Friday, March 23, 2012

Moving Week

With a tip of the hat to Anne Lamott, more of my shitty first draft for a novel went into the cyber dust bin this week. Why? Because when I write the first draft, I put everything including the kitchen sink in. Redundancies. Contradictions. Redundancies. Characters whose names change mid-story. Junk that sounds perfect in the first draft.

This has been moving week for the draft. All the plot elements are there, just not in the right place. I've been moving chapters all over the place. Each move involves a rewrite of the relocated chapter. I foreclosed on some chapters by moving them into the parking lot, where stuff that no longer works lurks in case I can use it later. Oddly, the overall word count hasn't changed significantly, but the words themselves have.

I'm a multi-draft writer. Up to twenty or more sometimes. Some chapters get more attention than others during the dusting and cleaning phase. The polishing phase tweaks more words, cleans up ugly sentences. I try to remember the difference between lay and laid, even though Rod Stewart really screwed up our use with his "Lay, Lady, Lay." I remove commas that, don't belong. The rule I try to follow is when, in doubt leave it, out. I'm in love with semicolons and colons, just not always in fiction: because colons are most often used incorrectly.

I take out my sword and slash and burn empty words. There is, it is--past and present tense. I take out white spaces where two characters are speaking for a page or two. I fill that white space with actions, not dialogue tags. I have people do something while they are speaking. Oh, you don't think people do things while they are talking? Just go to a restaurant and watch. People wave their hands, look up at televisions, wipe their hands on napkins (or pants), etc. We all twitch. I try and capture the twitches and itches people have.

Later, once I'm convinced the foundation, the structure of the story, is right, I'll begin polishing. I'll added words that evoke the five senses. Well, six, because one of the characters has a form of ESP. I'm make sure the location is a character because it influences so much of the action. I'll make sure the themes of racism, forgiveness, understanding and slavery are interwoven throughout the plot.

And then I'll start over again with more editing until it's ready to go to my agent. Until then, you'll find me at my desk, keys on keyboard, thesauri and grammar texts at the ready.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Book Review: First Time Killer, by Alan Orloff

First Time Killer by Alan Orloff, writing as Zak Allen, takes a radio talk show host down a path to murder. A dark book, the story is set in a radio station and the characters on air and behind the scenes. When someone begins killing people who work at a station that is trying to land a huge satellite deal, people think this is all about ratings. With a nod at the great Network, First Time Killer stands alone with a sadistic killer who calls into the station to get on the air and tell his story.

The killer targets one of the talk show hosts as his mouthpiece, refusing to talk to any other on-air personality. As the murders mount up, everyone at the station lives in fear. When it becomes clear one of their own or one of their standard listeners is the killer, the book plunges the reader into a morass of suspicion and tension.

When the killer calls the show at the start of the book, he identifies himself as a long time listener, but a first time killer. That sets the stage for this noir mystery. This is a re-release in Kindle format. Well worth the time to follow the unraveling of a mystery.

Friday, March 9, 2012

In Jail, Again

Mocha here. Still a bit grumpy today. My mom and dad dumped me in "camp" again for a week while they went to play in a big, sandy cat box. I spent the week in jail.

Don't get me wrong. The girls at Smith Mountain Lake Animal Hospital treat me really nice, but they keep me in a cage. They give me scratches behind the ears, plenty to eat and an upper cage, because they know I like to be up high.

One of my favorite perches in my house is at the top of the stairs. I look through the bars down at the living room. I can also see outside from here. The front of the house is all glass, so I can watch the birds at the feeder. I complain, but I really like this perch. Besides, it's close to my dishes and my litter pan, too. All is goodness when I'm up here.

But, back to Mom and Dad. THEY LEFT ME FOR A VACATION. My cage is not camp. It is a cage. I listen to Mom when she's fussing over the right word for her story. Calling my cage "camp" is like calling Rush Limbaugh a wuss in touch with his feminine side. Jeez. Who do they think I am? I ain't stoopid. I listen. I learn. What I want to learn, that is.

So, yesterday they brought me home. I got even. I pushed the shed button and left piles of me all over the green carpet. Mom groomed me twice, but it wasn't enough. I was a Velcro kitty. I went everywhere they went. I lay on my mom's lap at night. I reclaimed every space of the house. It's my house. I pretended I was starved in jail and demanded more food. I rubbed up against any available leg, leaving blond hairs behind.

Must go. Time to pretend I'm starving. Maybe Mom will give me more food. If not, I'll press the shed button again. Meh.