Becoming Sara Peltier
52650 words long, 56.50 hours of revision
- 51,593 words (if poetry, lines) long
- 50.00 hrs. revised
- 39,826 words (if poetry, lines) long
- 62.25 hrs. revised
There is a stained glass window in the door behind the bar at Conor O'Neill's in Boulder. It has writing on it, and that writing says,
"Drink is the curse of the land. It makes you fight with your neighber, it makes you shoot at your landlord, and it makes you miss him."
There's a band playing at Conor's, too. Big Paddy. They've been mainly playing rocked up old traditionals--"Star of the County Down", "The Drunken Sailor", and, what the hell, the odd U2 cover. Me and my laptop are tucked away in a walled-in nook around the corner from the bar, but it's still pretty darn loud in here. And it's only 11:00 PM yet. They could keep going until 1:00 with fairly little effort.
Today, I've taken my writing out on a date.
It's something Holly Lisle recommends doing when the fun of writing has disappeared and one doesn't know where to find it. Except of course she doesn't mean it literally, taking your writing out to dinner and a movie. What the hell. I felt like I had to get out of the house, so I took my writing out for a beer and some rockin' music.
Haven't done a lot. Mostly just reread Chapter 7, did some line-editing, and fixed the beginning to better match where the chapter has gone since then. Frankly, I'm getting worried about the time frame. At this rate, I'm not going to have this novel or Sara Peltierdone any time soon, much less by October 1.
But tonight? Not worrying much. The duo on the stage have started in on "Nancy Whisky" and the Smithwick Ale is pretty darn good, and I'm in a private little booth with just me and my writing having a romantic evening out. Tomorrow I don't have to worry, either, because tomorrow is a full day at home in which I can devote a lot of time to both novels if I so choose, and where's the need to worry when the worry's solution is in progress?
Tonight has been lots of fun, Writing. I think we should spend the whole day together, tomorrow. In our pajamas, painting each other's toenails. C'mon! It'll be fun.
(I think the metaphor ship has drifted.)
Tying up loose ends
Things worth mentioning:
- I haven't touched this novel since March. Shameful, I know. But I am still planning on submitting it to Delacorte this year, so expect to see some leaves getting turned over awful quickly at Chez LeBoeuf-Little.
- That chapter excerpt I spruced up and entered into the Absolute Write Idol contest among the 300-some other entries? Honorable mention! So cool. Which leads to my second shameful confession: I didn't vote in a single one of the ensuing weeks of competition between the finalists! What was I so busy doing? Not working on novels, apparently. Shameful! I'm so very sorry! Jenny Glatzer may commence to kicking my ass, well, right about now.
Done! ...with NaNoEdMo 2005, I mean.
Not with the novel. Gods no. It's only partway through Chapter 4. I am but barely begun.
At this moment, Sasha is walking down Wilcox Rd/County Road 64 towards I-10, where the Water Hawk Shopping Plaza is. Her sister just shoved her out of the house with a video tape rental return errand. Sasha's trying to figure out just what her sister is up to, and is about to run straight into the first tangible effect of the previous night's magic spell. She's going to like it, but boy is it going to weird her out. Hell, she's already a little weirded out.
So, anyway, 50 hours. Whoot! My NaNoEdMo buddy up in Fort Collins noticed my little blue bar turn green with completion even as I was PMing him the news, and he's already sent a validation email over to Headquarters. So I don't have one of those checkmarky things (shown at upper right) of my own yet, as checkmarks are awarded manually, but seeing how quickly they've been going up, I'm sure I'll get one soon.
Tomorrow is my long day at the studio. I put in both volunteer time and paid time on Fridays, so I'll be there from 7:45 AM through at least 3:15. Then I may just lounge around the house all day, because I can. The day after that, my husband and I are going to do some biking around town, bake a lasagna, and go watch anime shows at a friend's house--it's a biweekly tradition. But on Sunday...
Sunday I'm goin' back to the grind. Bridget and I'll probably do the Tea Spot thing at eleven. I'll log a couple more hours on the novel, but I'll work on other things too! 'Cause I can do that now! I ain't under the gun no more! At least, not for now!
Trust me, I always manage to get myself under the gun for one thing or another. I hate it, but I keep doing it. The next gun will probably be my two-week deadline for my reserved topics at WriteForCash.
Such is life. But I suppose, as we live and learn, it gets less sucher as we go along.
Symptoms of the Disease
- 50,456 words (if poetry, lines) long
- 44.25 hrs. revised
When the end of every freakin' early Act Two scene resembles the finale of a Hanna-Barbera cartoon--you know, someone has a pratfall and everyone else has a good laugh--well. It's a sign that it's a good damn thing you're revising this monstrosity, right?
And Seven Hours to the Finish Line!
- 50,455 words (if poetry, lines) long
- 43.00 hrs. revised
Stopping early tonight. Wanna get up earlyearly tomorrow. The schedule looks something like this:
- 5:00 – Wake up
- 5:30 – Pick up the milk delivery from friend's doorstep (Royal Crest won't deliver to apartments, won't even just leave the box at the foot of the stair, so he's our friendly surrogate drop point)
- 6:00 – Arrive at Joe's Espresso and coax a cup of coffee out of an equally groggy barrista
- 6:05 – Settle down with coffee at kidneybean-shaped table beside window looking out onto 30th Street and start logging some more noveledit time
- 8:00 – Chat with former coworker about all things writing
- Repeat 6:05 listing
- And again
- And again
"Just pretend it's your day job," I tell myself. "Just pretend you're at work."
But I never liked working eight hours straight. I don't function that way.
"Pretend that you do. And stop whining."
Tonight's three-and-a-quarter hours were spent getting from halfway through Chapter Three to the end of Chapter Three. In plot-point terms, that's from just after the end of the magic spell to just before dinner. Anubia explains the importance of positive affirmations, Sasha begins to explore her newly charged magic notebook, and peace negotiations begin between her sister and her mother in the kitchen. A little more hard-working conversation, and the sound of me attempting to rip-start the story proper.
Tomorrow begins the really hard task of outlining Chapter Four. Remember those plot tangles I mentioned back during the mark-up phase? Yeah. Can't put 'em off any longer.
Wish me luck!
Two Hours to Perfection!
- 51,570 words (if poetry, lines) long
- 39.75 hrs. revised
Pardon the late blog on this subject, but life's been a lot like that lately. Late to everything. Taxes, paying the bills, blogging about stuff. You know.
Sunday night I decided to grab an excerpt from this novel and enter it into the Absolute Write Idol contest. What's that, you ask? Why, it's a combination of Absolute Write and American Idol, of course! If you are unfamiliar with the former, then for goodness sake, click the link. If you are unfamiliar with the latter, I can't help you; my TV stays pretty much locked on Cartoon Network.
So I got a whole 4.25 hours logged on Sunday, at least two of them because of my efforts for the contest. And in those two hours I didn't progress through the novel at all, but I can at least say that 1000 almost-perfect words got polished into a gleaming 700 word gem of perfection. So, nyah.
(Some say, "If you keep on at this rate, it'll be months until you're done with the novel! Being done is better than being perfect, right?" But, hey, Delacorte isn't accepting submissions until October. I have time. And I believe in avoiding repetition. The result of one time through the manuscript should be a near-perfect, submission-ready manuscript (submission-ready after one last read-through for typos, anyway), not a manuscript that needs yet another full revision cycle.)
The excerpt I used came from Chapter Two, which was a beast of a chapter to revise. It's full of dialogue. Dialogue is one of my strong points, but each bit of it needs to work triple-time. This is true of short stories, too: dialogue advances plot, reveals character, and can be used to slip the reader bits of back-story. The thing about dialogue in the early chapters of a novel, though, is there's a lot of back-story that's relevant, and there's a lot of plot coming up, and there's a lot more character complexity on display. (Did I say "a lot"? I mean A LOT!) So each sentence that each character spouts, however casual and natural I may end up making it sound, has to be carefully scripted. This is why, after 39.75 hours of editing, I'm barely half-way through Chapter Three. (Chapter Three is also full of story-advancing, character-developing dialogue.)
It's OK, though. I mean to keep at this 2-hour-a-day schedule for the foreseeable future. Or at least continue trying to adhere to said schedule, with hopefully more success as time proceeds. The novel doesn't have to be done by March. It just has to be 50 hours closer to done.
That said, I have 10-and-a-quarter hours yet to log by tomorrow night. So we can safely assume that today and tomorrow will rate somewhat more than two hours each.
On Miniature Writing Retreats
- 51,896 words (if poetry, lines) long
- 34.50 hrs. revised
Things I will do next time:
- Have a schedule.
- Bring laundry detergent.
- Bring a camera.
- Not turn on the TV.
- Memorize the "I don't actually ski" speech
So Bridget and I drove on up last Sunday for a two-night stay in the standard bedroom suite. We brought our laptops and our works-in-progress, an ice chest full of food, a bag of even more food, and, in Bridget's case, yoga equipment. We can now say we have test-driven the home resort and found it to be all that and at least half a bag of chips.
Wireless internet is not officially available at the Mountain Vista. At the desk, they give you a little piece of paper with the local access numbers for AOL, MSN, Juno, &etc, and if you're an owner the local call is free. (Bridget found that she couldn't actually use the number for MSN. It was constantly busy.) However, I am here to tell you that throughout the day two different unsecure networks with out-of-the-box SSIDs floated in and out of range. Usually they were "look but don't touch"--that is, my computer attempted to connect briefly before throwing up its little hands in despair--but once in a while I did get through.
Now, if you want reliable internet, what you do is, you walk out of the resort, you hang a right, you hang another right at the traffic circle with the horse statue, you walk down to the last traffic circle before the street dips under the highway, and you head into the strip mall on the left. This contains Loaded Joe's, a cafe/bar/wiFi hotspot. (I emailed WiFi Free Spot about them, and the webmaster had the new link up within the hour. He's quick.) A word of caution, however: If you are hungry, either rise with the sun or fortify yourself elsewhere, because the breakfast burritos sell out rapidly.
There isn't a lot in the way of desk space in the standard bedroom, not much more than the table itself, which we kept messy with food things pretty much the whole time. But I found that if I put my laptop on the little drink stand that's next to the armless chair in the bedroom, and opened my three-ring binder with the manuscript in it on the foldy-strapy-suitcase-stand-thingy, I could work on the WIP comfortably.
I admit I did not get noticeably more writing done at the resort than I do on a typical day at home with nowhere to be. Mainly that was because of cooking meals and soaking in the hot tub and going for long walks, all of which were enjoyable uses of our time. However, there were other reasons. Sleeping late on Monday and Tuesday. Not getting right to work after unpacking and eating Sunday evening. Websurfing whenever I got a useable wiFi signal. Websurfing the hell out of our time at Joe's. Turning on the TV and watching Iron Chef and Teen Titans, for crying out loud.
Next time, I hereby decree there will be Schedules. We will Nag Each Other about them. We will Crack The Whip whenever whip-cracking is appropriate. So I Say; So It Will Be DONE!
And... we will learn not to sound so tongue-tied when some well-meaning resort person on the elevator says to us, "Why aren't you on the slopes?" "We don't ski; we're writers" has a nice ring, but it implies one can't be both, and that bothers me. How about, "We don't ski; we're just here on a writing retreat"? I like that better.
Whoo-hoo, Chapter Two!
- 52,984 words (if poetry, lines) long
- 21.50 hrs. revised
OK, so I only did three hours today. My downfall was in not going out for coffee this morning. Had I gone out for coffee, a book I'd begun rereading yesterday would not have been in reach, and I wouldn't have felt compelled to finish rereading it all the way to the end. And then I might have gotten a couple hours clocked before work as well as after.
But, hey! Three hours! That's more than I usually get done in a day, so--go, me!
Broke into Chapter Two today. That means Chapter One is done. Given the slow, perfectionist pace with which I've been proceeding, that means Chapter One is almost completely done. I'm rather happy with it. I think I managed to make it an overture to the entire novel.
You know about overtures, right? A sampling of all the musical themes you're going to hear over the course of the entire symphony, opera, whatever? Right. Chapter One, if I've played my cards right, hints at most of the literary themes and story arcs the novel will play with. There's Sasha's crush on David, Sasha's fear of Hector and Jason, Sasha's simultanous idol worship of and exasperation with big sister Anubia (nee Anabelle), foreshadowings of the shape that magic will take and hints both subtle and un- as to how the stakes will rise. There's even some symbolic stuff just to keep the novel qualified for the Subtext Olympics. Pretty cool, huh?
It's really about time I put an excerpt up. Not tonight, though. Tonight, I sleep, because tomorrow, I get up around five or so to get right back to work before breakfast. You know, clocking an hour or so of revision, planning out my day, believing the requisite six impossible things... yadda yadda.
- 5,000 words (if poetry, lines) long
- 52,853 words (if poetry, lines) long
- 18.50 hrs. revised
(If I keep this up, I'll have blogs with titles taken from the entire songlist off My Favorite Headache.)
Didn't get anything done on the novel yesterday, and only an hour today. But! I managed to finish and submit that short story I've been working on. It will reach the slush pile for which it is destined with a postmark of today or tomorrow, putting it well under the March 21st deadline.
Note to self: March deadlines are hell on NaNoEdMo goals.
So, today being the 15th, I ought to be halfway through my 50 hours. To wit, 25. /me glances up at current hour count--hey, that reminds me, there's supposed to be an IRC channel for NaNoEdMo participants... Anyway, I need to start clocking some 3-hour days until I'm back on track.
I'm trying to figure out why I didn't get more done today. Chalk it up to the seduction of accomplishment, I guess. I handed my precisely postaged envelope to the mail carrier (who was kind enough to get my building's mailbox cluster, which was jammed, unstuck), and went back inside feeling mighty fine. "I've done it!" I said. "I sent my story out to meet the world! I have done what a writer should! ...I get to slack off now!"
Well, yes, true, but for the rest of the damn day? That was noon, and I didn't touch my novel until 8:15 PM.
Some people manage to do this for a good 6-8 hours a day. Hell, I used to go to work and sit in front of a computer for eight hours a day. Why can't I seem to do that with writing? Is it just the lack of a supervisor to reinforce my ALT-TAB instincts? I know it's not, as certain cynics would answer, that I'm not cut out to be a writer. When having completed an ambitious story that, upon rereading it, makes me say, "Damn, that's good," I get a euphoria like little else in the world. That's the universe, via my bones, telling me, "Yeah, that's what you're here for. You're right. That's what I want you to do with yourself." I only wish I didn't seem to have this hate/fear/reluctance reaction to the process.
Tomorrow I'll probably do my usual Wednesday thing: head down to Joe's Espresso (nee The Painted Bean) when the cafe opens at 6, clock a good 2 hours, and then goof off until it's time to go to my part-time job, where I will bang my head against the brick wall that is Microsoft Access until by sheer brute force I create the find-listeners-by-radio-serial-number search function that we need so badly. Then I'll come home and hopefully clock another 2 hours, rather than slack off with guilt breathing down my neck all evening. See, I don't really believe that guilt-ridden slacking off is somehow more enjoyable than guilt-free slacking off. Self-loathing is overrated.
I hereby give myself permission, once I have clocked a total of 4 hours on this novel tomorrow, to slack off with a squeaky clean conscience.
On firearms and mantlepieces
- 52,904 words (if poetry, lines) long
- 17.50 hrs. revised
Today's type-in didn't cover much more ground, page-wise, but it had its satisfying moments.
Here's what was covered: Sasha is still sitting in the ice cream parlor with her journal. Now that some of her hostile classmates are arriving, she's covering up her unease by caricaturing them in her writing. She flinches away from writing about the boys who were harassing her today. Then her sister walks in and they get to talking.
Doesn't sound like a lot, does it? I know. But I'm feeling happy with the way I restructured the concept. Before, it was one long paragraph in which she considers writing unflattering portrayals of Stan and Tina. Now, I actually include some quotes from her journal to contrast with the real live football jock and cheerleader girlfriend.
Another thing about this scene: Stan and Tina were a one-hit wonder during NaNoWriMo. I pulled some names out of the blue for the sake of, y'know, having names. Natalie Goldberg would advise, "Say 'crepe myrtle', not 'tree'." So I try to be specific. But James MacDonald, of the notoriously hefty Learn Writing With Uncle Jim thread at AbsoluteWrite, would say, "Don't name a character unless you plan to do something with him." Which puts me in mind of the old adage about firearms and mantlepieces: If in Act I a gun is shown prominently displayed above the fireplace, by Act III it should have fallen into the fire and blown up. Or, failing that, someone should have pulled the trigger.
Thus, I tweak. About two-thirds into the original plot, we have an icky scene in which Hector and Jason take bullying to a new level and actually try to rape Sasha. She fights them off and goes home planning to sic her magic notebook on them. This scene is augmented by an insinuation that H&J had earlier succeeded in doing the same to one of Sasha's classmates, which gives Sasha's vengeance extra fuel: "I can't let them hurt anyone else." So, noting my "one-hit wonder" critique of Stan and Tina in Chapter One, I ditch the random classmate and substitute Tina for the unpleasant role of Martyr For The Main Character's Cause. (Sorry, Tina.)
But then I got to thinking about working Stan and Tina's relationship into the plot. Maybe H&J assault Tina out of some warped urge to use her to hurt Stan? If so, why? Maybe because Stan came to Sasha's rescue one day when H&J were harassing her. That makes the bullies a little more human, or at least a more understandable specimen of sociopathy: They aren't simply monsters hanging out in the bushes waiting to pounce on the next skirt walking by. Instead, they're acting from a monstrously twisted desire for pay-back. We can hold them up as a model that Sasha, in her own quest for revenge, imitates and, we hope, shies away from before she becomes a monster herself.
So all we need now is to give Sasha a scene in which she A) successfully repells a serious attack from Hector and Jason, and B) is inspired to new depths of unethical magic. At this point, do I really need H&J to actually attack Sasha herself? Why not let the attack on Tina do double-duty, and lower the stakes back to the level of plot necessity at the same time? Have Sasha interrupt the attack and rescue Tina. This, incidentally, rescues Hector and Jason, too--rescues them from themselves.
So now the bullies are established as Really Bad, Sasha is demonstrated to be Bad Ass, and motivation for vigilante voodoo is created. The sexual assault count of the novel lowers from "totally maudlin" down to "probably necessary to the plot, but I'm still thinking about it." And for an added bonus, the mouse repays the lion. That is: Stan saves Sasha; Sasha saves Stan's girlfriend. (It works out if you consider Stan and Tina a single entity for the sake of plot algebra.) Sasha gets a little proof (which she'll ignore for the moment but learn to appreciate later) that she doesn't need magic to make friends, and thus the moral of the story is quietly reinforced.
Now that's making a scene work for its money!
Please note: The above narration of my thought processes makes me sound horribly callous about sexual assault. I'm not. Promise. It just comes across that way when I sit down and plot out a novel. Try writing one yourself; you'll see.