Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Tea Anyone? A Maass Illumination

I'm currently in revision hell and whenever I come up for air, I try to read a chapter in my WRITING THE BREAKOUT NOVEL book, by DONALD MAASS. Yesterday I plowed through his chapter about plotting the contemporary novel. I'm guilty of committing a lot of the mistakes he writes about: car drives, eating in restaurants, introspection, the too long sequel to the scene. I usually weed out the worst of my writing offenses with each pass through of my WIPS and this current POS is undergoing a similar surgery. But oh man, is it tough!!

*confession: I wrote in the last pages of my GH entry where I knew no one would read the words the following nonsense:

And then they went for a really long car drive to go and eat at a restaurant because my characters get hungry and do things like eating, driving and taking breaks from the action. 

*confession: I needed to reach my word count and I knew I'd cut this almost immediately after I sent of the drek... and it is drek... no doubt about it.

Maass gives a lot of wonderful insight into the writing industry and about how writers need to elevate their writing to the next level. Obviously, if the scene is only a "driving" scene to get the character to and from work, then by all means slash it out. If it's integral to a chase scene and the car careens over a cliff, keep it. The action is great.

Apparently eating isn't all that well received either. Nor is drinking tea... another Maass Illumination:

Certain types of scenes are so reliably low in tension that when reading a manuscript, I count them in my notes with hatch marks ... mulling things over while driving from one place to another, relaxing in the shower, fixing a cup of tea or coffee. Category Romance writers are especially prone to these time wasters. When they complain to me ... that they cannot seem to break "out of category," it is a pretty good bet that their heroines are tea addicts."

My friend, Ellen, in Ireland who keeps a nice blog about writing might laugh at the tea addiction comment. I did. But I also paused because my heroines don't really guzzle a lot of tea. They enjoy the following: chardonnay, cabernet, champagne along with a nice helping of Brie cheese, gourmet crackers and fruit.

Dear Lord! My heroines are lushes! They don't go to restaurants. Mine are hanging out in bars, swank gourmet bistros and at wineries. Oh dear. Now they don't get drunk (tipsy for humorous moments), but they do prefer wine over tea.

Confession: I enjoy drinking the aforementioned alcoholic beverages and have been known to tipple back a martini or two as well.

To combat my heroines' affection for wine and champagne, I often make them very health conscious in other ways. They go to the gym, they jog and they eat very healthy food. My girls do not eat deep fried food unless forced to and they drink the requisite 8 bottles of water per day.

So basically, my heroines are healthy lushes.

Confession: I enjoy hitting the gym, working out with weights, power walking and Wii Sports EA. And I drink at least 8, 8oz glasses of water per day.

My revision work today consisted of doing the following:

*cutting out driving to and from work (aack)
*eliminating my hero's breakfast gourmet java
*no jog for my heroine today
*mulling over things that happened

I did not cut out the scene where my heroine and her BF snuck out to the radio station's engineering room with leftover Rose wine, brie cheese and leftover Valentine's chocolates for their secret meeting.

After all, a girl's got to have her vices.


Anonymous said...

I do cherish my cut file. *grin*

I love that little clip you put in to "fill space". I do little one liners, like, "Insert x scene here" just to keep myself on track. But I like your approach... word filler... hhhmmmm... lol.

KarenG said...

How did i miss these last few posts of yours? I love this one, the tea-drinking, the driving, ummm sounds familiar! I've seen the Maas book but never read it. I'm adding it to my list, and I'm adding you to my blogroll so I don't miss any of your good stuff.

M.V.Freeman said...

What, no Tea?! Sacriligious.
I suppose he has a point but it's hard to let it go.

I have one character who is partial to vodka and cigars. Hmmm.

Very thought provoking! And keep up the great work. :-)

Ellen B said...

You know me too well, Christine, I did burst out laughing at that tea comment :D

My characters are always drinking tea while they have important conversations. I was re-reading some scenes earlier today and a lot of the tea-drinking will have to go. I even had my MC run out of tea at one point (it was World War Two, or as we euphemistically called it in Ireland, 'The Emergency', so tea was rationed).

So tea was practically a character in the segment I read this morning, and then I read this post :D

Houston A.W. Knight said...

Hey Sweetie!

I enjoyed the article today! Cute you made me laugh!


Christine said...

Martha, I save EVERYTHING. I put the cuts into "cut scene files." And you know what? During one of the final revisions of my third MS, I farmed a lot of the FIRST draft to round it out. One never knows!

I use XXX insert *something* here a lot in my first and second drafts. Mostly research as I am allergic to it.

Christine said...

KarenG: Thanks for your kind words. The Maass book is excellent. I have the workbook as well. I'm going to use it for the next run through (after I cut out all the driving and jogging LOL).

Christine said...

MV: you know you can have tea--and the vodka is highly necessary.

Christine said...

Ellen: I figured tea would be a huge component of your writing -- even your blog title reflects the use of tea :).

I love the "emergency" bit. But if tea is integral to the people in the story, why can't it be a character?

And people do eat, drink, bathe. I had one writer (published) say you can make that part of a transition scene. You know something like: after she ate a bagel, she showered and quickly dressed.

I mean like, are these people supposed to run around hungry and nude? *grin*

Christine said...

Houston! It's great to hear from you. I"ll have to pop over and read the latest!!

Glad I gave you a giggle. I needed one myself.

Gwen Hernandez said...

Loved your "confessions"!

I have several tea or coffee drinking situations, and a couple of car driving ones as well, but they're not the main content, only the background.

I haven't reached the cutting portion of Maass' book yet, but I did add some good stuff yesterday.
That is, it looked good yesterday, anyway. ;-)

Christine said...

Gwen: I dread looking at the "cut" section of the workbook -- I'm only going through the book itself and that's painful enough LOL.

But he's got some brilliant insights and I plan to incorporate many of them. The thing is, there's a reason we have tea and so forth in our romances. A pause for a break is good for our hero/heroines--makes them feel accessible.

I tell myself that and then I imagine Maass with his HATCHES .... aack.... I may evaluate my ENTIRE MS that way--with hatch marks to count the mundane scenes.