Novel Aesthetics & Revising a Novel

Being that my background is in interior design and visual merchandising, one of the things that inspires me most and drives a lot of my storytelling choices is visual aesthetics. Looking back, this has especially been the case with my WIP, TEROH.

For better or for worse.

I like the subtle complexity of dark espionage stories, the suffocating sense of paranoia, and the way this genre looks on the big screen. I like elemental magic and the larger-than-life way it can be portrayed. I also like the look and sound of old black and white movies like melodramas and film noir—fedoras and glamorous femmes fatales, chiaroscuro lighting, mid-Atlantic accents, psychological drama…

And that’s what drove a lot of my choices while developing TEROH.

The strange thing is that, when I first started writing, I really hadn’t watched very many black and white movies. Just a few. So for them to have such a big influence on the style of my novel seems almost…disproportional, in retrospect. Nevertheless, it’s this very combination of elements that helped determine the spirit of this story.

notorious1946
Notorious, 1946. Image by RKO Radio Pictures (corporate author), The Kobal Collection. Photographer: Ernest Bachrach. – Chicago-Sun Times, Public Domain. Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9571484

What got me thinking about all of this in the first place is because not long ago, I watched the 1946 movie Notorious with Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman for the first time—and I realized something: the style of this film is almost exactly the blend of elements I’ve been trying to channel all along with TEROH. Not directly in a studied, intentional manner but in my own loose but inspired way. (There’s also some romance, I suppose, but it’s by no means the main story.) Granted, I tossed in some fantasy/occult elements, too, which is suited to a more gothic tale. Still, I feel like noir draws some things from the gothic genre, which I’m also drawn to at times. (Jane Eyre and Wide Sargasso Sea anyone?)

So why does any of this matter?Read More »

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Conscious Writing, Channeling & The Magic of Editing

I know that some people hate the process of editing, but as for me…

I’m liking it!

It isn’t easy, though.  Nope, nope.  In any case, I think it’s teaching me different ways to approach writing.

“Channeling” vs. “Conscious Writing”

As I’m going through rewrites now I feel I can write more consciously than I could in earlier drafts.  Because I’ve been through so many ideas and different ways of presenting them on the page that this time around I know exactly what I need and want to say; now I just have to decide how I want to say these things before I put it on the page rather than trying to channel the muse, putting down whatever happens to come to me and sorting it out later.  I couldn’t always do that on the earlier draft (…or, for that matter, earlier draftsss).

This is what I mean by “conscious writing” versus “channeling,” and I’m thinking that maybe it takes a lot of practice to learn not only how to write in each of these modes but also when to write in them and also how to switch between them.  I think conscious writing is good for later and/or final drafts, though not the first.  I’m not sure I could be an entirely conscious writer the first time through a new story.

The Magic of Editing Comes From Rewriting

How often during your first draft were/are you excited about the quality of what you’ve actually managed to put on the page?  Sometimes I felt that way about my writing, but on a whole I did not.  I was more excited by the ideas I’d generated and the developing of connections between them than my execution.

However, now that I’m going through and refashioning my manuscript so that it’s consistent and told in what I hope are more effective uses of tone and voice, according to the themes of the story (something I reflected heavily on for a while before diving into rewrites), I am no longer preoccupied with “getting the (right) story on the page” and am free to consider its more artistic side; things like tone, style and voice become important.

I feel that now I am really telling the story I’ve been meaning to tell.  I can feel the magic in every scene, the kind of magic I hear in the soundtracks I listen to for inspiration as I’m writing.  Last week I talked about not taking writing too seriously (except when writing something serious), and this has really helped me.  I realized there was a tone of whimsy and fantasy in some of what I’d written in the previous draft that I didn’t allow to come through as often as I should have, and I think this was because it was tempered by a fear of not “getting it right.”

After starting the revision process, though, it gets me excited to read what’s on the page, sometimes even scared, but in one way or another emotionally involved.  I’m convinced that if I don’t feel this way about every single moment of my story, then I’m not doing my job as a writer because it is my hope that all of the finished product will provide the same experience to readers.  I know it’ll take some time and intense focus to make this happen on every page, requiring that I be a conscious storyteller in every moment spent writing.

I’ve much work left ahead of me yet to get the manuscript to the level I want it to be at, but for once I can actually see myself getting there.

Do You Have “Modes” of Writing?

If so, what do you call them?  When do you think is the best time to use them?

(Speaking of editing…haha, I wrote this in a hurry before an eye exam.  Spiffed it up a bit now. :D)