It’s Like Pulling Teeth!

Argh, this edit is driving me nuts! And I lied in my last post. Although is wasn’t a bare-faced lie, I miscalculated.

I thought the three scenes were approximately an equal length but it turned out that the second scene was only short – a few pages. So even though I edited the scene I’m nowhere near being two thirds of the way through the editing. 🙁

In reality, I’ve edited 12 pages out of 32. I’m a third of the way through. I’ll get there.

Making Progress…Slowly

The deadline for the anthology story is 3rd July, which gives me a week. Hmmm. Can I do it?

Spending the better part of the last week procrastinating over what changes have to be made hasn’t helped in the slightest. Even though I wasn’t feeling 100% for a few days, and I believe that lead me to worrying about things that I wouldn’t usually give a second thought, I think I’ve left this edit to the last minute. This is not a good habit to fall into.

Last night, I pushed myself into opening the document and forced myself to start going through the first scene. The essense of the story hasn’t change but I feel the main character has more depth. And…I found a natural way to get the gender across without it feeling forced and contrived, so I was pleased with that.

Today, I will attempt to do the same with the second scene. There’s a lot of dialogue in this scene and one of the things that all the critters said was that my main character sounded too educated. So my aim in this scene is to pick words that sound educated for one character, and simple words for the other one. Should be interesting. Meanwhile, I’m trying to use stronger descriptive words too. This isn’t as easy as it sounds and as the story is told in first person, it doesn’t allow for a lot of play because it’s this character that the critters felt sounded to educated.

Once this scene has been completed, I’ll be two thirds of the way through the edit. So yes, I think I will make it.

Anthology Deadline

The next anthology deadline is in ten days so I have to put the novel planning to one side (which is mostly finished anyway) and go into edit mode instead.

During the last workshop (in May) I received three in-depth critiques. The comments varied from one end of the scale to the other, but it’s important for an author to hold on to their own style. One of the crits I received was trying to change that and I will ignore those comments. However, the critter did point out two things that could be vastly improved and might even come under the heading of “plot holes”, so I’ll look at changing those.

All comments/suggestions received during a critique should be considered. The critter is a reader and the whole point of receiving critiques is to find the weak spots of the story. What makes perfect sense to the author, might not make perfect sense to the reader. If this is the case, the author needs to clarify what’s happening.

As I mentioned earlier, I have ten days to do this edit. I don’t see this as being a problem and should have the edit finished by the end of the weekend.

Update on Planning

You are probably sick of hearing about this, but I’m happy to announce that my planning is going extremely well. My goal was to complete this task by the 19th – I have two days to go – and I’m almost there.

All I have to do is rewrite my one page synopsis. The original was quite poor but since I’ve managed to fill in many of those holes, this rewrite will be a vast improvement.

My next goal is to rewrite/edit my anthology story by the end of the month.

Character Sub Plots Part 2

Yesterday, I said that I was going to start a spreadsheet and define my character’s sub plots. Well, this has proven to be difficult. In my mind I know what each character will be doing but to separate the threads like this is…challenging.

First, I had to write down the main plot. That was easy. Then I took each of the major characters and wrote down their subplot, which has got nothing to do with the main plot. One of the characters is dealing with inner conflict, another character is trying to deal with someone who is hostile towards him but he doesn’t know why, a third character has fallen in love and finds it difficult to focus on the job at hand, while a fourth character has his own agenda.

This is all while they carry out the main plot. It’s quite interesting how they cross over and effect each other, which causes conflict, tension and an interesting story. And of course, the more I discover about these people now, the easier it will be for me to portray them in a realistic manner.

It’s fun, even if it is giving me a headache.

The Importance of Water

In planning this next novel I’ve been talking about over the past week, I’ve had several scenes rolling around in my head. One of them is where a man tumbles into a shaft and is trapped for a period of time before he’s rescued. How long? I wasn’t sure but I thought I’d do some research to find out what a person could stand and how the body would react with limited water and food. Here are some interesting tidbits that I found helpful for this scene, but also horrifying as true facts. I’ll start out with the nicer facts on water and the body and then I’ll go into the not so nice facts. Be warned, some of the following is not suitable for the faint hearted.

The following quote was taken from Answers.com:

About seventy two percent of the fat free mass of the human body is made of water. To function properly the body requires between one and seven litres/quarts of water per day to avoid dehydration, the precise amount depending on the level of activity, temperature, humidity, and other factors. It is not clear how much water intake is needed by healthy people. Water is lost from the body in urine and faeces, through sweating, and by exhalation of water vapor in the breath.

And the next two quoted sections were taken from this page:

A reliable clue to indicate dehydration is a rapid drop in weight. This loss may equal several pounds in a few days (or at times hours). A rapid drop of over 10% (fifteen pounds in a person weighing 150 pounds) is considered severe. Symptoms may be difficult to distinguish from those of the original illness, but in general, the following signs are suggestive of dehydration; increasing thirst, dry mouth, weakness or lightheadedness (particularly if worsening on standing), darkening of the urine, or a decrease in urination. Severe dehydration can lead to changes in the body’s chemistry, kidney failure, and can even become life-threatening.

However, this is the grusome bit. I was shocked to discover that a person could die after only 5 days. This does, of course, depend on the person’s health and the situation.

  • The mouth would dry out and become caked or coated with thick material.
  • The lips would become parched and cracked.
  • The tongue would swell, and might crack.
  • The eyes would recede back into their orbits and the cheeks would become hollow.
  • The lining of the nose might crack and cause the nose to bleed.
  • The skin would hang loose on the body and become dry and scaly.
  • The urine would become highly concentrated, leading to burning of the bladder.
  • The lining of the stomach would dry out and the sufferer would experience dry heaves and vomiting.
  • The body temperature would become very high.
  • The brain cells would dry out, causing convulsions.
  • The respiratory tract would dry out, and the thick secretions that would result could plug the lungs and cause death.
  • At some point within five days to three weeks, the major organs, including the lungs, heart, and brain, would give out and the patient would die.

Naturally, there will always be an exception, but imagine how stupid I would have looked if I had this man trapped down that shaft for 6 weeks with no food or water and when he was rescued all that was wrong with him was that he’d lost a little weight? I would have lost all credibility immediately. Researching facts for your manuscript is essential.

One Page Synopsis

This is step 4 – expand the previously written paragraph into a page. If done properly this could become your synopsis.

With each step I take, I discover a hole in the plot. Step 4 was excellent for bringing these holes to the surface. I found myself asking “why would that happen?”, “would he do this instead?”, “what’s his motivation?”. By the time I’d finished writing the page, I had heaps of notes/questions written on a note pad and another new character who needs to be created. (Luckily, he came with a name tag.)

Unfortunately, my one page summary did not turn out to be written well enough to be the synopsis, but that’s OK. I might attempt writing it again later, once I’ve filled in a few more holes. Maybe I’ll do better then.

So…step 4 is done, and I should be moving onto step 5 now, but I think I’ll pause and add a Step 4A instead – making a list of subplots. The major ones are concrete in my mind but some of the minor ones need clarifying. I think I’ll start a spreadsheet and see if that will help me sort them out.

Character Sub Plots

An easy way to discover sub-plots for your characters is to tell the story, in one or two paragraphs, from each of the main character’s point of view (don’t forget your antagonist). You’ll be amazed how bland their personalities were before you started this exercise.

Today, I did this for book 2 of my trilogy. Writing one paragraph from the four main characters point of views was easy but it showed that the two supporting characters didn’t have much of a part. Actually, it proved that they were quite boring. So I rewrote their paragraphs and looked at what was happening from deep within them and discovered some conflict. I saw sides of them that I didn’t know existed and now their parts in the overall story will have more meaning and the story will have more depth.

I’m yet to do this with two new characters. My hero’s brother will join us in book 2, and there is a new antagonist. I will learn a lot about them during this exercise.

Give it a try. I guarantee you’ll learn something new about your characters too.