Thursday, October 27, 2011

Friendship: Guest Post #4

I’m continuing with the theme of friendship with the help of some writer friends. Friendship is a central theme in the story I’m working on right now. If you'd like to chime in on the theme or have something to say regarding friendship please feel free to comment.

My next guest blogger is Virginia K. Interesting story on this one. We met in the Barnes and Noble Forum and I quickly surmised Virginia to be an astute and talented writer. It wasn’t until we’d gotten to know each other better and had even beta read for each other that I learned she was barely into her teens. To say I felt surprised is putting it mildly. Age doesn’t define friendships, I’ve found, as long as two people have something in common. Virginia continues to surprise and delight me with her insight, wisdom, and talents. In her own words: “Raised in a rambling old Victorian House, I am a blues guitarist, djembe drummer and writer of the odd fantasy/horror/surrealist fiction, in no particular order.  Someday I hope to find a way to combine all these things...  a Gaimanesque blues-rock band, hailing from the Midwest?”

Having been educated at home for the past ten years, I have found friends only beyond what others may call the comfort zone.  I met all but a few of my friends at a local bookstore that opened the first year of my homeschooling journey, when I was hardly tall enough to see them over the counter.  All were at least twelve years my senior, but still we conversed on books, films, comic books and music as the years progressed.  One of them still sits in a place of honor on our refrigerator, beside me in a photograph of the last Harry Potter book release party. 
  
My grandmother asked once why I had no friends, and I was shocked at the question, pointing toward the bookstore across the mall's food court.  She could hardly believe that I socialized happily with adults at my age, seemingly untouched by society's proscriptions and norms that would declare me shy.

What, then, is a comfort zone?  A social construct of peers, but what qualities mark who may or may not enter this zone?

As a little girl, I always sought common ground by reading materials.  Prose fiction in particular creates a universe in which minds may meet, sharing memories that neither have lived beyond the pages of a book, even when separated by an age, gender or socioeconomic barrier.  One of my dearest friends (again from the bookstore) is a father of three, and at the age of nine I enthusiastically discussed theories on the latest Harry Potter installment.  I mused with comparisons of fairy tale and myth, while he brought a lifelong love of comic books and mysteries to the table, and my mom stood nearby with a pun or one-liner.  I first met the closest person I have to a sister when she recommended A Great And Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray, based on my love of Victorian Gothic novels.

When I conversed with people closer to my own age, even for such a brief time as between sections of an annual test, I did struggle a bit more.  Not for want of trying or politeness, but out of a lack of common ground.  Unsurprisingly, it has been difficult to find teenagers who know every nook and cranny of the vintage X-Men universe, or play Delta blues on the guitar. 

This has become more evident as I've begun to search for bandmates; the youngest blues guitarist I've found at this point is three years older than I, and apparently not as interested in forming a band.  More painful yet was my discovery last month that my city's only bookstore will be closed by the end of the year  --  among so many other regrets, it will be one less place for me to meet new friends.

My struggle in finding friends near my age has led me to wonder if reaching out to new people somehow entails more than common interests.  Telepathy?  A love spell?  Or perhaps my qualifications for new friends are my comfort zone, a box through which I see the world.

The comfort zone, then, is more than a set of social norms.  It is also an internal wall, a filter guarding against both the known and the unknown.  It is what society dictates as impossible and improper, and it is only made stronger by one's own expectations for the world outside.

 An unwittingly wise man told me recently that I should let no one put me in a box.  What of the box I've built for myself?

   --  Virginia K

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Odds and Ends with Links

As a follow-up to this blogpost I’m happy to report that despite the sleeve fiasco the dress came out better than I hoped. Ripping out the part that didn’t work and putting something new in made it stronger, better, and beautiful. I’m almost afraid to let my daughter wear it for Halloween.

I did the same in my manuscript the other week. I ripped out an entire scene that I originally thought moved the action along but also revealed more about some of the characters. It wasn’t until I took it out that I realized I didn’t need it. It also made room for a couple of new scenes that did a better job of moving the plot along.

I haven’t had the time (or energy) to post the old Saturday Link Specials but there have been some great links lately that I’d like to pass on. Especially for those of you who don’t do Twitter.

First up:
GLA has the low-down on new agent Barbara Scott of Wordserve here. She’s looking for (in fiction): Adult Fiction: Full-length fiction, 65,000 to 100,000 words. General market or Christian market. Genres: Women’s, Romance, Suspense/Thriller, Mystery, Romantic Suspense, Historical, Family Saga, Amish, Political Thrillers, Mainstream, Supernatural/Speculative, including End Times. Short contemporary and historical fiction, 40,000 to 65,000 words. Christian market. Genres: Romance, Historical, Romantic Suspense. Will accept queries for Barbour, Steeple Hill Love Inspired, Summerside Love Finds You, and Avon Inspire. Kids: Middle grade and YA books

Literary Rambles has the info on agent Roseanne Wells from the Marianne Strong Literary Agency here. Ms. Wells is looking for: strong literary fiction, YA, sci-fi (most subgenres included), fantasy, and mysteries (more Sherlock Holmes than cozy mysteries.)


In other writing-related articles and such:
Writer Saundra Mitchell has an open letter to debut authors reassuring them that Eventually You’ll Care Less (and that’s a good thing!)

The D4EO Literary Agency announced on Twitter that they have an offical website now with query submission info included. You can find that here.YA authors will want to target Mandy Hubbard and Kristin Miller.

Author Patricia C. Wrede tackles what The Problems with Sequels are.

Shrinking Violet Promotions has a great article on utilizing Goodreads if you are a published author. Good to know for those of us aspiring to be published too. I love Goodreads anyway since it's an easy source to find new reading material and keep track of what I've read and what I want to read.

Agent Kristin Nelson blogs about Sacrificing Plot and Character Motivation For Fun.

Jami Gold's had an interesting time of it, going head-to-head with the numbers/popularity=sales debate. You can find the latest update (plus links to the other posts and the agent's blogpost that started it) here.

These are only a snippet of the great posts going on. Saturday Link Specials should make a comeback soon.


Thursday, October 20, 2011

Friendship: Guest Post #3

I’m continuing to explore the theme of friendship with the help of some writer friends. Friendship is a central theme in the story I’m working on right now. If you'd like to chime in on the theme or have something to say regarding friendship please feel free to comment.

My next guest blogger is Margaret Fortune, a writing friend from Agent Query Connect. She’s uber-talented as a writer, a detailed critic as a beta reader, and I like her grounded style of expressing herself.  In her own words: “After graduating with a BA in psychology from the University of Minnesota, Margaret Fortune took up writing as a way to pass the time while job hunting. As it turned out, she enjoyed the writing far more than the job hunting, and has been writing ever since. She currently works at an e-commerce firm where she answers customer service emails, and her short fiction is forthcoming in Nth Degree. Her best friend is a four and a half foot tall stuffed giraffe named Freckles, so clearly she's well qualified to blog about friendship.”

I think we've all heard the phrase, "The More the Merrier!" at one time or other. But is this really true when it comes to friends, or is sometimes more just...well, more?

Not that long ago, a guy who I'd never seen before came up to me at work and said, "Hey, if you'll take the rest of my shift tonight, I'll be your best friend forever."

Hmm...now there's a proposition I'd never heard before.
           
And so I looked at him, this guy whose name I didn't even know, and you know what I said? I said, "Well, I don't even know you. Maybe I don't want you to be my friend. Maybe you're one of those creepy, clingy people that bother you all the time and never go away."

Yes, I actually used the word “creepy.” As you may have guessed, I don’t have a lot of friends.

Well, as you have probably figured out, Nameless Guy and I did not become best friends forever. What can I say? He had a creepy, clingy sort of look to him, and besides, it was a Friday night.

So, are more friends better? To fairly consider this question, I think you first have to decide just what constitutes a friend. Is the creepy, clingy guy at work whose shift you took your friend? What about that nice girl you always talk to in yoga class, but have never gotten around to having coffee with? Are those fifty-thousand Facebook friends really your bosom buddies, or are they simply fifty-thousand people whose only similarity to you is a penchant for hanging out on the computer 24/7 and a compulsion to report all the big events in their lives, like when they eat a ham sandwich or feed the fish?

We all have different definitions about just what constitutes a friend, and in the same way we all have different needs when it comes to how many is the right amount. For some, one or two best friends, people who have known us our whole lives or understand us as if they have, is the right number. For others, those who thrive on getting to know and being around other people, that huge circle of friends and acquaintances may be just what they need.

Which brings me to a few questions: how well do you know your friends? How well do you have to know someone to consider them a friend? Have you ever claimed someone as a friend, and then found out they didn’t see you the same way, or vice versa?

I live in a city of approximately sixty-five thousand people, and whenever my mom and I go out somewhere together, we are always stopped at least once by someone who wants to say hello…to my mother. If we do not run into at least one person she knows, or who knows her, I always start wondering if maybe we walked into a parallel universe and just didn’t notice.

My mom always greets these people back with the abandonment of a long-lost twin sister, and it’s only after they part ways that she will suddenly reveal, “I have no idea who that person was.”

Clearly friendship isn’t always felt equally on both sides, and one person’s fond acquaintance may be the other’s “huh?” moment of the day. Which brings me to another question: does your number of friends determine your degree of friendship? Does having a lot of friends mean that your relationships will, of necessity, be more shallow? Does having few friends mean that you’ll prize each friendship all the more?

When it comes down to it, we all have to find that magic number for ourselves. If you’re feeling lonely, maybe it’s time to ask that girl from yoga class out to coffee. If you feel overextended, like you can’t even keep up with all the friends you do have, perhaps it’s okay to let yourself drift apart from a few of those far-flung acquaintances.   

Maybe you can count your friends on one hand. Then again, maybe you can’t count all the friends you have even if you take off your shoes and socks. But whichever it is, in the end is it really so much about quantity as it is about quality? I leave that to you to decide.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Cutting Down Character Count or How to Amputate 101

First off, I’m not anti-big book and I do enjoy the occasional door stopper with a cast list longer in word count than the first chapter or two combined. Yes skeptics, these kinds of books do still exist in the speculative fiction world and even in the case of some historicals. So I’d like to first disclaim any idea that I think everyone should have a set, small amount of characters. That is not the aim of this post. Got it? Great.

One of my earliest flaws as a writer was loving character creation too much. I could whip out huge casts for any given story, each with unique backgrounds, looks, and personalities. Juggling them in my mind—piece of cake. Handing those stories over to readers I discovered that I might be able to juggle lots of details and characters better than others. Which presented a problem: I needed to learn to use fewer characters much more wisely.

A year or so ago I took my current WIP (nearly done—Yay!!) and hacked down the character list. I didn’t have a ginormous cast, but there were too many names floating around the manuscript and some of my early beta readers complained. I listened.

When world-building, it’s so easy to get carried away in planning everything out: the history, backstories, places, events, rules, politics, religions, systems of magic or science, etc. Great stuff, but while immersed in all this splendid wonder of creation we don’t realize that our readers aren’t going to have all those hours of development at their fingergtips. They’re getting the finished product, which takes considerably less time to read. Therefore, they aren’t going to appreciate or get all that world-building in this smaller dose and if we, the writers, throw it all in at them—well, they don’t like it very much.

So let’s talk about having too many characters today. First off, do you have a character list or directory? No?

Step 1: Make one. Write down the name and a brief description of every single person (animal, or active living thing character) that is in your story.

*You’ll want this character list as part of your submission package if you deal in large casts of characters. Pronunciation guides come in handy here too.

Step 2: Classify each character as a:
a)      Main Character
b)      Main Antagonist
c)      Secondary Character
d)     Secondary Antagonist
e)      Tertiary Character
f)       Mentioned Character (anyone important to the story that doesn’t have an active role, say a dead person, or someone far away)

Step 3: Then assign an attribute of purpose to each character. That is, what in the world are they doing in the book? Are they a mentor, a source of information, a troublemaker, a love interest, etc.? Why are they vital to the story?

Step 4: Can you combine the roles of any of these characters? Say you have a shopkeeper who is a source of info for your main protagonist and you’ve got the blacksmith down the street acting as another source of information. Can you cut one of these characters and use only one of them for this role? Do you really need both?

Or say you have the informative blacksmith helping out the MC, might they also take on the role of double-agent? Acting as a source of info for the main antagonist as well?

Do you really need everybody in your cast list to fulfill only one purpose? Hint: a great way to make well-rounded characters is to give everyone more than one purpose.

Might the delivery boy in the beginning of the book also show up later with the missing piece to the crime puzzle your hero’s trying to solve? You don’t need to create a new character for this later role. Cycle your characters and make them count, have more impact, more purpose.

Step 5: Look for characters that are really just scenery. Drop their names and give them a generic title like: the janitor, the sage, the dragon keeper. Look especially for people in groups that hang out, work, or travel together. It’s cozy and fun to create a wide spectrum of personalities and talents to spice up a manuscript but are you really creating tangents for your readers to try to unravel instead? Scenery characters don't need names, only their designations.

Sometimes more is just more. We don’t need to know the name of everyone in a traveling troupe and not all of these people will be enjoyed (no matter how interested you, as the writer, are in them) if you try to use them all together all the time. It slows down dialogue and creates messy scenes. Sometimes characters need to be mere scenery themselves and only the important players identified.

The other fine balance to having a large cast of characters is their strategic use. The hero/heroine meets people on their way through the story. I think it’s natural for a writer to want to zap up each new person as part of the MCs retinue and have them tag along (as if they had no life of their own or weren’t already headed in some direction.) It’s okay to meet someone and let them slip away for awhile. They don’t need to be present for everything else that follows. Big fantasy novels tend to do this or stories using the heroic journey theme.

Watch out for giving characters too many designations as well. I’ve read stories where one person has a birth name, the name they go by professionally, the name they go by personally, plus a nickname, or title. It’s too much. Stick to one (or two at the most, if you have to.)

So to sum it up, evaluate your cast and make sure everyone’s got reason for being there. Combine roles if you can for more punch, and cycle your characters so they aren’t one scene wonders. If you need to have a huge cast, use them strategically and never all at once in dialogue. Avoid the magnet trap where characters drop what they’re doing or where they’re heading in order to join the protagonist’s posse. Don’t give any one character too many names or titles.

Depending on the depth of your book and how many plot layers it has, plus how much time your protagonist spends in any one place will have a bearing on your character numbers. Less is more, they say. Err on the side of the few and purposeful to make complex characters (even the tertiary ones), rather than more names for readers to juggle. It’s hard, it’s painful, you bleed inside, but the story gets better.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Friendship: Guest Post #2

I’m continuing to explore the theme of friendship with the help of some writer friends. Friendship is a central theme in the story I’m working on right now. If you'd like to chime in on the theme or have something to say regarding friendship please feel free to comment.

My next guest blogger is Dean C. Rich: Dean has been married for 27 years and has five children a daughter-in-law, and one grandson.  He blogs about time management and writing over at The Write Time and can be found on Agent Query Connect as DC Rich.  He has written four complete manuscripts and is currently working on making the first book in his trilogy a standalone story.  Stop by and see what he has to say at his blog and follow him there and on twitter as @deancrich.

And here’s what he has to say on the topic:


Friends

The old cliché states “Friends you can choose but family is forced upon you.”  BFF is such a cool text word – Best Friends Forever.  Friends help the day and weeks go by.  Friends help to make life better.  Friendships are dynamic relationships.  Sometimes they are fantastic, and other times differences cause conflicts, and how you deal with the conflicts determines character, and if the friendship survives.

I ran across this poem and I think it illustrates the point better than what I’m trying to say:

If you can start the day without caffeine,
If you can get going without pep pills,
If you can always be cheerful, ignoring aches and pains,
If you can resist complaining and boring people with your troubles,
If you can eat the same food everyday and be grateful for it,
If you can understand when your loved ones are too
busy to give you any time.
If you can overlook it when those you love take it out on you,
If you can take criticism and blame without resentment,
If you can ignore a friend's limited education and never correct him,
If you can resist treating a rich friend better than an poor friend,
If you can face the world without lies and deceit,
If you can conquer tension without medical help,
If you can relax without liquor,
If you can sleep without the aid of drugs,
If you can say honestly that deep in your heart you have no
prejudice against creed, color, religion or politics,
THEN, my friend, you are almost as good as your dog.

Author Unknown

When I was still in high school I had a great friend.  He and I did a lot together.  Then he moved.  We wrote letters and kept in contact… for awhile.  Then we lost contact.  I knew he moved to Virginia, but that was all I knew.

Life went on.  I married my best friend.  She and I have five children together.  We’ve been married for 27 years now.  Our friendship has matured.  We can look at each other and know the mood of the other, if we need to talk, need to go for a walk.  Or gasp, be left alone. 

We’ve moved to different states twice now.  We’ve kept track of friends and touch base, but life is so busy and hectic that we do well to keep in touch with old friends in the old places we moved away from.
Then I discovered Facebook.  I did some searching for my high school friends, found a few of them, but my best friend was still gone.  I went and signed up on my high school page.  Sent a few messages to old acquaintances, caught up on news, and then back to my own life and family.

Family and friend relationships all have to be nurtured. So I’m up to date with my old friends, but my current family and friends take most of my time. I’ve made new writing friends on line and I’ve been developing relationships with all of them.    

About a year ago I got onto my Facebook page and saw my old high school friend’s name in the friend request box. I clicked it and did some looking. He had managed to leave a trail on the internet and I uncovered his phone number. I made the call and when he answered I asked if he was in fact my friend. I could hear the joy in his voice as he made the connection that after all these years we were on the phone together.  He too had gone onto Facebook and gone to our high school and found my info.  And then waited three weeks for my response!  (I don’t go onto Facebook very often!)

We spent several hours catching up with each other. We still talk about twice a month on the phone. Our friendship is still there. But relationships take nurturing. For great friendships we have to be great friends ourselves. 

Family may be forced upon you, but family can be your best friends as well. What makes for good family relations also work for friendships. The nice thing about long lasting relationships is the feeling of being safe with those you are closest to. My wife and I talk about all sorts of things. We enjoy our children and family outings. Those wouldn’t happen if we weren’t also friends. 

My time with my friend whom I spent 30 years looking for, and he looking for me as well is still valued. We have a lot of differences, and don’t agree on everything, but we agree our friendship is important. We make time to talk with each other. We keep each other posted. Yes we still talk about things we enjoyed in high school, but we also talk about our wives, and what we do that irritates them, but we don’t know why those things do. But we share. 

However, just like the dogs who are unconditional friends, we too need to be able to be a friend through good times and the bad. If it wasn’t for good friends there are events in my life I wouldn’t have been able to deal with. A great friend is made, and nurtured. Lifelong friends are jewels to be cherished. 

Relationships take work and should not be taken for granted. As Clarence the angel who was looking for his wings wrote in Tom Sawyer’s cover page to George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life: 

Dear George,

Remember no man is a failure who has friends.

Thanks for the wings!
Love
Clarence

If your dog can be a great friend, then you can do better.  Helping others, listening, and working are the keys to being and having great friends, and long lasting relationships.

Dean C. Rich

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Over-Editing and Self-Esteem

There’s editing and then there is over-editing. All writing needs a pass or two after the initial flurry of composition to edit. Sometimes we’re testing out new skills or techniques that might need more than four or five drafts to get it right. Sometimes we’re asked to edit our work for the benefit of editors and publishers.

And then there are those of us who can’t stop editing.

I think part of it comes from low self-esteem as a writer. It’s easy to rationalize that “Hey, I’m a perfectionist.” Wanting to put forth our best work is what everyone should aim for but compulsive perfectionists, let’s face it, we have self-esteem issues with our writing.

It’s easy to second guess ourselves. Especially when you get feedback from others. We automatically assume that every suggestion made from other people is correct and that we were never right to begin with. After all, look at all of these other, confident, popular writers out there. They write so fast, so well, and people love everything they churn out. And oh yes, there are lots of writers who put out sludge and think they’re all that in spite of their lack of talent and effort. The compulsive perfectionist even regards these people’s suggestions.

All those articles, blogs, and workshops on writing are great to read and attend. We soak up the information as much as everyone else. Inwardly, they torture us. They point out all the many ways we fall short. So we edit, and edit, and edit.

What’s in danger here is not only our self-esteem, but our creativity and talent. We work so hard to try to please everyone that we end up disappointing ourselves the most. We never reach our goals.

What is worse, is most compulsive perfectionists are aware of their problem. All the kind and cheerful words in the world from others don’t remedy the issue. In fact, we tend to doubt the validity of those who actually compliment our writing. We cry buckets when we get negative reviews but those reviewers are so right! What were we thinking? People who say nice things didn’t give us a thorough critique. They probably hate the story too.

I think the trick to taming this over-editing beast is learning and remembering a few things:

1. Don’t take it all so personally. Oh certainly, we’re probably not the type that has a super fragile skin and can’t take any kind of critique. (Remember, we think only the negative ones help us grow and point out all the flaws we have yet to fix so we antagonize ourselves by searching those kind of readers out.) Taking a step back and remembering that no one reaches perfection in their writing helps. Guidelines, style, and popularity evolves over time. Readers don’t all like the same things. Really and truly. It’s not that our stories are so horrible sometimes but rather we haven’t found our audience yet. Finding the right beta readers is probably more of our problem here. We need people who read our genre and who appreciate it.

2. An art professor once told my sister that when you feel your project is done, stop. Don’t add another brush stroke. She said she crossed that line once and added the extra brush stroke. It ruined the painting she was working on.

The same applies to writing. We tweak and cut, and add, and change so much that it’s easy to loose our original vision of our work. So maybe there are a handful of sentences, paragraphs, or even pages that could have used eighty more hours of fine-toothed combing. Maybe we didn’t zap every use of the word “was” or “had” from the manuscript. You know what, readers don’t care. (This references the every day, non-writerly, editorial, or agent-type reader, and especially not anti-passivity zealots.)

There’s an evil in second-guessing ourselves so much. Storylines and plots perish, characters become over-the-top or lackluster, and sometimes we get bored with the very ideas that once excited us.

3. When we get too compulsive it’s probably a good idea to shelve the story for a little while. Take a break. Work on something else, or better yet, throw ourselves into an entirely different type of work or activity. Coming back after a hiatus sometimes lets us see clearly again and even learn to love our stories once more.
We do have talent. Maybe we’re still in beginner stages but the compulsive perfectionist is one that is doing their best to learn and work on their craft. Every writer is different and has a different voice. We need to stop comparing ourselves to everyone else, the good and the bad. And we also need to trust our inner voices even more than all the encouragement or tough love from our beta readers. We’ll get good, worthwhile advice and we’ll also get advice that steers us away from who we are and what our story is supposed to be. We need to grasp onto our self-identity and our story’s identity and then hold tight. The weather will be rough and turbulent.

4. Trends, comparisons, the wrong readers, too much advice—they’re all things that drive us to over-editing. Sometimes it’s best to shut off the internet, avoid the writing group for awhile, and get to know our own skills and the depth of our stories intimately one-on-one. Especially if we’ve fallen into over-editing. Recognizing that we will also make mistakes, fail, and even make a fool of ourselves is part of the process. It gives us perfectionists permission to chill out a bit. These are things that keep us awake at night but they don’t have to.

Get your story done to the best of your current ability and then let it go. It will fly or sink, but you won’t have killed it via an axe-wielding internal editor.

What things drive you to over-editing and how do you combat them?

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Friendship: Guest Post #1

Time for something a little different on the blog. I want to occasionally explore the themes and things I research in the stories I'm writing. This month I look at the topic of friendship with the help of some writer friends. If you'd like to chime in on the theme or have something to say regarding friendship please feel free to comment.

First up, a talented teenage writer from the In the Jungle blog: Riley Redgate is a a bookstore-and-Starbucks-dwelling 17-year-old writer, devourer of books and destroyer of grammatical errors. When she’s not making up things or viciously slicing words, she plays the piano, sings through books of Broadway music, and pretends to be other people onstage. She spends a lot of time dreading college applications.

And without further ado, here she is:

I'm super-excited to be the first guest poster in the friendship series! You see, this reaffirms my belief that I have friends.

Oh ho ho, self-deprecating humor.

Anyway! I'm here today to speak/discuss/babble on about types of friendships. I felt the topic would be fun because, for the most part, I feel I can categorize my friends rather clearly.

In my experience, there are six types of friends. These six types aren't mutually exclusive, for the most part - for instance, a friend could be a 2 with a dash of 1, or a 6 with a large helping of 2. My favorite types of friendships to read about, in fact, are ones that grow and evolve, passing from one type to the other:

1) The Funny Bone
What keeps you and this friend together are your identical senses of humor. Topics of great weight and gravity almost never appear when you and this friend converse. Perhaps this is intentional; perhaps it is not. Nonetheless, the plain and simple fact is that if this person weren't hilarious, you likely wouldn't have passed the stage of acquaintanceship.

2) The Shoulder
Dependency is the glue holding these friends together. In this relationship, inevitably, one friend will end up ranting to the other about some issue that irks them that day, some problem they've been dealing with, some issue in their personal lives. The unhealthy version of this friendship is the One-Sided Shoulder, in which Friend A is constantly leaning on Friend B without reciprocation or care for Friend B's circumstances.

3) The Coincidence
When you met this person, you thought, Whoa there! Where have you been all my life? It seems odd that you and this person should meet, let alone get along well. Maybe you are an athlete, walking by the theatre arts building, and you bump into a theatre kid. You have little in common. Yet your personalities gel so well that you have no choice but to end up buddies.

4) The Ex
...well, this is awkward. You and this friend used to be so close. What happened? It could have been a fight, or a vocal falling-out. Perhaps you just drifted apart. In any case, the most you can seem to exchange these days are pleasantries, though you know if you really needed help this person would still be there for you. An oddly-nuanced friendship, this one is.

5) The Incidental
You are friends by association. Perhaps you have a friend in common, so you learn about each other, and you wouldn't be averse to hanging out. But not alone. That would be too much for this chill, laid-back friendship. In high school, this could be known as a 'classroom friendship' - a friendship that never leaves the school building.

6) The Golden
There's something special about childhood friends who have lasted the test of time. Oftentimes, you've been so much a part of each other's lives that you act oddly similar, speak much alike, think the same thoughts at the same time, or are just plain inseparable.

Depressingly enough, I find many of my friendships leaning toward the Shoulder. Not that that's a bad thing - we all need to vent, and apparently many of my peers are simply brimming with vitriol. (Just joshing. ...sort of.)

When it comes to writing friendships, it's easy to fall into the trap of making every friend a Funny Bone. Interactions are easier this way, passing, cheerful and not too deep. Honestly, though, if all a character has is Funny Bone friends, they probably feel very alone. Only being able to show a cheerful face around someone is a restriction, not a boon.

Worse, though, is reading about a main character who is the 'taking' side of the One-Sided Shoulder. If the MC is constantly whining to his/her buddy, and never listens to the buddy in return, the adverse effects are twofold: 1) The MC comes off as a jerk. and 2) The buddy will come off flat. Because no one can absorb negativity endlessly without wishing they could gain something in return (I know - I've been there!). The friendship will implode. Kabooooom.

What type of friend are you? Do you have any other types to add to the list?

Here's hoping your friendship doesn't Kabooooom!

Thanks again for having me on your blog, Clipper!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Revising Is Like Sewing

Analogy time.

It's October, which means Halloween is around the corner, which means I dust off the old sewing machine and become an improviser with fabrics, patterns, and plain old ingenuity. One of my kids wants to be Rapunzel from the movie Tangled this year. Anyone who's taken the time to really look at her outfit (thanks to digital animation) knows its complex and intricate. I'm crazy enough to want to make a kid's costume as close to the original as I can afford.

It's taken two separate dress patterns and some fudging to get the fabric cut right. I have four different materials I'm playing with plus all the trimming. Loads of trimming!

I got started Saturday morning and by the end of the first day had a pretty good replica of the bodice. Sunday was devoted to the sleeves. Let me tell you about those sleeves: I had to cut and sew pink ribbon onto the upper sleeve material; embroider other ribbon for detailing on the lower sleeves; mesh two different sleeve patterns together, and of course figure out how to put it all together. Eight hours later I had two children's sleeves looking pretty darn close to the original. Then I went in to iron down a seam before attaching the sleeves to the bodice. The iron ate the see-through fabric of the lower sleeve.

After eight painstaking hours of work you can imagine how I felt right then. Okay, I admit it, there were some frustrated tears involved. I put it all away and mulled over ways to fix the problem. Next weekend I'm going to spend a few more hours unpicking the see-through material and replace it with a sturdier fabric. Afterall, if the iron can do that in seconds to the fabric, imagine what a washer and dryer might do!

So how does this tie in with revising?

Ever had one of those horrible moments when you realize that you have to cut out hours and hours worth of work because something's gone wrong in your manuscript? I have. Sometimes it means cutting a character or two, a background story, a setting, a time period, or entire chapters and scenes. It's painful. It's tempting to think of all those hours as wasted time and want to throw in the towel completely.

This is where we need to put the story away, go do something else, and calm down. There's a rational part of our brains that will continue to point out why that character or scene needs to be cut.

The truth is, all that time wasn't really wasted. We were practicing, experimenting, and honing our craft in those earlier drafts. Sometimes what ends up on the cutting room floor can be used later in another story. Sometimes not.

The trick is not to give up or ignore that practical voice in the back of our minds. It's time to get out the seam ripper and get rid of the bad pieces to make way for newer, stronger ones. And yes, sometimes the finished product will look different from what we first envisioned.

I'm over my despair about the sleeves by now. I'm not looking forward to added hours of work (especially when I have another costume to make after this one) but I want my daughter to have her costume and I want it to be durable and of quality workmanship. It's the same for revising a beloved story.

Had any revising woes lately? Got a good revising analogy tagline? Post in the comments.