29 May 2012

Getting Back

Time has been that illusive mistress.

My week has been so busy and it's been seven days since I had any real time to work on my manuscript. Last week I did manage to take 8 pages of notes for all the things that make the story great and that need work to make the story even greater.

I rewrote the first two pages because I just couldn't stop myself and ended up writing one line that just makes my heart sing I am so proud of it.

I've made myself a new Holden/Jezebel playlist that is comprised of songs that make me think of them and I listen to them when I'm out walking or at work or driving around. It helps me stay connected to them and gives my brain a chance to work through their concerns even when I don't have time to sit down and get the actual words out.

Just a few more days of this and then my holiday weekend arrives and I have four work free days to spend writing, hanging out with friends, and running a few pre-road trip errands because mid-June is going to be here in but a blink of an eye. (Don't blink!)

I'm really looking forward to getting back to it.

22 May 2012

Diving in

The rains have returned and I hate to confess it, but there's a gleeful little part of me that is absolutely delighted. Beautiful days can be a writer's curse, especially in a part of the country that is wet and gloomish for a greater part of the year.

5 days ago my manuscript returned to my doorstep and as it was collected from the mailbox, I (literally) dropped everything and sat down to read the evaluation and then I went through the manuscript itself, page by page, to look at the specific comments. 2 hours later I woke up adrift in a sea of emotions and starving.

It was an experience like nothing else. I took A LOT of writing classes in college and a few post-college. I've been in writing groups before. I've been given positive and constructive feedback many, many times before.

But there's been no other project that I've poured so much time into nor invested so much heart.

I was in a place with this manuscript where I just didn't know what to do next. I knew that there was still work to be done, but I felt a little lost, unequipped to make the kinds of tough editing decisions that I knew were going to need to be made. It's the curse of character. My characters were real (and though it became clear that while Holden does shine on the page, Jezebel doesn't quite come across the way I see her). I love spending time with them...too much time and too many pages.

What's absolutely amazing, is that I now have a clear vision of what kinds of things I need to cut, what kinds of things don't really move the story along. Yesterday I was listening to the Nerdist Podcast and Chris Hardwick was talking to Tina Fey and he asked her if she'd like to do another screenplay and she said yes and then proceeded to talk about how much she's learned, especially from 30 Rock, how important story is. Tina talked about notes she got regarding the screenplay for Mean Girls from the studio and how they kept saying, "More story!" and she didn't really understand what they meant at the time.

I think I've fallen into that same problem a bit myself. SWHOT is definitely a character driven piece. You need to understand and care about what happens to these characters...but that doesn't mean I don't have to make tough decisions about scenes to cut in order to support the greater good. Story is very important. Some might argue it's the only thing worth paying attention to.

There was one aspect of the manuscript that's bothered me from the beginning of the entire writing process for SWHOT and that's Jezebel's history. I changed it completely between the first and second draft and now as I begin the third draft, I have an incredibly tough decision to make. I have a plan for how to fix the problems with her history should I decide to keep it the way it is. I have a clear vision for how it can still work and how I can integrate that into the entire manuscript.

Or I can change it.

And there's a pretty good option on the table that would work well with the characters I have and their needs and motivations and it would serve the story.

I just need to decide.

As you'll see from the photo, I've got a notepad where my plan is to break down the "pros," the what needs to stay, and the "cons," what definitely needs to go. I'm also considering rewriting the first chapter from scratch with Version A and then again with Version B. But I told myself I'd wait a full week to begin any actual writing.

During most of my downtime my brain has been storming up ideas and solutions.

This critique was exactly what I needed to see the finish line. One of the greatest reassurances from the praise and the criticism, was that the "writing is really strong." I figure as long as I have that, everything else is an easy fix.

Armed and ready

16 May 2012

Waiting for My Manuscript

What an amazing and incredibly busy and challenging and wonderful week this past week has been. And now, somewhere between the east coast and the west coast, my novel is making its way back to me. I feel like I've sent it off to camp and it's going to come back to me sun-tanned and just a little bit more grown up. It's had a life away from mine and I am looking forward to hearing of its tales and adventures. I can't wait to see how it's grown.

The email I got yesterday (for those who missed the Facebook post) said, "I found SWHOT* to be a strong manuscript, especially the character of Holden. As you'll see in your critique, I think he holds his own with any of John Green's boys."

As I'm sure anyone who regularly reads my blog knows, I am an ardent admirer of John Green as a writer and as a human being. I don't think I could have received a better compliment. And I swear my feet (in their new red shoes) were about 4 inches off the ground all day. A silly grin was permanently adhered to my face and joy filled me up to the point where it overflowed. 

I had the best day ever...beautiful, beautiful weather, new fun sandals, sushi for lunch, hand made salted caramel ice cream, a walk to Wallace Park (where some of my book takes place), a massage, Burgerville (Asparagus Spears!) and Captain America. And all this with my love at my side. Truth be told, I couldn't have written this book without him. He has been supportive and understanding. He has made me coffee, dinner, given me time without me having to ask for it, and taught me so much about love and friendship and happiness. He has been there to to encourage and celebrate through each step of this entire process.

I know there are still many things in my manuscript that need polishing (and I'm really looking forward to hearing the criticisms offered in this manuscript critique as well as the compliments), but one thing I have absolutely never doubted is Holden. He is as real to me as any person I have ever met and I know him inside and out. There was a time when I wanted to push the story in a different direction and he fought back and he won. And he was right.

*Something Worth Holding On To...though I am a little bit enamored with how SWHOT sounds...
My hostas begin to unfurl.

11 May 2012

Loving the lovely loveliness (where there is no room for hate)

After the last two "springs," I can't believe this weather is real. I can't believe it's going to last. I keep waiting for the wet and the cold to return and never ever leave. I feel skeptical in a way that kind of amuses me. So I'm savoring each day, trying to make the most of it despite a schedule that has kept me much too busy for my own good. I mow the lawn, pull the weeds and dream about long, lazy summer days.

Where does all the time go?

I've had a morning of chores and the afternoon holds a few more. I've set the hammock up as an inspiration to keep going so that I might collapse into it for a brief afternoon nap and some time to read.

This week I received word that I should be getting my manuscript back as early as next week. This is both exciting and nerve-wracking. Honestly I was hoping for a little bit more time apart. I think what I'll do is read through the feedback and discuss it and then let it all simmer for a month while I decide what my next step is going to be.

Over the past week and a half I've been working on something new, something that came from a very small idea and is suddenly becoming something bigger. I've written nearly 20 pages and these busy days have made me sad to not have more time to spend with my new characters.

I have also been thinking a great deal about the whole North Carolina/gay marriage debate, but when I came across Hank Green's latest video I've decided he says it just right. So I'm just going to put this here and let you look at it if you'd like. Hank does an excellent job of getting to the real heart of the issue.

01 May 2012

Bullying and a New Project

Two very important things happened today.

First, I wrote four pages of new fiction. This is a completely separate project from the one that I'm stirring up for NaNoWriMo 2012. After taking the week off after mailing my manuscript, I decided it was important to begin something new while I let my last project settle in with some new readers.

It was slow, tough going at the beginning, but then I found the story starting to build momentum. Characters began to introduce themselves and I began to see the glimpses of the story that is beginning to share itself with me. And this morning's writing left me with a cliffhanger I can't wait to get back to.

Goal? A 60,000-75,000 word novel by the fall.

Second, my husband and I went downtown to see the movie Bully. As I knew it would, this movie punched me in the gut. You see, something that I haven't really talked about is the fact that in my novel, the one I just sent away, Jezebel's younger brother, David, is a victim of some pretty excessive bullying. This is one of the many reasons why it was important for me to go see this movie.

I was fortunate growing up that I was never bullied. No one ever made fun of me (outside of the elementary schoolboy traditional flirting variety) and I never bullied anyone else. I can't even think of any serious bullying incidents I ever witnessed. Maybe I just don't remember. Maybe I was just lucky.

What I do know is that others aren't so lucky. Too many others. Bully is an important documentary because it starts a necessary conversation. One of the things that social media has shown us, is that people will say things on the internet that they might never say irl. There is a certain kind of anonymity that makes bullies more bold on Facebook, on Twitter.

I know I'm not done talking about issues of bullying. I know as I revise this book, as I talk about it and hopefully one day publish it, this will likely be a topic of ongoing discussion.

But for this night, I think a long walk in the rain is in order.