Sunday, November 30, 2008

Finding My Focus

This holiday weekend, I was given the opportunity to gain some perspective on both my life and my novel (AUC). Since this is a blog about writing, I'll not tire you with the details of my life. :-)

I spent a long time preparing to write AUC, which resulted in many characters with conflicts that weave together throughout the story. I like this, because it makes the reader feel like everyone is real and that the main character is not disproportionately interesting, but it does set me up to lose my focus. Add to the mix the fact that AUC was my first full novel and you have a recipe for author-blindness. :-)

Up until this weekend, I've stuttered and stumbled when people ask me what my book is about. It's long and multilayered. How could I sum it up quickly without going into a whole spiel? I wished for ages that I could come up with something clever to match taglines like "A girl falls in love with a vampire" or "A boy goes off to a boarding school that teaches magic" or "Four kids fall through a wardrobe into another world"

And this weekend, I've finally found my focus. It should seem obvious, that the main character's main conflict should be my focus, but with everything else going on, I seemed to lose myself. When my grandmother was talking with me about the various story ideas I have, I told her AUC was really about a girl who gains confidence and finds herself - a sort of coming of age story. The second those words left my lips, I felt the figurative light-bulb turn on. Oh! Right! Why was that so hard before?

So today I was perusing Lady Glamis's blogs and saw that she'd been tasked to write a summary sentence for her novel (15 words or less) and I decided to try writing one for mine. This is what I came up with:

"An unconfident teenage girl discovers her true potential while on an adventure of world changing proportions."

Does that appeal to you? I know it's vague, but what can you do in 15 words? I even cheated and used 16! Have any of you found it difficult to summarize your book for curious people? Ever written a snippet summary?

Anyway, I'm happy. Now when I go back through for Draft 3, I'll know how to focus the book so the reader isn't as disoriented as I was...

Thursday, November 27, 2008

It's Alive!

I feel like Dr. Frankenstein.

Before I begin querying for AUC, I am sending Draft 2 out to several test subjects – ahem, I mean, friends – who will hopefully give me some useful feedback. Once I’ve collected the test data – or criticism (constructive, of course) – then I’ll run AUC through the wringer to produce a Draft 3, which hopefully far exceeds Draft 2.

So in preparing Draft 2, I may have went a little overboard, but I wanted my test readers to feel like they were reading a complete novel. I wrote a back cover blurb and made a front cover. Then the blurb looked plain, so I had to design a back cover. Then I made a hook page (you know, the excerpt that sometimes appears before the title page). So I put all these, along with the ms into a three ring binder, with the “covers” in the clear pockets on front and back. As a result AUC looks like an actual book (sorta) and as I feel like a proud mom. The fact that I’ve written a full novel never really sunk in until I was loading the binder with almost 200 ms pages. I was thinking, “Wow, I really wrote all this. All those words… all those filled pages… I did that.” It seemed unreal and real in the same moment.

Now hopefully the quality matches the quantity and AUC can make it into real bindings. Since I went to the trouble to make a cover blurb and a hook page, I’ll share them here. I’m not completely happy with the blurb and I’m sure a professional could do a far better job, but it’s my attempt to sum up the book without giving too much away while still attracting interest (a daunting task). I’d love to hear what you think of each.

Back Cover Blurb:

__She Always Wanted To Help,
______But Never Felt She Could…
_____________…Until Now

Shy dreamer Paige Moss is forcibly yanked from her ordinary, yet danger-ridden life, into a part of her world that was supposed to exist only in myth and legend.

She encounters a colony of fabled creatures that’s tense with discord as it gears up for battle, with Paige’s older sister as its commander and her home nation as its contender.

Paige must sort through layers of intrigue and outright lies to discover who’s at the heart of the conflict, a task that’s complicated by the fact that her own beloved sister tops the suspect list.

When the lives of those she loves are threatened, can Paige muster enough courage to save them?

Hook (Excerpt) Page:

A few months ago, I laughed at my mum for being paranoid. Only after several of my classmates and neighbors became victims did I smarten up.

___Adrenaline pumped through my veins and I ran harder than I’ve ever run in my life. I could still hear their pounding footsteps behind me. Glancing back again, I saw that they were gaining on me once more.
___I ducked into another alleyway and pulled on the first door I came to.
___It opened easily.
___I threw myself inside and ran through the kitchen of the pub and out through the bar room. Dozens of dining faces stared at me as I shot past them and out the front door. I doubled back into the same alleyway I started in, hoping that all of my pursuers followed me into the pub.
___The alley was empty.
___I figured if I could make it to the end and turn down the street before the thieves came out of the pub, I might make it. Hope stirred, but I still felt woefully exposed.
___I was almost at the end when the thieves jumped out of the pub door to block my escape. My feet scuffed to a halt and reversed quickly to retreat. Their expressions were fearful. Wait. Fearful? Yes, eyes wide, mouths hanging open, and they too were backing away. I couldn’t understand why.
___Claws grasped my shoulders, sending a spasm of pain through me. My feet left the ground, swinging wildly as if I could still run away.

So there you have it. Based on one or both of these samples, would you pick up my book?

As a side note, I am sad to say I lost my NaNo challenge, what with job changes, exams, and a myriad of other excuses distracting me. I think if I were juggling a couple fewer things, I’d have gotten through it, but at least NaNo gave me a good jump into Book B. I’ll likely not get any writing done until December, so my NaNo total stands at 22,600 words.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Devaluing the Valuable

I have spent the last few weeks devaluing Book 1 (AUC) in light of how much better Book B seems to be going. So much so, in fact, that I’d whittled my experience and the resulting work down to nearly worthless.

It was only when I went back to proofread parts of AUC (because a friend requested to read it) that I remembered how much I like the story. There are flaws in it, certainly, but as I laughed at the idiosyncrasy of the characters or the ways the events wind, I realized my merriment might be shared by others.

Yet even without that, the learning process that came with AUC should not be devalued. No, never that. Because without a first book, there cannot be a second or third. Without a beginning, there can be no progression.

I’d gotten to the point where I thought that AUC was only worth the lessons and practice I garnered from it, viewing it as something that would never graze the fingertips of a potential agent, much less see print.

But I’ve renewed hope.

Although I am unsure as to which direction I need to take AUC in order to fix the problems I see in it (mostly because I’m not sure I have the right perspective to say for certain what the problems really are), I now see the value and potential in the story as I saw it while writing.

I don’t think myself a writing genius by any stretch of the imagination, but sometimes when I reread a scene, I’ll find it hard to believe I actually wrote it because it seems beyond my capabilities.

Have any of you found yourselves in similar predicaments – having written something, and then forgotten its worth, only to find it later as a lost treasure?

PS: If my diction or syntax seems unusual today, it’s because I’m writing this blog while watching Interview With a Vampire. :-)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Direct vs Indirect Perspective

Okay, I’m back. The test is over and I can write freely again. I’m a solid 8K behind now, but moving forward again, which is always good. I also had a fantasmic night of writing last night, getting through a scene I was stuck on and accomplishing a whopping 3500 words overall. Not bad considering I like the fight scenes that I got to write. I’m currently at 22K and in the middle of Chapter 7.

My current challenge is trying to figure out how to explain a change that happens within the main character given that it’s a first person narrator. Like, he’s one way, then switches to another, then back to the original way (mostly).

Now obviously, since the story is in past tense (he walked, they stabbed, we laughed) the expectation is that the MC is telling the story to you after its all done happening. Given that, he’d have the perspective to say “I was off my rocker” or something to that effect, but I don’t feel that a direct explanation like that fits within my story smoothly.

It’s sort of a camera angle problem for me. Like in the commercials where the spokesperson is speaking to someone just over the shoulder of the cameraman rather than speaking directly into the camera. Switching between the two seems disruptive and a bit disorienting to me. Have any of you noticed that or am I just being finicky?

Off to sleep. Have a spifferific day!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Variable Daily Word Goals

I’ve been thinking about the reasons this book is going slower for me than the last.

There is a significant difference of words per day: Book B – 2,000 vs Book 1 – 3,500. That’s almost half!

Reason #1 – I had a much longer outline for Book 1. So I didn’t have to be AS creative when I sat down to write since it was basically there and I just had to fill in the details. For this one I have a very sketchy outline (like a sentence per chapter), so when I write I have to figure things out more as I go. That’s hard in perfect conditions, but when you’re tired… ouch.

Reason #2 – I find dialogue much easier to write than action. Maybe it’s because I’m a girl and we’re supposed to be more conversation oriented or maybe dialogue is just easier to write for everyone. If you have thoughts on this, let me know. There certainly must be a proper balance between the two, but I’m not sure which of my stories is nearer to that balance. My first book had more talk than action, while this one has a LOT of action. So it’s harder and slower.

So with that in mind my daily word goals are different. I aimed for a chapter a night with Book 1, but with Book B I shoot for 2K and make it if I’m lucky. Do any of you find a significant difference in your goals between your different stories? What are the factors that affect that difference?

Anyway, my brain is tired and I didn’t meet my word goal last night, so I’m off to sleep. *sigh*

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Almost Halfway There ... And Not

Well, it's the 12th of November, which means in three days, we should all be to 25,000 words right? Hehe...

For all I love this book better than my first, it's coming along slower. I finished Ch 5 and am at 15,ooo words (when I should be around 20K by now) and I desperately want to get to 50K this month. Not so much to "win" NaNo, but because this story will probably not exceed 75K, so being to 50 would make me 2/3 done. Unfortunately, life tasks and sleep deprivation are hindrances to the writing process.

I'd like to get into some details about the current story and why I like it so much, but for now, it's off to class. Weeeee!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The Black Hole

Blogger and NaNo are eating my time. I'm not really complaining because it's my choice to partake of these activities, but I spend way more time online than I used to. And online time is time not spent writing or studying or doing any of those nasty errand and shopping thingies. Seriously, I used to check my email, facebook, myspace, bank account, and blog and be off in thirty minutes flat. I'm staring the clock now wondering how an hour and ten minutes have passed. I need to say it: I'm out!

Oh, and Book B is up to 6530 words. Yay for eensy weensy progress :) It's still progress...

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Ah, the Thrill of a Challenge...

Writing is so much fun! Have I ever mentioned that? Yes? I have? Oh, well, I thought it needed reiteration.

I've been snooping around NaNo and other blogs and I'm amazed at how many people cringe before a writing challenge.

Sure, I've had rough patches while writing Book 1 - times when I couldn't figure out how to accomplish a scene, or how to explain something. Times when my creativity flattened and I couldn't write period. Times when I doubted myself and the quality of my work. But those were not - let me repeat, NOT - the most prevalent times.

For 90% of my rough draft experience with AUC, I trilled at telling Paige's story. I loved the character interactions and how characters and events managed to surprise even me. I love the feeling that I was outdoing my expectations by writing better than I thought I could.

I write because I love writing. If you don't love it, then why force yourself to go through what many have described as an agonizing process? It just doesn't add up to me...

Anyway, my update for the day is that I've finished chapter 1 of Book B (5K words). Time to sleep.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Book 1 (AUC) Rough Draft is DONE!

As promised (at least to myself) the rough draft is finished. In keeping with my number freak-ish-ness, here are the ending stats.

Words per average ms page: 550 (12pt TNR single spaced)
Words per average book page: 300

1. AUC
Began: August 29th, 2008
Finished: November 4th, 2008
Average words per day: 2-5 thousand
Average chapter length: 3,950 words, 7 ms pages, 13 book pages

As of Draft 2:
Half length (thru ch 13): 96 ms pages, 177 book pages (~53,000 words)
Full length (thru ch 25): 178 ms pages, 330 book pages (~99,000 words)

And I'm thoroughly pleased... not with the draft, just that it is done...

The Road of Revisions is sure to be long and windy, but for now, I'm setting it aside to work on NaNoWriMo (and pass my classes and read wonderful books like Iron Kissed...)

My first book ever is DONE! I feel like Dr. Frankenstein, only it won't really "live" until it sees publication so that other people can enjoy the world that haunts my waking moments...

Monday, November 3, 2008

Determined to Finish

Between work, sleep, school, and not one, but two writing projects, my juggling skills should be improving right? Add to that the fact that I'm completely addicted to a good book (like now, Iron Kissed, by Patricia Briggs) and am completely incapable of focusing on other things when in the middle of one.

But I'm determined to finish Book 1 (AUC) tonight. All that's left is to wrap everything up and wind it down, and I fear that if I don't get too it soon, my own interest will wind down. I also feel guilty working on my NaNoWriMo project with this one still not done, so with any luck, I'll get to post around 7AM tomorrow morning that AUC is all done and I'm celebrating...

That would be wonderful, considering I have an exam on Thursday to study for. But then there's still Iron Kissed to get over. Ah, the life of a book-a-holic...


If I could... No, I would still rather be an addict :-) Wouldn't you?

Saturday, November 1, 2008

NaNoWriMo - the Book B project

Howdy to all of yous out there in cyberland,

Well it's morning on November 1st, which means the start gun went off almost seven hours ago... the race to a 50,000 word (or longer) novel(la) has begun. And like all long distance races, for most of us this is about finishing rather than coming in first.

I've begun my second book this morning, and for the purposes of this blog, I'll call it Book B. It is in the same world as Book 1, with a few of the same characters, but it's not really connected with Book 1, so I'm not wanting to call it Book 2. The MC of Book B is a secondary character in Book 1 and it's told for his POV. I'm a little over 2,000 words into it and so far I'm liking it better than Book 1. Not sure if that's a good thing or not...

Anyway, I'm still about 4K away from finishing Book 1, or a little over a chapter. That's all the updates for now... tata!

Edit: as a secondary, unrelated note, I just noticed that the full trailer for Twilight has been posted. So here it is: