Archive for May, 2010

Escape From Chapter 8!

May 26, 2010

I did it.  I found a way out of Chapter 8 when the right combination of words finally clicked into place.  The lock opened.  Escape.

Still Stuck on Chapter 8

May 24, 2010

Just over two weeks ago, I was pretty optimistic about wrapping up Chapter 8 and moving onto the introduction of two new characters in Chapter 9.  Well, I did manage to pull together a scene to open Chapter 9.  But then I went back to Chapter 8 in order to bring it up to the level of a semi-polished draft.  I’ve been stuck there ever since.  This one time that I can’t just say “Good enough for now,” and move on.  It’s one of those times when the success of the second half of the novel hinges on whether the reader can buy into my character’s analysis and her subsequent plan of action.  She has to make a reasonable choice in a difficult situation if I want to avoid this.

Off to the Printer

May 18, 2010

Well, that’s it.  Earlier this afternoon, I had to approve two final sections of prose.  Once I did, my editor told me, we could Push. That. Button.   I checked them.  I even read them out loud again even though I was sure my editor and the copy editor had been extremely careful to make sure everything was just as it should be.   So now SUSPECT is well and truly out of my hands and off to the printer.  It may not be set in stone or even in cement.  But the printed page has its own kind of permanence .  At least it does for most authors. Sure, J.R.R. Tolkien revised the Gollum scene in THE HOBBIT and Walt Whitman updated SONG OF MYSELF a few times.  But they’re the exceptions rather than the rule.

World Cup Fever!

May 18, 2010

ILBNH, otherwise known as InsertLiteraryBlogNameHere, included DEFENDING IRENE in their list of soccer books to read in preparation for the World Cup.   My book certainly shows why Italians are so passionate for the Azurri.  Soccer isn’t just the national game of Italy; it’s the national passion.  But the bias against girls playing the game runs pretty deep.  The disapproval that Irene faces from her grandmother was actually inspired by the comments of a woman in her thirties!   

“It is rough. It is dangerous,” my friend said.
“Well, I played basketball,” I said.
“I did, too,” she answered.  “They’re different.” 

That was the first day that I ever heard “maschiaccio.”  It’s the Italian equivalent for tomboy with none of the comparatively positive connotations that tomboy currently has in the U.S.

Done? Really done?

May 17, 2010

A week ago I got the “final interior” of SUSPECT.  My editor let me know that this would be my last chance to make any comments.  Another attachment held the last few comments from the copy editor along with some impressions from  a proofreader who had never seen any of it before.  This was helpful.  I couldn’t be objective about what was on the page.   I had to approve each change that wasn’t a misspelled word or missing bit of punctuation.

Naturally, part of my process is to read every word out loud.  This is probably my fourth or fifth time to do this.  But there is no better way to keep the eyes from skimming over a mistake.  I found eight to ten little problems with this.   For me, this was time well spent.  DEFENDING IRENE had two or three mistakes; SAVING THE GRIFFIN, only one.  

I still might get an email from my editor today if one or more of the changes Lisa and I made  doesn’t work with the copy editor. 

But otherwise, I will be done with the writing of SUSPECT.  That’s a very odd feeling.

Mowing the Lawn

May 11, 2010

About three weeks ago, my editor called me.  We were in the middle of copy edits for SUSPECT.  Usually, this is a matter of tweaking sentences and fixing mistakes.  A few continuity issues will pop up here and there.  But this was something much bigger.  The copy editor couldn’t buy into what was going on between two of the characters.  And her concern reinforced  my editor’s feelings about the same situation.  Something clearly had to be done before the manuscript went to galleys.  Hence the call.  My editor and I went back and forth for about twenty minutes.  She made polite suggestions.  I politely shot them down for one reason or another.  At one point I said, “I know.  I have to mow the lawn.  Maybe I can come up with something.”  

Mowing had worked for me before.  In fact, the first three chapters of my proposed sequel to SAVING THE GRIFFIN came to me when I was mowing our back hill.

In the end, I didn’t have to mow.  (Or at least not to solve my plotting issues.) After the phone call,  I sat down to read over the first section that concerned the Peachtree editors.  Within about ten seconds, I knew what I could do.  But I probably wouldn’t have if we hadn’t hashed things out.

Yesterday, I had to mow the lawn again.  (Ah, the glamorous life of a writer.)  I found myself meditating on what my agent and I have been calling “the Italian chase novel.”  It’s something that was simmering on the back burner until my agent asked me if I’d thought about trying another YA.  At first I said no.  But then, I remembered the basic scenario and described it to her.  To my surprise, I heard her telling me that it sounded like a great idea.   But I basically only had the premise.   I wasn’t worried since I knew the revisions to Calyn’s story would keep me busy until this fall. 

I had finished the front yard and moved down to the back road when things started clicking.  I had a number of reasons why my main character would have something that someone else wanted.  But then I suddenly realized where and why my character would seize the initiative.  Scenes popped into place as did the rather odd quirks of the obligatory romantic interest. 

I may not have a cure for writer’s block, but I do know of  an activity where inspiration can sometimes flow like a mountain stream after a thunderstorm.    Forcing it doesn’t work.  But things often click  when I try to make straight lines across my lawn with my mower.

Self-censorship?

May 8, 2010

Sometimes books are challenged in libraries.  There might be a word, phrase, character or situation that people object to. But one parent really took objections to the next level when he paged through a book by Dan Gutman.  Mr. Gutman wrote about this surprising correspondence in an article for School Library Journal. (Note: Link updated.) 

His experience made me think about I came really close to self-censoring myself in SAVING THE GRIFFIN.  I wrote about that experience in the comments section of Gutman’s article.  In the end, I decided that the use of two questionable words–dumb and stupid–was right for that scene.  They had to be in there.  No, this isn’t anything close to the decision that Susan Patron had to make in  THE HIGHER POWER OF LUCKY, but I had read an article about how the use of those words could keep my book out of some classrooms and collections.   

Now I have decided to take out some other words from rough drafts when I didn’t think that they were age-appropriate. In those cases, though, the words weren’t important to the story.

Finding the Way Back into a Novel II

May 6, 2010

During my family’s spring break to the Smokies, I had plenty of time to meditate on Calyn’s story.  I climbed steep trails and hiked through gaps that led from one valley to another.  I had a good feel for the way the mountains took ragged chunks out of the sky.  I was ready to get to work.  On the following Monday, the copy edits for SUSPECT arrived.  I spent the next two weeks working with my editor from Peachtree and the copy editor on tweaking lines and smoothing out continuity and logic issues.  Calyn’s story had to be pushed completely aside. So now I’m back at it.    This oftens happens to writers.

Chapter 8 needed some serious edits to match up with the novel’s new opening.    Changes in the beginning of the novel will ripple through scenes all the way until the end.  Chapter 9 looked like it could pretty much stay the way it was until I realized that I had the perfect spot to introduce two new characters.  That’s my job for tomorrow.

Back to Back Writing Retreats

May 5, 2010

Ordinarily, I wouldn’t plan on abandoning my family for writing retreats on back to back weekends.  But this was a special case.  I committed to the Missouri SCBWI retreat last summer as one of their presenters.  Then word came down that my agent’s retreat would be in Chicago this year.  I knew it would take about two and a half hours to get from my garage to the parking garage.  I had to go.  It might never be this convenient again.  Before this,  EMLA (Erin Murphy literary agency) has had these events in New Mexico, Massachusetts, and Portland. When I told my husband about the situation, he immediately said, “Of course you’re going.”    

And what a weekend.  I had the chance to talk shop with an enormously talented group of twenty-seven writers.  Ordinarily, I’m terrible with names.  Since I already knew so many of the names, it was a matter of matching them to their faces.  In the morning sessions, I learned a great deal about making good professional decisions.  And goodness, the bedtime stories on Friday night were amazing.

During my one-on-one meeting with Erin, I received some encouragement to start playing with a young adult adventure novel set in Italy. At one point, I found myself calling it “THE DAVINCI CODE without the albino.”  Well, that’s an exaggeration.  But there will be chase scenes, clues, and red herrings in some interesting locations: Verona, Venice, Florence, and Rome.   And as I start plotting and planning, I’ll have a great excuse to read adventure novels.  It will be educational.  Heh.

An Attolia Alert!

May 3, 2010

I was wandering through the Publishers’ Weekly website when I ran across an interview with Megan Whalen Turner. 

I smiled when I discovered that Ms. Turner has the same advice for potential readers that I always give.  She recommends reading them in order and avoiding the merest glance at the flap copy of the later books.  It can ruin the experience. 

The interviewer noted that THE QUEEN OF ATTOLIA had the most upsetting first chapter that she’d ever read. I had to agree that it was the most devastating opening I’d ever read.   I had made the mistake of reading a review in advance, so I knew what was going to happen. I still cried. 

Ms. Turner is working on her next book, but she declined to say much about it.  Like many other readers, I’m hoping that Costis returns for the next book in the Attolia series even though I truly enjoyed reading about what happened to Sophos in CONSPIRACY OF KINGS.   I’m not going to say that I can’t wait for the next book.  I can wait as long as it takes for a master to shape her next great novel.