Saturday, April 23, 2011

Bitching and moaning about revision (what else?)

As I have mentioned before--several times--the revision fairy is not kind to me.

I love first drafting.  It's free and spontaneous and fun.  Revision is like pulling teeth.

I am approximately 1/4th of the way through my first round of revisions of my novel.  My goal is to start submitting it to agents/publishers by June.  I am...not even close.  My new work schedule has been hard to adjust to; it was easier, for me, writing between 7 and 9 am than it is writing between 7 and 9 pm.  There are a lot of changes to be made.  A few of them are minor things, but a few of them actually change the story somewhat (primarily, the relationship dynamic between the hero and heroine).  I'm moving stuff around, so I have to remember to take it out of the story later.

But what's really frustrating about this is that I don't feel anywhere close to FINISHING.  I don't even feel like I'm making any progress.  Back when I finished the first draft on December 31, I had a complete novel.  It may not have been perfect, but it was a story with a beginning, a middle, and an end.  What I have now feels more like...Swiss cheese.

I think I need a new plan of attack.  The hitting things up in order worked for awhile, but it's not helping anymore.  So I'm going to send the latest draft to my Kindle, read it again, and figure out the "big things" I need to change.  I'll hit those scenes first.  Then I'll go back through again and make little tweaks: continuity errors, repetitiveness, etc.  The frustrating thing right now is that I know where I want to go (kind of), but I feel like I'm not getting there.

I also, probably, need to rotate my revision with some new first drafting.  I had always intended to do that, but haven't managed to sustain it thus far.  It's hard for me because I suck at multi-tasking.  When my mind is on one project, it's hard to switch over to another.  I think it's the same type of limitation that makes it difficult for me to write stories out of order, no matter how much that intense climax scene is poking at my brain when I'm only 20 pages in.  I'm right-brain dominant, but my left brain is kind of a pest and won't leave me alone unless I do all that silly creative stuff HER way.  But I think breaking up the monotony with some new characters and new worlds will help; I have spent almost a year nonstop with my current crop of homocidal (but loveable) freaks!  I've had some ideas bouncing around in my head recently, so maybe a little bit of writing just for writing's sake will help me out.

Last week, one of my favorite writers, Carolyn Crane, posted a blog entry with writer Layla Messner about having a preference for first drafting or revisions.  Layla, like me, was in the first drafting camp, while Carolyn strongly prefers revisions.   She says that she imagines there's a "hidden perfect story" within the first draft, which she's getting closer and closer to finding.

I think that's my problem right now: I feel farther away from an end point than I did when I finished the first draft!  Maybe because "the end" of revisions is a lot harder to define than the end of a first draft.

To top it off, my back is killing me at the moment.  Not the kind of debilitating pain that prevents me from moving, but the kind of annoying pain that just makes things difficult.  The last time I strained my back like this was last August, when I made the mistake of trying to carry a shoulder back with a computer and a weekend's worth of clothes with me while walking to work (a 25-minute walk).  But I can't figure out what caused it this time...though I'm sure sitting in yoga-like positions on desk chairs (a bad habit I developed in high school and never managed to break) probably doesn't help.  So yeah, it's just annoying and making me a bit irritable.  Painkillers and I don't get along very well, either.  Rather than killing pain, anything opiate-based tends to make me look and feel like I'm auditioning for a role in a remake of The Exorcist.  No fun.

So for now...I will go re-read my manuscript, again, and I'll figure out how to approach my revisions, again.  And hoepfully by Monday I'll be feeling better, mentally and physically.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The first cut is the deepest

Why is it that we remember criticism so much better than compliments?

Seriously, I think it must be hardwired into our DNA--at least, for those of us who aren't raging narcissists.  Once, a boy told a friend of mine that I looked like I was on drugs, because the circles under my eyes were so dark, and that I looked like I was pregnant because my lower stomach--the area I not-so-affectionally refer to as my "pooch"--stuck out.  I was 11 and in the sixth grade at the time.  He was the same age.  To this day, the first thing I do when I put on makeup in the morning is slather concealer under my eyes.  As for the pooch...well, given that every single woman in my family has one of those, there's not a hell of a lot I can do about it.  Even with crunches and some junk food cutbacks, it'd still be there.  It's how I'm built.  (For the record, I'm a size 6.  I'm actually proportioned smaller on the bottom than on the top.  But I've still got a pooch.  I don't like wearing short shirts.  I'm self-conscious in flat-paneled skirts.  All because some middle school-aged jackass made a snide comment 16 years ago.

Let's just pretend I had a whole entry here.  Then let's say that I decided not to post it, because this blog is published under my real name and there are certain things about me that probably should not be Googleable.  The gist is this: I got a criticism recently, levied in such a way that I believe the person was trying to make me look bad, or at least being incredibly passive-aggressive.  I think the criticism itself was overly nitpicky and unfair, and I received plenty of positive responses that should have offset this criticism.  But it doesn't.  I'm hurt and self-doubting, and I feel really deflated right now.  I don't like those emotions, but I can't really do anything about them.  So I'll do the next best thing: I'll transmute them into anger (or at least pretend that's what they are).

So, to the person whom this entry concerns:

Go fuck yourself.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

March: A Month in Review (featuring The Write Stuff)

Yeah, I know, it's already the 10th of April.  Sue me.  I've been quite busy with my new job, running around like crazy, and trying to get back into the revision groove so that I can have my novel ready to query by June.

The big thing for me in March, other than the new job, was attending the Write Stuff Conference, sponsored by the Greater Lehigh Valley Writers' Guild, from March 25-26.  The conference was fantastic and amazing, and I had a great time.  I got to meet some amazing people. 

I won The Siren by Kiera Cass as a door prize, and I read it on the bus ride home.  It was fantastic, a very sweet, odd little story about a siren who falls in love with a human, but she literally can't speak to him because her voice will lure him to drown himself in the ocean.  Coincidentally, I also got to meet and speak to Kiera pretty extensively during the conference.  We discovered that we're both "texture eaters" when we both ordered plain burgers and soda with no ice.  Kiera is the author of the upcoming YA novel, The Selection, coming in summer 2012, and I'm really, really looking forward to reading it.  I also met Sara Davison; I just got her book, The Watcher, in the mail, and I'll be reading it later this month.  Got some autographed books from YA author Cyn Balog, which I'll be giving away on CC2K soon.

The best part was meeting so many writers in all stages of their careers.  A few years ago, that would have really intimidated me, would have given me a bit of a complex about my lack of accomplishment, but now, it was more like, "Well, obviously someone is getting published, so why not me?"  I think I have more faith in my writing and my abilities than I did the last time I went to the conference (in 2007).  I look back on where I was in my writing in 2007, and where I am now, and the difference is night and day.  Not only am I writing more, and more consistently, but I also believe in myself a lot more.

I still have some stuff to work on.  I still don't do particularly well in crowds, still have trouble introducing myself to people I don't know.  I was still intimidated by the prospect of approaching editors and agents and trying to "sell" myself.  I have trouble pitching my story.  How do I explain it in 50 words or less?  Instead of focusing on all the cool stuff, I end up going, "Uh, uh, it's about demons, and, uh, stuff?"  Yeah, real impressive.

Agent Donald Maass was our keynote speaker, talking about the direction of fiction in the 21st century.  One of his arguments was that genre lines are disappearing, that no longer will fiction stick to the strict boundaries of genre.  Instead, fiction readers of the future will be more concerned with getting a great story with great writing, mixing the elements of literary and commercial fiction (great writing, exciting plot).  Genres will mix and weave and blend.  And we're already seeing this: paranormal romance, urban fantasy, romantic suspense, etc., all have elements of genre mixing.  (Shortly after I came back, as if just to confirm this, I read a paranormal steampunk western romance--Wilder's Mate by Moira Rogers, to be specific.)

And that, my friends, was March.