Friday, December 28, 2007

Maybe I'm Going To Need A Fifth Draft

Much of the kidlitosphere appears to be either on vacation or Cybilizing. I wish. At least to the vacation part. The endurance test that is the holidays won't be over for me until January 1st. In addition, I am still trying to write a crappy last chapter for The Durand Cousins, which will mean that I have a completed fourth draft. If I am able to get up around 5 or 5:30 (as I did this morning) for the next three days, I may be able to do it. And I will be very grateful, no matter what the quality.

While working today, though, I realized that a chunk that I wrote yesterday really ought to appear earlier in the book. A big factor in this decision was reading What Writers Can Learn From The Golden Compass yesterday. I'm sure that at some point I would have picked up on the fact that I hadn't planted enough "subtle signposts along the way" as Laini Taylor said, and I had been asking a central question. But I need to ask another in order to make the ending work. Otherwise, it just comes out of nowhere, which is probably why I've been having problems with it so long. As Laini said, a big moment doesn't have much power if it isn't set up properly.

Oddly enough, this doesn't bother me as much as you'd think it would. Though I really do hope to get the crappy end chapter done this weekend.

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Saturday, December 22, 2007

Like More Drafts But Different

I've rewritten the first 2,000 words of the last chapter of The Durand Cousins three times. That's sort of like doing three drafts, isn't it? Reworking that stuff over and over is keeping me from pushing straight through and finishing by Christmas Eve.

I'm also worrying that 2,000 words is seven pages, and I'm not even near the climactic moment. And then you need a little post climax denouement. I'm afraid I'm not on the last chapter at all.


Friday, December 14, 2007

Slice And Dice

You will recall, I'm sure, how back in October I was doing posts on my daily output of work on The Durand Cousins. I stopped doing that when my third draft came to a screeching halt because I didn't have an ending. (And because my computer guy complained that I was boring him to death.)

Well, I'm rapidly approaching the end of the fourth draft, though the ending will actually be a first draft because while it will be my third ending, I never actually wrote either of the first two. I'm revising away on all this stuff I was cranking out like mad and feeling so good about a couple of months ago, and thinking, Oh, man. Whatever made me think this was worth writing down?

A lot of stuff is going. A new thread is being added. And now I'm wondering whatever is making me think this new stuff is worth writing down? If the stuff I thought was so great a couple of months ago, wasn't, what makes me think this is any better?

Though, actually, to be honest, a couple of months ago I was just trying to generate words. That may not have been a bad idea. We won't know for another few months. Or even a year. Like they say, only time will tell. It's hard to have to rely on time's judgment.


Friday, October 12, 2007

Good News And Bad News

The good news is that today I finished rewriting the first eight chapters of The Durand Cousins. The bad news is that I began that job at the beginning of August.

Part of the reason it took me so long is that I couldn't just rearrange text as I'd hoped. In order to do what I wanted to do, I had to generate new text as well as rework some of what I'd already done. I have ten thousand more words and two more chapters than I originally had.

I think I'm three-quarters of the way through this draft, with all new work to come. I do think I know what I'm going to be writing, though, which can only be a help now, can't it?

When I finish, I'm going to take a week off to let the dust settle and then start over again. My hope is to take this first-person draft and rework it as third person. The first person draft is generating material, but I really want to write a third-person book.

I have done it before, so it's not as if I'm hoping for a miracle.

Work has been going very, very well this past week and a half. Not only have I been meeting my daily goals, but sometimes going far beyond them.

I'm feeling a little anxious about that next third-person draft. I tried to write A Girl, a Boy, and a Monster Cat in the third person, but it kept sounding instructional, like something from the nineteenth century. So yesterday while I was at the library, I found some third person novels to try to get myself into the proper mindset.

Oh, and by the way, I didn't play Spider Solitaire once this week. No doubt that was a factor in my improved productivity.

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Wednesday, October 03, 2007

But I Don't Whiiiiiiiine

Yesterday I did around a thousand words on The Durand Cousins, and today I did around twelve hundred. Unfortunately, today's twelve hundred words replaces yesterday's one thousand.

I know I shouldn't be revising at this point--I should be pushing through to the end. But one of the things I keep doing with this book is whining. (Sort of like I do here.) And once I get bogged down in the whine, I have trouble with a voice that drives the story. It's almost as if having the correct voice generates material.

That was today's reason for revising. By the way, I wasn't planning to revise when I sat down at the computer. But, as I said, I really was stuck in a whine bog, and you can't just walk out of something like that.

I've nearly revised all the material I decided to revise when I realized some time ago that I was bogged down in whining. Unfortunately, that time I didn't notice the problem until I'd done around forty thousand words.

Here's the sad thing--When I finally finish this first draft, having started over a couple of times and reworked all kinds of material before I get there--I'll still have a crappy first draft. Yet I will be so happy because I won't have a couple of hundred blank pages.

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Friday, September 14, 2007

Of Course

Things have been going pretty well the last couple of weeks with the most recent startover on the first draft of The Durand Cousins. Things started to improve when I gave up on the assassin thing. That just wasn't working for me.

I've frequently hit my word goal and sometimes gone over by quite a bit. Yesterday I was scribbling away on it while waiting to have my oil changed. I was still deep into the story while driving home and forgot to stop for gas.

That's good for me.

So, of course, it's time to take off for a week's vacation!

I may be able to post from a family member's home sometime next week, but otherwise Original Content will be going dark until September 22.

My book bag is packed and already in the car.

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This Is Killing Me, Killing Me

The Cybillers are getting started pulling together panelists and judges for this year's Cybils Award. I had a great time serving on the Fantasy and SciFi Panel last year. For a hardcore reader to have a serious excuse to read intensely at all times of the day and night and to receive books--sometimes by the armful--delivered to her door is just incredible. On top of that, I had my Cybil friends to e-mail with about books. Really, I was living the life God meant me to live. I'm sure of it.

I think the Cybils are going to become an important award because 1. the nominations come from the public, and 2. bloggers can write about any of the books, not just the finalists, while they're under consideration, thus giving needed publicity to books and authors. It is truly a unique award.

Though I loved being part of the Cybils and I think they're important, I'm going to force myself to pass on getting involved with them this year because I need to pay more attention to work this fall and winter than I did last year. Not only did I blow off everything while Cybilizing, it took me a month and a half to get myself back into anything remotely like a work mode.

But if you're a blogger who would love to read for a greater good, this is a wonderful opportunity. Look into it.

Actually, my Cybils experience did help me get The Durand Cousins off the ground, even though I wasn't working on it that much during December. What happened was that I was reading all that scifi and fantasy so I'm sort of in scifi/fantasy mode. I'm simmering in it. The Durand Cousins has a science fiction element, and I needed an initial starting point for one thread to make everything work. I'm thinking and thinking about this, I don't know what I'm going to do. But, remember, scifi and fantasy was my life just then.

So one day I'm riding in the car, in a scifi/fantasy fog, when all of a sudden an idea springs fully formed into my mind. I realize that I can use the basic premise of a book I tried to write right after I got out of college. And I did use it. Only time will tell if it worked, but it made it possible for me to procede with this project.

Another great moment in Gail's Cybils experience

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Sunday, August 12, 2007

Immersion Theory

I think I may have mentioned here before that the more I work, the more I can work. Earlier this summer I was knocking off a thousand words a day on The Durand Cousins, which is a very good pace for me. I was able to do it because I was able to stay immersed in the work. If I went for a walk, I got ideas. If I was driving in the car, I got ideas. Any non-writing moment might trigger a breakout experience and an idea. I'd outline that idea in a story file so it would be ready when I was back working on my thousand-word-a-day objective. (My goal being to finish this draft.)

At the Chapter 8 point, nearly 40,000 words in, I ground to a halt because in order to go on, I needed to rethink. I'd done lots of angst and misery and was now getting to a thriller point, way, way too late in the work. I needed some yippee kai yay much sooner. Things were dragging and it was going to be hard to slog on to the end just so I could have a draft of some kind.

In order to rework the earlier material (I had already started over once before after getting to Chapter 3), I had to do some thinking but I was thinking without being immersed in the material because I was no longer doing a thousand words a day. In addition, one life-related thing would come up and then another, and I didn't work at all for days.

Again, no immersion.

It was a real effort to finally get started. I only began really roaring toward the end of last week.

So yesterday was Saturday. I don't usually work on weekends, though during that thousand-word-a-day period I was always coming up with ideas and jotting things down in that story file I mentioned earlier. But, anyway, yesterday at mid-day, I was getting ready to go to a birthday party, which meant taking a shower because I'd been doing unpleasant things earlier in the morning. I'm in the shower, and my mind starts madly cranking out material for the next scene for The Durand Cousins. I had to dry off and get dressed as fast as I could so I could go downstairs and get this stuff down so I could run with it on Monday.

I was a half hour later arriving at this party then I'd planned, and I was already planning to get there late. It worked out, though, because when I went up to the guest of honor's table to say hello, I was invited to sit with her. Like that would have happened if I'd arrived there on time.

I'm telling you, immersion works.

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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Is It Worse To Be Obscene Or Profane?

Or should I say, Is it better to be obscene or profane?

One of my listservs has been having a discussion of "cursing and YA books." This began with a question about whether cursing among teenagers is common everywhere. I think that's a legitimate and interesting question. The language in Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist (which is always brought up when cursin' and cussin' are discussed) reflects a certain sophisticated urban lifestyle. But will kids all over the country recognize it as their own? In spite of the way TV, movies, advertising, and books tend to create a uniform culture, this is still a big country. Buy a local newspaper when you're traveling, and you'll see that people in different parts of the U.S. have different concerns. Are we all the same?

Well, to get on with the subject at hand, only recently in the listserv's discussion has anyone brought up the point that obscenity and profanity are different things. Obscenity is, for example, that word both Nick and Norah used nearly every sentence. Profanity is breaking the...uh...uh...oh, the third commandment--"Thou shall not take the name of the Lord in vain."

Which is more acceptable? In particular, which is more acceptable in a children's book?

This question is weighing on my mind right now, because I've realized that the adults in The Durand Cousins are not the types to say, "Oh, fudge" when they need to unburden themselves of angst or frustration. And they have plenty to be angsty and frustrated about. Would they lean toward expressing themselves with vulgarities or with rants to God?

In my own experience as a child and teenager, the adults in my family used just the most basic garden variety obscenities. Many of them, though,"spoke" with Jesus requently. In fact, they were on such close terms that they knew that his middle name began with H. My cousin used to say that he wasn't swearing, he was asking the Lord for help. And when I was growing up in Vermont, we all said Jeezum Crow. (You really need to draw out the vowels in that expression.) I was in college or older before I found out what that was a stand-in for.

I had to deal with the profanity issue once before while writing The Hero of Ticonderoga. Ethan Allen figured prominently in that book. His use of profanity was (and is) legendary and well documented. Before I began writing the book, I e-mailed my editor and asked, "Just how many times can you use 'god damn' in a kids' book?" (Three times in my case.)

Determining whether to go with obscenity or profanity--jeezum crow, what a thing to be spending my time on, eh?


Thursday, June 21, 2007

Take Your Best Shot

It's still early in the day here on the east coast. Go ahead and take your shot at winning your own copy of A Girl, a Boy, and a Monster Cat.

What will I be doing on this exciting publication day? Well, in less than an hour and a half I will being tested on anything my sambumnim wants to test me on. Say, the seven different ways I'm supposed to know to disarm an assailant with a gun or the...ah...ah...maybe nine or ten ways I'm supposed to know to protect myself from an attack with a joon bong. And then you have the twenty-seven step-sparring techniques. And...ah...some other stuff.

And when I get home, I need to knock off a thousand words on The Durand Cousins. The last three or four days I've worked on that manuscript, I've managed to write a thousand words or better a day. Now, I know many writers won't get out of bed for a mere thousand words. But it's good for me.

My point is, by the time a book is actually published, a writer ought to have moved on to something else. This one ought to, anyway.

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Sunday, April 29, 2007

I'm On Some Kind Of Writing Quest

On Friday I spent several hours generating more information for my new project. Then I started thinking about doing some first-person work on my characters, though this is going to be a third-person book. (

Then over the weekend, I decided to rewrite everything I've done so far from the first-person point-of-view of my point-of-view character and then translate it back into third person. If this works, I may write the whole thing in first person and then translate it into third.

This may be one of the more masochistic things I've done.

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Monday, April 23, 2007

Gail's Progress

The Durand Cousins: I broke ten thousand words today. They aren't ten thousand particularly good words, but it's really important that you not let yourself be burdened by worrying about quality with a first draft. At which point do you worry about quality? A good question.

An Incomplete Education: I'm on page 63 (out of 600+). While I still can't seem to retain much about literature or art, I feel that I now have a pretty good grasp of the Dredd Scott Decision.

NOTE: I wasn't on page 63 of An Incomplete Education. I was on page 93. Heck, I'm almost done!

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