Thursday, March 05, 2009

Self Evaluation

I actually accomplished everything on my to-do list yesterday, so go me! However, I was having a scattered, non-focused day, so I'm not sure how much I truly accomplished. I may need to revisit some of the things I did. I do think I'm coming to the end of the preparation phase of The Nagging Idea and need to finally start writing. I have a little more research reading to do to get a good sense of the world I'm dealing with, but at this point I think I know everything I'm going to know about the characters and plot until I start actually writing it and see how it shapes up.

Meanwhile, I'm taking an online writing class, and either I'm better than I thought I was or I'm so bad that I can't even see how bad I am. One of the exercises involved going through a work in progress and finding a certain type of thing to then try to fix -- and I couldn't find enough of the "wrong" thing to fix. Maybe if I were doing a serious edit of this manuscript I'd find some examples, but just going through it quickly, I didn't find many. And what I did find only fit that "bad" pattern when taken out of context because "fixing" it only made those sentences more interesting when they were on their own. They didn't flow at all in context.

But I think the problem is that I don't have a manuscript at the right stage for doing this kind of work on it. I have a completed, polished manuscript that does still have some problems, but those are plotting problems that will require big-picture fixes, not word choice fixes. And I have a very rough first draft where I'm sure I could find a lot of word choice things to fix, but I know that I'll need to pretty much rewrite that entire book, so there's not much point in fixing wording. And then my actual work in progress is at the brainstorming and development stage, with no words to fix. What I may do is just follow the lectures and read the other examples from the class to get a sense of it, and then do the "exercises" later when I have a manuscript where they'll apply.

One thing I am doing is trying to pay more attention to people to observe body language, facial expressions, etc. And since I seldom leave the house, what that means is watching TV in a different way to see how various actors portray certain things -- and then I mentally write narrative to describe exactly what they're doing. In some cases, I'm still challenged because it doesn't take much to give me a vivid mental image. There was a scene where a character looked very pleased with himself, like he was proud of what he'd done and expected everyone else to be impressed -- but I'm at a loss for trying to describe exactly what the actor did to convey that. It would take a paragraph of description to get all the little facial nuances and body postures that went into that, and I don't think it warranted that much description. Just thinking "proud" brings it back vividly to me. But is that weak, "telling, not showing" writing?

Meanwhile, on another "evaluating my work" topic ... I've considered entering a few contests for published books with Don't Hex with Texas, but most of the ones I've found are romance contests, since RWA is the organization that has all those chapters, many of which use contests as fundraisers. And I'm not sure it has enough romantic content to fit. There's a particular contest for fantasy, futuristic and paranormal books, and they say that books don't have to have been published as romance, but need to be at least 40 percent romance to fit. I honestly have no idea what percentage romance that book is. I suppose it depends on how you define "romance." There's next to no kissing, just a lot of proximity and some hand holding that gets pretty hot (in more ways than one). I think there's a fair amount of emotion, and the relationship is important to the plot. There's even conflict in the relationship. But 40 percent worth? Y'all have read the book more recently than I have, so what do you think? And then there's the question of whether it would be considered "light paranormal" or "fantasy."

Then there's the option of sending books to the jury for the World Fantasy Awards, and there I get nervous because I wonder if I can really stand up to "real" fantasy.

Not that winning any of these contests or awards would make a huge difference, but in this publishing climate, every little boost may help expose me to new readers and serve as a push to potential new publishers.

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