Thursday, April 06, 2006

More Cowbell

Finally got my acknowledgment of receipt of my Writers of the Future entry. This one is not a contest winner. It's too lightweight, breezy. It reads almost like an episode of some silly TV series rather than a serious literary story.

On the other hand...

It explores its subject a lot more fully than my last entry ("Shell") did. "Shell" was a cool little story, but it was almost a haiku; an incomplete little fragment designed to produce a feeling of vague melancholy without going into detail. It worked really well for what it was, but what it was was not what the judges were looking for. And what they're looking for, from what I've read of the anthologies, is worlds created with quite a bit of telling detail. My vague little urban fantasy was too modern-day, too "right here and right now."

Also, M.T. Reiten says that the story that won it for him was a story he'd just sent in as filler, because he was entering the contest every quarter and he had to send something. So maybe I'm wrong. In three months, I'll either be proven right, or I'll be really happy.

Still scraping along on the Act II climax. It's difficult, because I have a lot of characters who all have to stay busy while I get four or five key characters into specific positions for what I know is the climax of the scene. And it's going to be a biggie.

So writing the scene has been sort of like pulling teeth. I write a few pages of action, get to a pause, read it over. Realize I'm losing people here and there, so I add a couple of lines in strategic places to keep everyone in the mix.

Today was spent writing dialogue for a big mid-fight pause as the antagonist's true identity is revealed, plus going back to earlier parts of the fight for "more cowbell." Basically, I realized that the fight was a little bland ("she hit him, he hit another guy") and decided to add some production value (and yes, in this case, cowbell=explosions).

Can't remember if this is the way I worked on Blue Falcon. I had some pretty intense action scenes in it, but it seems like I wrote my way through them pretty quickly. Then again, with the exception of the big finale, all of the scenes were written from the viewpoint of a single protagonist with a very limited view of things, so I didn't have to juggle large numbers of characters taking simultaneous actions within seconds of each other.

I'll have to wait until I'm done to see the results before I decide whether it's a good working method or not. But the pattern seems to be:

-block action roughly to establish a timeline and emotional dynamics

-rearrange elements for smoother flow

-add detail for enhanced production value

Hope to finish this fight by Monday morning, plus the dialogue sting that carries us into the third act. Then, with any luck, I'll have enough momentum to finish the first draft by the end of May. That's my goal, and I'm stating it out loud for the first time. 80,ooo words (by the MS Word counter) by the end of May. Then reading, revision, and in an editor's hand by the end of the year.

Anyone reading this, help me out. I'll probably need a whip cracked in my direction a time or two to actually do this. But if you help me, and I finish the first draft by May 31st, I'll buy you all a beer*.

*if you live in or happen to be in the Tulsa area on the designated "Tony buys everybody a beer" night. Substitutions allowed, as long as it's not, like, super-expensive brandy or something. I'm absolutely serious about this. First week of June, drinks are on me.

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