find ourselves groaning, or thumping our forehead with the flat of our palm, or throwing the pages across the room, or eyeing the paper shredder.

    But at least we know where we are on the map. We have some idea of how hard the journey might be. And we start thinking about getting the tools we need to sally forth. Which brings us to:

    Step Three

    Pack yer gear.

    Huh?

    You know, the stuff we need for the trip. Here’s a list:

    First aid supplies: supportive family, friends, and blog readers to prop us up

    Maps: Blake Snyder’s Beat Sheet, or whatever plotting device we choose to use. Guides, like books, experts, and internet sites to provide the details we need to flesh out the story.

    Food: whatever sustains us when the going gets tough, like inspirational quotes, and treats.

    But let’s not load ourselves down, or spend too much time packing. After all, we’ve got miles to go before we submit.

    This time, I’m better prepared. I’ve read my manuscript. I’ve spent time delving into additional research. Now, with Beat Sheet in hand, I know where I am, and which direction leads to the Land of Publishable Novels.

    Off I go!

    Stay tuned for more action plan steps as I report from the trail.