Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Sunday Night Post

My blogging here is getting to be a weekly thing.

I saw some buzz on Absolute Write that indicates my four-week-old full manuscript request may yet get a response. In the meantime, I have been less than enthusiastic about sending out my rewrite of Starcaster. I guess I still like the old way it was written. Which means I'm working on East of Yesterday while it's all so ambiguous in my head.

And I'm encountering more ambiguity there. I have a bunch of stuff in my notebook that I need to transcribe. But I've gotten hung up on a subplot and today, after writing a bunch of stuff, I started wondering if that subplot shouldn't just be cut out. It takes the novel in a different direction and gives it a very different tone. So I'll probably read a book tonight and go to bed early!

On the bright side, I've discovered something in my research that makes my plotting much easier. US-1 as it exists in Florida and Georgia has not changed routes since 1926. I haven't pinned down the year where the bulk of my story takes place, but 1926 is more than far back enough. Once I determined that the route has not changed, I was finally able to figure out where all the stops are on my characters' road trip. I have actually traveled up 95 as far as Waycross in the researching of this novel, and we are talking of going as far as Swainsboro. Who knows; we may take a long weekend and drive clear up to Columbia.

Driving along these old highways really helps. I got the idea of Ashley's close encounter with an alligator while on the road to Waycross. What I can't research in person, I will attempt to make up for by using Google Street View (a marvelous tool).

In the meantime (or have I said that already?), I am waiting on two short story submissions. I am now subbing to "semipro" markets (it doesn't take long to go through the pro markets), so I'm hoping to attract some interest there. I am currently submitting "Petroleum Sunset" and "Under Observation". I'd like to submit "The Sevenfold Spell" as well, which is my Sleeping Beauty retelling, but it's a bit racy and I'm having trouble finding markets that take racy stuff. I may run into this problem with "Under Observation" as well. It only has one tiny little racy part, but it's very powerful and I think the story would lose something if I take it out. I think Kristin would agree with me here.

Ordinarily, my writing is squeaky clean. I don't include sexual stuff unless the plot calls for it, so when it does, I include it for the impact. So it can get rather earthy.

And that's my weekly update! Maybe I'll surprise you sometime with a post mid-week.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Coming Up for Air

Two weeks since I've blogged! Yikes!

I've been keeping busy. It occurred to me that I needed to get serious about querying Starcaster again because soon it will be November and after that, the Christmas break and after that, another post-NaNoWriMo query flood. I was caught up in that last year; I don't want to repeat the experience this year. Agent after agent stopped taking queries altogether, and many agents stopped replying at all. I ended up wishing for rejections! So it occurred to me that I needed to send my next batch of queries out now.

But I wasn't ready. Before I could do that, I really needed to revamp my opening because it is obvious that my old opening wasn't working. I very reluctantly dis-engaged my East of Yesterday brain and re-engaged my Starcaster brain. And I got to work.

I deleted the entire opening scene and started the novel with (for those of you who have read it) the arrival of Miss Henry. Just as Tory's running down the stairs of headquarters to meet her student, she meets Crowley coming up. He takes her into the men's dorm (!) where together, they listen through a convenient heat register to a conversation between Miss Henry and Mr. Bradburn, in which Mr. Bradburn assigns Miss Henry the task of spying on Tory.

I'm hoping this opening is much stronger. I have also renamed the novel, but I'll keep using the old name here in the blog.

This involved some major re-arranging, the inclusion of one backstory scene as a flashback, and following all that, an entire revision. I started out with 94,000 words. After my cut, my novel was bleeding profusely at barely 80,000 words. When I added most of the scenes back in their re-arranged and flashbacked places, and finished going through the whole thing again, I was still down to 88,000 words.

Which, to me, is uncomfortably short. A fantasy novel is generally between 80,000 and 100,000 words. I wanted to be comfortably in the middle. So I started going through deleted scenes. And I found a gem. It was where Tory briefs the king. None of you have read this; I never finished the scene because it just fizzled when I was trying to write it. Well, timing is everything because I thought of a great way to end the scene. I put the scene back in the novel where I originally envisioned it (the next morning after Crowley is shot), and smoothed everything that came after.

Now, it's 91,000 words. And I'm very happy with it.

Now I just need to rewrite my query. Some of you will be getting emails about this; thanks in advance for any help you might be able to give me!

Oh, and I also have a potential short story. My old opening could very well be a standalone adventure. I think I'll spiff it up and send it to various fantasy magazines.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Time Travel Historical

I'm homing in on 20,000 words. I know historical novels run longer than your average novel, but I'm not sure how much longer. Fantasy, by average, runs longer as well. So I'm going for 100,000 words and we'll see how it goes. Almost 1/5th way there.

I'm writing this novel in a rather episodic manner. This week, I wrote a couple of scenes from Mike and Ashley's final destination in the 20s, and now I'm writing a scene that takes place during their journey back in time, in the 60s. I'll smooth them all out at some point in the future. I'm not sure if I'll use them all, but I'm trying to make sure they each are relevant to the plot. Even fun "fish out of water" scenes must advance the plot, somehow.

I also have to figure out the rules of time travel. I decided to rule out the possibility of two "copies" of a person in the same place at the same time. If someone goes back to their own past, they become the only copy, even if the person must vanish in one place and appear in another. This means that Mike and Ashley would have vanished for brief periods in their own past while their future selves were visiting that particular time. I'm not sure if this will have an impact on the book, because I really don't get into their own personal past very much. But it will be an interesting possibility.

I'm also wondering if it wouldn't be fun to have someone they meet in one timeframe come looking for them in another. For example, they save a black teenage boy from a beating in the early 60s. Wouldn't it be fun if they run into him in the 70s--before they ever get to the 60s because they're traveling backwards through time--and he knows them and just wanted to try to find them to convince himself that it wasn't all a dream. And of course, they wonder if he was crazy until they finally meet him in the 60s.

Fun? Oh yeah.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Rewrites and First Drafts

I'm sort of tackling two projects at once, a rewrite of Forging a Legend and the first draft of East of Yesterday. Although I like my rewrite of Forging, I can't help but get the feeling that I've put too much effort into it, and maybe I should just move on . . . for now.

I have a history with this. My first novel was called Oath of the Songsmith. The strange thing about it was that the oath was really not all that earth-shattering, and when he breaks it, he loses his voice, so for a good half of the novel, he isn't a songsmith at all. The rest of the book kind of . . . doesn't make sense just like that. It was my journeyman novel.

I spent ten years writing and rewriting it. It took one agent rejection for me to set it aside.

I don't want to get sucked into that trap again. Although I think Forging a Legend is worlds away better than Oath of the Songsmith, I'm thinking I should just leave it and move on.

Why? Because I think East of Yesterday is worlds away better than Forging a Legend.

I know some of you loved Forging a Legend and don't get me wrong--I love it too. And I'm thrilled that it found readers who loved it. Abriel's story is something I want to finish one day. But I'm coming to a conclusion that I've come to before, and I really need to listen to myself. I think I need to be in a better position as a writer in order to interest a publisher in Forging a Legend. I think I need to "write" this as an established author, rather than have it be my debut novel.

I think East of Yesterday has great potential as a debut novel. It's a standalone novel. The genre of historical fiction has a much wider audience potential than the fantasy genre. And I'm having great fun writing it. As I write it, I have sort of a goofy half-smile plastered on my face at all the situations I'm putting my characters in. I'm tackling difficult subjects, such as racism and segregation in the South. It's almost . . . but not quite . . . literary.

My time constraints do not allow me to work on two novels at once. I'm still in love with the concept and the characters in East of Yesterday, so I need to focus my efforts on it. In a few months, when I hit the inevitable roadblock that I always hit, I'll turn back to Forging a Legend and finish up my rewrites and maybe even enter it into RWA's annual contest. So I'm not setting it aside for good. I'm setting it aside for now.

In other news, I've finally resubmitted my short short, "Under Observation", to another market. I think this story could be "the one" that finally nets me a fiction bio entry. Wish me luck!