Methods and Madness. Not Necessarily in that Order.

So, my lovely gang of QueryTracker peeps and I agreed to start a blog chain.

I will concede that I did, indeed, agree to join the chain and to post on the topics at hand.

I did NOT anticipate the lengths those cheeky, sneaky things would go to to outshine me… Photobucket

Not only did they post gorgeous, thoughtful posts on their own blogs (here, here, here, and here) on the topic of writing methods, but they stealthily rolled them out one after another while I was working a 26-hour shift. Leaving me now to catch up on reading them all and then try to hold my own in a hazy-headed post-call state. No fair, you stinkers! Photobucket

Aspiring novelists are so durned competitive!Photobucket

But I will show them all… I’ve headed straight for my beloved Caribou Coffee and with this large Hazelnut Latte at my side, I shall do my best to muddle through.

Despite my thread title, I am definitely much more method than madness when it comes to writing. I’m a big fan of thinking. When I sat down to write The Edge of Memory (which, by the way, came as much of a surprise to me as to anyone) I had already spent about a month of long commutes working out the plot and character details.

Before I wrote word one of my manuscript, I had already decided the major plot twists and story arc. I knew who all the characters were and what their motivations were for their behavior. And while these things did change both during the writing and editing processes, they didn’t change as much as you might have expected.

I researched the etymology of names for all my characters, and for the fictitious town (the other towns and cities I used are real cities). I researched details down to when major battles were fought in the Korean War, what the weather was like in 1951, and what major news events happened in the early eighties.

Here is the notes sheet I typed a couple of days before I started writing… my very first outline, I suppose.

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Once I started writing, it was quick and chronological. I wrote, on average, a chapter a day. My chapters for TEoM average about 2300 words. On the days I had to work a 24+hour shift, I couldn’t write at all, but I usually made up for it by writing two chapters on a day that I was home.

I started the draft on October 18th, 2007. I finished the draft at around 95,000 unedited words on December 6.

I don’t hear voices or anything interesting like that. I just see the story unfolding on the back of my eyelids. Very much like a DVD. And when I don’t like something, I rewind it and play it again slightly differently. I make a lot of faces when I write, copying my characters expressions so I can describe them properly.

Whenever I got stuck, I researched some detail I needed more information about. When I couldn’t think of anything that needed researching, I designed fake book covers and compiled imaginary soundtracks. I cast actors to star in the imaginary movie based on my imaginary book. I immersed myself completely in my story until the draft was complete.

Naturally, along the way I panicked. Often. What in heck did I think I was doing? For keeping me (relatively) sane during that time, I owe huge debts of gratitude to my BFF Clara, and my first secret test readers (Ariel, Erica, and Stacey) to whom I mailed 3-chapter chunks as I finished them. Yes, the raw unedited original draft versions. And they all told me to keep going. I Photobucket them more than I can ever say.

The bottom line is that writing is extremely personal. In every possible way. What works for me wouldn’t work for Elana. What works for Elana makes my head hurt when I think of trying that way. If you are driven to write, you will eventually find your way to what works for you.

My tips:

  • I find music both soothing and inspirational. I have a couple hundred songs that I listened to on random while I was writing The Edge of Memory; I chose them because they were appropriate for my story. I made a disk for my car, which put me right into story-planning mode.
  • Writing a novel is an overwhelming concept. So don’t do that. Write a chapter. Or a page. They will accumulate faster than you thought possible. Like laundry.
  • As much as it pains you, try not to edit until your story is down on the page. It is still easier to revise the roughest prose than it is to make yourself finish when you are wallowing over how much work your writing still needs.
  • Find a cheering section. Be they family, friends, internet buddies, or supportive strangers. Make yourself accountable to them and let them support you.
  • Once you’ve finished the draft, then look for the ruthless folks who will help you make your manuscript better.
  • And, finally, if you ever agree to join a blog chain, make sure you read the fine print, so you don’t end up babbling at Caribou Coffee. Photobucket

So, that’s my sleep-deprived addition to the discussion. Your next blog post will be brought to you by the letters M and L. As in, Mary Lindsey who is probably tapping her foot Photobucket waiting for me to get my blog-chaining Photobucket in gear.

Incidentally, if you’re a writer (or agent or editor or publishing peep of some sort) interested in joining a (very sneaky!) blog chain gang, we’d be delighted to have you. You can contact me, or any of the other bloggers to get started.

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I Can Has Agent?

My test reader chitties will remember this…

Thought I’d just put my original query letter up for review.

I decided it was too formal, though.

I Can Has Ageny

Well, after much (much!) painful deliberation…

and much nagging of test readers and even folks who have not read my book, there seems to have emerged a preference among the recent title front-runners.

Edge Cover

So, I should begin querying in earnest soon. I sent off a couple of e-queries last week under my previous title of “Still Haunted” also, so we’ll see where that gets me.

It’s officially spring and it’s Easter, so it seems a good day for a new beginning and a new title. 🙂

I felt so symbolic yesterday…

I feel I’ve turned a corner, made a circle back.

Circles have odd personal symbolism for me. I am drawn to their forever quality, their symmetry, their perfection.

I remember being amazed when my mother told me that Leonardo DaVinci could draw a perfect circle freehanded. I don’t know if that’s true. I certainly can’t, although I can write in mirror image as he did. A bizarre skill I discovered when my junior high school class was instructed to try it during an art history lesson.

But circles also became the miserably acknowledged symbol of my relationship with my long-ago boyfriend. He was my first real love– my first everything. And I was in deep smit from the get-go, while he kept thinking things would get better.

We came together and broke apart many times during our dysfunctional courtship, and would talk about the “next time” the circle came around whenever we went our separate ways. Thus, circles became a simultaneous symbol for hope and heartbreak.

That is one circle I am glad to say had an end. And happily married, my relationship is linear now so I can redefine my personal symbols. Despite the misery once associated, I am fond of circles again. 🙂

And the circle I feel I’ve recently made holds no malice. I don’t know what exactly let me find my way back to writing after so many years without time or inspiration. But through this novel-writing journey and the people I’ve met along the way, I feel I’ve actually found my way back to poetry.

I can’t explain what that means to me. I haven’t even written anything new, but I’ve discovered a part of myself that had gone missing in these poems I dug out of my basement.

It’s good to be back.

Naturally…

So, last night I had a dream.

In my dream, I had a new test reader for my novel. He was so enthusiastic about my project that, in addition to his detailed feedback, he submitted pictures of himself with some significant item from each chapter.

So, a picture of him holding a bottle of Irish whiskey, wearing(!) a charm braceletteehee.gif, leafing through an atlas of the Midwest, etc.

Wondering who this fanatical new test reader might be? desk.gif

Well, James Patterson, obviously.shock.gif

Especially interesting is the fact that I had no idea what James Patterson looks like headscratch.gif(I googled him this morning). In my dream, he looked a little like the pilot from Airplane! grinteeth.gif

So, Mr. Patterson, if you’re reading my private, non-searchable blog (as I’m sure you must berollingonfloor.gif), I would be happy to let you test read. Just drop me an email. snort.gif

Editing Makes Me Cry

Well, not directly.

But the results of editing make me cry.

I finished my most recent edits and sent the manuscript out to a fresh set of test readers. One reader, after finishing in 24-hours, sent me an email this morning that had me in tears.

DONE!!!

Bravo!!! BRAVO!!!! It’s beautifully written… I laughed, I cried. I was terrified and scared and at the same time desperate to read each word that came next. I bawled at the end. big fat elephant tears and everything.

Two wildly enthusiastic thumbs up!!!

What a great story! Honestly. Everyone should read it.

I can’t begin to explain how overwhelmed I am by her response (Thank you again, Kendra!), and by the tremendous support all my test readers have given me throughout this nutty process.

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Scene Together

I am so close to finishing I can taste it! I just finished editing Chapter 33, which was the major scene I needed to add. I’ve got to go back and review it later to see how it fits after a little distance, but I think it worked out well.daisy.gif

Seven chapters left on the second edit, and then one more quick time through for some minor things (I need to do some global document searches for words that I overuse. This includes my characters’ names, as I tend to identify them more than necessary).type.gif

I still need to add in a brief scene for the final chapter (and a detail I recently thought of to an existing scene). I also am considering an epilogue, or just extending the ending.

Either way, I am close to having a complete-enough manuscript to print my copy and mail out query letters. And that is amazing.

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Also amazing is some feedback I’ve had recently from one of the people who is critiquing my novel. He has started to talk about the symbols and themes in my novel, which gives me loads of warm fuzzies. It is so exciting to have someone find the details you weave into your story. highfive.gif

Which reminds me yet again of how grateful I am to my awesome legion of test writers, whether they are Chitties or CC Critters. You guys rock! grouphugg.gifthanku.gif