Where Ladybugs Roar

Confessions and Passions of a Compulsive Writer

Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Art of Deletion

So, I mentioned that I've been working on Curse Me A Story this previous week while Sarah was busy with BEA. I finished converting it to first person POV from third person POV which went well, and I like it. I like it a lot actually. It does create a quandary, though. Well, two quandaries.

The first quandary isn't necessarily a quandary so much as something I've noticed, I suppose. In a first person POV, even sex that is off the page... isn't quite so far off the page. In Curse Me A Story the characters are married and it's very, very off the page, but switching it from third to first person seems to drag it closer to the page itself. You're buried in the characters' thoughts so it makes sense that something as big as sex... wouldn't just stay in the background. Still, I hadn't realized that would happen, and I'm not sure what to think about it.

The second quandary is also due to the absence of the prologue and not just because of the conversion. (BTW I love it without a prologue. Sarah was soooooo right.) With the change to first person and a bit more inner dialogue, my first four chapters feel info-heavy even though I'm not sure that I added all that much. So, I need to work on those now and that might be a process that I come back to before Sarah and I tackle pitching Curse Me A Story (eventually.) (Sarah asked me to do this revision of Curse Me A Story back in January before she'd seen SECRETS and then she fell in love with SECRETS so we've been working on that.)

Adding elements to a story has never been a problem for me. Deleting excess... is much harder. Cutting without destroying flow? Oy. Snipping out unnecessary inner dialogue... makes my stomach cramp. I mean, when it comes down to character development... what is unnecessary? I'm trying to figure out how one does this. I'm convinced it must be an art. I've heard of writers highlighting everything they think is vital and then doing a cut and paste into a new document. I'm tempted to try that. Also, I'm terrified of that. LOL.

My goal, for today, is to cut 1K from the first four chapters. Ideally, I want it to be around 73K--which is where it started out the week. It's at 74, 693 words right now.

I did a read through on my Kindle and I've got around 200 notes to address too. Some are quirks left over from the conversion. (These quirks are hilarious to me because it sounds so disembodied when they turn up.) "I told himself not to worry." "My hand brushed her hair from my face." They're sort of creepy and funny... but I'm choosing not to share them with beta readers. I'm selfish that way.

In writing news... which isn't really news, Sarah met with the agency's film agent while at BEA, and they discussed my book and I'll have notes from that conversation as soon as Sarah recovers from the long week. I might be doing some requested work on SECRETS when I get those. So, I might be out of the cursed castle and back into Hidden Creek again fairly soon.

Being agented is different. You can't just pick up something random that you've worked on once upon a time and play around with it to your heart's content. It makes me grateful, once again, that this process took as long as it did. I have all these completed manuscripts behind me that I wouldn't have the time to just write "just because the story was there and I felt like it." Don't get me wrong, I love the SECRETS world of Hidden Creek. I love Piper's and Gris's voices. If I'm going to keep getting dragged back into a world... well, this is awesome, but it is different from how writing is before you're agented.

*Wendy looks at her dystopian and sighs*

In March, Sarah warned me to write what I wanted because it might be the last time I could work on whatever I wanted. Instead of working on the dystopian, I dove back into Hidden Creek and wrote PROMISES. I don't think Sarah regrets that because it fleshed out the world and there is the possibility I might make changes to SECRETS based on PROMISES. I don't completely regret it, but there is some part of me that keeps looking at the dystopian I want to work on and wondering if I actually need to sleep ever. I keep having crazy thoughts like, "If I work on SECRETS during the day in June, I can work on Sentinel's Run at night instead of sleeping."

Writers are crazy.

I'm the king of crazy... err... queen... or whatever.

Okay, well, that 1K isn't going to delete itself. Unless there is a massive harddrive failure... in which case... *knocks on wood*

I hope you guys are having a good weekend.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Speak... and don't ever hold your peace

So, Sarah is at BEA (BookExpo America) this week which is a huge publishing conference for those non-writers out there. I asked her what I was supposed to be working on this week while she was gone. (Yes, I did get her the summary for Book 3, all you doubters out there. I'll have to write a post about that at some point. It was an interesting and worthwhile exercise--not just because I proved that I CAN do it.) She told me I could take a break. *Wendy laughs* A break! That's funny. I like that. A break. Yeah, but really... what am I supposed to be working on?

So, I'm working on the revision of Curse Me A Story this week. Sarah wanted me to drop the prologue and polish it. Well, after my recent focus on the Hidden Creek series, I just think this story needs its voice oomphed.

I know, I talk about voice a lot.

Honestly, voice is what makes or breaks a story for me. If I can't "hear" the voice of the characters in my head while I'm reading a story, I typically feel "meh" about it.

With Secrets of Skin and Stone, the turning point for me was when I realized I needed to add a southern voice to the book. That changed everything for me. Then, I really could hear their voices. In fact, I've had a hard time getting them out of my head.

Curse Me A Story is a fairytale retelling in a medieval setting so that's not the way I'll go this time of course. This story began as a first person POV story, and I switched it to third person. I'm wondering if that was a mistake. That's such a tough call with some stories. With others, it's never even a decision... it's obvious. Secrets of Skin and Stone was that way. Of course it was meant to be in first person. OF COURSE! With Curse Me A Story, I'm less sure.

Anyway, so this week's project is to breathe voice into Curse Me A Story and rework the beginning so it stands without a prologue. Wish me luck!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

It's the end of the world as we know it... or not...

...but either way, I still feel fine, and I made CBS News for my tweets: Woo! Woo! I'm the big time now, baby!

One of my followers on Twitter said, "I'm sure you've already seen this, but...." and I looked at the screenshot of that page and responded: "Is this like a joke?" NO! Well... yes, sort of... but really, I did make a news page.

Surreal, isn't it?

I told Sarah (the Wonder Agent) that she has bragging rights next week at BEA (a big publishing convention.) Anyone can publish a book... but getting your tweets on CBS News? *fist bumps all around*

My BFF put it all in perspective last night when she responded to my manic screaming excitement with: It's a sad, sad day when CBS starts putting weirdos' tweets out for everyone to see.

And my brother told me I'd misspelled "judgment." (For the record, both spellings of judgement are correct... so there.)

It goes to show you, you can be a big hot shot on Twitter and get your fifteen minutes of fame, but among family and friends, you're still you.

Well, today I need to finish revisions on that short story which keep getting interrupted. LOL. I open up the document and suddenly fifty people converge on me, wanting my attention. *cautiously opens document* *looks around empty house*

I don't have my BFF's son this weekend (like all last weekend) and the husband--the rockingest husband in the world--has taken the kids off on a field trip to Seattle to study up origami for B's big school project.

I also have that plot summary for Sarah to do *eyes doubters* WHICH I've started and made progress on! So there!

*cracks knuckles* Even big shots have to do a little work sometimes. Have a good Saturday, everyone... if you're not Raptured... if you are, I assume you'll have a good day too.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

What's in a name... besides EVERYTHING!

Okay, so *deep breath* Sarah the Wonder Agent wants me to write up a summary for the third book in the Secrets of Skin and Stone series of books. The film agent with the agency feels like the plot for the first book might not be big enough for a film, so she is currently reading over the second book, Promises of Light and Dark, along with Sarah. Since producers sometimes combine a series of books into a single film... they'll need to know the plot of the third book.

The third book.

The one I haven't written... other than about 500 words which wouldn't let me sleep.

So, I'd be writing... wait for it... a plot summary.

*Wendy runs screaming across the internet clutching her pantsy nature to her chest*

Everyone I told this too has reacted with mad laughter and even some snort laughing. I've gained a bit of a reputation as a straight pantser among my betas... especially since everyone finds it unreal that I don't know how a book ends until I get there and I'm breathing down its neck. My husband suggested I'd have more luck just writing the entire third book before the Sunday deadline.

He might be right.

I'm determined to try, though. To that end, I need to settle on a name. (Not that it won't ever be changed... but I like to have a name in place so that I can make sure I tie it in nicely throughout the book. I hate when a book doesn't fit its title.)

Okay, so it's the third in the series and I like the structure I've got going with the other two:

1) Secrets of Skin and Stone

2) Promises of Light and Dark

So, for the third, I've picked two different names but I'm open to suggestion if you all think these are stinky.

Whispers of Sin and Salvation

Whispers of Good and Evil

Do you like either of those? Or do you have suggestions?

Thanks, everyone. *blows kisses to all of you*

ETA Amalia suggested something with "Fate" and I'm liking:

Fate of Flesh and Spirit

What do you think?

ETA AGAIN: HOLD THE PHONE... actually my good friend on Twitter and beta reader @TechSurgeons came up with the right title (of course, he's cheated and read the two previous books so he had a head start on most of you.) This works on a few levels that only beta readers might get, so it's perfect for my working title.

It'll be titled:

3.) Betrayals of Blood and Spirit

Thanks, everyone who played along for the short burst of time I was working on this. *hugs all around*

Monday, May 9, 2011

Ten Years Ago....

So, today B is ten. Ten. My daughter is ten years old. It feels impossible. She's not just a child. Definitely no longer a baby. She's a girl. She's a preteen. She's into the double digits where she'll most likely spend the rest of her life.

My daughter is growing up.

Ten years ago, I'd been in labor for eighteen hours by the time B was born at just before 2 a.m. I was sooooo ready to be a mom. I'd wanted to be a mom my whole life. I'd been through miscarriage after miscarriage. It had taken years for us to get pregnant. Then, B was born... and she never cried. I was exhausted but something felt wrong... but I was so tired. When I woke up after an exhausted couple hours sleep they were already preparing to transport her by ambulance. She'd never cried because she was born with an air pocket in her lung that collapsed it. I didn't even see her again before they'd taken her to a different hospital to a NICU.
The only way for me to see her again was for me to check out... I was out of the hospital by 7 a.m. that same morning and on my way to see my baby.

(By the way, checking out that soon after a long labor and delivery is a bad idea... just so you know. The NICU was on the seventh floor in this other hospital. I remember the elevator going up and I nearly smacked the floor as I just about passed out from vertigo. We're talking... I was sure I'd stayed on the first floor and fallen through the floor levels of vertigo. Maybe in third world countries and classic books they're out there in the fields right after having given birth, but, dudes, it ain't pretty.)

There is a weird sense of reality when your dreams tip on their sides and spill out across your life. It happened that day when my daughter was immediately taken to a different hospital after what had seemed like a regular first delivery. It happened again when the doctor told us she wasn't hearing-impaired but that he suspected she had regressive Autism. It happened over and over as I've grown as a mother and my dreams have changed as my daughter has changed them.

I didn't think I could be as strong and brave as I am, but my daughter has made me that way. I would have guessed some of my realities today might have crushed me if you'd told me about them ten years ago.

It started that first time I opened my eyes as a mother, and they said my daughter was in an ambulance and on her way to a different hospital... and I could either stay and recover or get up and leave the hospital WAY too soon. (Dudes, it was way too soon... I had vertigo for nearly a year and not just in EVERY elevator... it was all the time.) (BTW, B was given pure oxygen and her lung's pocket resolved itself and her stay in NICU was only a few days.)

From that day on, I've done crazy things to be the mother my daughter needed. I've failed in so many way... but in the important ways, I haven't.

Today, B is a beautiful girl on her way to being a beautiful woman. Today, she is ten.

In ten years, I've become a fighter... a crazy, ambitious, loving, frazzled, and less-than-perfect fighter. My daughter has taught me that. Sometimes, you have to do the crazy thing to be the right person for the best person to ever whisper into your life on a May morning in 2001.

Happy birthday, B. Thanks to you the ladybugs found their voice and learned to roar a long time ago. Love, Mom.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

On this my thirty-fifth birthday....

I expected to be depressed today. Not because I'm growing older. Growing older feels like a right and a privilege. I've lived long enough to live... so why not earn some wrinkles? It's that number. Thirty-five. Ever since I was a girl, I'd planned on two things: to be a mother to five kids and to be done with that by thirty-five.... because thirty-five is the age when you get extra tests when you're pregnant. Most of you know that our risk of Autism in a third child is so high that my husband doesn't feel right about having more kids. (I waffle between agreeing with him.) The fact that I've had and continue to have miscarriages (despite taking precautions) just really twists the knife on this.

So, as this day approached, I expected this feeling of dread to continue to build and to be depressed today. I expected to just want to crawl into a corner and wait for this day to go by.

As I was driving up the hill into our neighborhood after dropping off the kids... our SUV was chugging a bit and I thought, "Today... I'm so thankful for this car. Thank you, God, for this car and that it's running." I thought of the two booster seats behind me. "Thank you, God, for the two kids that I have... and that T didn't fight me on going to school or wearing different shoes because his had mud all over them. Thank you for B who made her brother breakfast this morning. Thank you, God, for my husband... who has gone to work all these years without complaint to support us... and for the fact that he has supported everything I've ever chosen to do... from painting to writing to staying home."

On this my thirty-fifth birthday, I have a lot to be grateful for. I have a lot that I'm grateful I've lived to see. I expected to wake up and feel the loss of what I can't have today... and, instead, I feel so incredibly grateful for what I do.

Life is too short to wrap yourself in grief and let it rush by you. It's too amazing to wish it away. It's a breath. A heartbeat. A dream. And then the moments are gone and you wish you'd done something more than let them pass while you were busy regretting them.

On this my thirty-fifth birthday, I'm grateful to be thirty-five.

I really am.

Anyway, I'm going to work on Promises of Light and Dark today because that sounds like a nice way to spend the morning while my kids are at school. I finished my read-through of Secrets which helped me nail down the voice quirks and I started revision on Promises Tuesday night. Every so often when I'm writing a book I have this refrain in the back of my head: "I hope this works... I hope this works... I hope this works..." as I'm writing. It's not until the revision and I'm reading and the story rises out of the words that I can tell that it's actually working.

I was in a pretty good mood for a lot of yesterday because of that. There's a bit of a "hot damn, it's working" feeling... which... I swear, Mom, the profanity is justified here. Writing is sometimes like magic that you're afraid if you squeeze it too hard, it'll die. It feels like a tightrope between just enough words doing hard work at description and filling in the spots that need them and not too many words conveying emotions. So, when it works... and you can see and feel what's going on in a story... it's very "hot damn." I got that feeling about two pages into Promises and it was a relief and a bit exhilarating. I didn't want to slow down on reading to do revision. Nobody but me has read it yet, so we'll see if that feeling continues. Still... it works! *shakes you* It works! I'm not a hack! Not today!

So that's how I'm spending my Thursday and some of my birthday. Happy Cinco De Mayo!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Days You Wish Your Characters Were Mutes

I'm mostly kidding.

I'm working on revising Promises of Light and Dark this week (I finished it on Saturday) which means I'm running through Secrets of Skin and Stone to get the voices in my brain for a read-aloud revision this week.

Normally, I can keep little character idiosyncrasies in my head, but having Piper be born and raised in Hidden Creek, Alabama where Gris was raised in Atlanta and has traveled around a lot to large cities... their speech patterns are different. As I mentioned, this book is in first person POV with alternating POV between the two. I have to make sure that Gris's chapters don't sound like Piper's chapters... and they both are consistent through the books. So, I've been going through Secrets of Skin and Stone and creating lists of the commonly used words and words they don't use for each of the characters that have chunks of dialogue. I also have an "all" list which includes all the southern speech quirks that apply to everyone. (Y'all, Ma'am... and so on.) Piper's and Gris's lists are very extensive.

Here is where I am for those two at half-way through the book (I think I've caught most of the major ones, though.):

Gris: Leastways, sweetheart, reckon, course, darn near, right (as in right near, right obvious, right awful, right sorry) fine, likely (instead of probably), alright, ought, clear out, NO fixin’ to, sorta, Great night in the morning, hell-fire, downright, holy hell, heck, anyways, overly much, real vs. really, yeah/sure vs. yes, bike vs. motorcycle, Mmm hmm, smidge, I had a mind, plenty, say so, partly, ‘member vs. remember, figure vs. think, scraping of, huh, skirt the edges of, as all get out, pissy, heap, bent, ornery, wholly vs. completely, just see if I wouldn’t, DOESN’T say though, by any stretch vs. by any means, fierce vs. brave, for darn sure, on account of, get a handle vs. get control, yonder, sides vs. besides, sweet, were something else, best (best stop, best not), holy crap, gotta, such as it is, and then some,

Piper: ‘Cause, though, real vs. really, downright, course, shoot, fixin’ to, flat-out, sorta, Holy frak, messing with, hide nor hair, all sorts of, alright, much of a, ought, sucked eggs, yeah/sure vs. yes, fine then, nah, fault vs. blame (you can’t fault), gotten, every now and again, all that, most often, paid no mind, anyways, nothing short of, fairly, C’mon, if it came right down to it, darn, weird, freak, amazing vs. awesome, Good night!, aggravating vs. annoying, smidge, leastways, particularly, neither vs. either, Heaven knew, heaps vs. loads, sensible, ‘neath, sticks yourself into commands (hush yourself, stop yourself), wrangled vs. wrestled, great green earth, lick of sense, by your leave, Umm, “his fool head off”, “some kind of”, look a treat, “Oh almighty no”, chucked vs. threw, shut my mouth!, tuck away food vs. eat, sorry (sorry tail, sorry fool), seeing as how, get purchase, tore off of, ain’t,

Some of these quirks I'll have remembered or might have worked their way in when I did the read aloud. (Piper's voice is very distinctive and persistent in my brain.) Still, I think it's a useful list and there is no way I'd be able to remember ALL that. I'd forgotten that none of them say "awesome" and you've probably noticed from how I write that I typically use that word a lot.

I've also been doing a cheat sheet of eye colors and random little facts that I know come up in the second book.

I'd planned to shelve Promises of Light and Dark for six months after I'd run it by some betas and my sisters, but Sarah asked to receive a copy to maybe slide by the film agent at the agency. (Having your agent follow your Twitter feed is useful... but also means you can't sneak projects by... which is also probably useful. LOL. I'm learning a lot about the film rights aspect to this business which is fascinating and strange, btw.)

So, I'll be busy for the next two weeks probably with this revision. You can openly mock me for my blog posts which will probably be a cross between my regular speech and Piper's. *head slap*

BTW... creating this list really made me wonder what my own personal speech idiosyncrasies list would look like. I know I say the word "awesome" overly much... and my kids use the word "actually" like it is actually going out of style and I know they got it from me. "Holy crap" would also make my list. My internal dialogue and written thoughts would look much different... that's another thing that's significant when you're writing characters in first person with distinctive dialogue voices... they're not quite the same inside their heads. You drop speech hesitation (umm... hmmm) and decrease their polite speech quirks. Piper is much less polite in her head. I am too, btw. I swear a bit in my head. *hangs head in shame*

So... that's what I'm up to. Revision. Revision. Revision. Voice. Voice. Voice.

I'm still really hoping that my brain doesn't latch onto book three, though. *fingers crossed* As much as I like Hidden Creek... I really want to work on my dystopian before I have to change my dates in the manuscript to make them actually take place IN the future. (Mostly kidding... I think my characters aren't even born for a few years yet, but still... I really want to finish this book!)

Have a good Tuesday, everyone!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Once upon a time... I had a really good Monday.

I placed 2nd in a contest and several of my Twitter friends made it into the anthology with me. It's a YA short story anthology published by Buddhapuss Ink. Here is the winners/placement announcement: http://buddhapussink.blogspot.com/2011/05/and-winners-are.html

It's the first YA short story that I'd written AND it was a mystery so I was really, really nervous about it.

So, for a Monday... that ain't bad.