Tuesday, April 1, 2014

How To Write: Chopping

When movies started talking in the 1930's, it's kind of all they wanted to do. Fill up that silence.
Just a few years before, characters communicated with a glance or a gesture, relying very little on title cards.

Eventually, moviemakers discovered that while their characters now had the ability to talk, they didn't have to do it all the damn time.

As a new novelist, you might face the same problem. Now you've got all these glorious words, and pages are stacking up, you love the feeling of having created something so ... BIG! But now I'm going to tell you to cut a chunk of those words and send them down the great cyber toilet.

Ooooh... bummer.

Let's talk about cutting scenes.

There are many stages of editing, but none more painful than taking a giant chunk right out of your book. That's a high word count to trash ... and there was that funny line in there you can't bear to part with.

Not sure what to cut? Take a look.

Let's say you're writing a story about a murder. The only way your detective character can trap the criminal is if he goes to the store first and picks up some supplies.

Scene 1:
The Detective and his friend are discussing how they can trap the criminal before she strikes again. They know ~information~ and how she'll react, they just have to lure her with enough candy to get her in the trap. (It's not original, but what do you want?)
The Detective says he'll go to the store, get the supplies, and the two will meet to set the trap.

Scene 2:
The Detective browses the aisles of CVS to get just the right kind of candy. Maybe his mind wanders and we learn some backstory.

Scene 3:
They have the supplies and set the trap, which stops the criminal.

When I write a story that follows a similar formula and proudly show it to my beta readers, one of them invariably comes back to me with, "the story was good, but wordy."
"WORDY?" The whole thing is words, right?

Here's what WORDY means: BORING.

By the time I get that critique, I'm full of my own words. "You stuck-up blankety-blank! That scene shows CHARACTER! It's got backstory! It's not wordy, you just don't get my writing."

We're writers and we're sensitive. Our books are our babies (for some of us, the only grand children my mom will ever get).

When I was reading another author's book, though, I came across a similar problem. I was THIS close to the good part, when I get stuck waiting for a damn train to cross the road. Once I trudged through, I realized if the author had started with the first scene and skipped to the third with the detective holding a bag of newly-bought candy, I could have assumed what happened in between.
Of course, when I see someone else doing it, it's easier to go back to my own novel and fix the mistake without all those hurt feelings.

That backstory or joke or clever line you've got in that dead scene? Either move those pieces somewhere else in the novel, or trash them.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

New Edit

One of the best things about indie publishing is that if I feel it necessary, I can go back into a book and tweak it. That's what's happened with The Silent Treatment. I love this story. Today, you can get the updated version on Smashwords (soon at other retailers, and soon to paperback).

New cover:

For anyone who has already bought this book and would like the new version (which includes minor edits, expanded scenes, and a new surname for the protagonist), contact me. 

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Hunger and the Howling of Killian Lone

This review is from a free copy provided for an honest review.

When my dad was teaching me about literature back in high school, one of the questions that always came up was, "What did ____ symbolize?" And I never knew. For some reason, even when it's explained, symbolism is one of the least appealing things about reading.

I think the flies in The Hunger and the Howling of Killian Lone meant something. I won't embarrass myself or the author by guessing what it is.

The author, Will Storr, certainly does a good job painting a vivid picture with words. Unfortunately, the subject fluctuated between masochism (specifically self-harm) and ... uh... descriptions of bodily fluids (so realistic, it'll make you taste... anyway...)

The story begins with the birth of our so-called protagonist. He grows up in an abusive home, but his aunt teaches him to cook. Cooking becomes Killian's passion. Goes to school, idolizes the famous chefs, all that stuff. He's edgy, learns how to stand up for himself. Brilliant at what he does. So far, so good.

Killian gets the opportunity to apprentice under his ultimate chef idol. Now, I've never worked in a kitchen (or anywhere in the food industry -- although being a haircut apprentice has made me a FANTASTIC BARISTA), and after reading this book, I don't even want to eat in a restaurant again, let alone work in one. Physical and emotional abuse is common in this story (including, but not limited to the literal eating of shit).

Killian is finally recognized for the genius he is and gets a job in a new restaurant, where he soars (with the help of some magical herbs he finds on his property, which makes people go totally nuts and want to have sex when they eat it). Instead of having the least bit of humility or even common sense, he becomes an entitled little shit, yet still somehow manages to keep a girlfriend.

Without giving away the ending, let's just say all this backfires.

The author is a good writer. This story mostly kept me interested, too. But the title character was just too much of an asshole for me to want to root for or spend my subway rides with him.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Before and After

Long layers on the most cooperative and friendly model I've ever worked with.

To be a haircut model for your truly, send me an email with a recent photo of your hair (such as the above "before" picture) for consideration.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Jimmy the Cat

To say my sister loves cats (or any animal) is the understatement of the century. She currently has at least 5 cats living in her house (as well as 2 human beings other than herself). She puts out food and shelter for stray animals she can't afford to keep inside.

Actually, I'm gonna let Jimmy the Cat explain everything to you:

She's got a big heart and a tiny wallet.

Monday, January 20, 2014

"total" creative freedom

A writer is never finished with a book. In the case of my own work, especially with the cover, I can't leave it alone. Behold the latest incarnation of The Silent Treatment:

This even happened by accident and I'm in love with it. Also, after seeing the cover like this (with no words -- we're dealing with silent movies, after all), I liked the idea of leaving the title off the front. Not many people have done this (maybe for good reason). Some argue that because the book will be sold next to a big paragraph of copy (including title and author), and someone handling a physical book can just turn it to a slight angle and read the spine, a title on the cover isn't totally necessary. They do it on CDs all the time.

But! CreateSpace doesn't allow for this. I even wrote them an email explaining my position and asking them to waive the requirement, but the answer was no. And yes, I tried looking for another company who would do what I wanted (one is a formatting disaster, and others want you to sign up for expensive packages), but that isn't happening. So the next proposed cover is this:

Kind of illegible, but that doesn't make a heap of difference to me (we'll see if it gets through the CreateSpace guy). This version is still sparse, still grungy, but maybe following the rules just enough.

So in the next few weeks/months/etc, expect to see a new version of The Silent Treatment: newly covered, newly edited.