Thursday, June 11, 2009

SRS Lash Flash: Joni Sensel

Wow, we're almost through our second week of Summer Revision Smackdown. Wowzuh! Almost the half-way point. Don't miss Holly's Lash Flash: Melissa Walker.

A special treat here at Cuppa for this week's Lash Flash, the wonderful and talented Joni Sensel (btw, her name is pronounced Johnny). I mean, look at her...doesn't she just look like she's got a good little nugget to share?

Joni is the author of REALITY LEAK, THE HUMMING OF NUMBERS, and FARWALKER'S QUEST (with the sequel TIMEKEEPER'S MOON coming this winter).

I've always found Joni to be generous and smart when it comes to advice, and so no surprise that this is what she had to say about the Smackdown and shared revision tip:
I can’t say the Smackdown has been going terrifically for me so far — I’ve had too many high-priority obligations take my attention from the pages this past week. I hope to do better the rest of the month. But my irritation with that has turned out to be useful, because it’s made me think more about interruptions, and I’ve realized they can be a revision tool.

I don’t mean interruptions to getting the work done, like urgent phone calls or overflowing toilets. (Although those sometimes can jumpstart revision, too, simply because I stop thinking about a revision problem for long enough for a solution to spark.) I mean interruptions in my characters’ lives.

A trick I’ve just discovered for adding tension or increasing pace is to cut an action or conversation short by having whatever I think should come next interrupt it, rather than waiting politely in turn. (I mean, interruptions add tension and pace to our real lives, don’t they?) In this way, threads of action or dialogue can be braided together for a richer and less predictable read. I’ve started looking for places where my characters can barge in on each other, verbally or literally. And if I play with rearranging scenes, as I’m doing right now in my Smackdown project, I look to see if or how they can actually overlap in a braid. If whatever gets interrupted is important to finish, I can go back later, hopefully holding the reader in a bit more suspense for how that thread will turn out. But often, I realize that what I’ve interrupted doesn’t need to be finished because the interruption makes it moot, sending the story zinging off in another direction. In those cases, I’m glad, because it means I’ve cut something dull or unnecessary.

And thinking about this has helped me grip a new tool for my revision toolbox, one I may have used before but not consciously -- that alone makes the Smackdown worthwhile!

Thanks, Jolie!
How 'bout that for a lash of smart? Thanks, Joni!

4 comments:

Bonny Becker said...

Joni,
I love this! What a great insight. I'm in the early stages of a new book and I'm definitely going to be using this idea. Thanks!

holly cupala said...

Joni, what a useful piece of advice - I'm going to steal it! I have a running interruption in my WIP (smoochus interruptus, lol). They have no problem talking, but maybe they should.

BJW said...

Cool thanks! I find this really helpf...
Ben's wife Amy storms in, "You're helping my parents move and that's final." Storms out.

Ben curses under his breath, but in no way loud enough for his wife to hear. "How are my bloody writing goals going to get done with IN-LAW interruptions." Now what?

Perfect. Thanks Joni, I think I'm getting the hang of this. Interruptions to my characters can really screw things up for them and make things really interesting.

And Bonny Becker, look forward to hearing you speak at Reed next month! Aghh, next month, back to my smackdown goals. And Holly, smooching interruption? Sounds serious.

Dawn VanderMeer said...

Joni, what a great tip! I'm excited to try it out!