The Glaring Problem With My Book

You guys. I am so excited. I can hardly contain myself. Something wonderful happened this morning and I have to drop what I’m doing to tell you about it:

I found out there’s something dreadfully wrong with the climax of my book and that I have to completely re-write it.

  • It lacks tension
  • There’s nothing at stake
  • We already know the outcome
  • Everyone–all my betas AND Carey–wants to stop reading right before the exciting stuff happens
  • The exciting stuff isn’t all that exciting

Carey got up early* to tell me all about it this morning, so instead of working on edits in my book, I listened to him elucidate all the reasons why, ultimately, my book fails.

Isn’t that great? Doesn’t that just make you feel all squishy and wonderful inside?

Yes, I’m serious. No, I’m not completely insane (well, maybe, but that’s another topic entirely). Let me explain.

I woke up this morning reeeeaaaaally not wanting to write in my book. My alarm went off at 5am like it does most mornings, and I turned it off. Sadly for me, I accidentally hit snooze, so it went off again at 5:08. Sigh. I got up, and then procrastinated for nearly an hour before opening my book file.

I’m working on edits on chapter twenty and following. Chapter twenty is where everyone–Carey and all of my betas, among those who basically like the book, stopped reading. (Not everyone who received an early copy of my book loved it–those who didn’t, stopped reading much sooner, per my instructions–and I thank them for their honesty. Luckily, enough of them did love it that I have faith that it’s basically a good book. With problems. Obviously.)

When the first reader (Carey) stopped reading at this point, I assumed he just got busy. He’d pick it up again soon, I figured, and wouldn’t be able to put it down until he was done.

He didn’t finish the book for almost six months.

Maybe a fluke?

Except that the book had gone out, by this time, to several other readers and they all said variations on the same thing: “I started wanting the book to wrap up around chapter 20.” “I’m so sorry, I got busy and haven’t finished the book–I got to chapter 20.” “I’m at chapter 20 and I’ve got to take a break. I’ll come back to it!” The kids stopped asking me to read it aloud to them right around… chapter 20.

Maybe not a fluke.

So, chapter 20 is what I was slated to start on today, and I had no idea what to do. I thought maybe I could just cut a bunch out, make it short so people wouldn’t feel so burdened by having to read it.

I cut 2,000 words before I realized the stupidity of that approach. I mean, I’m not knocking brevity, but I don’t want people who read my novel to finish it by giving themselves pep talks: “Hey, at least it’s not that much longer, man. Keep trudging! We’re almost there!”

I want the reader to be sorry it’s over. To wish it were longer, not shorter. To sit in stunned silence staring at that last page and thinking, “Oh my gosh. That… was… amazing. I can’t believe it’s over.” I want the reader, when he has recovered from his shock, to get on Facebook and post links to my book on Amazon. I want the reader to post memes.

bookfession1

April-25-2013-22-42-38-books

So I sat and stared at my screen, with no clue how to accomplish this end.

Then I distracted myself with blog stats, and aimlessly Googling “What is wrong with my book?” (Which, by the way, yielded this, which is a really raw and beautiful read and also thoroughly depressing for someone who is recently convinced her book sucks, so you know, check it out…?)

Google, by the way, is a miracle-worker. Google helps with research, sure, but Google is so much more. Google is like the great Problem Solver. Sometimes Google helps me through my depressions (omg, Google is all-knowing, all-seeing, benevolent, and starts with the letters G-o… I think I’m having an epiphany… no time for epiphanies right now, crazy brain. Stop it!).

One of the links Godgle (I just invented that word. I’m a genius) served up was to a Writer’s Digest article that turned out to be a useless piece of twaddle, but it had the word “tension” in it, so it wasn’t a totally wasted click.

And “tension,” it turns out, is exactly the word I needed to hear.

There’s no tension in chapter 19, chapter 20, or most of the following chapters of my book, until the very end, and even that tension is weak and un-compelling. The problem? I suddenly go soft on my characters. I let nice things happen to them. They get comfortable.

This is all very nice and fuzzy for them, but not very interesting for the reader. If you’re a writer, you don’t get to play Mrs. Nice Guy. You can’t afford to.

This insight was very exciting. I did as any considerate person would do under the circumstances, and didn’t wait another moment to share my insight. I ran into the bedroom, switched the lights on, and shouted at Carey through the protective shield his arms had inexplicably formed over his eyes:

“I think I have to leave someone behind, so there’s more tension!”

Carey is something of a miracle to me. He doesn’t always follow my sudden non sequitur leaps but when he does, it’s 5:45am and the overhead light is burning his eyes out. “In the lab?” he said.

“In the lab. Like Hedi or somebody.”

He smiles wryly, “It wouldn’t exactly raise my tension if you left Hedi behind.” He doesn’t exactly like Hedi.

Well. Crap.

“But you’re right about the tension. It’s not there.”

Well. Crap.

And then he proceeded to tell me all the reasons why not.

Well. Awesome.

No, really. Awesome. You see, understanding what is wrong with it, in detail, is how we figure out how to make it better. And we did.

We came up with two critical changes I can make to ratchet up the tension without leaving Hedi behind. Which is awesome because I happen to like Hedi (take that). Also, leaving her behind would require massive re-writes, so, yeah.

It’s not the first time Carey’s brought my attention to glaring problems in my book. Because of him, I had to completely rewrite every single chapter containing my main character, seeing as how the main character sucked. It took a long time and is one of the primary reasons the book has taken almost a whole year to get to this point. It’s also one of the primary reasons the book is as good as it is. Carey’s insight made my book awesomer.

This time, the changes are mostly just rearranging things so that the reader finds things out in a different order. So they’re left wondering about things they actually care about. These changes won’t be all that time-consuming.

Oh, who are we kidding. There will be massive re-writing. But we’re all pretending, right now, that this is a minor thing. That this will just take a few days. WE ARE ALL PRETENDING THIS RIGHT NOW.

It will actually take several weeks, maybe months… 

And when I’m done making these little, bitty changes, the ending is going to explode like a bomb. The sort of bomb that makes readers go, “Oh, wow. Holy crap. That was good. I want moar.” And then they will beg for it to be made into a movie, loudly and persistently until it actually happens, and I will live happily ever after as a wealthy full-time novelist writing Big Important Books.

They will post memes.

hangover

Or, if that doesn’t happen (but I’m sure it will), at least my book will be good. The best I can make it. Which is really all any of us can do.

So of course I’m excited. I have a partner who loves my book, and clearly sees what’s wrong with it. Who is willing to tell me what’s wrong with it, in detail, fearlessly and without apology.

This is a priceless gift.

Omg. It needs a meme.

images (1)

*In this context, “got up early” means, “was unjustly awakened before he was ready and then worked with me even though he had other Big Important Things to do.” I love my husband.

On Faith and Fiction

“Are you a person of  faith?” He leans out of the car window, his face searching mine. We’re newly neighbors, and this meeting in the grocery store parking lot is random.

What do I say to that? Last night, I stood in our backyard and talked over the fence with him about the night sky. He has a good telescope and I like him. What do I say to this question?

“Yes,” I say.

He nods, satisfied. “I knew you were,” he says.

A car pulls in behind him. I back away, wave goodbye so he can move on.

On the drive back, I think about my answer. Am I a person of faith? Not the way he meant it, I think. No every-Sunday-morning church, Wednesday-night Bible study, and evangelizing to the neighbors faith. I don’t stand on street corners with God is Great signs and I don’t ask my co-workers if they have found Jesus.

I suspect these are the sort of things my neighbor would count against my claim to faith. But am I a person of faith?

Not blind faith.

But am I a person of faith?

I think about that Sunday in Quaker Meeting, the epiphany that We Are Not Alone, even when everyone we trust abandons us. How I–or something, or Someone–purged the fear in my gut that day, shook it out of me in one great gush, replaced it with faith that Help Is On Its Way. How I walked forth in courage. Because I knew then that I am held in God’s hands, that we all are.

Am I a person of faith?

Last May, Annie and Glennon, two people I admire, said “Write for one hour a day,” and so I did, and I wrote a novel. Is that faith? Saying, “I’ll give it a shot” and then doing it, day after day after day, even when it’s hard, even when it feels pointless. Is that faith?

Let me tell you something about faith. I had very little when I started my book. Maybe as much as a mustard seed–ever seen a mustard seed? They’re small. Not microscopic or anything, but no bigger than the head of a pin, anyway. Small. That’s what my faith was like.

And it didn’t tell me what was in it, either, any more than an unlabeled mustard seed tells you it’ll turn into a mustard tree. My faith said: “Start writing. Do it every day. Something will happen.” It made no promises about what that Something would be.

Then the book started to grow. It grew to 5,000 words. Then 10,000. 20,000. It kept getting longer, and a story started to emerge. Around 40,000, it started to feel like an actual novel. Along with the novel, my faith grew. I could do this.

And it was a good thing, too, that my faith had grown roots, because after 95,000 words, it was time to revise. Revising is hard.

Some weeks, I spent days doing nothing making no measurable changes. I was writing character sheets, or developing a timeline, or literally cutting and taping the manuscript. Writing scenes I knew would never end up in the book, but that were necessary for me to understand what the characters were doing in other scenes and why.

Did I have faith? It didn’t feel like it. It felt frustrating. It felt like I’d never, ever ever be done. Like a sailboat in a lull, no momentum, and no motor to get it going again. Did I keep going, well, yeah. But only because… well, I guess you’d call it faith. But it didn’t feel like faith. It felt like paddling without an oar.

It did get done, though. Eventually I found myself with a completed second draft, a book organized and corralled into almost-presentable format. An actual novel.

Faith grew roots. It’s stronger now. Or maybe that’s not faith. Maybe what grew was confidence. But confidence feels rather like faith, don’t you think?

I’m now in second revisions (third draft), which means I’ve been through this before. When I stop changing the actual manuscript and start working on other things (right now I’m writing chapter synopses to get a handle on the order of events and better build tension in the right places), I don’t panic. It’s part of the process. I have faith that it is what I’m supposed to be doing. That it will all get done.

Am I a person of faith?

I believe in God, because I’ve experienced God in the Silence of Meeting for Worship, in the quiet of my heart. I’ve felt God take my hand when my hand most needed taking. Is that faith, or is that knowledge? (Superstition, whisper my atheist friends.)

I don’t actually know anything. I have no proof. I have only my heart, and experience, and faith that Something will happen if I just take the next step. And so far, every time I take that next step, Something happens. I’m not moving mountains, but if the pen is mightier than the sword perhaps it is also at least as mighty as a shovel. I’m writing books.

Am I a person of faith?

Maybe faith is just doing Something You Believe In, and stepping forward with the belief that Something Good will come of it. Which is another way of saying we are held in God’s hands.

Am I a person of faith?

Sure. You betcha.

P.S. Plant a mustard seed and Something will happen. But not a mustard tree. Mustard does not grow on trees, no matter what the preacher told you. Sometimes the Thing that Happens when we do Something We Believe In is not the Thing we were expecting. Often it’s far more beautiful.

It is kinda pretty, though.

My 14-Step Process to Writing a Great YA Novel (Or Writing While Parenting Part Four)

YALLFest, Charleston’s young adult book festival, is November 9, and it’s loaded with a long list of top YA authors (including Lev Grossman). And if that’s not enough incentive to get you down there, guess who else will be there? Me.

Even better, unlike those other famous people who are making you wait and show up, I’m going to go ahead and give you my proprietary multi-step process for writing a YA book right now and you don’t even have to leave your desk. I win.

  1. Have a kid. Kids give you an excuse to read young adult fiction aloud every night and to speak proudly about it in mixed company. “I’m reading ‘Harry Potter’ to my kids at bedtime” is SO much more socially acceptable than “I LOVE ‘Twilight!’ I read it over and over again because I love it so much. Don’t you?”
  2. On second thought, don’t have kids just for that. Kids are work. Much easier to just grow a thick skin and love what you love. You can call it “research” if it makes you happier.
  3. If you do have a kid, raise him free range*, and un-school, so you don’t squash any of his native genius.
  4. Or whatever. It’s up to you. But if you do free range and un-school I guarantee your kids will blow you away every day. They might anyway. I wouldn’t know.
  5. Wait till they’re older. If you start thinking about writing while your kids are still little, don’t worry–they’ll squash that right out of you.
  6. When your child reaches the rough age of the character(s) in your planned book, begin writing. Assuming your characters are at least 9 years of age, this corresponds neatly to the approximate time when you start to feel human again after having a baby.
  7. When you get to a tough spot, interview your kid. Spend lots of time on this and record the sessions. Take notes, too. Pay close attention. Ask lots of questions and answer all of theirs.
  8. Be wowed when the boring chapter about waiting for something to happen becomes the interesting chapter about building a viable home out of scraps of tanned skin, a water bucket, and an over-sized plastic bench.
  9. Interview other kids too when you get a chance. By this time, if you’ve done it right, most of the kids in your town will be hanging out at your house anyway, because you’re the free range house and maybe you have Minecraft and enough computers to go around too.
  10. Read some YA.
  11. Write every day.
  12. Listen to your characters.
  13. Listen to your kids.
  14. Repeat. Start with step 7 though, because raising a new kid for each set of revisions on your novel is probably a bit overboard.
Writing with Eli

Writing with Eli

P.S. I don’t love Twilight. I feel like I should actually say that because I said “love what you love” and Twilight is not one of those things. I do think it’s well-written for what it is, though, and I have in fact read the entire series. And she made a lot of money on it, so there’s that.

P.P.S. There are a few other entries about writing while parenting. I called them “part one” “part two” etc. even though they’re only loosely connected. You can read them if you want: Part One, Part Two, Part Three.

Not Writing, Not Updating, Not Sure Why I’m Posting

Y’all.

I have not written in my book in weeks.

Weeks.

I don’t know what to tell you. There’s the fact that our house filled up with people–two separate friends who needed a place to stay are now more-or-less long-term residents in our home. We love them and love having them here, and their moving here also created upheaval. There are other things going on causing upheaval too that will be revealed in time (ahem we might be moving soon).

There’s the fact that my son brought home a newborn piglet who required around-the-clock nearly non-stop care and then died, prompting emergency vet visits and midday funerals and sadness.

There’s the fact that my other blog went mildly viral recently and so I had to spend all this time watching my stats skyrocket over there. Important work.

And the fact that my husband has become a performer and there are performances to attend, and childcare shifts to cover.

And the fact that my business is sucking up about ten hours a day.

All of which is to say that I haven’t been writing because I am making BULLSHIT excuses.

I’m not finding an hour a day to write because I’m not.

Tomorrow. I will begin again tomorrow.

Besides, YALLFest is Nov 9 and I will have SOMETHING to show. Maybe. I hope to meet Lev Grossman there finally. Get a book or two signed. Maybe meet an agent. Anyway. Maybe I’ll have a presentable draft? Odds are… crap. It won’t have been beta’d.

Anyway. Hi. Sorry for not updating in forever. Thank you for your patience. We now return to our regular programming.

Me and books

(Those books in the background? Were written by people who did not let bullshit excuses stop them from writing. None of them was me.)

Back to the Main

I have, like, 15 minutes, so I’m sorry if this sucks.

First, thank you THANK YOU to the wonderful people who provided feedback in the Game of Intros. It was awesome. Some of you gave me feedback offline too, and I appreciate all of it. I will probably go with Slave Chip because that is hands-down EVERYONE’s favorite that has said anything, AND I like the concept too–I mean, SLAVERY. What’s not to love?

And now, back to Jed and my current 85k WIP. Jed has decided that he must be allowed to speak in first person present. Good grief. Here’s how that happened.

So, yesterday, I sat down with my character model, 9-year-old Eli, whose personality I tried to capture in the guise of Jed (my MC, for those just joining us). So far, Jed’s story doesn’t exactly suck, according to my alpha reader (Carey), but he’s been “less interesting by far” than the other characters. In other words, he sucks. And that just will not DO. Will not.

So Eli & I sat down and we went scene-by-scene and I picked through the contents of his brain and it was awesome. I think he had fun too, because it was like a choose-your-own-adventure for him. I told him what was happening and he told me what he would think and do in each circumstance.

I wrote it down word for word and about halfway through, after writing so many “I think such-and-such” and “I wonder about who-and-who”s, I began to feel like Jed was telling me, maybe… maybe he wanted to be written that way, the way that Eli was talking. In first person present.

FIRST PERSON PRESENT, y’all. I hate first person present.

Except in The Hunger Games. I love it there.

So I went back and re-wrote the first scene in first person present. Let’s call that Version Two. And the original, the first/second draft version in third person past, is Version One. Then I created a Version Three, which is the exact same wording as Version Two except the pronouns & verbs all changed to third past. I thought maybe I could capture the immediacy of first present without all the awkwardness and difficulty and WEIRDNESS of one character in first present with all the others in third past.

Then I handed it all off to Carey and said, “Tell me what to think.”

He read Version Two (first present) and said, “That’s definitely more interesting.” Okay. Cool.

Then I handed him Version Three (EXACTLY the same as Version Two except with third past) and he said, “I don’t understand. Isn’t this your original version?” Remember, the version he thought was “definitely less interesting” than the other characters? He thought the EXACT SAME WORDS as Version Two were actually Version One after I changed it back to third past.

Then he re-read Version One, side-by-side with Version Three, and said Version Three sucks. Actually, he said he liked the original better than Version Three, which is the same thing, seeing as how the original didn’t exactly have him excited.

Then he said, “First person present is going to be really hard to do. But if you can pull it off, it’ll be frickin awesome.

Crap.

So first person present it is.

I’m afraid none of that exactly made sense, but the point is, Jed demands first person present and I always try to give my characters what they want, which is the least I can do for them given how many terrible things I put them through. So the new first chapter is mostly first person present now. It’s taking a while to re-write, but it’s fun. The most fun I’ve had since I started on this novel, I think.

I’m trying to work up the courage to share a snippet with you here. Okay. I have to. Okay, here goes. Gritting my teeth. Why is this so hard? Here’s the original third past:

Jed always thanked the bushes when he plucked their berries. When he found leafy greens, he never took the whole plant. And he never, ever dug up roots to eat. He couldn’t stand the sound of their screaming.

In the mornings, he and the other boys would leave the village together, laughing and shouting. Several of them had been born in the same summer nine years ago—it had been a good year for babies. So they knew each other well, and he liked them well enough. But by the time the sun was over the trees, he always found a reason to move off by himself into the woods. Nowadays, he tried to do it before they found anything to eat, because he didn’t want to hear them kill the plants, nor endure their ridicule when he tried to stop them.

Once alone, he would wander until he found a particularly beautiful meadow or clearing in the woods, where he could throw himself down in the grass, with his bare brown belly pressed against the earth, and lie still until his breath came slow and quiet. Then he could hear the plants whispering, and sometimes he imagined that if he thought hard enough, maybe they would hear him too.

And in first present:

I always thank the bushes, you know, when I take berries from them. I put leaves in my sack, too, if you can eat them—but never the whole plant. No, never the whole plant—the screaming is too awful.

The sun is coming up as I leave the village, and the other boys are laughing and shouting already. They’ll leave me alone if I’m quiet and if I remember not to say anything about the plants. When we get where the dirt path ends, I tell them bye and go up toward the meadow. I don’t want to hear when they find, well, edible roots and stuff.

There won’t be many berries yet, but at least there will be a few. Through these woods there’s a meadow and when I get there, I throw myself down in the grass, feel the cool dewy ground against my warm belly. When my breathing comes slow and quiet, I can hear the plants whispering. They’re so glad it’s morning and they’re alive—it makes me glad to be alive too. I wonder if they can hear me saying that to them?

I know that’s short. It’s all I have courage for.

And that’s all I got time for. See ya and THANK YOU.

I Feel Good

I have a complete manuscript.

Which is not to say a polished complete manuscript. Just a done enough manuscript, and by done enough, I mean done enough that I’m going to freakin celebrate.

83,541 words.

Thirty-one chapters.

One deliciously satisfying ending.

Here’s what it feels like:

Awesome.

It crept up on me suddenly. Has that ever happened to you? Just when it feels like you will never, ever, ever be done. Suddenly, it’s done.

I was down at the lake when it happened, down where I get most of my best inspiration. Staring at the water, thinking about Tory.

Where all my best inspiration happens

What else will readers want to know about how things turn out for Tory? And I realized there was nothing else. Just one tiny scene for one other character. One little piece and it would be tied up, done.

Then I wrote it.

Then I printed the denouement scenes, did a little cutting & pasting, and paper clipped it all together in the right order.

And, just by chance, the last line happened to be at the end in the new order. And it was a perfect last line. Not perfect as in polished, of course. Just that THAT character saying THAT thing is the perfect ending for THIS book.

I’m sorry this post is so scattered. I don’t really have anything earth-shattering to share. It just didn’t feel right not to record this momentous moment. To make up for it, here’s James Brown singing about me. You’re welcome.

P.S. To be clear, I am well aware that I am not DONE. There will be plenty, plenty more revision. Then edits. Beta readers. More revisions. More edits. Polishing. Query letters. Elevator pitches. Agent submissions. Piles of rejection slips. Probably the remaining parts of this journey will be just as painful and awful as the first round of revisions has been. Maybe more. I KNOW. Stop raining on my parade.

P.P.S. I will now take a deliberate, planned one-week break from the work. After I transfer the manual work I did today into the digital document. I may or may not be here, on this blog, during my break. I’ll be back.

Green Fingernails

I discovered something about myself:

I in fact do NOT enjoy revisions more than first drafts.

I thought I did. I thought it would be easier, for one thing, going back through what I had done, falling in love with my story all over again, making it better.

It turns out that revising a novel-length story is hell. Illustration: Here is something I wrote while in the throes of revision.

I’m lying on a little sofa in a too-cold room trying to decide whether to meditate, create something, or click aimlessly around the Internet.

 

Feeling insecure.

 

Wanting to curl up in a ball under the covers and go to sleep because that’s what I do when I’ve convinced myself I’m not good enough not good enough not good enough.

 

My novel sucks. Maybe all my novels will suck. I’m scared I can’t make money at it. Scared life will always be hard hard hard.

 

I’m tired, too.

 

Life is always hard, isn’t it? Does it ever get better? Somebody tell me it gets better because I haven’t seen it in a long long time.

 

I want to send my novel draft to someone who will KNOW and who will be BRUTALLY HONEST: Will it work? Will it sell? Will it be awesome?

 

And I don’t want to do that. What if they say no, it’s not awesome. What if it’s ordinary, run-of-the-mill. What if it is? What if I can never ever make a living that way?

 

What would I do? What would I do if my novel career could never ever work. What would I do?

 

I want to build something make something create something that no one has ever created before.

 

Maybe it would be good to start taking my meds again*.

Told ya. Hell. Today I started drafting again. Same work in progress, just the section that’s never had a first draft, the denouement. So I’m actually writing, not revising. And here is what that feels like:

Awesome.

Remember how I used to write in this blog every single day? And then it got slower and slower and slower? Notice how the slower portions correlate to times when I’m revising, versus drafting? Notice how there just aren’t as many resources out there to help authors with the revision process? Even the Stephen Kings & the Anne Lamotts & those other bright and shining angels don’t talk as much about it.

Why?

I think there must be some sort of brain sciency thing that goes on. It’s a different place to be, mentally. It’s hard to create when you’re so busy tearing down and rearranging.

And it’s creating that gives you the high. That gives me the high, anyway.

Anyway. Today I wrote a new chapter, the denouement for Semantha. And it’s pretty cool. If I do say so myself. It sets her and her counterpart–the general–up for the next book, while simultaneously creating a satisfying ending for her in this book. And it’s neat because something new happens, something unexpected and yet organic to the characters & the plot. It even surprised me.

Heather with green fingernails

She said: Do you want something pale, something neutral? I said: Green, please.

On a related note, last night I read the first several chapters of my book to the kids. They’ve been begging for it, and I’ve been unable to comply, too caught up in revisions to want to think about reading any of it aloud. The first four chapters they had heard before, in rough draft version. But the fifth–featuring Semantha–was new to them.

They said they love Semantha best. Maybe because she’s more like them–an ordinary kid with an ordinary family and an ordinary teen’s “as if” attitude. Maybe because Semantha’s the only character who is making her own things happen, instead of things happening to which she has to react. An agent of her own change.

Maybe just because it’s a fresh chapter, a new take on a character, something they hadn’t read before.

And maybe that’s why writing is so much more fun than revising. I like Semantha best today too.

P.S. I got a manicure yesterday (for, let’s see, the second time in my life). This fact, and the picture of me looking horrified (because green fingernails: Who does that?) has ABSOLUTELY nothing to do with this story. But I can force it to, if you like. It’s symbolic. Of something. Me learning to have fun? Taking life less seriously? Taking care of myself? I love my green fingernails. Love them. They make me smile. Sort of like writing does. But not revising. Revising does not make me smile. Green fingernails do. Connection. See?

*I don’t actually take any meds. Maybe I should.

All That’s Left is the Denouement

I have an almost-presentable, all-in-the-right-order, *almost* every scene actually written, second draft of my book. All that’s left is the denouement. I mean that literally. I still have to write the denouement.

This really ought to be a thing: Duck face selfies with a manuscript.

This really ought to be a thing: Duck face selfies with a manuscript.

Obviously, it’s not even near finished. For one thing, the denouement never even had a first draft. So it has to have a first draft before it can have a second. The denouement does have a fabulously impressive array of backstage material to support it though:

Someone came in a few minutes later and said this looked like a construction timeline. It IS a construction timeline.

Someone came in a few minutes later and said this looked like a construction timeline. It IS a construction timeline.

Plus: Character sheets, character notes, an incredibly confusing scrawl of handwritten notes on nearly every page of the second draft, typed notes in the margins thanks to Word’s built-in functionality, and even a few words written in ink on the very last page of the manuscript with incredibly helpful directions like: “Show Jed with Other Characters” and “What will Nat do now?” and “Are the refugees settling in?”

THEN:

Once the denouement’s written, the first round of proper edits begins.

Then beta readers.

Then revisions based on betas.

Then more editing.

More proofing.

Then subbing to agents.

And somewhere in there I’m supposed to “step away from the vehicle,” apparently, for … a year? Three months.

Yeah, right.

Maybe.

Geez.

Timelines and Climaxes

Yesterday I took the keys to Mom’s Cruiser, a box of snack bars, two kids–Eli, age 9; Everett, age 5–and headed down the rutted, twisting road to the bottom of the 9500-foot-elevation “hill” atop which my parents live. We drove into Florissant with $40 in cash and a thirst for adventure.

We came back with one (1) smoky quartz piece, and twenty-seven (27) or so flakes of paper shale bearing the impressions of insects, flower buds, seeds, and leaves that lived and died 35 million years ago.

Fossil Hunting

None of this has anything to do with my novel or progress thereon right now, and neither do any of the six other entries I’ve started and abandoned in the past day here. It’s just too hard. The work is hard, writing about the work is hard. But here we go. Here is what I’m doing:

  • Working on a detailed timeline. In Excel. So help me.
  • Trying to get two characters to reunite with each other in the same place at the same time, instead of three months apart as their current timelines show them doing.
  • Trying to get seven (7) POV characters to meet at the same time in the same place for the climax without ruining any of their individual timelines.
  • Trying to figure out why each of those seven (7) POV characters even wants to be there for goodness sake.
  • And what each of them is doing during the climax.
  • And what each of them is thinking during the climax.
  • And then, finally, from whose point of view the climax will actually be told.
  • And also exactly how I feel about the fact that today, one of the search engine phrases that led to my blog was “sobbing after climax.”
  • And wondering whether I really want to keep writing about climaxes or not.
  • And definitely wondering whether I really want to keep writing climaxes or not.

But of course I have to. Writing them because I have to finish my book. Writing about them because reaching climax is hard for me. (I’ll let you know when Google searches for “Why is reaching climax hard for me” start leading to my blog. It will be a proud moment, surely. (I apologize to anyone who has arrived via that search. This is not the place to get that kind of help. But if you’re writing a book, now, come on in. We can help with that. Or at least empathize with how hard it is.))

So I just keep getting up an hour early and plugging. I thought I’d be done with my second draft next week, but now it looks more like next month or next year or maybe next decade.

Possibly by the time I’m done, the mosquito that ended up smashed between two pages of my first draft will be as old as the fossils in our paper shale fragments.

If anyone has tips, ideas, or inspiration for getting through this last part of the second draft… please. Share. I’d like to finish sometime this millennium.

Leaf fossil

Novel Update

A few of you have asked for updates on how the novel is coming. Here’s a little visual:

2013-08-18 book

Revised portions on left, unrevised portions on right

Same stacks, from the side (revised, left. Unrevised, right):

2013-08-18 book2

So, yeah. That’s where I am. Now, mind you, there are several chapters still to be written to finish it out–the original climax was cloudy and the denouement nearly non-existent. Good thing I’ve managed to cut over 10,000 words from my original draft. We’re currently somewhere just north of 79k.

Once this round of revisions is done, it goes back to my alpha reader–Carey–for honing. Then out to my betas for a round of feedback followed by revisions. Then tightening & editing. Then proofing.

So, how’s it going? Well. It’s a long plod, but it’s going well. Heck, just for fun. Here’s a screen shot of my tracking document.

Word Tracking Screen Shot