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Sunday, May 30, 2010

On and on I go

So I discovered that my own personal hell has a first name, it's Revision.  You thought I was complaining and struggling when I was just finishing the first draft but there was a special ring of Dante's hell waiting.  It is the ring of revisions that will not come.  Seriously, things were going pretty smoothly, too smoothly, until I got to chapter 30.  Things came to a grinding halt as I realized the chapter was merely filler.  So, merrily, I gave it the ax and moved on to chapter 31.  A sinking feeling hit me when I came to the same conclusion about 31.  Scarcely daring to look ahead, I glanced at 32 and discovered there were several small things that had to happen to get us from 29 to 32.  And that is where I've been sitting for a couple weeks now.  A few paltry things to get us from point A to point B, and yet, they won't come. 
As my entire family napped this afternoon,  I decided I was going to push through and get through this so I could finish up the revisions and move on with my life.  No more procrastinating, I was determined to figure it out.  So you know what I did?  I wrote.  What was the result?  More filler.  Nothing more than trite filler to slowly move along to the next exciting bit.  This will not do.  I have been thinking about this, agonizing over this dilemma for the last couple weeks and this is what I discovered.  To get from chapter 29 to 32, I need 2 weeks of largely uneventful time to pass and the protagonist needs to get an invitation to a party.  Put that way, it seems laughable that I'm struggling with this so much.  "Seriously?"  you're thinking.  "You're that hung up about a party invitation?"  Unfortunately, my answer is 'yes'.  (unless I cut the party as well...hmmm...arrgghhh!  Now you have a tiny clue of the nightmare in my brain.)  My beautiful story has fallen apart roughly 3/4 of the way through.  How sad is that?  Sadder still, is the fact that I have to fix it.  It's all up to me. 
Sure, Jay Asher and Paula Morrow think I have a very marketable story here.  They're right.  But you can't market something that isn't finished.  I can't wow my dream agent if I'm not impressed myself.  Believe you me, I have a severe case of not impressed.
I know what I need to do.  I need to tap into the voice of my characters and let them tell me what they need to do next.  Unfortunately, it seems they're taking a vacation together and they haven't left a forwarding address.   

Sunday, May 2, 2010


The SCBWI-Michigan spring conference took place yesterday and it was incredible.  Jay Asher was the keynote.  His book, THIRTEEN REASONS WHY is currently #4 on the NYT Bestsellers List at 60 weeks!  (if you don't quite get what that means, trust me, it's a big deal).  (if you click on his name up there, you will be taken to his blog post about the SCBWI-Michigan conference.  Quite entertaining, even if you weren't there.)
Jay gave a tremendous keynote, entitled "How to Sell a Book in 12 years or less!"  He said a lot of interesting and inspiring things about the big conference I'm going to which gave me a lot of hope for networking and really making some professional strides through attendance.  I'm actually more excited to go than I was before and I was already pretty giddy.
I attended a great breakout on character development by Ruta Rimas of Balzer & Bray. That proved very valuable as I continue the revision process.  I also attended Jay's breakout on injecting suspense into your work which was also fantastic.
All of these great talks led up to the pinnacle of the day for me...a 4pm manuscript critique with Jay Asher himself.  What I was promised was 10 minutes of Jay's time to discuss his thoughts on the first chapter and 3 page summary of my novel.  However, there are advantages to being the last critique of the day, but more about that in a moment.  Jay wrote on my critique worksheet, "Fascinating premise!"  Who wouldn't be excited to hear a successful author say that the very idea of your work is fascinating?  But what really hit home was the portion marked 'notes on marketability'.  Jay's comment there:  "No problem with a premise like this."  Hmmm, where had I heard similar words before?  Oh yes, from Paula Morrow, former editor from the Cricket Group and currently an owner of her own publishing business, Boxing Day Books.  She also told me that DREAM GIRL was highly marketable.  These are the words that make a wannabe author's little heart go pitter patter.  So I now have two professionals who think my idea is unique and cool.  Jay actually said, (and this part is only from memory) that my novel sounded like a great story about really cool characters.  To say I was happy with his critique is the understatement of the year.
     But this isn't where the bliss runs out.  Oh no.  Recall that I said there are advantages to being the last critique of the day?  Well, the critique rooms were way on the other side of the hotel from where  the main action was happening.  When my critique was over, Jay and I had no where to go but back to the other side of the hotel...together...whilst chatting.  The final breakout was already half over and as we approached the room, I asked Jay if I could ask him a question about his book.  He said sure and we proceeded to talk about his book and a few other fun literary things until the other breakout was finished.  All in all, I had Jay Asher all to myself for about half an hour!!!  People who sat at his table for lunch had to share him.  I didn't!  It was totally awesome!  I'm even fairly sure that I managed to carry on intelligent conversation and not be a rambling fool.  That's a big accomplishment! 
     Should you ever find yourself in the position to hear Jay speak, I recommend you do it.  He is such an approachable, funny, genuine, humble person.  His talks were exciting and fun and his advice in my critique was thought provoking and great.  As a result, I'm all Jay Asher, all the time at present...except that I'm fired up to polish DREAM GIRL into the jewel I know she can be.  After all folks, I've got a marketable story here and, after five years, I still love her.  Things are looking good.