Archive for October, 2010

Wading Through Story

October 28, 2010

Purple ink decorates the last forty pages of Calyn’s story. (My writing students might have a good idea of how that must look. My goal today is to get a goodly chunk of these change into the computer by noon.  I have lots of other things to do today. 

UPDATE: I pushed on until12:20. When things are rolling, it’s good to embrace that.

Sometimes self-imposed deadlines can be helpful.  I’ll report on how it goes.


Status on Stretch Goal?

October 22, 2010

Well, I did go through the rest of Calyn’s story on paper.  It will take time to get these corrections and new scenes transferred into the computer.  But I like how things are working. Fortunately for me, a lot of the description from the earlier version can be moved around and re-used.   

I have another stretch goal: I would really like to get a draft of this story to one of my live critique groups during the third week of November so that we can go over it for our December meeting.

SUSPECT on First Page Panda

October 19, 2010

First Page Panda is a relatively new blog  that shares the first pages of new novels. SUSPECT was posted today.  This does look like a great place to taste books by familiar and unfamiliar authors.

Lexile Score

October 19, 2010

Once upon a time, I used to do the combination grammar/spell checker with Microsoft Word on my middle grade novels and short stories.  I’d reach the end where I’d find that I was writing on the 12th grade level.  Well, it wasn’t a matter of dumbing things down.  It’s a matter of accessbility and meeting readers where they were.  So I cut down some sentences and altered vocabulary.  The next day, I took it through the same check.  I’d managed to get things down to the 10th grade level. 

That’s why it was a bit interesting for me to learn that SUSPECT comes in as a High/Low book on the Lexile scale.  It’s written for older readers, but has that easier sentence structure and vocabulary.  In fact, a gifted third grader could tackle it.   (Yeek!)  But under that smooth and accessible prose is a carefully plotted mystery with some interesting characters.  Or at least I’d like to think so!

A Stretch Goal

October 18, 2010

Robin McKinley recently posted this: “If I Want to Make Myself Do Something, Mention It on the Blog.”

I don’t have her readership, of course.  But I’m going to put a stretch goal on my blog: I’m going to wrap up an extremely rough draft of the last 30 pages of Calyn’s story this week.  Then I’ll go back to polish it and make it pretty.  

So let it be written; so let it be done.   (Picture Yul Brynner in THE TEN COMMANDMENTS.)

Ooo! Sparkly!

October 17, 2010

Writers are magpies.  We can’t help ourselves.  If we see something interesting, we want to twist it into our plots, our settings, our characterizations.  Weaving these things into story can often be safe.  My extended family can’t help but notice little scraps of our lives turning up here and there in my books.  In SUSPECT, for example, I obtained permission from one of my daughters to use her prom dress as a model for Jen’s.  The basic uniforms at the Schoenhaus bear a close resemblance to the ones my other daughter wore when working at an upscale ski resort. But the comparatively skimpy maid costume came from my experiences of serving at a few weddings when they were short-handed at the college banquet hall where my brother worked.  Those skirts really were so short that I didn’t even want to think about bending over. Those skirts were definitely designed for much shorter legs than mine.  I’m just over six feet tall.

All of these examples are fairly harmless.  But what happens when you want to model some of your antagonist’s qualities on people you know?  The characteristic in question is so wonderfully sparkly. It would fit so beautifully with the plot.  Well, then it really behooves the writer to give that character some extremely strong quirks or a much different set of circumstances so that your unwitting model would never recongize himself or herself.

Poof! 4000 Words Gone with one Click

October 12, 2010

I probably spent a couple of weeks on the chapter that I just hacked out of my manuscript.  I liked it. It had fun and drama.  But today I decided that Calyn just wouldn’t risk it–not with what she has at stake.  Fortunately, a few other ideas rose up to take its place.  Of course, those words are safely stored in the file that holds the other scraps that I’ve deleted along the way just in case they need to be resurrected after all.  I’m doubting it.  

There’s this classic quote on writing about how you should be ready to kill your darlings.   This feels more like a massacre.

Naming Characters III

October 11, 2010

In our last Christmas letter, my son to our family about my troubles with naming characters.  I have learned over the years to be very careful about not using temporary names because my characters get attached to them. In fact, I’ve gotten into a smidge of trouble with the naming of one character in SUSPECT. Since that time, I’ve used letter combinations like DEF and XYZ as placeholders.  I’m not the only writer who has this problem.  In fact, I smiled when I learned that Megan Whalen Turner temporarily named one of her characters Bob in the Attolia series.  It was only caught during either the line edits or the copy edits.

 I was on my way back from the Michigan SCBWI retreat with a fellow writer when she asked me about my choice for a main character’s name in Calyn’s story.  It didn’t really fit the other names that she’d read in the synopsis. I’ve had a niggling feeling for awhile that I’d have to change it.  I explained how the name had survived a lot of revisions before I made some key decisions about world-building. But this conversation pretty much confirmed that I needed to make a change. The switch from Katrin to Calyn has worked for me.  Maybe I can find a name that I like just as much.


October 10, 2010

SCBWI Michigan put on another lovely retreat at Yarrow Golf and Conference Center. I hope to be posting some insights from the faculty as I go through my notes.  I picked up a lot of good information on everything from pacing to social networking.

Chapter 25: It’s Ragged, but done.

October 8, 2010

Chapter 24 is definitely part of Calyn’s darkest moment.  Chapter 25 definitely covers decision time of the step outline.  I have it blocked out.  Instead of carefully moving through to work on smoothing out the transitions and polish the interacting sections of action and description, I’m moving on. 

A lot of dialogue will have to be cut out of 26 since I’m recasting the scene, but a lot of the description can be smoothed into the approrpiate spots.