Sunday, September 30, 2007

Lopping off heads!

I've been tromping through my current WIP (work in progress for you non-writers) in combat boots and wielding a big sharp knife, you know, like the one that Crocodile Dundee brought to NYC with him. When the young guy challenged him in the dark alley with something that looked like a switchblade, Croc laughed and in his pure Aussie accent, said, "Ya' call that a knife? This is a knife." Then he pulled out some huge, foot-long, sharp looking instrument and the bad guy ran away. I digress. I'm more like the Queen of Hearts walking around her garden screaming, "Off with their heads," and giving grandiose flicks of my chubby wrists.

I've removed many superfluous characters from this manuscript, which I wrote when I was a young babe (about four years ago) and have either merged them making for one much stronger character, or just eliminated them if the scene wasn't necessary. Remember, I said I was a babe and I meant in terms of writing. He he. Anyway, I was plowing through the manuscript fixing things, tweaking things, creating better character arcs, yet I still didn't like it. I'd come to this screeching halt at about the mid-point. It was boring. How could I ever expect anyone to pay money to read this story? Well, actually I do have to say the story is good it's just the heroine, she's not strong. She's boring. She's so damn passive I want to shake her and tell her to get a grip on her little old self.

On the verge of tossing the entire work, I went to the HWSW blog and Jenny Crusie had posted a lesson today 0n character arc. For those of you not familiar with this year long writers workshop: you must go and visit. It's the best.

Anyway, how timely was this? I asked Jenny the meaning of the term string-of-pearls plot. She replied: "The string of pearls plot is a series of events that are linked by problem or situation, but they don't escalate and therefore don't cause character change." I knew instantly what I had in this current story. My heroine was boring because she was making attempts to change but never did. Secretly, I think she was waiting for the knight in shining armor to come save her. Ain't gonna happen. This is a contemporary story set in NYC. Hell, the guys are too busy trying to save themselves let alone learn how to ride a big white horse.

Is my manuscript salvageable? Hmmm? I looked at it objectively and asked a lot of questions. Here are my answers: story is good, vibrant setting, I like the hero. He's a skank at first but he redeems himself. That's always good. I like my secondary characters and their subplots, like the paranormal aspects, plus there's a good mystery thread. It's a contemporary paranormal mystery.

Okyaaaay, so not as bad as I'd initially thought. Just make the heroine stronger. Make a kickass heroine. Now how hard could that be? I know, I'll just make her everything I'm not. She'll be my fantasy side. Yeah. She's already half my age so I'm writing a fantasy anyway. That's it, that's the ticket. For today at least, one head has been saved, there will be no more decapitations. Back to the drawing board.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Busy Time!

"Well, you'd think the Queen of England was coming to visit." I can hear my mother saying that now. Heh. Or my other favorite, "This isn't a hospital, it's a home." I'm a bit anal, my Mom doesn't mind a bit of clutter, but then again she had seven kids so probably got used to stuff lying around. I've been busy cleaning closets and kitchen cabinets and getting rid of clutter. It started out two weeks ago in preparation for having the guest room and the dining-room painted and because my house is small and I'm expecting my niece and nephew and two kids in a couple of weeks.

And yes, I love the color. Straw hat. It came out a little more yellow than I'd intended but I love it in the daylight, and in the evening with overhead lights on. It's accented with white. It's perfect. Looks lovely with my dark woods. Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah, clutter.

So, I've cleaned and organized. Heck, I even cleaned the silver pieces from the shelves of the dining-room hutch. You know the pieces nobody ever uses, the things that take up space and are supposed to look pretty but just look tarnished. I had to remove everything so we could move the hutch to paint that wall, I figured might as well clean the stuff before putting it back in. Next house I move to, I'm selling it all. Who needs it? Does anyone entertain like we did in the old days? Not me! I barely cook. It's just me and George. (I saw the raise of that eyebrow!) George is my George Forman grill. I'm in love. I toss a piece of ginger-marinated chicken breast on the grill, make a salad, cut up the warm chicken, toss it on top and I'm good to go.

Anyway, last weekend I took a breather from cleaning and wrote a little bit. It felt good, first real writing since my Aussie trip, but I couldn't quite get organized. Then I went to Jenny Crusie's blog and cracked up. She's doing the twelve days of cleaning and reorganizing. She started with an overwhelmingly cluttered office. I watched her progress and organization because she posted photographs, before and after, of each day's chore. The idea was to do fifteen minutes of cleaning per day. I know she did more than that. So I glanced around at the bookshelves in my office, they threatened to burst their walls. I had file drawers with papers I no longer needed, and drawers with bits and pieces that layered on top of each other, and fifty percent were of no value to me or anyone.

Every day I did a little more work. I also read Jenny's blog and listened to everyone cheering her on and chatting about the stuff they'd cleaned or reorganized in their own homes and apartments. It was fabulous. What a great community! Now I'm sitting here in my organized office, in my clean house, I feel good because I've donated unwanted but in perfect condition items to my favorite charity. Books have been donated to the library. I'm ready to write.

I have one manuscript out at Kensington Publishers, another with Medallion Press. I'm starting the deconstruction of a story I had great fun writing a couple of years ago. It's a light paranormal mystery, set in NYC. I remember going there and walking those streets and talking with people. I want to visit again. I'm tearing the story apart and reconstructing it to make it stronger, but first I'm doing a collage because I never did one on this story and they now help me to get focused. It's such fun to look at my photographs and maps and bits and pieces to do with New York. When the kids were younger we visited every year. Now I have to go back again, just for me, maybe this fall. Fall is lovely in NYC.