Foggy Lincoln morn

I am writing this in the Springfield, IL airport, which is wrapped in fog so thick the planes can’t land or take off.

Yesterday was a crazy busy wonderful day at one of the best state reading/English teacher conferences I have ever been privileged to attend. Thank you to everyone in IL who greeted me to kindly and made a long day a lot of fun. I gave the lunch speech, a workshop on revision, and a workshop in which I divulged the “stories behind the stories”of my novels. And met a lot of very enthusiastic teachers at three book signing sessions. AND, last night, I read a chapter of CHAINS for the first time in public, which went over very well.

I ran into a couple of old and new friends, but didn’t have much time to chat.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic Lisa Yee and her traveling Peep.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic Richard Peck and I chatted while waiting for our suitcases and in line for coffee.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic I just gawked at Brian Selznik

Image and video hosting by TinyPic This teacher was so, so, so sweet because she looked through DAMES and made all the right cooing noises and exclamations. And I am a heel for forgetting her name, but I will always remember how happy she made me.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic I met Liz last year when I was in St. Louis on book tour; we got to hang out a bit and talk about historical fiction.

OK, fog is lifting, plane is boarding. Thank you, Fine Teachers of the Land of Lincoln! I salute you!

Writing questions & paperback date

It’s hard to believe that a year ago that I was getting ready for the TWISTED book tour, and was a nervous mess waiting for people to read the book. It’s kind of weird because this week – seemingly out of the blue – I have gotten many letters and emails from teen readers about the book. Posting snippets of the letters would probably push me from blatant self-promotion into self-absorbed obnoxiousness, so I won’t. But trust me, they’re really nice.

I found out yesterday from my editor Sharyn that TWISTED just won some lovely recognition, but I don’t think I can go public with it for another week. I’m just going to sit here and glow quietly.

TEACHERS, FYI! In the middle of May, TWISTED will be released in paperback, which makes it a perfect book for your summer reading list.

More writing questions: Do you always write chapter by chapter when you draft? Or do you ever end up with gaps in the initial draft that you have to go back and fill?

No, I don’t write chapter by chapter. I generally start at what I think is the beginning and aim for what I think is the end, but those are guidelines, not rules. I always wind up with holes. Going back and figuring out what belongs in the holes is fun. The trick is to play out one of the story threads naturally, not to cram in a scene just so have something in Chapter 7. If it doesn’t fit, throw it out.

How did you know it [the manuscript/book] was ready then? How did that work? …and a related one… how long do you wait to regain objectivity before revising the first time and do you have any tricks for increasing objectivity?

I feel like I’ve already answered this, but I can’t find the post, so I’ll do it again, because it’s a good question. Finding objectivity is one of the hardest things we do. I don’t think any writer can ever become fully objective about her work. Putting it away for a month and not looking at it helps. Then – before you read it – give it to three trusted readers; people who read a lot for fun and respect you enough to be honest. (DO NOT give it to relatives or lovers!) Ask them to read it and write down the three aspects of the story that are working the best, and the three that are the most confusing.

Next: take a copy of your story to a new location; NOT where you wrote it. Go to an independent bookstore, a coffee shop, a park, a nice hotel lobby. Read their comments first, then read the manuscript. If you can’t find anything you want to change, you’re done.

Other questions, Readers of the Forest?

After today’s work, I’ll be packing for tomorrow’s trip to Springfield, IL, where I’ll be speaking at the Illinois Reading Council’s Annual Conference. Are you going? This is where you can find me:

Thur. 3/13 8am: From Speak to Twisted

Thur. 3/13 11:45am: Luncheon speech

Thur. 3/13 3pm: Revision Secrets

Wednesday and Friday will be spent in airports and on planes.

2008 Resolution Tracker
Week 10 – Miles Run: 20, YTD: 218.25 (my right knee feels like it was more)
Week 10 – Days Written: 7, YTD: 70

Another reason why I love my Honda Fit & husband

Saturday night’s storm knocked out our electricity and there was so much snow, we couldn’t get out the driveway. Normally this wouldn’t have been a big deal, but I promised an editor a bunch of stuff would be delivered this morning and the battery on my laptop was drained dry. Big problem, frantic author.

Beloved Husband to the rescue! Scot is an old school Yankee tinkerer, a slightly-aged Boy Scout who loves improvising, and he saved the day.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic He turned my little red car into an office.

First he cracked open the doors of the garage so I wouldn’t asphyxiate. Turned on my lovely car (it often gets 40 miles per gallon, btw) and cranked the heat. Plugged the inverter into the 12-volt jack (the thing we used to call a cigarette lighter). Plugged my laptop into the inverter. Carried down all of my research books and stacked them on the passenger seat. Fired up the laptop.

I worked out there all morning, enjoyed the tea that Scot brought out at 10:30am. When the power came back on at lunchtime, I moved into the house and kept working without missing a beat. Wrote until dinner and a little bit after that and accomplished my goal.

As promised, this week I’ll answer some of the writing process questions. that you guys have sent in. Today’s questions come from who writes: Do you ever have to adjust the overall pacing of the story, and if so how do you approach that?

Once the stinky first draft is done, I do a lot of tinkering with the pacing. It takes a little time to get the perspective that allows me to see the entire story, but once I can, I examine each thread of the story to make sure the events that pull it forward unfold in a way that makes sense, both for that thread and for the larger story. I make a time line of events on a huge sheet of paper. Once I see things on the time line, I usually make changes; speeding up some sections, slowing down others.

How do you think through making a character change over the course of a novel?

To be honest, I don’t give that part much thought. I focus on creating situations that force the character out of her/his comfort zone, raising the emotional stakes as I go along. If I’ve developed conflicts that are organic and in keeping with the character’s world, her/his response to the conflicts will naturally lead to internal growth.

More tomorrow. Right now I have more writing to do, and a long run later if I’m a very good girl. It’s ten degrees outside… I’ll be running on a treadmill.


::dances around office::

Taxes are done! Taxes are done! Taxes are done! Now they go to the accountant and (::crosses fingers::) he’ll review everything and tell me my estimated quarterly payments were enough.

I promise that this week I will answer the extremely good questions about the writing process sent in by a bunch of you guys. The rest of the weekend is devoted to some work for Editor #1 and a phone call with Editor #2 to discuss the draft I sent her last week.

Before I dive back into my source notes and scribble madly, a few concluding pics from Chattanooga, TN, plus a gorgeous picture from the hinterlands.

The morning I left, I stopped at Hixson High School….

and did Laurie put all of the students to sleep?

Not my favorite thing

I am preparing my taxes for my accountant.

I am mathematically-challenged. This is a root canal without anesthesia.

Tax season is when being self-employed and having to find all the receipts and add everything up in neat columns of numbers that do not change when you double-check them suddenly seems like a very silly idea.

I’ll post the last Chattanooga pics and return to a state of cheerfulness when I’m finished.