January 12, 2011

Re-Post (and Follow-Up): Crash Test for Writers

Let me briefly get you up to speed, in case you don't religiously follow my posts:

Holly Lisle makes a living as a writer. She also happens to be a great teacher and devotes her time (in between novel writing) to teaching writers how to be better writers. I've mentioned her Clinics and course How to Think Sideways, but she also does Crash Tests.

A crash test is where she takes a few paragraphs of fiction from one of her students and she picks them apart piece by piece, showing what's good, what went wrong, and how to fix it. She just posted her fourth crash test AND IT'S MINE!!! Holy cow!

It's very helpful. I knew there were things wrong with it, but didn't know how to fix them. Anyway, here's the link to Holly Lisle and the Case of the Ghostly Girls.
This was really exciting for me. She helped me a lot with this scene. Looking back over this, I'm not sure I used her advice as much as I should have. In fact, I kind of want to go back and fix it. I will resist.
But here's the scene after editing:

Ghosts can be so rude sometimes. I walked with Lisa to a shaded picnic table, ready to take a break from schoolwork when I suddenly felt very strange--awkward yet familiar, like that dream where you find yourself on stage and can’t remember what you’re supposed to be doing.

The courtyard came to life around us, the tables filling up fast with students and the smell of fried food wafting from the cafeteria. Squirrels scampered around garbage cans and darted over piles of mulching leaves. Everything around me was normal. Or it seemed that way.

Then I saw him: a guy sitting with his arm draped over a bench. The guy who was looking right at me, his face expressionless. Normally, I’d be freaked out by someone staring at me like that, but this guy wasn’t eating. He wasn’t interacting with anyone. He was about my age, but he wasn’t dressed like a student. And Lexington, Virginia has its share of ghosts.

“Rachel?” Lisa raised an eyebrow. “What are you staring at?” She pulled her leg over so she straddled the bench.

With her back turned, I braved another look. Kids behind him shouted and threw a Frisbee back and forth, but the ghost sat perfectly still. His stare was starting to bug me. Why couldn’t ghosts remember to be polite every now and then?

When Lisa twisted back around, I forced a laugh, trying to soothe the confused look on her face. “Sorry. I spaced out. You ready to go?” I grabbed my bag and stood, trying to shake the ghost’s intense gaze. Didn’t he have any manners? At all?

Lisa looked down an her cell phone and opened her eyes wide in mock surprise. “Ooh yeah, better hurry. We only have thirty-two minutes before the bell.” She laughed, but picked up her bag. “It’s okay. I want to have a talk with Paul before next period.”

I rolled my eyes. “Oh.” Paul Mason was a baseball player Lisa had a crush on. She talked about him constantly and dragged me to parties if she thought he might be there. For some reason Lisa had never been able to get him to notice her, even though she was stunning. No other girl in school could compete with her full lips and perfect oval face.

“I’ll catch up with you later, okay?” Lisa wiggled her fingers at me and practically skipped across the courtyard.

Fine with me. I wanted to talk some sense into this ghost.

1 comment:

A. B. Syed said...

Excellent blog and post. Also some great tips for writers on your site. I'll be back for more!

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