Monday, November 24, 2008

I'm not lost, I'm right here

This seems like a good place to pause for a breath and do a blog post, so I will.

After my white-heat inspiration phase, I finished off the week with a grand total of over 6,800 words for the week. Most of it is not shabby, and most of the plot roads it led me down are also not shabby. I had to rein in some of it during today's more equilibriated planning session, and the aftermath of the "ZOMG on fire" creative days was an uber-cranky Saturday and a moody, weepy Sunday. I was aware, in some small part of my mind, that the three high days were too high and that I was going to crash and burn. I was aware during the rage day and the sad day that they were the expected aftermath of flying too high on those other days. I have yet to determine if/how I could've handled the high better in order to manage the aftermath--sometimes that awareness of the phase I'm in seems pretty cut off from the part of me that's too busy flailing in creativity/rage/sadness to listen, and I'm not sure that little voice has any power to change anything. I'm attempting to take it as a lesson and apply what I've learned to the next time I feel the manic phase start itching.

Today, although gloomy and rainy outside, has been a nice, quiet, calm day inside my head. I have thought through a number of plot issues, gotten together my act on my working outline, and even managed to write one of the scenes I still need. Post-blog, I will go print out what still needs printing out and weave those into my stack of first draft pages where they should go. Then I can take a look at the next chunk of scenes and see what needs to be added to those.

So, productivity in spite of a minor bout of crazy, even if I could've happily done without the crazy. Three working days this week, then off to the brother-in-law's for an extended Thanksgiving visit. I could also happily do without that, but sometimes there has to be that whole compromise thing.

Friday, November 21, 2008

No dead end in sight

I've written over 6,000 words in the last three days. (Yes, those of you I spoke to last night heard me say "nearly 6,000." I wrote more after we parted ways.) I am still utterly charmed and bemused by the character who's refusing to die when he's supposed to. And some of what he's had me writing has made me feel like Crowmaker is opening up in a new way. Which may make the book longer than I'd come to believe, which may make it no longer a YA, which may require me to spend more time on it than I'd come to believe I might.

All of the above is OK. No deadline, no contract that says it must be a certain length or fit into a certain genre. Most of the "OMG, must write" scenes are out of my head, although a couple are still bumping around in my brain, not quite ready to be born yet. I will spend the first part of the morning sketching out some new ideas and seeing if/how they fit with what I already have. (And the beauty of my inspiration, at least in its current state, is that no huge chunks of existing story will have to be chucked out the window. What's already happened will still stand, for the most part. Except the ending. Well, not the entire ending. Just a few lines. But it's only written in the sketchiest form at the moment anyhow.)

No, I am not a very linear process kind of person, apparently. I think sometimes that this whole gig would be a ton easier if I were, but I guess you take what you've got and learn to work with it.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Look what followed me home

I've added almost 3,000 words to Crowmaker the last couple of days. Every single syllable has been difficult--it's good, solid writing (I think), but I've really had to work at getting it onto the page the way I want it. I have discovered the Crowmaker's heart, fallen in love with a character who was supposed to die before the story even started for real, considered how his life and death (or lack thereof) might best serve the story, and wondered if I'm trying to talk myself into letting someone live just because I've fallen for him--or if I'm onto a spark of inspiration that might breathe even more life and depth into the story.

I've also listened to my Foo Fighters playlist a couple zillion times during the process. This is not something I will complain about.

Back to pacing and pondering and fussing with administrative type stuff while I try to figure out if I'm being struck by genius or idiocy.

Monday, November 17, 2008

What if I say I will never surrender

One of the side effects of having a teenage son and/or Rock Band is that I'm more in touch with "new" bands than I used to be. Previously, I'd stopped listening to the radio much, preferring my collection of old, familiar CD's instead. Anyhow, to make a long story short, I've been getting great CD's for Christmas and birthdays in the last year or so, since Joey now knows my musical tastes very well and makes really great choices. Last Christmas it was The Killers' Sam's Town, which I love and used as the "soundtrack" while I was writing "Pale Roses." Not that the songs had a ton to do with the actual story, mind you, but the... atmosphere, I suppose you'd call it... was inspiring.

Another band I've discovered I like a whole bunch is Foo Fighters. So this morning when I sat down to work on Crowmaker, I turned on Rhapsody and fired up the Foo Fighters playlist. I pulled up the plot diagram I'd started for Kellen (the Crowmaker) and started fussing with her emotional/personal development throughout the story. At which point I realized that "The Pretender" (YouTube alert!) is the absolute perfect theme song for her (as well as that whole "atmosphere" thing on all their songs working really well overall). I wound up with a new angle on Kellen and several new scenes to add to the plot line. Coolness.

Another thing I've been considering lately is that my stories in general tend to have a pretty serious attitude. Yet most of my favorite stories, be they books or movies, include lighter moments, moments that make me smile or laugh out loud. And it's those moments, that feeling of comaraderie I get from them, that help bind me to the characters and care about them. Which gives even greater impact to the more dramatic moments in their lives. So across the bottom of my sheet of notes for the second draft, I printed in big red letters: "Joy and Laughter."

There's a life message in there somewhere, too, I suppose.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Slogging along

The last couple of days have been pretty gloomy, weather-wise, so I'm feeling a bit sloggy, although in all honestly, the writing has been going pretty smoothly. "The Blue Wall" went to the post office this morning, and I've started adding some layers to Crowmaker as a start to the second draft process.

The second draft is where some of the secondary characters get their chance to step off their little x's and tell me what they're really thinking and doing. And in this case, "secondary characters" are pretty much everyone other than the main character, since even the Crowmaker got short-changed on telling me very much about herself in the first draft. Actually, even the main character didn't get to tell me everything she wanted to. I'm finding that I often need to flesh things out a bit more on paper than I do the first go-round.

At any rate, my To Do list for this week has lots of lovely red check marks next to all the line items, so I may just take tomorrow off and vegetate. In the meantime, however, the boys had a half day of school today, and we have some school projects they need to work on since they're home.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The only person who can stop you is you

I didn't accomplish a great deal on the writing front today--orthodontist appointment that took longer than usual plus grocery shopping in the rain/snow/no, rain/sleet? plus a preview of a rental copy of Grand Theft Auto 4, and it was noon before I knew it. (And no, I do not feel GTA 4 is appropriate for a 13 year old. Sorry, Joe, gonna have to play the mother card on that one.) I did, however, draft the cover letter for "The Blue Wall." Just need to fill in the final word count when I know that.

SF Novelists has a great post about rejections, today. I know Falconesse and I have discussed our odd reaction to rejection notices--how they sometimes feel like an energizing thing instead of a disheartening one. (Or maybe in addition to, which is even odder.) I think maybe Mr. McCullough has it figured out, at least in my case--rejections are good, because they're proof I'm working and finishing things and my stories are out there doing their thing, even if their thing at the moment is nothing more than not quite landing in the right place at the right time. He also offers some real words of truth and comfort to hold near to our little writerly hearts:
"...what a reject means at the editorial end is very simple: This story did not work for this editor on this day. That’s it."
So, my work list for the rest of this week: finish up "Blue Wall" and get it out there and maybe fiddle more with "Strong Enough" and "Moon" (the picture book level story). More importantly, though, Crowmaker has begun whispering again. So I will be making time to listen.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Back to work

Despite the allure of the new toys on my new computer, I managed to get "The Blue Wall" all but complete today. Another go-round for line level editing and a proofread, and it should be ready to go except for the cover letter and the preparing of envelopes. I gave it to Joey tonight, along with the really rough draft of "Strong Enough." His verdict? "Strong" did not suit his more mature sense of humor. (Read: "I am too cool to be reading your little kid stories now, Mom.") That's OK, I knew he'd be out of that interest level. I'll fix it up some and spring it on Michael, who's also out of that age range, but only just barely. "The Blue Wall," however: "It was cool." "So, you liked it, then?" "If it was a whole book, I'd read it, Mom."

So, "The Blue Wall" gets an overall thumbs up from the beta readers so far, along with much-treasured feedback on some little issues that I was then (hopefully) able to fix. Big hugs to the guys who allow me to spam them with my little stories.

The Writers of the Future blog has issued its first batch of Honorable Mentions for the 4th quarter. I'm not on it. Most likely they're from the folks who mailed in their stories before the final week of the quarter. More lists will be forthcoming soon, I imagine. At the risk of sounding ungrateful, I'd really like to not be on those, either.

I've mentioned that waiting is not my strong point, yes?

Sunday, November 9, 2008

A posh new office

OK, no. Not a whole new office. But the new computer is here, and I've set it up with a nifty Van Gogh wallpaper and gotten all my programs and files (mostly) installed and copied over and ready to go. The laptop decided it had a few breaths left in it after all, which made the task of remembering exactly what I had where MUCH easier, so getting my new space set up to my liking wasn't all that bad. I splurged and bought the Microsoft Office bundle this time instead of the freebie Microsoft Works, so I feel very fancy. And while I was waiting for stuff to download this afternoon, I played around with OneNote. I could probably learn to love it, but I also wonder if I'll make use of it. Sometimes I really need actual pieces of paper to shuffle around and scribble on--kind of like when I tried my hand at computer art and kept wishing I could reach into the screen with my bare hands and actually touch the pastels and paints to get them to do what I wanted.

At any rate, I am pleased. I have a handful of programs (um, games) left to install, but for the most part I am up and running and ready to write come tomorrow morning. I didn't accomplish much on the writing front last week, but I have had a week away from "The Blue Wall" now, so the plan is to try and get it wrapped up by Friday. That should still leave me with enough time to flesh out "Strong Enough" a little better, too. The little picture book level story I toyed with last week fell apart on me. It still seems to have a little sparkle, though, so maybe after a time-out it'll pick itself up again.

I just have to hope the Muse feels like getting back to work, too. She's been very quiet lately, but when I poke at her, she pokes back. A little. I think she's just laying low because there was no point in getting all fired up when the hardware was being uncooperative for us.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Mother of the teen

I am now the proud parent of an official teenager. I can feel the weepy tendency lurking around the periphery of my emotional center, which I expected--it's that kneejerk, "but my baby" maternal reaction to a child growing up. But really, he's growing up into such a nice young man. Not perfect, no, but in my (admittedly biased) opinion, he'll make a good man someday. He spent yesterday evening watching election results and discussing politics with my husband and myself. This morning, when the video camera battery finally decided to hold a charge, he performed a retelling of an African folktale on tape to take to school. I expected some nervous umming and fidgeting, but he was not only cool and collected, he was entertaining and amusing (in just the right places). He's smart, he's funny, and he's thoughtful (or at least he strives to be, as he continues to develop an understanding of not being the center of the universe, as children tend to believe). I'm proud of him, and I also just plain like spending time with him.

So, yeah. Happy birthday, my Joe-Bear.

In other news, my new computer is supposed to ship today. Hopefully I'll have it by the weekend so I can work on getting programs installed and files restored. I dug up an old ms for a very young children's story that I wrote in ancient times. In reading it again after several years, I can see that it has promise, but I can also see where it falls flat. The difference between then and now is... that I can SEE where it falls flat. Mostly. I did some revisions to it on Monday, but yesterday I just looked at it and couldn't decide what exactly it needed. My instinct is that I simply haven't spent enough time lately reading children's stories in that age range, and a trip to the library is probably in order, so I can get back into the feel and rhythm of those stories.

The downstairs half bath has a fresh coat of paint and is looking much happier. I got two coats with the roller yesterday, but I still need to do a second coat on the trim. For those of you who have never painted a bathroom before, it's all about trimming and trying to contort your body to get the brush into tight places. Smallest room in the house, biggest pain in the butt to paint. (Those of you who have painted a bathroom before were wincing and shuddering as soon as you heard the words "paint bathroom.")

So, for today: Do that second trim coat in the bathroom, take a shower, make a library trip if time allows. Tonight, it's all about taking Joey to his favorite Mexican place for enchiladas and fried ice cream. And hoping that neither of the boys has as much homework as they did last night.

Monday, November 3, 2008

The best laid plans

For those of you not present to hear my wail of agony at the time of the event, my computer has died. It went quietly, without fuss, and responded to no amount of first aid or pleading. It is just, plain and simple, dead.

The good news is, I've been wanting a desktop for a long time anyhow, so I've ordered one to replace the deceased laptop. The other good new is, I use MozyHome and back up to a flash drive on a semi-regular basis, so my files and documents should all be safely waiting for me in one, if not both, of those places. The bad new is, I'm guessing it'll be next week before I have the new computer and have everything installed and restored and running the way I like.

I am currently camped out at Michael's computer, which I have set up as the temporary printer-connected PC, so it's not like I'm completely out in the cold. I was going to work on "Strong Enough" this week, but since it's on WriteWay and I don't feel like installing that on this computer just to move it again in a week, I may instead work on one of the stories accessible through his word processing program, which merely entails finding a copy of the document on my flash drive. My original emergency plan was to just focus on some much-needed painting of bathrooms this week. But man, I really need a story to work on, too.

At any rate, yes I'm still here. I may be more quiet than usual this week, however.