Tuesday, September 27, 2011

WIP Diary: We're Through!

You know why? Because I finally finished This Damned Book!!! That's right, at 9:00 last night, this monstrous, out-of-control thing finally wrapped up. I'm thinking it might have one of the longest, most drawn-out endings in YA history, but I don't care. I love it. It makes me happy to see it all tied up in dozens of pretty pink ribbons.

And I managed to finish it while distracted by day job angst, Christopher Plummer's loin cloth, a jackwagon neighbor who seems to believe that the way to fix a car is to repeatedly rev the engine right outside my window all flipping day long, and my deep concern over the fact that Dante Falconeri currently lies bleeding to death on the floor of Sonny Corinthos' coffee warehouse! That, my friends, is dedication.

At this point, I choose not to think (too much) about how many years I spent writing this thing. (Because A#1, I choose not to make myself any crazier than I already am.) Though I do wonder why I stuck with it. It's not like it's going to rival War and Peace or change anyone's life or anything. It ain't that kind of a book.

But it is my book and my characters and once they had taken life inside my head, I couldn't walk away from them. Oh, I tried. There was a whole year in there where I just completely abandoned them. But I kept thinking of them, home alone, living off of saltines and ketchup, and I had to go back and take care of them. Because that's the thing my writer friend keeps telling me. You are your characters' only chance. If you don't care about your characters, nobody else will. You owe it to them to give them every chance to live and breathe.

At this point, I'm not going to think in terms of revision or the possibility of having to cut drastically. (Maybe it's a blessing it did take me this long because if I'd finished a book this size five years ago, no one would have considered it. Now, a door stopper like this doesn't raise an eyebrow.)

But it's hard not to wonder if it will sell, if anyone but me will love not just the characters, but the frivolous details, the relatively pointless asides and extraneous interactions.

Whether it sells or not, it's done. It pleases me. It pleases me that I finished it. And now my terrier brain can move on to the Next Damned Book.

Final Statistics:

506 pages
125,089 words
6 kisses
1 death
3 sisters
1 cat
2 balls
1 muselar
3 handsome men
1 cold mama
3 dresses made out of curtains
1 snippy housemaid
and a curse

Monday, September 26, 2011

WIP Diary: La C'eran Baci

So stuff keeps happening to draw this ending out. I am violating every rule and tenet of structure here but I don't care. I'm just letting TDB roll out the way it wants to.

But I must say that at this point, I am rather tired of describing kisses. You see, there's been a bit of a pile-up of kissing in the last quarter of this novel. All of a sudden, everyone wants to kiss my MC.

Don't get me wrong. I enjoy kissing. It's a very nice thing we humans have lit upon. But after about the fourth or fifth one, you run out of ways to describe the texture of lips and the spreading warmth of sensation a really good kiss can provide. In short, breaking kisses down into technical description gets annoying after awhile.

Today, I'm going back through the last couple of chapters to add in some details that I skated over. Oh, I know, you're not supposed to write this way. But you know what? This is the way I write. My mind won't be happy until we go back and make sure we've made it clear that James's shirt has been ripped open there in chapter forty-eight.

And then...and then...I might be able to finish today. Do you think I will??? Is this E-Day? (Ending day!) Stay Tuned.

Friday, September 23, 2011

WIP Diary: It's a Surprise Party In Here

So the other day, I'm all angsty about how there won't be a happy ending to This Damned Book because I was so smugly certain it just wouldn't work out that way.


I was wrong. Once I shut up, let go of the anxiety of rushing to the finish and just let my characters do what they wanted to do, guess what they did? Well, I probably shouldn't tell you, but it wasn't what I fully expected to happen, what I was actually planning to write.

Once again, this is the kind of stuff that makes you sound like a prime candidate for the laughing academy, but it's not as freaky weird as it sounds. It's about listening to the characters. Wait, no. That still sounds freaky, like you think they're actually real people or something. But that's getting closer to it.

Look, I know they're not real but the thing is, I want them to seem like they are to the reader, so I have to remember that when I'm writing, remember that they have reactions according to their own feelings that may not necessarily fit into where I think the story should go and I fail to listen to them at my peril.

Must go to the day job. Hoping to get to the end by early next week!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

WIP Diary: Give Me Just a Denoueminute

(I know these entries are coming fast and furious now, but that's because I'm nearly done!)

So, as feared, the denouement is spinning out of control, heading into the third chapter of tying things up. The big problem is all the explanations. There was so much my MC didn't know that the reader also didn't know and it all needs to be explained clearly, quickly and realistically. Man, I hope this works.

And then there are all of the relationships to resolve. There is no room here for a romantic happily ever after. It wouldn't be realistic anyway. It would take a whole 'nother book. (And no, I ain't writing no sequel to TDB!) So I have to somehow set up a satisfying close that is really an opening, that will let the reader know that yes, this will happen in the future. Is that going to be satisfying enough? I don't know. I guess I'd better go work on that and see how it turns out.

Monday, September 19, 2011

WIP Diary: Dear Brain, Remember Me?

One of the great things about writing--the things you can never admit to non-writers because they will look at you oddly and back away very veerrrrrrry slowly so they don't startle you into a violent act--is when your brain knows more than you do. When it does stuff without telling you why. You know what I mean? (Please don't say "Nooooo, Melissa. Nobody else is this weird.")

So here are a couple of examples from this damned book (which I'm thinking of abbreviating as TDB) I'm working on:

Early on in the book, a cat showed up. I like cats a lot (I just can't live with them--the hair, you see.) So I figured a cat was a good thing to have in a book and I'd let her stay. I didn't think she was important and from time to time, I'd consider just cutting her because it was sometimes difficult to remember to keep her in scene. But my brain knew she was important and wouldn't let me cut her.

And damned if my brain wasn't right. Come the climax, the cat was a key to getting my heroine out of a sticky situation.

And then there was the cloak. At the beginning of the climax, one of the characters put on his cloak. Now this is a big old bloated book and I'm looking to trim words anywhere and wherever I can, so I was going to take out the bit about the cloak. It wasn't important. It wasn't needed. Who cared if he was wearing a cloak or not (sexy as cloaks may be.)

But no, my brain said. Do not touch the cloak on pain of screwing this thing up yet again! So I left the cloak. Now it didn't turn into some pivotal plot point, but there is a moment that would be far less poetic if this guy hadn't been wearing a cloak.

So you see, my brain knows more than I do sometimes. I try not to take it personally and I'm learning to just do as my brain tells me as much as possible.

I had this happen to great effect in Raising the Griffin, too. I had provided Alexei with a horse because I like horses and guys on horses are very sexy. But again, the whole horse thing was taking up a lot of room and I started wondering if it was really all that important. Then I reached a point in the story where I needed something that the people of Rovenia could give to Alexei and whoa! There it was! The horse! They could give him back the horse he had to leave behind.

If you read that book, it looks like I had that all planned out, doesn't it? Maybe I'm being stupid for publicly admitting that it was a huge surprise to me. But there it is. This is one of the cool cool things about writing for me, these secret brain surprises.

But back to the WIP (TDB), this week, I am working on the denouement and trying to ignore the feeling that it is spinning out of control. I was comfortable with the idea that it would be a long denouement that would nicely tie up all of the loose ends of the story into pretty little bows. (I think it's the kind of story that calls for that. You can't leave nearly 500 pages of painstakingly detailed fluff on a spare, stylistic question mark.)

But right now, I seem to be in a mire of explanation and that feels a little deadly. But I'm going to go ahead and write it all out and then go back and see how it feels. The problem is that it's a kind of secondary character who is doing all of the explaining and it just feels weird for some reason. Just not quite sure why, yet. But we'll see.

So today is "work my way back in" day. I work three days a week (the horror, I know) and there is little time to think of writing on those days. Work consumes me entirely. And it's hard for me to just leap back into the writing after a break of several days like that. If anyone has any tricks on how to do that efficiently and quickly, I'd love to hear about them!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

WIP Diary: The End is Near!

I finally finally finally worked my way through the climax of this story. I think shifting a load of coal would have been easier. Dirtier, but easier. This was bloody hard work.

I was trying to describe the process to writer friends, thinking there ought to be a very good analogy for it. The best I could come up with is having a massive snarl in your hair where you have to go back and comb and comb this bit and that bit until you get it all worked out. But that's not quite accurate either.

See, here's how my process works. (And "works" is a very loose term.) I write largely linearly. In that I start at the beginning and write to the end. Ideally, that is. I do occasionally write out scenelets and snippets out of order as inspiration strikes. And I do spend an awful lot of time backtracking. This usually happens when I get stuck. I get stuck because something I've written previously is wrong and I just have to go back and rewrite until I figure it out. This is why the shitty first draft has never worked for me. My brain just doesn't work that way.

Now the problem with the climax is that it's not only the point where the action of the book leads, the point where the problem posed to the main character is resolved (or not, as the story desires,) but it is also where the theme of the book--er--crystallizes. Or something.

My problem is that I almost never know what my theme is. No different with this project. Naturally, that complicated figuring out how the climax should play out. I had to keep writing out thoughts and dialogue that weren't going to end up in the scene in order for me to understand what was really going on with the characters.

The climax was the first time we really "see" this pivotal character. Her presence has been felt all along, but now she finally gets a voice and the opportunity to give her side of things. I don't think I realized until I started writing it out just how important that was. Suddenly, I couldn't make her do what I thought she had to do in order to bring my climax around to a resolution.

Instead, I had to go back to this event that had happened long before the action of the book, an event that I had already described from another character's POV. I had to understand it from hers. Even though she takes up such a small amount of page space, understanding her is important. Understanding why she is doing what she's doing is crucial for my MC because the final choice is going to come down to her.

One of the great challenges of this book has been letting go my notions of what a book should do and be (structurally, mainly) and allowing this book to roll out the way it needs to roll out. Be what it wants to be. I think I've been resisting that all along. First, I've been resisting the length the book needs to be. And maybe I've been resisting what the book is really about. That I'm not sure of because I think that will be revealed as I work through the denouement.

So that's the next challenge. I'm still not sure what my MC thinks about all that has happened! If I can figure that out, I may very soon be able to write "The End!"

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Untitled poem by Edna St. Vincent Millay

Deep in the muck of unregarded doom,
Where none can make a conquest, none have room
To stretch an aching muscle,--there might be
Interstices where impulse could go free...
There, where accomplishment cannot achieve,
Valour defend, religion quite believe,
Or vengeance plot behavior,--there may still
Be cracks, uneasy instinct well might fill
And even worm it's way along, until
All might begin again; and Man receive
In prospect, what he never can retrieve.