Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Backstory and Full Speed Ahead ...

I know I said I wouldn't be doing this everyday, and ultimately, I won't be.  But I'm finding this whole blogging process incredibly relaxing, as well as clarifying and motivating in regard to the task at hand.  My husband asked, "Shouldn't you just use the time it takes to write your blog to actually revise your book?"  I, of course, ignored the question.  ;-)  I really do believe this serves a valid purpose, because it's enabling me to put my revision goals into concrete terms.

More on that in a minute ...  But first, in case this blog ever gets any readers, I feel I owe those readers a bit of backstory on the novel itself, so that I can speak in short hand in the future about the changes I intend to make.  So here goes a brief, rough pitch:

"The Whitaker Boys" is a period novel set in upstate New York and Manhattan in the late 1920s.  The book is told in 3rd person limited through the eyes of 6 characters whose lives are all somehow intertwined.  ...

So you're probably thinking, "Well that pitch sure could not have been more vague," and you're right.  I'm not intentionally trying to hide anything, but the truth is, I'm not exactly sure how to describe the plot.  Seeing as this is not a "Pitching to an Agent" blog, I won't pursue this discussion at the moment.  However it does segue nicely into one of the first points I have taken away from what I've read so far in Manuscript Makeover by Elizabeth Lyon.  The reason I can't easily launch into a plot summary is because I have two distinct plot lines which, though interconnected by familial relationships, each has their own climax and resolution.  Let me try to summarize both and see if I have any luck ...

The novel follows headstrong Lila Payton on her quest for freedom, stardom and, more elusively, fulfillment. Meanwhile, Lila's reclusive aunt Cora struggles to maintain secrets which have given her tortured life some appearance of normalcy.

Ok, not only is that lousy writing, but it still sounds so horribly generic and uninviting.  I'm not going to beat up on myself for failing to master the perfect pitch (there will be plenty of time for working on that later).  But what my stumbling and hesitation tells me is that I may indeed have committed a POTENTIAL NOVICE WRITER SIN which the revision book addresses.  It says to have no more than than 3 developed characters telling your story.  As painful a pill as this is for me to swallow, I think it is a very valid point.  The real question now (and which I will have to present to the 5BE) is "Is my use of 6 vantage points daring and innovative or a glaring beginners' mistake?"  TBD ... !

(Ok, here's a new feature I'm going to add to the blog - a "practice tip" series, if you will ...)

POTENTIAL NOVICE WRITER SIN:  "Too many viewpoint characters, which for many novices is more than three, can mean that story lines cut one another off. ... Use as few characters as will accomplish the needs of your story and genre, and increase their relatedness. ... Employ as few developed viewpoint characters as possible."  Elizabeth Lyon, Manuscript Makeover, p. 77.

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