Friday, May 25, 2007

Wobble Wobble

Now for once this isn't a writing wobble so in theory I probably shouldn't share it with you but I shall. My best friend is getting married for the first time next week and I am over the moon for her. If anyone deserves happiness she does. It's been a long time in coming. I'm not wobbling about that at all. BUT I am wobbling about the wedding and party itself. I left the States nearly twenty years ago now. Lots of things have changed in those twenty years - I have the most wonderful dh in the world, three fabulous healthy children, I have seen and lived in many exotic places in the world, I have run a voluntary association of over eight thousand volunteers for multi billion dollar company and gone nose to nose with the CEO over family policy, and I have now written three books. All wonderful stuff and I try to hold onto them, I really do.

However then the wobbles takes over big time. Twenty years ago I was beautiful and two and a half stone lighter. Since the scanner is dead I can't give the before and after evidence. Let's put it this way I was good enough to be the second frontispiece in colour for Country Life back in 1991. So now years on I am feeling less than happy about myself. Wednesday I had my hair done which helped and yesterday I ventured into Marks & Spencer to find something that would do........ it was depressing beyond words (although I have thanks to India and Neris's Idiot-Proof Diet I lost ten pounds in three weeks) .

You see some of these people I have snogged in the past and there are few others who may turn up at the party that I might have fancied the pants off of and well I am now fat and forty-four with evidence of it blatantly on view doesn't help! Now all I can hope for is that time hasn't been to kind to them either but then that's not nice..........

I do remember the day is not about me and I know my friend will shine like the sun in her happiness and I will hopefully forget how I feel and just think about her but until then I will wobble like jelly.........

Now back on to writerly things.........yesterday I finished Any Way You Want Me by our own Novel Racer Lucy Diamond! I had to finish it. I have been savouring it at the end of each day but when at the hair dressers I read a huge chunk - wonderful. On the tube to M & S I nearly missed my stop so when I came home I thought sod the revision I need to know how this ends. Lucy, damn you - you made me cry. What a great read. It's irreverent, fun, sassy and compelling. Thanks :-)

So I didn't revise yesterday. I had a mental break which is probably not a bad thing as my head is spinning with more and more ideas of how to kick August Rock into shape. Today I should make some more progress although I will be printing out the 30,000 words I have thus far reworked to see if it makes sense. Plot improvement is the aim of this rewrite. My days in Budapest were spent being tourist in the morning then studying over Donald Maass's book Writing the Breakout Novel and making notes. Little bells were ringing continuously as I read. I now have written enough to understand what he meant. I know that sounds a funny comment, but just as with Sol Stein and over writing I don't think I had written enough fiction in a long time to understand what DM was throwing at me.

So back to the SS rewrite. I was pleased with my rewriting results. The script read better and was stronger but I was terrified to send it to Lucie again in case it wasn't good enough. I didn't want to blow my one chance to be read again if it hadn't worked. I ran into Lucie at the Romantic Novelist Association Winter Party and said as much to her in person. I told her I was thinking about sending it off to Hilary Johnson's Advisory Service (again which I heard about through the RNA). Lucie said a client of hers' used them and Hilary was good so go ahead. Next step that sent me on that route was a comment in the RNA magazine Romance Matters by a best selling author which said something along the lines that many writings don't invest enough in there work at the start. Writers need help along the way. That sold me. I took the money my parents had sent for Christmas and topped it up with my dh's pressie and sent August Rock off and tried to forget about it over the holidays - hah!

Early in January the script came back and I wasn't told to put it in the bin. The reader didn't pull any punches. So she wrote:

You write very fluently and pleasantly. (thank you SS, that part of the rewrite worked)................

She goes on to describe the difference between a plot based novel and a character driven one:

Although a lot of things happen in the course of the August Rock I'd actually put it in the second category (character driven), because the main events of the book are so clearly signalled in advance that there isn't that much suspense as to how things will eventually turn out. To a certain extent this is a failing in the story. (This is clearly a major difficulty with my writing but I have been taking heart from reading the Cruise/Mayer Workshop that Jennifer writes this way first then fixes it - so all may not yet be lost for me!)

Your dialogue is good and I'd like to see more of it. Aim for a balance of sixty/forty dialogue to narrative. (working on that as I rewrite now).

She goes through each major character and tells me the highs and the lows and where I fail particularly at my secondary characters......

In conclusion she says:

You write well. August Rock is a pleasant and literate read with no loose ends and a collection of characters who make amiable companions. But - and I'm afraid it's a big 'but' - I felt that the book didn't make enough demands on me. I liked the storyline and the characters who appeared in it. But because the end was so clearly signalled at the beginning there wasn't enough incentive to read on. It was a little to predictable and the pace too even. I would have liked more twists, more surprises, more spanners in the works, more to indicate that things might just be in danger of not turning out the way I expected. As the book stands I don't feel that it if offers enough commercial opportunity for a mainstream publisher. It's a near miss rather than an absolute certainty. Sharpened and tightened and with a few more variations of pace the book could well make the grade.

Well, I sat back and tried to absorb the report of six single spaced pages of criticism. It all seemed too much at that point. A few ideas rattled around in my brain but her parting comments were. Put the work aside and work on something else then come back to it. So I put my heart and soul in to A Cornish House and left August Rock aside. Well, almost as there were a few issues raised that led me to Caroline Upcher. That I will tell you about later.

I want to go back to Lucy's book above because as I read Anyway Way You want Me I could clearly see what my reader had been talking about. Lucy lead me and my emotions on a merry ride that kept going off in unexpected and some times expected routes. However when the expected happened the next event threw me into doubt again. I found my emotions engaged even though some of the things Sadie was up to were frankly repulsive to me yet I loved her and wanted her to make it through. That is what I need to achieve with August Rock. I don't just want a pleasant read. I want emotions engaged.

Now, you are thinking this post will never end! I have been tagged several times over for a few things but mostly for eight random things about me. I've been tagged on this by Jess, Lisa, Cally and Rachel

1. Each player starts with 8 random facts/habits about themselves.
2. People who are tagged, write a blog post about their own 8 random things, and post these rules.
3. At the end of your post you need to tag 8 people and include their names.
4. Don’t forget to leave them a comment and tell them they’re tagged, and to read your blog.

So here are my eight random things...

1. Having just read Jess's latest post about the best romantic smooches on reminded me that I won the best kiss in my dorm in university. We all puckered up with red lipstick and kissed the wall. My 'perfect' pout won!

2. I am an optimist - the glass is half full and preferable filled with good wine

3. I am a closet country music fan

4. I embarrass my children as frequently as I can just because it's one of the best things about being a mum of teenagers ( I still can't believe I'm old enough to have teenagers)

5. I am still 28 years old it's just that my body doesn't know it

6. I am an only child and therefore wanted to have six children that is until I gave birth to my first one!

7. I love reading Green Eggs and Ham aloud to children

8. I love being a writer!

I won't tag anyone else at the moment as I think most people have been tagged but if you haven't jump on board and let me know!


leatherdykeuk said...

Great answers! Thanks for joining in.

Zinnia Cyclamen said...

That is a stonking post! So much to comment on... Re the wedding, why not focus on people you're looking forward to seeing again, and how good it will be to share your news and theirs, instead of worrying about what you and they look like? I bet you'll have a wonderful time. Fascinating to see bits of your agency feedback, I'm dithering about whether to send my MS to one of them after I've done the third draft, I'll see how I feel about it then. The bit that jumped out at me was the 60:40 dialogue to narrative, I think mine is more like 80:20 and that was part of my feedback, I need to fill it out with description and narrative. I also know just what you mean about having done enough writing to understand what someone is saying in a how-to book, I've got about 20 that I re-read because I learn different things each time because I'm at a different stage. (Sol Stein's is one of them!) Rachel has already tagged me for the 8 random things and I'm thinking about it, week after next probably as I want to do a writing-related post next week. Have a good weekend!

liz fenwick said...

A pleasure Rachel :-)

I am looking forward to catching with old friends but its just the spot light I have shown on myself tand I'm not happy about what I see! Normally I don't focus on appearance too much it lives in the back groud thakfully. I know once I am there I will have a ball!

Nell Dixon said...

Have a great time at the wedding. You'll look lovely.

liz fenwick said...

Thanks Nell!

cs harris said...

Sounds like you received tons of valuable insight. I've always believed in that Zen saying, "WHen the student is ready the teacher will appear." As for the wedding... focus on all you've done and seen. It's a matter of priorities, isn't it? That said...ten pounds in three weeks? I've got to find this Idiot-Proof Diet!

liz fenwick said...

c.s. the diet book is great. I'm not sure it's out in the US though.

Yes, I have had wonderful and more importantly useful feedback :-)

hesitant scribe said...

Oh Liz - laughed out loud about the feeling 28 but body not knowing it! I did a handstand the other day without thinking I might not be able to - after all, the last time I tried it, I had no problems. I'd forgotten that the last time I tried it was over 10 years ago, and that I've an extra stone or so added since then! Managed to avoid collapsing on my head but only just.

Great answers. Great writing.

liz fenwick said...

Thanks Lisa :-) I was never able to much of a hand stand!

A. Writer said...

A great meme, Liz!

I'll get a profile done for you asap :)

liz fenwick said...

You're a star a. writer. I look forward to it :-)