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02 January 2007 @ 04:18 pm
writer nattering  
This is half to hear myself thinking, and half to talk about process, so ...

I think it was Jane Yolen who said she liked writing for kids because you didn't have to dumb anything down. Whoever it was, I find it funny that ANGLES is by far the most structurally complicated book I've ever written. I have five protagonists who begin the story together, who are split up into smaller and smaller groups until everyone has their own individual story arc, then who all come back together, split again, and are brought back for the climactic scene. I was unbelieveably proud of myself for pulling it off. Still am, actually.

And, in fact, when I got rejections on it, they tended to say things like, "Great structure, characterization needs work." After you get about four of those, you start to think that hey, maybe the characterization needs work. Because of that, this book's been trunked since ... well, very nearly two years. I was busy moving across the planet and writing eighteen zillion other books and besides, I couldn't see what was wrong with the characterization anyway.

Reading the book yesterday, for the first time in a couple of years, started to give me a handle on what "characterization needs work" meant. It's a question of emotional integrity, of emotional growth, of motivation, and of (this one I inherently understood, I didn't know what to *do* about it) giving the children different voices. Much of that is internal, and right now it's missing from the book. Five years ago, when I wrote this book, I would not have been able to see that (obviously, or I'd have done it then). Two years ago, when the book got put aside, I might've had a glimmer of what I was supposed to be doing, but I don't think I could've /fixed/ it. Not well, anyway.

Now I can. I hope, anyway. :) I've got the tools to understand the problem now, which is most of the battle. The rest is just putting my head down and doing it.

Other things I discovered in reading it:

1. arcaedia is right, the beginning is no good. (That's not what she said. She said it starts off slowly and I might want to think about rewriting it. Two-three years ago, I said no, I was happy with it the way it was. Now I see she's right. I don't yet know what to *do* about it, but she's right.)

2. Despite the first few pages being weak, the beginning of the *book* is very strong. About the first third--until the children split up--is very good. The middle third is considerably weaker, and the final third, when they're back together in one form or another, is also very strong.

3. Teresa Nielsen Hayden may be right about the end. But then, there's a very specific reason for the book ending the way it does, so she may be wrong, too. I haven't decided yet.

Much of the weakness mentioned in #2 comes from the lack of emotional integrity. Some of it comes from the individual stories needing strengthening.

To that end, I've just gone through the manuscript to pull out each kid's story and put it into its own individual file so I can really focus on those stories without any of the other childrens' baggage. I wrote the book interwoven because I desperately needed that entanglement to make the pacing turn out right, but now I need the separation to make the story turn out right. It's going to be a pain in the *ass* to put it back together, but it'll be worth it if I can turn those into really strong individual quests.

I seem to have run out of whatever thought process I had going here, so that's it. :)

miles to Dunharrow: 29
Current Mood: thoughtfulthinking hard
Current Music: when the dark comes rising...
Jay Lakejaylake on January 2nd, 2007 04:21 pm (UTC)
Thank you for posting that.
kitmizkit on January 2nd, 2007 04:25 pm (UTC)
*blinks* You're welcome. :)
Michael Currymcurry on January 2nd, 2007 04:41 pm (UTC)
I hope the book fixing goes well (or at least ends up there). And congratulations on getting even better at the writing thing!

Oh, and it's arcaedia. ;)
kitmizkit on January 2nd, 2007 07:59 pm (UTC)
I knew that. Just tyoped. :) thanks, i fixed it. :)

and thank you for the congratulations. I made cave broccoli a couple days ago and thought of you. :)
Michael Currymcurry on January 3rd, 2007 01:01 am (UTC)
Cave brococoli?! Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!eleventy!!!!!
Sanguine Pensanguinepen on January 2nd, 2007 06:07 pm (UTC)
It sounds like a very interesting book. I can't wait to see it when it's finished. I really like the idea.
dsgood on January 2nd, 2007 08:07 pm (UTC)
Diana Wynne Jones has said that books for children don't have to be dumbed down. But I wouldn't be surprised if Jane Yolen and various others have said it also.
kitmizkit on January 2nd, 2007 08:49 pm (UTC)
Aah, it was probably DWJ that I saw it from, then. One of those wonderful women, anyway. :)
Lenora Rose: Goblet and inhabitantlenora_rose on January 5th, 2007 07:24 pm (UTC)
If it was in the process of a lengthy essay on writing her first adult novel (Which actually is much weaker than her Children's and YA stuff because she explains more), it was DWJ.

I actually can't see Jane Yolen saying it, if only because I do think I've caught her dumbing things down in a careless moment, and I think her meant-as-adult works are more complex.
swan_tower on January 3rd, 2007 12:04 am (UTC)
The one time I've had to change the interweaving of separate storylines, I was working with whole-chapter blocks, and I wrote the 3-4 most important events of each chapter on a notecard, then rearranged them on my floor. Could work with scene-sized pieces, too, and if you're a visually inclined person, I give that method a big thumbs-up.
kitmizkit on January 3rd, 2007 12:20 am (UTC)
Fortunately, I'm not changing the actual sequence, just revising the stories. I think (hope) that'll make it easier to handle. We'll see!

(I'm not at all visually inclined, but the notecard idea's a good one. I'll keep it in mind if I need to do that kind of rearranging!)
Brian: Creepy: diet gothlogrusboy on January 4th, 2007 06:51 pm (UTC)
I had been thinking that if I wanted to write a story, I'd like to do one of those interwoven story arc thingies. Given how well all my other ideas have been working, I assumed it was a bad idea. I am now reevaluating and need to choose from:

1) If I have the same idea as you, that means I'm smart too.
2) If I have the same idea as you, that means something's seriously wrong with you.
3) It's a good idea, but only for people who know what they're doing (which you obviously know more of now than you did then).
4) I'll never actually do it until I finish driving Mary Sue (or whatever you writery folks call her...) out of my head. She doesn't share the stage well, which is bad for an ensemble piece.