My attempt at a skating novel

Discussion in 'The Trash Can' started by TanithandBenFan, Jun 9, 2010.

  1. TanithandBenFan

    TanithandBenFan U.S. Ice Dance Junkie

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    Shamelessly self-promoting here. :) I've had this idea for many years and was encouraged to finally put it on paper. I've been working on it for awhile but have only recently worked up the nerve to post it publicly on a site where writers review each other's work. I thought maybe some people here would get a kick out of it. A couple of the early chapters are a little rough, but I'm hoping it gets more polished as it goes along. All characters are fictional. Here's the link:

    Life On the Edge
     
    Simone411, LynnW, hanca and 3 others like this.
  2. MikiAndoFan#1

    MikiAndoFan#1 Well-Known Member

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    Thank you for sharing!

    :cheer2:
     
  3. Wyliefan

    Wyliefan Well-Known Member

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    Good for you! :) Looks like the start of something good.

    If I may make a suggestion -- try pruning out some of the background detail and focusing on narrative. You want to grab and hold attention with a really strong narrative in the opening chapter. The background stuff can be woven in more subtly as you go along.
     
  4. TanithandBenFan

    TanithandBenFan U.S. Ice Dance Junkie

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    Thanks for the suggestion! The first chapter has been in a constant state of re-work and I appreciate any feedback I can get. :)
     
  5. danceronice

    danceronice Corgi Wrangler

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    Agree with Wyliefan--that's a HUGE exposition dump at the start. You might want to think about things like introducing characters with dialog--instead of the narrator yakking for a page about her backstory, have her talking to Sergei and her partner and slip the backstory in.

    Also, "said" is not a dirty word. Try not to use too many other dialog tags ("exclaimed", "called", "offered", "cried", etc.) They lose effectiveness really fast. There is no prize for most variation on 'said.'
     
  6. PDilemma

    PDilemma Well-Known Member

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    That would be my suggestion as well. Lots of exposition at the beginning turns readers off. Start with the story--start with that standing ovation at the end of the free skate that your character remembers in the beginning. Pull readers in by letting them see that moment. Number one writing rule: SHOW the readers instead of telling them.
     
  7. Blue Bead

    Blue Bead New Member

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    I have to agree with Wyliefan, get rid of all the info dump stuff in the first several chapters; you can work that kind of thing in later, piece meal. Secondly, there's not much in your novel, so far, to pull the reader into whatever the story is. I found myself skipping over a lot of it (just skimming through chapters---not good :p ) while looking for something to hook my attention and give me a reason to continue reading.

    Writing from a first person point of view is tough no matter how you approach it and I think that's one of the problems with this story. It reads more like a diary entry than a novel, per se, not that there's anything wrong with writing it that way, lol. It's just when you call it a "novel" you expect the chapters to be set up and flow like a novel. This doesn't.
     
  8. GarrAarghHrumph

    GarrAarghHrumph I can kill you with my brain

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    My biggest recommendation is to keep writing, and to continue to be willing to listen to constructive feedback. All writers start somewhere. Keep writing! Your next story will be better. The one after that, better. Your 100th, better.

    My recommendation: show, don't tell. Don't tell what happened - show us. On page 1 of your story, you have the main character give tons of backstory as part of a daydream. Cut all of that. If it's important, work it into the story in another way.

    IMO, one of the most important parts of the story is the beginning. It has to grab the reader. And each scene should add real value to the story, or else it should be cut. The scene should drive the story forward. So think about your dinner scene on page 1 - what is that adding to the story? If it's not driving the story forward, cut it.

    Below is something from Dean Wesley Smith, an editor and successful writer, which really has helped me as I've developed my own fiction writing. I paraphrase and quote it here because to my knowledge, it no longer exists online, so I can't link.

    I'm only including the hints that apply to this topic, so yes, there are gaps between "hints". That's me editing out stuff that doesn't apply to this topic.

    -----

    Hint #9: "....and....ACTION!"
    Unlike many of the episodes on television, short stories need to start with the character in some sort of problem. It doesn't have to be the main problem of the story, but the character must be doing something. Don't open a story with the crew just sitting around. Some famous writer once said "Open in the middle of the gunfight and then don't tell the reader where you are." (Can't remember who said that, but sometimes that works. <g>) Better than characters talking about their routine day. <g>


    Hint #11: No Said Bookisms!
    A "said-bookism" is when an author uses another word instead of the word "said." For example:

    "This dust always gets me, "he sneezed
    or
    "I really am alone," he soliloquized.

    After about three or four of these in a manuscript, I start laughing and forget about the story, and that is not a good thing to have an editor do. Just use the word "said."

    [Garr inserting something here - readers tend to gloss over the word "said", so don't worry about using it a lot. It's transparent to the reader. However, if you start using other things instead of "said", you end up calling attention to those words rather than to your story - and that is not what you want to do. So stick with the basics, "said", "asked", etc.]


    Hint #14: No talking heads in the opening of stories.
    Okay, "talking heads" is when the writer just starts off with dialogue and nothing more. In essence, just two heads in a white space, talking.
    Example of opening this way:

    "Hi, Jim," Pete said.
    Hi, Pete," Jim said.
    "Too bad about that game last night," Pete said.
    "Yeah, too bad," Jim said.

    And so on and so on. Where are these guys? What do they look like? What are they talking about and why should the reader care? All of those questions have to be answered in the opening of the story before the reader can handle that exchange above. Best rule of thumb: Put all five senses on the first page, seen from one character's point of view. Hard to do, trust me. But at least then the reader (and the editor) would be grounded in your story. After the reader is grounded in location and problem of the story, then there can be all the talking a writer wants. And it wouldn't be talking heads.

    [Garr inserting something here - as an example, in your story, you mention that the action in scene 1 takes place in a specific arena. What if your reader has never been to that arena? Describe the scene. What does the character see, hear, even smell? The roar of the crowd? Sweat on her forehead? No need to go into pages and pages of detail, but set the scene from the POV of the character.]


    Hint #19: Proper use of Person and Tense
    Use third person, past tense, when writing a story.
    Okay, a few words here. Yes, first person stories work just fine, and half of the Captain's Table book I just turned in was first person. And yes, it is possible to write stories that work in present tense. So don't go quoting a billion examples at me. <g>
    However, doing stories right takes a bunch of skills, as is being pointed out in this topic. First person stories take even more skills, and first person, present tense stories are damn near impossible to pull off. And don't even talk to me about second person stories. So my suggestion, and this rule, is that you stick with third person, past tense, in stories until you've written a few hundred of them.


    Hint #21: Get inside your character's head.
    Climb inside your character's head right from the first line and stay in there, only seeing, hearing, tasting, feeling what they can feel. If you do this right, then your story will become real to the readers.
     
    Last edited: Jun 9, 2010
  9. TanithandBenFan

    TanithandBenFan U.S. Ice Dance Junkie

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    Thanks for all of the comments, especially yours, Garr. The information you provided is very helpful. I should've mentioned that the last time I wrote fiction was when I was thirteen, which was many moons ago. :p So, I'm pretty much winging it and trying to figure out what I'm doing as I go along.
     
  10. Wyliefan

    Wyliefan Well-Known Member

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    I hope we're not piling on you too much!
     
  11. TanithandBenFan

    TanithandBenFan U.S. Ice Dance Junkie

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    I appreciate the feedback! It gives me something to think about as I continue working. This is something I'm doing for fun (I'm not looking to get published), so I don't want to get too bogged down with it, but I do want to learn as much as I can. If anyone gets past the first chapter, there is a lot less narration after the first two chapters. It just took me a little while to get comfortable with dialogue.
     
  12. Wyliefan

    Wyliefan Well-Known Member

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    I'm just the opposite -- I LOVE writing dialogue and am fairly good at it, I think, but I'm subpar at most other elements. Especially bad at settings and atmosphere. I'd be quite happy writing a novel made up entirely of dialogue!

    But in the fiction department, I've only written fanfic. :) So I really do admire you for trying your hand at real fiction!
     
  13. hanca

    hanca Well-Known Member

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    Oh, come on, TanithandBenFan! You can't leave it at chapter 15. I need to know what happens next! :lol:
     
  14. TanithandBenFan

    TanithandBenFan U.S. Ice Dance Junkie

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    I'll have to pick your brain sometime then. :) At first I couldn't get the dialogue to sound natural, but I think I've gotten a little better at it.

    Whee! Someone made it to Ch. 15! :cheer2: Don't worry, I've already written 102 chapters (seriously :lol:) - it's just a matter of me doing some major editing and posting them on the site.
     
    Last edited: Jun 9, 2010
  15. ice dance

    ice dance Member

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    Noel Streatfield had a very distinctive way of writing dialogue - she rarely wrote "he said" or "she said". She would write an action, then write what the character said.
    For example:
    Jane came into the room.
    "Would you like a drink?"
    Sally looked up from her book.
    "Yes please."

    I personally find that style of writing makes it very easy to visualise what's happening. Don't know if that's any help to you though.
     
  16. essence_of_soy

    essence_of_soy Well-Known Member

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    Looking forward to reading your link.

    You've inspired me to revisit a novel I wrote 20 years ago. May have to change it b/c back then, there were still compulsory figures and the 6.0.
     
  17. Southpaw

    Southpaw Saint Smugpawski

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    No! Don't change it! Historical fiction rocks!
     
  18. BBI*CEO

    BBI*CEO New Member

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    Good Start TanithandBenFan, keep up your work! Lots of fabulous advice here already! Developing writing skills takes loads of practice and lots of support and suggestions! With all of us reading/writing types, we should start an FSU writing club! That way we can support each other with healthy constructive feedback...anyone interested?
     
  19. Blue Bead

    Blue Bead New Member

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    I, for one, would be interested in that. I'll bet there are others as well.
     
  20. jenniferlyon

    jenniferlyon Well-Known Member

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    An FSU writing club sounds fun. I've written plenty of skating fiction over the years, although I am working on a different novel now. Still, some names or little details from my old skating serial do pop up in the new book, as one of the supporting characters is a 40-year-old ex-skater who gave up the sport to become a high school teacher. In the mid-1980s, he trained at one of my fictional rinks with one of my fictional coaches.
     
  21. Marge_Simpson

    Marge_Simpson Well-Known Member

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    Have you read any Roddy Doyle? "The Commitments" "The Snapper" and "The Van" are all mainly dialogue and are all fantastic reads.
     
  22. VIETgrlTerifa

    VIETgrlTerifa Well-Known Member

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    When I write, I tend to have a lot of dialogue because I'm always visualizing it as either a play or film. When I first started, I tried to overcompensate but putting a lot of details in-between my dialogue-heavy scenes, but my tough editor friend told me something that many posters here have already told you. Show the reader, not tell.

    Keep it up because if you're like me, then you must find that actually following through with a writing project is incredibly rewarding no matter how frustrating the process could be.

    BTW, I can't seem to access your link.
     
  23. ~tapdancer~

    ~tapdancer~ Well-Known Member

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    Really great thread. It's always been hard to find good skating fiction and I love the suggestions on here for good writing. I'm reading your story, TABfan! 102 chapters?? Wow...guess I'll have a good long read for summer! I've only just gotten started with it, so far I agree with the suggestions, more show, not tell. Looking forward to seeing how you progress along with it! Thank you again for sharing with us.
     
  24. Simone411

    Simone411 aka IceSkate98

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    Good job. The creativity is there which attributes to building focus on the characters. I'm really impressed with your natural talent as a writer. I also agree with others here about more show, not tell. I'm a writer of poetry and it is an accomplishment if one can create a "painting" with their words. I definitely see that painting coming alive within you.

    Thank you for sharing and I'm looking forward to reading more of your chapters!
     
  25. TanithandBenFan

    TanithandBenFan U.S. Ice Dance Junkie

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    Thanks again for the continuing comments. I would love to read the skating fiction that others on here have written even if it is old school! :)
     
  26. BBI*CEO

    BBI*CEO New Member

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    TanithandBenFan, most importantly, as was said earlier, have fun doing the writing, envisioning actual scenes coming to life as well as making the editing changes. As a writer, I've learned that it's totally okay to step back from your work for a while because when you come back to it, you see it with fresh eyeballs. Often, when I do step back from my work (and I've been considering other approaches or reading good books on improving your writing - "The First Five Pages" by Noah Lukeman is excellent btw), not only can you see the micro-editing improvements you want to make, but even the macro- ones, such as changing the order of events and withholding certain information to add more intrigue.

    If there's enough interested members to start an FSU writing club, maybe we could appeal to Her Sharpness for a forum on the site...
     
  27. Matryeshka

    Matryeshka Well-Known Member

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    I can't get the link to work for me, TAB. It either times out or I get some error message, but I will give you some general advice from someone who writes stories for fun and grades History and English papers:

    There's not an FSU writing club, but many of us participate in National Write A Novel In A Month in November, and we have our own group for that. Usually, the thread for it here starts appearing mid-to-late Octoberish.

    I'd suggest, TABfan, that you put your novel up there and participate in it. You can join groups in your area and get face-to-face feedback with other writers, should you choose to do so. It will also give you not necessarily more honest feedback, but a point of view from a wider audience. Some Barnes & Noble stores have writers' groups where you can get critiqued from people who aren't skating fans but are book fans.

    Edit. Cut, cut, cut, cut, edit, then edit your edits. Then cut, cut, cut, cut. You do not get paid by the word. They are not that precious. Be careful of using big words. You do not impress people if you say azure instead of blue. Keep it simple, especially at first. I have a big problem with this.

    Read everything you write outloud, especially dialogue. I don't care how many word processing softwares are invinted, you catch a lot more mistakes reading it out loud. If you lose your place, it doesn't make since, cut. CUUUUUTTTT. This is the most valuable advice I gave to my students. Yes, it looks funny. That's OK. What matters is if it sounds funny.
     
  28. TanithandBenFan

    TanithandBenFan U.S. Ice Dance Junkie

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    Thanks for the tips, Matry! The site is always down on Saturday nights for maintenance, I suppose. I almost completely rewrote Chapter 1 and would love feedback if anyone wants to read it again:

    Life On the Edge-Chapter 1

    I'm currently working on rewriting Chapter 2. I've also posted Ch. 16-22 for anyone who was reading. :)
     
  29. Blue Bead

    Blue Bead New Member

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    As a clarification to what Matryeshka wrote, it's National Novel Writing Month, commonly referred to by many member writers as NaNoWriMo.
    http://www.nanowrimo.org/

    The site is open for posting from October through late August. Generally, it is closed for the month of September to reset the boards and prepare for the new writing challenge which officially starts on November 1st of each year;the site reopens for use on October 1st. You can access the forum, now, through the above link. Select "forum" at the top of the opening page and you're all set. There are tons of information there, now, from the 2009 season, and the boards are still open and in active use.
     
  30. D&Sfan4ever

    D&Sfan4ever Living in a Snark

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    Thx! I'm loving it so far.