Fingers in ears, eyes squeezed shut

So we saw The Movie last night and I loved it (particularly the most dramatic scene which I think plays out better onscreen than in the text), and I am going to a party Friday night and might stay up reading The Book.

But I want to be surprised so I am hereby boycotting news and blogs until Saturday. Shhh! Don’t tell me. I want to find out for myself!

In other news, I thought I’d point out that I am a real estate genius. (They should give me an infomercial, I swear.) I have lived in two of the recently designated top small towns to live in: #15 – Horsham, PA and #17 – Olney, MD. I hereby predict that Mexico, NY will soon rocket to the top.

Back to work.

Because running makes me feel like a kid

The Syracuse Susan Komen 5K race on Saturday was uplifting, inspiring, and a really good time. More than 7,500 people were there; 700 kids under the age of 12 ran in the Kids 1-Mile Race (BH and I cheered and whistled for them), several thousand did the 5K walk, and the rest of us ran the 5K proper. BH was very sweet and ran with me, even though he is much faster than I am. It felt so, so good to be with a crowd of people who were all there for one of the best causes in America.

::author blisses out for a moment::

Got up early this morning for a long, slow run. Normally I don’t run two days in a row (old knees), but I am going away again tomorrow and don’t think I’ll be able to get an exercise until Friday. My long-term goal is to run the Philadelphia Distance Run this year. It’s a half-marathon, aka 13.1 miles. If I want to run it without dying (I do not worry about running fast – I can’t – I just try to complete races without needing to be rushed to a hospital) I have to start logging more miles ASAP.

On my run I saw one sunrise, one Baltimore Oriole, and three red-winged blackbirds. Then I came home and ate a bagel and fried eggs. ::more bliss::

I am off to NYC tomorrow to chat with my agent and meet with my editors and talk about the next books I want to write. I am not bringing the computer with me (shocking, I know), but I will take pictures. I’ll be back Friday.

You asked for it – real life writing process example

Yesterday was a near perfect day. It was cold and snowy so I wrote by the fireplace all day, a mug of coffee in reach. I got in about 7 hours of writing, went to the gym with BH, ran on the treadmill at a decent pace (3.25 miles at a 1% incline in 30:18 minutes, for those of you who care about these things) , stretched, showered, visited my parents, ate leftover turkey soup for dinner, watched half a movie, and was asleep by 10 pm. Seriously – I adore days like that.

Let me tell you how the writing went. I am currently turning Part 2, Draft 3 of my WIP into Part 2, Draft 4. (Draft 4 of Part 1 is finished. It is 163 pages long, so I figure the total book might come in between 300-325 manuscript pages.)

Yesterday’s task was to smooth out the action in chapters 24 – 28, and to polish chapter 24 until it was so tight and bright I could see my face in it. After much jumping back and forth, I felt the pacing was off in the section. In chapters 21 – 23 there are several Very Dramatic Things that happen. Chapters 24 – 28 are kind of a breather, both for the characters and the readers. A fair amount of time passes and there are some subtle and important developments and the character changes her opinions about a few things. In Chapter 29, we again get a Big Honking plot twist that sends life on another wild ride for our main character.

But every time I read through it, something didn’t feel right. The character’s motivation was a little off – I figured that out by my second cup of coffee. That could be fixed by clarifying some of her dialog and giving a few more peeks into her head. But that wasn’t enough…. what wasn’t working?

Revision is a pain in the butt, no question about it. It is also a necessary part of writing. You need that flash of inspiration, sure, but (for me at least) if I don’t revise and hone that flash, it is wasted. In early drafts, I often throw in way too many characters, details and (in this case and in the case of FEVER 1793) too much historical research. This tends to make the book bloated and uncomfortable, like eating too much junk food.

I find it helpful to ask myself – at every scene – “what happens to the rest of the story if I throw this out?” If the answer is “Not much” than it is time to reach for the delete key.

After close examination, and a good lunch, I realized that Chapter 27 was a total waste of time. It was a talking-heads chapter in which my Main Character and someone else stand around (in a dynamic location – very cool – I hated cutting that) and talktalktalktalk – no action at all, no true furthering of the plot. So I threw out the entire chapter and renumbered everything else.

By the time we left for the gym, chapter 24 was in really good shape. Getting rid of 27 allowed me to see more clearly what had to happen in 24-26. Today’s goal in to rewrite Chapter 25 (minimum goal) and to rewrite 25 & 26 (maximum goal).

That’s the way it works in my head.

Back and flying

Ever have an experience that was so amazing on several levels that you don’t want to talk about for fear of somehow disturbing or diluting the memory?

That’s what the poetry weekend retreat was like for me. That’s also why you won’t be getting many details, except that it was a much-needed creative and spiritual boost. I will say that I had one of the best runs of my life, thanks to the freakish January weather. And I wrote a lot of poems – none are fit for public consumption.

Today is Christmas #3. The last of our brood is up visiting with a buddy and if they ever wake up, the presents are waiting under the tree. Tomorrow the decorations will come down and the new year will truly begin.

I finally figured out my Resolution. (Back story – I have been working on this for weeks. Instead of writing a resolution, I kept making to-do lists, which is a very different thing.) My resolution this year is to live with kavannah, a Hebrew word that refers to mindfulness, especially in prayer, directing the energies of the heart, and an awareness that I rarely have, and would very much like to cultivate. When I get busy, I tend to let life blur around me, and then I complain about it. I don’t want to do that anymore. So I will work on being a little slower and a little more aware this year. Yay! (Thanks, Deb H., for the word I was looking for.)

Last night we celebrated my mom’s 76th birthday. The best part was watching her argue with dad because they couldn’t agree how old she was. Heh.

Back to deadlining….

More great reasons to move to Central New York

This part of the country is quickly becoming a literary hub in the United States. There is already a very long list of authors, poets, and illustrators who live here. Then Suzan-Lori Parks moved here a few months ago.

And the latest news?

Tamora Pierce is moving here, too. Yep. It’s the truth.

See, I told you this is the best place in the world.

For those of you lucky enough to live here – I know what you want to do on Saturday. You want to participate in the 10th annual Paige’s Butterfly Run. This run is held in the memory of Paige Yeomans Arnold, a strong, gentle, beautiful child who died of leukemia in 1994. The Run raises money for cancer research, to support families who have a child fighting cancer, and for a scholarship in Paige’s honor.

You can participate in a certified 5K run, or (if you are out of shape like me) you can enjoy the 3K fun run/walk. BH and I will both be there. I’ll probably be bringing up the rear. You have to register by tomorrow, though, so hurry!

Paige’s mother, Ellen Yeomans, is a dear friend of mine. Not only is she a terrific author, but she is the area’s SCBWI regional adviser, and she teaches courses in children’s literature. She is one of the movers and shakers who are defining the area as a literary hub.