Monday, December 1, 2008

Time to Fish?

...or Cut Bait?

As a participant in last year's ABNA contest, I recently received an invitation to join the second generation contest, with the entry date coming up fast at February 2nd. My first inclination was to get right to work on The Wayback Machine to whip in into shape for entry. But then, in working through the thread from last year's contestants that never left, I came across references to Authonomy. Being as how I'd just submitted my seventh draft of Mai Shangri-La to Createspace and basically decided that I was done with it except to let it sink or swim on its own merit, I decided to just have a look. Boy, did I get routed onto a alternative-destination siding!

In a nutshell, I joined up, posted four chapters from Mai Shangri-La, and waited for other authors to read my excerpts, give me a few "Attaboys" and then tell me to keep writing. Instead, I got several focussed, perceptive and mildly scathing, and most importantly, generally consistent critiques of the four chapters telling me, in different ways, that I was;

-neglecting the "story" at the expense of the "back story"
-overwriting the hell out of the story that I did manage to commit to paper
(too much description, too many adjectives, etc)
- relying on "tell" rather than "show" at almost every turn, and what is worst of all,
- committing the cardinal narrative writing sin of "infodump"

It seems that I was so passionate about the underlying messages I thought Reuben James's story were illustrating that I didn't trust his story toactually illuminate and reveal those messages. Seems I felt it necessary to hit readers over the head with my concerns for the environment, my dire prognostications for the future if we continue down the "business as usual" path, and my incandescent descriptive prose describing that dystopic future.

Talk about getting taken down a peg or five. To make a long story short, I'm hooked into posting on Authonomy at least several times a day, I'm looking at completely excising at least four chapters from the MSL manuscript, and I seem to be committing myself to an almost complete rewrite to address the concerns that the Authonomy folks have raised.

More on this new path as I follow it. The Wayback Machine's back on the back burner. Let's see if we can whip Mai Shangri-La into the shape that will garner the same consistency of critique from other writers that it has thus far - but this time with a positive spin.

Back to the drawing board!!! Who knows? Maybe MSL will be different enough when I'm done that it will be worth re-submitting to ABNA.

Stay tuned...