Day 45 of 100 Days to a Book

I am within the 7th week of this 14 and a half week course, and things are getting harder. I usually write at least 1,000 words every weekday and have the weekend off, except for Saturday morning when I spend about 4 hours Saturday morning critiquing 3 to 4 people’s submissions that they had updated on Fridays.

We have to submit every Friday somewhere in the region of 2,500 to 7,500 words each week. By the 19th June which is the final submission day, we should have 65,000 words. Moreover, a finished first draft of our novels.

I did start my novel by pantsing it, and after about 15,000 words I did not know where the story was going. So I stopped and thought that I should outline the story of my novel. I also looked at the different genres of crime fiction and opted for the hardboiled detective.

The Write Practice has given me room for thought on where my novel is set and where I get my ideas. It is true that if you help other writers by critiquing their submissions, then you receive help back from them. The outline is relatively basic, so when I come to write that section, it is still open to a significant amount of change that comes to my mind when I go through the scene.

Unfilter Your First Person POV

The first-person point of view is actually told like a diary entry, a personal narrative, or a running annotation of the first person’s thoughts. The reader does not see this character from the outside but only through the character’s eyes which have access to thoughts and feelings.

There’s a danger to watch out for, though: filter words.

Filter words put distance between the reader and your first-person character, filtering that character’s encounter. Let’s look at an example to get a better sense:

This was magic school? I stood and stared at it; I thought it seemed to be set up to depress us. I saw the green hill rising from the earth like some cancer, and I could hear the voices of students on the wind, chanting soullessly, as if the wonder and awe of true magic had been whitewashed from their lives.

Not sure what to look for in the paragraph? Here it is with the filter words removed.

This was magic school? It seemed to be set up to depress us. The green hill rose from the earth like some cancer, and the voices of students carried on the wind, chanting soullessly as if the wonder and awe of true magic had been whitewashed from their lives.

What was removed? I thought, I saw, I could hear. In other words, the words that were removed were anything that had you, the reader, looking at her looking at things, rather than looking at the things she saw.

This is the true first-person: being behind the character’s eyes. I have to say in my First Draft, it is riddled with these filters. I have more words to delete.

How to Write a Critique

As I have already said, I am on the 100 days to a First Draft. This gives me deadlines and word counts to meet each Friday. The writers are in groups of ten, as there are actually over 150 writers on the course.
Every Friday I submit a chapter with a word count between 2,500 and 7,500 words. So, on the 19th of June, I should have at least 65,000 words and completed my first draft. The course also adds critiques, so as I submit my chapter, I also have to read chapters by three other writers and critique them.
Critiquing 4,500-word chapters is not easy. Not only do you have to read them but you have to understand and give judgment on what you have learned. The Write Practice would like use to use a sandwich critique. This is where we first comment on something that we prefer and is good. Second, we mention on the constructive criticism. Then thirdly we end with a good comment on what we enjoyed.
This approach does put critiquing in a suggestive comment approach and not the, ‘It’s alright.” club.

What is your Story About?

Well, what is your story really about?
This is a question you need to ask yourself all the time when you type one word with another on its way to the last one. I’m not discussing the unique notion idea you pitch at parties where you say your novel is about a woman, from wherever, who does this, and that occurs when she’s not entirely paying attention. It’s about what your story is about on a theme level. What does it mean to you personally? What are you telling about the world with your fiction? What in the hell is it really about?
It’s that secret hard-drive, concealed deep in the sub-conscious that urges you to get up too early and stay up late hammering out the words at the laptop or computer. Some of us write due to anger, and some of us write because of our sadness.

The only way to establish what it is you are writing is to sit in that oh so familiar position of a pen in hand and write down a list:
Ten things that make you upset,
Ten things that make you sad…

Short Story Review

My Short Story –Newton’s Second Damn Law in Short Fiction Break – 8th Nov. 2017 was reviewed and here is the feedback:

You nailed the countdown theme with this one. I really like the self-aware humor, like “my face was experiencing a strange reorganisation by the wind.” The tension really ramps up when the parachute fails to come out.

The technical terms are interesting, but to be honest, something which the reader will probably skim over. It’s hard to know what those values mean, but if you can put the speeds in context (say, x times the speed of a cheetah, for example), it makes it more relatable to the reader.

Also, reading this felt somewhat more like reading someone’s journal than reading a story. It has the countdown theme, it has a climactic occurrence, but there is no decision on the part of the main character, no choice he has to make to reach the climax. It all seems to happen to him, in a way. If, for instance, something had happened to the instructor and he was left in charge of pulling the parachute, this would force the character to act, which is what makes for a strong story.

You have a lovely writing style, and I hope you keep writing!

*****

This is a well-written story, with all the factual elements added giving it more sense of realism. As the MC prepares to jump, then does so, the protagonist’s doubts and fears are well-shown. The views and experience of free-falling also described well the situation.

What I think lacked for me is perhaps a sense of danger in the story. There is no indication until the end that something could go wrong. Perhaps if a hint was given early in the story, I would be mentalized that this wonderful experience could go terribly wrong.

While the technical information gave the story credibility, I think it might have been better to keep it to a minimum, and use the available word count to emphasize more the potential dangers.

The ending did indeed almost end in tragedy, but there wasn’t too much sense that the protagonist’s life was in danger, or great panic from him.

By enhancing that sense of urgency or panic, a good story can be so much better. Good luck