First Rejection

Last post I alluded to the fact a real-live editor was going to read a manuscript. Well, I got a very nice email stating the reasons why it wasn’t going to be acquired, reasons I suppose I knew about. I’m used to getting the letters that announce I have not won some such contest. A few times before I would print drafts of my next WIPs on said letters. But what do you do with an email?

I think I’ll deliberately print it out and use it as scrap paper for my next revision.

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New Thoughts on Historicism

Though I have much work to do to prepare a manuscript for submission, The Killers plot bunny won’t leave me alone. After rolling my main character’s possible name on my tongue for a few hours, pretending her friends were being either tender or tough with her, I think I’ve settled on it. The name is decidedly Irish and her story utterly fantastic. And I mean that in the true sense of the word – of fantasy. That lead me to start initial research into Irish lore. What if this story has been told before  – nay, I’m sure it has – so in what ways has it been told? If I find the answer, do I want to draw on the mythology as source material, acknowledge that it exists in an author’s note, or not look at it and write around it in my own way?

I’m tempted to do the last thing, as research is exhausting and attempting to create a new mythology in our modern world seems more fun. I get to create a society without all the hassle of creating a whole new world. If anyone has the link to Kristin Cashore’s wonderful speech at the Simmons College 2009 Symposium about the difficulties of world building, please let me know.

I guess I hesitate to play with melding historicalities with my own imaginings like a child would smash blue and yellow Play Doh together. Roger Sutton points out in his blog that a writer at Jezebel totally misunderstood Sharon Dogar’s forthcoming book Annexed, a novel told from the point of view of Peter Krause, one of Anne Frank’s companions in hiding. I have much to say about this book and the way fiction uses and plays with a historical reality, but that will come in a GoodReads review soon. While off base, the Jezebel writer and her commenters have valid fears that an author could co-opt a history for her own fictive purposes.

Not that fictive purposes need be nefarious. When you smash blue and yellow together, you sometimes get the lovely green. A whole new entity worthy of its own consideration. I suppose what I will do is what any of the great authors do: put the story first. History will always be there if I need it.

Pote-Purry

Last night I stopped looking at cute cat pictures and actually wrote. Me and words: reunited, and it feels so good!

Accomplished:

– Revision of my MbM picture book. I shoe-horned in a subplot, and like Cinderella’s glass slipper, it was a perfect fit once everything settled.

– Envisioned two brief scenes and came up with awesome names for my plot bunny, to be referred to as The Killers, as the story’s genesis came from a song lyric of theirs. Some people sing in the shower. I write in my head.

– Researched names for the main character using this awesomeness: www.languageisavirus.com/

Still Pondering:

– What the writerly equivalent is to singing into a hairbrush

– How to trust my dear readers with character names and titles. I don’t want them to be stolen!

– When being cute becomes too cute.

Rory’s Story Cubes

I am a mad plotter. Consequently, I am not a fan of journaling from a character’s point of view, as it takes me away from completing a draft and focusing on something that will not end up in the final cut. But my self-prescribed writing therapy has me taking the whole writing thing veeery veeery slowly. Plus, with 82% of my day spent in front of a screen, a break was welcome.

I grabbed a recent birthday present, the “Create” journal and a new game, Rory’s Story Cubes. At work, all I hear lately is how they’re awesome, and I tell customers they’re awesome. Last night, I used them in my journaling, and ohboy, they’re awesome!

I rolled the nine dice, rattling my roommate who was watching Rory on Gilmore Girls, coincidentally, and got nine different pictures: a tree, a flashlight, a hand, a moon, a flower, a magnet, a tent, scales (as in justice), and a speech bubble. The genius of these cubes is that they force you to think creatively. I had many markers of a camp scene, but a big U magnet and the scales of justice? Once I put pencil to paper, I started answering questions without realizing it. Suddenly, I had the backstory of the beginning of the friendship between my main character and her best friend. And apparently my mc’s crush was there. I had been undecided about whether he turned out to be good in the novel or not, and this little journal entry helped me figure him out.

Sparking my creativity helped me realize that a novel’s present doesn’t exist in a vacuum. These fictional people have a past, and thanks to the cubes, a future.

Prompt:

Write  a scene from your own character’s past or future using the nine cubes listed in bold above.

Can You Hear Me Now – Authenticity of Voice

Many projects sit in their tidy folders waiting for me to pay them attention. All are very different: a picturebook text, a young YA novel, and a full-fledged YA. Yet all are the same in that their respective character/narrative voices echo off the pages. While jotting down what I hear in my imagination is fun and feels true, I sometimes fear an editor, an agent, or gasp! even a reader will say that they are decidedly false.

I try to balance two arguments:

A. Every child is different, and in authors’ attempts to appeal to mythical median, voices either sound the same or fall on deaf ears. Hence my disdain for junior beach reads. As a teen, I was more a Melinda of Speak, less a Gossip Girl. So, I take quick audio files of real kids and teens I know or was and remix them into a unique character signature. Of course, most of these kids are girlish, innocent geeks who are strong enough not to pretend otherwise.

2. Ignoring certain issues or the way 14-year-olds really talk could alienate buyers.And while writing for writing’s sake has its value, for it to have an impact, it has to be read. So I fear being read as that old cat lady who doesn’t get kids today. And instead of the nerds, the “good kids,” or the shy girls getting the shaft, everyone else does.

When I approach revising my works from the voice angle, I need to figure out how to balance creating a unique character and voice, but not so unique as to have anyone think that this book is unrelatable because such a character doesn’t exist.

What do you all think? How authentic should we be? Sacrifice character for market share? Hold out for the one believer?

On the Wings of Angels

I have not used this space to write about my own projects yet. My book-of-the-next-two-days has been prompting me to think back to a WIP collecting cyberdust in my Documents folder.

Currently I am reading Halo by Alexandra Adornetto [see the review on the Well Read link sometime this weekend]. It’s about an angel in human form who falls in love with a human boy. I have a project titled “Halos” with seemingly similar echoes of the conceit. Naturally, this discovery exposed the little insecurities we writers can have: “I had the idea first!” “Well, I think mine is better.” “Why would s/he write it that way?!?”And worst of all “Does this mean my book can never be published?”

I could give those insecurities some tough love: “Next time you have a great idea, be the first with an editor/agent.” “If yours is so much better, prove it. You may have to wait for the supernatural trend to come back in five years, but that gives you a chance to perfect it.” “S/he wrote it that way because that’s their story. Want it different? Write it different.” I have no idea as to the last insecurity.

Fellow writers and friends in the know, if a writer has a story in her heart (maybe with a different title) that retains mere whispers (not an outright echo) of an existing book, must she keep it to herself for years and years, change it outright, or hope someone sees space in the market for more than one trend book?

Killing Your Darlings

Apparently we writers need to be homicidal maniacs. A piece of advice I’ve heard often times is to “kill your darlings” when revising. No, we’re not to  ask our publishers to lace the pages with cyanide. We must simply ax with a machete the carefully crafted words we’ve given birth to. If we don’t, our editors’ red pens will make the page bleed anyway.

At the New England Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, the wonderful Cynthia Leitich Smith advised us hopefuls  to writewritewrite our first draft. And then obliterate it. Watch as it goes poof into our computer’s trash bin.  I’m Catholic to core, including in my writing, so obviously I cannot do that.  I respect life, even of words!

And yet I now find myself tormented by a project that fears its facing the guillotine. See, Publishers Weekly announced the young adult novel Halo as one of the hot ARCs to grab at Book Expo America. I am sitting with a young adult novel-length project named Halos about a very similar subject matter, just with reversed genders. If I want my darling book to ever see the light of day, I know I must re-conceive the plot line and eliminate the achingly lovely lines.

But do I dare end their lives? Do I want to be known as Britt Leigh, mass murderer?  No. I think instead I’ll just send them to the Witness Protection Program of my external hard drive.