Saturday, April 29, 2017

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Robert Boswell - A Writer's Writer

When I was a publisher, INK POT LITERARY JOURNAL I was really thrilled when in 2004 I got a short story submission from Robert Bosworth. It was one of the best things I ever published at the time and I became an instant fan of his. It was about a mentally damaged woman who lived in the country, written from her point of view, in her own "damaged" (gorgeously poetic) language. She mixed up words and images and spoke her own odd language, and it was heartrending and beautiful. Over the years, I lost that story in the changes of computers and archives and backups. It was titled "A Sketch of Highway on the Nap of the Mountain." I can't tell you how upset that made me. How often I wanted to read it again and see if it was as good and unique as I remembered. Well, I found the story! It's in his collection of short stories and I've got the story again. HERE.

Boswell's married to the equally talented Antonya Nelson and it must be wonderful to have their lives!

At any rate, I just read an old (2011) interview with him ON MYSTERY AND DRAFTING -- and I fell in love all over again and ordered a couple of his books. A short story collection, "The Heyday of Insensitive Bastards" (gotta love that title) and a craft book "The Half Known World" on writing. He's got some fascinating things to say about editing. He calls it transitional drafts, and this:
"I revise a lot. I write thirty, forty, fifty drafts of every story. There are a few, a very few, exceptions. Every now and then I just scribble down a story and I’m done with it. That has happened maybe three or four times in my life. And, really, those times make all the rest of my work more difficult.

My revision process characteristically involves the gradual, draft-by-draft casting off of the intellectual ideas that got me going, permitting the narrative to find an independent life of its own. The decisions I make while revising tend to be related to specific matters of craft—investigating a specific character, sharpening dialogue, reworking sentences to make them resonant and pleasing to the ear. If I can write a better sentence, I’ll do so even if the revised sentence changes something essential in the story. All of which is to say: if I feel constrained by the ideas that produced the particular draft, I will give up those ideas. Of course, I save every draft. They’re all floating there in my computer like little life rafts. It’s rare that I go back to an earlier draft, but having them there permits me to attempt wild revisions."

Thursday, April 20, 2017

"The Passage" (70,000 wds) Literary Fiction -- is born!

I'm happy to say that during the 2nd Edit of Canyon Flower, and after MANY consultations with my Writer's Group and beta readers and query rejections, it occurred to me that the novel needed to be restructured. It required some rewriting, and it was tricky to move chapters from the back to the front, to stagger Points of View in a way that still had continuity and logical progression....but after a ton of work and a lot of critique help, I did it! And the book is better for it! Since I've lived with these characters in my head for over a year, I thought it would be fun to "cast" them. I've borrowed the faces of all of these pretty people; I hope they don't mind.

What was interesting is that the character (young American girl who worked the raft on the Colorado River, and who was the innocent embodiment of a canyon flower, turned out to be a secondary character instead of the main character. Skylar is the cook on the rafting trip. In my mind's eye, Skylar, The Canyon Flower looks something like this:

Skylar Lancaster


Jango Norris is the boatsman and guide on the trip. This good looking dude is the type I had in mind when I wrote this character who is the love interest of Skylar, and keeps the river raft going downriver:


Jango Norris


But after restructuring the novel, Ishida Ikiro, the protegee of the geisha, Kimi, has taken over the book and become its protagonist. Ishi is a sweet Japanese girl who has endured a painful childhood and is sent away to Japan to become an apprentice to her cousin in the geisha district of Kyoto.

Ishi Ikiro


Ishi's cousin, a beautiful geisha celebrity, Kimi-san, is a secondary character, but the story and the action and the other characters actually pivot around her.


Kimi-san Muro


Michael is the patron of Kimi. He is a rich investment banker who works in Los Angeles, but commutes to Kyoto regularly to be with the woman he loves. (the woman he does not love is his wife.)

Michael Shimizu


Buyo is Michael's associate, but a very different type of man. He sees and understands Ishi, something no one else can do.

Buyo Hasegawa