Monday, June 22, 2009

Results of Exercise #5 and Review of NOVEL SHORTCUTS

Results of Exercise #5:

This was hard and took me awhile because I had to essentially outline all the scenes I have yet to write. Although I wasn't able to envision scenes to the end of the book, I did come up with 17 more scenes and got more ideas in doing this exercise. A number of writing books suggest outlining all the way through before writing the book, but this doesn't work for me. It is too linear and logical a process when I am still trying to figure out the story. Attempting to do it periodically though does help me grow ideas and organize the plot though which are always challenging aspects for me.

Since these 17 scenes are ones I have yet to write, it was difficult to know when I would need transitions and, even more specifically, if they would be in the form of reflections. In general, my transitions will likely comprise reflections on the passage of time, combined with some of the more mundane tasks connected to Drew's investigation (e.g., trying to contact the senator and failing), showing her at her job (writing, teaching, etc.), spending time with her children (e.g., Gymboree), and having parenting challenges (defiance, crying spells, temper tantrums).

It seems that in writing a mystery some of the ideas that Whitcomb mentions about reflections do not fit as well; instead, they may be more well suited to a literary or women's novel where there may be more reflection about theme, character, and so forth. Still, my adaptation of her exercise made me realize more consciously that I will use transitions rather than whole scenes for the protagonist's work, childcare, and routine tasks of the investigation. As importantly, it helped me line up my scenes, which gives me more direction about what to write next.

Review of Laura Whitcomb's NOVEL SHORTCUTS

In general, I thought this was an excellent book. For the most part, my sampling of her exercises involved those that were more appropriate to the middle portion of writing a novel. Whitcomb has a lot of exercises about coming up with ideas and starting a novel that I didn't get in to. For most writers, it is easier to start a novel than to deal with what one of my writing teachers at the Writer's League in Bethesda, Maryland called (and even had a workshop on), the Muddle in the Middle.

But the ones I chose are definitely helpful for figuring out scene-building when you are past the beginning. I will continue to use these two exercises in every scene I write: the compounding scenes exercise and the scene shortcut exercise (taking the purpose of the scene, the dialogue, and the freewriting separately and then melding them together). Does anyone else have any reactions or comments about Laura Whicomb's NOVEL SHORTCUTS?

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