Thursday, July 16, 2009

New classes trip me up

My classes for the second half of the summer semester have started, which explains my lack of posts and failure to return to work on the novel. I actually don’t need any explanation because delays are my trademark. So I just have to forgive myself, set the blog-post timer for ten minutes, and get back to work.

I finished the pre-funeral scene and now it’s on to the main part. I probably should consider combining those two scenes, on a side note. Anyway, I hate these two scenes and I really need to figure out why. For one thing, I feel they’re important enough that I have to get their tone, pacing, and dialogue completely spot-on, and as a result I’m often so intimidated by the task that I grind to a halt on progress altogether. I also feel there are just too many scenes in the book that consist of Robbie “talking” to his mother (or her spirit, or whatever). There’s at least five I can think of off the top of my head: when he’s cleaning with his father, when he’s sitting on the boat, when he speaks at the funeral, at the surprise party, and at her headstone near the end. I just now decided that I’m going to change the headstone part vastly. It’s either going to be dialogue-free or have just two lines or so, just the crux of Robbie’s thoughts at that point, something about keeping Mama in his heart and not in his head all the time. That’ll speed things up a bit. I’m (thankfully) editing out a lot of extraneous material this go around, as well as combining scenes and consolidating material from several scenes into a single one. I have a pacing problem: the middle sags and the end rushes to catch up and make up for the middle. I think this can be successfully changed, but I have to take it on a scene-by-scene basis (don’t I have to do that for every problem?).

Alex’s birthday was fun, despite being delayed a few days because I sprained my ankle like a stupid fat guy jumping into our pool. Five-foot maximum depth in the pool plus 6-foot guy equals pull your feet up when you hop in, Hefty! Anyway, we went to Country Club Lanes’ Fun Arcade again and played the ticket games. The boys got a variety of Made in China toys and fun was had overall. We went to Arden Fair Mall for fireworks on the 4th. Not much more to report on the family front. I’m just typing to burn time and get warmed up for working on my dreaded funeral scene anyway.

Not to repeat, but I need to figure out why I don’t like this scene. Usually if I dread and avoid working on a scene there’s a reason for it that I should try to dig down and determine. It either doesn’t belong or it needs to be improved or some other reason. I have a note scribbled on the title page of my fourth, hard-copy draft that suggests I do an “Initial Reaction Test” to determine how I feel about each scene individually. I usually have one of three reactions: 1) Cool, I like this one, 2) Meh. This scene’s okay but it’s no real thrill to work on, and 3) Shit, not this damn scene again; I hate it. The funeral brings on that third reaction and I don’t feel any scene should make me feel that way. After all, if I react that way to my own work, how can I expect anyone else to enjoy reading it? I’m going to think long and hard on the answer to this one before I start work on the funeral tonight, and I’ll report my findings tomorrow (or the next time I post). It may just be that I need to re-focus or redirect my thinking, or just take it one paragraph at a time and stop worrying about how long and complex it is.

DING! Ten minutes is up, I’m off.


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