Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Please Pass the Mayo

I write to you today from the depths of writer's despair.

Yes, I received a critique of my work in progress.  Strangely, my trusted reader did not share my mother's, "I laughed, I cried!" sentiments.

Sure, he said it was fun and funny (the bread) and had cool quirky characters (the other piece of bread) but the meat in the critique sandwich was as hard to swallow as week old dry turkey. A Turkey Club sandwich apparently, because couched in between an equal number of compliments, none of which I can or will ever remember, were some not so delicious slabs of constructive criticism:

"The characters gossip too much."

"Not sure about the pacing in the second 100 pages." 

"Maybe you should add another death sooner in the book."

While I didn't agree with all the comments, I can certainly read between a line or too. My perfect, wry, funny mystery which was going to be finished here in a matter of weeks will need a run through with an eye on tension and a pacing edit before it's ready for the big time.


If it weren't for a newly acquired intolerance for lactose and butterfat, I'd have headed right down to Bonnie Brae Ice Cream (If you're ever in Denver don't miss it) for a banana split.

Instead I'm going to quit the writing biz (but only for tonight) and dig back into finishing this not quite final draft tomorrow. As I'm working, I'll be praying for the inspiration I'll need to go along with the perspiration it's going to take to serve up the book the way I want it to be.

In the meantime, I'd love any tricks, hints and suggestions on upping tension and pacing from you pros out there.

Please?  I'll buy the ice cream.


Robin Allen said...

Thank goodness for beta readers! I usually go through a process of spending a day or two convincing myself that she has no idea what she's talking about (meaning: it's going to be too hard to fix), then realize she might be right (it's not going to be *that* hard to fix), then start making the changes (it was ridiculously hard to fix, but made the book better).

I've recently been reading MAKING SHAPELY FICTION by Jerome Stern. He has a lot of good ideas for upping tension.

Shannon Baker said...

My only advice is stick to the mayo and avoid Miracle Whip at all costs. (more fun at Nebraska's expense)

Unknown said...

Ah, yes, the uncomfortable moment when we realize that our stuff isn't as tasty as we thought. Fortunately we can let the writing sit for a little while and, unlike mayo, it won't go bad.

Linda Hull said...

I have now officially entered the it's not going to be that hard to fix faze, but am trying not to think about it while I finish the manuscript off. I'll go back in with the comments in mind and up the tension in the section where he suggested and see what gives later. Thanks Robin for the book suggestion.

I NEVER use Miracle Whip. Sheesh.

Linda Hull said...

And by faze I mean phase mixed with daze.

Beth Groundwater said...

Yep, Linda, I think we've all run into that problem of not enough conflict or tension, especially in the middle of the book. For a mystery writer, one easy solution is to kill someone else in the middle, or at least have an attempted murder. Another is to introduce a conflict-laden subplot that dogs the sleuth, annoying him/her while s/he is trying to solve the mystery. Good luck with your work to add conflict & tension to your manuscript. I need to do the same to my WiP!

Unknown said...

Hey Linda,
Here's a great post/video by Mary Caroll Moore on structure that is focused on the tension arc - check it out, might be a cure for what ails ya'

Vicki Doudera said...

Linda, I have a great technique for upping tension. What you do is -- hold on, someone is at the door. Who can it be at this hour? We're in the middle of a freakin' snowstorm.

Hang on, be right back. This guy's really pounding on the door. Let me just...

Keith Raffel said...

Remember what George and Ringo sang: "Got to pay your dues if you want to sing the blues
And you know it don't come easy." Go get 'em, Linda.