Tuesday, November 18, 2014

For a change of pace, I thought I'd share a snippet from my work in progress. It's a YA contemporary that picks up roughly 18 months after my debut, Never Gone. My protagonist, Danielle, is spending a few weeks in central Pennsylvania when her grandfather is hospitalized after a bad fall. She hopes to enlist her uncle's help to get away quickly to take a planned trip to Paris. But her reason is far from selfish.

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Photo credit: psarahtonen from morguefile.com 

EXCERPT REMOVED

Today's rough and tumble independent publishing world made it necessary to remove all snippets and previous versions of my work from the blog. The existence of such a "publishing trail" can be used to file false DMCA notices about my novels.

What are you working on these days?
Tuesday, November 18, 2014 Laurel Garver
For a change of pace, I thought I'd share a snippet from my work in progress. It's a YA contemporary that picks up roughly 18 months after my debut, Never Gone. My protagonist, Danielle, is spending a few weeks in central Pennsylvania when her grandfather is hospitalized after a bad fall. She hopes to enlist her uncle's help to get away quickly to take a planned trip to Paris. But her reason is far from selfish.

===

Photo credit: psarahtonen from morguefile.com 

EXCERPT REMOVED

Today's rough and tumble independent publishing world made it necessary to remove all snippets and previous versions of my work from the blog. The existence of such a "publishing trail" can be used to file false DMCA notices about my novels.

What are you working on these days?

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Compulsion is a deep-seated need to do something, a belief that a particular action will make one's anxiety evaporate. More serious compulsions we label "OCD"--obsessive compulsive disorder. OCD sufferers need to wash their hands frequently to dispel their anxiety about germs, or flick light switches a certain number of times to keep the universe in harmony.

Photo credit: mensatic from morguefile.com
Most of us have less dramatic compulsions that surface in times of stress. "I'll be okay if I can just go for a run," says the exercise-compulsive. One of my good friends cooks and freezes huge portions of food when she's anxious. I tend to clean, organize, and rearrange the furniture. Having a neat environment makes me feel like life is under control.


There's a wonderful indie film that got me thinking more deeply about this: Sunshine Cleaning, starring Amy Adams and Emily Blunt as sisters Rose and Nora. These women are both struggling financially and learn that they could be making good money starting up their own business--cleaning up crime scenes.

What sort of person would be drawn to this work? It's grisly and just really, really gross. But as you learn Rose and Nora's backstory, it becomes clear that this is therapeutic work for them. They lost a loved one in a grisly manner when they were both quite young and have had difficulty moving on. Clearing away the evidence of painful loss for their clients cleans their own damaged souls.

If a different set of characters had been set in this scenario, I don't know that it would have worked as well. A socialite scrubbing gore off the walls would have been funnier--but less believable. What kept me gripped by the film was a desire to understand the underlying compulsion--the psychological need being met in this particular set of circumstances.

At one point, Rose is at a baby shower and has to explain her new business to a group of well-off young women who were high school friends. You couldn't ask for a more ironic juxtaposition, so I was bracing myself for things to go horribly, hilariously wrong. But the writer took a light touch, and in that moment we expect to writhe for Rose, she gives a wonderfully layered response to her friends' questions that's simultaneously sappy and deep.

"We're helping people," Rose says, "at a time when they are going through something profound. And we make things better."

When you can link an old wound with a new challenge, well, friends, you have the makings of deep, compelling drama. The trick is to match your protagonist and plot well.

Does your story's plot force your character to grapple with an old wound? If not, how might you better match protagonist and plot?
Tuesday, November 11, 2014 Laurel Garver
Compulsion is a deep-seated need to do something, a belief that a particular action will make one's anxiety evaporate. More serious compulsions we label "OCD"--obsessive compulsive disorder. OCD sufferers need to wash their hands frequently to dispel their anxiety about germs, or flick light switches a certain number of times to keep the universe in harmony.

Photo credit: mensatic from morguefile.com
Most of us have less dramatic compulsions that surface in times of stress. "I'll be okay if I can just go for a run," says the exercise-compulsive. One of my good friends cooks and freezes huge portions of food when she's anxious. I tend to clean, organize, and rearrange the furniture. Having a neat environment makes me feel like life is under control.


There's a wonderful indie film that got me thinking more deeply about this: Sunshine Cleaning, starring Amy Adams and Emily Blunt as sisters Rose and Nora. These women are both struggling financially and learn that they could be making good money starting up their own business--cleaning up crime scenes.

What sort of person would be drawn to this work? It's grisly and just really, really gross. But as you learn Rose and Nora's backstory, it becomes clear that this is therapeutic work for them. They lost a loved one in a grisly manner when they were both quite young and have had difficulty moving on. Clearing away the evidence of painful loss for their clients cleans their own damaged souls.

If a different set of characters had been set in this scenario, I don't know that it would have worked as well. A socialite scrubbing gore off the walls would have been funnier--but less believable. What kept me gripped by the film was a desire to understand the underlying compulsion--the psychological need being met in this particular set of circumstances.

At one point, Rose is at a baby shower and has to explain her new business to a group of well-off young women who were high school friends. You couldn't ask for a more ironic juxtaposition, so I was bracing myself for things to go horribly, hilariously wrong. But the writer took a light touch, and in that moment we expect to writhe for Rose, she gives a wonderfully layered response to her friends' questions that's simultaneously sappy and deep.

"We're helping people," Rose says, "at a time when they are going through something profound. And we make things better."

When you can link an old wound with a new challenge, well, friends, you have the makings of deep, compelling drama. The trick is to match your protagonist and plot well.

Does your story's plot force your character to grapple with an old wound? If not, how might you better match protagonist and plot?

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Too much of a good thing.... (photo by jycleaver, morguefile)
Dear Editor-on-Call,

I was just asked to beta read a piece from a very good writer friend and lo and behold, she is an overwriter. I am, too, to some extent, but this is excessive. Of course, I want to be gentle when I send this back, but if I was completely honest, I would be bleeding all over the page. Personally, I relish crits that I get back covered in red, because I see it as an awesome learning experience, but others are quite a bit more sensitive than I am. I'm worried that she is one of the sensitive ones. Egads, I don't know what to do here. Do you have any advice?

Sincerely,
Wannabe Gracious

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Dear Gracious,

I've faced this issue before, too. And I'm a recovering overwriter myself. I'd suggest refraining from line editing the whole piece at this stage. General comments and especially questions will be more helpful to your friend, and less likely to wound. Something along the lines of "you have some very vivid descriptions here, and some that I think would feel stronger if you pared them back," then line edit a sentence to show what you mean. In areas where she describes the same thing six ways, try a margin question: which of these best captures your idea here? You can also recommend that she take a look at Self-Editing for Fiction Writers and Manuscript Makeover, which will provide great guidance for the revision process.

Especially encourage her to trust the reader more, and to strive for clarity and simplicity. Be sure to sandwich the idea of "you need to trim and simplify" with encouragement about what she does right: her characters are likeable, her emotions real, her humor funny, her plot attention-grabbing and the like. Overwriting is so often a sign of lack of confidence. Build her up in the right way, and she'll find the courage to trim.

Any other sage words for this advice-seeker? How do you typically approach critiquing an overwriter? 

Have an editing or revision question? Ask away. I'll tackle it in a future post.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014 Laurel Garver
Too much of a good thing.... (photo by jycleaver, morguefile)
Dear Editor-on-Call,

I was just asked to beta read a piece from a very good writer friend and lo and behold, she is an overwriter. I am, too, to some extent, but this is excessive. Of course, I want to be gentle when I send this back, but if I was completely honest, I would be bleeding all over the page. Personally, I relish crits that I get back covered in red, because I see it as an awesome learning experience, but others are quite a bit more sensitive than I am. I'm worried that she is one of the sensitive ones. Egads, I don't know what to do here. Do you have any advice?

Sincerely,
Wannabe Gracious

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Dear Gracious,

I've faced this issue before, too. And I'm a recovering overwriter myself. I'd suggest refraining from line editing the whole piece at this stage. General comments and especially questions will be more helpful to your friend, and less likely to wound. Something along the lines of "you have some very vivid descriptions here, and some that I think would feel stronger if you pared them back," then line edit a sentence to show what you mean. In areas where she describes the same thing six ways, try a margin question: which of these best captures your idea here? You can also recommend that she take a look at Self-Editing for Fiction Writers and Manuscript Makeover, which will provide great guidance for the revision process.

Especially encourage her to trust the reader more, and to strive for clarity and simplicity. Be sure to sandwich the idea of "you need to trim and simplify" with encouragement about what she does right: her characters are likeable, her emotions real, her humor funny, her plot attention-grabbing and the like. Overwriting is so often a sign of lack of confidence. Build her up in the right way, and she'll find the courage to trim.

Any other sage words for this advice-seeker? How do you typically approach critiquing an overwriter? 

Have an editing or revision question? Ask away. I'll tackle it in a future post.