Wednesday, January 29, 2003

I was up until 3:00 this morning finally breaking my YA novel into chapters--remind me to write novels in chapters from now on! It flowed out faster without them, but now may lack a good structure or obvious places to break the chapters. I've already changed the chapter breaks around more today. And I'm really not sure what a good number of chapters is, or how long they should be. At the moment I have 39 chapters of approximately 1,000 to 2,000 words apiece (most between 1,200 and 1,800 words). I'm also trying to write a concise synopsis of it for the SCBWI grant competition. I haven't managed to get it onto one page, but it only goes one paragraph onto the second page, so that may not be too bad.

My writers' retreat was both stressful and addictive! I found myself frazzled a lot and unsure of myself--and got nothing written at all--but I loved the creative atmosphere and the social aspects, hanging out with other writers all weekend, and would love to go back now! I still haven't quite come down from it. My critique session was a bit odd, since the editor didn't like the premise of my story enough to do a thorough critique of it, but at the same time she treated me like a real writer and seemed to think I had skill at writing. The resulting feeling was something like the dissonant "vertigo zoom" camera shots they sometimes use in movies, where the camera moves further back while the lens zooms in. She was particularly enthusiastic about my ability to write in rhyme--interesting to me since children's writers are always cautioned against writing in rhyme. I was not sure what to think afterwards, but once I got over my surprise about her analysis of my chapter book, I relaxed and had a great time!

Thursday, January 23, 2003

I don't think it was the most relevant thing I could have been doing, but I spent the last couple of days doing line editing on my completed novel draft, and cleaning up some things in the manuscript. I'm going to try to print a complete copy today, so I'll have one with me at my retreat, just in case I want to show it to anyone. Not that it is really ready for anyone else's eyes! I'm trying to read a lot about revision and novel structure, and am ordering several books to read on those topics. I'm completely confused about the whole thing. I was hoping to enter the novel in SCBWI's work-in-progress grant competition next month, but I'd have to provide approximately the first 2,500 words of the manuscript, and they happen to be the ones I am least happy with! They do give a good sense of the narrator's voice, through which the whole novel is filtered, but the novel doesn't currently start with an actual scene, but more of an introductory monologue, and I'm not sure if that's okay. Most of the books say it's not, but YA is kind of a different breed. I don't just want to write a new opening quickly for the grant competition--I want to make sure I'm picking the right opening. But I'm not sure I'll be ready to do that even within a month! (Strange because the whole novel took less time to write than that.)

I also entered five manuscripts in ByLine's Children's Story or Picture Book Contest today. If I won third place, I'd only break even! But it's not about the money...I just want to see if my stuff is any good, and if so, which stuff is best. I entered 3 picture book manuscripts and 2 magazine stories. I may also enter a local (San Gabriel Writers' League) contest next week, but with $10 entry fees for each manuscript, I'm not sure what to enter, or even what genre to enter in (just children's, or children's and adults', or what). I wouldn't want to enter more than a couple of things, for that price.

I am so not ready for my writers' retreat tomorrow. Not packed, not sure what I'm taking, feeling under the weather at the moment (with 2 sick kids to take care of...), and needing to print out a bunch of my writing! With a printer that's often on the fritz. I'm not sure what to take, writing-wise, but there are supposed to be several critique circles & round table discussions. I was up until 3 am (!) this morning doing the line edit on my novel, and fear I'll be up until all hours tonight as well. I hope not. I'm trying to brace myself for the possibility that the editor critiquing my stuff will hate it, or at least be iffy about it. I'm getting way too optimistic, and want to squash that now before I get the rug pulled out from under me! I'd much rather find myself pleasantly surprised than deflated.

Monday, January 13, 2003

My main writing goal of the week is to polish up a humor article I drafted a month or two ago and send it off. I'm not making much headway, though. It's mostly okay as is, but I'm having trouble with parts of it, and no matter how much I stare at it, I don't come up with any better ideas! I'm not sure how to get past that. I want to get this mailed out & not have it hanging over my head any longer, but of course I don't want to send it out without making it good enough to actually sell! My secondary goal is to work more on my chapter book/mid-grade. It's going to be a busy week even if you take writing out of the equation. And I can't believe my "baby" turns 2 tomorrow! I'd be even more wistful about him growing up if he and his 4-year-old brother hadn't colored all over the wall, door, TV, and a toy today!

Sunday, January 12, 2003

When I participated in National Novel Writing Month last November, I kept nearly daily updates in an online journal, which helped keep me thinking about the writing, and sort of kept me accountable. I also found that writing out the problems helped me to think through and solve them. So excuse me if I blather on about some of my current writing projects in this journal.... I figure some people might be interested to get a glimpse into the process, anyway.

Right now I'm writing what I intended to be a chapter book for young readers--the type that usually only have one fairly simple plot, instead of complex sub-plots. But I'm to a point in the book where the main thing that needs to happen is that the character needs to hide a secret habit, and get more and more paranoid that people will find out, etc. But I just realized that I have nothing for her to be doing during all that deepening of her problem! It seems like anything I write for her to do--going to school, hanging out with friends, or whatever--will give me a platform for her paranoia but will not further the plot in and of itself. Now I'm wondering if I should come up with a sub-plot to keep her busy on the surface while her main problem grows stronger. Or maybe it's a pacing issue...maybe I don't need to show everything but can just skip over it with text like, "The next two weeks were the worst of my life. Every day I was sure that someone would find out...." Anyway, I'm sure I can come up with something (actually, I already have a showdown scene at the end that I could start planting the seeds for now), but it's certainly not as easy as just sticking to my synopsis, which only discusses the problem and not the details of how it plays out. I was also hoping to get through an entire draft of this before my writing retreat in 2 weeks, but the book seems to be growing on me (I thought it might be 60 pages, but now I'm thinking maybe 90+) & I would be surpised if I can do it! Especially with my younger son's 2nd birthday this week and a few celebrations to keep us busy this week. On the other hand, I'm pretty happy with it overall, which is more than I can say for some of the things I've written!

Saturday, January 11, 2003

Happy 2003, everyone! I have finally gotten back into my writing after the holidays. I have been preparing a few contest entries over the past few days, and also making some edits to an article I was working on in December and trying to cut down an old short story that was too long, but today I finally started doing some more original writing.

I wrote just over 2,000 more words today (so far) on my chapter book or mid-grade novel in progress (it's morphing a bit so I'm not quite sure what it is yet, or how long it will be). I hadn't written on it in a month, so it's a little difficult to get back into the same flow. Also, the last thing I wrote regarding it in December was a 2-page synopsis laying out the major plot events of the book. Although I was thrilled to come up with some of the plot developments I did at the time, I now find it rather daunting to see all that remains to be written. At about 30 double-spaced pages in, I feel like I'm about halfway through the story, but when I look over the synopsis, it seems more like I'm about 1/3 through it. Of course, I can veer off from the synopsis, but I do think my basic ideas were good, and I also know that in any case, there's a lot more to write. But I don't know quite how I'm going to get there from here, and it looks like a long, hard road!