Friday, July 29, 2011

#WIPMADNESS Final July Check-in

How did everybody do?

Today, I will break the 46k mark, which is a little short of what I wanted, but it is progress.  This last week has been rocky...meetings that barred me from the WIP and potential upheaval that was eventually abated. But if nothing else, I got even more clarity in the development of the story.

What have I learned this month?

I've learned that I need to move around, to get up and stretch and think and direct my brain in different directions more often than I do.  I've learned how much I miss writing at home.  I've also learned that tension and romance can be hard to do without a major cheese factor killing your momentum.  The "go big or stay home" mentality doesn't work quite the same way in that case.

Goals for August?

1.  Finish the WIP!  (HA!...I can try!).
2.  Take at least one weekend and lock myself away to write.  (That might actually happen)
3.  If all else fails, just keep making forward progress.

Major goal — to have something workable for my agent to review.  Then...the revisions.

Thanks for hanging with the madness everyone!  Good luck in August and don't forget to check in with Angelina!

Friday, July 22, 2011

#WIPMADNESS July check-in #4

It's a real jumble this week.  Ghost Girl and Son have driven north to Wilmington, NC to meet Ghost Friends for a mother/son retreat at the beach.  That means a lot of crazy 14-year-old boy antics, sun and surf, and very little writing.  But I wouldn't trade this week for anything.  (I might postpone it for a book deal, though...just saying.)

One thing that nudged me along was a great critique from a writing buddy.  We exchanged 3 chapters a few weeks ago, and she sent me my notes yesterday.  (Big thanks to @bkslinda)  As can often happen in a first draft, part of the story was still in my head rather than on the page.  You know those clever little bits of information that you mean to lead somewhere, but somehow you didn't quite get the "somewhere" down on the page?  Yep, did that a little bit.

The good news is, revision is my bag.  I'm slow on the first draft, but fast and efficient on revisions.  By that time, my vision is more complete and the holes are more obvious when I go back over everything.

While my progress wasn't what I had hoped this week, it was what I expected (only about 600 words).  Maybe I'll still get in a few hundred while the boys are swimming...

How did everyone else do?

Friday, July 15, 2011

#WIPMADNESS July Check-in Number 3

It's Harry Potter day at last!  I'm not sure how much writing I will get done today, but I am outta here at 2:00 to meet Ghost Son for our standing HP date.  Aside from that distraction, it has been a pretty decent WIP week, especially since I broke the 44k mark and am officially building the climax.  I continue to have little epiphanies along the way (yay!) as well as those moments of doubt.

Ah yes, those moments of doubt.  With Harry Potter stalking me in the background and my rabid reading of the Hunger Games series, I find myself making far too many comparisons which is completely counter productive.  I keep thinking, why can't I write like that?  Or, I'm doing it wrong. My style is so different and that gestational stage of my WIP has me feeling bloated, unattractive, and downright cranky at times.

I keep telling myself that what I'm reading is a finished product that has gone through its share of fits and starts and revisions, not to mention the number of books Suzanne Collins wrote before this and all her television work.  What I'm writing is still in its prenatal state.  It's bound to be a little wrinkly and funky-looking. It might even smell bad at times.  I'm not sure that pep talk helps, though.  In the end, I feel like a teenage mom compared to all these wonderful writers I know and read.  Everyone is staring and pointing and judging, dismissing me as unworthy to bring life into the world because I don't even know what it means yet.  As uncomfortable as that analogy is, you know what I'm talking about.  Then I realize, no...that is not everyone...that is ME.  I'm judging and pressuring myself to be something else. I'm the one ready to dismiss myself as a kid who has no business bringing this life into the world because I couldn't possibly have what it takes...yet.  

I think I need a Moonstruck Cher to smack me in the face and say "Snap out of it!"  When I go back and read some of the earlier chapters of my WIP, I realize that there is a plan here, a voice, a style.  It's just not like the dystopian stuff I'm reading for fun, nor should it be.  After all, I'm not writing about teenagers fighting to the death in some crazy post-apocolyptic world.  I'm writing about ghosts and life in 1850 and a teenager kicking some pre-Civil War ass.  It ought to look different.  Right?

So what has been your biggest personal challenge with your writing this week?

Friday, July 08, 2011

#WIPMADNESS July Check-in Number 2

Where did the week go?  Well, I think I almost have the WIP plan marked out enough to write these last chapters with some direction.  The Ghost-in-Laws were in town from Saturday to Wednesday, so my writing week was a little slim this time around. Somehow I managed to get in about 2,000 words in the few days I had.  I will take that.

One fabulous revelation I had came through a number of influences.  First, I'm reading CATCHING FIRE, which has inspired a few motivational choices and made me think hard about teenage angst.  Second, I had a heart-to-heart with my son about why he continues to read a book.  What pulls him on page after page.  Of course it was one of those "depends" answers, but still informative.  Then I mulled over consequences.

I have to really map out the consequences of each character's choices if the climax is going to carry any umpf.  Thus I have begun to build the fire and hope that I can stoke those flames nice and hot. I keep reminding myself that there has to be a clear price for each choice a character makes and I think I'm starting to figure out what they are.  It's all about how high the stakes are, right?

So how high have the stakes been for you this week?

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

The YA Show Down

If you missed it, go now and listen to today's broadcast of Radio Times from WHYY. The debate over Meghan Cox Gurdon's assault on dark YA literature continues and I must give a standing "O" to Maureen Johnson and to Madeleine Kemper for their eloquent, informed, and well articulated response.

Let's just set aside the fact that there is a lot of wonderful YA lit out there this is funny and smart and full of hope.  As for round 1 of #YAshowdown, a few points stand out to me as I thumb through the highlights in my brain:

Let's start with an attitude.  Not only is Ms. Gurdon's tone condescending to the writing community, but to teenagers as well.  Teens get talked down to enough without literature taking the elitist stand that it knows best and will present a carefully prescribed view of their world no matter what the teenager is going through.  Her cloying remarks to Cheryl Rainfield were quite telling.  "I'm filled with pity...however, your book could be...extremely disturbing to children...who haven't encountered the phenomenon of cutting." I certainly hope what she went through disturbs people.  Cheryl wrote the book in hopes of letting kids know they aren't alone, that healing is possible, that their world is real rather than the sugar-coated bubble-gum culture Ms. Gurdon grew up in.  Don't condescend to kids.  Don't dismiss their experiences.  Don't belittle their response.

Let's talk about the "fun-house mirror" aspect of YA lit, as Ms. Gurdon referred to it. Adolescence is one big fun-house mirror where the world is trying to come into focus, but is drawn askew by so many influences.  Emotions are bigger, problems are scarier, no matter what the cold reality in relative terms gives you.  YA lit recognizes that and doesn't criticize young people or tell them that they are blowing things out of proportion.  It gives them a safe place to explore those emotions.

And the last caller who said, "The job of the writer is to teach the reader...."  As Paul Acampora tweeted, "NO. NO. NO. NO. The job or the writer is to tell the truth."  Good books do have a clear and consistent moral compass, but that does not mean that their primary purpose is to instruct, no matter what Alexander Pope thought. There are truths that ring hard and clear to teenagers even if adults are afraid of them.  We want to protect our kids from the truths of this world as long as possible (and believe me, I do). BUT, kids will go looking for those truths and I am glad there are YA writers out there who will offer it.  Those kids can see through the Newspeak and the propaganda.  Give them more credit and be a part of that journey rather than a bystander.  Read with them.  Talk to them.  

It should not need to be said, but "correlation" does not mean "cause and effect."  Don't assume that if a kid reads a book about cutting, she'll go out and cut herself.  Ask why she picked up that book in the first place.  Something drew her there.  Our world isn't perfect.  It isn't always funny.  It isn't always nice.  It doesn't even make sense half the time, especially to a teenager who is still trying to discover who she is and what kind of power she wields in the great big world.  Explore it with her.

Friday, July 01, 2011

#WIPMADNESS July Check-in and Introduction

I don't know what happened to my June #wipmadness check-in with Erin Bow on her fabulous blog, but somewhere I just lost track.  But July has arrived and I promise I will be better about posting the progress, or lack thereof, and offering a little inspiration wherever I can.

Today, I am sharing an insight.  One of those little bolts of lightning that zaps you at the core and makes you feel like an idiot before you realize what a treasure it is. And her it is:  my muse is a ghost.

As I have struggled through the middle of my WIP and stopped to re-plot and explore where the hell I intended to go in the first place, I have wondered where she was taking me. Sometimes I wondered was she was at all.  I knew she had a plan, but she was absolute mud at revealing it to me.  I tripped over the holes in my story and got stuck in the trench somewhere, but today my muse snatched hold of my hand and yanked me up and back onto the path.

What did it?  What slap in the face woke her up? The spooky side of my book.  Yes, as you know I am the Ghost Girl and I guess that's what my muse was trying to tell me.  Quick mucking around with all the psychology and character exploration and just jump in with a ghost again.

So, today's 1,061 words centered on a ghosty scene and it came pouring out in all its luscious creepiness.  Finally!  It felt good.  Like a big cool drink after a month in the desert.  So, that will be the order of July.  Plow ahead and let the Ghost Muse lead me.  I can muck it up with character development and all that jazz later!

What revelation is launching you into your July #wipmadness?