Thank you, beta readers

It’s done. Novel #9 sent to my editor. More than any other novel I’ve written, the writing of this one has made me understand the true purpose of beta readers.

Writers have blind spots. Or possibly soft spots. Maybe I get a little to sentimental at times and think a few chapters can get by with charisma without conflict. Whatever the case, I had two beta readers for my novel Moses the Singer who essentially said the same thing: the conflict of the story became less apparent about two-thirds through.

I’ll be honest. When the first one said it, I kind of brushed it off as different people have different perspectives. But when suddenly different people have the same perspectives, it made me take note. And they were right.

I found the problem. A story strand which I had left on the table. It turned out to be a crucial turning point in the life of the protagonist. In the first draft, he kind of floated through a few chapters without motivation. Well, not any more.

The re-worked manuscript adds about 6000 words and two brand-new chapters. And conflict? Oh yeah. Big time. It’s the type of big moment which pushes the story forward and which helps to define a character’s actions. It was big, and I missed it.

So, once again, thanks beta readers.

Moses the Singer now clocks in at about 90,000 words. It scheduled for a summer release. I already have the cover and will be revealing it soon.

Here’s the first published description of the book. Much more to come:

Moses the Singer: A man without a country lives a disenfranchised life on the beautiful island of Penang, Malaysia. A group of teenage musicians witness the old man being taken advantage of by a local resident. What happens next is a whole lot of sweet harmony.

Draft Done: Now Can I Hold It Together?

I’ve just finished the first draft of the first, full-length play I’ve written without collaboration in about 4-5 years. The title of the play is “The Secrets of the Magic Pool.” It’s an allegorical tale of good and evil – somewhat inspired by Sondheim’s “Into the Woods.” Well, for the sake of clarity, I was watching “Into the Woods” in the cinema when the idea for a play came upon me. The story is not in anyway related to “Into the Woods,” but stylistically and setting, the story would feel somewhat at home in the Sondheim landscape – minus the music – mine is a stage play. (Though I think it would be fun to turn it into a musical.)

Anyways, the first draft is finished. My overall feeling toward this play is at the moment somewhat underwhelming. It has potential, but has not remotely reached it yet. Honestly, the ending is rushed and uneven at this point. I pushed myself hard yesterday just to get a completed draft, knowing that it would have large gaping holes in it. But for me, getting the story completely fleshed out is important. It gives me the overall structure which will enable me to work on the nuts and bolts.

Here’s how I plan to attack it:

First, do a complete read-through from A-Z and fix glaring mistakes in plot and character.

Second, once that is complete, I going to do a second read-through, looking specifically at language, vocabulary, and word-flow.

Third, I will read-through again, re-evaluating plot and character issues, and doing any major re-writes which need to happen. I also will make sure all scenes are necessary and that the pace of the play meets the demands of the purpose of the play. Dullness not allowed.

Once I reach this point, I will start to polish, further smoothing the dialogue until it really flows. I’ll read it out loud to make sure it sounds good, and that I can imagine the movement on the stage. Will it be interesting and engaging?

Finally, I’ll get some feedback from people I trust to give me unbiased advice about the manuscript.

Then, final edit, formatting, and (if I’m happy with it) publication.

I want this all complete by December so I can order copies for auditions and production starting in January 2016.

Almost there!

This one deserves the seven-day treatment

Do you ever have an unruly manuscript which simply would not do what you want it to?

I’m in the middle of such a dilemma as I write.

Let me clarify something: this is quite rare for me. For better or worse, my scripts or novels or whatever I’m writing seem to just write themselves. I know where I’m going with them, and I simply need to have time to get it down on paper. Sometimes I just become satisfied with my work and know that it’s finished. It almost seems like I have a lackadaisical attitude toward my work, like “good enough” is good enough. I’m not so cavalier about it. I just find that my brain tells me that it is over. Perhaps it’s all I have or all that I’m willing to give to a project. I’m just done.

And then there’s this certain script which I’m currently working on. “The Family Homecoming.” It’s only about 3000 words – about a 15 minute short play. But, man, it’s been kicking my butt! I have been struggling daily with it because my heart hasn’t been settled concerning it. It just doesn’t feel right. I’m not happy, content, or ready to quit. I am, in fact, angry at it for not following my will and jumping into shape.

It’s “due” in seven days. I have to give it to my drama group at that time, so I need to give it the seven-day treatment.

The seven-day treatment is simple: commit to read and revise it every day from now until it’s due to see what I can shake from its tree. I will not rest until my writing soul tells me that enough is enough. So I will read, edit, create, re-do, re-write, re-format, re-conceptualize until the seven days are up.

Perhaps I still won’t be happy with the piece, but at least I will have given it the time and dedication it needs.

Some writing is more frustrating than others. If it is, give it the seven-day treatment.

Do you have a piece of writing which needs it?