Sunday, March 30, 2008

Mako Yoshikawa, writer at work.

I just finished reading Mako Yoshikawa's second novel, Once Removed, and was just delighted at the layers of craft at work in this convoluted story of step-sisters and their relationships over time. Skillful and moving, the story shows effective use of:
--multiple points of view, changing each chapter
--inner dialogue balanced well with vivid description of action and perceptions and reactions. Example: "She recognized him right away. He was standing toward the back of the crowd . . . . Her realization of this simple fact was like a jolt of energy, like three meals and a restful night's sleep in a bed rolled into one" (129)."
--Key concrete images used throughout the story come home in the conclusion to link tightly to the theme, and more than one theme is revealed and resolved satisfactorily, but in a way that gives the reader the sense these characters will continue to live on and grow.
--Characters add depth through revelations, but each character does not know what others know, and the emotional depth comes through clearly as key events are gradually revealed.
--Language is used with precision, with one thread being puns and one character limited in language.
--The story does not back away from large issues, cancer, adultry, Hiroshima, yet puts them in human scale through stories within stories.
Overall rating: A

Friday, March 14, 2008

A writer's questions

I write daily. I read lots of good how-to-write-brilliantly articles. I sweat and send stuff out. I've even gotten a few things published now, but sometimes I feel like I'm talking to myself. And I doubt, doubt, doubt.

This week, my questions now are:
--How do writers find the balance between setting, dialogue, action, and internal dialogue?
--How do writers create a sense of conflict?
--Is there a writing group online I could work with?
--Are my characters strong enough? Different enough?
--Specifically how do writers move a rough first draft to a final?
--How do writers sustain themselves when writing a novel?
--Are there smaller online writing groups that really work? How does a writer who's "on the road" find out about them?

Every writer's interview seems to indicate a different kind of process. Some work with intensely detailed outlines; others wing it. I know writing is a discipline, a long-term commitment. Even every time I pick up a new book, I'm noticing strategies and skills as the story unfolds.

Today's progress on Standing Stones: Found some wonderful research on conditions on the transport ships (think Australia, 1840), and discovered Australia put together a circle of massive standing stones (privately subscribed) in 1998 to honor Scottish (and Celtic) emigrees. After a rush of about 800 words a day, I'm slower today, wanting to fill in details that make the scene come alive. A new character fell off the boat literally, but no main characters got killed (which I was a little worried about). And the next step: Keep writing!