Friday, December 31, 2010

Got the Scene

Finally! It's a New Year's Eve Miracle.

Rewriting dialogue-- done.
Cutting words from Act I-- two-thirds done.
Words edited in December-- 8,094.

Tomorrow is the first day of JanNo. Anyone else participating?

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Read in 2010

No, I'm still not done rewriting that scene, okay?

Let's change the subject.

I surpassed my reading goal for 2010! I always say I'm going to read 25 books, but usually wind up stalling out somewhere between 15 and 20. But this year I read 37, including 30 novels (listed in order read):

Kushiel's Scion by Jacqueline Carey
Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
Kushiel's Justice by Jacqueline Carey
Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale
Victory of Eagles by Naomi Novik
The Sharing Knife: Horizon by Lois McMaster Bujold
Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card
Keeping the World Away by Margaret Foster
Kushiel's Mercy by Jacqueline Carey
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Naamah's Kiss by Jacqueline Carey
Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer
Barrayar by Lois McMaster Bujold
Xenocide by Orson Scott Card
Palimpsest by Catherynne M. Valente
Artemis Fowl: The Arctic Incident by Eoin Colfer
Pattern Recognition by William Gibson
Stardust by Neil Gaiman
The Warrior's Apprentice by Lois McMaster Bujold
The Vor Game by Lois McMaster Bujold
Local Custom by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller
Cetaganda by Lois McMaster Bujold
Labyrinth by Lois McMaster Bujold
Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
Leonardo's Shadow by Christopher Grey
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
The Lord of the Fading Lands by C. L. Wilson
Kiss of Honor by Jenna Reynolds
Anathem by Neal Stephenson
Gifts by Ursula K. LeGuin

Read any of these? Drop me a comment! And if you'd like a mini-review of any of these, say so in a comment, and I'll respond in a new post. Anything for you, baby.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Slow, but Painful

That's how The Husband answers me whenever he's fixing something and I ask how it's going.

And that's how rewriting the stupid dialogue in this poopyhead scene has been. I've just been having this big mental block about it. I can hear Bresher's voice in my head, so I should be able to just pull up the scene, erase his dialogue, and fill in what I hear. Like taking dictation from the Universe. Is that so much to ask? And yet somehow it wasn't working out that way.

Until a brilliant thought struck me. "Hey! If it's not working like this, why don't I try working on the scene in a different way?"

Mmm-hmm. Only took me three days to come up with that one. 

So I opened a new file and tried just writing the dialogue and nothing else, two disembodied voices having a conversation. And that sucker flowed from my fingertips! I'm just about done, and then I'm going to go back and retrofit the scene with the new dialogue.

Moral of the story: if something isn't working, try a different approach. I know. Aren't you glad you have me here to tell you these things.

The Husband has a ct scan tomorrow, which means many hours at the hospital without The Son, and the possible chance of sneaking some writing time. I'm bringing my laptop and NOT the book I've nearly finished reading (Gifts, by Ursula K. LeGuin), in hopes of making the most of it.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Perverse Progress

I sat down to rewrite the dialogue in that scene today and just felt a big fat wave of "I don't wanna!" 

Then I tried to do some word cutting in Act I. "This sucks! All the obvious wordiness has already been cut. This last 1,000 words is going to be twice hard as the first two thousand put together. I don't wanna!"

So then I opened up the Act II file and edited nearly 1,000 words.

Good progress on something that isn't one of my goals for this week.

But hey. I'll take it.

7,951/15,000 words edited in January
2,195/3,000 words cut from Act I
0/60 minutes spent rewriting dialogue

Sunday, December 26, 2010

'Twas the Day After Christmas...

...and in her wrecked house
the novelist realizes
she's done less than a mouse.

Thank you! I'm here all week.

Yeah. So. December hasn't been so successful, noveling-wise. I kept setting aside blocks of time to write, and then there'd be some medical crisis with The Husband that would eat up that time. So I've made zero progress on my goals since the last time I posted, and I'm bummed out about it.

But. I'm determined to snatch some small victory from the pine-scented jaws of Holiday defeat. I'm participating in JanNoWriMo next month, and I'd like for the words I've got to feel "done" before I move forward.

To that end, here are my drastically revised goals for the remainder of December:

1) Cut another 1,000 words from Act I.
2) Rewrite Bresher's dialogue in his first scene with Somi.

Wish me luck.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Keepin' On

I met my goal for last night. I'm at 7,007/15,000.

Goal for today is 750 words edited, which should make up a little of the ground I lost during my three days of non-productivity.

And I have a totally self-indulgent, top-secret scheme to snag myself an extra two hours of writing time with no interruptions from people who need me to do stuff for them this coming Monday. Details to follow. But keep it on the DL, dig?

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Halfway Point

It's December 16! Halfway point of the month! Time to reassess goals! Recommit to the journey! And I'm... well, I'm behind, okay? Happy?

It's been a crazy few days (The Husband is home, but the saga continues), and I'm picking my way through a tricky passage. My heroine (let's give her a name, shall we?) Somi is recounting her four years spent in an antru (which is a cloister for women, but closer to a monastic medical school than a convent).  Important stuff happens during these years: she learns a great deal about many subjects; she first reads the book from which she's taken the quotations she uses to illustrate her life's lessons; she develops an intense, unhealthy, and plot-important friendship with another novice; and she undergoes a sexual awakening. So I'm trying to sum all that up on my way to the next scene that moves the story forward.

Anyway, put it all together and I'm at 6,481/15,000 words edited, and 2,195/3,000 for words cut. A little ahead of the game on cutting, but solidly behind on actual forward progress. The next two weeks are going to be crazy in husband-recuperating-from-major-surgery, four-year-old-on-break-from-nursery-school, Christmas-preparations-galore kinda way, but I'm going to try to keep working when I can and not freak out too much if I don't meet my goal this month.

Aaaand... because I'm an insane masochist in addition to being irredeemably lazy, which is like the most twisted curse ever... I'm adding another goal for this month. I need to rewrite the hero's dialogue in a key scene I've already edited. Lemme tell ya about the hero Bresher: when I first began working on this story, lo these many years ago, I had a clear image of who he should be. But then, as I developed Somi's character, I realized he was too much like her for their story to have the spark I wanted. So, rather late in the game, I axed that Bresher (but I've promised him his own book someday), and built a whole new one. I love him, of course, but I don't know him the way I know Somi. And sometimes it's hard for me to hear his voice.

But last night I had one of those magical flashes of insight you get while you're unloading the dishwasher and daydreaming about your novel, and now it's like a faulty line has been repaired and I can hear him perfectly. And I know now that a lot of the dialogue I've written for him is shit he would never say. This is the third draft; I have to go back and fix it now.

Um... and the changes I make to that scene may wind up changing the title from Twelve Names to Eleven Names, but we'll jump off that bridge when I get to the end of the draft and count names.

So, my goals for the remainder of the month:

1) Edit 15,000 words.
2) Cut 3,000 words from Act I.
3) Rewrite Bresher's dialogue in his first meeting with Somi

My goal for the evening:

Edit 500 words.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Finding the Time

6,122/15,000 words edited in December.

2,017/3,000 words cut from Act I.

*

As I believe I've mentioned, I've been working on this novel for a wicked long time, and for years of it, I didn't have much in the way of Real Life (TM) commitments. Well into my 30's, I was a loosely employed stoner slacker with a long-distance boyfriend and a limited social life. Now that I have a husband and a kid and a house and a part-time job and a web of mom-friends and am expected to bake for nursery school fundraisers, I wish I could go back in time and kick my own ass for not getting more writing done when finding the time for it wasn't such an issue.

I've also alluded to The Husband's health issues. He's been in the hospital since before I began this blog. I haven't gotten into the details, because they're boring and complicated and depressing and don't have anything to do with writing. Except for the fact that spending two weeks at the bedside of someone who just had major bowel surgery offers you more time for writing than you might imagine.

But now that's done with: The Husband's been moved to a rehab facility (cue Amy Winehouse; "They tried to make me go to rehab...") for intensive PT and OT, and The Parent, who's been staying with me since Thanksgiving to fill in the childcare gaps, has gone back to her regular urban retiree life. And thus has my copious writing time evaporated.

So it's back to the grind of making time for it, even when the needs of sick husband and 4-year-old and Christmas and nursery school fundraiser beckon.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Soundtrack

I always feel a little jealous of novelists who can write to music. 99% of the time, I need silence to concentrate, and the 1% has to be music without lyrics, or with lyrics in a language I don't speak at all. I do have a few songs that I think of as being on my "novel soundtrack", but I'm not able to take inspiration from them while actually writing. It's kind of a bummer.

I love to listen to my soundtrack songs and daydream about TN while I drive, but I haven't been able to do much of that for approximately 4 years, 2 weeks, 6 days, and 5 hours-- which by sheer coincidence is how long I've been a mother. With all the craziness around The Husband's hospitalization, I've spent a lot of time in the car lately, and weirdly enough, it's been time in the car without The Son in the back seat, wanting to discuss the meaning of the Universe or demanding to hear "Puff the Magic Dragon" AGAIN. So I've been driving, listening to my soundtrack and keeping the story simmering on my mental back burner, and I think it helps me to slip back into the world of TN more quickly when I do actually sit down to write.

The songs that inspire me to dream about some part of the story:

El Condor Pasa -- Simon & Garfunkel
Can't Find My Way Home -- Blind Faith
Jack-Ass -- Beck
Most of the Time -- Sophie Zelmani
Concerning Hobbits -- Lord of the Rings soundtrack
Fuse Box -- Monsoon Wedding soundtrack
Aaj Mera Jee Karda -- Monsoon Wedding soundtrack

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Reporting In

5,128/15,000 words edited in December.

1,099/3,000 words cut from Act I.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

On Track

...but just barely.

4,072/15,000 words edited in December.

407/3,000 words cut from Act I.

Yesterday was a crazy day in The Husband's hospitalization saga, and I didn't touch TN once. Thank goodness I was ahead.

Hoping to rip some more words out of Act I this evening. I cut those 407 from a scene that's not advancing the story, and I can cut at least 200 more from it without breaking a sweat.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Yay! But... Crap.

3,084/15,000 words for December.

Yay!

I've been pecking away at this scene for the past few days, and I finally finished it. I'm through Act I of my heroine's story!

Yay!

But...

It's 28,000 words. That's too long. I knew it was too long while I was writing it (especially since I'll have at least 20,000 words worth of scenes from the hero's POV to cram in there once I'm done with heroine's story), but I just stuck my head in the sand and kept merrily typing away, whilst chirping to myself, "Well, it'll just have to be a long book!" Nothing wrong with long books, right? Some of my best friends are long books.

But...

I've been looking at publishing info online, and according to my research exactly 0% of agents want to see a novel from a first-time author that's more than 120,000 words. The current projected length of TN is 132,000 words.

Crap.

So I've taken a deep breath and set an iron-clad limit of 115,000 words for the entire book, which leaves me 95,000 for the heroine's POV, which breaks down to 23,750 for Acts I and III, and 47,500 for Act II.
Which means Act I is currently bloated with approximately 4,250 extra words.

Crap.

Now, I'm not going to be a fanatic about this whole three-act structure thing. If Act I is a tad long and the others are a tad short, I'm at peace with that. But clearly some words need to go. So I'm moving forward into Act II, working toward the goal of 15,000 words edited this month, AND setting an additional goal of ripping 3,000 words out of Act I .

Yay?

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Speaking of Titles...

Titles are a bit of a touchy subject for me. You'd think I'd have found the perfect one by now, since I've had like a century to mull it over. I've begged my subconscious to let go of the perfect, brilliant, evocative title I know it must have locked away somewhere, but my subconscious is apparently holding out for cash.

Titles the novel has worn but outgrown:

It Comes With the Territory
Ruyadan
The Ghost’s Story
Where the Lightning Strikes the Water
Antlan
Earth Beneath My Feet
More World
The Thread of Revelation


and probably more I'm forgetting.

Then the novel went naked for a while. I got really cranky about my inability to come up with a decent title, and for a long time just thought of it as The Novel, or TN.

Now, at long last, I've come up with another good-enough-for-now title: Twelve Names. My heroine is in fact known by twelve different names at different points in the story, and uses these names as the frame on which to hang to story of her life. I'm not madly in love with it, but I can live with it if this turns out to be the title that sticks.

And it has the selling point of sharing initials with The Novel, so I can still refer to it as TN.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Relic

If we're going to be hanging out together, I suppose I should take a moment to explain the title of this blog.

I've always had this image in my mind that I was walking along in the desert and felt something hard under my feet. I started to clear the sand away, and realized there was something big buried there. Ever since I've been out there with my digging tools and little brushes, clearing the sand away from this enormous, intricate artifact.

And I made discoveries as I excavated. What I thought was one story is actually a vast world with 5,000 years of history, and many stories to be told. Sometimes my assumptions about what a partially-uncovered piece meant were completely wrong, and as I dug further I'd suddenly understand: no, no, that's not it at all. THIS is why that piece looks like it does!

I was a little creeped out to discover that Stephen King also describes stories as relics. I felt like kind of a weirdo for thinking of it this way, but it seems there are at least two of us out there, digging away in the desert.

*

2,549/15,000 words for December.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Tonight We're Gonna Party Like It's

1999 (words for the month so far).

I'm coming up on the end of Act I. Just one confrontation between my heroine and antagonist, and I'm on to the woolly wilds of Act II. I'm a little concerned about how my antagonist is coming off. He's definitely an alpha male, and as I'm writing I'm realizing that he's superficially behaving a lot like a Romance Alpha hero: thumping his chest, seizing political power from the weak, going to great lengths to possess the heroine. He doesn't love her, or even sexually desire her, but this is not apparent at this point in the story. My hero's been introduced, but he's not onstage in the heroine's story again for another 5,000 words or so. And he's definitely a Beta; he's not passive, and he will have his ass-kicking risk-anything-for-my-woman climax, but his default setting is charming rather than commanding, amiable rather than intense, and intellectual rather than physical. A diplomat rather than a chest-baring sword-wielder.

This is a SF Romance story, which I hope will one day be read by both fans of SF and Romance. I guess I'm just worried that the Romance folks will be confused and wonder why the heroine's not attracted to the dreamy megalomaniacal control freak. But I don't want to give the guy horns and a pitchfork; he does a lot of horrible things in the story, but he truly believes he's acting in the best interest of an entire culture.

And I don't mean to hate on Alphas. I love me a well-written Alpha. The hero of my next book (assuming I survive this one to write it) is an Alpha. I just don't want my Alpha antgonist to overshadow my Beta hero.

On an unrelated note, does anyone else have Prince stuck in their head now? "If you didn't come to party, don't bother knockin' on my door. I got a lion in my pocket and baby he's ready to roar."

So, What's It About?

Helpful hint for non-writers: novelists hate this question. It seems innocent enough, standing there at the cocktail party facing someone who's just told you they're writing a book, but it's almost impossible to come up with a one-sentence description on the spot that doesn't make your novel sound like the dumbest thing ever. And we love our novels so much, we don't want you to think poorly of them. Kind of like this summer when The Son got a really tragic haircut, and I found myself wanting to explain to people that usually he's much cuter than this.

On the NaNo boards this year there was a thread that challenged you to describe your novel using analogies and clich├ęs, like a movie pitch. "It's like _______ meets ________ in _________!"

Mine was, "It's like 'The Girl in the Fireplace' episode of Dr. Who meets a Miles Vorkosgian story as re-written by Isabel Allende, in far-future, post-plague New England."

Maybe that's what I should say at the next cocktail party I go to. Which, judging by my current lifestyle, should be in about 11 years.

*
Word count for December: 861/15,000.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Since the Beginning of Time

So I've been writing this novel since the beginning of time. 

Seriously, no matter how long it's taking you to write your novel, no matter how convoluted the process, and no matter how much of a slacker you've been about it, I promise you that it's taken me longer, my process has been more convoluted, and I am definitely more of a slacker than you. Read my blog, and feel better about yourself as a writer and a person. You're welcome.

I'm not even going to confess here the year in which I began this novel. I'm too embarrassed. Maybe when I get to know you better.

At the moment I'm 25,110 words into draft three, and rapidly approaching the end of Act I. I did a half-assed modified-goal NaNoWriMo, and edited 15,000 words in November (despite dealing with a 4-year-old's birthday party, hosting Thanksgiving dinner, and my husband having major bowel surgery, so I'm happy with that 15,000!). My goal for December is to match that.

And my goal for life is to finish this damn book already.

Wanna come along for the ride?