Passageways: Breaking through to the other side by Janine Donoho

Snow gateWhile hiking in the snow today, a freestanding gate materialized from the mist. Not intended to protect livestock, this was another silly human attempt to restrict access. It clamored “mine, mine, mine” even as deer, coyote, and bobcat prints infringed on its periphery. My response? Gateways offer a way in—a transition between this side and the other. In other words, a call to adventure.Alhambra

EgyptWritten transitions elicit the same sense of excitement for me. No, I’m not talking about those boring, yet necessary, expressions that unify your opus via “and, whereas, because, yet, immediately…” Yawn. I’m more interested in the movement between one action and the next, which eventually develops as conflict, plot, and story arc. Those, I want to be dynamic, elegant, and somewhat imperceptible.

Now back to corporeal entryways. During international journeys, each culture’s approach to either invitation or deterrent fed my curiosity. Thus I’ve filled albums, both virtual and concrete, with photos of portals between one space and another. What insights I’ve gained animate my writing.Malaysian gate 17

Essaouira, MoroccoSo enjoy this visual of portals. May they rouse your inquisitiveness and make you want to explore what’s on the other side. Our efforts as storytellers aspire to invite readers in, after all, and travels to the other side can enrich that experience.GatesMoroccan doorCasablanca

The Strange Origami of Story Construction by Janine Donoho

What my Mistborn Chonicles look like when printedWhen it comes to storytelling, I view myself as a fusion pantser/plotter. There’s an inherent thrill with going where story takes me and once the first fold connects points 1 and 2, I’m hooked. Then inexplicable clusters, timelines, and abstracts recombine into more intricate patterns.

Still once I’ve developed basic folds and angles of characters, setting, scenes, and

Basic origami of what's to come

Basic origami of what’s to come

plot, I know it’s time to begin shaping the work toward a final vision. Central shapes pleat in macro and then micro gradients with affinity for movement toward or away from certain objectives. The permeability of each segment changes the structure. Visualize folds bisecting lines and angles at various degrees in progressively complex ways through cube doubling and angle trisection.

Complex origami foldsOne fold at a time, the next two Elementals have been forming into specific and recognizable shapes for years now. A few weeks ago, I pulled all accumulated files and references for the Earth Elemental before plunking them into a bag—my first clumsy origami of what’s to come.

Each story progresses through this cycle of fold, open, deconstruct, and reconstruct until it’s gone as far as I know how to take it. In that final stage it looks either like reams of stacked paper or a much less intriguing, yet substantial, electron file.

If I’m very lucky, it begins to look like this.Cover Collection 2

That (@*#^ Edit Cycle by Janine M. Donoho

A few editing books that help

A few editing books that help

Let’s start with a confession–of sorts. My greatest joy in writing comes with the hot, fast gallop of first drafts. By then the story’s bones and sinews have developed enough so that each session equates with a joyous fleshing out of details. During this phase I can’t wait to leap from bed each morning–and hit the pillow enthralled by story each night.

Then looms the dragging, nagging edit. Some otherworldly creatures find this stage fun; I find it excruciating.

This is different than the macro-edit housekeeping accomplished while writing draft. Reviews of previous day’s work cover structure, plot, tone, pace, etc. I almost wrote ‘theme’, but that’s not always clear in the early stages. Along the way, I deepen conflict and sharpen reversals.

Worse yet, my après draft edits rarely clear the high jumps, much less the double ‘oxers‘, although I do fine over ditches and logs. What’s missing? Well, the heart pounding excitement’s gone, baby, gone. Only a plodding satisfaction remains. Which should be enough, right?

Self talk: “This isn’t my first rodeo. I’m disciplined and well-read. Both sides of my brain receive high quality nourishment and play well together. I can do this.”

Beyond the analysis of editing books, then applying what I learn, I’ve tried other ballyhooed remedies to make this work. The manuscript, hereinafter known as ‘mss’, rests like a freshly broasted chicken while I work on other projects. I do yoga–breathe–meditate–breathe–take long hikes–breathe. Then I go through the mss and ruthlessly scribble editing and proofreading marks learned in the aforementioned tomes. At that point I return to my computer and make these changes.

Then it’s time to surrender fully to the left brain for reviewing content, consistency in style, clarity and flow. I crawl ant-like over scenes for grammar, word usage and accuracy. Finally I read it aloud–or try. After a few pages, I realize I’ve gone silent again–and again–and again.

Cactus prickly pearBy this time I find nothing to like about my story and would rather walk barefoot in a prickly pear patch than read through it once more. My aversion signals the next stage. The mss goes to one or two first readers–published authors with whom I trade this boon.

They always find misspellings and points of unintended confusion. Yes, actual gnashing of teeth and clenched jaws transpire. How did I miss these obvious errors?

So I put on my big girl panties and fix them. The story’s deemed the best that it can be. It’s released into the world.

Then I swear, a few days, weeks or months later? A misspelling here, verb confusion there, dropped words, a formatting error that slipped beneath the motion-activated fence. Dissatisfaction plagues me. For what good is editing if it fails to make your story the best that it can be?

So next time I complete a new project, I’m considering a professional editor–one worthy of manna, dark chocolate, and ambrosia drenched in morning dew from hummingbird wings. Oh, and one who won’t break my fragile piggy-bank.Editing

Soundings, Water Elemental

LaunchFebruary 27th, 2015
The big day is here.

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