Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Work in Progress Wednesday #11

It's another Work in Progress Wednesday, but this Wednesday the WIP is out of my hands and into the hands (or rather the computer screens) of my beta readers.

What I am asking of my beta readers is nothing more than answering the one big burning question: Does this story work?

Now after spending over a half of a year writing the first draft, another month of two smoothing that first draft over and plugging all the major holes, you'd think that I'd know this for myself. But I don't. And I don't think anyone really does.

Oh sure in reading through their were points where I thought, "Oooh, I like that", or "Okay, yeah. That works." But those are just bits. And pieces.

However, to know if the whole darn things works, well that requires a bit of distance. I mean a book is a big thing. Mine actually grew to 99K words during revisions, and there is no way I can look at all of those 99K words and be able to know how well they tell my story as a whole.

Maybe if I took two years off, and let it sit on a shelf, while the memory of it slowly disintegrates. Then I could go back with fresh eyes.

I don't have the patience for two years, though. I barely have the patience for the weeks or maybe even a month that it will take my betas to get through it.

So, now I wait. And while I wait there are other things I can occupy myself with. Query letter, short stories, and beginning to put together my list of agents to send those query letters to. For now though, I'm just waiting.

What about you? Where is your WIP at?

And if you want to participate in WIP Wednesday, simply post your own WIP Wednesday entry on your blog and leave a link to it in the comments below. Or if you don't have a blog, feel free to report your progress directly into the comments box.

For more detailed information concerning what all this nonsense is about please consult the original Work in Progress Wednesday posting.

Feel free to also make use of the lovely little WIP Wednesday logo as well!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Work in Progress Wednesday #10

Is it really my tenth edition of Work in Progress Wednesday? Well, setting aside the small chance that I might have miscounted somewhere along the line, I'm just gonna go ahead and say, "Yes. Yes, it is."

And appropriately enough for this momentous occasion I've also reached a long-awaited milestone in my own WIP. Finally, after weeks of talking about it, I have finished my level 1 rewrites!

I finished on Tuesday afternoon after several marathon sessions over the past five days. There was a point on Friday, when I thought I would never get through the whole thing. This is when I discovered a chapter that had to be rewritten almost completely due to it's unbelievable suckage.

It started with me just breezing past a potentially important moment between two characters. Instead of letting my characters live that moment on the page, I kind of did a, "So, we're on the way here, after we said this and this, but that's over and now we're onto the next thing."

Basically, I was a little too interested in moving the plot forward, and didn't give my characters a chance to say what they needed to say. So, I stuck them in the room together and let them talk things out. I think it went well.

That was the first half of the chapter.

The second half was even worse.

In that half I totally contradicted revelations that would be revealed at the end of the novel. This actually wasn't my fault, as I didn't know about these revelations until I was writing the end of the stupid thing, but it still sucked to realize, "Oh, yeah, that doesn't make sense anymore. Crap."

Anyway, it took me some stewage time to think over those problems, and then some more time to do the actual fixing of them.

Luckily, none of the following chapters needed quite as extensive "gut it all" redo's and I was able at long long long long last, to reach the end.

It felt good.

Like Hiro on Heroes screaming, "YA TA!" kind of good (Although that show, and more specifically that character are completely unwatchable now. My husband still watches it, and sometimes I'll wander in and catch just enough to be like, "Looks like it still sucks." And he is basically like, "Yeah.").

It didn't just feel good because I finished though, but also because shockingly, I kind of liked my little story. Lately, I've been doing quite a bit of, "How do I suck? Let me count the ways?" type thinking, and so it was nice to have that (no doubt short-lived) moment where I thought, "Hey, this is kind of good."

I am going to cling to this moment with everything I've got because next on my list is sending my WIP out to Beta readers. Gulp.

So, how is everyone else's works in progress moving along? Hit any major milestones this week?

And if you want to participate in WIP Wednesday, simply post your own WIP Wednesday entry on your blog and leave a link to it in the comments below. Or if you don't have a blog, feel free to report your progress directly into the comments box.

For more detailed information concerning what all this nonsense is about please consult the original Work in Progress Wednesday posting.

Feel free to also make use of the lovely little WIP Wednesday logo as well!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Forever Tinkering?

I read a fascinating article in the Wall Street Journal this past weekend that got me thinking. The article was entitled: Tinkering With the Ideal.

The article began by referencing the new Broadway revival of "West Side Story", which has had huge changes made to it by none other than Arthur Laurents, the man who wrote the original book for the show. I first heard about these changes from my husband, who listened to a piece discussing it on NPR way back in December.

Basically, Arthur Laurents felt that the show was no longer relevant to the youth of today and decided that some big changes needed to be made to update it. These weren't little changes just for show, but big ones like having Maria sing 'I Feel Pretty' in Spanish. In fact, all the Jets speak Spanish in this version of the show. There are other changes too, all with the goal of making the show grittier and more realistic.

The New York Times and other reviews have been mixed, but that isn't really the point. The point is that Arthur Laurents made the choice to change a 52 year old show that is considered a classic.

The WSJ article goes on to discuss other artists that couldn't stop tinkering, like an artist who made little changes to his painting after it was already hanging in the gallery, or a composer revising some of his most famous works so that he could earn Western royalties on them.

The example that most caught my attention though was the one about writers making changes to their works. W.H. Auden and Henry James are the two authors whom the article provides as examples.

Here is the Henry James example given from his novel "The Portrait of a Lady" initially published in 1881, and revised by him 25 years later for a new collection of his works.

This is the original:

"His kiss was like a flash of lightning; when it was dark again she was free."

And this is the new version:

"His kiss was like white lightning, a flash that spread, and spread again, and
stayed; and it was extraordinarily as if, while she took it, she felt each thing
in his hard manhood that had least pleased her, each aggressive fact of his
face, his figure, his presence, justified of its intense identity and made one
with this act of possession. So had she heard of those wrecked and under water
following a train of images before they sink. But when darkness returned she was

Which version do you prefer as a reader and/or a writer?

Personally, I like the added details towards the end of the revised example, in the second last sentence, but the rest of it doesn't do much for me.

More than just questioning the tinkering of others, this article also made me consider how long the tinkering on my own works might last. Right now, at the very beginning of rewriting my novel, and struggling to just make it through my first read through, the thought of continuing to make changes twenty-five or fifty years from now sounds awful.

At the same time, I know myself. I cannot go back and read something that I wrote years ago without seeing something that I want to change. Sometimes, it's just a tweak of a few works, and other times it is a huge change brought about by some sudden epiphany. Mabye these are the types of changes that can only be made once we have the distance of years, when we can see past our affection for the original idea.

The other question this begs is: if tinkering, rewriting, and revising is an endless process then how do we know when our writing is ready to submit and send out there into the world?

My thought is that you make the work as good as you possibly can right now. Use your best sense of what works, along with beta readers, and while it may never be perfectly perfect, there should be a point where it has reached a certain amount of polish and completeness.

Now what do you think? Did West Side Story need to be changed? What about the Henry James story? And in your own writing are you an endless tinkerer? And when do you know that it's the point to stop the revising and just put it out there already?

Thursday, April 16, 2009

These Are the Books of My Life

It's time for another blog chain, and for this round it is my turn to choose the topic.

Now in our many months on the chain we have discussed many writing related topics from characters, to angst, to even two chains back showing off a bit of our mad short story writing skillz.

This time though, I'd like to focus on the flip side of the writing coin - reading.

Specifically, what books have influenced you? This can be books that influenced you as a writer, or simply books that touched you as a human being. If you want to talk about one book, a top three, ten, or even twenty go right ahead.

For me though, there is no way I can pick and choose, or try to limit my picks in anyway. Rather I'd like to acknowledge the various books in my life the same way that the stars receiving an Oscar at the Academy Awards do - with a long-winded seemingly endless list read loud while the Orchestra (you'll just have to go ahead and imagine this part) plays the "get off the damn stage already" music in the background.

So, thank you to all the books I've read in my life. You've been there for the sitting by the pool times and huddled beneath the blankets with the itty-bitty book light times. You were there when I needed pick-me-ups or distractions. You were good for escape and also inspiration. From library books and ones I've purchased, to the ones well-meaningly lent to me by friends that I conveniently forgot to give back - thank you all.

There are too many of you to list, and I know that I'll forgot ones that meant more to me than I can say, but I'm going to try and give props to the ones that I can.

Dr. Seuss and Shel Silverstein were some of my earliest books from the library.

Next came Beverly Cleary's Ramona series and then everything ever written by Judy Blume.

I discovered the joy of science fiction from Anne McCaffrey and her various series of Pern, Krystal singers, and telepaths.

I fell in love with classics like To Kill A Mockingbird, The Catcher in the Rye, Anne of Green Gables (and everything else written by LM Montgomery), Little Women (and Little Men), A Little Princess, The Secret Garden, Where the Red Fern Grows, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Joy in the Morning, The Scarlet Letter, Their Eyes Were Watching God, Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice, Emma, and so many more that I am no doubt forgetting to list.

There was Christopher Pike's Remember Me that I had to sneak out of my older sister's underwear drawer because she didn't like me reading the same books as her.

Then came the time when I was old enough for "adult" books and began to borrow from my grandmother's selection. The first I remember was Beaches. Yep, the same as the movie. I felt so proud reaching such a grown-up book.

When I finished that one I started digging into my grandmother's stacks of Mary Higgins Clark, Sidney Sheldon, Lavyrle Spencer, Julie Garwood, Jude Deveraux, Judith Krantz, Judith McNaught, and again many more than I can remember.

By this time I had fallen fully in love with the romance genre and was trying to get my hands on everything I could. It was around this time that I discovered Susan Elizabeth Phillips' Fancy Pants and I was in love. I read everything of hers that I could get my hands on.

A few years later when I found Jennifer Crusie and Janet Evanovich, I felt much the same way.

More recently I've come to love memoirs, a genre that I never would have thought I'd find interesting. A few times already on this blog I've mentioned Angela's Ashes and it's effect on me. Other memoirs I've read and loved are: everything by David Sedaris (although technically not quite memoir, honestly these brilliant little essays defy categorization), Running With Scissors (the two sequels aren't bad either), The Liars' Club, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius (difficult to get through, but worth it), and A Girl Named Zippy ( the sequel to this, as well as her fiction works are pretty amazing as well.)

In other non-fiction that I have known and loved. Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs: A Low Culture Manifesto (again his other books were great as well), The Omnivore's Dilemma, and Into Thin Air (and then this book so fascinated me with the story of Everest I also read High Crimes, another book by a different author about the same topic).

Is the Orchestra getting louder? Okay, okay, I'm getting close to the end.

Other books in no particular order.
The Book Thief (just read this one last month).
A Complicated Kindness by Miriam Toews. OMG this book was gorgeous. Read this a little over two years ago and it just sticks with me.
Books by Melissa Banks.
The Tomorrow When The War Began series. This is another one I just love too too much.

And finally two books that gave me sanity and order after I had my son Jamie. The Happiest Baby on the Block and Secrets of the Baby Whisperer. See? Books really do influence each and every part of my life.

Ooooh, I know I am forgetting so many books. In fact there are books out there in the universe that I forgot the title and as much as I would love to read them again, I cannot (mostly ones that I got from the library, but one was a book my older sister owned and knowing I LOVED it, she sold it at a garage sale. She really did not like me reading her books.).

Anyway, that's it for me. To find out what books the rest of the blog chainers have loved (and perhaps, like me, even lost) head on over to Michelle McLean's Writer Ramblings next.

PS. All the pics are from an artist called Quint Buchholz.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Work In Progress Wednesday #009

Happy Wednesday! I hope that everyone had a productive week and a wonderful Easter weekend.

As for me... Wonderful weekend - yes. Productive - not so much.

I did manage to get through several more chapters in my rewriting process early in the week, but Thursday was lost to prepping for a trip to California, Friday was a horrific airplane journey with a seat kicking toddler (An open letter to the people who had to endure being seated in front of my son: We really did try to stop him kicking your seat and playing with the tray. Just the same, we acknowledge that we were not always successful and sincerely apologize for any annoyance he may have caused you. At least he didn't scream the whole way? Right? Sincerely, The Quinn Family.) from Knoxville to Palm Springs, and the rest of the weekend was spent having fun in sun that made the journey totally worth it, until Tuesday when the whole horrific airplane nightmare repeated itself all over again.

However, now that's it's Wednesday again and I'm back home, it's time to get myself back on track and finish up the Level One rewrites.

Helping me meet this goal will be The Writing Throwdown!

If you haven't heard about this, Elana of Mindless Musings came up the idea of having a good-natured contest that will make use of our competitive natures to rev up our writing productivity. Anyone and everyone is welcome to join in on the fun, and Elana started a forum for all the participators to set their goals over at RallyStorm.

My goal is to finish my Level One rewrites by the Saturday, April 18th.

Can I do it?

Yes, I... uh, maybe... possibly... Gulp.

Okay, that's it from me for this week.

So how is everyone else's WIP coming along? And whether you're participating in the Throwdown or not, what writing related goals are you trying to set for yourselves?

And if you want to participate in WIP Wednesday, simply post your own WIP Wednesday entry on your blog and leave a link to it in the comments below. Or if you don't have a blog, feel free to report your progress directly into the comments box.

For more detailed information concerning what all this nonsense is about please consult the original Work in Progress Wednesday posting.

Feel free to also make use of the lovely little WIP Wednesday logo as well!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Work In Progress Wednesday #008

I'm back! Really back. Like my Internet is up and working again kind of back and I am sitting in my crappy desk chair instead of Panera's back.

Actually my Internet's been back up since last Friday, but I've been too busy trying to catch up on everyone else's blog postings that I missed (thank goodness for Google Reader, I don't know how else I would have kept track of them all) to write any of my own.

Anyway, it is once again Work in Progress Wednesday. And I am so over rewrites. Well, at least the Level 1 round of rewrites.

Although I am only a bit less than halfway through my Level 1 rewrites, I have officially hit the point where I have zero perspective on my story, and I really need to get it out to beta readers and critters who can give me some kind of feedback.

Right now I am at the, "I am pretty sure this is poorly written horrible crap that no one in their right mind would want to read" stage.

It's not a good stage.

Although it is at least more realistic than the, "Oh boy, I can't wait until Steven Spielberg decides to buy the movie rights and he tells me that directing the movie version of my book will be the crowning jewel of his career" stage.

So anyway, my plan is to plow through the rest of my Level 1 rewrites by the end of the week (actually the end of the week for me is Thursday night, because on Friday morning I leave for sunny Palm Springs California for a lovely Easter weekend with the in-laws. And after the disgusting white frozen stuff falling from the sky today, it is a trip that is much needed), and start getting some feedback that will hopefully help me become a little more centered between these two polar opposite stages.

I also have to soon start chipping away at that beast known as the query letter and have fiddled around with a few ideas. Since I have so far on my blog only talked about my WIP in the most vague terms possible (details given for those not keeping track: Title: Between The Devil and The Deep Blue Sea Genre: Urban Fantasy) I thought I would post here what I have so far, not so much for criticism (although if you have any feel free to share, cause goodness knows I could use it) but more to share a little bit about the story that I have been blathering on about for 008(!) WIP Wednesdays.

Blue always expected her sins to catch up with her. She just didn't know it would be today.

All Blue wants is to survive the New Year's Eve wedding between her ex-boyfriend and evil half-sister. However, survival becomes more difficult when a bracelet she stole during one of her house-cleaning jobs, won't come off her wrist.

It turns out the bracelet is more than a pretty piece of silver - it's a tag used to identify demons. As the daughter of a serial killer Blue isn't exactly surprised to find out she might be less than human, however the truth turns out to be even more complicated.

Now in between fighting her attraction to the half-demon creator of thetag who's trying to protect her, dealing with the woman who took over hell and is trying to kill her, and two Christian demon-fighters who want to remove one of her eyes to save her - Blue needs to find out what is going on and who she can trust if she's going to see the new year.

With nothing and everything to lose, she finds herself Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea.

Again this is very very rough. Like I just need to get the OMG this is so horrible version out of my system first, and then I can move onto something with a little less suck in it.

Okay, that's it from me for this week. Now you tell me how is your WIP coming along?

And if you want to participate in WIP Wednesday, simply post your own WIP Wednesday entry on your blog and leave a link to it in the comments below.

Or if you don't have a blog, feel free to report your progress directly into the comments box. For more detailed information concerning what all this nonsense is about please consult the original Work in Progress Wednesday posting.

Feel free to also make use of the lovely little WIP Wednesday logo as well!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Work In Progress Wednesday #007

This week is going to be a rather short WIP Wednesday for two reasons:
One: I am writing this from Panera's and they are going to be closing in about an hour (Yes, it is actually Tuesday evening right now. Yes, my horrible secret is out - I actually write my WIP Wednesday post on Tuesday).
Two: The reason I am writing this at a Panera's is, as I've mentioned in my previous post, because I've recently moved and do not yet have Internet.
However, I am not one to let the man (or in this case the woman, as my husband gets free Internet and cable through his job ((best job perk ever!))* which means we have to go through HR to get it switched, and the woman whose job it is to enter this information has not been in the mood to do so within the past week, and when my husband ever so politely calls to inquire when she might be doing this, she snits back that "she will get to it when she gets to it." In case you have not yet guessed - I HATE this woman and wish that her own Internet service is slower than dial-up! Yes. I know it's wrong to wish evil on others, but I don't care. And even more excruciating than having no Internet is the torture of dial-up and I hope that HR woman, HR woman's children, and HR woman's children's children are all cursed with it!) get me down for long and so I am forging on.
*Yes, I just invented my own punctuation of using double parenthetical clause within a single parenthetical clause. I was actually gonna go for a triple to add this note, but thought that might be pushing things too far, and so opted for the asterisk instead.
So, obviously without Internet service I have had tons of time to make wonderful progress on my WIP.
Of course... not.
First, there was the small matter of moving. I had kind of suspected that we had a lot of crap. However, what I failed to realize was that we in fact had two full U-Haul loads and multiple carloads of crap.
Then there was the small matter of trying (and usually failing) to remember where I packed what (There was a particularly panicky moment where we could not find the sandwich baggie full of screws needed to put our Ikea bed back together. Luckily, I eventually recalled the "safe" place that I had tucked them away into to. Yes, if you ever have something you want hidden forever, simply give it to me with instructions to put it somewhere safe, and chances are it will never be seen again.).
At any rate, by the time I had a moment to even think about writing it was... well, it was today. And so here we are.
I am happy to report that the computer is plugged in and working as well as it can with no Internet connection, (for a while I forget there was a point other than the Internet for the computer and was just going to let it sit until we were plugged in again, but then I recalled that the machine did have a few other uses, and I am, of course, referring to Solitaire - oh no! I mean Microsoft Word and my WIP. Riiiight.) and I have plans to spend time with my WIP for the rest of this week, that is in between sticking pins into my HR woman voodoo doll.
Okay, so what about you? Anybody else lose some writing time due to life situations beyond their control? Hopefully you were all more productive than me this past week.
Once my Internet aka "all that is good and right in the world" - is once more restored I'd love to visit your blogs to read all about it (oooh, did I mention that I am having such bad blog withdrawal!).
And if you want to participate in WIP Wednesday, simply post your own WIP Wednesday entry on your blog and leave a link to it in the comments below.
Or if you don't have a blog, feel free to report your progress directly into the comments box. For more detailed information concerning what all this nonsense is about please consult the original Work in Progress Wednesday posting.
Feel free to also make use of the lovely little WIP Wednesday logo, recently made new and improved by Lady Glamis whose addition of the black border with shadow makes the whole thing look so much more respectable.