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.

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To know things

I’ve been compiling a list of FAQs, as you know, and one of the most frequently asked is some variation of: why mysteries? The easiest answer, the one that’s going to go on the FAQ section, is that the AUT reboot made a lot of sense as a mystery and basically it was less a conscious decision to write a mystery and more a, “Hey, that’s interesting. Let’s see how this works.” It worked well, and I had fun doing it, which is why MB is also a mystery. And why GR will have mysterious elements, and why SM will be a mystery, too.

The longer answer is that I really sympathize with the investigator’s dilemma, the need to make what you know square up with what you need to know or what there is to know. I just like to know stuff. I don’t like surprises or secrets, and I don’t really like keeping them, either. You really have no idea how hard it is for me not to post my cover or just tell you everything I’m thinking about GR on a daily basis.

Anyway, more than telling, I like knowing. This is one of the reasons that I go to weekly pub trivia even though we almost never win (the other being the company and the atmosphere, although certainly not the convenience!). I don’t care so much about knowing the right answer, I care more about learning the right answer. I like to accumulate knowledge, and that’s what a detective does. I think that might be why I like writing mysteries so much. This is one of the things all of my characters have in common with me, the need to know. For some of them, it’s more voracious and obvious than for others. There’s a line in MB, for instance, where Will says, “I like to know…” and Jacie adds, “Everything? You like to know everything, right?”

I was actually going to abandon this blog post, thinking it didn’t really go anywhere, but then I started watching John Green’s Blog TV show where he was trying to solve ThisIsNotTom.com, which frustrated the CRAP out of me for the longest time because I kept going to ThisIsNotTom.com and NOT BEING ABLE TO DO ANYTHING and I was like, How is this a riddle website if there’s not even any riddles because I can’t get past the first page ARGGGH! (Hint: Click on the man in the picture’s right eye–your left.)

Anyways, the riddles are SO HARD; I was following along with John and the Nerdfighters in the Blog TV chat, so I let everybody do the work for me, which is the way I like it: being told the answers and marveling over their intricacy, not actually solving them myself. I actually get very little pleasure out of that, or rather I assume I would get very little pleasure out of solving them but there’s no empirical evidence for that as I haven’t really solved many riddles (I’m a skip to the back of the book kind of a person). But the site is so, so great, and the riddles are impressive, once you figure out how to do them.

But I love puzzles and riddles. LOVE THEM. This is why Fish and Em and I play Nancy Drew video games every Christmas. Our impatience, our burning need to know, is usually why we often cheat with walkthroughs, but still!

I realize this post went nowhere. Except to ThisIsNotTom.com.

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.

Tired

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.

NaNo and other writing FAILS in the month of November

Last month was a dismal writing FAIL for me. I didn’t get any farther in my NaNo book than the 10,896 words I started with. That’s fine, because that novel is going back in the freezer. I will consider revisiting it in 2014. Psych! I will not, it’s pretty terrible.

Not only did I fail to finish my NaNo project (which, in my defense, I said I might not be able to), I also failed to finish my revisions of MB. I really have no excuse for this except that the month got away from me. The truth is, I probably won’t be able to get back to work on MB until after New Year’s, because now that I have my editor’s feedback on AUT that needs to be my top priority (the deadline being December 31 and all).

Speaking of AUT revisions, I’m a big paralyzed. I’m usually pretty good on revisions, but recently it’s been difficult. I could blame it on my computer, which is limping along valiantly but will soon need to be replaced, but we all know it’s not Iphegenia Doubtfire’s fault. It’s my fault. Lack of motivation coupled with procrastination=three weeks until deadline and not a lick done.

Actually, that’s a total lie, I have done stuff. My editor said that there’s a character that needs beefing up, because they become important later on in the story and we need to see more of them in the beginning. Perfectly valid criticism, totally spot on, but I’m a little dizzy about where to begin adding this person into the beginning. So I did what I always do, I wrote a character manifesto.

I had written one for this character earlier, and since I feel like I understand them a lot better now I was surprised at how perfect what I had written about them fit with my current concept, but the manifesto needed to be longer and explain more about the actual events of the novel from their perspective, so I started over. I also brushed up on my psychoanalytic theory from graduate school, much of which I used to shape this character in the first place, and asked my friend Scott to give this character a new car, which he did marvelously. Not to be all Stephenie Meyer, but it’s this, a black Mercedes SLK (in the manuscript right now it says this character drives a black Dodge Charger, so a change is imminent):

2008-brabus-mercedes-slk-11

So, anyway, the manifesto’s not finished but it is several pages long and very helpful. Now I just need to find a way to do the actual meat of the work. To finish my revisions in three weeks, I have devised a plan of sorts:

  • Read the manuscript cover-to-cover, making no notes or changes, just read.
  • Make my editor’s smaller changes (excising repetitive words and phrasing, clearing up small errors, punctuation, grammar, etc.) that she wrote in the manuscript margins to the digital copy on the computer.
  • Go through the letter and develop a plan of attack for every larger change.
  • Implement the larger changes.
  • Read through again for any problems.
  • Email to agent and editor.
  • Fly home for Christmas.

I’m not going to lie, it’ll probably be down to the wire. I leave for California on the night of December 23, so I have 21 days to get all this done. I know I could probably ask for a small extension, but I don’t want to. I think I can do it, if I put my mind to it and don’t get distracted. Hopefully, December will be a writing WIN for me.