Tag Archive | writing life

The Manuscript Cometh

You know that feeling you get when your teacher is posting grades for papers or tests? How you brace yourself, take a deep breath and hold it like you’re doing the Ice Bucket Challenge?

It’s the same thing with books.  Imagine getting your corrected test or term paper back, only it’s 400 pages long.

My edits still come on paper. The UPS man (or woman) knocks on my door and hands me a big, fat package. There’s no mistaking it for anything else. It’s manuscript shaped.

MSS1

I bring it in and set it on the kitchen counter with a mixture of reverence and terror. What is my editor going to say? How much am I going to have to rewrite? How many stupid mistakes did I make?  The only way to know is to open it and find out.

MSS2

That’s a lot of paper. On top is a letter that summarizes all the things that are wrong with the book. Sometimes this is a long letter.

I usually read it standing right there by the counter. Then I hyperventilate. And then I go for a walk, or a coffee, or a something, and I don’t come back until I stop feeling like a loser for not writing a Perfect First Draft. (No one writes a perfect first draft, no matter what they tell you. There are always things that can be better. I have been tempted to go through Barnes and Noble with a pen and tweak the phrasing here and there in my books on the shelf.)

That big pile of paper sits on the kitchen counter—maybe a few hours, maybe a day, maybe a weekend—while I cogitate on how I’m going to fix what I need to fix. (Sometimes it’s something big like “This entire part in the museum here doesn’t make sense.” Sometimes it’s small but pervasive, like adding more explanation of how magic works or description of settings.)

Finally, the manuscript gets to move to the workspace. (In this case, the sofa.)

MSS3

I’m not quite ready to open the document on the computer and start haphazardly making changes. First I go through my editors’ (and agent’s) notes, page by page, wincing at the things I think I should have caught myself, or the things I thought I could get away with but didn’t, scribbling my own ideas, getting up every now and then to freak out. Like, “How I’m going to cut 25 pages out of the middle without losing any of my brilliant scenes?!” Or, my favorite: “OMG I have to come up with a logical reason for that to happen?” Or it’s close cousin,”It doesn’t seem like they know what’s going on there because I don’t know what’s going on.”

From there on… I won’t say it’s easy, but the analytical part of your brain kicks in and you flinch less. Two things safe my sanity right now: (1) I know I’m my own worst critic while working on a book, but (2) I can still fix things. I try and enjoy that while it lasts.


PS It’s not a Goodnight book.

PPS  It doesn’t come out for more than a year. But it’s going to be EPIC when it does.

Writer Haikus

My morning in haiku.

Fresh hot coffee.
Dribbles inevitable
on white tee-shirt.

Brilliant idea
this late in manuscript
is not so brilliant.

Three dogs scratch at door.
To ignore means poop on floor.
Work paused, either way.

I look up one thing
Internet is so helpful
Look! There are LOLcats!

This tee-shirt is real.You can buy it if you haveMore money than sense.

This tee-shirt is real.
You can buy it if you have
More money than sense.

Truth vs Fiction

Recently, for reasons that I will let you wonder about, I have begun a vain attempt to wedge a small gap between Rosemary Clement-Moore the (amazing! talented!) author of (award-winning!) books and what let’s call, for purposes of this post, “Private Life Rose.”

Here’s the first problem with that process. There IS no part of me that is not a writer. I wrote stories before I ever dreamed anyone but my friends would read them, without an inkling how you became an author AS A JOB. Heck, even my Barbie dolls were always going on space-faring, dragon-slaying, Evil Empire Defeating adventures. (The Barbie Mobile Home, with just a little paint and some decals, made a great Millennium Falcon.)

Those of you who do any kind of art–heck, those of you who dance, or play sports, or weave baskets underwater know what I mean.  What you love to do is intrinsic to who you are. Private Life Rose is still a storyteller and nothing short of a brain transplant would change that. 

However, there’s a difference between the writer/artist and RCM the Published Author who doesn’t really want people to know that all her efforts to house train her latest dog have met with utter failure. (Oops. Now you know.)

So there’s that. I had an online social life long before I had to think about things like a professional image or an author “brand.”  Pretty much, what you see is what you get with me. The only difference is that online, I have the benefit of a delete key which saves me from posting things that I have a tendency to blurt out when I’m in public.  So it’s not that I’m a *different* person online. But I am slightly more edited.

That doesn’t mean I’m fake, just that I’m aware if I say something like “I have to pee like a racehorse” in person, it’s not going to be preserved forever on the Internet. Though that’s not really true anymore, because anyone can Tweet: Ha! @rclementmoore just said she has to pee like a racehorse!

Which is the other thing. In the WiFi world we live in, we–all of us, not just people with a professional public image–are not entirely in control of our online content. If I’m at an event, anyone can take my picture. And it’s a sure bet, the one where I’m making a face like this… 

Image

…will be the one that ends up tagged on Facebook. (There was this time I was at a party at a convention and I was telling a story. Someone snapped a pic. Not a big deal, except that (a) I was standing in front of All The Liquor Bottles In Texas and (b) I was making a weird face so that I look like I had drunk All the Liquor in Texas.

Which I hadn’t.

Not that night, anyway. 

I don’t care that you guys know I drink. But I would like you to think I look adorable when I do. 

Though I actually like this one, where Sarah Rees Brennan is looking at me like I’m crazy and she can’t move far enough away without causing an inter-author incident.

Sarah Rees Brennan and Rosemary Clement-Moore at a Smart Chicks Kick It event.

One of us is saying something incredibly witty and droll here. I swear.

Which if you’ve ever talked to Sarah Rees Brennan, or seen one of her dramatic book reenactments, is kind of ironic, her looking at anyone this way.  (I adore Sarah, and UNSPOKEN is one of my favorite books of 2012.) 

So… Where was I?  Oh yeah. Online vs. Offline. 

It’s not so much that I care to keep my Offline Life a secret from readers. What you see is what you get with me. You know my mom lives with me (or me with her, depending on who you ask). That my dog is a revenge pee-er. That I’ve rented my upstairs apartment to Sister Maria Von Trapp. (Minus the singing.) 

That I was a nerd long before it was cool, back when I had to keep it a secret or get beat up after school. 

It’s not even that I worry about someone from college showing up on my blog and posting in the comments: Hey! Rosie*! Remember that time you drank All The Liquor In Texas and we had to carry you home on your shield? 

It’s far more likely that someone will show up and say: Hey! Remember when you wrote all that Mary Sue Star Wars fan fiction in junior high?  Or I’ll get a Tweet from my mother that says: Hey, little missy! Remember to pick up toilet paper while you’re at #Target! 

That last one will never happen. My mother doesn’t know how to use hashtags. 

 

 

*If you ever call me Rosie, in person or online, I will never speak to you again.

The Scariest Part

In case you missed it, I announced Wednesday that I’d sold two new books to Delacorte. (Yay!)

The announcement came complete with pie charts.  I really love charts. They can express all kinds of ideas. Brilliant things. The world is a better place with graphs, charts and grids, and I’ll tell you why: It keeps my right brain self and left brain self from killing each other.

It’s not this simple, but it makes a pretty picture.

Every test I’ve ever taken (Which is a lot, because you know who gets to be early test subjects for graduate students in communication and behavioral science? Other grad students in communication and behavioral science.) puts me in a dead split between right/left brain dominance.

According to popular theory (two words that pretty much negate all credibility), I can use both types of intelligence–logical and intuitive–equally well.  But what it mostly seems to mean is that someday they will find my comatose body in a department store dressing room because my brain has imploded trying to decide whether to purchase a dress that I love vs. the one that is practical.

So I make pro/con lists for just about everything. (And I do mean everything.) I keep notebooks with my ideas. I write down everything so I can sort it and find it when I need it.

This is where the white board comes in. When I rough in my book plot, my beloved white board chart gives me a visual, spacial framework that I can then fill in with my right-brained creative genius.

Except here I am. Staring at this:

In blank space, no one can hear you scream.

 

Most intimidating thing ever.

Here’s what I don’t get.  I’ve written seven books.  My left brain KNOWS I can write a book. I have empirical evidence of the fact that I can write a book. And they’re not even BAD books. They’ve gotten starred reviews and awards and stuff.

So how come every time I sit down to “Chapter One” and a blank page, I’m convinced I have no CLUE what I’m doing.  I’ve just been faking it all this time.

Call it the inner editor, call it the Id vs the Superego, call it cognitive dissonance, call it whatever…. Staring at a blank anything can make a task seem so overwhelming that just about anyone can get this kind of standing-on-the-high-dive paralysis that threatens to defeat you before you even get started.

The only thing to do–and trust me, I know–is to start filling in the blanks. Make a chart. Make a list. Make a mind map. Make a Pinterest Board full of inspiring images. Start filling in the empty spaces with nonsense, and sooner or later, it’s not so empty and intimidating any more.

“Make it so.” — Captain Jean Luc Picard

A day in the life… (iLesson)

These are all the things that have happened since I sat down to write this post at 8:23 a.m.

08:35        The Fed-Ex van arrives. Dogs go crazy.

08:40        The package contains my edits on Texas Gothic. I go crazy.

09:00        Cease hyperventilating, resolve to finish iLesson and Genreality post for tomorrow before further freak out.

10:13        Business phone call.

10:45        Leaf-blower-of-doom arrives. Dogs go crazy. I go crazy.

11:10        Two dogs need to go out.

11:15        Family phone call.

11:20        Two more dogs need to go out.

11:21        One dog doesn’t finish business outside, so finishes inside. Wipe up floor.

11:30        I break a (full) glass. Sweep floor, mop, sweep again, vacuum, mop one final time for slivers.

12:00        Cannot remember Hemingway quote for iLesson. Google “Hemingway on writing.” Spend an hour reading amusing but irrelevant quotations and anecdotes.

12:05        Explained to Mom that “⌘C” is useless without “⌘V”. (Sorry Mom. But that was kind of funny.)

12:30        Lunchtime. Mom makes her lunch. Dogs go crazy.

1:05 pm        Consider running away to Key West to live with bottle of scotch and house full of polydactyl cats.

1:14. Have abandoned original post, and thanks to reader suggestion, gone in a different direction.

People say to me (a lot) “I wish I could just stay at home and write without the distractions of a full time job.” To which I say, there is no such thing as a world without distractions. And these are just the things I can’t control. I didn’t mention the temptation distractions, like Supernatural on TNT every morning or the sale at the mall or “just one game” of Rock Band.

I say with embarrassment that I spent my time much more productively when I had a “day job” and could only write at night. I wrote more in those stolen two or three hours than I sometimes do now all day. I guarded my writing time preciously, knowing I only had that much, and no more.

Even now, I sometimes don’t even bother trying to produce new prose during they day, but stay up late to write when dogs, moms, and lawn services have gone to bed. I know writers who get up at 4 am to write before their kids wake up for school.

Whatever works.

Make the most of your time, however much time you have. Don’t be afraid to guard that time, and stress the importance of it to your family… and to yourself!

And They Solve Crime!

One of the problems coming up with blog topics, is that writers, contrary to public image in the media (I’m looking at you, Richard Castle.) Our day-to-day lives aren’t really that exciting. I mean, they are, in the sense that we have a really cool job making stuff up, controlling our little fictional universes, like demigods. But with the exception of certain crime fighting crime novelists, it just doesn’t make good television, watching someone sit on their butt staring at a computer 8 to 10 (to 12 to 18) hours a day.
Nathan Fillion as Richard Castle
(So today I could change it up and tell you about the last three days I spent lying on the bathroom floor, in between calls to Ralph on the porcelain phone. It would be TMI, but at least it would be dramatic.)

But if you’re reading this blog, chances are you’re a reader, so you know that living in your head really IS exciting, in a way that TV can never fully catch. Not until they invent five sense surround sound-smell-taste-touch-ovision. And as much as I love movies, and you know I love movies, there’s nothing like vicariously living in adventure in the pages of the book. It’s probably as close to Avatar as I’ll ever get. (As hard as it is to reconcile that I’ll never get to ride a pterodactyl.)

For me the writing experience is very much like creating that surround-o-vision movie in my head. The challenges come from keeping it exciting for you and putting all those senses, the full 5D role-playing experience, into words that will transmit it into your head like an avatar interface. Put in those terms, that’s a pretty damn exciting job.

Even if I’m not solving crimes on the side.