Mimsy Were The School Returns

Today is going to be a full day, with a lot of travel and meetings and even a little shopping.  I was supposed to do things yesterday–and I did, only not a lot of the things I wanted to do.  Life does that to you sometimes, and yesterday was one of those times.

Today I’m home, having put my shower and breakfast behind me, and I’m working on this post as I drink my coffee. In about ninety minutes I’ll start getting ready, which really means I’ll finish my daily routine, dress, and prepare my makeup.  After that it’s at least ninety minutes behind the wheel to go meet a friend.  A lot of time spent getting to and fro, but it’s all worth it, I assure you.  And getting out and about is a great thing.

Believe it or not, I actually wrote last night, and after putting thirteen hundred words behind me in the morning one would think I was finished for the day.  Well . . . I gotta make up for Fridays, so I started on Chapter Five and got my kids back in the Pond.  I’ve also made notes about what they’re going to do in some of the upcoming scene, and the theme of “We’re Different” pops up all over the place.  It’s already started with them and the other members of the Party of Five, with their relaxed moods and public displays of affection.  Yes, the kissiest of couples is back, and they’ll never let those prying eyes bother them.  After all, the whole school has seen them kiss on streaming video at thirty-three hundred meters, and that scene can be recalled for anyone to watch.  Oh, and there’s also in the Hall of Remembrance, too, for that, so just wait until the parents come calling to the school on Ostara.  Particularly Annie’s father:  “Anelie, what is this?”  “Nothing, Papa:  just Kerry and I kissing during the Mile High Flight.”  Yeah, Papa, just your daughter kissing, no biggie.  Ask any student:  they’ve all seen it before.

Yesterday, however, while driving a around, I started my old routine of working out scenes in my head and by “talking out” the dialog, and the one I was keying on the most was the last scene of Act One, which comes just before the Samhain Dance.  That last scene will more or less set the tone for the rest of the story, which isn’t a bad thing once you realize I’ll probably be sixty thousand or more words into the novel by that time.  (Probably more–probably.)  I was also working out a scene for Annie that comes in Act Two, and if you’ve ever asked yourself, “I wonder what a pissed-off Annie looks like?” you’ll find out.  It’s another of those scene that makes me wish I could draw, ’cause I would do this up right now if it were possible.

There will also be added scenes.  A couple came to mind last night, and as I pointed out with the first novel, though I have most everything plotted out, that doesn’t mean I won’t add and cut where necessary.  More than likely I’ll add:  just as the late night scene on the second floor was needed, I’ll need other scenes to build their characters.  ‘Cause I’m all about the characterization.

Time to get ready.  Time to think about what comes next in the story.  Time to ready myself to get to forty thousand words here soon.

It's all happening here, at the School.  Won't you come along?

It’s all happening here, at the School. Won’t you come along?

Begging the Differences

A quite night led to some interesting editing, which is often a lot better than the uninteresting stuff I normally write.  (I’m only quoting some people I know; the rest will tell you . . . hum, I wonder about that.  Never mind.)

I rocketed through the flight and got the kids at the school, inside the Great Hall, and back into their Evaluations and Assessments–or as some people at Salem might call them, screwing with kids to see if you can break them.  It’s a bit of the ‘ol psychological torture, yeah, and depending on the mood of the Great Benefactor and Protector of the Institution–you gotta worry about any spirit that lives in an underground chamber called The Cauldron–she might just flip you off and send you packing, or . . . she might just drive you a little crazy before kicking your ass back into the hallway.

Now comes up one of my favorite scenes in the story, and last night while putting about to get ready for bed, I realized how something important changes in the story based upon how the characters have been altered.  That’s because in the first draft Kerry was sort of the “I wanna explore” sort of person, and it was he who dragged Annie all over London, taking her places he wanted to see.  She never said anything because she was hiding what she really was, and was happy to go along for the ride.  It was only once they arrived in Amsterdam that Annie was like, “Hey, let check this out.”

As I was reminded, however, Annie is really something of a world traveler, and there’s even a scene in the book where she talks about walking around Hong Kong with her mother.  She’s been everywhere, while Kerry has pretty much visit Jack Shite, UK, and little else.  Also, from the first chapter you know Annie is hangin’ with the Normal kids–that’s what The Foundation calls them–so she’s sort of a Changeling pretending to be like them.  Since that was the case, there was no point in hiding her true nature, and since there is a reason for her wanting to spend time with Kerry–reasons that came out in her E&A–it makes sense that she’s the one dragging ‘Ol Ginger Hair Boy around London and Amsterdam.

Therefore, I was thinking, when I get to the upcoming scene, it not only makes Annie’s reasoning for what she was doing far more clear, but it makes Kerry look all the more clueless about his friend’s motives.  He really, totally, completely, ends up looking like he’s been walking about with eyes wide shut and wholly oblivious to what was happening between his new found friend and him.

Which means it should hit him like a much bigger hammer when Nurse Coraline delivers the good news.

It’s really fun to watch the dynamic change between my characters after just a few little personality tweaks.  Some moments will remain where they’re pretty much on even ground–usually about the time magic starts happening–but the way I’m viewing things now, Kerry is back to where he should be:  always pondering just how great his little Dark Witch is, and how he feels she’s so much better than him.

"Kerry, remember when people thought I was only here for you to tell me what to do?"  "That's because the person writing us lost her mind."  "What do you mean 'the person writing us'?  Are you saying we don't do these things on our own?"  "Umm . . ."

“Kerry, remember when people thought I was only here for you to tell me what to do?” “That’s because the person writing us lost her mind.” “What do you mean ‘the person writing us’? Are you saying we don’t do these things on our own?” “Um . . .”

Yeah, kids, if you were telling me to what do, why didn’t you tell me months ago?  I swear–lazy characters . . .

Rebuilding Off the Beta

First order of business:  I made it back to The Burg, and it was a real adventure.  I started out in cool but cloudy conditions, then it got windy, then it started to rain–and right around Cleveland it started snowing.  Hard.  Real hard, like you could only see a few cars lengths in front of you and one lane was clear hard.  Then I made it east of the Cuyahoga River and it turned to rain.  Then I made it to Pittsburg and it turned to harder rain, and by the time I rolled through the Allegheny Tunnel with Brian May blasting the guitar solo from Brighton Rock, it was fog, spray, and hard, hard rain all the way.  One good thing was very few people heading east, because I didn’t have to deal with idiots.  And I had some new old tunes, so that helped the time pass.

Still, it was a nearly twelve hour trip, with an hour or so at a rest stop in Ohio because I needed to eat and decompress, and I chatted a little with people I know.  I needed that, because heading through the mountains the rain was hard enough to cause ponding on the PennPike.  I didn’t stop to ask if it was Amy Ponding . . .

Thank you.  I’m here all week.

Once I make it home a little after eleven PM (or should I say 23:00?), I start up my computer and slip into my jammies, and what do I do?  I find one of my beta readers on line, and we start talking about my novel.  But of course, because after driving twelve hours through some climate hell, what else would a writer do?  Go to bed?  Surely you jest!

But it was a great chat, and we covered one chapter that had mistakes–I seem to slip “the” in a bit where it’s not needed, like saying “the her bedroom”, which is likely my way of starting out impersonal and then making the object personal–but more importantly, discussing a line that has bothered me since I first wrote it, because it makes the character in question seem like a bitch, which is not my intention at all for the character.  My beta reader picked up on it right away, and we both agreed that it was something that needed changing–so now there is a note in the scene that reminds me to look this over at some point in the future.

See?  When I say I make a note about not making someone a bitch, I mean it.

See? When I say I make a note about not making someone a bitch, I mean it.

More feedback will come–probably when I’m more awake and not having just drove through a flood that could be surprising as hell when blasting out of a tunnel at . . . fifty-five.  Yeah, that’s how fast I was driving.  Me drive like a manic when it’s raining like hell?  Not a chance!

But there will be feedback, and discussions, and since this is a long-term project, there will be lots of work before this is published.  Because this time I want to get it right.  However, the fantasy porn I can probably shoot out their like no one’s business, right?

Act Two is set up, at least for the first two parts, which now have part and chapter cards.  The word count is reset, and I’ve determined what’s going to get counted, which includes the title cards, and that’s why you see a number in the total word count.

A clean document ready to get sullied by my thoughts and ideas.  Poor kids:  they deserve better.

A clean document about to be sullied by my thoughts and ideas. My poor kids: they deserve better.

Am I ready for this?  About as ready as I’m gonna get, which is to say bring on the stress and doubt and craziness that comes with writing a story.  Particularly a long novel that is going to take me most of a year to finish a first draft.  But I’m the one who signed up for this, and I will see it through to the end.  As Neil Gaiman says, “Write.  Write every day.  Finish what you write.”

I started this mess, and I’m damned if I’m not going to give my kids a great ending.

The Characterization Dilemma

Last night was an interesting one.  Not because I was writing–I was, I wrote a new scene, and finished the chapter, so another five hundred fifty words in the pot, as well as few other changes to make the story have more sense.  No, this had to do with one of my beta readers.

I saw them on line last night, and they told me about the reading so far.  And it was not . . . good.  Basically, they got through the first three chapters and they couldn’t read any further.  Not because it was bad, mind you, oh no.  But it was slow, there was too much time being taken with the characters doing, you know, talking.  It didn’t make her want to go on and read more, which she said would mean that no one was going to read it because–boring!

She’s used this argument on me with the last novel of mine that I asked her to read.  You have to get a hook right away and pull the reader in.  I’ve read that before as well.  I asked her to start with Part Three and read that, and she read the hook from the first chapter and said, “That’s what you need, so get rid of Parts One and Two and start with Three.”  Sure, no problem:  that’s only eighteen thousand words, I’ll cut it right out.

I knew what she was getting at, however, because I’ve heard other writers talk about the same thing.  I explained that the first two parts are set up for what happens in Part Three, that you see things being set into place before the trigger is pulled and there’s some massive shit going down.  I explained that if you don’t have this, then when you start seeing things happening, they won’t make much sense.  Her position was, as a reader, she didn’t care, she wanted to get into the story, and if she couldn’t get past the first ten thousand words, she wasn’t going to read the other forty-three thousand.

It’s a characterization thing.  I’ve read about it before, particularly in television writing.  Most of those writers will tell you that if something running long, the first thing that goes are character building moments, because you need the car chase, because that’s what the viewer wants.  This was the same thing I was hearing last night:  please removed this boring set up stuff and get the reader into the action.  I even told her that she was saying this, not that it really mattered.

When I first started this short novel for Camp NaNo, I even considered including it in my current story.  I jettisoned that idea because, yes, the story is fifty-three thousand word, and should I add that to what I’m now writing, I’ll have a novel close to one hundred thousand words.  It wouldn’t be the whole fifty-three, either, because I’d likely kill ten thousand or more words to get it fitted in.  Still . . . that takes what I’m working now and pretty much guaranties I’d need to rewrite what I’m working on at the moment.

Maybe what I need are . . .

More Readers!