A Little Love

So I’d meant to post this on Valentine’s Day, and then things got hectic. But it’s still February – we may as well call it the month of love – and it’s never too late for a little love, right?

A Little Book of Kisses

In the celebration of love of this month, I am reminded that I love my job(s) and I am incredibly lucky to lead the life I love. Love for my family and friends and fellow writers! Love for the wonderful people who encourage, support, and make my writing possible.

Happy Valentine's Day

A Valentine’s Day present I made for my amazing boyfriend. I’m all about embossing these days!

Valentine’s Day was a great reminder to celebrate all of the things and people that I love, not just one day a year, but every day.

Open Book of KissesI am chugging along reading the YA/NA books I picked up at the library. Three and a half down, six and a half to go… I am trying desperately to finish them before March begins, as that is the official NaNoEdMo and several members of my writers group and I are having a little competition to support each other in getting in as many hours of editing as we can, perhaps well beyond the 50-hour mark.

So far, I have had no brilliant ideas for my ending. The books I’ve read do have the common triumphant end, though I have seen lovers dying and series where the drama just drags out. For some reason I feel like if I manage to read all ten books (and maybe the two others I’ve got a library hold out for) then I’ll have what I need to make a miraculous revision when I finally get down to it.

I’ll admit, I’m frustrated by the time it seems to take in between each draft to get myself geared up and ready to revise. So far it’s worked well – each revision has been drastic and something I’m proud of – but I do wish I could shrink the process, the same way I’ve been shortening the time it takes to finish a draft. But since the subconscious doesn’t work that way, I’m working on relaxing and allowing it to do its thing, and in the meantime, devouring these books.

To finish my 12-book goal by March 1, that’d be approximately two books per day, and I’d have to do nothing but read, which isn’t going to happen. I’m sad about this. But I’m going to just read as much as I can before I jump into the revision and then see if I can’t read and write at the same time… Here’s hoping 50 hours in a month will be easier the second time around!

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A Tricky Spot

Yesterday my aunt asked, “How’s the novel going?” And I had to answer, “Well… at the moment… it’s kind of… not.” I’m feeling incredibly frustrated about my ending. After finishing the last draft, I felt that I had gotten pretty close to writing what I wanted to write. But now I’m dealing with this central dilemma: writing what I want to write, versus what I want to read. Or versus what my readers want to read. This is another thing that hasn’t changed since I started writing this book.

Traditionally, young adult books have triumphant endings, where the protagonist overcomes, and when I put these down I have that warm fuzzy satisfied feeling. Often when I read literary fiction I find myself slogging through, sometimes forcing myself to digest the next word and the next word, but when I finish the book I’m left thinking, wanting to talk about it. As is common in literary fiction, the current ending of my book is very dark. So, the opposite of traditional YA.

As my sister put it, you’ve put yourself in a tricky spot. Do literary fiction and young adult overlap? Is it possible to write literary fiction about sorority life? Another question I’ve been asking from the beginning, with no clear answer.

A successful writer friend of mine told me about an emerging genre called “New Adult,” which apparently targets the demographic my novel is about/for, and addresses the coming-of-age between adolescence and true adulthood. (See the wiki article, a site for NA writers called NA Alley, and an article on the Huffington post.) She suggested I read best sellers in this genre, paying attention to how those authors did their endings. A trip to the library the other day produced a stack of books, still labeled YA (most of the best sellers were checked out, so I’m on the waiting list). Hopefully this will get the creative juices flowing…

Library Books

Did I mention it’s my birthday? I don’t like to think that another year has come and gone, and I still haven’t finished/published this book! But then again, there’s nothing I’d rather be doing than writing, rewriting, reading, rewriting… and I’m in this, no matter how many birthdays it takes. I’m celebrating with friends and family later on, but at this moment there’s nowhere I’d rather be than on my couch, at my computer, writing on my birthday.

happy bday

A lovely Valentine’s-themed birthday gift from my incredibly sweet and caring aunt, who remembers the special days of everyone in the family and always sends us holiday gifts, too.

“Pantser”

I have been having a hard time with draft 3. It’s the ending. I tried one ending in draft 1, which didn’t work, and another ending in draft 2, which didn’t work. It’s time for another ending in draft 3, and – I’m afraid it won’t work.

My mentor suggested I read a slew of books in my potential genres to see how other authors resolve their stories, so I went to the library. I browsed the teen fiction section for novels about power struggles,

bullying, growing up. I collected a stack of books, used the new, high-tech self check out, and started reading.

So far, no clear answers for how to resolve the conflict I’ve set up. I guess I did not really expect any, though it would have been nice. I’ve had a few ethereal ideas.

Some people write by plotting, planning the details. Some write by the seat of their pants and see where the writing takes them. My mentor suggested that I’m more of a “pantser” than I think. Maybe it’s time to just go at it.

Lessons from The Jokers

I was babysitting my seven-year-old cousin who is, to my joy, an avid reader, and my aunt asked me to take him to the library. One of my favorite distractions is using “big words,” for which he pauses his mischief to discover the definition.
As he browsed the young readers’ chapter-book section, I sifted through “New Fiction” and found this awesome book: Albert Cossery’s The Jokers. After Googling this NPR review on my iPhone, I decided to check it out, and I wasn’t disappointed. First published in French in 1964, the book is still relevant – and great to learn from as I revise my novel. As I read I discovered a few key literary techniques…

In this novel, Cossery drew one chapter right into the next. When I began writing the first draft of my novel, a member of my writers’ group suggested I treat each chapter as a short story. This was great advice, as it made the task easier to tackle and each chapter well-rounded in its own right. Unfortunately, it also meant I ended up with a lot of disjointed, or completely lacking, transitions. So as I revise one of the things I’m working in is linking chapter to chapter.
Cossery told the story from several different perspectives: the first seven or eight chapters were each narrated by a different character. Although I played with POV in my first draft, mostly by accident, for the second I decided to streamline. The limited perspective is working so far. However, nice to know it can be done.
Cossery’s novel was clean, read fast, had empathetic yet deeply flawed characters, and it had a message that was both political and a statement on human nature. And it hinged on the last line. This, I thought, was something only short stories were allowed to do. Not something I’m going for but again, good to know it can be done.

In order to check out my book, and my cousin’s, I got a new library card. Amazingly, the design is exactly the same as when I got my first library card, at around my cousin’s age. I have always loved libraries, and bookstores. As books go digital and stores disappear, I’m reminded of Fahrenheit 451. Fingers crossed books don’t go the way of Montag’s world – and my work lives on in the physical world as well as the digital.