Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Happy writers! Join me for the next OCWMC in Oxford
Our writing group Inkblots has been hitting and missing, what with my travel schedule and everyone else's busy lives too. But here we are.

Sydney leads off with a continuation of her previous reading. Seeking more mystery, dream-like, not a good guy or bad guy, reacting character. She wonders if she should rewrite from another character's perspective. Haldor, archbishop, abbot. There is a great deal of mysterious feel to this, intrigue. Character reluctant to turn when another person enters the public house. There is a tortured memory of someone recently dying. Sydney's narrative is intensely intriguing, weighty, epic-feeling,  maybe even dark. Asmon arrests in the name of the king. Evocative description that seems very much to matter, not merely dangling description as an end in itself, but then again, I find myself drawn in by the description but not sure what is happening to whom. What she describes in the trees and the forest, the prison, the cathedral, the plain--all seems to be painting the world that encircles her characters. There is also a lyric character to Sydney's writing, prose that reads almost like poetry. I do think that the movement of characters and what concerns them, what they are doing, is almost subsumed in the rich, vivid, layered description of the cathedral. It does seem like the atmosphere, the mystery is almost more important than your characters. Haldor sees his mother's grave again. We're done here, seemed to me to be out of step with the high-register verbiage of the rest of the narrative, too informal, modern-world. The stabbing scene came out of context to my ear. I was not quite clear what was happening, though I was caught up in the narrative so remained intrigued.

Cheyenne has read this manuscript on the page and felt that it was much clearer when reading than when just listening. We seemed to agree that she should stick with Haldor's perspective.

Cheyenne decided to reread the same chapter that she read last time she was with us, a very good idea. She hired an editor, who asked her if she was willing to put in lots of hours in rewriting and revision. A good question. That's just good writing: rewrite, rewrite, rewrite. Sci-fi, sort of medieval Japan-esque setting. Her editor read both versions and encouraged Cheyenne to press on. First-person pov, interacting with Amanda. Juliette is our main character. I thought the description of the sun dappled on the ground was going to be a pleasant description, but then you began to describe excessive heat, discomfort. Several of your throw-away comments didn't work to my ear, not sure what you were accomplishing with them. Character development? Transitional material? I found the terror, fear for her life, death imminent, falling (but I was not sure what had gone wrong, what was happening that made her fear imminent death), was abrupt, especially after the casual tone of the earlier part of the chapter. Good skydiving metaphor. Falling... And she left us mid-fall.

John felt the falling through the roots was abrupt, confusing. Sydney commented that the story reminded her of Aslan saying that people always get what they want but they don't always like it.

Argh, I had to run pick up my daughter, so stepped out and missed some of the critique. John read from Saving Grace and received valuable help from the others.

I read from the second half of The Resistance.

Five Inkblots gathered in the Scriptorium this evening, beautiful sunset over the ridge, cows mooing, goats bawling, over the fence..

I was voted to read off first, not my usual. I read from the most recent finished chapter in The Resistance.

Rachel Ng reads from her 1940s era yarn. Rachel was concerned about too much dialog, her longest passage of all dialog ever written. I think it worked very well. It was so rooted in clothing, visual for the reader. Were there peticoats in the 40s? Celia is a paperdoll, someone you cannot touch. Rachel Haas and Alisa made far more comments, maybe because they are women and understand. We discussed how this passage appeals more to women than to men readers. That's okay but important for a writer to know. These are realities, like them or not, call them sexist or not, but male readers are a different kettle of fish. As the French say, vive la differance ! Rachel thinks of herself as a mole, burrowing through the holes of human emotion (her words). Rachel likes to write about Russian things, but claims she does not set out to do so. No Moscow DNA in her gene pool, not a drop.

Alisa asked us to pray that she will finish The Emblem this fall. 

Be Merciful to Readers and Kill Those Adverbs (do it aggressively, ruthlessly, mercilessly)--INKBLOTS

What are your favorite Twain-isms?
Sunday evening we had 78 people crammed into the Scriptorium for Reformation Then & Now, but this quiet evening for 'Blots we had six brave souls, fearless against the oncoming winter weather, dashing out in a lull of still benign autumn temperatures and little rain. John brought some vin du turpentine pays du tar concocted by a friend (I'd go with former friend, stuff'll embalm your innards).

Heroically (argh! an adverb creepingly elbowing in) launching in, Rachel Ng led off with her post WWII, Red Scare era yarn underway. Chapter two ten years later, the opening chapter being during the war when the couple first met. Rachel's command of words, and the images they conjure up, is delightful, and her oral reading has so much verve and energy. Dangled limply... isn't dangling by definition limply? Kill the adverb. Clever the way you use the German photographer in this post-war yarn. We asked Bob (since he would have lived through all that) how a German would be treated in the post-war era. He felt that this was Rachel writing in a more mature fashion, far fewer adjectives. He could close his eyes and see her bustling about her days work. Every word must have work to do for good writers. Do you need D-&@# several times in imperative sequence? What is your objective in doing so? I've been featuring the theme of how Christian writers portray evil and use language in their writing on my podcast The Scriptorium. In my writing, I have decided not to swear, or use excessive vulgar language, and certainly not to take the Lord's name in vain (there was at least one place where most would consider the language taking the Lord's name in vain). Poached from the post along with his two Pulitzers--you had fun with that alliteration.

John rereads the last chapter of Saving Grace, after multiple rewrites. The three keys to good writing are rewrite, rewrite, rewrite. There is a labor and delivery scene in this chapter, a difficult activity for a man to write about. We talked about using a visual icon at heads of chapters. More often seen in YA fiction than in an adult audience book. Consensus was that we like the changes John has read, especially adding Amazing Grace stanza. Very fitting.

Cheyenne read next from her dystopian Japanese-esque story. She uses Japanese names. Be careful with these, especially if they are difficult for readers to pronounce. You might try abbreviated versions of more complex names. You don't want to derail your reader every time they come across a difficult name. Another thought on names, avoid using names that begin with the same letter, also introducing confusion for readers as they get farther into the book and skim when they come to attributions. Vary first letters as a courtesy to your reader and to maintain forward, uninterrupted pace. Without over writing, you might consider describing with a simile how Japanese people's heads bob as they talk to you. Why didn't she need to answer. I feel like the money exchange and the employment needs more showing. The non verbals are cryptic and too hasty for the reader to get, but avoid overwriting it as you flesh it out. For example, your protagonist figures out he was more interested in an employee, but we don't see how she came to that conclusion. Show her sarcastic attitude with body language, facial expression, gesture. Was a little muted--just muted. Show them chewing and swallowing and spearing meat with their chopsticks, silence revealing except for grunts of satisfaction, pleasure, lips smacking, chopsticks clicking and scraping on bowls. What to describe with more development and what to state and move on. What is essential to character (especially protagonist) development and moves the plot forward needs more description.

Sydney rewrote the same chapter she read last 'Blots but changed to first person point of view. My first impression is that first person his more vigorous, immediate, and evocative. Sydney reads so well, with intensity, clarity, inflecting appropriately for the narrative and the dialogue. Though so far there is little dialogue.When this is picked up by a giddy publisher someday, Sydney needs to do author-read audio book version. The comparison of his mother's death and Christ's death long before. The thing that first person does for you so effectively is it fixes the concern we expressed last time you read. Description took over and your character was subsumed and subordinate to the description. Not anymore. And it's because you are seeing everything from the point of view of your protagonist. Cheyenne pointed out that there was less hearing and smelling. 

I read my final chapter in THE RESISTANCE, imminently forthcoming, off to press tomorrow. It was the second writing of the last chapter, the first version longer and tying up more loose ends--too many. This leaves the reader wanting more, I feel. It is romantic but I hope not mushy. You can pre-order at a special rate at