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Thanks, Sue and Maria


Thanks to both of you for your comments on my hook. Both of you raise a good point about the stories being separate. These initially were two different stories, with Paul's story being a sequel to Joanna's. I put them together to make them into a novel, but I always wondered if I was doing it the right way. After reading my hook and your comments, however, I wonder if it's even necessary to include Jo's section anymore. I had a lot of fun writing her (especially since her story was in first person and won an Honorable Mention in an international contest), but now her story is just a prelude to Paul's. Of course, if I drop her section, I can make some changes to what's left...and I should probably think of a new title...and I'll probably need to put it up on OWW again. (groan) But I think it would be a stronger story in the end, so it would be worth it. Lots to think about here....

It's Been a While...


but that's what happens when you have Internot problems associated with moving. At least that's working now. I have had a chance to follow Sue's blog and through her the FFF hook contest. It inspired me to try writing a hook for Lennon's Line. Here's what I have so far:


Although Joanna is descended from John Lennon, she wants to study genes, not make music. Her uncle Jack, who controls the estate, won’t pay for her education unless she helps him clone John by traveling through a wormhole to a younger, alternate universe and collecting their ancestor’s DNA. Instead, her own sense of right and wrong compels her to leave warnings for John and save his clone by raising the boy, named Paul, herself, even though doing so will put her permanently at odds with Jack.

Paul, an aspiring actor, is unaware of his heritage, but the truth is revealed when his mother is killed. But was her death truly random, or a part of Jack’s conspiracy to mold Paul into John’s image? The only way Paul has to find out is by playing John so convincingly Jack will confess. To do that, Paul must travel to the other universe and meet John himself. But in one universe, he must face an armed assassin; in the other, threats to his freedom and the one he loves.

Haiku on a First Paragraph


Inspiring words,
Fast and flawless in my mind,
Are shit on the screen.

Progress Report


It's hard maintaining two journals, not just one. I have to admit I find them a lower priority than many other things, including my own work. But at least today, despite working late and having to take care of various tasks involved with the move, I made some headway with the outline for Catalyst in the Crucible. I decided to try writing character arcs (as described in Maria's blog here: http://mariazannini.blogspot.com/) instead of a standard outline. Perhaps this is closer to how I picture the story, but I find it easier to get words down with this method. OTOH, the story is closer to what I wrote in the first draft instead of what I have planned for the second. There's still lots of work to be done before I can finally go back to writing in earnest.

Web Site Update


I updated my website a couple of days ago, but there were a few pages that didn't get updated properly. I think I have them fixed now. At some point, I should put the main text into a serif font to make it easier to read. This will do for now, though. Here's the link if you're interested:

http://www.sandraulbrich.com/index.html

Web Updates


I'm finally getting around to updating my website. I was getting a little tired of the theme I was using, and there was some material related to Lennon's Line that I wanted to take down. The site's actually going to be smaller after I remove some of the old pages, but I'll be adding pictures to the Oscar (a stuffed whale we like to bring on vacations) page. I won't have much writing-related material to add, unfortunately, but I do have to remember to link to this blog. Now that I have this writing blog, I'm less motivated to update the Passing the Pen page. Maybe I can copy some of my posts over there to make them easier to find. I still have some more work to do on the site, but I'll post a link when it's updated.

Bones, Best in Show, and Books


Some writing advice I’ve seen on the OWW mailing list says that each scene needs to advance either plot or character development. (There’s also a third thing that a scene can do to earn its place, but I can’t remember what it is right now.) I see that as only a minimum, however; otherwise, you could just as well read a synopsis of the story and have the same experience. For me, a synopsis is like a skeleton. For metaphor’s sake, let’s say it’s a dog skeleton, and you’re a judge being asked to evaluate how well this dog meets (or met) the breed standard. There’s just not enough information in the bones to tell.

Plot and character are like the bones of a story; they’re the building blocks, the foundation that the story needs to move. But in order to come alive, a story needs much more than plot and character. Setting and description give it the muscle it needs to move. A particular style or POV can make the story distinctive, like a fur coat. Themes and symbols also give deeper meaning to the story. All of these elements work together to create a champion story. It may be necessary to separate them to analyze the story and learn how to write, but ultimately they all have to work together. If one element is lacking, the story as a whole suffers. It may be difficult for the writer to keep all of these things in mind during the writing process; for instance, I might focus more on plot and dialogue during the first draft. But at some point, everything needs to come together so the book can earn a Best in Show--I mean, a sale.


Catalyst in the Crucible Update: I finally got past the block I had for a few days and figured out why Paul does something. Currently I'm on Chapter Seven. I know what happens in the overall story, but I'm not always sure where to place particular scenes. I suppose at this point I could just list them all and then sort them out. Unfortunately, I'm too anal for such a simple solution. (grins)

Questions


I'm still stuck in the same places I was last night, so I'm using my outline as a place to ask myself questions and brainstorm. I actually like the second idea I came up with; unfortunately, it is only the second idea, and they say you should discard the first several you generate since they'll be cliches. So I guess it's worth it to keep on brainstorming; no point in writing the scene and then realizing it didn't work or that something else would have been better.

Progress Report


The outline for Catalyst in the Crucible continues to grow, albeit at the usual snail's pace. I'm up to Chapter Five, and I have to figure out how to get my character from NYC to the Midwest. I had a reason in the first draft, but I removed the foreshadowing from Lennon's Line to trim the story.

I also started an outline of the short story I want to write. There's still a lot of worldbuilding to be done, but I'm hoping outlining will help me figure out what to focus on. Of course, I'll want the world to make sense and feel real. It's just a question of how much research does a short story warrant; do I have to do as much as if I was making this a novel? I don't know yet if I would write more stories in this setting.

Last but not least, I changed the name of this journal to something more writer-related. It's my goal to make it out of the slush pile and into print, so perhaps this will inspire me to write more and goof off less. Soon my goof-off time will vanish anyway.

Teaching an Old Writer New Tricks


That's what I'm trying to do to myself: learn how to write an outline for a story before writing it. I'm more of an organic writer by nature, which means I tend to create the story as I go along. I know the beginning and end, along with a few points, when I start, but the rest is spontaneous. Unfortunately, what happens is that after I finish the first draft of a story, I look at it, toss it, and start over. I wouldn't say it's time wasted, but maybe I need to spend more time working out the story before I commit it to the computer. But will I be able to change my writing method without losing interest in the story? It's hard to say, but Paul's grief in this story is so compelling I can't tear myself away from it. Remind me not to create any more actors as characters; they're too demanding. (grins)

You'd think that since I already have a first draft of this story that the outline would be easy. But I'm changing a lot of plot elements, so I really am starting over with this story. As usual, putting words down is harder than having my teeth pulled. I'm currently up to Chapter Four; I'd like to get at least one chapter outlined per day, though maybe that's setting the bar too low. Then again, I need time to mull over this latest short story I want to work on as well.