Fail Deadly, the Next Step: ß

I am almost finished with Alpha, soon to need Beta. Which is to say, I am near the end of the rewrite of my third novel, Fail Deadly.

The first draft was the easy part … six months on a roller coaster ride, wind in the face, screaming along the tracks of the plot. Unalloyed joy. Then began the hard part: Rewrite. I am truly fortunate to be a member of three critique groups, so the chapters have gone before a jury of talented writers. Line by line, character by character, week by painstaking week, they have stayed with the story. They are, in the parlance of writerdom, the Alpha readers. I am almost through integrating many of the hundreds, perhaps thousands, of suggestions.

The next step is the Beta. The Alphas can’t do it — they’re too familiar with the detail. I will need several people willing to read the manuscript all the way through, looking for character flaws, plot inconsistencies. Or perhaps most valuable to me (as well as most painful), saying, “I got bored at page X and couldn’t finish.”

If you, dear reader are interested in being a Beta, let me know through Contact page or straight to gotuit5243@gmail.com.  I’ll have the manuscript in Word and PDF files, e-books in Kindle and Nook formats, as well as a few paper copies.

Smile, and the whole world wonders what you’re up to

It is said (apparently inaccurately) that the Inuit have many words for ‘snow.’  Why would that be?  Why, because they see a lot of snow, of course.

English has very few words for ‘smile,’ even though we see a lot of them (I hope).  Grin.  Grimace. Beam. Smirk. Maybe even Simper. And you can drag in fellow travelers Squint and certainly Leer. But really, not a very large collection of descriptives for something a writer needs often.

Smile, look, walk, and similar words  indicate classes of action but do not show specifics. Use them, and you leave the reader knowing what happened but not having a picture in mind.  They’re placeholders for better description. Boring, as well.

All of this was grating on my mind yesterday.  I was writing a three-person sequence in which a lot of smiling was going on, not all of it happy.  Sure, I could tell the reader that Weezy’s smile masked anger, but how does that look?

I decided to take a break and walk around Lake of the Isles, my favorite in-city lake in Minneapolis.  Usually, I use my walking time to work out plot and character issues, and that was the way I started my walk. A couple of blocks along the way, a late middle-aged man approached.  He took me in, then gave the very briefest horizontal stretching of the lips in a straight line.  Hard to tell whether it was a smile or gastronomic distress. That got me watching the people I encountered.  A young woman gave me the “I am smiling because I’m cool but don’t get your hopes up” rictus (ahh, rictus … I missed that as a near-synonym).  A young father gave me a possessive, prideful smile as his two, young bike-mounted sons ran me off the walking path. A mother’s joy-to-the-world smile as she glanced up from her baby. A hajib-wearing woman smiled with her eyes.  A young packed-with-energy guy gave me a nod of recognition as he ran by, served up with a smirk.  (I race walk. To him, I was surely old, hefty, and weird.) A woman gifted me a happy smile that took in her whole face – mouth, eyes, and forehead. It was the kind of smile that makes you want to know the person just to understand how she has successfully figured out the puzzle of life.

I was reminded there is no such thing as a generic smile.  The smile is a creature of the structure of a face, as well as the inner beauty or turmoil of the person smiling.  Guess I have to work harder on my smiles.  No one said writing would be easy.