Back to work

This morning, I finally (sorry J!) sent the revised MB manuscript off to Joanna, who in turn is going to send it to my editor, who in turn is going to look at it sometime…soon? I don’t know, I can only imagine how busy she must be, and this book isn’t set to come out until January 2011 after all, so I’m not holding my breath. In fact, I’m letting it out, in a huge sigh of relief. AUT is off to copyedits, MB is off to my editor, and I can work on new stuff yay!

I love putting together a book. Pre-writing and plotting are my very favorite parts of the whole process. For me, the process is very much like someone scattered a 500-piece puzzle all over P.Diddy’s mansion and it’s my job to find them all and put them together correctly. I would say I have 1/4 of the pieces for GR right now. I have the short, pithy description: “Lord of the Flies meets The Haunting of Hill House.” I have my cast of characters, my dramatis personae if you want to be as insufferably Elizabethan as apparently I do. I have some background information, I have some clues, I have some ideas for puzzles (that’s right, puzzles–I knew that playing all those Nancy Drew computer games with Em and Fish would come in handy one day), I have the setting, and I’ve done some research about it. I have the soundtrack (lots of Andrew Bird music). I have the structure, and I have some major plot crises. I have a good idea for a couple of relationship and character arcs. My mind is busy day and night, working out the plot knots and introducing obstacles. Pre-writing is the best.

All of this said, I could use a vacation. A real one. I’m going to California for a friend’s wedding at the beginning of May (perhaps I already mentioned this?), but only for two days, if that. I may or may not be going to London in May, also, but again, only two days. Back to California in June for my siblings’ graduations, maybe that’ll be four days, but there will probably be no small amount of frenzied activity and sitting out in the hot sun listening for their names to be called. Back to California in late July for another wedding, this one in Monterey, so it should be a little bit more temperate but no less hurried, unfortunately. Although, I already got permission from my parents to borrow a car so that I can drive to Maggie’s wedding and possibly swing by the John Steinbeck house on my way through Salinas. We’ll see–I really love that drive, though, regardless.

As happy as I am to be doing all these things, what I’d love is just to have one long vacation, not these super short trips every month. It wouldn’t even have to be somewhere exotic or touristy–just being at home in California for a week would be fine. My parents and I wanted to go take a trip up to the California ghost towns (research for GR), but I’m not sure that’s going to happen.

Still, I mosey. Last night my friends and I gathered at our “local” (and I put that in quotation marks because I live nowhere near it) watering hole, Dempsey’s, for St. Patrick’s Day. It was packed, as one would expect the best Irish pub in New York (according to me) to be on the big Irish holiday. When we got hungry, we went to Artichoke for spinach & artichoke pizza (the line was considerably shorter last night than it had been at three am two Saturdays ago), and I’m not kidding you, this is the best pizza I’ve had ever. It’s niche, of course–you’re not always in the mood for spinach & artichoke pizza, and if you are then I pray for your arteries, but it’s so delicious you don’t even know. 14th St. between 1st and 2nd Aves. That’s a little tip from me to you.

See? I’m working!


That’s the synopsis I’m doing for GR. I had to do it handwritten, because I kept getting blocked when I was trying to type it. I told a friend recently that I didn’t believe in writer’s block, but I think it would be more accurate to say that I believe there are times when you have a failure of imagination, but that the best way to remedy that would be to try something else. Even though I hate writing longhand, it does often feel more productive to scribble rather than type.

In other news, please ignore how ridiculously unkempt I look in this picture. Sometimes I look cute! I’ll prove it to you:


New post up at the A Team blog

I think the title of this post says it all, but I have a new post up at The A Team Blog, talking about the work I’m doing on GR (my option book) and also finally revealing for the first time on the interwebs the actual title of MB, my second book being published by Delacorte. You know, I never really meant to keep it a secret, but I’ve always been unsure of the title in the sense that I wasn’t certain it was going to stick around (I’m afraid there might be some kind of trademark problem, in which case I have an alternate, albeit less cool, title for the book). And it seemed a bit silly to abbreviate it over at that blog, which is supposed to be a bit more professional than this one. So yeah. How revelatory of me. Checkitowt!

Move along

I’ve made a decision. This is the last weekend I will spend working on MB for the time being. By Monday, it’s going to be ready to go to my editor. The truth is that I’ve been playing with it on and off since I turned in my AUT revisions, but it’s getting to the point where all changes are pretty infinitescimal. I could keep doing that forever, if only I could live so long, so I have to cut the cord and let it go out into the world before I lose my mind over the relative difference between “smiled” and “grinned”.

This is not to say that MB is in any way done, only that it’s “done” as far as I can be done with it for now. Once my editor takes a look at it and gives her feedback, I’ll start revising all over again. I’m ready to work on new stuff. I’m ready for GR. I really am. I wasn’t for a long time, and I’m still a little afraid of it, but I’m going to move on to it anyway because I’m so excited to write it.

Some things about GR: It’s going to be different than anything I’ve ever done before. The cast of characters is going to be much bigger, the scope of the story is going to be much wider. I’ve been working on what I would call “close” stories for the past, I don’t know, my life? Stories that are either in the first person or close third and limited to a pretty small dramatis personae. It’s always been the place I’ve felt comfortable: inside somebody’s head, or hovering over their shoulder, following them on a road to discovery.

Not so with GR. I’ve decided (this could change) to write it in alternating POVs: one section in first person, one section in third person omniscient (!!). The organization is different: instead of straightforward chapters (or parts split up into chapters, like AUT), I’m writing it by days (i.e. Day 1, Day 2, etc.) separated into chapters. At this point, according to my (admittedly small plot outline), Day 1, Chapter 1 will be third person omniscient, Day 1, Chapter 2 will be in May’s POV, Day 1, Chapter 3 will be third person omniscient, and so on and so forth. I like this format; it feels tight and efficient, which I need to reign in what seems like it’ll be quite the sprawler. My third person omniscient narrator knows everything, obvs, because that is the definition of “omniscient”, and I have a feeling that he/she/me would go off into wild, marginally related tangents about people, places, or ideas if I didn’t have some kind of strict structure in mind.

Also, I have one main character, two second-tier characters (like, they’re not the focal point of the entire novel, but they do have huge parts), eleven third-tier characters, and a literal host (possibly two hundred?) of extras populating the world. I’m going to need at least one more third-tier character, perhaps a few more depending on how I want to do that part of the story (this is where the third person omniscient narrator comes in). There are going to be massive meteorological events, a brilliantly eccentric mansion, puzzles and secrets, feuding factions, gunshots, escape attempts, romance, betrayal, etc. It’s basically Lord of the Flies meets The Haunting of Hill House. It’s going to be AWESOME, you guys.

So, I really need to get MB off my plate, because dude: I can’t wait to get started.

Because I haven’t talked about it enough

I’m over at The A Team today, blogging (whining) about my favorite subject: revisions! Check out J’s latest post as well.

As for me, I’m feeling pretty good about the work I’m doing. As I mention over at The A Team, I haven’t been doing a whole lot recently, except tweaking MB in preparation to turn it in to my editor. But recently (in the last few days) I’ve switched gears, and now instead of living in MB in my head, I live in GR. I’ve started writing the synopsis and made some big choices about POV and the little details that make a story a story have started to creep in. It’s all very exciting and new and gorgeous and I feel really good about it, which means in about three months I will probably think it’s the worst thing I’ve ever written. So get ready for that!


Oh God, you guys, I am so tired. I don’t know what’s going on. I usually have a lot of energy, and even when I don’t I pull it together and least make it seem like I do. But man, this week: woof. It’s really just been the last few days, though. On Wednesday night I went to bed before midnight, but I woke up at 4 AM and couldn’t get back to sleep until 6 AM, which is fine if the next day is Saturday but when the next day is Thursday and your alarm is poised to go off at 7:30, losing two hours of sleep to sudden onset insomnia and also heat stroke (my apartment is like a sauna, which, considering we only have one radiator and it’s pretty much as far from my bedroom as you can get, is pretty amazing) is not the recipe for awesome.

I went through yesterday like a total zombie, and it just got worse as the day wore on, which it did, SLOWLY and TORTUROUSLY. I came home early last night from a coworker’s send-off party and crawled into bed at 10:45 after Big Love stopped working 11 minutes into the episode. It took me a while to get comfortable–my light down blanket wasn’t enough, but my comforter with the soft chamois duvet was too much–and just as I had drifted off to sleep I got a text message from my sister. When I woke up to it, I was like, “Fish, WHY ARE YOU TEXTING ME AT 2 IN THE MORNING” and then I looked at the clock on my phone and it was 11:15. I’d only been asleep for about twenty minutes.

She’d asked me a question about what Chinese restaurant she and I had gone to while she was here for film camp in the summer, and not only was I totally out of it so it was difficult to remember what she was talking about, I’m not quite sure I would’ve immediately remembered even if I wasn’t half asleep. I’d totally forgotten we’d gone to a Chinese restaurant while she was here, and I was wracking my brain to come up with it (“Did I take her to Chinatown? Really? I don’t even like Chinatown that much!” I kept thinking, sleep-addled, to myself). I even wrote back to her, “Sleeping, can’t think, tell you tomorrow” or whatever, but as soon as I sent that message I remembered: Ruby Foo’s*. It was delicious, too.

But then, of course, I couldn’t fall asleep for another hour, and getting up this morning was so hard. I have plans tonight so I can’t go home and pass out, but this weekend is about two things: sleep, and MB. Getting my cover (BTW I GOT MY COVER IT IS AMAZING BUT I CANNOT YET SHOW IT TO YOU I WILL AS SOON AS I CAN I PROMISE!) reminded me that I’m, like, a writer and I have things to work on. I’m going to do some finishing touches on MB so it can go to my editor as soon as she’s ready for it, and then I’m going to get to work on GR. See, the thing is, I was really in a groove in the first chapter of GR, which I finished a few days ago. Now that I’m at Chapter Two (or, as I’m calling it, Day One – 2; this MS is all kinds of different from the other two), I’m stuck. This is a sign that it’s time to stop writing and start plotting, which is important for two reasons: 1. I need a synopsis to turn in to my editor to fulfill my option after MB is accepted, and 2. I need a synopsis to write the book. This is how I get around writer’s block–there’s always something else to do.

*I just Googled it to link you, and it turns out that the Upper West Side Ruby Foo’s is closed! The Times Square one is still open, though, but, while it was delicious, I would rather stick chopsticks in my eye than go to Times Square voluntarily, so…good-bye Ruby Foo’s-day. (GEDDIT? Like “Ruby Tuesday”? Forget it.)

The world just got a little more blog

Now, I know my audience. Most of y’all just come here for the Twilight talk, and I respect that. I also exploit it. HOWEVER! I have to imagine that some of you, if only a little slice of my readership, are writers, possibly aspiring, possibly newly contracted, possibly published, although that might be flattering myself.

Anyway, I talk about my amazing agent Joanna sometimes, so you know who she is. A couple of months ago she emailed me and asked if I wanted to start a blog with her about the trials, tribulations and triumphs of debuting into the vast YA universe. I said yes, of course, because I can’t stop talking and what is a blog but a vessel for endless chatter? So we’re doing it.

Or, rather, we’ve done it! The A Team, which stands for agent and author (because we’re clever like that), launched today with J’s first post, with my first post to follow soon. I don’t know at this time how different the content will be, and I’ll always let you know if there’s a post on The A Team with information not on this blog, but I won’t be cross-posting. My instinct is to say that The A Team will be more publishing focused, but I can’t promise we won’t get on every once and a while with some thoughtsicles about TV or movies or that sort of thing. Plus, I plan to do a lot of in-depth talking about AUT, because, at least for this year, the blog is all about AUT in a sense. So come visit us there!

Meanwhile, I’ve started working on GR because I think MB is almost ready to go. I’m trying out Scrivener, which seems to be good so far, although there don’t seem to be any formatting options? The learning curve is a little steep for me right now, but I’ll probably eventually teach myself to use it, and GR is a good book to do some experimentation on. Wish me luck! And if you’re familiar with Scrivener, give me tips.

Work in progress

You know what I was thinking? Every time I talk about plotting recently I talk about how I plotted MB beforehand and it was much easier to write, and I lament that I didn’t plot out AUT and it was such a nightmare to write. But you know what? I’m starting to suspect that if I’d plotted AUT out entirely before I started it, I would never have started it. It would’ve been too daunting. It’s a complex book, and I’m just now beginning to understand exactly how complex. If I knew from the beginning, I would’ve been too paralyzed by my perceived inability to do any of the stuff I ended up doing in AUT to begin.

I realized this because that is exactly how I feel about GR, the new book I’ve been “working on” since I finished MB in August. And by “working on” I mean “staring at a blank page and willing the plot to come to me.” There’s a lot I want to accomplish in GR, and I don’t seem to have a clue how to do it. It has so many characters, and it’s the first book I’m writing in shifting third person close POV, and I intend to give it a really huge plot (“intend” meaning I haven’t actually figured out all the particulars of said plot yet). It just seems like I bit off more than I can chew with this one.

What I normally try to do when I’m stuck somewhere is try something different. Working on my synopsis in a Word document was getting me nowhere, so I went to my trusty GR notebook and began working by hand. I added another page to May’s character manifesto, and then I went to a blank page and wrote STRUCTURE in big bold letters.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this after reading (and re-reading) Diana Peterfreund’s essay about the four-act structure. I decided that GR is going to have three parts: a short Part I (Act I), a long Part II (Acts II & III), and a short Part III (Act IV). So technically it’s going to have a three-act structure, but actually in my head it will be four acts because I need that dividing line between the crisis and when the consequences of the crisis (as Diana puts it) come into effect. So in my plotting I am thinking of it in four Acts, and then I’ll just lump the two middle ones together into one Part.

When I was writing in my notebook, I told myself that I didn’t have to know how everything was going to happen in each Part, I just had to create a wishlist of things I wanted to happen, that I would figure out the details later. Thus, I got a lot farther in the plotting than I was getting on the computer, when I tried to have the hows and the whys and the whats altogether. For Part I, I wrote out a list of all the supporting characters I needed to introduce in the first few pages. There are 10, not counting the main character. Blurgh. That’s a lot of peeps.

There’s sort of a fine line you have to walk here. I mean, on the one hand you don’t want to just throw a bunch of names at people and expect them to retain that information, because they won’t and then they’ll be annoyed that they have to flip back fifty pages or whatever to figure out who is who. I was reading a YA book recently where I felt like this was the case–lots of supporting characters, none of whom I could really distinguish from the others. On the other hand, you don’t want to give too much information and overwhelm the reader–I mean, even if all the characters get their own page, that still 10 pages of character information in this case, and 10 pages is a large chunk of text to not have any plot movement. And I’m all about plot movement.

So I told myself, each character gets a paragraph, which is a good exercise, I think. It makes it necessary for the writer to isolate the few characteristics, images, and behaviors that make a person unique and interesting, so that the description has punch and the character lives. You don’t have to know every character’s favorite flavor of ice cream (this is why I prefer character manifestos to character interviews or surveys, incidentally, because knowing a bunch of random information about your character is not the same thing as talking to them about who they are and what they care about and what they want, etc.), you need to know A. what makes them different from everybody else and B. what connects them to everybody else (when you’re introducing a bunch of people at once like this).

So last night I churned out 8 or so pages of introductions. This is the most I’ve written in GR for months, and it proved to me that it is possible to write this book. GR is stumping me at every turn, but I can see now that there is a way around or through every problem. In this case, I needed to establish my characters, because for a long time I’ve only had names and one-sentence descriptions for them. Now five of them are real people. That’s pretty awesome. I’ve been so afraid of the scope of the project that I kept forgetting how books are written–one word, one sentence, one page at a time.


I’ve come to realize that my books are starting to resemble children, and not in the way that some people say “they’re like my children, I couldn’t choose between them” or “it’s like giving birth to a baby” after a book is published. I mean, they all have these distinct personalities, and a lot of that is linked to what it was like to write them.

All Unquiet Things was the oldest child, the experimental one. (I wrote books before this, but they were terrible and therefore more closely resemble the ugly clay “vases” I used to make for my mom in kindergarten than children.) It’s the responsible one, the complicated one, the dark one, the one that sneaks out after curfew, the one I spent ten months teaching to drive just so it could crash my car, etc. It took a lot to get AUT in line, that’s for sure, and there’s still more work to be done.

MB is the high-spirited, mischievous middle child. Writing it was the literary equivalent of the four hours (JUST FOUR CAN YOU BELIEVE IT) my mother spent in labor with my brother (also the middle child). It’s funny and warm and romantic, but also dark and mysterious, because it learned a trick or two from its older sibling.

GR and SM? Okay, well, they’re like EVIL TWINS or something. They won’t sit still, they’re super stubborn, they refuse to do the things I ask or answer any of my questions. Very often I realize that I can’t do very much if I don’t focus, so I decide to put one child down to care for the other one, and then the one I’m ignoring starts whining and crying and demanding attention. WTF, evil twins? Can’t you be more like your older siblings? I mean, AUT was difficult but ultimately very rewarding, and MB was a dream, A DREAM!

This is why I should probably never have children. Also, probably why I should stop trying extended metaphors in blog posts.

My point is that I’m having a hard time wrestling GR and SM to the ground, especially GR, which refuses to budge. Usually when this happens I write a little bit, hoping that the act of writing will spur on revelations about the plot. NOT SO in this case.

Actually, I’m afraid of the POV I’m using in GR and keep second guessing myself, to the point where I wrote and rewrote the same paragraph ten times a few nights ago and then last night I erased it entirely. My past two books have been written in first person, but this book must be written in third person, or shifting first person, which…no. I did that in AUT and it was really hard and…hey, maybe I should write in shifting first! No, I really don’t think so, but I think I’ll have to write in shifting third close, because omniscient, which is what I’d planned on, doesn’t seem to work.

My other problem with GR right now is that it has tone, but no voice, or at least if there is a voice it’s really weak and not comparable to Neily or Audrey or Will right now. That’s probably the result of the omniscient third POV, so when I get home on…Thursday night? God, when’s my next free night at home? Sunday? Oh blurgh, anyway, when I’m home on Sunday I’m going to settle down, commit to shifting third close POV, and hopefully the voice will just flow right out. And then hopefully the plot will just flow right out, right into a nice tidy synopsis that I can then follow for the rest of the book. That sounds like it’ll probably happen exactly that way and require no pushing or shoving or begging or pleading or bargaining or thinking from me.

In other news, I bought my copy of Paper Towns today, and my copy of Let It Snow, even though one of those two isn’t supposed to be released until tomorrow. Oh well, I’m a big cheater. What are you going to do about it? I actually have an ARC of Paper Towns that I got through work, but I’d feel like kind of an asshat showing up to John Green’s signing tomorrow (7:00 PM! B&N Tribeca! Be there or be…somewhere else, I guess, I don’t know your life!) with a copy of his book I got for free and asking him to sign it. Someone has to keep Bubbles the Nerdfighting Puppy in kibble, you know.

Now what?

That’s all I can think as I sit down at my computer tonight. It feels so odd not to have a real project to work on. Last night, I sent my bright and shiny MB manuscript to Joanna, and now I feel slightly adrift. My logical mind says, “Work on GR or SM–you don’t have completed synopses for those yet.” But my logical mind is kind of bossy and maybe I don’t want to work on those things today, logical mind, did you ever think of that?

No, the real problem with both of those synopses is that they are stalled at the places they are because I don’t know what comes next, and usually that situation doesn’t improve with me staring at a screen. Plus, I know that I need to focus on one of them and put the other one on the back burner–I have never successfully written two books at once. But I can’t really decide which book I want to write first. The lazy part of me says, “Well, write the easy one first.”

Except there isn’t really an easy one. GR is full of experimentation, not in the general sense but for me specifically, as it’s sort of epic in scale and will involve a third person omniscient point of view, which I’ve never successfully used before–I usually write in the first person, I don’t know why, I just do. But because of the aforementioned epicness of the story, it’s sort of necessary to be able to follow a lot of people at once. It’s also not a mystery in as traditional a sense as AUT and MB (and my other planned novel, SM) are. I think there will be at least one puzzle and a lot of mysterious happenings that the characters will have to figure out, kind of like Lost I’d imagine, if I watched Lost. Hmm, maybe I should start watching Lost

SM is a whole other animal. In all outward appearances, it will be a lot like AUT and MB, but closer to AUT in tone, because I meant MB to be lighter, for my sanity if for nothing else, but with SM I want to go back into the darkness (same with GR, but in a different way). But there is a little technique I hope to use in writing SM which may completely backfire on me and not work and be a total disaster and kill my writing career (the melodrama, she is my friend), but if it works it will be AWESOME. Also, it will be very difficult to pull off, which is why SM is, in a different way from GR, not the easy option.

Except, it’s the one I’m drawn to in this particular moment, the one I want to plot out because I think plotting it will be easier than plotting GR and that’s what stage I’m in with both of these right now, but I think actually writing GR will be easier. As for manuscript progress, I have three pages of GR, and three pages and a sentence of Chapter One of SM. That makes them equal in pretty much every respect. Sigh. Well, at least neither of them are contracted and I don’t have to decide today. How very Scarlet O’Hara of me.