Archive for novel writing

Time flies faster as we age

Posted in All posts, Life, On writing, Pig in a Poke with tags , , , , , , , , on November 14, 2010 by Trina

Alex barks, strains and emits a low growl that increases in volume. I know that growl. All ninety pounds of black lab rear up, testing the strength of his leather leash and the power of my grip. Too late I see a German shepherd looping toward us. My blood sounds loudly in my ears like waves crashing a rocky shore.

The large dog’s owner stands in his yard, makes no attempt to corral his dog, even while Alex continues growling and lunging. I make a futile attempt to drag Alex away.

“Gizmo is friendly,” the man says. He is actually smiling.

“My dog is not!” I yell. Alex is a rescue dog and even three years after we adopted him, he is still aggressive toward other dogs.

Hanging onto the plastic bag of poop I captured from earlier in the walk with my left hand, I jerk Alex’s leash with my right hand. It is like trying to drag a tank. Struggling to keep my footing, I wonder why I am still clutching the bag of poop like it was solid gold. I throw down the bag, grasp Alex’s leash with both hands, while using my body to block Gizmo.

Dragging ninety pounds of a Labrador in the opposite direction he wants to go is impossible. So as the laws of physics decree, I tumble face forward. Eat gravel. Fortunately, the bag of poop cushions my fall. I am astonished that I’m still holding the leash. This is only a small victory because at the end of his leash Alex has Gizmo by the throat.

In a daze, aware of an ache in my knees and blood dripping from my chin, nearly overpowered by the stench of dog shit clinging to my shirt, I stand up. I grab both of Alex’s back legs, hauling him off the larger German shepherd. I hope Gizmo’s owner is right about the friendly bit, because if Gizmo attacks me, I’ll have to let go of Alex and run.

I notice Alex’s legs are bloody either from my cut lip or Gizmo’s teeth.

Gizmo’s owner runs up–a little late for the party. He grabs Gizmo’s collar and drags his dog away muttering “Sorry . . . so sorry.” He doesn’t look back, doesn’t ask if Alex or I needed help.

“You’ve got to keep your dog on a leash, man!” I yell and mutter, “Asshole.”

I wipe blood from my mouth. My upper lip is split where it had lost the battle with the gravel, but at least I didn’t break any teeth. I pull Alex to the side of the road on wobbly legs. “Sit,” I command. He does. How nice. What a model citizen.

I sit on the curb. Tears run down my cheeks and I am aware that I’m shaking. I wipe the moisture away with my hand. The smell of dog shit grows stronger and I realize I’ve just smeared the stuff on my face. I wipe my hands off on the grass and then check Alex for injuries. No blood in his teeth or on his tongue. He must have only gotten Gizmo’s fur. I couldn’t find any cuts on him either. He is lucky.

I am not. My knees hurt. Both are scraped. I brush off my knees, smearing brown stripes down my legs. It could only be dog shit. I fume, cursing Gizmo’s owner. I’m a mile from home. I’ll have to walk back covered in dog excrement. Angry, and, I admit, embarrassed, I curse myself for not bringing my cell phone. I stand up. Or at least try to. My legs don’t hold. I sit hard on the curb, probably adding a bruise on my bum to my other injuries.

 

My grandmother said that time passes more and more quickly as we age. I didn’t understand her words when I was twenty and she was still alive. Now with my 48th birthday approaching, I understand. It seems like only a minute has passed since that day in July when Alex made Gizmo’s acquaintance. I was walking Alex early in the mornings then to avoid the brutal Carolina summer heat. Now, when I walk Alex in the early morning–in a route that takes us nowhere near Gizmo’s home–it is still dark and I’ve traded the shorts and tanks I wore this summer for gloves, a hat and an insulated sweat suit. Now I’m suddenly crunching acorns under my feet and the leaves remaining on the trees have traded their greens for the colors of autumn.

Likewise, time seems to be flying by faster the harder I work at my day job. I have put in hard hours for months at the testing company where I develop science questions. Hard because the project is massive: 30,000 questions. And hard because we have been understaffed. At first the challenge was enough. But, now I want more. As the company gears up with additional staff, I am ready to take a lesser role.

I thought by now I would have made some progress on  THE RIPPER. Instead four months have passed without me opening the Word doc containing the novel. Likewise I have sent out no story submissions. Life is passing me by.

But it took a coworker to help me see how fast. I mentioned that I am the fiction editor of Pig in a Poke to a new manager and he asked me to send him a link to the magazine. When he e-mailed me that he was reading my blog, I was embarrassed. My last blog post was over a month ago.

I’ve started a new writing project that I think will help me get back on track. I am only in the contemplating stage. I’ve made notes and am thinking about how the story will come together. It will take a close up look at how dissociative identify disorder (DID) affects a woman, her relationships and her children. It is different from anything I’ve done so far. I’m excited to get started, which should motivate me to work on it.

I think THE RIPPER novel will take the back burner for now. The characters have grown cold. I think part of the reason I had lost momentum for my writing is that I couldn’t get excited about Rosa’s character.

 

Pig in a Poke update:

Harry has 11 poets lined up for the January issue. I have accepted three stories, but am considering several others. I am still deciding on a few stories sent in as far back as September. If you haven’t gotten a rejection it means I think your story has merit and may place it in the January issue. I have sent rejection letters to all those I know I won’t use. I’m going to try to read all the submissions by next weekend so I can reply to writers.

Yesterday I read ten stories, rejected two and am considering the others. I have 21 more to read before I make my final decision. I plan to read 10 more today and the rest next weekend. The good news is that the quality of stories I am receiving for the Pig is high. I think this last round of submissions is the best I’ve received. But, the high quality makes it tough for me because I will have to reject stories that are good.

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The wheels on the bus go round and round

Posted in All posts, Life, On writing, Pig in a Poke with tags , , , , , , , , , on September 21, 2010 by Trina

When one foot is precariously on the tight rope and the other in the air, life has a way of knocking that one steady foot off the tightrope and destroying any semblance of balance. So it was yesterday when I left for work an hour early. Having skipped my morning walk, I planned to walk after work–the weather has been so beautiful in the afternoons. I was less than a mile from the house when my daughter called from New York with an emergency. I ended up turning the car around and heading to the post office, spending that extra hour overnighting a money order to my daughter.

I didn’t want to alarm Harry at work first thing on a Monday by telling him about the crisis, so I didn’t call him. Instead, he called me about an hour after I arrived wanting to know if I’d spent a lot of money on his upcoming birthday. He’d seen the large withdrawal from our checking account. Needless to say I didn’t have a very productive morning at work.

Life has threatened my balance in other areas as well. I didn’t know back in March when Harry and I first talked about editing a literary magazine how much work it would be. (If I had, I would still have agreed to start up the magazine). Nor did I know I would resign from Measurement Inc. in May and then come back as a regular employee in August. I had walked away from my day job, intending to finish my novel in progress, submit my short story collection to publishers, and do some freelance critiquing to bring in some cash. It didn’t work out quite that way. I found I hated being home all day with no schedule. And I missed my coworkers after I resigned. I also like the independence having a steady pay check gives me.

So, I’ve had to do some shuffling with my schedule. It takes up a lot of my free time reading the stories for Pig in a Poke. I have 19 yet to read for the October issue. I do have the luxury of reading them right up until October 1. Because I am the Web site developer, I can post a story five minutes after I accept it. However, it also means that I have the work of laying out all of the pages in “the Pig.”

I love to read, so I guess being a fiction editor is a perfect second job for me. Some very talented writers have submitted their work, which makes my job easier and rewarding. I have to admit that I’ve also read some very bad writing. There doesn’t seem to be much in the middle. The stories tend to be excellent or, well. Not. I tend to scan through a story after downloading it, not really reading it carefully, just seeing what it’s about. Then I write the title, author, and length on my tracking spreadsheet while I’m thinking about the story. Next, I download and scan the next one. After I’ve scanned and recorded 5 or 6 stories, I go back and carefully read each one.

The rejects I know from the scan, but I still try to read each with an open mind to see if there is anything there. I usually find my first impression was right. If I reject a story it likely just didn’t hook me in to make me want to read past the first few paragraphs. Or it was overly long–stories over 3,000 words are hard for me to like, or it just wasn’t right for the magazine. Erotica, romance, or children’s lit will not be accepted for “the Pig.” I get all three. Guess I should put more detail into the submission guidelines to save myself some work. I recently received a story titled “Got a Spare Dick,” which was actually humorous, just not right for the magazine.

There are always exceptions, of course. If I’ve accepted several humorous stories, I won’t need another for that issue, for example. Or if I already have 3 or 4 very heavy stories, I don’t want another.

Most of the stories that I’ve accepted for Pig in a Poke I knew I would take after scanning the first few paragraphs and for sure after reading the first few pages. These stories drew me in and kept me reading. I always read a story more than once to be sure it really has what I want–an emotional pull. But, it really is pretty black and white for me. I either like a story or I don’t.

But. I haven’t opened the Word doc containing my novel in weeks. I just can’t seem to find the motivation to work on it after developing test questions all day. And there’s always another submission from Pig in a Poke to read, or dishes to do, or paperwork to get together for refinancing the house. My novel in progress just seems to come last. I never used to feel that way about my writing. I guess I’m getting as much satisfaction from reading other people’s stories as I used to get from writing my own.

And the wheels on the bus go round and round.

Payback is a bitch: life of a short story

Posted in All posts, Health and fitness, Life, On writing with tags , , , , , , , , , , on August 16, 2010 by Trina

I am happy to announce that  Luna Station Quarterly magazine accepted my short story “Payback is a bitch”  for their September 1 issue.  I took only one day from submission to acceptance. I had just submitted to them on Saturday as part of my getting back into balance campaign. This is quick, although not the record for me. Chiron Review accepted one of my stories after only an hour.

About Payback is a bitch

When a personal tragedy costs homicide detective Rosa Wolfe everything–her marriage, her career, and her badge–she returns to the streets she once patrolled, finding satisfaction in high-payoff vengeance for hire.

On creation of the story

I had fun writing the story because it is my first attempt at writing a detective thriller, the genre I love to read. Payback was born over a year and a half ago. It took that long to find a market for it.  I wrote Payback back in November of 2008 after Harry bought me the Rambo collection for my birthday–wonder where I got the idea for a story about a vigilante.  See previous post.  Since then, I’ve submitted Payback to 18 magazines.  Thirteen rejected it.  One magazine collapsed before they could even reply to my submission.  Three other magazines have not yet replied–I’ll have to let them know its been accepted.

This is why it is so easy to get discouraged with writing and submitting short stories.  It is rough out there.  It took me 18 tries before Payback was finally accepted. I think about that when I have to reject stories for Pig and a Poke, like I did on Sunday. I try to take the time to give reasons for rejection.  It isn’t always possible, but most of my rejections are personal.

I liked writing Payback so much that I decided to expand it into a novel.  “The Ripper” is in draft stage. The outline is finished and about half of the chapters, but not in sequence. I’ve written bits and pieces here and there as the ideas come to me. The beginning, some of the middle and ending is done. The rest needs to be filled in. I decided to expand Nick the Nick’s role. Nicholas Nicholson is a former Green Beret turned vigilante who teams up with Rosa. He may end up being a bad guy. I haven’t decided yet. Rosa believes that if she and Nick can find and apprehend  the serial killer responsible for the string of rape/murders that has continued during the three years she has been working without a gold shield, she might be able to turn her life around.

Update on balance

I lost Friday as a writing day due to being pulled over with expired registration.  Sigh.  I spent the afternoon at the DMV.  Saturday I sent out short story submissions.  The Luna Station Quarterly acceptance will go a long way toward giving me my ambition back.  I think it will even motivate me to work on the novel again.  Sunday, I reviewed all of the stories submitted to Pig in a Poke. I found two that I liked well enough to accept. Unfortunately I had to send out some rejection letters.

I am continuing the walking, working out at the gym, and healthy eating.  Look for more posts on that.

Sick dog

Posted in All posts, Life, On writing with tags , , , , , , on March 18, 2010 by Trina

I had planned on posting about my work over the last year–I am working on several short stories and a novel that I’ve given the working title of THE RIPPER. But life intervened in the worst way–assuring me I’ve chosen an appropriate new title for this blog.

Harry and I woke at three in the morning yesterday to a very sick dog. It was the smell that woke us: dog vomit in the living room and worse wafting from upstairs. Harry and I followed the scent upstairs to discover that Alex had used Harry’s office carpet as a bathroom. Normally he would never defecate in the house–he is very housebroken, so he must have been so sick he couldn’t make it outside, poor guy.

Harry immediately called the emergency vet in panic–what we saw on the carpet let us know that Alex was excreting blood. The vet said that bloody stools can be a reaction to Ramidyn (Carprofen), the anti-inflammatory Alex had been taking for his broken tail. Although she couldn’t promise he’d be okay, she thought Alex could wait to see his regular vet at 9 am.

Meanwhile, neither of us could eat anything. The smell was too nauseating. The odor from upstairs permeated the whole house, even the bedroom and kitchen. So I made soap water and we tried to free the carpets of the worst smell I can imagine. It was so cloying that my gag reflex kicked in before the job was even started. Harry did better.

At 9 am, thinking we had gotten the worst of it, we loaded a groggy Alex into the car and headed for the vet.

“It is probably a reaction to the Ramidyn. Some studies are now showing that some breeds, particularly Labradors, are more susceptible to Ramidyn. We’ll need to test his kidneys and liver function . . .”

I stared at the veterinarian in shock. Alex could not have kidney failure. I couldn’t even get my head around that. Worried, we left Alex with the vet and headed home. I toyed with the idea of going to work, but decided to take the day off. I knew I would not be able to concentrate on developing science test questions. Because I work an 80 % schedule, I have one day off per week, normally Friday, so it is just a matter of switching days. I’m sure tomorrow I’ll be ecstatic with my decision.

We opened the door of the house to the pungent odor of dog shit, vomit, and chemicals–the worst of it wafting down from upstairs. There was no way Harry could work in his office–he works from home as a marketing writer. I couldn’t even draw a breath up there. Harry called a professional carpet cleaner who said he could be here within the hour, and he was.

I considered going to work to avoid the smell, but I knew I’d be useless there. I gave Harry my office for the day and brought my laptop down to the bedroom. I often write there, so it was no inconvenience. I got as far as opening the document containing my novel in progress. My head immediately started pounding. I suddenly felt too tired even to sit up in bed. But I didn’t want to waste my day off, so I compromised with myself. Instead of turning the TV on and vegging out, which is what I wanted to do, and what I did later in the evening, I did something writing related that didn’t take much concentration. I uploaded the prologue and chapter one of my novel in progress onto my Website. I’ve been wanting to upload and excerpt for weeks, just hadn’t gotten around to it.

Alex is better this morning, although he still does not want to eat, which is very unusual for him. He usually wolfs his food at record speed. He spent the entire day at the vet’s yesterday. He got a shot to stop the vomiting, medication to stop diarrhea and an injection of pain medication. His kidney and liver function are good–we got the results of that test this morning. Long term, Alex will probably not be able to take anti-inflammatory medication. We’ll have to cross that bridge another day, if and when Alex develops arthritis.

The carpet in Harry’s office is now clean and fresh. I cannot believe the carpet cleaner got all of the smell out, but I am pleasantly surprised. A happy ending all around.

END

Posted in All posts, On writing with tags , , , on September 28, 2008 by Trina

Finally, I typed that one little word. Wow! It felt good. My first young adult novel, THE MAGIC QUILT, is finished–all 55,000 words. It has been a fifteen-year journey from the first draft to the finished novel. One that I am both happy and proud to have behind me. I made a lot of mistakes in writing this novel–see previous posts below, but I have also learned a lot about the craft of writing. I don’t think I’ll make the same mistakes again.

I’ve posted two excerpts on the new young adult page of my Web site.

I am prepared for the daunting task of researching agents to find a good match for THE MAGIC QUILT. I will look for agents that are knowledgeable about the young adult market, then spend the next several weeks writing a synopsis and a killer query letter and then submitting THE MAGIC QUILT to those agencies. Wish me luck.

I blogged that I would finish THE MAGIC QUILT by December 31st, 2007. I didn’t quite make it–it took me nine months longer than that. The day job and life intervened.

Below is part of the long history of writing THE MAGIC QUILT from excerpts of previous posts.


Decemer 22, 2006: Finding Time

I wrote a sketchy draft of THE MAGIC QUILT when I was in graduate school in 1993 and then didn’t look at it again during the years that I taught middle school. I never tried to write fiction when I was teaching. I wasn’t alone in that, Stephen King couldn’t write when he was teaching either. In his book ON WRITING, King said,

“…for the first time in my life, writing was hard. The problem was the teaching… by most Friday afternoons I felt as if I’d spent the week with jumper cables clamped to my brain.”

And so THE MAGIC QUILT waited. My mind was on lesson plans and whether I had all the materials that I would need for the next day’s lab activity. Then there were the calls to parents about students I was concerned about, and the calls to encourage those who were doing better. And that endless stack of papers to grade that took up all my free time in the evenings.

So it was that after resigning my position as a science teacher, I reread my original draft of THE MAGIC QUILT, rewrote a couple of chapters and brought them to my fiction writing group. With their help, I decided the novel could be good and starting researching the American Revolution, the setting for the book. (Big mistake. BIG. Never start researching after writing the first draft. Do the research first).

May 25, 2007: History amended: Introducing Katharine Taylor
I’ve spent several months correcting the historical portions of the novel. But the trickledown of minor changes in the history affected the plot so that I had to go back and rewrite about half of the novel.

My writing critique group has just reviewed one of the central chapters to the book, “The Midnight Ride,” where Katharine accompanies Paul Revere on his famous midnight ride. As always happens with critique groups, you walk away with insights and more work. So, I’ve got some revising to do. My goal is to finish editing “The Midnight Ride” over the long weekend — I’ve taken Tuesday off work —and then write the ending of the book, which has been hanging over my head for months. I wrote an ending that I thought was pretty good, with flying dragons and a battle with the evil Dr. Ziegawart, but Katharine didn’t play a large enough role in resolving the conflict, so I’ve got to revisit it.

June 1, 2007: Creative License
I finished the first draft my historical fantasy novel for young adults two years ago (a rewrite of the version I wrote in 1993). This was the first novel that I’ve ever written; in retrospect, a historical novel was not the easiest genre for a first novel. The novel takes place in the present and in 1775. I made the mistake of writing the first draft without doing enough research into Colonial Boston, or into Paul Revere’s life, who is a central character.

Patrick Leehy of the Paul Revere house was kind enough to edit my text and, no surprise, he found some mistakes. For example Sara Revere, Paul’s first wife, was alive and well in my first draft. She was deceased in 1775 — oops. So I revised the entire novel, correcting such history mistakes.


June 9, 2007: Keeping Characters Fresh

My goal now is to finish rewriting the historical portions of the novel first, because they are the most difficult to get the emotional interplay right between and among the characters. I did finish a rough draft of a rewrite of the final chapter, and I’m going to start by finishing the ending. I have the history correct, but I don’t yet have Katharine’s voice consistent. Her character grows throughout the novel, so I want to make sure the chapters reflect that growth and match her voice. So I am making what I hope is the final rewrite of the novel for consistency, tightening, and pace of action. I also am cutting where necessary, which is hard for me because I’ve fallen in love with several scenes that do NOT move the story along; they have to go.

July 23, 2007: Writing fantasy: the truth inside the lie.

“Fiction is the truth inside the lie.”

Stephen King wrote those words. In writing fantasy, we can apply King’s words because we are creating a fantasy world and then making our readers believe that our lie is real. We couldn’t do that if there wasn’t some truth inside the lie. So in order to create a realistic fantasy world we must start with the truth and then build a lie around it.

Creating Katharine’s fantasy world means building a world based upon reality and making sure readers know the rules of that world. The characters must remain true to those rules throughout the novel.

And so, now that I’ve revised the historical parts for accuracy, I’m going back through THE MAGIC QUILT again, chapter by chapter, focusing on the magic world that is Katharine’s reality. Is the fantasy world that I’ve created in the young adult historical fantasy realistic, believable and most of all, exciting to young adult readers.

August 31, 2007: Building the lie
I had to create a fantasy world that would be logical and real to a twelve year old. Time travel, morphing into animals, appearing and disappearing and being invisible had to become routine parts of day-to-day life for Katharine.

Any child who has participated in the fantasy world of children’s books and films, where superheroes exist, a man in a red suit drives flying reindeer, noble lions rule, and kids go to wizard academies, believes the lie. But beyond that, in children’s private imaginary worlds, they can be princes and princesses, plastic figures can come to life and entire armies may do battle on their bedroom floors — all in their imaginations.

It follows then, that it should not be difficult to convince young adult readers that an evil shape shifter can spew deadly smoke from his eyes, or that Katharine can fly, or that the Great Shape Shifter, Askuwheteau’s eyes shine with blue light. He can pop in and out of time at will. But I have to explain where he gets this wonderful power.

October 29, 2007: Taking up the gauntlet
My young adult work in progress will be finished by December 31, 2007. Period. (Ah, wrong).

November 27, 2007: Shape shifting: point of view problem
I am fixing the POV problems I had with Katharine and her fellow wizards shape shifting into animals. I’m editing two chapters from the middle of THE MAGIC QUILT, where Katharine, her grandmother and Sara Revere have transmutated into animals. I have been struggling with the narrator’s POV. Should I call Katharine “the cat” or “Katharine.” Likewise, should I use “the red bird” or “Grandma.” And should the narrator refer the animals as it or she?

December 1, 2007: Perfecting the perfect pitch
(When I wrote this, I actually thought I was going to finish the novel by 2008).
It may not be perfect, but I think this pitch will hook a sixth grader:

Standing on the Lexington Green in the midst of the battle, twelve-year-old Katharine is oblivious to her own danger of being run through by a bayonet. The metallic smell of blood and gunpowder is heavy in the air. Katharine is a shape shifter who has traveled back in time, to a world where electricity, cell phones and bottled water have yet to be imagined; her new friends are dead or in peril. She must make a choice: She can save her friends and turn the battle toward freedom or destroy the evil shifter, Dr. Ziegawart, in whatever form he might choose— an alligator, a dragon, or a tiny cockroach. As a musket ball whizzes by her head, she decides.

January 1, 2008: Write. Edit. Polish—Submit.
I polished my way through chapter 13, of the 24 chapters in THE MAGIC QUILT. Because of the trickle down effect from the later chapters, the first half of the book needed a lot of rewriting. Fixing minor plot flaws, correcting some point of view issues and deciding which minor characters need bigger and smaller roles took up most of my editing time.

Looking back over my older writing, I discovered something else. I have really grown as a writer. I recognize some novice mistakes in my older work, like POV issues–I couldn’t seem to find the MC’s voice, plot holes and leaps, telling instead of showing, needless description, repetition, dialogue tag problems, and tense changes. In fact, some of my older stories are real stinkers. Back when I wrote them, thinking they were awesome works of art, I sent each to friends and family. I apologize for that—I should have sent a clothespin with each story. I even submitted some of these stinkers for publication.

March 28, 2008: The hardest part about writing a novel is in crossing the finish line.
Once the first draft is done, the finish line is in sight, but the final stretch is where the hardest work lies. I’ve lost count of the number of revisions I’ve made to the novel, but in reading through some of my older posts, I am reminded of the reasons for those revisions. In each pass through, I’ve improved specific things.

I had to create a fantasy world that would be logical and real to a twelve year old. This was probably the most difficult and time consuming and yet the most fun. Time travel, morphing into animals, appearing and disappearing and being invisible had to become routine parts of day-to-day life for Katharine.

Beyond the magical elements, the history also had to be accurate. Everything in the room I write in—the electric lights and the computer, the bottled water I drink, and the climate controlled air conditioning —was as imaginary in 1775, as fantastic, as Narnia or Hogwarts are today. So I had to revise with attention to detail that I hope will make Boston of 1775 real to young adults.

I’ve also fixed the POV problems I had with Katharine and her fellow shape shifters changing into animals.

In the first chapter where the evil wizard Dr. Ziegawart is introduced, my writing critique group found several areas that needed to be reworked for logic and consistency. I was tempted simply to hit the delete key because I didn’t want to put forth the effort and energy needed for the corrections. See Motivating the cognitive miser. But after some elbow grease, I think the chapter is now both stronger and more believable. I often find that the hardest scenes to write are usually the ones that I am most happy with.

Now, I’ve made another change, also as a result of feedback from my writing group–whose input has been invaluable in making the novel better. I reorganized the order of the chapters in THE MAGIC QUILT so that Katharine travels back to the past sooner, which means I’ll have to write some transition scenes and delete others. I keep reconsidering the ordering. But I think the new order is important to remove any parallels with Harry Potter: Katharine is a shape shifter who is just learning to use her powers and there is an evil wizard trying to kill her. But that is where the similarity stops. I want to make it clear to readers that my novel is an historical fantasy, unlike J. K. Rowling’s novels. So, it is important to bring out the unique aspect of the book earlier, thus the trip to the past must happen sooner. I think it will be more interesting for young people this way and I am reminded that elbow grease usually leads to writing that makes me proud.

In writing from the point of view of a twelve year old, I can’t use the vocabulary I could for adults. The dialogue and plot are much simpler. In other words, it’s harder to write exciting stories for children. It is much more limiting.

September 28, 2008: This journey is over, but another is about to begin.

Crossing the finish line

Posted in All posts, On writing with tags , , , , , , , on March 28, 2008 by Trina

The hardest part about writing a novel is in crossing the finish line. Once the first draft is done, the finish line is in sight, but the final stretch is where the hardest work lies. I blogged that I’d finish my young adult novel, THE MAGIC QUILT, by the end of 2007. I’m not finished. I’ve lost count of the number of revisions I’ve made to the novel, but in reading through some of my older posts, I am reminded of the reasons for those revisions. In each pass through, I’ve improved specific things.

As I previously posted, I had to create a fantasy world that would be logical and real to a twelve year old. This was probably the most difficult and time consuming and yet the most fun. Time travel, morphing into animals, appearing and disappearing and being invisible had to become routine parts of day-to-day life for Katharine.

Beyond the magical elements, the history also had to be accurate. Everything in the room I write in—the electric lights and the computer, the bottled water I drink, and the climate controlled air conditioning —was as imaginary in 1775, as fantastic, as Narnia or Hogwarts are today. So I had to revise with attention to detail that I hope will make Boston of 1775 real to young adults.

I’ve also fixed the POV problems I had with Katharine and her fellow wizards shape shifting into animals.

In the first chapter where the evil wizard Dr. Ziegawart is introduced, my writing critique group found several areas that needed to be reworked for logic and consistency. I was tempted simply to hit the delete key because I didn’t want to put forth the effort and energy needed for the corrections. See Motivating the cognitive miser. But after some elbow grease, I think the chapter is now both stronger and more believable. I often find that the hardest scenes to write are usually the ones that I am most happy with.

Now, I’ve made another change, also as a result of feedback from my writing group–whose input has been invaluable in making the novel better. I reorganized the order of the chapters in THE MAGIC QUILT so that Katharine travels back to the past sooner, which means I’ll have to write some transition scenes and delete others. I don’t want to do it. I keep reconsidering the ordering. But I think the new order is important to remove any parallels with Harry Potter: Katharine is a wizard who is just learning to use her powers and there is an evil wizard trying to kill her. But that is where the similarity stops. I want to make it clear to readers that my novel is an historical fantasy, unlike J. K. Rowling’s novels. So, it is important to bring out the unique aspect of the book earlier, thus the trip to the past must happen sooner. I think it will be more interesting for young people this way and I am reminded that elbow grease usually leads to writing that makes me proud.

Still, I can’t seem to get momentum flowing into finishing THE MAGIC QUIL. I know what the problem is. As I previously posted, my strength seems to be writing for and about children. But I’m discovering I don’t like writing for young people as much as I enjoy writing fiction for adults. I love reading psychological and medical thrillers for adults, which is what I want to write.

Why? In writing from the point of view of a twelve year old, I can’t use the vocabulary I could for adults. The dialogue and plot are much simpler. In other words, it’s harder to write exciting stories for children. It is much more limiting. Yet, I think the story in THE MAGIC QUILT needs to be told. It is a coming of age story full of history and magic, but Katharine’s real accomplishment is not in defeating the evil wizard Dr. Ziegawart, or playing a role in the battle for freedom. Her growth in character comes in finding the strength to take the first steps in ending the neglect and abuse from living in with an alcoholic mother. I wanted to write this story because there is little literature for children and young adults living with neglect and abuse.

It really shouldn’t matter what I want to write. I should just suck it up and finish THE MAGIC QUILT. It is nearly done–and I think it’s pretty good. Yet I can’t focus on finishing. I sit down at the computer and do anything else, including laundry, organizing my e-mail contacts and cleaning my office.

As a result, I spent several months working on short stories and I pretty proud of a couple of them. I have also been reading stories on Critters Workshop and have learned a lot from other Critter’s critiques of my work and others. One thing that I have learned is that there are numerous awesome writers out there who are dedicated to their art. Many resubmit two and three drafts of a story to the workshop. Their patience in perfecting their work is seemingly endless. The secret to success seems to be dedication as well as talent.

New Year’s Resolutions Part 3

Posted in All posts, Life, On writing with tags , , , , , , , on December 23, 2007 by Trina

I’d like to close 2007 with part of JA Konrath’s New Year’s Resolutions Part 3:

Newbie Writer Resolutions
I will start/finish the damn book

I will always have at least three stories on submission, while working on a fourth

I will attend at least one writer’s conference, and introduce myself to agents, editors, and other writers

I will subscribe to the magazines I submit to

I will join a critique group. If one doesn’t exist, I will start one at the local bookstore or library

I will finish every story I start

I will listen to criticism

I will create/update my website

I will master the query process and find an agent

I’ll quit procrastinating in the form of research, outlines, synopses, taking classes, reading how-to books, talking about writing, and actually write something

I will refuse to get discouraged, because I know JA Konrath wrote 9 novels, received almost 500 rejections, and penned over 1 million words before he sold a thing–and I’m a lot more talented than that guy … Read entire post.

I especially like the last. It gives me hope.

Have a wonderful holiday and I’ll be blogging again in the New Year.