09 November 2009

The View from Up Here


















Last Wednesday I walked outside to see a truck parked by my neighbor's house, which sits behind ours. There were pallets of shingles in the driveway and men walking all over her roof. My poodle looked at them like they were crazy and at me to see what was going on. It was a beautiful day. The wind flowed through the leaves, bringing with it the sound of hammers and the pleasant feeling of being watched from above.

The process of a new roof is a lot like editing a book. The foundation is built. The structure is place. The building itself is in good condition and has a lot of promise. But there are weak places that need to be fixed, sections of "telling" that have to be removed, word choice needs to be examined. If not fixed, the interior will be exposed to the elements and possibly ruined--or in our case, leave too many weak spots and possibly prevent us from landing that agent.

Okay, so the analogy doesn't fit perfectly. :0)

If my neighbor hadn't been proactive, the next big storm could have done some major damage. She probably didn't have any real warning. After all, the roof's held for many years now. It's not like she gets up there regularly and inspects it. From the ground, the house looks like it's in great shape. But from way up there the view is entirely different.

Sometimes we need to pull ourselves away from our stories. I have to force myself to leave mine alone for extended gaps of time so that I will be able to come back with fresh eyes. It's when we pull away and gain a different perspective that we can see what needs to be done--where our problem areas are, what needs to be tweaked, and of course, what absolutely rocks.

The great thing about going up to the roof is the perspective it brings. All of the sudden we're outside the story again, able to see all the characters as our readers do. Like the picture above, these characters and subplots extend as far as the eye can see. It's our choice to decide what to use, what to ignore, and what to enhance. We can keep the birds' eye view or we can go deeper, strengthening our characters and increasing tension. We get to decide how the story unfolds--until that muse takes over and drops a massive surprise in the middle of our carefully constructed (or not-so-carefully if you're a panster) plots.

Sometimes all we really need is a change in perspective.

See Y'all Wednesday!

32 comments:

  1. Yes, I agree. Sometimes being away from my comptuer for a couple of days helps me redirect my thoughts... the only thing is, I can hardly pull myself away from it *grin* See ya Wednesday!

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  2. I love reading your thought processes...you make me think, smile and reflect...all signs of a wonderful writer!

    Hugs to you, my uplifting friend!
    Bina

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  3. Great point! When we look at our book through fresh eyes (sometimes it helps me if I put it down for a while), then we see so many more possibilities.

    Elizabeth
    Mystery Writing is Murder

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  4. I'm in the 37,000 words into the rough draft of my fourth book, and I'm stalling out, wishing I could be on that roof! My story feels very poorly constructed at the moment. I have to remind myself that my first go around is always this way.

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  5. looking at things from a new angle can be so helpful -- it's obtaining that perspective that sometimes causes me a challenge.

    and - you're our Monday Winner over at my blog -- pop over to see how to collect your Amazon gift card! congrats!!

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  6. I used to climb a roof in college where a group of my guy friends lived. Up there I think I experienced the college setting differently. When I was there I was reminded of who I was and who I wanted to be. It never felt the same walking from class to class, party to party. There was something about that roof that "grounded" me.
    ~ Wendy

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  7. Yes, a change in perspective is good. I know after letting my ms sit for a few months, I had a whole new outlook on it.

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  8. Wendy--that is such a great story! I love that! I'm scared to death of heights, but have fallen in love with how roofs are used in the Middle East/Asia. One of my favorite things to do in India was to go up to the roof and take pictures. You could see so much! You're right--I did feel like a different person up there!

    Wooohoo! Tess, thank you! I'm coming over right now!

    Katie, keep going! You can do it! You're almost halfway. The story you have is needed.

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  9. Thanks, Bina and everyone else! You make me smile every day!

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  10. I love this post! That's exactly how I was feeling about my manuscript over the weekend. I needed to look at it from above, from a new perspective to see where I wanted it to go. You put this better than I could, though :D

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  11. That's so true. I've stepped away from my manuscript for a few weeks now and am now able to look at it with a really different perspective. :)

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  12. I love this analogy :) I really like the idea of building a solid foundation for your story so that you can enjoy the view from the roof, when it's sturdy and complete.

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  13. This is a great analogy! You do have to pull away and even get a professional look from time to time.

    A slanted view happens when you've been looking at the same thing over and over. I took a break Sunday, I hope it pays off today!

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  14. It's like getting that big picture, isn't it. The high concept value, so you can see where the boards are that need repair or replacement all together. I think it's a great analogy.

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  15. Oh agree! I have to let a story cool for a t least a month after major edits to se if it needs more work. They almost usually always do!

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  16. I like to hike in the wilderness for a change of perspective. Its great to be alone sometimes, forget about the stresses of life, and be inspired by God's handiwork.

    Stephen Tremp

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  17. I didn't use to believe that letting the MS helped, but after putting it aside for a month and a half, I stand corrected.

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  18. Very cool picture! Did you take it? And where is it from? Time and distance really do help give fresh perspective and a good editor helps too!

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  19. Thanks, Jody! I did take it--in India a few years ago. It was with my stinky camera, but I still like it. I LOVE India... and how they use their roofs. I love everything that you can see, how it's a completely different world up there.

    You're so right--a great editor is crucial!

    Patti, I learned this lesson the hard way in college. I used to write my first drafts of a paper the week before it was due, then spend the week editing. It really helped me. I'm not one of those people who can catch all the little stuff right after I've written it. My eyes just miss it.

    Stephen--I agree. Going out in nature really helps me too. I love going somewhere I can't see anything man made. But sitting on my swing helps too.

    Thanks, y'all! I'm so glad this analogy worked! Your comments have given me so many ideas for more posts on the topic. Too bad I only have one more day--Friday is a book feature. :0)

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  20. You have such a raw, unique look at things. That really challenges me as a writer.

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  21. I like to get away from the desk to a completely different environment, to gain perspective, so I totally relate to this post. The house needs a good foundation, and it won't do if it doesn't have a proper roof, and so it goes with our work. Thanks!

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  22. Wonderful analogy, Kristen! I definitely must take a step back to gain perspective.

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  23. I love this post Kristen, It's great and the analogy works for me. Hey at some point can you do one on writer's block? Sarah

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  24. Thanks, Sarah! I definitely will once I get up the courage--and figure out how to conquer it myself!

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  25. I love the thought process and the analogy. If you don't have a sturdy foundation, there isn't much point in fixing the roof. :]

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  26. Building a house is definitely like building a book. I wonder if builders get to that same point halfway through where they're sure it's not going to come together as we do!

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  27. I know... I wonder that too! It's probably when the budget has been surpassed four times and they are months overschedule... :0)

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  28. If I don't get away from my books, I will nit pick them to death and they will never get anywhere! Once I remove myself from it, I can come back with fresh eyes and see that 1) it really is a pretty darn good story and 2) there are a few things that need to be tweaked but not the major overhaul I thought I needed when I was with it 24 hours a day!!

    J

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  29. PS: Those rooftops look a wee bit familiar :)
    J

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  30. HAHA! Takes you back, eh? GREAT MEMORIES! And crazy ones too... That's the best; when you come back and realize it's not as bad as you feared it was.

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