Monday, May 24, 2010

Dangers of Editing when Tired

I've been plugging away on my book.  I had to take a break because after the last post, we had two full weeks of sickness at our house.  I wasn't getting any sleep to begin with, so writing had to go on the back burner.  But I'm making progress again!

Last night I sat down to write, and as usual, read through the changes I'd made the night before.  Whoah, Nellie.  Someone was tired on Friday!  I found all sorts of weird problems in the 1/2 chapter I'd revised.  A few examples:
  • I've been checking for passive verbs, but sometimes I don't get the sentence completely fixed.  "She was carrying the books" is supposed to become "She carried the books", but Friday night, the sentence looked more like "She carrying the books."  Which would be fine if I was writing in the voice of a four-year old, but I'm not, so... not so great.
  • I've been deleting entire sentences when they aren't important.  But Friday night, I apparently wasn't getting the whole sentence.  So I would have random words like "She" or "because" or "monkeys" just floating around in the middle of a paragraph.
There's not much of a point to this story- I just thought it was funny!  And a little alarming.  I hope the rest of the book isn't like this.  Maybe I really do need more sleep!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Treat it like it matters

Life has been busy lately, and I can't believe it's been a month since I last posted!  We took a spontaneous vacation to the California and Oregon coast, and we had a wonderful time.  I really enjoy road trips and our new giant party van made the drive much more enjoyable.  Of course, once we got home, it took a week or two just to get caught up.  And I've been working on my book.  A lot.  Which brings me to the subject of this post.

My husband is very supportive of my desire to write.  But he's all about efficiency and results, and he has been really pushing me to fnish.  And he's right- I do tend to procrastinate when I feel blocked.  Steve says I'm a perfectionist and eventually I'm just going to have to say the thing is done and send it off.  Again, he's right (although we're not there yet).  But there are SO MANY things I need to do that all too often, I push the writing back.  I end up only working at night, and sometimes I'm so exhausted that I go to bed instead of writing.  And so the time slips away and everything takes longer than I intended and two years later, I'm still working on this "masterpiece."

So last Friday, we were making a list of all the things we wanted to accomplish over the weekend and through Monday evening.  It's spring and our new house has a massive yard, so most of our items were yard-related.  (Till the garden, buy seeds, plant the garden, change the oil in the tiller, mow the lawn, etc.)  Jokingly I said "Hey, put "Finish Steph's book" on that list.  So Steve wrote it down.  And then he said "You better finish it by Monday, because it's on the list!" 

I didn't finish by Monday.  (In my defense, Steve didn't finish either- we were up all night Sunday with a sick four-year old and he went to bed last night instead of finishing up his items.)  But here's what changed.


While Steve worked in the yard Saturday, I sat on the couch and revised my book.  I wanted to be outside.  But I took prime daylight, weekend hours and devoted them to my writing.  This was partly inspired by Nathan Bransford's post about "Butt In Chair."  Once again, Mr. Bransford made me think and totally inspired me.  But it was a complete shift in perspective, and one that I really needed.  If I am serious about being a writer, I need to treat my work like it matters.  I need to make time for it.  I need to push through the moments when I really DO NOT want to write, and write anyway.  I revised three long, help-needing chapters and I made a lot of progress, and I'm continuing to work every day.  I can see how the story is coming together.  And it's good.  That makes me excited and it builds my confidence.

We all have dreams- something we want to do, but we keep putting it off because we have to do laundry or weed the flowerbed or go to a PTA meeting.  But here's my advice.  Treat it like it matters.  Because it does.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Middle Grade vs. Young Adult

At dinner Friday night we were discussing the difference between Middle Grade and Young Adult literature.  I found this blog post very helpful. 

My biggest problem is word count.  When I started this big rewrite I was probably about 125,000 words.  I am down to 115,490 words.  I still have thirteen or fourteen chapters to trim, so I fully expect that number to continue to drop.  I mean, I cut 400 words just last night!  But I'll still be at the very top end for my genre.  I'm okay with that.

Thoughts from any of you?  I've been reading more YA lately, but there are several MG series that I want to read.  I still haven't read Harry Potter (I know!  The horrors!) and the Percy Jackson series looks interesting. What have you been reading lately?

Monday, March 22, 2010

Wonderful weekend. Also a dream featuring Janet Reid.

It was my birthday on Saturday and it rocked!  I went out Friday night with Becky, Mary, Ami, and Alicia.  We went to dinner and a movie and then ice cream afterwards.  It was such a nice break to be with girlfriends and just laugh and be crazy.  These girls, along with my mom, are also going to be my Phase 2 readers.  Becky, Mary and Mom read my book in November.  I was going to give it to Ami and Alicia, but my first three readers had very similar comments.  I decided to work on a rewrite and then Ami & Alicia could see the new version with fresh eyes, while Becky, Mary, and Mom would have the perspective of the first draft.

I think these women are fantastic readers and I really look forward to their feedback.  As I work through the book this time, I can feel how much better it is.  I think I'm getting close.  But I want it to be as good as I can make it before I start queries, and my readers can help me get there.  They are wonderful friends but aren't afraid to tell me if something sucks.  I love them for that.

Yes, friends, I am KISSING UP!

And who's read "Graceling"?  For serious, go read it.  I want to discuss it on the blog but if only Becky & I have read it, it won't be much of a discussion.

Finally.  Last night I dreamed about Janet Reid.  She is a literary agent with a fantastic blog and the amazingly helpful Query Shark site.  I've never met her (I should be so lucky!), nor do I know what she looks like, but her work has helped me become a better writer and also taken much of the fear out of the query process.  Anyhoo.  Last night I dreamed that she called me on the phone (!!!) and told me that she was doing a conference in Salt Lake this very weekend.  One of the authors she planned to critique had backed out at the last moment.  She was familiar with my work and wanted me to send her a copy of my manuscript right away, and also wanted me to attend the conference.  Of course I was stoked... until I realized that my book is NOT done, and that I couldn't go to Salt Lake this weekend!  Cue panic attack.

If Janet Reid called and personally invited me to attend a conference, I would be there even if it was in Taiwan and I had to sell my leg to make it happen.  Second lesson from this dream?  I need to finish the freakin' book!  :)

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Let's discuss books

Wow!  I am loving the warmer weather!  It's so nice to go outside without a coat, hat, scarf, gloves, boots...  I hate winter.  Have I mentioned that?  I am going to bed early tonight.  I have finished a chapter for today and I need sleep.  Since I don't always have a lot to share from my endless editing process, I thought it would be fun to discuss YA books that we've read recently.

So the next post will be about Graceling.  I know Becky's read it- has anyone else?  It's a good read.  Also, I'd love suggestions for YA books you've read recently and would like to discuss.  I tend to prefer the paranormal YA, but I'm open to anything.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Academy Award Winning Movie Trailer

I was going to post about the new trailer for Eclipse. But right now I'm liking this better.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Things that make me happy today

  • No more strep throat!  YAY!
  • New Gossip Girl episode tonight.  Only been waiting since DECEMBER (stupid CW and their huge long breaks).  But check out the preview here.  I can't wait for all of the trashy goodness!
  • It's almost 50 degrees outside and my kids are riding their bikes.  Peace for Mommy.
  • Did I mention it's almost 50 degrees outside?

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Let's catch up, shall we?

My apologies for the gap in posting.  As usual, life at my house is far from predictable.  Last Thursday, I was happily slashing away at my word count when I heard my 4-year old screaming.  I reached his room just in time to see him sit up in bed and projectile-vomit all over his pillow.  That was a happy surprise.  I pulled him off his bunk bed and raced to the bathroom, and we made it in time for Round 2.  My darling hubby is not great at waking up.  Trying to be helpful, he stumbled into the hall and asked if I needed help; his words were so slurred that he sounded like he'd just come home from the bar.  I asked him to get some water, so darling vomiting child could rinse his mouth.  Hubby, still not yet awake, blinked at me and asked, "In a bucket?"

The night was obviously going well.

Not much writing has happened since then.  After pulling all the pukey sheets off the bed (because hubby has a crazy gag reflex and I really didn't need two of them bent over the toilet), I spent the night sleeping on a mattress on the floor with 4-yo and a large bowl, and I woke up every time he coughed.  He was sick all day Friday, and I had to go pick up 6-yo from school because his tummy hurt.  Of course, 6-yo spent the rest of the day running around like a crazy man and playing Nintendo, but always insisting that yes, he really was sick.

By Monday I thought things were getting better.  I sent 6-yo to school, and 4-yo to preschool.  Then Tuesday afternoon, 6-yo's teacher called and asked me to come pick him up from school again.  He had crashed and burned since afternoon recess and was adamant he wouldn't make it home on the bus.  Now 6-yo had told me that morning that his throat hurt, but after the Friday fiasco I was skeptical.  He was awfully bouncy to be sick, and told me he was fine to go to school.

When I arrived at his school Tuesday afternoon, he was resting in the office.  As soon as I saw him, I knew he wasn't faking this time.  He was shivering and pale, and when I touched his forehead, he was burning up.  I loaded him into our awesome mini-van and he cried because he was cold.  By the time we made it home (about a 7-minute drive) he was asleep.  I hauled him inside, which isn't easy because the kid is SOLID, and dumped him in my bed with about seven blankets.  He slept for a few hours.  Then he started crying, ran to the bathroom, and puked.

Okay, now despite his one complaint about his throat hurting, which had made me suspect strep, I figured that puking was something else.  6-yo was also saying that he had a terrible headache.  Now go to the Mayo Clinic Symptom Checker website.  Terrible headache, a bump on the head the day before (his friend tackled him on the playground- on pavement, of course), fever, and vomiting... Brings up a bunch of scary results like meningitis, subdural hematoma, and brain tumor.  GREAT.  Mommy is so relieved.  Daddy convinces her that a trip to the emergency room is not yet required.

Wednesday.  6-yo is doing a little better and I'm thinking maybe we're getting over this weird, nasty stomach bug.  Until I start getting a fever.  And my throat starts hurting.  And I'm thinking, "Crap!  It's strep throat!"  Which is one thing my family has always been susceptible to, and I know it when it hits.  Turns out that in little kids, they often don't complain as much about their throat hurting; instead, they have headaches and vomit.  Moral of the story:  I hit the doctor's office Thursday morning (with crazy fever, a throat so sore I can't swallow, and golfball-sized glands in my neck) and he puts the whole family on antibiotics.  Even though 4-yo and 6-yo seem to be doing much better, he wants to make sure that nasty strep is gone.  Hubby gets it too, since his throat is getting scratchy.  Luckily he never got overly sick and was back to normal by yesterday.  And boy was I grateful for him- he worked from home both days and took care of the kids while I crashed on the couch and groaned a lot.

Today hubby took the three boys snowmobiling with Grandpa and cousins.  They'll ride up the hill and sled back down.  Since I hate snow, I'm not overly depressed that my illness kept me home.  Instead, I'm going to use the quiet to work on my book, since it's been neglected during our fun family adventure.  I'm hoping to actually get something accomplished, although right now my pillow is calling my name.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Don't tell! I'm writing in the middle of the day!

Shhh!  Don't tell my kids, but it's 2:29 PM and I am working on my book!  My brain is so much clearer in the middle of the day.  Hopefully if I can accomplish a lot, I can go to bed at a decent time tonight.

Official word count is now hovering around 119,800!  WOO HOO!  I knew I had to at least get below 120,000.  I'm finishing up chaper six and still have about 25 chapters to go before I bump into the corrections I've already made at the end.  Moral of the story?  Word count is dropping rapidly!

I never realized how much I "overwrite" but this last round of editing has been very educational.  When I printed out my first draft for friends to read, word count was about 126,000.  And that was after some pretty heavy editing, so I shudder to think of where I began.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Query Letters

Tonight I managed to cut another 50 words out of Chapter 4, which is my least favorite chapter of the entire book.  There's a lot of important information and relationships to establish, but it's mostly a lot of "BLAH BLAH BLAH".  Major snooze fest.

Also tonight I worked on my query letter.  I'm not finished editing my book, but the query letter is TOUGH and it's going to take time to get it just right.  I don't want to put it off.  I think I made good progress, but it is really hard!  Try taking a 400-page book and condensing it into three paragraphs.  Not as easy as it sounds, dudes.  I want to convey my main character's sometimes sarcastic voice, but also keep it short and professional.  And awesome-sauce, as my 6-year old would say.

On a more exciting note, the Jazz beat Portland tonight!  One more rebound and Millsap would have another double-double, but hey, that's life.  I just love Millsap's aggressive style.  He's been one of my faves since his first season.  Memo had an awesome game and IT'S ABOUT TIME.  He's kind of stayed under the radar this year but they really need his size and his outside shot.  Now if the Jazz can just pound Princess Kobe, I'll be a happy fan.

Maybe that was only exciting for me.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Sick Kids = Brain Fog (and thank you, Nathan Bransford!)

Sunday night I was reading Nathan Bransford's blog, as I frequently do.  I ventured into some of his FAQ entries and read this post on plot.  Oh my golly.  It saved my book.  For real.

Listen, I hadn't read those basic entries because my book is "finished".  I am now cutting words, cleaning up dialogue, making my fight scenes more exciting, etc.  But I was struggling because I felt like something still wasn't working.  I knew the pieces weren't quite fitting the way they should be, but I couldn't figure out WHY.  And as I read Nathan's post, I had an epiphany.  I think a lightbulb *really* appeared over my head.  I know exactly how to stitch the climax to the struggle throughout the book.  And it was there all along; I just needed to make the connection more clear.

So last night I was super excited to get started!  I'd been making notes on scraps of paper all day.  Hubby went off to bed, I grabbed my laptop, and... stared at the screen blankly until I ended up looking at kitchen carts on the Ikea website instead.  See, we've had sick kids (and sick hubby) all weekend.  They are clingy and whiny and needy and not sleeping.  And I just couldn't write anything worth saving.

Is the universe out to get me?  I doubt it.  I assume the universe has more important things to do.  The moral of the story is that I have to accept that my life is not usually in my control.  And that's okay.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

.... or get off the pot

You can fill in the blank, right?

I started my book on March 9, 2008.  That's the date on the top of my very first braintstorming page.  I hadn't read an actual BOOK for FUN in a very long time.  (Because of course college text books and Newsweek and Curious George don't count, right?)  In February, I went to Las Vegas with my husband on a business trip.  While he was off touring the transit center, I read Twilight in the hotel room, and I remembered why I loved reading so much when I was younger and had more time to myself.  I also remembered that dream of someday writing a book, that I'd figured would have to wait until my kids were older.

Discussing Twilight is another post subject.  But after I finished the book, I was curious about the author and visited Stephenie Meyer's blog.  Well, wowza!  It only took her three months to write the book and three more to get a book deal!  And with three little boys about the same ages as mine.  Dang it, I'm a good writer; surely I could do the same!  I was gonna send off my manuscript by July!

Here we are nearly two years later.  No book deal.  No query letters.  Wasn't I supposed to be rich by now?

Life happens.  It's been a very busy two years.  We rented our house and moved to a new one.  My kids got older; my oldest is in school now.  Steve blew out his ACL and had surgery; recovery was much longer and more involved than expected.  We've had stitches, strep throat, the flu, assorted other illnesses, and my youngest was diagnosed with asthma.  Good things, bad things, but all of them time-consuming.  And brain-power-consuming.

Everything has taken longer than expected.  And that's not bad.  Family comes first.  But lately I've been having some interesting conversations with people in my life.

Steve:  So when are you sending off your book?
Me:  Gosh, quit nagging me!  I've been busy, okay?
Steve:  I was just asking.  Gosh!

Mom:  I think your book is good enough.  You should send it off.
Me:  Good enough?!  No way!  There's still so much I need to fix!  I can't send it off til it's perfect!
Mom:  (Long silence on other end of the phone.)  It's fine.
Me:  Whatever!  It's so not fine!  For example,  (And I proceed to list everything still wrong.)

Friend Ami:  So how's that book coming?

Friend Lisa:  So how's that book coming?

Friend Mary:  So how's that book coming?

Sister Becky:  So how's that book coming?

Maybe it's time to quit fretting over every comma, finish editing the damn thing, and get my query letter written.  Maybe it's time to start seeing if this is actually going to go anywhere.  Maybe it's time to quit being so scared of disappointment that I just keep procrastinating the Day of Reckoning.

Maybe it's time to get off the pot.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Fight scenes

The kids were grumpy tonight and didn't want to go to bed.  Hubby was floating around asking questions and stealing the laptop and otherwise randomly distracting me.  And yet I managed to sit down and work through a fight scene that's been nagging at me for weeks.  That's a pretty fantastic feeling.  I can probably squeeze a bit more productivity out of the evening, especially since everyone else (well, aside from the whiny, elderly cat) is snoring away.

So here's my question for tonight.  Why are fight scenes so hard to write?  Apparently I'm not much of a fighter, and thus my characters make a lot of threats, but don't end up hitting each other very often.  My friend Mary, after reading my first draft, said "Steph, I've had boys fight over me before.  And there's usually not a lot of talking."  She has an excellent point.  And if there's anything I see a lot of in this house, it's boys hitting each other.  Granted, they're preschoolers and are usually fighting over a Tonka truck or the last piece of cheese, but still.  All that naked aggression.  They're completely uninhibited about whacking each other in the face.

Being the mom, I generally jump in and say "Now, now, stop hitting your brother.  Let's share.  Go to time out."  Etc.  But now I'm wondering.  Maybe I need to step back and observe.  Perhaps they could choreograph my next fight scene for me.  Hey, it's not lazy parenting; it's RESEARCH, people!

Don't worry.  I'm sure my kids will thank me someday.

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