Sunday, September 16, 2007

Excerpt, and a new rendering.

Today was one of my ten days off for this month, so I did very little revising/writing. Most of my spare time was spent working on a new rendering, this one depicting the factory from the opening chapters of ALDEN RIDGE, as it sits on the river. I've posted a full-height version below, as well as a version that has been cropped to be easily displayed on standard computer monitor dimensions.

Additionally, I've finally gotten around to posting my new excerpt from ALDEN RIDGE. You can read that here. This excerpt only contains one chapter, but the amount of content is just about the same as the two chapters that comprised my (most recent) old version. The new version of chapter one largely takes place just before where the old chapter one started, so most of it is all-new, but it catches up to the content of the old chapter one in the last two or three pages (out of what is a total of twelve and a half standard pages).

In general, I think that this new version is much better written, and contains a lot more to grab the reader's interest. It's written as dark fantasy now, remember, and so no longer exhibits the terseness or extreme pacing of a thriller. And yes, this is written in omniscient third -- please don't complain to me about that. I'm mostly posting this so that this website showcases my best work; I'm really not looking for feedback on this content at this time. I wrote it too recently to be able to make good use out of any good constructive criticism just yet.


Anonymous said...

You may never see this because this post is old, but I found your blog after following a link for your novel language checker, and found the excerpt for your book.

I also like to write and am working on a novel. After reading your first chapter I thought I should offer some feedback because good feedback (or in my case, hopefully good feedback) is hard to come by. I hope this is useful to you. If not, please disregard it.

You seem to use the word 'had' quite often. I have this problem too, and have to constantly check miself. The extra little words add up.

For example, "Lela had frozen at the sound of splintering wood." can be modified to say "Lela froze at the sound of splintering wood." which has a smoother flow.

This is to some extent up to the author's preference, but when writing an action scene, or a tense moment between characters, the use of short, punchy sentences really helps. You tend to use long sentences with lots of -ly adjectives. If you use more than one -ly in a sentence or 2-3 in a paragraph, you should probably remove some of them. They tend to slow a reader down. Short sentences with simple language draw the reader in and create a sense of urgency, helping them to identify with the characters. Don't have them think too much during the action scenes, wait until they get some down time.

Your story definitely has potential, zombies always make for good reading. Good luck to you!

Christopher M. Park said...

Hi Anon,

Thanks for stopping by my blog. Hope you find my manuscript analyzer tool to be helpful. Thanks also for the thoughts on my sample chapter -- the version on the website is slightly outdated, mostly for small tweaks like you bring up.

A couple of notes:

-"Had" in most usages is indicative of past perfect tense (versus the normal past imperfect), which I was using to indicate a shift farther back in time in those cases you pointed out. Through Chris Roerden's book Don't Murder Your Mystery, I've learned how to do those subtle time shifts more effectively, and only use the perfect tense for a sentence or two before shifting back to regular past imperfect. Like you, Roerden points out that using "had" too often can make for awkward construction. Good catch.

As to my use of adverbs (the -ly words), I definitely had too many of those in my earlier drafts. That's something I'm working on, and in fact part of why I wrote the manuscript analyzer tool in the first place.

I'll have to do a further revision of the first chapter at some point farther down the line to look at pacing, but in general I only go for the shorter, choppier sentences when there is action AND emotional tension. Since it is hard to be too emotionally invested in characters you are just meeting, to me the device seems artificial in opening pages, which is why I don't use that there. I may change my stance on that later, but the effect was a deliberate one.

You might be surprised (I was) to find that the advice of is professional editors usually counter to the "don't have them think too much during the action scenes" sentiment. I wrote my earlier drafts using exactly that technique, and wound up with a novel with blistering pace and two serious other problems: too little description, and too much distance from my characters.

You didn't mention the description, but I bring it up because it's related. The little bits of description throughout the action and dialogue helps keep the reader "grounded" in the scene (see Roerden again for this). Similarly, keeping the reactions of characters present in the moment helps keep readers in tune with what they are thinking, and decreases the distance between the reader and the characters.

Of course, there can always be a case of having too much exposition/thought in one place, and I've certainly been guilty of that in the past. I'll have to go back through in a future draft and watch for that.

Thanks for your thoughts!