Audience Response

There are several big differences between writing a piece of fiction about theatre and actually performing. The one that has struck me lately though, is the lack of collaboration. While it is not unheard of for authors to collaborate, it is far less often than in theatre. Theatre requires collaboration. Actors work within a company to bring a story to life, even shows with a single cast member often have help, with people working the lighting, the sound, the box office. Few stories are performed by one person and one alone in front of a live audience. This is something I miss about writing.

While I wrote as a child, I think I really began to enjoy writing in college. In college I took two courses (Introduction to Fiction and Advanced Fiction) from the same professor. Now I won’t say this professor was the best I ever had, but she did wake me up to enjoying writing. One of the big things about that class that I miss is the feedback. We would read two students’ stories each class, and discuss it and give feedback. It was amazing. I’ve brought portions of my book to writer’s groups. Some were great, but unfortunately, I’ve yet to find one in my area that really works with me.

In theatre you have a director and fellow actors constantly watching you, and responding to what you are putting out there. In writing, the workshop is as close as you can get to something like that. So I am shocked that so few workshops exist. At least, ones that might be of interest to me. I recently joined one, but due to scheduling I’ve not been able to attend the workshops. I’m just not sure why they’ve been so hard to find. Especially since I’m just over the river from New York City.

I think that is why I’ve been a little out of sorts as of late. I’m used to immediate feedback. Since my book is about theatre, I tend to think of it as a piece of it. But it is not, it’s a novel. So I guess I just wanted to talk about that. Although I eventually got used to the fact that writing was a solitary experience, I only now have something to give people for feedback. So I’m once again having to adjust to the fact that this is not the theatre, and therefore feedback is going to be delayed.

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Vanity

As someone who is waiting, I feel equal parts relaxed (having nothing super pressing to attend to) and anxious (because I want whatever is coming to arrive). Both emotions strike me as incredibly vane. I try to remind myself that, it’s not all about me. When I’m writing, that feels easier. After all, I can’t show people the thing I’m working on. It’s not yet ready for readers. Now that it is in decent enough shape (at least in my opinion) it is harder to keep my own vanity in check. It’s hard not to ask my betas if they’ve opened the document or not. I keep thinking they haven’t, because certainly, if they had, they’d have stayed awake all night reading.

THIS IS NOT REMOTELY TRUE.

For those of my betas who have opened it, I’m sure they are thinking the opposite. I’m sure they are slogging through, uncertain why it took me this long to write what I sent them.

What I hope is something in between these two extremes is actually happening.

I’m going to go take a walk, and remember that there are other people in the world!

When to Query?

Today I successfully didn’t do anything with my manuscript, or at least so far. I like that this is true about as much as I don’t. I guess I really just want to start querying, but the conventional wisdom is “don’t query till it is as perfect as you can get it.” This kind of wisdom is hard for me, because honestly, even if it was perfect, I’d never know. I’m a bad perfectionist when it comes to books, because as a writer I’ve always succeeded because content usually trumps form. The content of my story is not likely to change in any big way, at least not until an agent & editor request it. I like the story as it is. Unfortunately, it might not be told perfectly. There might be grammar issues and even a few hiccups when it comes to consistency (like what month it is in the story.) I wonder if agents really reject stuff for these minor concerns. Most claim they want engaging stories, which I think I have.

I want to query now, but I am telling myself to wait. To get some feedback on the full manuscript, then do another round of editing (hopefully one that will take a lot less time) before I query. Still, the itch to just send off a query is there. I disliked sitting and editing my rough draft, but I knew it was something I had to do, and I was working towards querying. Now that I’ve sent it to betas, I have no work to do on my book. So once I finish up my real job work, I feel like I need to do something creative. I spent over a year training my brain to do creative work for several hours a day, and now that it has nothing to do, it is annoyed.  I guess I should buy a new video game to distract it!

Do my readers think my plan is right?

What goes where?

So today I couldn’t handle not looking at my manuscript. I changed a few words (nothing major) but I also looked at my first chapter. Now a lot of agents want a query letter, and the first five pages of your manuscript. I looked at my first five pages, and I like them, but I wonder if they are the right five pages.

Since I decided to write in present tense, I always worried that within 5 pages of my book, I have a flashback. The flashback is funny, according to most readers, but it is kind of early on. I worry that agents, as well as potential mass readers, might find this jarring. So today I decided to rearrange it a bit. I moved things all around to configure the first 2 chapters differently. The result of this ended up dividing the material of them into 3 chapters. Now the first five pages are certainly more streamlined, but I’m not sure they are any better for it. I worry that while this might make the book seem more conventional, it hurts the tone of the piece. As the funny stuff doesn’t come in until chapter 2.

I guess I won’t know how people feel, till I get feedback, but it is nice to have a plan.

Where do I go from here?

I expected today was going to be rough. Today was the first day in several months, I did not work on my book.  After doing plenty of stuff this morning, I felt the very familiar itch to start working on it, but I realized I didn’t know what I needed to do. As it stands, I am pleased with it, and I need to hear from someone other than myself what works and what doesn’t.

I worked a little on revising my query letter, and started filling out a synopsis, but for the most part, I tweeted and facebooked, and did whatever. This left me with a profound lack of purpose, which in turn depressed me. With my novel now in the hands of others, I now am in need of something to distract me from the dwindling amount of jobs out there. I applied for several today, some I might get, but have little hope for any of them. The nice thing was, I got to use my writing skills to type cover letters. The problem is, writing cover letters no one reads, reminds me that the same thing might happen for my book.

It’s not been a great day.

So to attempt to lift my spirits, I shall depart, and take a nice long walk. This has proved therapeutic in the past, and it is also good for me.

Sending it out there

So as of a few minutes ago, some lucky betas (or maybe horribly unlucky) just received my fully edited/revised manuscript in their inbox. I gave them a very small time frame (2 weeks) to read it. Now I did also say, that I wouldn’t care if they didn’t finish it in 2 weeks. Rather, in 2 weeks I could catch up with him, ask where they were, and if they had not finished, asked what the hold up was.

This is kind of an insane thing to do, but I feel people respond well to deadlines, and my goal is have written a book that is engaging enough that people will not want to put it down.

For me, the next few weeks are going to be about waiting, which is something that I am terrible at. However, I am going to try and calm myself about it by doing the following things:

  1. Work on query letters
  2. Work out more
  3. Resume job hunting with insane vigor
  4. Finish loose ends legal projects I’ve got going
  5. Reading  books represented by agents I want to represent me

What is going to be the hardest thing? NOT WORKING ON THE NOVEL.

Honestly, I need some time away from it, because when I look at it, I can barely read the actual words in front of me. I read the words in my head (this is a problem everyone has, but for people like me who memorize well, I think it is especially bad). So if you really want me to read something of yours, now might be the time to ask.

FINISHED FULL REVISION

This guy is reading the end of a book…because I finished revising mine!

The feeling of completing a revision is similar to completing the first draft. Yet the excitement and elation comes from very different places. When I completed my rough draft. I was happy because I finished a story. It had a beginning, middle, and end. I thought then, that I had a novel. After taking two weeks off, I booted up my word document, and was horrified to see that what I had was in fact, a story. The components of a novel had all been laid out, but the telling of them was sloppy. It was not yet a narrative. I could not, in good faith, place a copy of it in the hands of my friends and readers, and ask them to read it. It was pretty much unreadable to anyone but me, who could fill in all the missing pieces of the story, and understand the intention behind much of the clunky prose.

I am certain that the condition my novel is in now, is by no means perfect. Those beta readers I have been fortunate enough to have, who have been reading two chapters at a time, have shown me that, even on my best day, my ability to edit myself is highly flawed. Not just spelling errors and grammatical mistakes, of which my readers find many, but things I simply left out. Such as a character’s age.

In revising the end of my novel, I was pleased that the writing was better. I actually yelled at my characters, the way I do in books written by actual professionals. This made me feel I was certainly doing something right. Unfortunately, I am already sure that some of the information I need to put in to make the ending feel earned, will require yet more editing and revising. However, that is to turn what is now a good story, into a better one.

Now I feel my story is a true narrative. One that might be slightly clumsily written, but that anyone could pick up and read. They could follow it from beginning to end, and not be confused.

Celebrating this is fun, but it feels very different than when I completed my first draft. Then I was excited because I personally had crafted a complete story, whereas now, I am happy that others will get to read it. This makes me much happier, because in addition to a personal victory, it is one I can share with others.

I now have the excitement and dread of dealing with full critiques of my manuscript. I think I might need to invest in a case of wine.

The word count when the rough draft was finished was:  91,524

The word count as of now is: 92,685

 

To learn more about it, you can always visit: http://therole.wordpress.com/

1 Chapter edited equals 2 chapters revised

Today I finished a big chapter, which upon second glance needed to be two. So I divided it. Therefore the above picture shows two guys reading one book =)

I always get worried about chapter breaks. I like to keep each chapter roughly 4,000 words or so. That way it is easy for the reader to digest. I worried about splitting this one, and then realized, that worry about that was kind of insane. No one isn’t going to buy my book, because I broke up one chapter. That’s a silly thing to worry about. So I stopped.

Like the chapter before it, I had to kind of justify and work with it a bit more, really let the characters reveal their souls. This means I worry that I might have gone a bit too far. I CANNOT WAIT for my beta readers to get to it! I’m salivating for criticism at this point!

Current Word Count: 91,958

Over Another Hurdle

Another cutey reading a book, means I’m not on done with editing chapter 19 (I didn’t remember to post for finishing chapter 18).

So yay me. That’s the celebration, but I want to write about the issues I had with chapter 19, as it is an issue many people probably have in editing.

Chapter 19 involves the thing that really get to the climax of the book. The big turning point. So it needs to work really well, and what I originally wrote wasn’t up to my standards. This is actually a rarity, as most of my editing/revising is about filling in and enhancing what was already there, not changing it. Yet, things had to change, because during my initial drafting, I  hadn’t realized just how strong my main character had become. Therefore, I needed to really amp up the story, to make it believable that he could still be hurt.

This meant really delving into some evil. Finding really terrible things to say, especially between two characters I have grown to love, is hard. While it was easier this time, than when I wrote the big climactic moment, I am worried that I will also have to make that even more harsh. In addition to be unpleasant for personal reasons, I am starting to worry/wonder if my book might be slipping outside of reality. I’m hoping the fact that the book is about actors, will allow the reader to cut me some slack. Theatre people (like me) are dramatic.

Belated post with a celebratory bow

Yeah, that’s a cute guy reading, meaning I finished another chapter. That’s the good celebration part of the post, but I want to write/talk about why I’ve been quiet all week.

The short answer is: I was busy, and had a prescription problem.

I have talked a lot on the blog about my new work stuff, so I won’t bore you with the busy part of the answer, but I do want to talk about my prescription issue.

The issue is pretty simple: I ran out of ritalin. Nowadays I’m very upfront with the fact I take ritalin for ADD/ADHD (I’m diagnosed ADHD, but I self-diagnose as ADD) One of the reasons I talk about it is, I used to be ashamed of it. When I take my pill, I am certainly different. I’m not super needy, and I can focus on whatever task/tasks are in front of me. I eat less, do more, and generally make better decisions. Part of me looks at all of that and thinks: Well…if your brain had “normal” chemistry, you’d do that without medication. So taking it, is just allowing you to be who you want/really are. The other part of me thinks I’m sacrificing the real me, who is spacey, and prone to being happy about anything, for the sake of being productive.

Over time I’ve become more and more at peace with the inner conflict. Which is great….until I ran out of my medication. I noticed that the pharmacy had not given me the appropriate amount of my medication, when I saw that after two weeks of my monthly prescription I was running low. So I went back to the pharmacist, and told them I thought there had been a mistake. They proceeded to make me look like I was abusing my meds. Now I’ve been taking ritalin since I was 15. I’m not saying I couldn’t all of a sudden decide to abuse them, but the odds of them making a mistake is probably higher at this point. Thankfully today I was able to once again refill my prescription (I had to walk 3 miles to find a pharmacy with it on hand) and get back to doing work.

It is my hope that by the time I am refilling my prescription in May. My book will have been editing by me, and will be in the hands of my beta readers. Possibly…agents.

Current Word Count: 91,690

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