Sunday, November 11, 2012

contrary to popular belief

Well, I made it to the World Fantasy Convention with roughly a 100k wordcount section of novel under my metaphorical arm (actually it was emailed a couple of days before. I met with my agent and we ate Chinese dumplings while discussing how I needed to restructure the entire first third of the historical storyline, and majorly intensify the modern-day storyline. The lack of a romance in the modern-day story is a problem (caused by the refusal of the two main modern characters to take a proper interest in each other). Another problem is that in a darned good scene, I knocked off the first minor villain in the 2d chapter. Villains should be saved for later, even if there are bigger villains waiting to take the stage.

Above, the Richmond Hill restaurant where we had really really good lamb dumplings and spicy green beans. Mmm.

So we hammered out a potential new sequence of events for the first part, hopefully allowing me to keep the best scenes, and we discussed various ways to bring storyline two up to speed. I made it clear that not only am I okay with criticism and hearing what doesn't work, but that I enjoy 'talking story', one of the joys of co-writing. So that was fun.
And I was given a couple of pieces of general advice for revision, both of which made me blink rather.

Now, dear readers, I don't know how much time you spend on writerly websites and discussion fora, or how many of the Folk Beliefs of the Hopeful Writer you personally subscribe to. For those who aren't familiar with the scene, let's say that there are many things you must never never do or not only will you never get an agent or publisher, but you will probably be blacklisted on the Secret Blacklist that Publishers and Agents secretly keep.

Such deadly sins include (among many others):
Opening a story with a dream or someone waking up.
Using adverbs:  any at all, not just the non-information-conveying ones like 'really', 'very', 'actually'. (For some reason, adverbial phrases don't come under this interdict).
Using any word other than 'said' to describe speech.
Telling rather than showing (made more difficult by the explainers not having a clear idea which is which).
Info-dumps (sometimes extended to mean any direct conveying of information to the reader).
Opening with dialogue.
Opening with the weather.
Using 'passive voice' (another poorly-understood term, sometimes extended to include past tense or adjectival phrases).

I'm leading up to something, you've doubtless guessed. Which is that the two pieces of advice I had were:
Use more telling, less showing.
Use more info-dumps.

But why? you ask.
Because telling improves pace. And since it turns out that Cost of Silver is a thriller, it needs a fast pace. So, cut back on description, intensify emotions, increase stakes and speed up the pace.

I'll post more about WFC and other excursions when I can. November is less overbooked than October was, but I am besieged by apples and Nanowrimo, so I make no guarantees.


Sharon Needles said...

Aw, come on! The Sleepy Teepee opens with Evan waking up in a panic to an unfamiliar room! It won't publish cuz of THAT???

batgirl said...

It depends. Do you use any adverbs?

Sharon Needles said...

"I can't remember," she replied hesitantly. I gues I'll have to review it *again*."

Terri-Lynne said...

More telling? More infodumps? Barbara, were that advice given to ANYONE but you, I'd go screaming for the hills.

Your agent knows you well enough to understand that you will do it RIGHT, both the telling and infodumpery. There are good kinds! But far too many writers have no idea of the difference.

batgirl said...

According to one of Zoe's posts on her blog, her editor _wanted_ her to begin her latest book with a dream and her heroine waking up from it.
So who knows?

batgirl said...

I think one of John's comments on Willow Knot was 'It's all rivets!' so clearly I'm a showaholic.

Terri-Lynne said...

B--there are no absolutes, that's for certain. A dream, eh? And only last week I read, "NEVER START A NOVEL WITH A DREAM SEQUENCE!"

Never must not mean what I think it means...

batgirl said...

It's probably worth noting that much of this absolutist advice comes from writers who have not sold their work. I'm not sure whether it's more like a bunch of 8 yr olds explaining to each other where babies come from, or a bunch of 16 yr olds telling each other urban legends.