Thursday, April 29, 2010

julie & julia & mi

i recently watched the film Julie & Julia.
for those of you who haven't seen the movie, it's the true story of a woman, julie powell, who begins a blog documenting her year-long journey to cook every recipe in julia child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking. the film cuts back and forth between julie's blogging adventure, and the story of how julia child became a great chef and the author of one of the most popular cook books in history.

i really enjoyed the film, and as a blogger i found a sort of kinship with julie powell.
i remember so well getting that very first unsolicited comment on my blog. i remember how validating it felt to have more than a handful of people regularly reading my posts. i felt honored when people linked my blog on theirs, and downright giddy when i had on average a hundred page hits a day.

when i started my former blog, i had no expectations at all. it was just a way to blow off steam so i wouldn't blow up at customers. it was also an exercise in writing - a way to help fine tune my craft.
it wasn't a way to make money or gain notoriety. in fact, since i was writing anonymously, i wasn't really looking to make any waves in the blogosphere.

but then a crazy thing happened.
in the matter of one day my readership increased 400%.
i discovered an online article had mentioned and linked my blog. i now had readers from all over the globe. more and more online journals and columns began mentioning and linking me and i began to fear i'd be outed and fired from my job (which thankfully never happened, although someone in starbucks corporate was a regular reader of the blog).

during this time i was querying agents, hoping to land representation for my novels.
i mentioned my blog in my query letters, and received quite a bit of interest in it, but not in my young adult novels. i had a few agents suggest i write a proposal for a non-fiction book about my blog, and at one point i even sat down at the computer and tried to write one. but i couldn't.
i didn't want to.

now mr. write, to this day, thinks i blew a golden opportunity. although very supportive of my writing, he doesn't quite understand why i do it.
it's not for money, nor is it for notoriety.
it's for the sheer love of it.
of course, it would be a DREAM COME TRUE if i could one day be published and get paid for doing what i love. but even if i never land an agent, i will still write.

as crazy as it may sound, i did not want to be known as a blogger-author. i didn't want my first published work to be a regurgitation of a blog i did purely for enjoyment. i didn't want my passion for writing fiction to fall by the wayside because there were agents who wanted to jump in on a trend.

so, it's funny.
even though i felt that kinship to julie powell, i actually related better to julia child.
it was julia who was driven by her passion. it was her passion that led her to perfect recipes. and those recipes became part of a seminal work.
it's her journey i'd prefer to emulate, truth be told.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

not blocked - bored!

for the last four days (well, nights really, since the KidLit won't let me write during the day) i have been stuck on the same chapter. it's not uncommon for me to spend close to a week working on a chapter, but usually i've got momentum, pushing the plot forward.
this time i've written about  six pages and all i feel is *blah*.
i thought maybe my order of events was too linear, so i mixed things up a bit.

yeah - that didn't help.
so now i'm thinking of changing the order again. but i'm afraid i'll end up with the same result. oi.

the issue with this chapter is the exposition.
it's ALL exposition. too much "tell" and not enough "show".
the individual elements are necessary, and do indeed push the plot forward, but the manner in which i've written the chapter is just dull, dull, dull.
i mean, you know there's a problem when the author is bored to tears by her own work. i've found myself skimming through paragraphs while i proofread. THAT is just WRONG. so tonight i'm using a trick i haven't used in a while. tonight i'm doing my cut/paste/erase method.

that is to say, i'm going to cut/paste the chapter in a different file, but i'm erasing it completely from my wip. this way i'm not actually "losing" the work i've already done, but it's also not taunting black-type sitting there in front of my eyes, keeping me from looking at the work from a different perspective.
this method has worked for me in novels past, and i'm hoping it will work again. it's pretty obvious that i need to let go of what i've already written so I can move on and have the manuscript flow again.

it's kind of like cutting the dead weight. it's leaving an anchor behind so i can sail on unencumbered.
it's what i'm hoping will work to get me back on track.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

tragedy and comedy

last night, in between writing chapters, i watched part of the 1944 film Laura.
it's the kind of old film i love, filled with cliched characters: the brooding masculine detective, the beautiful and somewhat mysterious female lead, her charismatic yet immature fiance, and the older man-of-the-world who not so secretly loves her.

gene tierney plays the title role, and she is quite beautiful and alluring. i didn't know much about her as an actress, so i did some googling. i skimmed over the basics, like where she was born and how she began her career. what did catch my eye, however, was that she contracted rubella while pregnant at her only appearance at the hollywood canteen. as a result her daughter was born prematurely - deaf, partially blind and severely mentally retarded. years later at a tennis party a woman approached gene tierney and confessed that although sick with rubella, she'd snuck out of quarantine against her doctor's orders just so she could meet her favorite actress at the hollywood canteen.
i can only imagine the flurry of emotions running through gene tierney at that moment. i'm sure a part of her wanted to kill that woman who claimed to be her fan. a part of her must have felt relief that her daughter's condition was not her fault. there must have been a part that mourned for the normal life her daughter almost had.

my heart broke for her when i thought of her in that moment, facing the woman who had unknowingly changed two lives forever.

agatha christie used this incident in her mystery The Mirror Crack'd, and i can't blame her for using this story because it's so dramatic it almost seems like something out of a greek tragedy. but i don't know if i'd ever have skin thick enough to weave someone's true pain into a work of fiction.

and for the bit of comedy: did any of you read about this? just goes to show that spellcheck alone isn't always enough. wonder where the copy editor was on this one.

Friday, April 16, 2010

write, read, revise!

i'm feeling good about my current novel.
no, i haven't miraculously found more time to spend writing it, but the fact i'm still enthusiastic and pushing forward is pleasing. also, i've been getting positive feedback from my two readers, which really makes me happy.
i've posted before about my different state of mind with this novel - that i'm not rushing full steam ahead, and am carefully listening to my readers' critiques. for my first draft, i've only two people reading my chapters as i write them. neither of them are authors, and only one is actually familiar with the young adult genre.

"so why the hell did you choose those two to give you feedback?" you might be asking.
well, i'll tell you:
my female reader is a voracious reader. she often reads two books at a time and can spot surprise endings a mile away. i picked her to critique my wip because she can clearly articulate what works plot wise for a reader. she knows which characters need more development and when the pacing needs to be picked up. i picked her because she is part of my target audience.
my male reader has never read a young adult novel except for twilight (and he read that only because of the vampires). i picked him to critique my work because he's a screenwriter and knows how to develop a storyline and characters. he can easily tell when there are plot holes, or when scenes are overwritten.

every writer knows how important it is to edit their work (well, at least every writer will learn how important it is). i'm not even done completing my first draft and i'm already thinking about the changes i'll be making when i do my revisions! but no matter how much you revise/edit your own work, you still need feedback from other people, especially if what you write is intended for an audience.
i'm really lucky to have two readers who are willing to read chapter by chapter and give me feedback. i'm lucky to have already been able to use their critiques to improve my novel, even though it is still a work in progress.
and i'm lucky that they are willing to read it all over again once i've finished my second draft.

but even though my two readers are fabulous, and have great insight, i still will search out other beta readers when i've finished my novel (and my first edit). and i will listen to everything they have to say about my manuscript, whether it's positive, negative or indifferent. and i will use what they say in the best way i know how to make my novel as strong as it can be.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

book review - the body finder by kimberly derting

my two cent(ence)s - great premise with a great prologue. loved how the main character finds the bodies, but not in love with the writing or how the plot develops.

the body finder has one of the most promising openings i've ever read. had i not already bought the book, i would definitely have slapped my money down on the counter for it after reading the prologue. there was a beauty to how the paragraphs formed, and a wonderful sense of suspense as we are introduced to the main character. i absolutely loved the opening pages, which is probably why i felt so let down by the rest of the book.

violet is a high school student who has the ability to find the bodies of dead animals if they've been hunted or killed by a predator. she senses the bodies through "echos" which she can either see, hear, smell or taste. unfortunately for violet, these echos persist until she can give these animals a "proper" burial, and only then will the echos fade. she is also able to detect these echos on the predatory animals, like her cat who loves to hunt mice and birds. the reader discovers that when an animal kills, it is imprinted with the echo of its victim.
when violet is just a child, she discovers the body of a murdered girl, which the reader knows will not be the last she discovers.

see? really good premise, right?

violet doesn't just sense echos - she senses the changes her lifelong best friend, jay, has gone through over the summer. now, for the first time, violet sees jay as more than just her partner in crime. she can't help but want more from him, though she is too scared to admit this to jay, or her other friends. now, to the reader it is GLARINGLY obvious jay wants to date violet, but still violet goes through her inner monologue of "does he? or doesn't he?" which for me got old quickly.
now, i'm sure there are a ton of readers out there who love to know all the details of every encounter. they want to know every time jay's hand brushes against violet's how her heart begins to beat faster, and how her temperature rises, or how she's positive her cheeks are flushed, yadda, yadda, yadda.
obviously, i am not one of those readers.

the "tension" between violet and jay felt so drawn out to me that i was skimming the pages to get to the "body finding" part of the story. and when the author did bring us back on track to where violet discovers a girl who'd been killed by a serial murderer, well, it still fell flat for me.

at page 40 i knew violet would find more than one victim of the killer, the killer would realize violet is responsible for his victims being unearthed, the killer would come after violet, and violet would realize it's the killer because of the imprint he carries on him. and i didn't mind that i knew this in advance (i think most people would be able to figure it out) because the premise was so good i was sure i would enjoy seeing how everything unfolded. but i didn't. though i do have to give the author credit for an interesting twist (which i won't reveal here).

i REALLY wanted this book to be good, but it didn't live up to the promise of the opening pages. in fact, i felt the book was about seventy pages too long (due to the redundancies of violet's inner monologues). obviously i am in the minority. it appears to be pretty popular, and clearly enough people believed in the author's writing ability since it did get published. i'm curious to see how kimberly derting's follow up book will be.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

distracted by prince charming

i haven't posted or worked much on my wip in the last week because of two reasons:
1. i'm fighting off a bug, and
2. i've been distracted by the first man i ever loved

it started with a dream - vivid although extremely short, which got me thinking non-stop about the first person ever to make my heart flutter.
and this past week i've been hooked. i've been looking at pictures and videos, remembering the different places i saw him, basically obsessing.

i've been driving everyone around me bonkers, including mr. write, with my non-stop talking, researching, watching the former object of my desire. i couldn't really understand how one small dream could trigger my journey into the past, but a close friend of mine brought up a really good point.
"you've been reading nothing but young adult books that take place in high school," she said. "and your current novel also takes place in a high school. it makes sense your brain is processing things like a teenager because you're trying to recreate that world in your book. so it's no surprise to me your obsessing over your first love."

and i totally concur with this. although i first had feelings for this man at age 4, it wasn't until high school that i REALLY went overboard for him. i even told my high school boyfriend that we were only dating temporarily, since i was convinced i would end up marrying the man i was gaga over.

so, i'm hoping that this (wonderful) trip down memory lane is coming to an end so i can get back to writing!

btw - here is the man who swept me off my tiny feet at age 4, who was on my mind non-stop while in high school, and who i will always, always love and admire:

yes, the dandy highwayman himself: adam ant.