Penny for your thoughts?

So I’m still working on my book, but some readers have expressed an interest in the current state of my work in progress. I have provided a preview of the current version of my first chapter. I’d be thrilled if people read it, and provided feedback.

Current Word Count: 92,483


Hunger Games – Review

Reading the Hunger Games was a big inspiration for me. It helped me believe I could write compelling story in first person present tense. So whenever I felt lost, I often turned to the books to put myself back on track. As a result, I’ve read the series a few times in the past year, and was therefore more than willing to stay up and watch the movie at a midnight premiere.

Leaving the theatre I felt three things very intensely: Entertained, Excited, and Satisfied.

So I think it would save me from overexplaining or even delving into spoilers if I simply explain my review in those three  emotions.

Entertained: There is no doubt this movie is entertaining. While people who have not read the books might find it slow to begin, I was really engrossed from the first few panels of the movie which give reveal what the Hunger Games actually are. In moments where non-fans might think it is getting a bit slow, Elizabeth Banks gives a stellar performance, providing comedy that is not only funny but emotionally evocative. Jennifer Lawrence is a superb Katniss, which is not really that shocking, since she was made famous for playing a similar role in Winter’s Bone. However, she does a remarkable job of keeping the entire movie together. I was especially amazed by many of the other actors in the film. When I heard that Little Rock, AR legend Wes Bentley was playing Seneca Crane, I was confused. The character is barely in the books. But the shift in perspective (the movie is not told simply from Katniss’ perspective) allows these other players to tell the story in a more complete way. While this means certain sacrifices for story purists (most notably, that the gifts Katniss receives now have notes from her mentor) the movie manages to tell a story which never feels like anything but the characters and world of the book. Stanley Tucci is so good, I feel the need to at least mention him in a sentence, but for me the best performance of the evening was a surprise. Josh Hutcherson’s performance as Peeta Mellark is simply spell-binding. I thought Hutcherson would be a good choice, but I was not expecting to like him as much as I did. In brief moments where the writing was weak, he elevated it in such a way that I could feel nothing but admiration for him. My only complaint about the movie is, of course, the unfortunate casting of Lenny Kravitz as Cinna. Why they did this, I’ll never know. Cinna and Katniss are supposed to have a special bond, but it was clear that there was zero chemistry between the two actors. Kravitz performance was fine, he doesn’t do anything particularly bad, but Jennifer Lawrence looks exhausted whenever they are on screen together. I assume this is because these scenes probably took much longer to film than they should have. To compensate for this, much of what made Cinna a great character, is distributed amongst the rest of the adult cast. While I think this was wise, if firing Kravitz was not an option, it made me sad. Cinna was always a character I related to, and felt for, so seeing him so diminished was hard for me.

Excited: This movie is exciting, in that it is a fun thrill ride, that is more than just action, but has some actual art to it. It also was so superbly executed, that I left the theater ready for the second film. Of course, that is probably a year away at least, but I have faith it will be incredible. The second book is my favorite, and while I was worried this film could easily ruin a great book, my fears are now abated.

Satisfied: This movie is as true to the book as it should be. Since it is told from multiple perspectives, new things are revealed. This was great for me, as a big fan, as it gave me something new. I wasn’t simply watching the movie in my mind, playing out on the screen. This was something I truly respected. If you want someone to put the movie of your mind on screen….maybe you won’t enjoy this film. However, they get so much exactly right, I can think of no person who would fault them for the tiny adjustment/changes they made. Especially when each of them was made for such a specific and deliberate reason. When they announced Jennifer Lawrence would play Katniss, I will admit, my first thought was….”She’s wrong for it. She’s blonde.” My husband pointed out I was not alone, but that my reaction was crazy, and directed me to an article discussing it. While I agreed with the article, pointing out that fans seemed to ignore that someone could simply dye her hair to the correct color, I didn’t think we were crazy. The issue is, while we fans understood they COULD dye her hair, we assumed they WOULDN’T because fans of many books have been burned by Hollywood before. In short, I felt I could no longer trust Hollywood to tell a story that was based on a popular book, without screwing it up. This movie has restored my faith somewhat, and that made walking out of this incredibly entertaining film, all the sweeter.

Finding Hope in the Pages

So I have been editing more. My last few posts have been sad, because I’ve felt that way. I found myself reviewing my own work, trying to forget about editing what is to come, and instead reviewing on what I’ve already worked on. I found this useful, because I found that I actually enjoyed reading it. I talked to a friend yesterday, and got to talking about my woes. She pointed out to me that while it is amazing to have beta-readers, none of them are particularly interested in LGBT literature. I agreed, and she and I were both quick to point out that it is still unclear if that is the “genre” of my book. I used to worry I was writing something only for gay readers, but once I let that worry go, I was free to just tell the story I wanted to tell. Upon reading what I have most recently revised, I can now see that I’ve really crafted my manuscript to tell that story. I could feel the strange kid/adult in me from college, actually get excited about the book, because it was the story he always wanted to read.

So I found hope within my own pages, and while I’m not fully out of the funk, I’m definitely feeling better. I’m confident now that my main character is someone that people will relate to. Especially people like me.

Word Count: 91,892

Going back

It occurs to me that the idea of returning is layered over and over in what I want to discuss today. I’m having issues, on Sunday I fixed my 10th chapter, and am now poised to work on chapter 11 (of the book, not Bankruptcy). However, since Thursday of last week, I’ve had a hard time getting back into my former editing groove. Part of this was the wall I hit, part of it was the fear I felt and blogged about, but lately things have felt different. I was ecstatic over fixing chapter 10, but I don’t have anyone who truly shares that joy. Whenever I discuss my book, people are good, and humor me, but part of what got my jazzed about editing, was the faith I had in my manuscript.  I am sad to report, that faith has somehow been shaken.

I think one reason for this is that I had a few prospects of earning some money, which I want to do, so I’ve been distracted. But that shouldn’t make me believe my book is any worse. However, I’m wondering if I had put a lot of faith in my manuscript, because I had nothing else to put my faith in. The job market wasn’t exactly helping me, so I felt compelled to “do something” each day, and that meant hours of editing. Now that things are picking up a little in other aspects of my life (I’m also in a show at the moment) I’ve been distracted.

While these new pick-ups in my life are great, I’m finding it impossible to return to the mindset I was working with before. The one that was convinced that my book was not only excellent, but marketable. I think a big part of the issue is…no one really cares about the book except for me. There’s no reason anyone SHOULD care about a book that is technically written, but by no means finished.  I think this is why a lot of people love writing as a collaboration. It’s so much nicer to have someone to talk to.

Current word count: 91,857

Waiting while you work

This week started out so well. I was getting lots of editing done, and generally making progress. However, I hit a wall, one that I will figure out eventually, but instead of just being a typical annoyance, it’s hit me harder. Every day that passes me by, I wonder/worry that there is some sort of clock ticking away the time I have with this book. Hundreds of authors query agents each day, and the odds of someone pitching something similar to my story, has started to worry me. I realize this has been an issue before now, but now that I’m close…I worry about this so much more. It takes so much mental energy to constantly maintain the self-control I need to prevent myself from querying agents right now. After all, my book is technically done. But it’s not ready. It’s like I’ve assembled a cake, baked it for 1\3rd of the time it needs, and now I want to pull it out and serve it. Sure I’ve probably cooked enough so that the raw eggs and ingredients won’t kill you, but it won’t be nearly as good as if I had taken the time to let it cook all the way through.

I am lucky, I have time during the day to get a lot of work done, but I still feel the urge to master my query letter to the big name agents who seem to be in good spirits these days. I’ve noticed several agents I have on my list, have accepted people lately. I worry they will feel too overloaded by their new clients, to accept me too.

Slaying Chapter 8

Above is depicted Bernini’s sculpture of “David” as in “David and Goliath.” This statue changed my novel a lot. I knew I wanted to reference the musculature and body of Renaissance sculptors, but I mainly used ones I made up. Then on my honeymoon, I went to Rome, and every time I saw a piece of sculpture that made me literally stop, I would look up the artist and it was always Gian Lorenzo Bernini.For this reason, I wanted to use this piece in my book, but I just couldn’t figure out how.

Today, I wrote the chapter I had originally avoided, used the statue, and I think it works. If the section needs to be reworked/revised/cut later, I’ll live, but I feel a great sense of accomplishment for slaying my own personal demon. This is also exciting for me because it means I am actually ahead of my beta readers, and I’ve kind of stopped worrying about their feedback as much. Before I was hoping what I’d read about their feedback, would help me avoid those issues in the future. After 4 chapters, I kind of got used to what people felt worked/didn’t work, and so I’ve felt liberated this week to really just start banging through these things.

It is also true that my book is now 1\3rd edited and that means I’m officially through through the truly rough patch. At least, that’s what I think. The rest of the book was typed initially, so it is bound to have a lot of dumb errors, but it is also more likely to be a bit more polished. So I am looking forward to that. Chapter 9 also features my first skip in time, which was something I worried about a lot, but I think will be fine.

Anyway, just felt like sharing!

Word count: 91,644 (Chapter 8 basically had no text, so that is why it is longer now.)

Progress Report

Today I feel about as good as that boy looks!

Today I managed to finish editing chapter 7. My edit was slightly easier because it needed less work. However, it is one of the only sections in the book that has a few paragraphs of text without dialogue to break it up. I know this is probably not an issue for most readers. Books need to have ups and downs, as maintaining anything “one note” will eventually drive a reader away. I’ve tried to take this realization to heart, and that means not freaking out as much about every sentence in my book. I’m technically in round 1 of editing. This round needs to make sure my story is complete, grammatically sound, and as decent as I can get it. It does not mean, it will be perfect. It doesn’t mean an agent will read it, and think, no need to change a word. Let’s go! Expecting that from myself, is insane, so I’ve stopped.

Hopefully this means I will continue to go about editing in a faster/more efficient manner. However chapter 8 has been the one chapter I know will have issues. The reason? Chapter 8 (Which is relatively 80 pages/25K words into the novel) was the last thing I attempted to “write” in my notebook, but I was really having a rough time with it. Part of it was, I didn’t know why I was writing it or where I was going. These things are answered now, but I have the problem that I’m in editing mode, and I need to switch back to writer mode. I need to be able to write without so much care, but having despised editing, I am sure it won’t come so easily. I’ll basically be writing, editing, and rewriting the chapter as I go along.

I’m hoping that as I recognize this issue, I am arming myself with the tools/mindset I need to conquer it.

However, that’s enough negativity/worrying for now. New York City is 70 degrees, so I plan to stroll to rehearsal in the sunshine, listen to some podcasts, and generally live it up.

For those who care, my word count is currently: 90,539 roughly 305 pages.

Reaching out often leads to help

Today I reached out to someone. A recently published author, whose book I found after googling “LGBT” and “Theatre” in Good Reads. I do this every so often, so my book is about those two things, and I was scared when a plot similar to mine showed up. I read the sample chapter, and I was worried, because the description mentioned theatre, but the sample chapters didn’t seem to show much of it. Thankfully, the story was good, so I bought the ebook, and I was so engaged, I finished it in 24 hours.

The great news was, my book and this book, had very little cross over. And where the cross over was, it was really a delight. In many ways my characters were similar, and yet in no way were they the same. Inspired by the authors work, I reached out, and was shocked when 15 minutes after I sent the e-mail I had a reply. I had asked if the author would take questions, and they said yes. I sent the author a long list of questions I had, about the book, about the way it was picked up, and was amazed that I received a reply an hour later.

One thing the author said to me was:

“I think it may be time for you to start querying that novel.”

While my manuscript still needs at least one full round of editing, it did make me think that maybe I was going about editing in a slightly too OCD fashion. I keep looking at my manuscript, and trying to make each page an essential pageturner. While this is what I should want, it is also making me lose sight of what my book was supposed to be. It was supposed to be a good book, that would potentially sell a little, and help me while I dealt with the terrible economy. I told myself every time I sat down to write, that I wasn’t writing the next masterpiece, I was just writing an engaging story, that said something I wanted to say. In editing, I think I lost sight of that goal.

My manuscript needs to be in as good a shape as I can get it in, but it will never be perfect. I don’t think I was shooting for perfection, but I also have less faith in my editing skills, than I do my initial drafting/idea skills. If I edit something, I think there is an expectation that after editing, it will be as close to perfect as I can make it. I live in fear of sending out edited drafts, and people looking at it, and then wondering why they bothered to be a beta reader for me. I often wonder if I am better at explaining/hyping my novel, than I am at writing/editing it.

Reaching out to someone who has published with success is always nerve wracking for me. I strive hard to tell them I am a fan, that I want to be in the club, but that I have reservations/doubts as well as questions about how to get there. Out of the three times I’ve reached out, 2 out of 3 authors have responded to me with open arms, and for that I am truly grateful. If ever I am able to make it to the club of published authors, I hope I’ll be able to pay back the favor be encouraging new talent that reach out to me.