When Winnie the Pooh and crew head off on an “expotition” to the North Pole, Pooh and Rabbit “organdize” the search and secure provisions. With my book birthday steadily approaching, I feel a bit like Pooh Bear (more than usual even). There are so many bits and pieces that need to be lined up and orchestrated and put in their Proper Places. It can become a bit overwhelming and on more than one occasion I’ve wanted to throw my hands up and declare “Oh bother!”
But every day, things are happening. My notes are getting less daunting as I weed through them. My list of “to-do”s is getting crossed off item by item. And slowly but surely, there is Progress. I’m happy to report that I have half of my blog tour dates filled up (yay! And I’m still on the lookout for filling a few more dates, so if you’re interested, message me or leave a comment!)
As part of my blog tour, I’m arranging for giveaways. One of these giveaways will be an annotated copy of my book. I’ve always wanted to win one of those, so I figure the next best thing is to do one myself to give away! So here’s my question for you… if you won a novel with notes from the author, what sorts of things would you be most excited about finding in the margins?
The author’s favourite passages?
Subtext of characters?
Hints at the next book?
Things that got cut or changed along the way?
Background on real places within the story?
What would YOU most like to find hidden there just for you?
Happy 2015 everybody! I skipped over the traditional posts of looking back and looking ahead and all of that. I’ve never been one to make traditional resolutions anyway, so I figured I’d spare you.
But! I did find a super fun idea on the always wonderful blog of Leandra. (Thanks for the tag!!) Here’s how it works. You bring up your current manuscript and scroll through. Stop in eight random locations and wherever your cursor is pointing, those word or phrase are your eight terrible titles.
So here goes!
1. A Renegade Tear
2. Wishful Thinking
3. Maximum Capacity
4. Right Here, Right Now
5. Mostly Nice
6. Liquid Empathy
7. the Steps of the Mission
8. A Big Chunk of Bark
So what do you think? Potential for inspiration in any of those? Ha! I think my favourite has to be number five.
I don’t usually tag folks to these things, but this is just too much fun. I’m tagging Beth Ellyn Summer and Karyne Norton (who both have great blogs you should totally check out if you don’t already follow them).
And the end. Now go write something!
Confession right up front: I’m totally stealing this idea. I follow a great writing blog by Ave Jae (you can find her list here) and I found it so inspiring, and a great way to keep an eye on the prize. It also made me think about what “the prize” really is. Mine will be different since I’m not focusing on traditional publishing. But it’s precisely because of this reason that I want to do this. I think it will help to focus me since I feel a little flounder-y at the moment. So, with a hint from Ava Jae, I’m starting with a few things that I’ve already accomplished (because really, what is better than crossing things off a list?). So here goes…
Finish first draft of a full-length novel
Finish initial edit of a novel
- Finish final edits of a novel
- Choose fantastic cover art
- Go to a writer’s convention
- Publish my first book!
- Hold a finished, published, perfect copy of my book in my hands
- Have a launch party
- Have a book signing
- Get a great review from a complete stranger
- Outline a whole trilogy
- Complete a trilogy
- Get a fan letter
- Be someone’s favourite author
- See fanfic based on my characters
- See a tattoo based on my books
- Have an agent seek me out
So there we have it! What’s on your list?
Last night I was catching up on Project Runway, and Tim Gunn said (and I’m pretty sure he was looking at me), “You have to step back objectively and ask yourself the tough questions.” How he knew that I’d just gotten my editor’s notes back and needed to hear this particular bit of advice, I don’t know. But need it I did, and there it was. Tim Gunn telling me to “make it work.”
So… the notes. This whole hiring-an-editor thing has been an unexpected journey. I didn’t know quite what to expect to begin with, so I can’t really judge its merit that way. But I can say it was so worth it. Truly, every penny and every second. I have learned (and AM learning) so much; things I didn’t even realize I needed to learn. It’s a humbling process for sure, but when I set my ego and my pre-existing ideas of what my story is aside … it’s actually quite liberating.
The thing I learned most is that I’ve been holding back. Holding back with my story, with my plot stakes, with my characters, with everything. I’ve been “dipping my toes in” as my editor says. And he’s absolutely right. I bring my characters to the edge of danger, to the edge of discovery, to the edge of conflict … and they narrowly escape. Every time. Not only is it too coincidental that information just pops up when my MC needs it, but it’s not interesting to read. I knew all of these things before; I can recognize these problems in other people’s writing, but I had these ideas of what was going to happen in my story (and what wasn’t going to happen) and that was it. So weird. Weird and not interesting.
So today starts the re-writes. And let me tell you – my characters better be on the lookout. ‘Cause my toe-dipping days are over. I am ready to dive.
Ready for this? In just two short days, I will receive the notes from my editor. TWO DAYS. I got an email yesterday with a little sneak peek of what is coming, and I have to say … I’m SO EXCITED!!! No, the forecast is not all sunny. The words “months of hard work ahead” were bandied about. But here’s the thing … I’ve known for a long time that there were some plotting and pacing issues that needed help, but I’m too close to it to see how to get there. And this right here – this is my chance. The notes I’ve gotten so far have been vague-ish (because the Big Notes are coming in TWO DAYS – did I mention that??), but I’m so encouraged by them. Someone out there gets it. And now I can make it what I’ve known all along it had the potential to be.
As you may have guessed, this is my first time working with an editor. I still get a huge thrill out of saying things like, “Why yes, I heard from my editor today.” And I’m not exactly sure what to expect. I do know that I’m not obligated to follow the advice/notes/critique/plan he lays out for me – that ultimately, he works for me and I can do what I want with my own words. BUT – I didn’t pay him so that I could listen to my own advice. If I may quote Alice for a moment…
So what I really need then, is to sort through what is fitting with my vision, and what is not. I’m preparing myself for the notes, for the doubts, for the inner-critic that pops up and says “See?? Why did you ever think you could be a writer??” Because that’s coming; it’s human nature.
Example: Yesterday, when I got the email addressing in vague terms some of the notes that are headed my way, one of the notes said that we live too much in my MC’s head. I glossed over that at first because there was so much else going on in the email that I was a little giddy and overwhelmed for a bit and it took a little while to settle into what I was reading. But that came back to me in a big way. And my reaction was “But it’s first person narrative; of COURSE I’m going to live in her head. I like it there! I know this character inside and out and I’m comfortable with living in her thoughts. Am I supposed to change the whole perspective of the book?” And then, somewhere around 5:00 this morning, I woke up (not on purpose – it’s my day off) thinking, “Oh wait a minute. That doesn’t mean that he doesn’t think we should live in her head. It means that there’s not enough action to balance the thought-life. We should be seeing more of what’s actually happening rather than hearing her thoughts on what’s happening.” And I can DO THAT! Not only can I do that, but it makes me really excited for the potential of where she’s headed and where she’s going to take me.
So. Lesson learned. In two days (TWO DAYS!!) I shall attempt to make this happen:
- Read through the notes as a whole
- Don’t panic
- Don’t touch a single word of the manuscript for at least 24 hours
- Read through the notes again
- Make a plan (still not touching the ms!)
- THEN… get out the post-its and the highlighters and the purple Sharpie and DIVE IN!!!!
And that, my friends, is the plan. How well it will be executed remains to be seen. But I am so freaking stoked for this part of the journey. I feel ready. Notes? Critique? Months of hard work and late nights?
Yeah. Bring it.
My book ends on a cliff-hanger. This is not a new development, nor is it an accident. I’ve asked around and looked at some opinion polls, including one I conducted myself on the QueryTracker boards, and I know that there are many mixed opinions out there. Some say that it’s lazy. Some say that they are manipulative. Some say they love the suspense of them.
Obviously, I fall into that third category because I have always intended to leave book one open. When I think of successful cliff-hangers, I immediately think of a trilogy that most people I come across haven’t heard of (but it’s one of my all-time favourites for so many reasons). And here they are:
The Paradise War trilogy by Stephen R Lawhead. I can’t adequately express my love for these books, but the main point for this post is the ending of the second book. It ends on the BEST cliff-hanger I have ever read, and it is one of the things that inspired me to use that device in my own work. There is no warning, no apology, explanation… it ends with a jaw-dropping pulse-racing moment and it just DROPS you. (Keep in mind that when I read it, the third book was still a year away from its pub date – talk about torture!) A little difference, of course, is that he is a master storyteller, and I am writing my debut novel. Something to aspire to, for sure, but what if I’m not there yet?
And that’s what I’m now wondering. Am I being lazy with my ending? I certainly don’t feel like that’s what I’m doing. I want to tell a bigger story than one novel, and I love ending in a way that leaves you thirsty for the next installment.
But then I read the ending of Divergent. Or Pivot Point. They’re both the beginning of trilogies, and their stories continue past the endings of these books. But while they leave a few questions open, they don’t end on cliff-hangers. They end. They have satisfying endings in and of themselves, even while you’re waiting for the rest of the story. You want to keep reading because of the world, or the characters, or the bigger story that’s ongoing. But if you stopped reading after that first book, you’d be okay. You’d have a story that felt complete.
So which is better?
Yep, just like Winnie the Pooh, I’m feeling stuck. Perhaps not in Rabbit’s front door, but still… stuck.
Here’s the situation. I’ve completed my latest version of Book One and it is now with my editor. I’ve started Book Two and I have about five chapters done (well, four and some bits and pieces). In re-thinking some plot lines to fill in Book Two, I’ve come some conclusions about Book One. I need to do some sort of major fixes on it that somehow escaped my attention in all three previous versions. (It’s my first novel, that’s bound to happen, but it would have been nice to have this realization a year ago.) So now… what now? Do I keep working on Book Two, knowing that Book One may not be exactly what it was and that everything I’m putting into Book Two may have to change? Do I do the rewrites I know I need to do on Book One even though I haven’t gotten notes from my editor yet and the things he suggests may alter what I think I have to fix on my own? And so… stuck. STUCK! I’m feeling very frustrated.
I just want to WRITE.