Oddly enough, A.F. and I realized the other day that we don't talk a lot about writing in the Wonderland treehouse. Odd, because we both are published authors, odder still, because we started this blog for our writing group, with the idea that we'd talk about the books we were reading in YA, and what we were working with in our personal writing. So, I've decided to write a bit about writing - not in the And Now I Shall Give You Advice sort of way that a lot of published authors seem comfortable with, but more in a pedestrian, this-is-what-we've-encountered sort of way. Hope you find it helpful or provoking of thought for your own writing or teaching of writing.
You love Harry Potter, but you kind of have ISSUES with how the last few books went. They were thicker, sure, but that didn't mean that there was just more story to love. In some ways, there was just more... stuff. You merely have to say "Harry Potter and the Long Camping Trip" and certain people in my writing group crack up. It's not that we think we're More Awesomer Fabulouso writers than JK Rowling, but we simply had front seats to a thing we don't yet understand -- kind of the same thing, in adult fiction parlance, which happened to Charlaine Harris when her vampire novels made the leap to HBO's Trueblood -- Fame = a severe loss of editing. As with the vampire series, a lot of readers felt like the carefully constructed and well-loved fictional community Rowling created turned chaotic, after her books took off.
We can't imagine it happening to us -- mainly because none of us envision being the next JK. But thinking about it, there have to be some books which have become hugely famous which have retained their integrity even so. The Percy Jackson novels (never mind the film) remained constant. The Twilight books arguably retained their same quality pre-and-post movie. (And you may take that exactly as you will.) Clearly it IS possible... but the trick to still writing well years from now when fame takes you is to learn to really do your work well now.
Review, revamp, revisit, reconstruct, revive, revise -- there's a lot you can do with a second look at a piece of work. The thing I'm seeing right now as I advise people as they rewrite is to see to the emotional continuity of their story. Eventually we all figure out that stories need a beginning, middle, and end, but character emotions, too, have to go through the same progression to make them believable. Emotions change and evolve in changes, and it helps out a great deal if the character's emotional motivation changes and evolves along with the storyline. What does your character want? Do they want that same thing, all the way through the story? Did you remember that they wanted anything? It's sometimes really hard to remember to keep that focus!
Our writing group talks a lot about how to avoid things -- and it's nice to know that someone else's head is in the same space, albeit usually from the film perspective. This week The Meddler, aka screenwriter Matt Bird, is revising the Potter books. And so far he's cutting, cutting, cutting, to make the narrative flow tighter, and the pacing of the action faster.
Also, a fun one on writing this week is at Yat Yee's blog - with a minor spoiler alert on Kung Fu Panda II, she explores how to create a story with such charm and verve that readers can overlook any flaws she might leave. A good question.
Happy Writing Week.