Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Editing in My Swimsuit

Note: If it feels like there's something missing between this post and my last one, it's because there is. There was a long post about finishing draft #3 of Mina and probably a bunch of other stuff, but I just accidentally deleted it. *folds arms* I don't want to talk about it.

So this morning I meant to go swimming. I even wore my suit to the coffee shop where my husband and I eat breakfast (I wore it under my clothes - I'm not crazy). But then I didn't go to the Y to go swimming. I came home and sat my butt in front of my computer where I played a half hour of video games and then worked on revising my novel for . . . four and half hours now. I stopped to walk the dog and eat a bowl of cereal, but otherwise, I'm still in my speedo - which is getting increasingly uncomfortable, by the way - and the pool closes soon for team practice, so it doesn't look like I'll be going swimming until later tonight. Yep, that's how much I like revision.

Today started with line-editing Chapter 6. I didn't finished that yet, although I'm only 2 pages away, because I realized I have some logistical problems that can only be solved with maps and blueprints. Fun, right? I actually think so.

It's amazing what you can do with auto-shapes.
I made a blueprint for my protagonist's bedroom, and then I made blueprints for ALL THREE levels of my antagonist's old Victorian mansion. I got really irritated trying to align the staircases - I guess that's something that's taught in Architecture 101, because it didn't come naturally to me - but otherwise, it was really fun visualizing exactly where my characters would do certain things, what rooms they would pass, what things they might see. My antagonist is rich, so his house included really cool things like a ballroom and a greenhouse and servants' quarters that made the blueprint challenging, but I'm quite happy with it now that it's done. The first floor of his house is pictured to the right.

I think I'll go take a quick nap with the pug now, then get back to Chapter 6. My goal is to have Chapters 1-10 marked up, transferred to the computer, and TOTALLY REVISED by this coming Sunday. My husband is off work next week, and I'm unlikely to get much done while he's home, so I think this is an excellent and practical goal. Extra credit if I get through Chapter 12 because that would be HALF THE BOOK!

Monday, June 13, 2011

50,000 words, baby!

This is going to be much more fun than my last post. I've been writing dutifully, although as usual, my weekends are pretty useless. I have this thing where I have to be alone in the apartment in order to write. It's not like my husband is particularly distracting, but when he's here, I'm concerned with what he's doing and wondering whether he feels neglected and worried about being interrupted. BUT, I have been using my weekdays well. I recently reached the 50,000 word mark, which is amazing! This is about 200 pages, which means I only need 50 more pages to reach a respectable book length!

I finished the climax chapter yesterday and this morning I wrote about half of the resolution. I'm not sure if the format of the resolution is going to stick, but I think it's going to stick for the draft that I give to my first two betas. So yay! I am very likely going to finish Draft #3 of my first novel TODAY.

Friday, June 10, 2011

I wish I had an invisibility cloak.

WARNING: This post has very little to do with writing and very much to do with me whining. This is me at my worst.

Last night, a very innocent comment by my husband about how I'll be looking for a job soon threw me into a fit of mild to moderate panic. I cried for a while, tried to look for jobs while I was crying, and ultimately decided to wait out the last week, according to my original agreement with my husband. Our deal was this: I quit teaching, we get married, he supports me for one year while I try to write a novel. He's held up his end of the bargain beautifully, never making me feel like a mooch or a hopeless dreamer. I intend to hold up my end, too, but I won't be able to do it with as much grace as him. The year ends next Sunday.

Here's my problem with finding a job: It involves being around people. Kind of obvious, right? But I have anxiety about being around strangers, particularly strangers who may be critical of me. It's not that I want other people's approval - seriously, it's not. Most days I wish I had an invisibility cloak. The most I can hope for in terms of finding a new job is a neutral environment where the likelihood of me doing something wrong and then getting yelled at me is minimal. For reasons that I understand but don't really want to share here, I feel physically unsafe when people are angry with me. Harsh criticism can put me into a full-on panic attack. This is the reason why I left teaching - kids are awesome, but their parents are often mean.

Given the above, my "dream job" right now would be re-binding old books in the basement of a library. Minimal interaction with people + Time to think? Please and thank you! Unfortunately, finding a job where I can be as close to invisible as possible isn't easy. I also have other criteria, like I don't want to be too far away from home. My husband and I live in a lovely little town in an unincorporated part of LA county. Seriously, it's tiny. And beautiful. And safe, because I actually know a ton of people here, and the businesses are so small that I'm on a first-name basis with several local business owners. These are the places where I'd feel safe working. Mom and Pop businesses aren't usually hiring, given that mom and pop are usually enough labor to keep the place running, but I'm going to try because that's what I want. And I'm not sure I want to put my husband through another tantrum like last night's.

*End rant*

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Finishing Drafts and the Formula for Mystery

Draft #3 Update
Pages: 173
Words: 44,264
Chapters: 20

After a few days of emotional paralysis in which I inexplicably found it impossible to write, I wrote this morning up to the points you see above. I think my problem the past few days has been that I'm too close to the end. I know that if I could force myself to do it, I could finish the draft this week, do a once-over and send it off to my first betas. I'm dying to get to that stage - so why am I dragging my feet? Maybe I'm so excited about the next stage that I've stopped caring so much about this one. I think I remember that happening in school, like at the end of the year. Or maybe I'm sad to be finishing. I felt miserable for a solid week when I finished Draft #1, and that made NO sense to me at the time, but if I get depressed after the completion of this draft, I'll have to acknowledge the pattern.

Anyway, to reward myself for writing so much this morning, I spent the rest of the day reading and working on my submission database. This is an Excel spreadsheet I made six months ago during the above-mentioned period of depression after finishing Draft #1. I have an A-list and a B-list of agents. I've ranked them so that when I'm ready to submit, I know exactly who to submit to and when. I even have my query letter done! My husband looked it over and made a suggestion that allowed me to cut the letter down to one page, so as far as I'm concerned, that's ready to go.

I just need to finish the novel! And send it to betas! And revise it! Yoy.

Oh, I wanted to share something. Nathan Bransford put it on his blog this morning and I thought it was so brilliant that I put it on a Post-it and added it to my wall of notes/maps/character profiles:

A character's desire + Consequences/stakes + Obstacles + Delay = Mystery

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

What I Do When I'm Not Writing


I was looking at my blogger profile just now and I thought I'd elaborate on the hobbies I mention in my little bio section. Obviously, I've shared enough about how I'm an aspiring author. But aside from writing, I like to embroider and I like to arrange flowers.

See this book if you want to learn more about crewel.
For the embroidery above, I used crewel wool and turned the finished piece into the cover of my wedding album. The embroidery is a pretty accurate replica of a portrait taken at the wedding. This piece was part of a showcase at the Pasadena Library last February. When I emailed our wedding photographers (the exquisitely talented Steven and Carmen Lam) to tell them about the showcase (I thought they should know, since I was including a framed print of a photo they took) Steven actually came over to our apartment and photographed the album to include on his blog. You can read the entry here.

My second favorite hobby is floristry. I've always liked flowers, but I've gotten really into this over the past six months. It all started when I discovered that the best local florist offers 30% off all of their flowers if you choose them yourself out of the buckets and they don't do any arranging. I was thrilled about this. Now every week, I walk into a refrigerator full of flowers, pick whatever I want, and the florist just wraps them up in butcher paper for me to take home. Then I condition the flowers and do the arranging myself. I've learned a lot just from talking to the florists when I visit, asking about the names of flowers, their seasons, scents, and other qualities. To the right is one of the recent arrangements I made. It contains sweet peas, ranunculus, tulips, freesia, alstroemeria, bells of Ireland, lilac, and gerber daisies.

The Lie that Is Revision

Back in school and even up until recently, I thought that "revising" meant moving a few sentences around, correcting a misspelled word, maybe swapping out a plain adjective for something more specific.
I so wish that was true!
Every time I've tried to revise Mina by the standard above, I've ended up writing so much new material that the two stories can hardly even be called drafts of the same work, they're so different. And now I'm working on Draft #3, which is almost unrecognizable itself! I don't know if this is how other writers work because at present, I don't know any other writers. But I don't know how to do things any differently, even though I've spent a year of my life writing things that will never get published (because I won't let them). How can I not feel like I've wasted my time when there's no tangible result or reward?

The only consolation I have is that I have learned so much. I've learned about the publishing industry, about writing and storytelling, about being an author, and about the landscape of YA literature. That isn't knowledge that I'm likely to forget, so if I think about it like it's the bottom layer of a pyramid that I'm slowly climbing, then the first novel - even if it DOES end up in a drawer - doesn't seem like such a waste of time.

This picture has nothing to do with this post, but it makes me happy so I'm sharing it. This is my brilliant little sister and I after her recent graduation ceremony.