Saturday, October 31, 2009

Somewhere I Never Thought to Find Jane Austen

As I cruised through my local Borders today, I came across this:

The Marvel comic adaptation of Jane Austen's novel Pride and Prejudice! I've seen P&P in the theater, in the wonderful Colin Firth TV miniseries, as a book (of course), as a book with zombies (what?), but never before as a comic book.

I thumbed through it. I'm not a comic fan, so I can't tell you if it was well done or not. A comic book with no fantastical elements seems a little odd to me. An adaptation of the zombie version would have made more sense to me.

I'm fascinated, though, that this book was ever considered for publication. I know that there are a lot more women and teens reading comic books these days, but are they reading ones with nineteenth-century story lines? Perhaps I'm out of touch with the novel-to-comic crossover audience, but it seems to me that typical Austen fans are not also comic fans.

And most important, what is the magazine-style cover all about?

(Eeek! NaNo starts tomorrow! How exciting!)

Friday, October 30, 2009

All Madison, All Day

I took the day off work and focused my entire day on editing Madison, starting at 7:30 a.m. and ending now, leaving myself enough time to workout and eat before meeting some friends tonight. Were it not for my planned outing, I'd still be editing Madison instead of typing this blog.

Today flew by. I broke it down into 90-minute segments so I'd remember to stand and move around at least once every few hours. My butt thanked me. So did my back.

I think I need another day like today to get "caught up" to where I want to be. I've edited 273 pages of the 314 total, which is much farther along than I was at the beginning of the day. However, I still haven't entered any of that into the computer, which goes faster than editing but still takes time.

The best thing is that I really like my story! I can see that it's better now than when I first wrote it two years ago. So's my writing. I can see that it's a complete story now, one that's ready to be published once these edits are through. I think that's what has me so energized after the long day. I've written something publishable!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

NaNo WriMo Cheater (Or How I'm Not)

I've mentioned in several posts that I'm preplanning my NaNo WriMo book, and I've had several people (family members) immediately ask the question: "Isn't that cheating?"

Technically, yes. All NaNo WriMo books are supposed to be complete scratch on November 1, and then written entirely in that month. Preplanned and preplotted books go against the "rules." However, the idea behind this rule is to prevent first-time, never-finished-a-book-before writers from getting bogged down in creating a perfect book, nitpicking over the details, and generally using things like storyboarding and research as an excuse not to write. The other reason for the rule is to show people who have labored over half-done novels for months or years that it is possible to finish a novel (albeit a short one) in a month.

I don't fit into either of those categories. I know that I can write a book in a month. I've done twice (though last year's dragged on for an additional month or more, but I followed the word-minimum every day the entire time and I greatly exceeded the 50,000-words minimum, so I count it). I also know that I'm not going to get bogged down in the pre-writing details of my book.

I've been editing Madison for eons (two years) and have realized that the more concrete I can make the story arc upfront, the better the story is going to be in the long run, and the fewer rounds of edits I'll have to go through (fingers crossed). Furthermore, I'm not writing the book yet. I'm waiting to start on November 1. The anticipation is motivational. It's prompted me to look at my story idea and flesh it out beyond an opening idea and a main character. In fact, yesterday I spent over an hour working through the plot points. I don't know the ending, and I'm the type of author who likes to (needs to) know the ending so I can manipulate the middle with foreshadowing and plot twists, yet still stay on track.

So, final answer, "No, I'm not cheating."

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Normal Rules Don't Apply to Writing

I think I'm finally finding the balance between pushing myself too hard and too little. When I was in high school and college, and even more recently, I would refuse to give myself a break on virtually anything, pushing myself too hard (to reach goals, to be perfect in all things, to always be improving) until I would reach my limit, then I'd stop. Stop trying, stop everything. In high school and college, these stops couldn't last too long, because the next project would be due and I'd be back into the pushing phase.

When I gradated into the workforce, the slacking phases could extend to months at a time, followed by guilt, and then extreme dedication to being the best at everything once more. But it occurred to me today that I'm not in that cycle any longer. I've learned how to be gentler with myself when I'm aiming for perfection, and also how to prompt myself when I know I'm coasting.

But writing doesn't fit into any of the same logical parameters. For instance, if I'm tired, I try to go to bed earlier, or I don't work out as hard. If I have a lot of deadlines and projects for my paying job, I give myself time off later and I make sure I have plenty of relaxing, fun things to do during my down time in those hectic periods. But when it comes to writing, if I don't feel like doing it, it doesn't matter.

I'm not being hard on myself here. And I'm not complaining. I've learned that if I don't feel like writing, that's too bad, because I'm not going to reach my goal unless I work when I'm feeling inspired and when I'm not. And usually, even if I don't feel like writing when I sit down, I'm enjoying it in no time, and at the very least, I feel good about myself when I've reached my daily goal.

Again, this is a good reminder (like my earlier-this-week post about how I feel better about myself when I write) right before NaNo WriMo starts. If I complain when I'm in the middle of November, remind me to look back at these posts.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Back to Editing: At Last

Today I worked on Madison for the first time in three weeks, and I was reminded of something: I feel better (about my day, about myself) when I write. It's essential to who I am, it's part of my DNA, it's part of that core inside me that is either happy in the moment or not. It's sad that I've been away from the book long enough for me to have to "remember" this truism all over again, but I'm not complaining—I wrote today.

I have a goal to finish the Madison edits before NaNo WriMo. It was a goal that got pushed aside for more important things. I don't know if I can do it now. If you'd asked me this morning, after I got up early and worked on Madison for an hour and half before starting my job, I would have said it was doable.

Then I got to thinking. I'm doing a hardcopy edit, meaning I'm making all the marks on the paper and writing the needed transitions by hand. I'm about one-third of the way through the edits. Then I need to enter them, do another polish by hand followed by computer entry again, and finalize my query. That's a lot to pack into the four remaining days of the month.

If I don't finish it by November, I'll have to work out some new plan of attack that includes continuing the edits and writing the new novel. Hey, I'll be just like a lot of other early-in-their-career (before they've made the New York Times best seller list) published authors!

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Debut Masses

I thought, back in January when I started Number One Novels, a blog to showcase debut authors, that I might be running a little lean on new people by this time of year. I know, intellectually, that a lot of novels are published every year, but I have never seen it, and with large-number things, I need to see it to understand it. (Four hundred people and a thousand look a lot the same in my head—they look a lot different when I'm crowded into a stadium with them.)

I know, from agents and authors pointing it out, that novels typically stay on the bookshelves at your nearby bookstore for a whopping 6 or so weeks. With that kind of turnaround, there's bound to be a lot of new material coming in.

I also know, as a nation and as an individual, how story-hungry we all are. Case in point, I'm already reading my 64th book this year (and that doesn't count those I started and couldn't get into).

It stands to reason that a lot of the authors filling the store bookshelves are new to the scene. But seeing the number of them as I have in my debut author hunts helped me make the leap from intellectually understanding the influx of debut authors and actually believing the numbers.

And these are just the published authors. With the number of queries agents and editors reject, I feel that every person I meet should have a novel or two lurking in the confines of their desk. Maybe I'm helping skew the numbers, since I have three lounging about, waiting for me to polish them.

Fortunately for me, editors and publishers are still buying up debut works like crazy, and fortunately for the NON blog, there's no end in sight of debut authors.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Fantasy Goals

I've always loved writing fantasy. In college, I wrote a sci-fi short story (great first page, horrible follow-up 19 pages) and a futuristic/alien fantasy screenplay (great concept, horrible everything else). I've tried ordinary fiction with a few short stories: one was abysmal, about a breakup of proportions I'd never encountered and couldn't make believable (though there were some great Kleenex to life analogies, if I remember correctly), the other was an adventure short story, where I forced myself to pare everything down to the essentials (difficult for me) and left much of the story off the page (like all the elements that made it a little bit more than just fiction) and it was a good story, but it lacked that special something to make it great. Plus, they all lacked a solid ending (a theme of mine that I'm working hard to fix).

I've written an epic fantasy novel (of epic, 1,000-plus-page proportions) and two urban fantasy novels (both Madison novels). The next book I'll be starting soon will be a romance adventure with a feathering touch of fantasy (as I picture it now; everything could change as I write it). It's impossible for me to flesh out a story idea without it turning into a fantasy no matter which way I write it. And I consider that a good thing.

Despite all the fantasy types I've toyed with, the thing I've always longed to write is magic realism, where everyday life has accepted magic. Madison comes close, but it fits too perfectly into the urban fantasy category. I don't know why I find magic realism such a pleasing idea to write. I don't read it—at least, I haven't found a good author who writes it. I think, much like the allure of steampunk, it's the combination and possibilities of what my life and everyday life would be like if magic existed.

I haven't had any plot/character ideas that work with magic realism yet. When I do, though, you know that'll be the next book I write. Because, really, what could be better than here and now with some magic added in?

Friday, October 23, 2009

It's Coming (Cue Jaw's Music)

It's so close I could almost touch it! (Lots of squeeing has been going on in my head, especially late at night when I should be asleep, but I'm lost in my new story.)
I totally need this poster.

Here's the other choice if you want something a little sunnier. I love rain, so the top poster is definitely in my future.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Liking the Graphics

We watched Land of the Lost last night. There's a lot I could say about the lack of character development or the cheesy plot ploys, but there wouldn't be much point. I didn't watch the movie expecting dynamic characters and seamless plot arcs, and I didn't particularly want them. I wanted spoofy comedy, and, for the most part, I got it.

The element I wasn't expecting to be so good was the special effects. They were incredible. I suppose I should be used to seeing realistic bizarre creatures and scenic views, but this movie still managed to shock me. Yes, there were some atrocious costumes on the monkey and lizard people, but the computer generated dinosaurs were amazing!

For some reason I felt the need to continually remind myself that they weren't real (rather than simply enjoying the movie). I think it was because they seemed so plausible. Even the point where Will Ferrell is riding a dinosaur looked real. Impressive.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Young Grasshopper of Publishing

At a recent family gathering, I had the opportunity to discuss my career choice—mainly, I answered a lot of curious questions about the publishing industry—and it occurred to me that I was sounding very knowledgeable. I've been picking up lots of information in the last few years, but it wasn't until I was talking with people with no knowledge of this world that I realized how much I had learned.

And then I checked out what was happening at Pub Rants (discussion of royalties and information publishers send an agent/author) and I realized how little I know. Apparently I've finally reached that level where I know just enough to realize how much there is that I don't know.

I hadn't really thought about it before, but I guess it's a phase that happens in all new endeavors, whether it's a new job or a new subject in school. I went far enough in Spanish to realize that I barely knew anything. I didn't make it that far in physics. I surpassed the hurdle into the territory of "knowledgeable" in literature. I've had jobs where just when I thought I knew everything, I realized I knew only the tip of the iceberg...and then I got a lot better.

I'm going to take this as a good sign. I'm doing the right thing. My research is paying off. Now I just need to sell Madison so I can learn, firsthand, everything involved in the next step (and everything involved in royalty statements).

Monday, October 19, 2009

Testing the Waters

October 27th is fast approaching. If you have to ask why is this date so important, then you're not a Robert Jordan/Wheel of Time fan. October 27th marks the date that the final novel of the Wheel of Time series will be released. Of course, this is a 12-book epic saga, so there was no hope that it would all be wrapped up that easily. The book, titled A Memory of Light, will be released in three installments, the first of which is called The Gathering Storm. Since Robert Jordan passed away before he could complete the series, Brandon Sanderson has stepped up to finish it.

Despite the fact that The Gathering Storm will be out in a little over a week, I felt compelled to check out Sanderson's writing ahead of time. I decided on his debut, Elantris (it seemed like the best place to start). I will admit that a strangely large amount of my decision was dictated by the design of the back flap. Odd, I know, but sometimes it isn't the story that pulls you in as much as the art/design, as sad as that is. I also read the first line of chapter one:

"Prince Raoden of Arelon awoke early that morning, completely unaware that he had been damned for all eternity."

That's a pretty compelling hook.

I'm now a mere 89 pages into the novel, and I'm greatly enjoying it. Better yet, I can tell from the rhythm of his writing that I'm going to enjoy his style in The Gathering Storm. Best yet, I've found a new author I like!

(Holy cow! I just checked out his website. The man is doing a ton of signings for The Gathering Storm, as in multiple signings in different states on the same day. Also, he and I would probably get along great if those little tracker bars he has on his site are any indication. And he's got a lot of information on his site about his books that I've never seen on an author's site before. I'm impressed. Brandon Sanderson, my new hero.)

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Madison First

So after yesterday's post, I took a good look at why this book is taking me longer than I expect. I immediately scratched perfectionism off the list: these changes are large and important, not nitpicking over action verbs (the type of thing that I figure could be done to death, or at least done while the manuscript is in a few agents' hands). No, the culprit was life. Okay, maybe that's a bit broad. The culprit was how I've prioritized life. Usually, Madison comes last. After eating, work, socializing, and working out. Not intentionally, but I have chunks of time that are alone (read: perfect work and working out times) and chunks when I'm not (and eating is a priority no matter what). So today I did something that I used to do on a regular basis and fell out of the habit of doing several months ago: I put Madison first.

I actually combined Madison with breakfast, but the Madison hour lasted long after the food had been devoured. And it was a good thing, because today turned into another day I would have not worked on it. I would have found excuses why I couldn't (like that I wanted to read or surf the Internet or watch TV). Instead, I left work for last, and that has to be done, so I simply worked a little late.

This works better. I'm not as frustrated at the end of the day or feeling as guilty. I think I'll try to stick with it.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009


Have you ever had that project (home improvement, science fair, writing) that refuses to stay on the timeline you set? Madison is that one for me. Every time I get to the point where I think, another couple of days, and I'll be ready to send this off, a couple of days turns into a couple of months. All the edits have taken far longer than I ever thought they would. Even hammering out a good query letter took at least five times as long as I thought it would. This latest round of edits is holding true to form. And I'm frustrated and tired and just want it to be finished. Done. Ready to sell. Ready to at least pitch. Grrr!

Monday, October 5, 2009

End of Battlestar

*Lots of spoilers beyond this point. All who haven't seen Battlestar Galactica and still wish to, don't read.

As always, I'm a bit behind the general population when it comes to watching TV shows. Specifically, I just finished watching the last episode of Battlestar Galactica. And I have one huge question: Did anyone else feel a little cheated by the "angel" answer to pretty much everything?

I was really hoping that something would be revealed about Baltar and why he always had visions of Six, something scientific and explainable (at least in that world), like maybe he was also a Cylon and was sharing/living in some sort of Cylon vision. Nope. She's an angel. And what about the fact that it's not until the final episode that it's revealed that Caprica Six has the same visions? That felt cheap and confusing.

On top of that, Cara was an angel? I wanted a better answer.

Other things (which made me unhappy) left unanswered :
  • Why did Lee know he wasn't going to see his father again, when his dad was simply planning to build the cabin he and Roslin always wanted after he buried her?
  • Why, in the future, did they find only the remains of Athena and Karl's child, Hera, but not Athena or Karl, or for that matter, the remains of anyone else that landed on the planet or any of the natives already inhabiting the island?
  • Why did everyone have visions of little Hera leading them to their salvation, when in fact it was Kara?
  • Why was Kara called the Harbinger of Death by the Cylons? Because she was dead?
  • Can an angel see a vision of another angel as seemed to implied by the piano scenes with her "dad"? (That leads to a whole bunch of other possibilities, like maybe the reason no one found the rest of the human and Cylon population's bones was because the were all unaware that they were angels and only Hera was real.)

I'm still not sure if I'm pleased with that final episode or not. It felt like a finale, if not one that answered all my questions. Was that an intellectual choice on the writers' part to leave the audience with the same questions that the people on the ship had? To draw analogies between questions we ask ourselves about God and the unanswered pieces of the show? Was this whole show supposed to demonstrate how Christianity and science can coexist? Was it all Christian propaganda, that God exists, angels exist, and there is A Plan? Am I trying to make this deeper than it is?

I do know that I have no desire to see the special Battlestar Galactica: The Plan, so at least I have one answered question.

Friday, October 2, 2009

All This Arguing in My Head

I've been having trouble falling to sleep lately. It's been a combination of many things, but one of which is that my new characters don't want to shut up!

In envisioning previous novels, I usually get these sections—sentences, paragraphs, mood-capturing words, scenes, scenery—that spring upon me when I'm nowhere near a computer or piece of paper (like driving, or in the shower, or trying to fall asleep). If they're really good, I'll make a point of rushing to the nearest piece of paper as soon as possible. I've found, though, that everything in these moment of grand insight typically sounds a lot better in my head than it does in writing, and for the most part, it's more important simply for that thought to continue swirling along with a thousand others in the background of my mind, waiting like the perfect soundtrack for when I start writing.

Always before, these flashes of insight into my next story (or any story, really) came to me in the voice of narrator, an overarching voice, with sprinkles of first-person characterization occasionally in dialog I'd love my character to say (or think). It's the way I often dream, which I find amusing, a strange combination of omniscient director's view of a scene being filmed, mixed with moments of starring as the main character.

This new book, the November book that I've tentatively been calling "Sasha" (though my main characters are as of yet unnamed), has been coming to me almost strictly in dialog. The MC (main character) and male lead have a great chemistry, and that chemistry sparks in every situation. Since I've yet to get to the scene where they become emotionally tied and start looking out for each other more than for themselves (or have sex), all that chemistry is coming out in their bickering. Both have something to hide. Both like to throw the other's words back in their face. Both are fast thinkers. Both like to have the last word.

And I love it, don't get me wrong. I'm thrilled to be listening to them in a way I've never "heard" a character before. But not at two AM. All arguments (between characters or in real life) should happen between the hours of 9:30 AM and 12:30 PM and be gotten out of the way so as not to ruin the rest of the day. Now to convince the voices in my head of this.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Hack and Slash

It occurred to me the other night as I was trying to fall asleep that my Madison novel still starts in the wrong place. As in, it starts about three chapters into the book I've written.

I thrust the thought aside. I didn't trust the thought. I've been in a dark mood lately, and Madison is very much a lighthearted book despite the darker elements Madison fights. Was this thought a reflection of my mood and not true to what the novel needed? Plus, I've been rushing from project to project as the muse wills, working on plots and scenes and characters for two different novels, writing notes for a third. Any of these books could have spilled over into that section of my head earmarked for Madison. I didn't even know if was the pace of another novel talking or perhaps my impatience in general. Was this a byproduct of perfectionism, the idea that a story could always be improved, or worse, procrastination in the guise of something "necessary"? Or, it could have been just a wayward sleepy thought.

The next day I sat down to edit Madison. I've been editing from beginning to end, one final pass for perfection. I was about twenty pages into it and still not to the point where this insistent new thought was demanding the book really started. The thought wouldn't go away. I flipped ahead. I flipped back. I would need to rearrange at least three major scenes, delete out all kinds of stuff that I liked (little details about Madison, her parents, Mr. Bond—details that were really more important for me to know than the reader), and rework the timeline. It wasn't going to be the (semi)quick edit I'd planned on.

I took a deep breath, let it out slowly, and then I began my third major overhaul of the novel's beginning.