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Thursday, September 16, 2010

Coming together

The revision process for Dream Girl trudges onward.  I won a critique from Becky Levine for the first chapter, which I recently got back.  At first, I was totally frustrated because the things she honed in on were different than the things Jay Asher honed in on, were different from what Cynthea Liu said.  I'M SICK OF CRITIQUES!!!!  I screamed to myself.  So I started reading a book about writing called, The First Five Pages by Noah LukemanThe First Five Pages: A Writer's Guide to Staying Out of the Rejection Pile.  The beginning was mostly about formatting.  I was about to put it down until I made it to the end of chapter 2 and found revision exercises.  They seemed sort of bland:  look at all the adverbs and adjectives on your first page and put them in a list.  Then list all the nouns and verbs.  Are they commonplace?  Rewrite the first page without using any adverbs of adjectives.  Blah blah blah, I thought.  Nice idea but it's after 11pm, I know the baby will be up too early in the morning so I should just go to bed...but then I felt the hand of the Muse upon me.  "Look at your first page" she said.  You can't argue with that.  So I took out a printed copy of my first chapter...from a couple revisions ago, just to glance at the verbs and whatnot.  Well, I didn't exactly follow the exercises Mr. Lukeman suggested, but something happened.  I did list some of the words I used and generated some replacements.  I got fired up about the replacements.  I changed the first line.  Things that Jay Asher mentioned back in May, clicked.  Then they tied in with things Cynthea Liu had mentioned.  And I think I got at what Becky Levine was talking about.   And, seriously, it only took changing a few words and rewriting a few lines and I feel like I tightened the entire first chapter, perhaps setting myself up to overhaul the entire manuscript.  I will share with you some of these astounding changes.  See what you think....

The opening lines from a couple revisions ago:  I didn't know it then, but I was scudding into work five minutes late on a day that would totally change the course of my life.  Everything had been so normal.  I didn't have the slightest clue.

Now, I've held on to that first line for a loooong time.  As in, that's pretty much how it started 5 years ago...until last night.  When the hand of the Muse led me to try this instead:  I slid into work on a Monday afternoon that disrupted the course of my life.  For seventeen years, everything had been as normal as the Cheerios I'd eaten for breakfast.  There was no indication that the Gothic adventures I so loved to read were about to become more than fiction.

Which one would make you read further?  What do you know about the narrator after reading each opening?  What kind of story are you in for?

I'd like to think that if Jay, Cynthea and Becky read this post they would nod their heads and say, "Yes, now you're getting it."  However, I'm content with thinking it of myself because a writers life is a lonely path and you have to rely on your own confidence to get through it.

PS.  I want that book for a Christmas present.  Hint hint to hubby.  ;)

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Becoming Real

I feel like I have arrived.  No, I don't have a book deal in hand.  No one has offered to publish anything of mine but I have made it to a step that many aspiring authors never get to...a real, live, talented, artist has done some sketches for my picture book.  This awesome artist being, Sean Ingvard Ashby...go check out the sketches for yourself.  The best news of all, besides seeing a real face for my little character?  The best news is that Sean nailed it.  This excites me for two reasons.  1.) Because it proves that Sean is talented.  2.) It proves that I am talented. 
What a minute...you say.  Isn't that 2nd point a little narcissistic?  Well, yes.  But from my point of view, I've written my story in such a way that it could be illustrated the way I see it.  I left it open for artistic interpretation but the feeling I wanted to evoke is right there in the sketches from somebody I don't even know.  What an awesome experience!
Now here's the insider scoop for all of you.  I've read about illustrators who put things into their illustrations that are part of the author's life, but not known to the illustrator.  When I look at those sketches on Sean's blog, a couple things jump out at me.  Note: NONE of these things are in the text. 
1.  The story is based on my daughter.  I hoped that the illustrations would at least have the same hair color as her.  Thus far, it seems that they will.  Cool!

2.  There is a cat in the illustrations.  I like cats.  We have a cat.  Cool!

3.  The BIG thing for me, in the bathtub sketch, what is the little girl holding?  Go on...go take a look.  A mermaid.  Yeah, my daughter has a mermaid just like that for tub time.  Do thousands of girls have a mermaid like that for the tub?  Yes.  But this is my daughter and my character we're talking about, so I can be as excited about this as I want.  And, have you guessed?  I'm really excited. 

Besides these fun coincidences, I'm just relieved that my two hopes have been realized.  I wanted the character to look cartoon-y but cute.  I know these are just preliminary sketches, but that was already nailed.  I can't wait to see more! 
This is a happy moment in this author's life.