clues at the scene

clues at the scene

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

My Middle Name is Earle

At left, special valentine's day cookies. My photography doesn't do them justice.

I'm eating one with a cup of coffee even now. I did put them on a cookie plate. I'm my own coffee shop in the evenings.

My cookie plate has an x-ray of a model 60 S&W revolver on it. One must stay true to form.

The title today comes from a line in a Tom Petty song: " A Mind With a Heart of Its Own" off the solo album Full Moon Fever.

He's relating a string of details involving the subject of the song and sings "my middle name is Earl" in a manner implying he's revealing a secret.

When I first listened to the song, I thought he must have meant a heart with a mind of its own and just twisted the lyrics.

Twenty-five years on, I know what he means.

Writers have these two hearts. We have a heart as individuals which frequently fall broken, or outraged, or whatever. Some writers show their heart. Some don't.

Then, there is the writer's heart. We fill this beast with dreams and angst and disappointment and secret joy, Surely nobody is writing because of short hours and great pay.

A little bit of that heart is entrusted to those works we think have merit - that are good. We send them out in the world.

What no one tells you is that you feel things in the writer's heart as deeply as in you own person heart. If you knew the job would extract an emotional price, would you have picked up the pen?

I'd guess yes. You are a risk-taker. You call it fiction and say at parties "I just make it up" but it's you in every single word. It's you. That has a price.

I'm cutting and re-doing a short story draft. It's an old story that I wrote in 2002 and on which I just created a new draft last weekend.

I wrote the thing "pantser" in 2002 and it shows. The structure is poor. None of that original story will be usable but for a little of the characters and the premise of the conflict. Everything else - out!

I completed the last three novel drafts (on ice) with a solid and detailed outline which gave me great handholds as I added the actual prose text in some places and expanded sample prose text I'd included in the outline in others. Great confidence comes from a solid working outline. I think it shows in the resultant prose.

The draft still aren't very good but that's because they haven't been re-written. That's where "good" comes from!

You make fewer huge messes and have a much better narrative structure with a detail outline.

I also write much faster when working to an outline. I can do an outline from scratch in from three to six weeks. I can do the novel draft - full prose draft - in about three months. Maybe four if there is some big thing that requires immediate sorting out while underway.

I have two full novels on ice that I just "winged" in the past decade. One took over a year to complete and I don't even want to touch it again. I don't want to read the draft!

Structure is the foundation for the storytelling.

The outline allows you see that structure before you invest in scripting the dialogue and descriptions and character v character interaction and reaction and all the other "writer" bits we create when we compose.

That composition represents an enormous amount of work.

It kills me that I've done all that work and in these two draft novels, don't even want to look at them because the structure of the story is so poor.

I beg you: construct even a strawman outline of a couple pages telling yourself the story. 

If you cannot find the acts of the drama easily in that outline, do it again. You've read enough to be able to see that if the telling of the tale is not like something you've seen before, you're probably not going to be able to interest an audience into staying with you for one hundred pages just to figure out WTF?

You are not Pynchon.

Shakespeare used a defined narrative structure in his storytelling. The audience recognized that structure.

Worked pretty well for Will.

I'm sure he put little bits of his heart into every work and was filled with angst and anticipation whenever someone read his last and final draft prior to deciding on staging the work.

His middle name was also Earle.

My middle name is Glenfiddich. Doesn't go with the cookie, though.

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