Friday, October 14, 2011

Jennifer, Hecate, William McKinley, and Me, Elizabeth

Thinking a lot about New Book (of course) and realized it has things in common with that book. That very very awesome book that I have to read again, like, tomorrow. Of course I own a copy, are you insane? I own almost every E.L. Konigsberg book there is. I even own A Proud Taste for Scarlet and Miniver, which I don't even like.

I could get all vehement about E.L. Konigsberg and how amazing she is and how she's my hero and I want to grow up to be her, except we'll just take that as read. (Ha!)

Well, here's the thing, though. I have five girls in my book, the four who are analogous to Elizabeth in all their different ways, and the one who is like Jennifer. I really love the four. Figuring out their changing stories is just about the most fun thing ever. What they're crazy about, what drives them, how they're screwed up or blocked or whatever so they're not able to do or get what they want.

What's cracking me up is that I started with this very compelling sci-fi idea and the story developed out of that, but now that idea has fallen away completely and it's a realistic normal world thing. I'll save it. I had this other idea many years ago that I keep trying to write except every time the same thing happens, that part of it falls away and I have this whole new story instead. They're like story generators that remain unused. Sourdough!

These characters are extremely pleasing to me in a kind of way that means I taught college for a long time. Meaning they're waking up and becoming adults but they're not quite there yet, but we get to be there while they figure out major stuff. Not boring things like sex but complicated, interesting things like how to make the film boys share the local access tv station's digital video cameras fairly.

I love how I've been studying to write books for years and years. Immersion in such a great variety of worlds! Priceless and so very very awesome.

I can be fond of characters who are around that age (16-24 generally) more easily than any other. More forgiving of the things that would grate other people. Generally more understanding. It seems to me that those are the kinds of feelings you should have about your characters. If you can't be understanding of and amused by the insane things they do, maybe you're not meant to be together. Which actually is kind of what the book is about in certain ways.

I also think you should feel that way about your book. But I might get exceedingly meta if I don't quit now, so off to the sleeping of me.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The spine

I figured out the spine of the story while washing the dishes tonight. And talking to myself, obviously! Every so often I'd go make sure the puppy was still licking peanut butter out of his Kong toy and then go back to the washing and talking.

I'm especially in love with this story now because it's an awesome twist on the most common YA story. I'm sure it'll develop more between now and NaNo, like with actual story beats and such, but it just went from this:

beginning -- stuff happens -- awesome transformation has occurred!

to this:

beginning -- event, which causes -- event, which causes -- event (and so on) -- and awesome transformation occurs!

I used to draw this simplistic story diagram on the board in screenwriting classes at the beginning of the semester. Stick figure person here. Donut over there. OBSTACLES IN BETWEEN.

Absurd but it works. Except it's external. But you need external for internal! You need both! That just made me realize that I need to work much more on the internal because the external is kind of driving the internal change and that bothers me. It should be the other way around. Maybe external irritates and motivates the internal change that makes it so you can achieve the external, know what I mean?

Anyway. Building it up. Excellent character. Thing she wants. Learning all this crazy stuff to get what she wants, except that drastically changes how she sees it and whether she wants it at all. In the end she wants the same thing in a totally different way and gets it for completely new reasons. I know!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Focus focus focus

Oh, hi! I vanished. Now I'm back.

I'm back because I need focus and I think this will help. It's like a cheering section! Where I'm the one cheering! For myself! Or for writing in general, you guys, because I really need that. You know how you can be completely all about the writing but there's also work and this and that and keeping up with that one show that you're only watching because Buffy and Horatio Hornblower are on it? And next thing you know it's 10:00 and you have to be up in eight hours and the puppy is chewing on your face?

That, exactly. I need a place where I have to go and be accountable for writing so that I remember IT'S MY JOB and not some after hours dabbling thing.

I HAVE TROUBLE FINISHING THINGS. AND THEN POLISHING THEM UP TO SEND OUT ONCE THEY ARE FINISHED. THERE, I SAID IT ALL BIG IN SKYWRITING.

This is where I have to do that horrible summing up thing so I really know where I stand. So I can move on from this spot. Oh dear. Okay, let's do it.

I'm working on the outline for a YA novel called Jess vs. The Neg, which I'm going to write for NaNoWriMo. As one does.

In progress, with stars for potential and enthusiasm:

Apollo novel. 44,094 words. Stuck because I'm not sure whether what's happening is really happening or the protagonist is kind of crazy, which is a big difference--between magical realism and some grim modernist commentary on blah blah blah. (I think I just decided.) ****

Z Company. 21,806 words. This is charging along, when I actually focus on it. Kind of an amazing story, to be honest. Needs continuity work given my utter lack of memory from one day to the next. Though that makes for a strangely entertaining read. (Hey, I thought you said....) ***

Minerva. 69,490 words. Complete first draft of a totally amazing YA book that I love. Needs to be revised a bunch. But it's awesome. This is the biggest winner of the bunch right now. *****

Perfect Monster: 31,309 words. I hate how grim and awful and sordid this is, when it shouldn't be. Problem. **

Cerulean Blue. 95,036 words. I love this book so much! I kept having cows about how it's not a cozy (so what?) so I think I should just finish it and make it awesome just the way it is. Yeah! Needs some rewriting but it's nearly done. Jeez. *****

Tethys Return. 82,154. I thought this was done and polished but there's a section that really bugs me that needs to get rewritten, especially because it ties into The Book of Stone very closely and they have to match.  *****

The Book of Stone. 67,030. It's actually awesome with all kinds of greatness but it got kind of sordid and unpleasant near the end, crossed some kind of line, so I just need to delete the last thousand words or something and go on as if they never happened. Seriously. Smacking myself for this. ***

Mercedes. It's not even on this laptop, wow. Complete novel, but also my first novel, with a lot of issues like, oh, the protagonist doesn't drive the story. Heh heh.***

A whole bunch of other ideas/starts that need attention one of these days but hello, I think my plate is kind of full right now, don't you?

DIAGNOSIS

I need focus. I knew that. I also know I have this ridiculously fragmenting and distracting life and no short-term memory, not to mention the Housepet Writing Prevention League. But that list is highly edifying. Here's what it tells me:

1) I write a lot. Duh.

2) I write two kinds of things, mostly: grim sci-fi and awesome speedy YA/mystery kind of things. Sometimes the sci-fi is also cheery and speedy. But not often.

3) I can't stand the grim stuff. I know it's good but oh dear and holy yikes. I wouldn't want to read it. I don't like working on rewriting it. Slightly perplexing why I would keep writing things I don't care for much but that's a different story for a different kind of couch.

4) What do I *want* to write? The speedy awesome kind of things, in all genres. Fast-paced, cliffhangery, exciting, mysterious, with excellent heroines who run around figuring everything out. Often there is a cute boy who is a puddinghead! And a cute boy who is not, but is instead surprisingly awesome! And our heroine must figure out which is which while saving the day! Tricksy.

5) I think it's fine to have a dual writing personality, and maybe that could work great with a pseudonym, actually. But Wilhelm and Sordid Grimm are not going to happen without Speedy and Awesome Gonzales. MUST HAVE BOTH. Can't have just one. At least, can't have just grim. That leads to a startling quantity of NOT WRITING THINGS.

6) Everything is a lot harder if I don't have an outline. And if I do have an outline, I can race through a book, even if I change stuff around a bit on the way. Given a good outline, I can probably do a whole first draft of Jess vs. The Neg in November.



I kind of don't care about obstacles. I know that if you want to do something, you're going to find a way. And I want this so much. I was reading Jenny Crusie's excellent advice on a writing career today and thinking about what she said about what you want. And I do know what I want. I want to write (AND FINISH) the most amazing books, exactly the way I love them. And then I want to publish them, so I can go back to teaching writing, which is way more fun and energizing and less life-force-draining than some other options.

So let's do that. I see six things up there that I love and want to work into shape and send out into the world with a little spank on their behinds as they get out the door. You're awesome! Love you! Now get gone!

Rah, rah, rah!

I'm going to use this space to make it happen. And I'm going to ask this question about a lot of things: does it make me write better? Yes/no? If no, it might get the boot, is all I'm saying. Except the housepets. For all their active intervention in the writing process, they make me very happy and that's well worth it.

Which leads me to the last important thing in which you do things that are not writing in order to make writing infinitely more awesome: field trips! Outings! Going places where there are people with whom to converse! I tend to think that writing means you stay home and write, but everyone knows you run out of juice that way. Except me. I mean, I don't know it, somehow.

I discovered it all over again today when I took the dog down to this gorgeous waterfront town and we walked all along the river path and back. And it was completely glorious. Early evening, sunset, sky and black hills reflected in the flat low-tide river, great blue heron, mud flats, mounds of seaweed, a smell like you would not believe, a nice motel right up against the path, that huge terrifying bridge just across the water, that huge old fort next to that. Holy lords of Kobol, I'm not kidding, it was like being given the hugest box of crayons when you're used to one pencil. MUST GET OUT MORE. Go places, see things, possibly even--gasp--meet people. I know!

Also I really need to use that town as a setting. I might replace the paper mill with a university. Or one of those scary prep schools that's been there since Jesus was a corporal.

Thing to remember: you know how Harry Potter is full of dark, scary, awful stuff, but it's also witty and fun and playful? That.