The reasons for this blog: 1. To provide basic author information for students, teachers, librarians, etc. (Please see sidebar) 2. I think out loud a lot as I work through writing projects, and I'm trying to dump most of those thoughts here rather than on my friends.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

No writing today. At least, not on my WIP--worked instead on other writerly obligations. Didn't even think about my WIP. However I did think about Gerard Terborch's use of the exact same image in two of his paintings:


The girl is copied, down to the folds of her dress! I think maybe Dutch painting, at that point, was still considered more of a craft than an art--or perhaps it was starting to break off?

What's interesting to me lately is the idea of artists in a community influencing each other. With the advent of the Internet, writers are also influenced by the way their art is received, and the way they themselves are perceived--or believe themselves to be perceived. I wonder if the Internet is having an effect on writers' creativity, taking the place of how writers used to provoke and challenge each other to change or experiment. And, if so, whether that's good; are writers tending to boldly stretch their comfort zones because they see others doing it? Or is the Internet perhaps squashing writers because it shows them a worldwide picture of the market and their potential readership?

Monday, September 29, 2008

No writing for three days. Today I picked up where I left off on Thurs., and as I was revising one of the characters did something that surprised me. It's not a huge event; he just says something that previously was said by another character. However, if he is the one who says it there will be ripple effects down the entire ms--so I had to go back, reluctantly, and reread from the start to try to make sure he really would say that at this point in the story. The jury is still out; my writing time has been a little curtailed lately so I didn't get all the way through. Maybe tomorrow I will figure it out. If not, I don't know what to do, because if I start guessing about character now it'll throw me off for the rest of the book.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Worked today even though my head wasn't in it, mostly. Sometimes it feels like I've forgotten how to write. I string words together, and they look stupid on paper so I restring them again. And again. But you know, it's still progress of sorts. I worked through it anyway, moved the character forward and got a few pages farther. And I guess I'm slowly getting a different spin on tone.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Worked today, picking up where I left off yesterday. Redid some of yesterday's, and inched forward a bit. I hope to g*d I'm on the road to making this better, because it's going to be an utter b*tt-r**ming drag if I look back in a few months and find that I made the ms even worse.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Pludged through some of chapter nine, not sure how much. I keep realizing that I'm too much in the character's head, so I try to fix it. Then I realize that I'm not enough in the character's head--so I try to fix it. And now I'm coming up on a part where I have to rethink an entire confrontation because the style, depth, and meaning of the story have changed. I was getting in all this info in, but I have to go back and gut it--and, now that I think about it, redo the skeleton of the scene, too. Pull out the guts, decide which bones get to stay, and figure out how to put those together. Then put some new guts in. Yow.

Monday, September 22, 2008

And now I have to help son with homework about "linking" verbs and "helping" verbs. Only I don't know what they are. I have the worksheets in front of me, and I still don't know what they are. It's like they're asking you to explain why the cursor moves when you move the mouse. Dude, I don't know--it just does. Some smart person figured it out way back when and the rest of us get to bask in the results of his genius.
Pludged all the way through the chapter, which turns out to be Chapter Eight. Will it stand up to later scrutiny? I doubt it; nothing else has. Nonetheless, it is done for now, except I think I left one transition unfinished. Still, it is a relief to see the blank white chunk of space that says this chapter is over. I think at one point that sucker (Ch. 8) must have had a billion pages of cr*p to sort through, select and put in some kind of order. Now it doesn't look like my dog chewed up 15 pages of dialog and barfed it into a pile. No, now it looks like a second grader was making a collage and pasted a bunch of mildly related snippets together. That's the kind of thing I have to call "progress," at this stage of the game.


Didn't really do any writing yesterday. Family stuff, plus there are some writerly obligations coming up that I have to get ready for. Today I am plugging, plodding, trudging--pludging--along, not in the later chapter with the scene-setting, but in the earlier chapter that establishes characters, relationships and motivations for that later bit. And may I just say, Ugh.

I'm used to secondary characters who don't have to be in sharp focus 100% of the time because they are in service to the MC's story. They have their own real, full lives, but they can be like the guy at the edge of a Degas painting that's half cut off while the ballerinas are in the middle doing their thing. I hadn't realized till now that even though I work hard to use my secondary characters to fullest extent, they're still not extensively developed. And this ms is a real beeyotch because every time I slide over somebody just for a second to concentrate on somebody else, I accidentally drop one or another thread (plot, character, or theme) and get off track.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Got a very little writing done. Mostly looked up stuff like copper water urns in 17th or 18th century western Europe. Obviously couldn't find much since I'm still saying "17th or 18th century." Almost everything I found is about hot water urns, so maybe I'm using the wrong keywords.

Also had some thoughts re. a certain chapter farther on, and that's actually what I was dabbling around in today. It requires some extensive scene setting (for me, anyway, considering I'm not very big on description) so I'm trying to get a picture in my head of the nitty gritty.

This is not very conducive to the big picture or to forward movement, but it will have to be done at some point, and I'd better do it now before my library books are due back. Although I'm pretty sure I need to recheck one because I'll keep using it for reference.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Still working. Trying to keep my head in it and proceed carefully and not start skimming or writing whatever pops into my mind.

And I cut nearly every word of those two paragraphs I slaved over the other day. I think I might have kept one sentence, or part of one.
Wrote today. I'm not going to figure out exactly how much, and I'm not even going to try to extrapolate whether it counts as actual progress or not. I wrote, and I wrote for a good number of hours, and that is enough.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Worked on ms yesterday. Worked today. Still working. Getting nowhere, probably. Not a pretty sight.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Very, very slowly worked through a minor revamping of an earlier chapter. E-mailed some writer friends to pick their brains for methods re. organizing thoughts, plot threads, etc. I'm tentatively thinking I'll gingerly try inching my way into the middle now, even though I haven't nailed the chapter that leads into the middle. I do have a vague feel for some scenes that will be in the new middle. We'll see how it goes, though. When I pull up the ms and the file lies open before me, I may chicken out or sit there cluelessly blank.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Frustrated. I would say I'm stuck, but it's more like snagged. I could push through this and just get some stuff down on paper--I have a general direction I can go, some specific scenes I could write--but I've been in this boat before and would prefer to get unsnagged first. Sometimes you have to push through to figure out what you're doing, but other times you can push through a whole book and it makes sense and everything fits and it reads well--but it's just not quite up to snuff. That's a really, really tough place to be, because what happens is that there's not anything terribly wrong with the ms except that it's not a standout and it's not engaging enough and somewhere it either veered a tad off course, or never got quite on course. And at that point, it's hard for anybody to tell you what's wrong with it. You can't tell because you've been immersed in it for so long. Few other writers can tell. Editors and agents can't tell either, usually, and they won't bother to try to think about it because any potential fixes are buried, unclear, and often rather large--and why would they want to spend time figuring out what's wrong with a ms that doesn't engage them?

Now I'm getting the willies because I'm thinking of all the writers I know who have sent in a ms that's like this, and the editor tosses off a couple of half@ss ideas re. fixes, and the poor writer actually tries to apply them, assuming that Editor = God. Months or years later the editor sees the fixes and says, "Sorry, this just isn't working for me." And the writer is totally at sea. The horror! The horror!

Have I done this? Sort of. I keep trying new things I don't know how to do, and sometimes an editor will have input and I might or might not start feeling my way into their suggestions. Never turn down free expert advice, I say. But anybody who blindly follows an editor's suggestions is just that editor's b*tch, IMO. They don't know they're an editor's b*tch, bless their hearts. They're entering into the rewrite with a good attitude and good will and hope. But the bottom line is that they're giving up all the power, and doing so is likely to come back and bite them in the you-know-what.

It's a terrible thing to have a failed ms, but it's much, much worse to have a failed ms that's not even close to your own vision anymore.

No, far better to take your time and unsnag yourself. I had better d*mn well get a stronger feel for this ms.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

No writing yesterday. Watched Hurricane Ike coverage instead. Don't know if we'll have power outages here, but hope not.

I have a vague idea that, if pursued, could help me wrap my head around this project--in other word, give it a backbone and structure and goal. However, I can't quite get the idea fleshed out and pinned down in my mind. It's a big cloudy mass of...stuff. Very frustrating.

I feel like I can almost get it. Character 3 is betrayed by a trusted friend. There's something to do here--not with the betrayal per se, but with the various characters' reactions to it. Because later Character 1 is betrayed by a trusted friend. Character 2 has already been betrayed--we just don't know it. And near the end Character 3 is betrayed again, by a different person.

But what do to with all this? Maybe look at how the choices characters make about who they trust and who they don't trust drive the plot. But there's more, because I don't know what I want to say about trust--which means the book has no point. I don't really have anything to say about trust. My personal views about trust are that you're probably better off not relying on it too much; it's more important to consistently act with integrity (whatever that means to you) so that you can trust yourself, respect yourself, rely on yourself. You can't take those around you for granted or assume that they'll have your back always and forever, no matter what.

Don't trust anybody but yourself seems like a terribly negative theme to impose on a book. It's also not what I want to say.

However, there is something I've been wanting to say, that I don't know how to bring out. Not about trust, but about standing alone and weathering trouble; that sometimes help or companionship comes from unexpected places. It's not something you'd even appreciate, if you hadn't been troubled and alone. You wouldn't have valued it--you weren't capable of valuing it--until things went very, very wrong for you.

This is likely too complex an idea for this story. What I think I'm getting at is hardship developing one's character--but not in a "When I was your age I used to walk to school in a snowstorm" way. I'm thinking more about broadening your empathy and understanding and appreciation of other people. I don't know that I can get this across in a book, because I'm not sure anybody can actually understand it unless they've been up against some kind of wall themselves. Also, this is not a very reflective story and there's not much room for digressions.

But then, that's a great challenge, trying to cram all that into a book with swordfights and kidnappings.

Anyway, I don't know if I can proceed unless I have at least a tiny glimmer of how any of this fits together. Will have to pull up the ms and think about it. Right now. Hope I don't just stare blankly at the screen for hours.

P.S. Now that I think about it, "Don't trust anybody but yourself" is the way Character 2 thinks. And look what happens to him.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

I must have put in 5-6 hours work total today, and what I have to show for it is a couple of short paragraphs. But I'm telling you, if I end up being able to actually use those two paragraphs in some form or another, it's all okay by me. See, writing gods? I'm not a very demanding soul.
Still working on chapter eight, or whichever one it is. This may take a while. I hadn't given this one a whole lot of thought, because plotwise it's a quiet moment before the storm. Just people standing or sitting around talking. But now, whoa. There's a lot to do here. Digging into Character 4 got me off to a good start, and now I see that in the middle of his coming in, I need to stop and do some digging into Character 3, and rethink her in more depth. I'm very big on finding emotional "moments" in scenes and playing to those, and somehow I completely, utterly missed a huge one: betrayal. The story is about multiple betrayals and this is the first one, and I just blipped over it, trying to think how to bring in information and backstory and generally worrying over other aspects of the ms.

So I'm working on Character 3 in the middle of working on Character 4, in the middle of this very short bit of meeting and dialog. If the bit were in real life, it would probably last maybe a minute or two at most, but I can see that I'm going to have to put a lot of time and elbow grease in to get it working. I'm overwriting like crazy right now, and I know that most of what I'm doing will have to be cut. But it's got to be done so that I can figure out what I do and don't need.

It's discouraging to think that all this work will mean exactly nothing to anybody else. If I do it properly, the work won't show. And of course there's the whole issue of whether the ms will ever make it to publication and the added fillip that even if it does it's unlikely to be read in a market that puts out 10,000 new books a year, not to mention that the few souls who do manage to take a gander will just blip over it on their way to the other 9,999 books.

So in order not to be discouraged, I just won't think about all that.

Back to work.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Pulled up my WIP this morning and sat staring at it with no clue how to begin. So I tried to put it off by calling a writer friend to see how wf's WIP is coming along. Instead we ended up talking about my WIP while I sputtered around trying to explain why I don't know where to begin with this chapter--about all the things this chapter could and should do and show and set up. Of course I don't understand what it's supposed to set up, exactly, but I know there are lots of things.

We tossed that around a bit and wf got me to narrow down some issues and pinpoint a couple, and then it was down to mainly one, which is Character 4 and the fact that I don't "get" him yet. I described him (personality, not looks) to wf and gave some examples of people we know who are like that, sort of, and how I know what he feels because I strongly feel that way about some aspects of writing. Wf suggested that the clothing of the people we know like that sometimes shows their personality. We talked about how Character 4's personality traits might come out in what he wears. I was like, okay, he's poor and does hands-on labor, so he has one or two sets of clothes at most and they're hardly ever washed, probably patched. And he's not vain at all, but there would likely be one outward indication of this huge inner dramatic streak he has. I thought it would probably--logically--be his hat. Once I got started thinking about one specific thing (under the direction of wf) I could feel this guy getting a little stronger and moving away from the shadow of the other three characters and all the plot stuff that's fogging my brain. So I got off the phone and started working.

Specifically, Character 4 doesn't have any money, and everything he owns is worn and faded, and his hat would probably be shapeless and utile. I'm thinking it would be felt, not straw, and it's likely red, but like I said, very faded now. But...I'll bet he'd wear with a little dramatic flair, either put something in the brim, or flourish it every once in a while with a dramatic gesture, or change the angle or roll up the brim.

For some reason, this made his words fall more into place and the other characters' words recede a little, and I saw all the crap I had to cut that was me blah-blah-blahing in dialog. I didn't delete it, but cut and saved it under a separate file in case I need it again later. Now the chapter has a backbone to work with.

Thank goodness for writer friends. Worth their weight in M&Ms.
Things to try to keep in mind today:

This chapter is not just an introduction of character 4 and a bunch of dialog. Something has just happened; all three other characters are in various states of surprise or shock. How they react in this chapter shows who they are. It also sets up...something. Somehow it ties into and leads into changes that are soon to come in the story.

And so to work.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

severe moment of writerly panic

Writer friend sends link to some other writer's blog entry where other writer confidently lists some rules about writing. Do this, never do that. Put this here, always. Be sure not to X. Suddenly I'm like, why am I not this positive? If I were that positive, maybe I wouldn't be working on the same thing for 2+ years. Am I not that positive because I'm just not a very good writer? That would explain why it takes me so long to work on something that's likely to end up sucky anyway! I suck, that's why! Panic! Panic! Panic!

Anyhoo. They can take away my confidence, but they'll have to pry the keyboard from my cold, dead hand. You don't need confidence, in writing. Just a word processor. Or at least a tablet and pencil.
Put quite a bit of work in today, but I think I mostly spun my wheels. I spent the whole time on one chapter (I think it's chapter eight; not sure) and cut a bunch of stuff and reorganized. But something feels wrong. I don't know what. It just doesn't feel right, that's all.

Some questions:

Is it that the pace is taking a sudden nose dive?

Am I just unclear on the characters?

Does the chapter merely need a focus?

Do I need to figure out precisely how this chapter moves the story forward?

G*d forbid it should be all of the above.
Writer friend sent some reviews, including one that praises a certain book's tension.

Coincidentally, this very book is lying on the front floorboard of my car, where it is getting in worse and worse shape from being kicked around by kids getting in and out. I took this book to a few of the lengthy waiting-room sessions I had this summer, thinking that having nothing to do for two hours would force me to stick with it and finish it. Nope. I went and got my crossword puzzle book and did those instead.

Now, I have a lot of trouble reading any fiction nowadays. Writing fiction has ruined me for reading it. I don't know why; it's not like I pick apart everything I read. I guess picking apart my own stuff every day has dulled the part of my brain that approaches books with open enjoyment. I dunno. It's a shame, whatever the reason, because reading has always been one of the joys of my life. But anyway, I'm looking at this review and thinking about my WIP and I'm thinking maybe I don't even know what tension is. I still haven't quite figured out why I started reading The Penderwicks and somehow got sucked into it so that I sat and finished the whole thing in one fell swoop, when I set aside the vast majority of the novels I try to start. It's not like I thought anything might really go wrong in The Penderwicks. There was nothing at all to worry about. People were hanging out together eating gingerbread...scrumptious gingerbread. With cream.

I think I bought that book. If I did, it might be downstairs, unless I lent it to somebody. I ought to try to find it and look at the chapter endings.

Maybe there's plot tension and then there's character tension, and people tend to respond to one or the other. And maybe there are different levels and types of plot tension and character tension. Like I'm guessing I respond to romantic tension, which Penderwicks had, even if it was middle grade romance, harmless and underplayed. Perhaps I did not respond to the tension in the book on my floorboard because I didn't care about any of the characters. Which is interesting because the book is all about a one-sided romance (which Penderwicks also had).

I have noticed that a writer friend and I tend to cut our chapter breaks in completely different places. When this friend has critiqued for me, said friend suggests different places to break for more tension (usually it's just a slightly different place, like maybe a paragraph or two away). But the suggestions almost always feel like the wrong place to me, so I leave it the way it is. We think differently--we see tension differently, somehow.

This is all on my mind because I'm rethinking my chapter breaks now, and trying out different things. It's hard to know what to focus on in the last few paragraphs of a chapter. If it's done properly you can pull the reader onward but also plant thoughts that will echo or be fully developed later on. And that's what we call depth.

Sometimes, however, a hook is just a hook. And sometimes it's a cheap one at that. Sigh.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Pretty good writing day. I went over chapters 5, 6, and 7 again, and they feel like they're in good working-draft condition. Not great, but the essentials are in place for revamping later. They have a little focus and do make a point here and there, if clumsily.

We'll see about tomorrow. I would like to be able to dig in as productively as today, because there's a little extra time for uninterrupted work. Maybe tonight or in the morning I can think what I want to try to do with this next chapter, which is the last chapter before things start happening and I don't have to worry so much about focusing scenes for a while. Because, you know, everybody's running around like crazy and trying to escape and rescue and such.

Maybe I should think about what I want to set up for later, what needs to be established. But I'd sort of prefer to just let the characters hang loose and interact. If they're just going to do plot chores, they're not very interesting or very much fun.
Sometimes, when you can't figure out what to do with something, it's because it doesn't need to be there.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

I cut the first five chapters into seven (or at least I think I did; I don't wanna look). Pulled some backstory in at the very end of what is currently chapter six. It may be too much, though, and may have to be cut. I dunno. This is such an excruciatingly slow pace of work. I have so much of the story in my head and have already used it in so many different places and in so many different ways that I can't see what it looks like anymore until it's actually on the paper. I have to change fonts and margins to trick my eyes into thinking they haven't seen it before, print it out and reread it. Then I fix things and smooth them out. This is how I always work at certain points, but not usually this early and not usually this often. I can't even get a single chapter under my belt without going over it multiple times. This is worrisome because at this rate I'm going to run out of fonts and margins before I get halfway through. And I have no intention of setting this aside to work on something else for a while. I want to work on this, till I get one full draft.

This process is working; the story is growing and taking shape and I have a clearer view of the part I've revised. It's in order, and it is mostly functional. But at this rate...well, things may look up when I get to the middle since that's going to have a lot of new stuff. We shall hope so.
I took the title off my ms and where it was, I put:


I feel unfocused and at a loss again, not knowing how to begin digging in today. So it's back to printing out. From the beginning; Chapters 1-5.

While I was printing, I was thinking that one thing I need to consider is chapter breaks. This is a transitional work for me ("transitional"--big word that makes me sound like a struggling arteeste rather than a loser who hasn't got a clue and should be getting a real job) and that the chapter breaks definitely reveal where I'm casting about. Some of them are artificial plot breaks, cut at moments of high tension where something is about to happen. But usually when I write I construct whole scenes (usually single chapters) that end on an emotional hook, not a physical one. I'm used to working through chapters/scenes from a completely different angle.

When I was a kid, some of my favorite books were the Happy Hollisters. Every chapter in those books ended on some kind of plotting hook like somebody falling out of a boat or the bully gripping our hero Pete Hollister's collar in his sweaty fist and drawing back for a punch. My youngest son (a non-reader) went into a Anthony Horowitz/Alex Rider zone this summer, and I think the pacing and hooks had a lot to do with that. Although all the chapters in Horowitz don't end with in-your-face plot hooks, many of them do: the tiger is in midleap toward Alex's head; the helicopter's engine is cut and it's spiraling out of control (okay, I made that second one up, but only as far as I know because I haven't read all the Alex Rider books).

So I had all these plot hooks for chapter breaks in my ms. But now I'm trying to move the ms slowly to where it's more of a hybrid of what I usually do (character) and the plot stuff, and I think maybe some of these chapter breaks are getting in my way now, messing with my head--preventing me from seeing scene in terms of character growth the way I usually do. I really like some of the hooks, but with others rethinking might help me get a grip.

Or not.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Drudge, drudge, drudge. I "saved as" so I don't accidentally lose anything from the last version, then moved stuff around, split it up, cut quite a bit, etc. And I'm barely even started. This is why I never clean out closets; first you have to take everything out and spread it around and think about it and organize it and get rid of some before you can put it back into the stinkin' closet. It's just not worth it. However, my WIP is not a closet and must be attended to.

With closets you can cram tons of stuff in willy-nilly and still get the door shut if you push hard enough; not so with mss.

Trees, meet the forest.

Luckily, today I had one of those things I get sometimes early in the morning when I'm sort of half asleep and half awake. I suppose all the negative voices are off at that time, all the pressure is off, and the back of my mind has been working on problems--so once in a while I get a very clear flash of what I could be doing. It's not like pictures or words, more like a snapshot of a station (or more than one station) along the emotional arc of the story. So this morning I had a flash, and you can bet your sweet @ss I dragged myself out of bed to write it down, because this comprises a bunch of stations and there's no way I would remember it all.

What I scribbled down is this (censoring out character names and plot specifics):

need to show Character 3 break up she needs to paint a touching picture of her family life
tough and pitiless till then (we see her soften at Plot Point X)

Then when I went back to bed my mind was still in that place, so it went over other stuff, and I understood some stations I could shoot for, and an order that might work. So after I got up I wrote them down because I knew I'd forget them, too:

1. Character 1 goes home in dread
2. goes to see Character 4
3. Character 2 is pissed
4. Character 3 goes to eat--sees kitchen
5. neighbor comes--warns about a search, but no one knows about character 4
6. Characters 1, 2, and 3 away

Then I noted what the state of mind of characters 1, 2, and 3 are as they leave.

This all seems very cryptic and stupid, but really it represents a lot of work and hopefully a breakthrough about the middle. There are at least six or seven scenes/chapters (probably more) here, some of which I already have and some of which I don't. The ones I do have will have to be either revamped or completely gutted and overhauled. A bunch of stuff will have to be cut--but first I've got to go through and make sure I keep the parts I may be able to cannibalize and use elsewhere.

So now I'm looking at all this--it's going to be a ton of work, a TON!--and I'm getting that feeling people have when they think they want to be a writer, that if only they had the time they would be, and someday when they aren't quite so busy they'll actually sit down and write a book. But what they're really thinking is: Dang, this is going to be a lot of work. No point in trying to start right now, because it's so much work and I've got so many other things occupying my time. And when you feel like that, what you're looking at is a long life where you sit at the end of it and realize you never actually failed at anything because you were always a wannabe who never did anything. So I'm starting today, d@mmit. I don't know where to start with it, but I'm going to find a place and try to dig in.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Family stuff today--no writing.

I'm looking at the Syd Field plotting paradigm that's supposed to do away with the saggy middle, and it's very clear to me that I have the big pieces here. I already have the inciting incident, of course. Plot Point 1 is obvious, as is Plot Point 2. The all important midpoint is there, too; everything changes for all three characters when this happens.

I just don't know what to do with this info. Maybe because the midpoint is set off by one character realizing something. That doesn't seem very interesting. It just doesn't seem quite right, like I'm missing something. Maybe I'll see if I can find some examples to look at.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

I'm trying to sculpt this chapter of mostly dialog into reasonable first-draft shape. Right now there's twelve messy pages of it (double spaced)--twelve pages of patches of dialog on many different subjects with no transitions or scene-setting between them.

There's a fine line between self-indulgent twaddle and sharp, crisp, interesting dialog. Also I don't want to stray too far into dull bare-bones move-the-story-forward, as opposed to sparking things up with character development. But if things get sparked too much, it's like, wtf are these people talking about? It becomes completely removed from the situation they're in. Sort of like a Quentin Tarantino movie, heh.

The thing about Quentin Tarantino movies is that all the characters tend to talk like Quentin Tarantino. At least in the ones I've seen. But...he keeps the story sharp and interesting, even though sometimes he's stopping everything dead in its tracks while the people talk like him. So why is the story sharp and interesting? Maybe because his stories take such wild turns, you really have no clue what he's going to do next. And maybe he takes care and doesn't let the dialog go on too long? I don't know.

I was thinking about The DaVinci Code. I read it once, then gave my copy away, which was stupid because it was a nice copy, hardback with color pictures of the all the places and items mentioned in the book. I thought I'd never read it again. But now I'm thinking about how the author kept things moving--because he certainly did keep things moving. There was zero character development, as I recall, but for some reason that wasn't important as I was reading. I'd like to take another look at it. I wonder if I can borrow it back from the person I gave it to. Except she's off at college 300 miles away. But if I go to the library I'll end up with a bunch of books I don't have time to read, and then I'll end up reading them instead of writing. And if I go to Half-Price I'll end up buying a bunch of books I can't afford and don't have time to read. I have zero willpower when it comes to books. G*d forbid I should go to the regular bookstore, of course. I only have books one and two of Saiyuki Reload, and the others are calling my name.

Anyway, I don't know how to sort out these twelve pages. I guess the thing to do first is look to see which bits can be used to raise the stakes. Move it all around like puzzle pieces to see if any fall together. And save everything because I might end up using it.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Writer friend sent this. If you pretend it's not two people, but me talking to myself, it's a spot-on illustration of what goes on in my head:

Good writing day so far. It's a relief to feel that plowing blindly onward and not giving up pays off sometimes. But I'm going to try not to reread this latest rewritten chapter for a bit, in case it doesn't hold up. Better to proceed in a state of good cheer, and get as far as I can.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Very tired. Worked anyway, and actually got a rhythm going. Hopefully it's a real rhythm and not just glibness. Sometimes you reread and realize that what you wrote sounds like a sitcom. Yesterday I ended unhappily, feeling as if I'd veered farther and farther off track, but today when I skimmed over yesterday's work it didn't look so bad. It looked like I only went a little off at the end. So I just cut the end and started from there. Now I've got a mess on my hands, snippets of stuff forming chunks of several different scenes, but it feels like a good mess; something I can work with. I hope it continues to feel that way.

In annoying-trivia-news, wtf is that Kid Rock song? It's everywhere, and it ought to be Werewolves of London but it's not. Why can't we just hear Werewolves of London over and over? What's the difference between homage and plagiarism? Well, permissions, I guess. Kid Rock has permission. Okay, so what's the difference between homage and stale inane watering-down of the original? This is actually quite pertinent to me, because I may very well be writing a stale inane watered-down Dumas-ish type thing right now. Plus, I'd certainly be willing to deliberately write a stale inane watered-down copy of something if it puts food on the table. I'm not proud. Not to name names, but somebody's gotten rich as Croesus doing stale watered-down Tolkien. However, I suppose that since there's no way to predict the marketing sweet spot, it's best to just keep one's head down and focus on one's own work.

Monday, September 1, 2008

There's never been any question that I have some kind of plotting disability. I can't even retain information about plotting; my brain turns into a sieve. The irony of this struck me particularly just now, after a long day of writing where I have no idea whether I accomplished anything or not, because I noticed I'd put a sticky note next to my Diet Pepsi coaster. The sticky note says (sic in advance): "plot: result of choices made by characters: the characters take action (or don't) and events happen as a result." The irony? I have published six YA novels of my own. I am just coming off a Printz honor. And yet I have this sticky note defining plot, which I apparently wrote to myself sometime in the past couple of months (I know this because it's a Shonen Jump sticky note, which I picked up at ALA), and which I just now read as if I'd never seen it before. Wha??? Plot is the result of the characters' choices? Who knew? Not me!

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