Wednesday, February 29, 2012

My Little Life

1,015 today. I got through the panic and the beat-down. The invitation and the scramble for power will be tomorrow's words. Then it's hurried marching orders, an action scene, and done with Act I.

And so far, I like what I'm getting. I don't anticipate a long slog of a second pass through these scenes before I move on to Act II.

Tomorrow is a bit of a question mark. I had a whole plan for the day, but now we're getting a snowstorm. I left my evening tutoring gig after the first hour because the backroads (there is no non-backroad route there) were already getting sketchy. I'm not sure if The Son's school will be canceled tomorrow, when the plow will come, if we'll be able to make it down the driveway at all, or what. Being stuck at home all day can go either way, writing-wise: if I'm liberal with the TV privileges and The Son gets embroiled in a Project, I could get a lot of time to work; if he's having a craves-constant-interaction kind of a day, I may have to wait until evening to get the words.

Work is picking up, after a very sluggish school year thus far. My after-school SAT tutoring slots are full, and I just got a call from the tutoring center I worked for during the '10 and '11 school years. I still technically work for them, but the branch office I was working out of is like the neglected stepchild of the organization, and is floundering in the economy. They can't fill their salaried employees, so hourly tutors like me aren't getting referrals. Until today. It's just one student, but every extra $50 a week helps. And it's during The Son's school hours, so I don't need to fuss with finding more childcare.

All this tutoring is going to cut into my writing time until the May SAT, but I'll just do my best to keep up. Fortunately, the boarding school where I do my evening gig is going on spring break this weekend, so I won't be working evenings for the next 3.5 weeks. When I'm away two nights a week, I feel like I really need to (and want to!) spend the other five hanging out with The Husband. But when I'm not working nights, I can take some evening hours to make up my word count without feeling like I'm cutting into important "us time".

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Unicorn vs. Goat

1,006 words for today. I'm not exactly going the extra mile, huh? But I'm making my 1K per day goal, so it's all good.

I really love what I wrote today. Sometimes you think you know what a scene should be, but when you try to put it into words it all comes out wrong and you wind up staring at it, dismayed, like you had meant to breed a unicorn and instead wound up with a goat with a carrot sticking out of its forehead. Other times, you think you know what a scene should be, but when you put it into words it becomes so much richer and more vivid than it was inside your head. Today was one of those times. Akenam has just crashed a village party, and the metaphorical needle has scratched across the record as everyone turns to stare. End of chapter.

Next up: a panic, a beat-down, an invitation, and a scramble for power. In that order.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Checking In

1,003 words today. Akenam's about to re-enter the story! I'm so psyched.

Man, it took me alllllll day to get those thousand. The Son went back to school today, and then my mother-in-law picked him up and had him all afternoon. I had one tutoring student for an hour, but other than that I had the whole damn day to write, and I just finished now, at 9:30. Well, to be fair, it was more like 1,250 words, since I wound up completely axing two paragraphs from the rough draft. And I haven't been feeling well. I had a migraine from Friday-Sunday; the pain faded away by Sunday night, but I felt really crummy while I was at my evening tutoring gig-- nauseated, jittery, achey, and just generally out of it. I couldn't tell whether it was "silent migraine" symptoms, or side effects from all the Excedrin I took all weekend, or whether I was getting a fever, or what. I'm somewhat better today, but not quite myself. To be honest, I feel like I did during early pregnancy. (Before The Parent reads this and gets too excited, let me hasten to add that I have firm cycle-based evidence that this is impossible.) With my luck in all things reproductive, it's probably menopausal morning sickness or something.


I've also been reworking the emotional toolbox profiles for Willa and Akenam. I had a version from the character work I did last summer, but it felt like it was time to revisit it. My characters tend to drift from my original vision of them as I get to know them better. And it's nice to have plot elements to tie them to. In fact, last night I went back and added some conflict to a previous scene because I realized there was NO WAY IN HELL Willa would be cool with what she just found out, and Tom had some 'splaining to to.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Take That, Funk!

1,004 words for today! The Husband took The Son bowling with our friend B. and his son, and I just got two hours of blissfully quiet house to write. This section is a big dialogue scene, so I pulled out my old trick of writing the dialogue first, then adding stage directions and introspection. After the last week of pulling myself inch by inch out of the parking lot using only my fingernails, I felt like I was driving down the highway in a convertible with Van Halen blasting on the radio.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

February Funk

About all I can say for myself this week is that I've opened the TOB file and made some progress each day, even if just a few sentences. The Son is an incredibly bright, funny, imaginative kid, but he is also one of the ten most talkative people on the planet and it is so hard to concentrate when I'm with him all day. I tried hauling the laptop to his various lessons and activities, but that's only a half hour at a time, and I can't seem to get out of socializing with the other parents without coming off as a bitch.

I'm feeling frustrated with how slow it's going and disenchanted with the scene I've been writing for what feels like years.

Bah. Whose idea was February vacation, anyway?

Obviously, I need to shake things up.

Fortunately, I just reached the end of the last section I had a rough draft for. There are five more sections remaining in Act I-- probably 6,000 or so words worth of story. I am going to write 1,000 words a day until I reach the end of Act I, then go back and do a second pass through. Maybe writing fast and furious again will help pull me out of this February funk.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Steady On

Made a good start on the next scene. Willa is reading about Alfred the Great, so I had to use some of my writing time to research. Did you know he probably had Crohn's Disease? Just like The Husband! Freaky!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

A Bit o' Progress

Grandparent visit + bringing my laptop to the library = finished the scene. Whew. Feels good to make some progress at last! And good to be sunk back into the story world. I pasted the rough draft of the next scene into the document and fiddled with it a bit, but it's very far off from what it needs to be, and I really need to look at the scene sheet (which I forgot at home) and work out a better outline for it before I proceed. But I'm hopeful that I'll be able to take better advantage of the time I do have this week.

The Son has swim lessons every morning M-Th, and karate class T-Th afternoon; if I bring my laptop and act antisocial with the other parents, that's three hours of writing time. My mother-in-law will take him for an afternoon so I can tutor, but maybe I can squeeze in another hour of writing in between students. I think my friend M. plans to still do our weekly childcare swap even though she doesn't have work, so that's another 2-3 hours. Add in a few hours for afternoon rest times and one evening of not hanging out with The Husband, and that's a respectable 12 hours for the week. I would love, love, love to be done with this second draft of Act I by then, but that may be pie in the sky. I just feel like it's crawling.

I'm trying to remember what a mess my first drafts usually are, and that what I'm producing now is at least as good as my second draft usually is. So the slower pace is because I'm doing the work of two drafts instead of one. But still: I'm antsy to move forward. Exciting things are afoot in Act II!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Pieces of Me

It's been a frustrating few days for writing, and I've made very slow progress. The problem isn't lack of desire or direction, but rather lack of time. I joked in my last post about the life of a SAHM novelist, but it's been no joke this week! Nursery school bake sale, reciprocal babysitting obligations, helping a friend with one crisis and The Husband with another... it feels like everyone needs a piece of me this week. And now it's school vacation week, but I still have all my tutoring kids. And the house is serious mess. *sigh* I've had some stolen moments with the book, but it's not enough to keep my momentum going. The Parent is supposed to visit this weekend, so maybe I can set her and The Son up with a craft project and then sneak away to the library for a few hours and get some real work done.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Checking In

I've had a productive few days, and am feeling happy with where I'm at in the story. That's the best: when you're satisfied with both your rate of production AND what you're producing.

My plans for Saturday were derailed. The Son developed a post-vaccine fever on Friday, and we both slept for crap. On Saturday, I babysat my buddy L.'s super-active three-year-old while she moved their stuff out of their rented house. We didn't wind up going to the Winter Carnival-- The Son was still feverish and feeling yucky, and I wasn't up to wrangling one sick kid and one bolter, by myself, on ice. So the kids played and watched Toy Story 3, and I fiddled with Akenam's first scene, adding a few dialogue tics that I want to weave through his scenes. I also worked on making the themes more explicitly stated in two scenes. Made a little progress on the next section that night, but was wiped out from the day and crashed early.

Yesterday The Husband took a recovered Son to the Science Museum for most of the afternoon, and I finished the section and started the next one. Today I've gotten about half the section written during The Son's school time, but I don't know how much more I'll get done today: I'm watching The Son's BFF for an hour, then I need to run to the store, then I have a new SAT kid to tutor, then need to make supper, bake cookies for the nursery school bake sale, laundry, pick up the TV room which is still trashed from Saturday... the life of a stay-at-home-mom novelist.

Friday, February 10, 2012


Writing time has been hard to come by today. The Son missed school for his well-child pediatrician visit (with THREE shots, followed by a you-were-so-brave outing to Panera for lunch), and then my afternoon was consumed by ferrying my mother-in-law home from an inpatient procedure, making supper, and reading The Son a "junior" version of Anne of Green Gables. I wrote a few new opening paragraphs for the next scene, but that's all. Tomorrow I'm babysitting all morning and taking The Son to our town's Winter Carnival in the afternoon (The Husband has to work), but I'll try to cram in an hour of writing somewhere in there.

The good news of the day: I found a theme song for Akenam! As I've mentioned before, I can't write to music, but I still have a "novel soundtrack" to listen to in the car. This usually includes instrumental selections from movie soundtracks (Monsoon Wedding, Lord of the Rings, and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), plus a theme song each for the heroine, the hero, and the love story. Willa's theme song is "On the Road to Find Out" by Cat Stevens, and the love theme is "Fearless" by Pink Floyd. But I didn't have a theme for Akenam, and it was bugging the hell out of me.

Then yesterday I was listening to "Just Breathe" by Pearl Jam, which I've been loving ever since I saw the documentary Buck a few months ago. And suddenly it struck me how totally and completely perfect a song it is for Akenam. Seriously, angels sang. I feel like I've only ever really understood his outsides, the persona he projects; and now I understand his insides. These lines in particular have brought him into sharp focus:

Practice all my sins, never gonna let me win, uh-huh.
Under everything, just another human being, uh-huh.
Yeah I don't want to hurt, there's so much in this world
to make me bleed.
Stay with me... let's just breathe...

I listened to it in the car over and over as I drove everyone around to their appointments, and revised Akenam's backstory in my mind. I'm so excited now for him to re-enter the story. Just a few more scenes to go!

Thursday, February 9, 2012


The scene is finished! That was some arduous shit, man.

Yesterday I had all this resistance to working on it and just pissed away all my writing time on the internet, and was really annoyed with myself by bedtime. So today I woke up and vowed that I was not sleeping again until the scene was done. Not perfect; just done. It probably took a total of three hours over the course of the day, which is actually pretty horrifying for a 2,500 word scene that I'd already fussed over for days. But whatever-- the bastard's done. And so much better than it was.

I changed my mind again and decided to hold off on the "history lesson" dialogue. I think that was the right decision: it was turning into a "As you know, Bob..."conversation, and there's scene coming up soon where I think it'll fit much more naturally.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012


I'm about halfway through my revision of Act I, and I've hit a sticky place that I really don't want to get stuck in. So I'm going to talk about it here in hopes it will help me extricate myself.

The scene: my heroine (now called Willa) has just had the rug of her Life Plan pulled out from under her. She's trying to convince another character to give her the opportunity that was just taken away from her. He doesn't want to. She thinks it's because she's a woman, and that's partially true, but really it's more about his own backstory and secret agenda. They're on a river boat with no external conflict; all the "action" in the scene is internal conflict and dialogue. It also seems like a good opportunity to dump a little info.

I've got the last third of the scene almost totally set-- just need to think of a killer closing line (the scene ends a chapter). And I have a strong opening paragraph. But the rest is just not flowing. The preceding scene was also a big dialogue scene, and I'm worrying that this part of the book is just too talky. I'm also not sure what topics should be covered in their conversation. I was going to have Tom (the potential mentor) quiz Willa on the history of their culture, because I'm feeling the time has come to let the reader know who the hell these people are and where the hell they came from... but it's coming out forced and hokey. There's a lot of bits of info about Tom that need to be dropped in (for example: he's a widow; his own childhood dream was thwarted by a disability; he's the mastermind behind a top-secret experimental village... y'know, stuff like that)... but none of it seems like anything he'd discuss with someone he just met. I'm also trying to get across Tom's personality (which is folksy and likable yet kind of humorless) and set up the dynamic between him and Willa (which is her always having to prove herself to him).

I think I'm going to start by working on the part where Tom quizzes Willa. I think it does belong here-- I just need to figure out what details are necessary and interesting. And then I need to write them so they don't suck.

I think I also need to accept that this scene might not won't get finished today. And repeat in my best Stuart Smalley voice: and that's okay.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

State of the Novel Address

New month, new goals.

Here's where I'm at:

I have detailed (to say the least) scene sheets for the 15 scenes/sections in Act I. The first nine or so scenes are in pretty solid shape; I just need to add some details, drop some hints, heighten some characterization and conflict. I've been going through those at the rate of one a day.

Scenes 10-11 are where it really started to go off the rails. I'm anticipating needing two days apiece to overhaul them.

Scenes 13-15 are unwritten. At least two days apiece to write.

I'm on Scene 4 today. So that leaves a minimum of 2.5 weeks to finish up with Act I.

I'm feeling good about this process so far. Although the writing is somewhat plodding, this first draft is more organized, coherent, and focused than Eleven Names ever managed to be after a zillion years and at least four drafts. I think crazy-person outlining may turn out to be my saving grace as a writer.