To-ing and Fro-ing

We’re going to build on elements from Using One-Line Summaries to Write Better Stories and Flashback as Story Frame to deal with another story challenge that often leads editors and publishers to stop reading and reject a story: To-ing and Fro-ing, something I first wrote about in Quit Stage Directing.

Simply put, To-ing and Fro-ing occurs when the writer/author has their characters move around or do things for no real story purpose; there’s no character development, no character revelation, the atmosphere doesn’t change, no plot elements are furthered or revealed, the movement is irrelevant to any established or impending plot points, the movement is unnecessary to the dialogue, et cetera.

The end result is weak writing, exposition, narration, and lots of uninteresting things happening just to fill the page. Most writers/authors fall down on “movement is unnecessary to the dialogue.” They’ll have two or more characters talking and feel the characters should be doing something while they talk.

The desire to have characters do something while talking is good, the execution is usually poor, and now we’re dealing with attribution via action which I’ll cover in another post.

Eating my own dogfood
I’m currently editing Cicatrix, a work-in-progress last picked up and put down in late Feb 2019.

What follows is the ninth scene in the story. I’ll share the scene’s original form first with brightly colored “Problems” buttons after each weak paragraph. Click on the “Problems” buttons for examples of that paragraph’s problems. Next I’ll share share a rewrite with brightly colored “Solutions” buttons. Click on the “Solutions” buttons for explanations of why the rewrite is better.

PS) this is more for my edification than yours. Feel free to disagree. Please make sure you explain your disagreement and offer suggestions for improvement. Always happy to learn, me.


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Mystery Writers of America “Mystery Writer’s Handbook”

Another book purchased years ago and finally read because a work-in-progress, Search, had mystery elements and I wanted to know ahead of time what I should be doing and what to look out for.

 
Mystery Writer’s Handbook, like most of the writing books I’ve reviewed on my website, is a worthy read for all authors, writers, and writer-wannabes. It’s focus is mystery and its view is broad. Romantic suspense novels fall into the mystery fold. I didn’t know there was such a genre, but I do now and surprise! my work-in-progress with mystery elements is more a romantic suspense novel than not.

Like all writing books, it discusses character, scene, POV, dialogue, description, and the like. Its real power is in both plot – because good plot tends to drive most mystery and the plot techniques are gems – and editing – the chapter on revising and editing is truly a standout. An extra bonus is a short section on contracts. Many of the books I’ve read mention contracts, Mystery Writer’s Handbook provides a roadmap of potholes and things to avoid.

Strongly recommended.

“Owen and Jessica” now on The Yard: Crime Blog

Subscribers may remember Owen and Jessica from previous posts. It’s a flash piece and always got laughs and applause when I read it publicly. I shopped it around, got lots of excellent comments from editors (who always asked to see more of my work) and no bites until this week.

 
Owen and Jessica was a fun, quick write that required little editing.

Blood gathered in the whorls of his thumb. He stared at it and chuckled before licking it clean.

 
It came out pretty much fully formed.

That’s an author’s way of saying “It only took twelve rewrites.” Most of the rewrites were for timing and tension; change a word here or there. One major (and important, me thinks) edit came late to the game; I added the third and fourth paragraphs from the bottom, from “He stood over…” to “…didn’t fit.”

Let me know what you think.

You can follow The Yard: Crime Blog on Facebook and MeWe.

Enjoy!

31 Years to Publication

It took two months to write, thirty-one years to get published. And you know what? It was worth the wait.

I am so proud. I wrote The Augmented Man in April of 1990. Now I’m holding copies in my hands.

 
And the delay wasn’t because of slow mail.

I wrote the novel side-by-side with the novella, The Goatmen of Aguirra (to give you an idea of what my mind was working on at the time).

I’d workshopped The Augmented Man and received high praise. I shopped it around, no publisher was interested. I asked AJ Budrys, my mentor and an accomplished author and editor, if he’d be willing to read it and let me know if I was kidding myself, did it just need work, should I give up my dreams of being a published author…?

What you need to know is I was an accomplished trade technical author in the late 1980s through the early 1990s, at the height of the PC Boom (I discuss this in my interview) and my work was in high demand. I knew the publishing industry at that time.

AJ read it and was so blown away he offered to agent it for me. He’d published some of my short fiction in his Tomorrow magazine and he knew my work from workshops. He was familiar with my work, my style, my weaknesses, and my strengths. But The Augmented Man caught him by surprise.

I was flattered, honored. I almost fainted when I read his letter offering to represent the novel (1990, remember? We didn’t do lots of emailing back then).

For reasons that had nothing to do with the book, AJ couldn’t land it. We met at a con and he explained the situation to me. Someday, should we meet at a con, ask me and I’ll share the story.

AJ passed and I got another agent. She loved the book. Could I add 30,000 words to it?

Sure, why?

Because (at 85k words) it was too short (I reedited it to its present 97k words). Thirty-k words longer and she was sure she could land it. I added 30k words, edited, proofed, and sent the rewrite to her in under a month.

Didn’t hear from her. Called and got “Oh, on second thought, no, I don’t think this is a good enough novel. Besides, there’s too much out there already like it.”

Really? Did you read the novel?

Yeah, sure. It’s about a guy lost in a jungle, right?

On to agent #3. Who was a joke. I finally asked point blank, “How many projects have you placed?” and she responded that she couldn’t work with someone who asked such questions. This after the head of the agency phoned and talked with me for an hour to let me know how impressed he was by my work.

So I put it on the shelf. I went on with life.

Because I’m patient.

And now I’m holding the novel in my hands.

I’m so proud.


Would you like a personally autographed copy?

(and feel free to pass this on to every one)

Mark Hayes posted “Is Your Work Product or Art?” on his blog!

Few things thrill me more than fellow authors ask me to contribute to their blogs.

Okay, a good mutton sandwich will sometimes thrill me more. Must be the Miracle Max in me.

But I do experience a shiver of delight when an author asks me to contribute to their blog, compliments me on my work, thinks well of me, and so on.

Mark Hayes, accomplished author in his own right, also praised my The Augmented Man.

And most recently he published Is your work product or art?.

Ah…I am loved…