Archive for the ‘Calyn’ Category

Out on Submission

July 12, 2012

I”m happy to report that Calyn’s story is now out on submission!  It’s been a long journey with any number of interruptions, but I wouldn’t trade any of them away because I really like where the book wound up. 

June was a busy month with visits from my daughter and my sister.  It ended with helping my parents salvage what they could after four feet of water ran through their cabin.  That might explain why I forgot to link to a blog post I did for Anna Staniszewski a few weeks ago when she was in her revision cave.  I discussed verisimilitude, the appearance of being real.


Success…of a Kind

April 9, 2012

Emily Dickenson may have been of the opinion that “Success is counted sweetest by those who ne’er succeed.” But she only submitted her poetry to The Atlantic Monthly once.  After her first rejection, she never tried again. A few of her poems were published in her lifetime, but only because her friends wanted to see them published.  But today’s success is pretty sweet:  my agent was pleased with all those changes that I made last fall! In fact, that chapter that didn’t want to be written must have worked because her only requests for clarifications were on another matter entirely.

Finished Again

December 3, 2011

Stories are fluid things until they’re typeset.  That’s when most tinkering stops except for minor word tweaks and punctuation fixes.  The Monday before Thanksgiving I finished Calyn’s story again and sent it off to my agent.  My hope is that I’ll get a chance to finish it three or four more times with an editor who falls in love with it.  I have no control over that!  But I can look book on all my work through the prism of some words from Barbara Ueland’s 1938 classic If You Want to Write:

“I want to assure you with all earnestness, that no writing is a waste of time,—no creative work where the feelings, the imagination, the intelligence must work.  With every sentence you write, you have learned something.  It has done you good.  It has stretched your understanding.  I know that.  Even if I knew for certain that I would never have anything published again, and would never make another cent from it, I would still keep on writing.”

Writing the Chapter That Doesn’t Want to Be Written

November 8, 2011

I’ve known for some time that Calyn’s story came to an end rather abruptly.  More than one critique group has told me so.  But I was defeated every time that I tried to come up with one more chapter.  Every possible scene seemed to be wrapped in cotton candy while the cutesiest unicorns and bunny rabbits danced around it.  Really.  But I did take my friends’ complaints quite seriously, especially since there were some readers who felt that SUSPECT ended too quickly.  I noticed that there were still a few plot issues that could be resolved.  I expanded the last chapter by about two pages and then sent things off to my agent.

But no.  She confirmed that the ending was still too abrupt. So I didn’t have a choice.  I had to write it.  I tried a lot of angles of attack and finally found a way in.  Most of the failed attempts did provide a line or two that made it into the end as I encouraged my characters to talk to each other. So it’s another case of “Bone-headed stubbornness pays.” Jane Yolen’s classic advice for how to pursue a career also works for writing the chapters and scenes that don’t want to be written.  The chapter still needs tweaks, but it’s a matter of smoothing and polishing.

Saying “No” to NaNoWriMo

October 23, 2011

Thousands upon thousands of writers are gearing up for National Novel Writing Month where the goal is to produce at least 50,000 words of a first draft.  It’s described as Thirty days and nights of literary abandon. I won’t be joining them.  And it’s not just because I’m in the middle of finishing the latest round of revisions to Calyn’s story for my agent.  I tried NaNoWriMo about five years ago.  I managed to produce 11,000 words before I stopped trying to get through what was turning into the thorny hedge of my story. Then it took me a couple of months to first untangle and then relink all those words.  In the end, I would have come out ahead by proceeding at my normal, plodding pace.  I do believe in the power of writing with literary abandon.  Donna Jo Napoli shared some insights on that at a recent conference on Mackinac Island.

I believe in the power of the amorphous blob that she talked about, but I can only stay in that zone for three or four hours.  Then I have to sort things out and smooth them together so that I know exactly what happened to my characters before I move on. Even though NaNoWriMo doesn’t work for me, I know that it has worked for thousands upon thousands of writers.  I’ll be wishing them well as they come up to the starting line with their outlines and character sketches.  On your marks. Get set.  Write!

Finding Metaphors

October 11, 2011

At some point, the SCBWI Bulletin will publish my poem, WORD WRANGLING, which has the opening line of “Never force a metaphor.”  While I fully support that recommendation, I would argue that you can play with metaphors and maybe even have them over for dinner.  An extremely useful metaphor dropped into my lap after a trip to Yellowstone that ought to help me explain the magic in Calyn’s story in a way that’s much more visual and concrete. Geysers, prismatic springs, paint pots, mud volcanos and the wider caldera gave me a good way to explain something that I’ve known about this world all along.

Juggling Projects

July 9, 2011

Some writers out there are jugglers.  They can easily switch from project to project.  In fact, there are those who strongly feel that you should have more than one project out there so that you can jump to something else if you feel blocked.  Since I am by nature both a plodder and a polisher, I prefer to keep myself completely submerged in a single project.  If I can’t move forward, I’ll go back and tweak things so that I’m staying involved with my characters.

One of the reasons that I don’t like picking things up and putting them down is that I can lose a lot of momentum.  It isn’t easy for me to get back on the rails of the story and start chugging along again.  In fact, it can take four to six weeks to get up a good head of steam. But I’m hoping that it won’t take so long to get back to work on PORTRAIT after turning in a revision to my agent for her reading week.

If I hadn’t had a high school graduation, a college graduation and a visit from my sister who’s been working in Egypt to enjoy, I might have been able to spend about a half an hour a day on my Italian chase novel while spending the chunk of my productive mornings on the revisions of Calyn’s story. Then I could have kept some forward momentum.  But here’s a near paraphrase of a quote from Newbery Medalist Katherine Paterson: “The things that keep us from writing are the same things that give us something to write about.”


Revising Again

June 30, 2011

I’m not sure how many times that I’ve finished Calyn’s story, but I might be able to work it out with a piece of paper and a pencil. I can say, however, that it’s gone through two major revisions. The first one was something that I thought I’d never do: I started with a blank page and only referred to the original draft when I wanted to check the skeleton of the plot. Believe me, I had always thought such behavior was crazy, but I knew that it was the only way that I could bring my new understanding of story into play.

The second major revision came after my agent and I evaluated the feedback on Calyn’s story from various editors. Many felt that the world was underdeveloped. Even wore, people just weren’t bonding with my character quickly enough. She was too passive. The solution wound up being starting the book about eighteen hours before the original Chapter 1. I knew that I was on the right track when a critique partner who hadn’t an earlier version looked at me and demanded, “Where’s Chapter 2?” The new first fifty pages sent ripples down the manuscript. I also brought in new characters to round out the world. What I thought would be a six-month revision took closer to seventeen months.

What am doing now? Well, my agent asked for a few clarifications on the new opening. But even better–at least for me–was the fact that she pointed out exactly where I could slide them in. So this revision has been much shorter than the others. But once again, I’ve had to follow the ripples of the changes throughout the entire manuscript.

What am I hoping for afer completing these changes? Why the opportunity to revise this manuscript again for an interested editor, of course. Revision doesn’t stop until a work goes to the printers.

Done for Now

March 7, 2011

I spent a little time this evening clicking back through the Calyn category on this blog.  It’s been a long road.  One thing I noticed is that I reached “the end” of this story repeatedly.  At one point, I completed the rough draft. Later, I managed to get the story up to the level of a semi-polished draft for one of my local critique groups.  Then I felt like I’d wrapped it up for all but the final line edits until I was forced by the wisdom and good taste of my writer friends to fix the ending.  So it feels extremely strange to know that I’m actually going to be putting Calyn’s story away for awhile.  It headed off to my agent this afternoon and landed in the queue for an upcoming reading week. 

So what now?  I have a couple of short pieces that have been begging for attention, and I’ll continue working on the research for my next novel.  But I’m also going to have to cut down on my writing time as we work to get our house ready for the market.

The End

March 2, 2011

Several of my writer friends were kind enough to look over the product of last week’s writing binge.   It looks like I addressed a goodly chunk of the issues that they had with the book’s ending.  It had felt abrupt; there were too many questions unanswered.  I’m definitely sensitive to that charge since it was one of the complaints about my YA mystery SUSPECT.  But perhaps the greatest challenge was figuring out how to resolve a tension between what I thought my main character wanted at the end of the story and what a goodly percentage of my critique partners wanted for her.   I did manage to come up with a set of circumstances that worked for her, me, and the readers.