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Wet Noodle Posse | Blog

Friday, October 05, 2007

Dealing with Mr. In Between

What if one or two aspects of your writing are merely okay? Your pacing for example isn’t bad; you’re just not getting high praise for it. Or maybe judges like your heroine, but she doesn’t excite you. You created her, shouldn’t you of all people think she’s fabulous? For the short term, with the Golden Heart as your goal, I’d say don’t mess with Mr. In Between. Yup, I said don’t. You’ve already got your revision pencil worn to a nub with accentuating the positive and eliminating the negative. Figuring out why something is so-so is much harder and can take up a lot of time.

Once you turn in your entry, however, I give you full permission to mess with Mr. In Between, because, as I mentioned yesterday, your ultimate goal is selling.

So how do you start with Mr. In Between? First, put away all the returned contest entries you’ve been using to help you analyze the positive and negative aspects of your writing and pick one thing that you would most like to improve. It doesn’t have to be something a judge mentioned. Maybe your dialogue works, but it doesn’t leap off the page, which was a goal of yours when you started your first novel. Deep down, you’ve always wanted to write witty repartee. So make a goal. By the time next year’s GH rolls around, know which writers in your subgenre create the best banter, analyze how these writers do it, listen to the people around you who engage in playful banter, like the couple across the street who invited you over for lasagna. Spend many hours watching television shows that showcase lively banter (Moonlighting and Gilmore Girls come to mind). Apply what you’ve learned to your own writing, and write and rewrite until it sings.

The best way of dealing with Mr. In Between is to remind yourself of the dreams you had for this particular book. That little reminder can re-ignite the spark and move your writing from a perfectly respectable C to that elusive A. With time and dedication, you can do it.

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At 11:09 AM, Blogger Trish Milburn aka Tricia Mills said...

Very wise advise, Maureen. I like this idea of tackling one thing at a time. It makes the task of revising and improving our writing more manageable and less overwhelming.

At 11:40 AM, Blogger doglady said...

The idea of tackling one thing at a time is definitely appealing. I think I tend to worry about everything all at once, well at least the bad and the in between. A great thing I have learned from the Posse's GH blogs already is to accentuate the positive. It is so easy to just leave that alone and worry the negative and the in-between to death. The idea of leaving anything alone before entering the GH is scary, but not spending all of your time on the in between makes perfect sense.

At 11:57 AM, Blogger Mo H said...

Thanks, Trish! Glad it made sense.

At 12:06 PM, Blogger Charity said...

This is a great idea. I try to pick something to work on or work through each year.

Two years ago, I took a "dead" manuscript and used Maass's Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook. I told myself I'd do everything "The Donald" wanted me to do. It didn't matter. I couldn't ruin the manuscript since I had shelved it. I wasn't sending it out.

This year, that manuscript landed me an agent. More importantly, I learned a lot about writing. Most importantly, once I gave myself over to the process, it was a blast.

At 12:06 PM, Blogger Mo H said...

I'm so glad you're finding the advice helpful. It is scary to leave something alone. And just so you know, you don't have to do it just because that's what I'm advising. This method works for me, but it won't work for everyone. :)

At 12:18 PM, Blogger Manda said...

Ugh! This is one of the hardest things to pinpoint, IMHO. You can see the negative and accentuate the positive, but that so-so-in between stuff is so hard to pin down!

Great advice though! I'm loving these blogs this week!

At 12:32 PM, Blogger Theresa Ragan said...

I like the idea of focusing on one thing to improve in our writing. Let's see, I think I would like to improve on setting my scenes better and bringing in more smells and sounds. Okay, that's more than one thing, isn't it? LOL

What are some of the things you guys would focus on if you were forced to spend a whole day doing nothing but working on improving one thing in your writing?

At 1:57 PM, Blogger Esri Rose said...

The thing that's absolutely hardest for me is describing my characters' physical appearances. I basically ignore that and do it during a final editing pass. It's weird, because I notice people a LOT, and I'm such a clothes horse. Maybe I worry that once I get started, I won't be able to stop. "Her black, leather watchband was a trim, quarter-inch wide, echoing the strappy Nine West sandals she wore, which sported a little rhinestone bow on each Cuban heel."

Huh. I would buy shoes like that, come to think of it.

At 2:47 PM, Anonymous Margaret B. said...

I love doing dialogue, which means I probably do too much of it. I usually get good comments from judges on it, but I also get comments on slow pacing. So I probably should tell the characters to shut up already and just get on with it!

At 3:56 PM, Blogger Theresa Ragan said...

Esri, you COULD get carried away, couldn't you!?! :) Although you do description very well. I do want those shoes!

Margaret, I doubt the dialogue is slowing the pace...unless what the characters are talking about isn't moving the story forward...interesting.

At 5:41 PM, Blogger Gillian Layne said...

I LOVE the thought of ignoring something (what a lovely Friday notion :))

Thank you for constantly bringing the conversation back around to "the contest is wonderful, but publishing is the goal". It brings a calm to the process, and it's also great to hear someone else say "yes, your personal voice is the deciding factor."

And Esri? I really laughed at myself after reading your comment about the shoes--I'm so "Regency" mindset I sat there thinking "Why is she wearing Nine West sandals?" :)

At 6:14 PM, Blogger Trish Morey said...

Maureen, great posts this week, I've really enjoyed reading them and the comments.

Esri, I'm lusting after those shoes and the matching watch! You know, I think I'm like you when it comes to description - not too detailed, more of a sketch person -and I think that's a good thing. I think the reader builds on whatever bare bones you've given them and fleshes out the details so that the character works for them. Plus I know that where I've come across paragraphs of character description in a story, I get really bored and skip ahead. (yes, short attention span, that's me:-))

Charity, I love your story of reworking a shelved book to Maass's Workbook! What a fabulous exercise and an even better result. That's definitely something to keep in mind. I'm going to go rummaging for my copy now.

At 11:52 PM, Blogger Kate Diamond said...

Thank you for this post!

That's how I help my students improve their essay writing--focus on one thing at a time, starting with the most important--but, sadly and illogically, it never occurred to me to apply the same principle to my own writing.

You've inspired me to hunker down and attack my revisions. Thanks. Motivation was definitely flagging.

At 9:28 AM, Blogger Mo H said...

Glad these suggestions proved helpful to you. And good luck revising!

At 6:39 AM, Blogger Norah Wilson said...

Ooh, good post, Maureen. And Esri, I'm LOL about the shoes! But I'm with you on sketching the characters' physical descriptions lightly. I prefer to go for the broad strokes. Pick one or two things about the character and focus on trying to communicate that. If possible, make it communicate something about the character or about the relationship between the H&h. Instead of rhapsodizing about the silver-gray shade of his eyes, tell me how the heroine feels those watchful, eerily silver eyes tracking her, missing nothing.


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