Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Jiffy Pop Effect

Got a new story up at Fiction@Work. Baby Teeth. An early version of it appeared on this blog. It's a little cleaner now. I'm fond of it.

The novel rewrite is going well. About a quarter of the way through. Two chapters cut, one major character cut, and another seriously downsized.

What's making me feel good is how the surviving chapters are plumping up (I think of this as the Jiffy Pop effect; do they even make Jiffy Pop anymore?), even as I cut large chunks of the novel away. Stories, regardless of length, kinda harden after awhile. They turn brittle. You pick apart a sentence and realize your changes affect three other sentences later on. It's been too long, there's too much distance. Happily, the novel is still alive, still reacting to changes, still capable of surprising me. New character details, new plot points, more dialogue. At one point two characters just started talking to each other at the end of a chapter. I let them. I'm glad I did. I learned from them.

A concession I am making to the marketplace is to give the couple in the novel a more traditional love story. I'd strenuously avoided that during the first two drafts, as I felt it was important thematically for the two lovers not to communicate well, to show their interactions as stumbling and incomplete. I realize that's not a very satisfying experience for the reader.

Now I'm beginning to see how to approach the theme of disconnection from the other side, by showing those rare and meaningful moments when they do connect as a contrast.

The Copenhagen Suborbitals attempted manned space flight last weekend was a scrub, but they vow to continue, and launch next year. They designed their own rocket, their own submarine, their own floating launch platform. They'll figure it out.


meno said...

I saw some Jiffy Pop in a grocery store in Winthrop, WA earlier this summer. My husband made the same comment you did, "I didn't know they made that stuff any more!"

Yes, they do.

Laurita said...

Congrats on the publication. I remember that story and I really enjoyed it.

The Jiffy Pop effect. I like that. Good luck with the rewrite.

Sabra said...

Every now and then I succumb to childhood nostalgia and buy Jiffy Pop when I see it in the Big Box grocery store. Problem is, I don't think they've manufactured it since 1983 and all the ones you see on sale date from then and turn out to be total duds on the stove.

At least that's been my experience.

In relationships too, so I vote for total dysfunction and disconnect. She said, cynically.

Clowncar said...

Meno, the last time I saw Jiffy Pop was on a camping trip a decade-ish ago. Maybe they should rebrand it: iPop. You pop it by plugging it into an USB port.

Thanks Laurita. The rewrtie started out a slow chore, but it's gaining momentum.

SS, my point on the first go round was that dysfunction and disconnect is the normal state of affairs. But that doesn't sell books, apparently.

slommler said...

Glad your rewrite is going well. The fact that your novel is growing and flowing together is a good thing for sure.

Poet in Residence said...

Good luck with ye novel. Jim Murdoch's on his 5th, Charles Christian's on his 1st, it's almost contagious - but I hope I don't catch it. Needs a stronger head than mine to do rewrite after rewrite. Maybe I could just set off and write whatever comes into my noggin ... that might appeal. Hell, I'm almost inspired. Almost.

Land of shimp said...

Oh boy, the editing process is a bit like performing surgery on yourself. The cutting can make you flinch, but is likely necessary. I do think it is easier to sort of gird up your loins and do it yourself than to have it handed back with the dreaded "notes". As it happens, I don't write, but know a veritable truckload of writers.

I try to leave them all to the gods of writing (read: entirely alone) when the words "final edit" are bandied about. No, "Hey, what are you up to?" sort of calls.

Best wishes with it, Clowncar.

Rudi said...

Regarding the love story: What can come of adding sex to a book? Worked well for God and Stieg Larsson (I haven't checked the latest counts to see if Stieg has passed the big guy yet :-)

Emma J said...

I like Baby Teeth. The short-short is a nice format.

And I join the chorus - good luck with the rewrite.

Fresca said...

Vaguely related to popcorn, baby teeth, and oort clouds, did you know there's a gemstone called oolite?
I read on Ginga Squid dot blogspot--(another Sparky find)-- it's "a sedimentary rock formed with ooids (meaning "egglike") - spherical grains in concentric layers."

I like Land o' Shrimp's comment about editing as performing surgery on yourself. Reminds me of the scene in "Master and Commander" where the ship's doctor does that very thing, to remove a bullet. Take that Dr. McCoy!

Re trying to capture the reality of dysfunction:
After seeing "Restrepo" recently-- (you know? footage by two journalists embedded w/ US troops in Afghanistan, edited to 90 min.)--
I thought, you could never sell this to Hollywood. It has no entertainment value. It's too real, which means boring and disconnected and pointless.
And no soaring soundtrack.
I found it riveting, partly because of its lack of resemblance to any war movie I've ever seen.

Margaret said...

Baby Teeth. Haunting.