Friday, August 31, 2007


Did you catch the eclipse on the 28th? My husband decided to have a party and stay up all night, so we saw the whole thing in between playing croquet on the back lawn in the light from tiki torches. The next day, we were exhausted and we had a party guest sleeping on our couch. Sometime in the middle of the night, a neighbor apparently called the cops to complain that we were making too much noise. Now remember, we're in our forties, and our guests were mostly in their forties or older. We weren't a bunch of teenagers having a wild party. I have no idea why my husband chose to howl at the moon. Honestly. Sheesh.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Hands Up!

I can't believe it. I think I've finished the rewrite. I just rolled through Chapter 20 last night. I've already fixed the page numbers, tweaked names and other things here and there--minor details, but important. All the scenes that were to be rewritten have been, new scenes have been added and others compressed or moved. I'm waiting on a couple minor fact-checks from my friends in Ireland, I need to get a copy of the manuscript to each of the Moxie to read over this next week, and I need to rewrite the synopsis to agree with the plot changes,'s all over but the screaming.


Wednesday, August 22, 2007


Every writer has his or her Achilles' heel. Some have far more trouble beginning or ending a story than getting through the meat of the plot in the middle. I may not be published yet, but I've written six-and-a-half novels to date, and I've noticed my particular trends. I have never written a book that was intended as a standalone, though each book has a complete plot arc. My first chapter of any given series is always the one I rewrite the most. The first chapter of the second book of a series--not so much. For some reason that one always starts easier, even with the "our story so far" woven in as subtly as I can manage.

And then there are middles. (Sigh.)

Some of my middles are no problem at all--plenty of action, no sagging. Other middles tend to have a soft underbelly that I must later trim and tone. The current book, (the title of which I've changed from "Beyond the Pale" to "From the Ninth Wave") is one of the ones that needed to develop a six-pack.

Why do some writers have such trouble getting from Here to There? Depends on the writer, of course, but there are some common pitfalls. One of these I call the Invisible Middle. In this one, the writer has a very well visualized beginning and ending. It's just getting from point A to point B that's a little foggy. It's like starting out from a city on the west coast of the U.S. and trying to drive to one on the east coast without a roadmap. You might know roughly where your destination is, but getting through all the states in the middle...well, let's just say you might end up putting on a lot of unnecessary miles before you triumphantly drive into your final city limits. In my own writing, the cure for this one is to come up with a bunch of possible things that might happen to your characters on the way from point A to point B. The trick is in keeping the most likely events and discarding the ones that just won't work. Unfortunately, the wild brainstorming for filler often results in a bunch of scenes that don't necessarily grow well out of the original plot seed. When laden with too many "filler" scenes to pad out the word count, the middle can get rather heavy.

This brings me to the next problem middle: the Flabby Middle. See? The cure for the Invisible Middle led to a middle that's maybe a little too visible. The cure for this one is harder to come by. Good readers are a must if you can't see all the places where you've put in soft, doughy filler scenes. With the help of people who aren't afraid to tell you at which point your prose made them snooze off, try to identify the scenes you just wrote because you "needed something to happen between the scene where the character does X and the scene where he does Z." Chances are, the scene that should be point Y on the map ended up being a filler scene, full of things that don't really advance the plot. In these types of filler scenes, you're just trying to kill time for your character to make your overall timeline work out right. Watch out; these scenes usually have to be cut or changed substantially. In some ways, it's almost easier to work with a gaping plot hole than a doughy, sticky mess between otherwise lean action sequences. Every scene in the plot should logically follow the one before it and should contain something that advances the plot in some way. Character development is great for scenes with less action, but there should still be tension in them and they should still be important for the overall storyline. Otherwise, what are they doing there? Build your plot one muscle at a time. Construct it, then hone it until it's a lean, strong, beautiful machine. Don't ever pad it with fluff just because you need "something between here and there."

More on middles later....

Monday, August 20, 2007

The End's In Sight

I can hardly believe this, but I may actually be able to finish this rewrite by the end of August. I know I've had to adjust my deadlines several times during the last few months, but I think this time is really the last time. The reason I think this is that I've nearly finished the changes for Chapter 15, and I've examined Chapters 18, 19, and 20 and already made a few of the necessary minor tweaks to them to get them to agree with what's already happened. Chapter 17 may also fall into that same category, which pretty much leaves me with Chapter 16 to edit, and then we're in business.

I need to finish editing the one scene left in Chapter 15, which I'll do tonight. If there's time, I'll also start work on Chapter 16. The only possible things that might remain to do for 17-20 are minor changes to the conversations between my hero and heroine, which will probably take place over the next few days, and then I'll probably fall over in shock at actually being done. I'll need to run the finished book past the Moxie for one last read-through, and then it's off to Bob, finally. He's told me in the past that my skill with rewriting is one of my strengths, so we'll see how I did on this one.

I started out in early March with very little idea of what to do to fix the middle of my book. Between that and the family's time vs school issues, this rewrite took me a lot longer than I'd have preferred. I know that if I'd had a hard publisher's deadline, this would have been a recipe for disaster. So I will be taking steps to make sure this never happens again. I don't know how long a publisher usually gives an author to edit a novel, but I get the feeling it's probably measured in weeks, rather than months. This spring and summer definitely didn't go as planned, but I will manage things better from here on out, rather than letting things manage me.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

The Office

Tonight I went to the Moxie Java just down the road from where I live. It was quiet and uncrowded. The music was elevator variety and very low in the background. I was able to buy a sandwich that actually had some protein in it. Granted, the sandwiches were all on croissant rolls, much fattier than I'd have preferred, but when pretty much all coffee-shop food is some manner of carbohydrate, a sandwich with some actual deli meat looks decent no matter what kind of breadlike substance it's made with. At least they had hot tea, and a table with a plug-in. The table wasn't so high that my arms had to scrunch up at the shoulders to allow me to type on the laptop. And they stayed open until 11 p.m., which they do every Friday and Saturday night. All other nights except Sunday, they're open until 10.

I think I just found my new away-from-home office.

I just finished Chapter 14 tonight. Just six more to go, and not all will require major adjustments. The end is in sight.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Late Night Diner Session

Okay, I know I've been doing the restaurant/laptop scenario a lot lately, but it's working, so I can't knock it now. Tonight I went to Denny's because I had belly dance class with my teenager during the afternoon and just didn't manage to get to work any sooner. The Denny's put me in a (mostly) quiet corner, brought me many cups of tea and didn't care how long I stayed there. As a result, I was there for about five hours and got all of the revisions for Chapter 13 done. Gasp.

To be fair, only about three and a half hours of those five were actually spent in writing. I spent some of the time eating dinner, and the rest of the time I was distracted by a guy right across from me with a cell phone. He must've gabbed for at least 45 minutes, and I thought he'd never leave. Then when he was done, he had to come up and deliberately interrupt me so he could comment about how he needed to get a laptop, too. Doh!

I finished working around 2 a.m. and drove home. Now I'm going to transfer the files to my PC (wish me luck!) and go to bed--assuming I can get the computer to stop grinding on its automatic updates and do what I want it to do....

Monday, August 13, 2007

Chapter Eleven--In a Good Way

I just finished the file for Chapter 11 this last week. The novel Chapter 11, not the financial proceeding. It had a new scene in it that allowed one of the bad guys to be...well...badder still. Which, in a novel, is good.

Tonight I took the laptop to another restaurant--I know, I know. Too much of that, and I could be looking at a different version of chapter 11. (Just kidding!) But I spent about an hour and a half, and got most of Chapter 12's first scene reworked. I'm thinking that there may only be one other completely new scene to write between here and Chapter 20, and revisions take me a lot less time.

In other news, I accidentally blew away all my customizations on Blogger again, so I'll have to redo all the links as soon as I have time. At least I didn't lose all my previous posts. (Shudder!) for a minute there, I thought I'd lost the past two or so years worth of posts. I'll be more careful in the future.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

A Change of Scene

The notorious Chapter Ten is finished--has been for about a week now. So that's one piece of good news. And even though I overwrote one part of it by accident, I think the new stuff is just as good if not better. The scene turned out fine, and it put me over the mid-book hump. Things should be much easier and much faster from here on out.

I was having a conversation with my kids (okay, I was lecturing my kids) about why they have some difficulty in settling down to their schoolwork. Public school kids leave the house and their familiar home environment every day during the school year and go to a building devoted to just that purpose. They don't have access to the time-wasters and recreational temptations (like TV and computer games) that homeschooled kids have. The trick for a homeschooler is finding a way to put himself into the mindset of "when I go into this home office, I'm at school. I'm on school time, and I don't have access to my time-wasting activities." That's harder than it sounds, however. Easy to say, but not so easy to do. It takes a lot of mental discipline to pass up that computer game or online fanfic, especially when/if it's more interesting than the assignment due.

And what about writers? Most of us have our time-wasters, too. Minesweeper, Spider Solitaire, surfing the net, reading all the websites for hopeful fellow writers, reading all the websites of our favorite authors, and on and on into white page oblivion. Intentions are good, but they don't look like much on the page. Morale might be low due to not having a publisher's contract on the table, but a finished work at least has a chance at publication, while a blank page has none. I, for one, am out of excuses.

What have I wasted time on lately? Oh, for starters, watching DVD episodes of kids' shows I loved when I was nine--back in the 1970's. Oh, Mighty Isis! (Yeah, I know, I know....) Sometimes I just need a blast from the past, so I can keep things in perspective--sort of see where I've been so I can focus anew on where I'm going, I guess. And then there's something from the present...a fantasy novel written entirely in Irish Gaelige, which I'm laboriously translating so I can find out what the story is. (This exercise actually has some relevance to the book I'm writing, since I use some Irish in it, but still...) Two to three hours deciphering two paragraphs is a steep price to pay if it takes up all of my writing time for one night.

I admit I've been struggling with this rewrite, kind of like a motorist with half a roadmap, but I think it's safe to say that I've finally recognized enough signposts that I'll be able to find my way from here. Many thanks to the Moxie for helping me pull myself out of the ruts along the way! Most of the time, I just needed a soundboard to bounce things off of-- a talking, thinking soundboard--or two. Even the Huz got drafted into listening while I talked myself into the right plot direction. Funny how that never works as well when I'm talking to the cat, the dog, or myself....

Today I had another new scene to write, and I decided that another day of poor progress was simply not acceptable. So I loaded up my laptop and left. Stopped off for a dentist appointment, had lunch with the family, and then just took off and left them to fend for themselves (gasp!) I went to a quiet, unobtrusive Moxie Java, ordered an iced tea and hit the new scene running. It wasn't easy--but it was a lot easier than trying to do it at home with all the time-wasters calling. By the time I treated myself to dinner at a nearby restaurant, I had a thousand words, and they painted a decent picture. I have to say, I hate the laptop keyboard. It's not ergo, and it hurts me. But for that thousand words, it was worth it. I'm so close to finishing that scene that I'm going back to it now. I think it's safe to say that the logjam is finally broken, and if it takes going to the Moxie with the laptop every day from now until Chapter 20, then that's what I'll do.