Coming really close to the end of this round of revision

Today I finished reading my 17th(!) book by Anthony Trollope: He Knew He Was Right. I have five more left on my to-read list: Three Clerks; The Fixed Period; Rachel Ray; Lady Anna; and The American Senator.

At this point it’s really gone beyond reading for any kind of edification. On that score I’ve gotten all I can possibly get from Trollope. I just really really enjoy reading his work. He’s so consistently delightful. And his books are just different enough that you feel as though they’re worth reading. I’ve yet to read a really bad Trollope book

I’m also nearing the end of this round of revision. Feeling very happy with Tell Em They’re Amazing. Impossible to know what the future holds, but would not be unhappy if it went out into the world as my second YA novel =]

Not an amazing day of writing

There’s a problem I need to solve in this book. I’ve been trying for weeks to solve it. I thought I was nearing the end of the revision pass. But today I realized the problem is not solved.

I’m sure I’ll sleep on it and come up with a solution, but for this particular moment, I’m not loving the writing life.

Finishing by the end of the month seemed a lot more achievable on January 8th

It’s amazing how time goes by. I’ve been working pretty intently on revising this book since the beginning of January, and all this time I’ve been certain I’d be done by the end of the month. Now it’s January 22nd and I’m not so sure. Not a big deal. This is a pretty soft deadline, even by publishing standards. But still…normally I’m better about making these sorts of estimations. I don’t know, maybe I’ll just push through and do it on time anyway.

This revision process has been all about pulling back on the drama

In every round of revision (and I think I must be on the fifth round at this point), I’ve toned down the drama in my book. Whereas in the first draft it was all rape and violence and expulsion, at this point the drama is more like, “She said something mean about me behind my back” or “He isn’t making an attempt to understand my feelings.” It’s tea party drama.

And I like it that way!

It is very easy to make everything big and grand, but I find that creates two problems: one, sometimes you create something way more dramatic than the emotions you’re dealing with; and two, you often have to waste a lot of words writing about the mechanics of things you don’t care about. For instance, if someone has a physical fight, you need to write in a physical fight. Personally I don’t love writing fights. For me it’s boring. Whereas if people have an argument, all you need is a brief exchange of words.

In real life, we’re often affected by such small things. Recently a friend told me they’d cried all day over something that’d happened in therapy. That’s real life. It’s not all arrest and crime and bankruptcy. Sometimes it’s a cutting word or a misunderstanding. Of course, sometimes it’s not. I think because I came up by writing science fiction and fantasy, I’m too ready to reach into my box of big, dramatic events, and now I’m learning to find other ways of creating drama and raising tension.

Revision is going well…

I sure have spent a long time revising this book; I definitely hope it sells. I remain as excited about it as ever. It’s amazing how with each draft I’m like, “This is awesome; I can’t believe I ever dared show the last draft to anybody.”

Definitely am feeling like I should be more productive

I’m sure all of you frequently have the feeling where you end a work day feeling worn out and simultaneously wishing you’d been more productive. I don’t know where this comes from. A weary mind ought to be indication, in and of itself, that one has done enough work for the day.

Am in the beginning stages of the fifth major revision on what will hopefully be my second YA novel: Tell Em They’re Amazing. As always happens with revision, this is proving to be a bigger job than I’d imagined. It’s still not huge. It’s not a rewrite. But it is careful work. In some ways it’s very enjoyable. I like how at this stage it’s possible to add so much nuance. Because you’ve already set out the broad outlines of the character, now you’re able to work both for and against type in order to create a more multifaceted portrayal. Right now I’m doing some pretty interesting stuff with my protagonist. And, as always, I’m worrying that I’m going to break him and make him uninteresting. But I don’t think so. Invariably when I make revisions like this, people go back and look at the character and are like, “I could not imagine them being any other way.”

The central throughline of the book is also getting locked into place. I’ve always had a weak elevator pitch for the book, not because the story is weak or boring, but because the weakest part of it is the relationship that I use to pitch people the book. By strengthening that relationship, the whole thing comes more into focus.

Only been at this three days, and I’m about a fourth of the way through the book. That feels like a lot of progress, but I still feel as if I should be doing more.

Not an amazing first day of revision

Sigh, I woke up this morning, turned off my internet, opened my book, got to work, went through half of the first chapter and then…I stopped.

I needed to think about one thing. A little element. The kind of thing that might just be a scene or two, or a few lines, even. But as I thought about it, I realized that the element was intimately connected with another character’s motivations, and that there was something I needed to figure out about her.

So my revision stalled out. I’ve thought of half a dozen solutions for this problem, but all of them feel a little sweaty. You know what I’m talking about: all of my answers had an air of contrivance to them. I know that somewhere out there is a very simple solution to this problem: something that’ll make my story smaller and more efficient, and which’ll tie up a few other loose ends too, probably.

I just have no idea what it is.

Wrap-Up Season 2016: It should be illegal how good my life is nowadays

Our country (and the world at large) is sliding into fascism. I feel like I need to preface all my posts with this. Because my life right now is not at all terrible. Rather the opposite in fact. I’m engaged (don’t think I’ve mentioned this on my blog yet). Yes I am engaged to be married!

My book came out to universal love and acclaim (I only read my five star reviews), and since nobody has told me otherwise I presume it’s selling like gangbusters (re: ‘gangbusters’ — can a cliche become so old and disused that you’re allowed to use it again?)

I didn’t write that many short stories this year (four), and I only ever sent two of them out on submission, but one of those sold to F&SF, which is a magazine I’ve been trying to get into for thirteen years. I think it’s my very best story, and I’m ecstatic that it’s out there. My second-favorite story, which was published in Interzone to general silence, has been picked up by Rich Horton for his year’s best anthology.

With regards to the real stuff, my novel writing, I’ve spent most of the last eight months working on a YA novel, Tell Em They’re Amazing, that my agent has just read and told me he’s excited about (which is not a given, let me tell you), and now I’m doing one more revision before I send it to Disney in the New Year. I have high hopes for that one.

On a personal level, I proposed to my girlfriend, Rachel, on…damn, I’ve forgotten the date. Sometime in July. I think it was July 7th. She said ‘Yes,’ as I knew she would. We’d only been together for fourteen months, but I’d known since about the second month that we were gonna be together for life. The wedding is all bolted into place, more or less. We’ve got a venue and a date and a photographer and have sent out invites and done all that stuff.

Life hasn’t been universally amazing. I got severely depressed twice this year, in the spring and in the fall. I had trouble writing. I’m still having trouble. I worried about the reception my book was getting. I had housing-related insecurities (had to leave my place in Berkeley, and now our place in SF also feels a little uncertain). In the wake of my latest depression I abandoned a lot of the record-keeping that I’d been doing. I no longer track how many hours I write or how long I write. I no longer keep daily goals. There are a lot of things I no longer put in my spreadsheet. And, even more, I mostly don’t care about the goals in my spreadsheet. I record them, but I don’t aspire to improve my numbers. This has had an impact on my writing productivity I suppose, but for the last three years my productivity has mostly consisted of writing novels that weren’t very good and that no one will ever read. At some point, I needed to change what I was doing, and that’s what I’ve done. Whether the change was for the better or for the worse is a thing that’ll only become clear with time.

So it’s hard to say whether it’s been a great year. But it’s certainly been a year in which great things have happened, and right now at this moment in my life, I feel like things are, for me, going pretty well.

Normally this time of year I do a ‘Wrap-Up Season.’ I plan on still doing that. I’ve had some writing progress I want to talk about, and of course I want to discuss the best books I’ve read. But just as my posting has become a bit spottier this year, I also think the wrap-up season will be abbreviated, which is why I’m doing a quick run-through right now.