Saturday, February 25, 2006

I've found a great new stress reliever - it's called a mulching machine. After cutting down what seemed like a mountain of bouganvillea plant (complete with giant thorns that snagged me every minute or so) I was able to feed a lot of it into this machine that chewed it up into little bits. Never mind that I now have mulch for my pitiful garden (I'm afraid gardening comes way down the list from writing, teaching and reading), I got rid of my bad mood via a great amount of vicious, thorny plant fed without mercy into a munching machine.
Seems like a great remedy for one too many rejection letters too! although we won't mention that the plant got me back with a huge thorn stuck in my finger which took me three tries to get out. Ouch.
Still working on the novel (historical middle grade) and after two critiques, I've now started on an analysis of my own. Specifically, chapter by chapter, I am working out: 1) what happens in each scene, 2) what the purpose of the scene is, 3) does it move the story forward?, 4) what are the character motivations in the scene, 5) how does this scene fit into the overall story/character arc.
See, ARC is one of those words that I'd never heard of up until about 4 years ago, when a critique person (not an editor or agent) at a SCBWI conference in LA tore the first 40 pages apart and kept rabbitting on about ARC. Character arc, plot arc, 'why don't I get a clear sense of this character's arc from Chapter One? Seeing as how it was the first time I'd heard the term, I couldn't answer (and she, unfortunately, didn't bother to explain it to me - which is why I nearly threw the novel in the bin when I got home, and it took me nearly two years to return to it).
But enough whining. Ultimately she was probably right, she just didn't provide any help or suggestions or directions to make me feel that another few drafts would see me right.
Still, here I am, and it's Draft Nine, and I think I'm finally seeing the light. I sure hope so anyway. I'll get this novel right, any way I can.
In the meantime I have other writing to do. Finished my short story for a competition in the UK and nearly forgot to email it off (got too excited about finally finishing it!). Have written an article - too short and not sure yet how to expand. Was planning a book review but haven't got there yet. Too much mulching going on.
And finally (yaaayyy!) got a copy of Best American Short Stories 2005. Went right to the Joyce Carol Oates story first - really good letters story. It's hard to use that form these days and do it well, but then JCO, well...
Have read 3 other stories so far, and they've all been good. I especially like the bit in the back where the writer says what inspired the story. I never read that until I've read the story first.
I see there is a Kelly Link story - must read that next! Have heard a bit about her.

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