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

continuing the conversation

A thread about writing popped up in the Comments yesterday. Since some people don’t read the Comments, I figured it would be more useful if I responded here.

The first question was: Because of the crushing deadlines you (and many other authors) encounter, have you ever thought of an additional scene that you might have wanted to add to any of your stories after the book was finalized and sent to the printer?

No, I never think of additional scenes after the book comes out. Despite the deadline pressure, the book doesn’t go out until it is ready. I’ve never had to ask a publisher to move a publication date, but if it came to that, I would. The integrity of the book is the most important thing.

But I have thought about putting some of the “cutting room floor” scenes on my website, after the books have been out for a while, so that fans could read them. I’m sure they would lead to interesting discussions.

The only problem is that my webmaster is already overwhelmed with work and I’m afraid if I ask for anything extra at this point, he’ll move to a desert island.

Follow up question! 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?

I start at the beginning and stumble forward, though I usually have several later scenes in mind before I ever set down the first word. In early drafts, there are chapters that are fully fleshed out with narrative, dialog, action, and story momentum. But there are also chapters that contain only a few lines that say something like “Main Character does something profoundly stupid that sets up the consequences in Chapter 30. Also, the sub-plot with the mermaid needs to be brought up. Add imagery of seashells?”

As I move through draft after draft, I figure out if, in fact, I need the chapter in question. If I do, the scenes that carry the proper load of the storytelling kind of show up in my brain. That’s the magic part. I cannot explain how that happens. It just does.

Other questions?

2008 Resolution Tracker
Week 8 – Miles Run: 24.25, YTD: 171
Week 8 – Days Written: 7, YTD: 56

44 weeks left this year.

quick breath

I am dashing outside the Cave of Revision for a quick breath of fresh air. All is going fairly well. I am working long days, but love being so submerged in my story. One of the characters is now found only on the cutting room floor. Eliminating her cleared up all kinds of structural problems in the text.

Now if I could just get rid of the hamsters who have taken up residence in my lungs, life would be peachy. I am coughing like a seal with a three-pack a day habit, a seal who hangs out under the dock and steals French fries from unsuspecting tourists, a seal who works as a carnie with a traveling fair and writes rambling screeds about walrus conspiracy theories. I sound like a Seal Gone Bad.

Thanks to a generous contribution from Mary Pearson and Aliya, who contributed from England (!), I am 94% on the way to making my Team in Training fund raising goal. All I need is another $150. Will you put me over the top?

OK, the fresh air is killing me. Back into the cave I go.

2008 Resolution Tracker
Week 7 – Miles Run: 22, YTD: 146.75
Week 7 – Days Written: 7, YTD: 49

45 weeks left this year.

Huzzahs and magnifying glasses

We got about 18 inches of snow yesterday. The Forest looks like someone painted it with thick fondant icing. I drove through a white-out down to Syracuse (where they didn’t get any of the storm at all, not even a flake) so I could talk about writing historical fiction to a group of teachers.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic These weary warriors had worked all day, then came to the OCM BOCES for my talk, which is part of an ongoing series for history teachers. Thank you all for your kind attention and for the pickles.

Today is a spinning plate day. I have to go over the page proofs for Independent Dames with magnifying glasses and a fine-toothed comb, work on my WIP draft, send more content to Theo for the website update, deal with old email and sneak in a run.

Speaking of running (yeah, you knew that was coming, didn’t you?)…. I am 81% of the way to reaching my fundraising goal for the the Team in Training Half Marathon. (The money goes to fund cancer research, which pretty much affects everyone, so share some love. Please.) I will send a copy of the TWISTED audio version to whomever puts me over the top!

And thank you, kmessner for the shout-out!

Last but not least, my daughter Stef sent along a link to an article about the increasing number of women facing sexual assault on college campuses after drinking alcohol. The article slams the researchers for their approach to the issue. Comments, anyone?

2008 Resolution Tracker
Week 6 – Miles Run: 20 (3.1 of which were rather chilly), YTD: 124.75
Week 6 – Days Written: 7, YTD: 42

46 weeks left this year.