Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Mysteries of the Universe: Sleep

So sometimes I ponder the mysteries of the universe (because, really, somebody has to). Today I spent the better part of my 25 minute drive to and from lessons pondering how people ever got out of bed before alarm clocks were invented. Did they just wake up with the sun or what? I finally had the sense to google it this evening, and happened upon an enlightening article.

Really interesting stuff, and it makes me want to write a novel featuring water clocks. But now I have more questions.

How did the church bell ringers and the knockers-up know when to wake up? Did they always have to employ the bladder-control method (which struck me as completely hilarious)? If they overslept mightn't they throw off the equilibrium of an entire town?? Would anyone even notice? How did they know what time to ring the church bells anyway?

Also, does anyone else ever feel bad for fictional characters' sleeping conditions? Maybe it's just because I'm a light sleeper and always have a horrible time nodding off in unfamiliar or less-than-ideal surroundings, but I'm always in awe of characters who can fall right to sleep in the woods or a cave or a prison cell and wake refreshed and ready to conquer the world. I can't even fall asleep on a comfortable couch unless I'm deathly ill, and if I'm running on less than six (but preferably eight or nine!!) hours of sleep I can barely function. I think I would be pretty much useless on an actual adventure—characters in novels don't seem to have these problems.

They don't have chapstick, either, which is one reason I'm happy to be living in this lovely modern era. I mean, I read once that pioneers put axle grease on their lips to keep them from getting chapped, but that's just gross.

And there you have it.

(Apologies for the glimpse into my peculiar brain. This is what happens when I'm not actively working on a novel.)

Monday, November 29, 2010

Video Monday!

Happy Monday, intrepid readers! In lieu of any actual news (I'm writing a synopsis; not exactly riveting, is it?), I thought I would share some vids:

First up, How To Be a Secret Agent (Scarecrow and Mrs. King)

"I feel like I'm lying and sneaking."
"You are lying and sneaking. You're working for the government."

Next up, Everybody Loves Me (Merlin)

And last but not least, a Sherlock/Doctor Who crossover? If only it were true!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Book Reviews: Starcrossed and Plain Kate

Reading a really, really, really good book is pretty much my favorite thing in the whole world—it's right up there with rainstorms and purring cats and Chopin Ballades. The only thing better is reading TWO really, really really good books right in a row.

Enter Starcrossed, by Elizabeth C. Bunce, and Plain Kate, by Erin Bow, both of which I had the pleasure of nabbing at the library a week and a half ago. Seriously, WOW.

Starcrossed follows the story of Digger, a thief-turned-lady's-maid who's being blackmailed to spy on a bunch of nobles in a snowbound castle. Set in a Renaissance-inspired fantasy world awash with religious persecution, magic and secrets abound…

I adored this book. It's like the Attolia series and Crown Duel meets BBC's Merlin, which is all kinds of amazing. Fabulous character development, fantastic writing, lots of interesting-and-unexpected-plot-developments, and an all around beautiful and compelling story. I'm eagerly awaiting the sequel, Liar's Moon, due out next fall (I think?).

Plain Kate is an exquisite gem of a novel that captured my heart and then proceeded to wrench it thoroughly. It's the story of Kate, a skilled wood carver accused of witchcraft, who trades her shadow for the means to escape her town. It's Russian in flavor, and filled with color and heart; the prose is deceptively simple and as gorgeous as it is unusual. The story itself just about made me break down sobbing in several places; it has real resonance and depth. I finished it last Thursday and still can't quite stop thinking about it. Also, there is an amazing and adorable TALKING CAT, for whom I fell completely head over heels. (Heart you, Taggle!!) A really, really wonderful book.

Both are HIGHLY recommended, and are for sure going on my "Best Reads of 2010" list.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Pacing, or, What I Learned Whilst Revising My Novel

So my second draft has been complete for a whole week now, and while trusty people are reading it for me, I'm busy working on a query letter and synopsis and researching agents. I read through draft #2 myself last Monday and Tuesday, and after trimming scattered unnecessary verbiage and deleting a scene from chapter three, I successfully wrangled  it down to 80,055 words, which was my hoped-for word count from the beginning. So that's pretty awesome!

At any rate, I thought I would do a sort of follow-up to my post back in March about experimenting with revision techniques, when I was first figuring out how I wanted to tackle this second draft.

Probably my biggest focus during Draft #2 was fixing the PACING. As the shrunken manuscript pointed out at the very beginning, this was a HUGE problem area for this novel, and something I wrestled with a lot when creating my handy-dandy revision-battle-plan spreadsheet outline. That outline was THE BOMB. It really helped me work on the big-picture plot-and-pacing issues without getting bogged down in the prose, and even when I was entrenched in the actual slog of re-writing, it kept me on track. There were a few times where what I'd decided to do on the outline and what worked in the actual manuscript were two different things (most notably in a handful of the ending chapters when I tumbled down that GAPING PLOT HOLE). But for the most part it was invaluable, and I don't think any outline should ever be so rigid that you can't take the story in a slightly different direction if the narrative demands it.

Reading through the second draft, I was excited to see how much the pacing really had improved. All the scenes were there for specific reasons (except for that scene in chapter three, which is why it got axed), and the arc of the narrative felt more natural than before. I'm still vaguely uncertain about a few things that happen towards the end, especially whether or not I successfully filled that plot hole (that's what my intrepid readers are for :-)), but overall I'm really pleased. I'm almost beginning to think that revising is more rewarding than first drafting, even though it's more painful (and takes a heck of a lot longer)…

In any case, I've learned a ton about my revising process over the last ten months, and I feel more equipped to tackle revisions in the future (which is good, because I have a lot of them looming).

Without further ado, I give you Things I Learned Whilst Revising My Novel (a list):

  1. The spreadsheet outline is THE BEST.
  2. Numbering all the scenes on the hard copy of my manuscript is excessively helpful.
  3. Rewriting takes longer than first drafting, it just does. My subconscious needs time to work through problems.
  4. Actually fixing things in the manuscript is harder than figuring out how to fix them on the outline.
  5. Deleting unnecessary passages and scenes—even if I like them—is very, very freeing, especially if I stash them in a could-salvage-later-if-I-need-to folder.
  6. Finishing a second draft feels GOOD.
And there you have it.

Monday, November 8, 2010

I FINISHED!!! + Novel Stats

As of 2:19 this afternoon, I typed the final words of the second draft of Seer and I am DONE! Took me months longer than I'd hoped and I still have to do a read-through to make sure I made it better and not worse, but the important thing is that I FINISHED IT!! If you couldn't tell by all the caps and exclamation points, I'm EXCITED!! :-)

And in a long-standing tradition, I thought I'd give you some STATS:

Initial idea: December 23rd, 2009
Outlining: 10 days (January 7th—17th)
First draft: 7 weeks (January 18th—March 7th)
Word count: 70,018
Revision outline: 3ish weeks (March 25th—April 18th)
Second draft: 6 months and 3 weeks (April 19th—November 8th)
Word count: 81,937

So from initial idea to completed second draft took me about ten and a half months, and from draft one to draft two I gained nearly 12k, which still makes this the second shortest book I have ever written.


Thursday, November 4, 2010


So whilst revising this week I was thinking about libraries, because my main character was sitting in one, pulling books off the shelf and searching for ANSWERS. And then I realized this happens a lot in my novels.

Of my six completed manuscripts (which are set in four completely different universe-systems), all have libraries—some just minor settings, some crucial to the plot, all backdrops for Important Scenes. There's even an underground library in that not-so-short-story I wrote last fall.

I don't know that this is especially significant, but I thought it was interesting. I wonder if all the libraries could get a trans-dimensional-cross-universe-interlibrary-loan thing going on. That would be pretty cool.

Monday, November 1, 2010

On Plot Holes, and Falling Into Them

Soooooooooo, as you know, today is November 1st. (I haven't a CLUE how in the world there's only two months left in 2010—this year has lasted approximately a week and a half.)

I am sorry to report that I did not finish draft two of Seer by last night. I still have four chapters left to get through. I was bookin' along, churning out two or three chapters a day, and I really really thought I was going to make it and then


I was aware of the problem area before I got there, but I'd thought that some simple rearranging and minor revisions would fix it.

It very definitely did not.

After the initial horror at my poor novel's predicament, my brain went into creative over-drive. There was much head-scratching, late-night pondering, and, of course, running-around-in-circles-in-despair. As of yesterday morning (I was paying attention in church—I swear), my brain presented me with a solution. I think it's going to work. I think it might even be a little bit brilliant. It certainly makes more SENSE than before.

Yesterday afternoon I went to the park and spread a blanket under a tree and studiously re-revised two chapters in preparation for the Big Plot Hole Fix. Today I have to actually fix the plot hole.

Which might be why I just spent an hour and a half cleaning my entire downstairs and writing this blog.

Here's to climbing out of the hole!