Amanda Kenney's Notebook This is where my creations and I hang out.

Happy Birthday

August 16

Happy birthday to me!  I’m officially eighteen.  And August is the anniversary of my current manuscript, Season of Betrayal.  Happy fourth birthday, book!

Shut Up To Speak

July 21

Narration is a delicate balance of telling the story and letting the story tell itself.  Whenever possible, let the story speak for itself.  If what your character is thinking, feeling, or saying is not clear enough, you’re doing it wrong.  If it is, then you are just being redundant.  Let the characters say what they mean and mean what they say without you having to interrupt and explain it to the reader.  This is hard work, and where the real skill of the writer is revealed.  (Or the perseverance, which is often the same thing.)  You’ll say so much more if you shut up.

Once Upon A Time…

April 25

It goes without saying that the beginning of your book is the most important part as far as catching the attention of the reader is concerned.  Different writers have different styles and methods, and some genres are just better suited for a particular opening than others are.  For instance, a fantasy fairy-tale might do well with the classic ‘once upon a time…’, but that probably wouldn’t fit as well for a sci-fi novel.  However you decide to open your story, the beginning should be original, compelling, and establish a firm foundation for the rest of the story to build on.  Believe me, I’m learning the hard way that you’ve got to set up the world from the get-go or the whole structure of the story is going to suffer.

However, on that note, it’s important not to fall into the dangerous extreme: telling-not-showing, also known as info-dumping.  Basically, instead of cleverly inserting information through dialogue and short, simple descriptions, the writer comes right out and bluntly dumps all the information into the reader’s lap in large chunks.  This is just clumsy and awkward, and suddenly inserts the author’s voice into the story, turning it from something that is happening into a story that is being told; from real to made-up.  A writer should weave characters, plot, theme, setting, narrative, dialogue, description, and action together seamlessly and skillfully.

And that’s not just my opinion, but the opinion of most, if not all, publishing companies.  I currently have an internship with a publishing company evaluating submissions and determining whether or not they’re ready to be accepted.  If there’s one thing publishing companies will not forgive or overlook, it’s telling-not-showing.  The publishing company I work for rejects outright any manuscript that has too much telling.  So to appeal to readers and publishing companies alike, set your book on the right track by showing and not telling.

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Happy Easter!

April 20

“On the third day the friends of Christ coming at day-break to the place found the grave empty and the stone rolled away.  In varying ways they realized the new wonder; but even they hardly realized that the world had died in the night.  What they were looking at was the first day of a new creation, with a new heaven and a new earth; and in a semblance of the gardener God walked again in the garden, in the cool not of the evening but the dawn.”  ~G.K. Chesterton, ‘The Everlasting Man’

Enjoy your Easter!

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April 3 (Thursday)

April 3

Well, I realized that it was April and I hadn’t being keeping you guys up-to-date at all.  And April is special because I’m doing Camp NaNoWriMo!!  You remember in November I wrote 50,000 words in 15 days?  This is like that, only different.  Instead of 50,000 words, you get to set your own word goal.  I decided on 25,000- nice and easy.  And it has been great so far; writing a thousand words a day is really easy.  So I’m writing yet another sequel that’s totally different from the other one I write back in November, although it’s supposed to be happening during the same time period.  Hopefully this version will more exciting than the other one.  There’s just one little problem.

I don’t like it.  Now, I know that NaNo is all about quantity and not quality, and that’s what the editing months are for, but, honestly, it’s painful.  Only two days into it and I am dissatisfied with the measly two chapters I’ve written.  The characters aren’t being themselves (a problem I encountered last time and eventually defeated) and I think perhaps my world isn’t developed enough (I only designed it two days in advance- not enough time).

Last night I fell into my little writer’s Pit of Despair and wondered if I’d ever be happy with any sequel- I’ve written about three different versions now and don’t really like any of them.  So now I’m wondering if I should just press forward and hope it gets better, or abandon it now and try an entirely new idea.  I’ve got until this afternoon to decide.  Either way, I’m writing a thousand words today.  It’s just a question of what.

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March 14 (Friday)

March 14

I realized I hadn’t posted in awhile, and since I have all these thoughts swirling around in my head I’d like to share, I reckon now’s a good a time as any.

What?  No, of course I’m not just procrastinating!  Why would you think that?

Yeah…anyway… I did a totally fresh rewrite on chapters thirteen and fourteen, and now I’m working on chapter fifteen, which is even more totally fresh.  Dad was really pleased with chapter thirteen, and I hope the rest of this revision comes out as successfully.  Interestingly, it looks as though chapter fifteen is going to have to be split into two separate chapters (it’s already twenty pages long), which means I’ll have to join two other chapters together in order to maintain a total of seventy-seven chapters.  See, by decree of my evil twin, the final draft of the book has to have exactly seventy-seven chapters, not including prologue and epilogue.  (It’s a crazy writer thing; don’t try to understand it.  Or is it just a crazy Amanda thing?  Same difference, I guess.)

Fortunately, I think I’ll be in need of an extra chapter, because I’m anticipating some reduction in the climax.  Certain events need to be merged together, resulting in fewer chapters; some secondary plot lines are going to be dropped, resulting in some chapters becoming null and void altogether.  Of course, the ending is morphing all the time, so how can I really know one way or the other?

Speaking of which, I’ve tried to rewrite the last chapter a couple of times, but I couldn’t really finish it because I needed a special design for a medallion and I just couldn’t come up with one.  The design had to reflect the characters and somehow be meaningful for the whole story.  Then, just this last Tuesday, something about the warm weather inspired me and spawned a whole new plot device.  I invented a national holiday called Helm Hyelt, closely related to the main character, came up with a symbol for it, and- ta-dah!  Gap filled!  It may morph yet, but for now I’m satisfied.

And now, back to chapter fifteen.

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March 4 (Tuesday)

March 4

I think I’ve posted once or twice about how much trouble I’ve been having with my attempts at editing recently.  I’ll work on a chapter for most of the day and not get halfway through, and what I do get done is not to my satisfaction.  Well, yesterday I devoted the morning to some serious schoolwork and getting other important, mostly school-related stuff done.  I had lunch and then beat the heck (or the dust) out of the stairs and dining room rug with the vacuum.  Then I went to my room and spent several hours reorganizing my closet.  When that was finally done, my back was quite sore, I was tired, and felt very satisfied.  I was also rather dirty, so I took a nice, hot shower.  I watched an episode of my favorite TV show and then had a relaxing dinner with my family.

Notice none of this is writing.  All day, the only book-related thing I did was sort through my maps while cleaning the closet.  (I also found some drawings that will probably find their way into the story, but that’s a post for another time.)  So after dinner, I went upstairs to my desk, sat myself down, and started to work on a chapter that needed considerable revision.  I had three hours max before bedtime.  And I got it done in that time, quite satisfactorily, I might add.  I didn’t get distracted; I didn’t get frustrated; I didn’t feel overwhelmed.  I was focused, at ease, and inspired.

I basically did the same thing today.  And you know something?  It worked.

March 1 (Saturday)

March 1

I’m not sure what I’m here to write about.  Maybe I’m just here to procrastinate from my editing work.  It’s not going so well.  I’m just too undecided about certain things, most especially about the significance of some characters.  I want them to be important, but I just might not be able to fit them into the story.  And if not, then they need to be more or less erased.  I’m nervous to make so many changes, since a decision either way will cause rippling effects throughout the whole story.  But that is what editing is, after all: making decisions that change the book.  I guess I’d better get back to it.

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Valentine’s Day Fun

February 14

In honor of Valentine’s Day, I’ve decided to post a writing prompt.

In Jane Austen’s Emma, Robert Martin writes a marriage proposal to Harriet Smith, Emma’s best minion.  We never get to read the letter itself, but meddling main character Emma critiques it and informs us that it is very well-written: romantic but practical, direct but respectful, and short but powerful- though of course she disapproves.

So, if you’re not too busy eating chocolate, now it’s your turn.  Have one of your characters write a proposal to another character.  Have a dozen different couple combinations!  Have the antagonist propose to the protagonist!  You can have the letter be romantic, funny, sarcastic, innocent, hateful, or totally indifferent.  Most importantly, post the results back to me!

Also, my characters’ love song is Hoobstank’s ‘The Reason’; what’s your characters’ song?  If they don’t have one, find one!

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February 9 (Sunday)

February 9

Hello there!  Sorry I’ve been gone so long.  But that’s what I’m here to talk about!  For some reason, right in the middle of a big rewrite for Season of Betrayal, I decided to also revise its sequel.  Well, what happened was I promised the NaNoWriMo people I’d spend January and February editing, since it’s a traditional part of the winners’ program.  Point is, I committed to editing the darn thing when I knew I was going to be rewriting my Magnum Opus.  Not the smartest thing I’ve ever done.

Thanks to my dad’s advice, exciting new horizons are appearing for Season of Betrayal.  There was a time not so long ago when I would have sworn that I was done with major changes, but -surprise surprise- I’ve already rewoven important plot points, and there is still so much more to be done.  Characters are changing and timelines morphing.  I hope I will be satisfied with the result.

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