Sunday, November 6, 2011

Almost Like Being in Love

So, NaNoWriMo has come upon us again. I resolved earlier in the year that I would work on the sequel to The Deserter during every month but November and work instead on Wingspan. Wingspan is the briefly aforementioned retelling of Swan Lake.

Now, there are many different issues in this kind of story, most of them involving the practicalities of raising a teenage girl as a bird. I had a quite hilarious moment earlier in the week involving my imagination and rehearsing the ways in which you could tell the SPVM (Montreal Police) that you were accidentally in their country naked without any foul play going on.

But something I am now very aware of is the reason I don't really write romance. I skirted over it before because no matter how hard I tried, Michael and Ella didn't think of each other that way. Ella and Alex were adorable, but doomed to failure. In fact, I was thinking of something to write for a Halloween challenge in which we had to explore a type of scene that we'd never done before. I realized that I've never done a proper breakup. People usually get killed off or just go into hiding or, memorably, set fireballs on each other in a crowded subway.

I mostly steer around conventional (or unconventional) romance. It's not that I don't feel qualified. It has a lot to do with the fact that for me, romance is supposed to be a very personal and often very private thing. The reasons people fall in love aren't something you can really explain to others, no matter how much they have emerald orbs, heaving bosoms, rock-hard pecs, marble lips and all that crap. Romance doesn't consist of just those things.

So here I am writing a story in which it is required for the main character to fall in love. I was running through scenes in which she and her love interest converse and I started falling in like with him, but that didn't take me all the way to breaking a curse with this neverending love.

Last time I fell in love, it was a combination of finding someone to be my best friend, the way he held me in his arms even when we were standing in line for milkshakes, the wall map of Middle Earth that he got me to ask me to Homecoming, the conversations we had at this picnic bench south of campus.... You see where I'm going. It's too complicated to invent for fictional people!

Thursday, September 8, 2011


So, I was cleaning out a folder on my computer labeled 'Camera victims' and found that it also had anything that I had saved during planning for the Philadelphia trip. Subsequently, I went back and read some of the early drafts of the storyline.

It was a bit of a surprise to me that the plot completely changed. In one document, I had a conversation from Chapter 1 between Ella and Michael Timothy. Michael, who later became Michael Anthony because I liked the patron saint of lost things better, was giving her a heads-up about a possible attack. There was a character named Ethan Simmons in there who was described as the personal drill sergeant.

Julie was still in there, much more resembled the person on whom I originally based her, especially her dialogue. She knew all about the secret society and thought of it as a really romanticized thing.

There was a Leticia element in there, but their names were Luisa and Fernando and they were always out of town when they were needed.

I'm going to reread my whole manuscript this weekend and get a little more nostalgic.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

20 kids

I finally got to my 20th novel/series idea earlier this week, when another foray into Roman mythology made me really want to write a story about one of those great warriors/loves who gets immortalized and how you get demoted from a god status. So I have 20 baby plot bunnies running around in my head.

In terms of my finished book, I really need to do more work. In terms of the one I'm trying to work on, I really need to do more work. I'm doing a lot of pacing brainstorming, researching, etc. Something not to ask your friend's husband unless it's before dinner, which it was: "How quickly does blood coagulate?"

Mostly, this has been the summer of "thou shalt stress about everything BUT writing." I choreographed half a show, taught a lot of people how to do said choreography, performed that show to raise money for cancer research. Probably developed an ulcer doing it.

My current goal is to submit to ten more agents and/or publishers by the time it has been a year since I finished the book. I think that's not an unreasonable goal.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The predictability problem

So, I just finished reading The Doomsday Book. If you haven't read it yet, do! It's very good and very compelling story-telling.

Katey asked me if I had predicted certain things, so I kept track of things that I had guessed ahead of time. I noticed that I was doing a lot of it, not by deduction, but by comparative geekery. For example:

"I liked this relationship, but the whole dying on the brink of rescue thing I predicted because of Titanic."

"Yes, I had that theory. It was Timeline meets Andromeda Strain."

I do a lot of this. My original theory that Dumbledore would be killed by Snape in Book 6 so he could turn spy against Voldemort came because of a single scene in Prisoner of Azkaban, but whenever I justified my theory to people, it came down to the "Obi-Wan Complex."

I have, over the years, become pretty good at guessing endings. I'm proud of myself when I'm able to come up with a slightly or very unexpected plot twist. But on the other hand, there is a certain charm to predictability.

For example, we all know the Cinderella fairy tale, but the retellings of it are ingenious at times. Ella Enchanted. Terry Pratchett's Witches Abroad. We all go into Beastly knowing that Belle will transform the Beast in the end, but the journey is unique. On a more prosaic level, I remember telling a friend that I guessed the ending of Titanic because we know how many men survived and none of them were Leo's character. (This is also the friend who was appalled to hear the spoiler that the boat sinks!)

That is part of why I took a different turn to the hero's quest in The Deserter. I have this very loyal character who turns her back on the person to whom she is most loyal because he is making bad choices. There aren't that many epic adventures with that as a motif.

And now I'm working on Swan Lake redux. You can see it in animated version, by the American Ballet Theater, in Black Swan. I'm trying to decide which of the possible endings I want to use. I do not want to go with Tchaikovsky's brother's rewrite, where the lovers commit suicide and are granted eternal life for their sacrifice. The sorcerer is ten generations back, so it would be unfair to go with the original ending of killing the sorcerer to break the spell. On the other hand, all of that means that it will be a long and hard road for everyone involved.

But is it worth it any other way?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Time Management

Okay, really, the title of this post should be apathy. You get to the point where no matter how well you've managed time and have actual hours to use for the purpose of writing, you can't bring yourself to give a darn about the project.

Two years ago, I had a job and little time to write, but I didn't want to. I had stopped liking writing at all, so didn't write at all for months. Last year, I lost my job and finished my novel out of having nothing really better to do.

This summer as it's about to be in a few days, I want to be better. I think I'm going to take my cue from the article I read at work the other day. It said that, in order to build a successful exercise regimen, you should break your exercise hour or half hour into 10-minute segments. I once did an entire premise based on the idea that you could only write so much and so self-critically in one 10-minute period. On most days, I think I'll be able to write more than 10 minutes, but if not, I've gotten my 'exercise' in and I won't beat myself up about it.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Break...down

So, there comes a time in every novel's progress when one needs a break. I've been through several rounds of scribbling revisions in and updating a few things on my computer. Now, I'm going to query a bit and just let it sit for a bit.

In the meantime, I was struck with another idea for a modern re-telling of Swan Lake. I've researched such things as curfew laws, swan species, Celtic legends... It's fun so far and it helps to have an insane roommate to point out that if you look hard enough, you can find out how to bake a swan.

For now, here's a bit of amusement.

Sunday, May 8, 2011


Yes, it's Mother's Day. I'll be calling my Mom, my sisters, sister-in-law, favorite mission companions, etc. by the end of the day, but I thought I'd kill a little time before church and blog about parental relationships.

In so much of popular fiction, there's often more than an age gap between parents and children. Whether it's Buffy and Joyce, Bella and Renee, etc. the rule seems to be that the parents can't handle the truth, would punish the truth or just can't be trusted with the truth. Now, I would understand this if the mothers were all Mrs. Bennett from Pride and Prejudice, but even in Harry Potter, it's inadvisable to entrust parents with vital information. Take a look at how much the trio keep from Mrs. Weasley or how Dean says that he's not stupid enough to tell his mother anything about what's going on at Hogwarts.

So, when I set out to write Ella's relationship with Sarah Mack, I sort of borrowed a lot of the best things about a mother-daughter relationship. Mostly, it involves the fact that Ella is not out to hide anything from her parents. When she runs away from home, it's with warning and explanations. This might be a response to how my family dysfunctioned after my older sister ran away from home, but so be it.

Sarah nags and pries; she wants to know if your homework is done and when you'll be home from a date. She doesn't overreact to bad news, but is concerned with how to do damage control. Yes, she's really a kind of typical mother, at least in my experience. Where she matches my own Mom are moments like her falling asleep as soon as they leave Philadelphia for a trip to NYC; I have a journal of my trip to Taiwan and it opens with a comment about how we're over the Pacific and Mom's been snoring on a stranger's shoulder for several hours. Sarah puts a lot of thought into trip details; Mom is the one who got me tickets to Wicked, but also had almost every moment of our two-week trip to Europe planned.

In short, I wanted a typical Mom, but I wanted someone in whom Ella could put her trust.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Taking myself less seriously

So, final piano-related post, I promise. As I've mentioned before, I just did a recital. In that one, I played 20 pages of Beethoven. In the one before it, I played 20 pages of Mozart. I decided it was time to give myself a danged BREAK. (This was also aided by my piano teacher going on maternity leave.)

So, earlier this week, I went to Best in Music and spent about an hour finding some new things to play. First on the list of purchases was the Lord of the Rings trilogy music, which I've been meaning to get for a while. It has everything from Concerning Hobbits to Gollum's Song and really is a good investment.

Second, I perused the Faure section. I'm a huge fan of Faure, mostly because of his Requiem and Apres un Reve, and went to a performance of his Requiem last weekend. I was in the mood. I found a piano transcription of his Pavane, which is one of my favorites of his repertoire.

And then I went looking for the Kuhlau Sonatinas. After my semi-psychotic nervous breakdown experience over the Beethoven, I asked my mother for some recommendations on what to play next that wouldn't drive me as nuts as the Beethoven or Mozart. She suggested Clementi--I've played them before--and the Kuhlau. I like Kuhlau. Well, I didn't find the Sonatinas, but I was flipping through some of his other things and found his "Allegro Burlesco." I read through it and snickered by the end of it. I ended up buying it.

The Allegro Burlesco is what I'm starting to think of as Beethoven for people who don't take themselves too seriously. It's emotionally varied and stylistically complex, the way I like my music to be. But it's a five-page piece that is full of inside jokes. I am completely in love with it. Here's a very good video of it if you ignore the goofiness and 10-year-oldness of the pianist.

Anyway, after heart-stopping, breathtaking chromatic brilliance (Beethoven Op. 13) and playful sociopathy (Mozart, K. 465), I've been needing something to make me enjoy piano again. Something that reminds me I used to have a lot of fun with this. I had to stop taking lessons because my parents asked me to pick an instrument and I chose the one that would let me be in orchestras and I taught myself whatever the heck I felt like for the next 15 or so years. I didn't pick things that were reaching for the next level up or developing a specific skill. I picked things that I really enjoyed learning, such as the Grieg Notturno in C, the Chopin Prelude in g minor, etc.

It reminds me of writing this way. I've been fretting over whether or not I'm dealing with certain subject matter with appropriate depth. I've worried about having a lackluster ending. I've spent a year and a half on this blog being neurotic as hell.

But remember the lesson learned from piano. Fanfiction has been good for me because I approached it the same way that I approached piano during those fifteen years. I wrote what made me feel good or made me feel at all. I wrote things that helped me deal with being an abuse survivor or helped me express what it was like to be in love. I gave myself lectures on forgiveness. But I also wrote a lot of things that were just because I loved what I was doing with words.

I want to get back to that kind of feeling with my writing. Recently, I've had a severe dry spell, where my muse wouldn't cooperate with my intentions and it's been stressing me out. Tonight, while practicing my merry joke as the Kuhlau translates, I decided to lighten up and do some Beethoven-not-taken-too-seriously with my writing. I've earned it!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Stewing period

The writing process is a very intuitive thing and I've developed quite a routine over the years. Some things have changed, most have not.

But one of my most tried-and-true habits is one that drove my parents a little crazy at time when they knew I had a paper due. I would write my brains out and then walk away for a couple of hours. My theory was that if there's something wrong that I need to fix, I'll notice it when I come back after a while. It's always been true and mostly they didn't like knowing that I wasn't done with my projects.

So I always have a stewing period, where I walk away for a while and then come back. This last time, I didn't really mean to have that period. I've given myself "away time" from my book, but I've been pretty good recently about doing revisions on a regular basis.

I'm in the process of moving and I left the binder with my revisions in it at the old place. I finally got that back yesterday when I picked up some dresses, shoes, my desktop and external hard drive, but I still haven't looked at it since then. I'm going to leave it until after Tax Day. That is tomorrow, my taxes are already filed, but because I work for the USPS, there will be a thousand million gajillion people calling about their taxes tomorrow. My work acknowledges that it sucks so much, we actually get to come in our pajamas and have really good food.

Another thing I'm stewing on is my piano practice. I successfully played the Beethoven on April 9 and haven't played much of anything other than a Clementi sonatina last week. I am going to get my piano moved into the new place this coming Saturday and I will then go to Best in Music to find some new stuff to play. For example, I will be asking my mom about those Beautiful Beethoven Sonatas That You Should Really Play. I'm going to get some movie music. I might even dabble in Debussy.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Positive Reinforcement

So, I've been working for nearly 6 months for the USPS. A couple of weeks ago, I applied for a position with Inspection Services. That position got filled, but the boss emailed me with a very nice list of the reasons why he wanted me to apply again next time there was an opening. Since I'm planning on being there only until Summer term, I didn't think that would come around before I left or had to cut back hours. Well, over the weekend, I found out that they had two more openings and the guy emailed me again to ask if I was interested in applying.

So this morning, I get to work and find that there's a schedule change listing that I have "Coaching" at 2-2:15. That's usually code for performance review from my boss, but when I opened my email windows, I found another email from the aforementioned IS guy. It said that 2-2:15 he wanted to have an interview with me. I wish he had let me know, since I was wearing my slightly-fraying jeans and a t-shirt that is navy blue and almost acid-green. (I found it at JCPenney's yesterday when I needed a cheerup and it was only $5.52.)

I don't know yet if I got the job--it's only been 3+ hours since the interview--but it was a nice bit of positive reinforcement. Even if I don't get it, I got to hear that my current boss had recommended me highly, that I was confident without sounding arrogant and that I was obviously very good at self-managing.

This came on the heels of having a great phone call yesterday. I spent about an hour talking to my sister-in-law and she asked all kinds of questions about my book and queries and we laughed at ourselves a lot. It was an hour well-spent.

So, here's to the really little ways to make yourself happy!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Performance Anxiety

So, there are a number of reasons why my Mom has not read the book. #1 is that she read my sister-in-law's book and called it "Kind of Baby-sitter's Club." #2 is that my characters aren't Mormon or even good church-goers, by and large and there are the occasional uses of "What the hell?" and "DAMN!"

#3 is illustrated by this last weekend. I have a piano recital, in which I'm playing the aforementioned Pathetique. Last week, I developed major performance anxiety and am now having a lot of freakouts about the recital. This has happened to me with things like my first major solo, in Vivaldi's Gloria, and before I had to audition for the New England Conservatory Youth Repertory Orchestra. Some times, it's a lot worse than others. This is one of those times. So, my Mom, who has been touring and giving lectures on how to overcome performance anxiety, offered to help. So I played her my recital program. She then went on to point out the lack of musicality, how excruciating it looked for me to play it, how my hands were wrong for the piece, how 90% of the pianists she's known have never been able to tackle this piece, that I should know better than to let it be massacred like that. I have higher musical standards than this. I am playing it "by hook and crook" and irreparably damaging my technique.

Remember how I said that my characters say "What the hell?" and "Damn"? If I were fictional and controlled by someone other than me, I would have used those things. Instead, I spent 20 minutes crying at my Mom's grand piano. She felt so bad for terrorizing me about it that she hemmed my jeans, ran a hot bath and gave me a ride home. But she thinks I should have never started it in the first place.

So, then I think about the day that I hand her a copy of my book. She talks me through not being nervous about her reaction and then tells me that there's no grace to the prose, that I have higher literary standards, that I'm irreparably damaging my own writing style and should never have started it in the first place.

SHe's asked me before why she hasn't gotten to read it. I politely tell her that if she thinks my sister-in-law's book is Baby-Sitter's Club, I'd rather not hear her opinion for several more drafts. It's the kind thing to say.

Friday, March 18, 2011

On the Road Again

Heaven help us, it's time for another road trip. This time, I'm off to California for the wedding of the girl who reminds me of Julie to the guy who is the basis of Andrew Farragut. Driving all the way and currently updating from a McDonald's in Elko, NV.

Plus, we're driving with that blonde chick with whom I went to Philly last year. Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

Saturday, March 5, 2011


So, among my other hobbies, I'm a musician. Violin, viola, piano, organ and handbells are my instrument, but this blog post is about something related to the pianist side of me.

I am working on Beethoven's "Pathetique" Sonata. I learned it when I was 18 and my teacher suggested that I relearn it and perform it now that I'm 12 years older and a much better pianist. Never one to turn down Beethoven, I agreed.

Really, it's one of the great piano works of all time. You have to be sadistic and masochistic as well to even tackle the first movement, which is 19 blinding pages long. Admittedly, the last thing I learned before this was the 20-page 3rd movement of the Mozart Piano Concerto No. 21, but that was a fun finale that has jokes everywhere and gives you a rest once in a while. This does have a few "easier" parts, where you're doing crashing chords and nontuplets (9 notes strung together in a really quick fashion), but it does not give you a rest. If you leave the intensity alone for one minute, it loses its effectiveness. And it goes from the cheerful melody in the introduction to the war between the hands. (Now that I've scared you out of ever looking at the sheet music or subjecting your children to it, let me reassure you that the second movement makes it worth the wait. And your fingers get to sort of droop sleepily over the keys until the minor section.)

Listen to it here:

I hope you listen to it sometime, if not here. Pay attention to 7:31 to 8:37 and you'll understand what this blog post is about.

The most commonly recognized image of Beethoven is of this wild-haired, grouchy looking man. I am firmly convinced that he had combed hair and a well-adjusted personality. And then he played the Pathetique. I'm starting to notice that my hair is starting to mimic his.

Why, you may ask? Well, listen to 7:31 to 8:37 again. It comes crashing to a halt just when you think you have enough energy to get to the end, then makes you ease up to repeat the opening motif. You have to relax into those chords and then get right back up and not make the last bit a train wreck. WOW that was a mixed metaphor if I ever wrote one.

What I'd like to talk about is the difficulty in making that last minute convincing. It's hard enough to get through the first 17.5 pages with no flagging speed or exhaustion. I've played Handel's Messiah on violin for three hours and been less exhausted than I am when I finish a practice of this piece. The reason is that you have to command that last page with absolute confidence and dominion over the emotional demands of the music. And you have to do it convincingly.

I mentioned that I learned it when I was 18. I played the second movement for my senior recital, since my mom didn't want me to use up all my energy in one piece. In the same season, a friend of mine was learning the first movement that I've been talking about. SHe is a very gifted pianist technically, but she is not as musically expressive as most people. While I admired that she could play all of those notes faster than I, I didn't feel the same thrill that I do when I hear Horowitz crashing through the last bit. I almost got bored in the middle.

So, how does this relate to writing? Well, I have done one complete revision of my book. I am now on a second one and feeling about the pacing the way I do about Beethoven's Pathetique. The story I am telling requires audacity and intensity and I am afraid of letting people read it if I have not given them a taste of the heart-stopping brilliance that is stuck in my head. If I don't pull off the writing the right way, the climax of the book will leave the readers feeling like I did when I heard a lackluster performance of the Pathetique. Yeah, the grammar and spelling were there, but there was no fire.

I've been rereading Harry Potter 7 this last week and there are two parts at which I actually cry every time. One is when Pansy Parkinson orders the students of Hogwarts to seize Harry and turn him over and the whole of the school stands against her. The other is when he takes off his invisibility cloak to fight Voldemort in the battle in the Great Hall. See the epilogue of this post for more amusing things that make someone with "the maternal instincts of a woodchipper" (The Guild) get emotional in literature. Those are two times at which the emotional poignancy of the whole experience just becomes too much for even me.

I don't harbor delusions that Ella will evoke that kind of reaction in the first book or maybe even in the fifth. Harry is a supernal gift to literature. But I want people to feel the same heart-stopping thrill that I get when I hear the Pathetique done right. They deserve nothing less if they've bothered to open the book.

Epilogue: 10 literary moments that make me choke up when I read them

1. Wednesday Wars: Holling's soliloquy on gods dying. It's such a frank and poignant expression of what he thinks is wrong with war.
2. Wednesday Wars: Heather Hoodhood coming home. You never really notice until that moment that you don't know her name. Everything that has gone before and what Holling sacrifices to bring her back...
3. Wednesday Wars: Okay, so I have more. Honestly, I remember getting into the car with my mother and finding her sobbing uncontrollably while listening to this part. It is when Mrs. Baker, who has been suffering through her husband's MIA status in Viet Nam, gets a telegram from him.
4. Lord of the Rings: Frodo's speech about how Sam cannot forever be torn in two.
5. The Polar Express: The last page, when it says that eventually, his friends stopped hearing the bell, but he never did. Katey and I have twice holed up in a library and read picture books to each other. When I read Polar Express aloud and had to stop at that sentence because I was too moved to speak, she looked very amused.
6. Winter of Our Discontent: When his daughter's gift keeps him from committing suicide.
7. Harry Potter 3: When Harry refuses to kill Wormtail. That entire chapter gives me the same kind of thrill as Beethoven and when Harry proves to be the better man...
8. Harry Potter 4: When Hagrid talks to Harry for the first time since he faced Voldemort again. We never really see Hagrid in a gentle light. He's the guy who raises giant spiders and dragons and is an emissary to the giants, for crying out loud. His paternal side at this point, when Harry says he's all right and Hagrid with unfailing faith says "No, but yeh will be," is one of my favorite parts.
9. Harry Potter 6: "You're Dumbledore's man, through and through." THe movie ruined this by not putting in any of the doubt and conflict with Dumbledore in OOTP.
10. Harry Potter 7: When Ron speculates that he was left the Deluminator because Dumbledore knew he'd leave and Harry retorts that Dumbledore knew he would want to come back.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Young at Arts

So, minor story from back in the day. (More back-in-the-day than usual, that is.) When I was 12 and in 6th grade, I was part of Art Lab. It was an after-school activity that let art enthusiasts spend extra time in our teacher's classroom. My older sister was doing it as well and being the bratty younger sister, I tended to be interested in whatever she was doing. She decided to enter the state-wide Young at Arts competition and on a whim, so did I. Out of 800 entries, they chose 50 pieces to receive the winning honors, hang in the Wang Center during the Christmas season and go on a regional tour after that. Plus we got to go to this big awards ceremony at said Wang Center (this is the home of the Boston Ballet and one of the coolest places in Boston) and I still have a certificate from the mayor, etc.

Well, one of the cooler things that happened in that contest was having the winning entries published in a little book with biographies and quotes from teachers and pictures of the winners and their teachers. I still have it sitting on my bookshelf. Once in a while, I'll pull out that little book and flip to my page, where I'm on the lower half of the page, with my painting, the media used, a quote that I never actually said and a really kind of adorable picture with Ms. N.

Ms. N was really good to me in terms of art. Rather than treat me as a flash in the pan, she encouraged me to continue competing and creating. She wrote one of the recommendations that got me into Interlochen for the camp, which is why I spent 6 hours a day playing violin and 2 hours drawing or painting. When I came back for 7th grade, she pushed me in the direction of Young at Arts again and gave me my own corner of the art room to hang new drawing paper so I could work on that year's entry. I didn't have to do the other class assignments. It didn't win Young at Arts, but it did take 3rd place in the Boston Globe Youth Art Competition.

I look back at those two years and the love of art that I still have and am immensely grateful for having a supportive teacher like Ms. N who basically let me flourish my own way as long as I didn't disrupt things and got her coffee from the cafeteria. I'm sure I would have kept drawing if I hadn't had Ms. N, but I probably wouldn't have entered the art shows that I ended up being featured in and I definitely wouldn't have been the person in my family who went to the Louvre with a sketchbook. She was a very powerful force for good.

On the other hand, I look back at that painting, City Life in Tainan. It's an India-ink adaptation of a photograph that I'd taken from our hotel windown in Tainan, Taiwan when I was 9. There's Coca-cola signs, a pagoda in the background, a lot of shops and even a cyclist in the midground. There are crooked lines and there's a car in the lower right-hand corner that is in a very different position in the original picture. While the colors are vibrant, I couldn't keep them evenly spread.

I can imagine that the judges looked at the mottled sky and mistook my uneven hand for attention to coloring. They might have even thought of this painting as abstract in some way. I don't know. I just know that looking at the rest of the winning works that year, I definitely wonder how I made the cut.

I feel that way about writing. RR, the publicist/friend/workout buddy, was at a party with me the other night and she spent a few minutes gushing to a complete stranger about my book again. This was on the same day that I'd looked at the Young at Arts publication and I started thinking that maybe she didn't get it. After all, this is the person who compared Alex to Umbridge. I am so grateful for her support, but wonder if I'm going to look back in 17 years and think that maybe everyone thought I meant something different.

That also reminds me of Trey Stokes, as many things do. As I might have mentioned before, a lot of the conversations I had with him consisted of me asking a detailed question and him admitting that he hadn't looked at that angle. For example, me wondering which god Stacey is referring to when she says Omigod. Or when I laughed at Yoda's good influence in Stacey not swearing for 1/3 of Return of Pink 5 and he commented that he hadn't done that intentionally.

Another example, back on my side of things, is Lest Ye Be Judged. It was an extremely dark story, but people kept laughing at posts and I'd go back and realize that I'd given Vader a sense of humor in that one scene. It mystified me how I could fail to notice that kind of thing.

SO maybe the people who think that I'm doing a good job are being too nice or not really seeing the flaws. Or maybe I just haven't read it from an outsider's perspective.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Inventing Anna

Originally, my main character had a single best friend named Julie. She was based on one friend, ended up with the sense of humor of another and was actually the first character that I wrote in an early draft of the third chapter. Then I realized that if I wanted to use her in all of the capacities that I needed, she would be billed as an inconsistent character.

Now, I do approve of inconsistent characters under circumstances, such as a personality disorder or willful deception, but that doesn't fit Julie. I realized at that point that I needed someone to take hold of her other personality and that became Anna. She was based on a girl I first met in my 4th grade math class who had one of the strongest personalities I've ever known. Both fierce and stalwart.

So, both of my readers so far have mentioned that I need to differentiate Anna and Julie more. I believe that it's because in the early chapters they were the same. The process of fleshing them out has been like knowing a family and then getting to know the individual members of the family.

The problem with finding this divisive line is working out how much of a contrast to make. If I make Anna too different, she becomes someone with whom Ella would not want to associate. If she gets much closer, she blends into Julie once more.

So far, the major distinction comes just before Chapter 14, when there is a major argument. Julie and Anna handle it so differently that I'm not sure I see in that scene why they're friends at all. I like that bit because really it's something we've all gone through, so it was the first time that Anna and Julie were really profoundly realistic to me.

In other news, my boss has an interesting rule that has been making life difficult. I work somewhat indirectly for the United States Postal Service and we are expected to make each call average 3 minutes and 3 seconds. If we do not have that average, we are not allowed to do anything between calls. I think I have been setting personal records just because I bring my manuscript to work on. I have all 325 pages in a purple bandana-print binder that I found a few years ago and I have several red pens tucked into the pencil holder inside. So far, there are mostly scribbled additions to dialogue or strike-throughs over words. It's very therapeutic. Plus on occasion, my security guard whom I have befriended and I were trading quotes that we like. When I couldn't remember the exact wording of Part 2's header (the quote from Rudyard Kipling), I opened my binder, flipped to the quote and read it. Plus, it gives me a reassurance that I'm doing something more than sitting around waiting for query responses.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Happy New Year!

I have finally gotten around to some serious revisions, which are making me feel better while not shortening my book yet. I'm trying, I swear!

I have started out the year well in terms of writing. First was one of my perennial writing traditions with Katey. We usually have writing contests that determine things like whether or not she has to watch the Red Sox in the playoffs or whether or not I have to watch Fullmetal Alchemist. For two people who do so much 'competitive' writing, we aren't all that competitive away from writing/Scrabble. It's amusing. But last year, we gave each other challenges to be written by the end of January 1. We did that again this year and it was quite fun.

As I've mentioned before, I have a long history in fanfic and it keeps my creative juices flowing while I'm slogging through revisions. I've been working more on fanfic, since it's been a neglected stress relief for me.

First real order of business for this year is to finish one full course of revisions. Next, I need to get Writers Market 2011 and start trolling for more agents to query. I'm doing that already (trolling, not getting the book), but I need to do it more effectively.

RR keeps pestering me for book 2 and I'm going to take my vague outline and write the synopsis out as I did two years ago with book 1. It should give me an idea of what needs to be set up or eliminated. I also want to get some of my pre-formed ideas down on paper while they're still fresh in my mind.