Thursday, December 01, 2005

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Exhaustive and not-at-all-objective critique of the draft of my nonNaNoWriMo novel, The Blight of Beezel Tower, follows:

The Good
  • I finished it.
  • It actually has a plot! Who knew I was capable of such a thing?
  • For the most part I did a decent job of moving the plot along, although there are stagnating sloughs here and there.
  • I enjoyed making all the pieces of the puzzle fit.
  • The ending is not as far-fetched and absurd as I had feared it would be.
  • There are surprisingly few inconsistencies.
  • It amused me to write it.
  • It was therapeutic and cathartic.
  • It’s creepy.
  • I got to document (and embellish) many of the actual stomach-churning eccentricities of the people I worked for and then I made them die horrible deaths.
  • Good triumphs over Evil.
  • The Hooch Hut.

The Bad
  • Amateurish (but to be expected).
  • Most descriptions are not in the least bit evocative.
  • There’s no sex in it, even though a naked penis (a small one) makes an appearance and the protagonist spends about half the novel dashing hither and thither in a very short dress and no underpants. In the end, though, I just couldn’t make the protagonist have sex with her boss. It would have been too gothically horrific. (Sidenote: There’s a weird fixation with underwear. I wonder why that is? Do I secretly want to expand my own underwear collection to include edible tap pants?)
  • Plot may be too predictable.
  • At least one character is a stereotype.
  • Internal monologue: Too much spelling out; it would be better to let the reader figure some things out for him/herself.
  • Excessive use of locutions such as “he replied sneeringly” (although good for boosting word count).
  • Some scenes are very much like other scenes.
  • My seams show. For example, when I wasn’t sure what was going to happen next, I tended to just type out my thought process and make it be the protagonist’s thought process. “Kim thought she might do this, but if she did that then blah might happen. Perhaps it would be better is she did blah instead....”
  • Limited vocabulary and overuse of certain words, e.g., cackled, croaked, and smirked.

The Ugly
  • Clumsy sentence structure.
  • Exceedingly pedestrian sentences.
  • Incomplete sentences, run-on sentences, and sentences that don’t make no sense, e.g. “Near the other eye it was just caked in with the eyeshadow.” Huh?
  • Terrible, terrible, TERRIBLE punctuation. I give myself an F in punctuation. I’m normally not such a horrendous punctuator (only semi-horrendous). It must not be possible to use the part of the brain responsible for creativity and the part of the brain responsible for punctuation at the same time.
  • Typos and misspellings galore.
  • Sloppy grammar.

Actually, I’m not overly concerned about the bad bits and the ugly bits. They can be fixed if I ever want to dive back in and revise, say, during NaNoEdMo (also known as the month of March). I don’t know that I’ll do that.

Mainly, I’m glad I was able to prove to myself that I can—yes indeed—finish something I set out to do. And I feel that I achieved my goal of processing some old baggage, which is always a good thing to do.

I have a word of advice for anyone who is considering doing NaNoWriMo next year. Consider writing in a genre that doesn’t put too many restrictions on your imagination/creativity—one in which suspension of disbelief is a given from the outset (e.g., horror, fantasy, sci-fi, romance). I’m really glad I chose gothic horror—it was an excellent choice for the kind of story I wanted to tell and the way I wanted to tell it. Plus, I didn’t find myself constantly thinking, “Oh that could never happen” or “Real people don’t act like that.” I did try to keep my characters and situations consistent within the parameters I set for myself, but I know I would have had a much more difficult and frustrating time if I’d attempted literary fiction or a historical novel. Those genres have just got to be so much harder to do, and I’m all about taking the path of least resistance.


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