Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy happy day...

I've been spending a lot of time alone, writing and rewriting
and fine tuning the novel I'm currently working on.

However, there are days that make it all worthwhile. For me, this is one of them.

The Silver Compass has been delivered and accepted and put into production with copy editing. For about an hour, I felt like this...

But that quickly changed,
and then I found myself feeling like this...

... taking a few minutes to daydream about holding the book itself (voila!) which will be out April 1, 2008.

Now I'm off to prepare (picture me bracing here) for upwards of 250 kids tonight as Halloween descends on my neighborhood. No joke, last year we got 287 kids!

Saturday, October 27, 2007

A little healthy competition can't hurt

My husband and I are competitive with each other, in a good way. The first marathon he ever ran was in January 2007 in Florida. He ran a second one in April 2007 in California, and a few weeks ago he ran his third in Victoria, BC.

See the connection? Three novels, three marathons.

With two of the marathons he ran this year, he qualified for Boston which he plans to run in April '08 weeks after my 3rd novel, The Silver Compass, comes out. And as he so nicely pointed out to me yesterday, that will be his 4th marathon so he'll be ahead of me.

In no way did I want him to think this bothered me, so I gave him a bored stare and went back to work. However, as soon as he left the room, I did grab a calendar to plot and plan my 4th novel a bit more aggressively than usual. Afterall, I know the story, I'm excited about writing it, and if I can get the first draft completed by the time he runs his fourth little marathon in Boston (yawn) then I guess technically we'd be tied again, right?

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Meet my 165 pound writing muse

For the next week or so I won't have time to post so as I head into the final stretch of revisions on my novel, let me leave you with two snapshots of Sullivan (aka Sully), my writing muse.
You know how some dogs howl when you sing? Well, Sully doesn't do that. He does, however, cover his head with his paws and whine when I read out loud, something I've been doing a lot lately as I test dialogue pieces to make sure they sound alright. Clearly he has no taste, huh?

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Spin baby spin

I can't remember exactly who sent me this Nokia video clip
(probably my pal Sally with DDB Advertising in Chicago) but
I've had it for a while and it always makes me laugh. I have two cats and I can definitely imagine one of them getting into this sort of trouble:

Monday, October 15, 2007

A garbage can filled with story ideas

Elsa from Boulder, Colorado (an aspiring author herself) emailed last week to ask how I come up with my my story ideas. Do I find it difficult thinking them up or do scenes just suddenly jump into my head while I'm writing?

Hmmmm... I have to admit the latter does sometimes happen, usually late at night when I'm writing and my mind takes
off on me. I'll start laughing
(or get emotional) thinking of something a specific character would do that I hadn't even
considered before then.

However, even when I'm not writing, I'm always working. I go to sleep thinking about my novel, I wake up in the middle of the night to jot down notes, and I carry blank index cards with me wherever I go.

I'm always writing something down I've seen or overheard or thought of that's relavent to the book I'm working on at the time. Then, at the end of each day, I stuff everything into
a twelve inch-high aluminum garbage can labelled 'story ideas' (index cards, photos, articles I've cut out of magazines or newspapers) and every few weeks I'll dump it out and go through it, taking what I want and putting back what I've decided to reserve for another novel.

It might seem like an odd process, but it works well for me!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

For the Grand Rapids book club

Today's post is a lazy one (killing two birds with one stone,
so to speak) because I've been so busy writing I haven't had time to answer two follow-up emails sent to me from a book club I spoke to in Grand Rapids, Michigan via speakerphone
last week. Here you go:

Q: Which one of your novels is your personal favorite?
My next one. It's always my next one. After spending a year writing a novel, you get tired of it. It's an exhausting process, the writing and rewriting, not to mention poking and prodding your characters to behave the way you need them to. It's always nicer to imagine a 'fresh start' with
a brand new story you delusionally believe will be easier to write than the last one (insert laughter here).

Q: Where do you do the bulk of your writing?
See photo above. This is where I do 95% of my writing. I don't like to move around, dragging my laptop out onto the deck or down to the river, etc. This is my office, and when I'm in it, I mean business. And on days when my mind wanders, I have a great reminder of what I'm there for tacked to the wall above my desk. If you click on the photo it'll enlarge and you can probably see it (please excuse the messy desk!)

Friday, October 5, 2007

Hats off to the 101st Airborne Division

This post is for the 101st Airborne Division, with admiration and respect. Every now and then I receive an email that makes me proud to be an author. This is one of them:

"I am writing to you today about your book, The Tin Box. I am currently in the army in Kuwait waiting my departure to Iraq. I was browsing through some books in the USO and came across The Tin Box. I will admit I was skeptical about picking it up and reading it because it sounded like a book aimed more towards women. Well, thank God I did because it was by far the best book I have ever read. Currently it is being passed around my company and being read whenever we have down time. The way you intimately described each character made me feel as if I had been friends with them for years. All in all the book moved me and was exactly the thing that I needed to read when I arrived in Kuwait. I figured since you took the time to write such an amazing book I would take the time to thank you."

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

How do you write a novel? Simple. Line up your story like this...

I received an email yesterday from an aspiring author. He said he finds the process of writing a novel overwhelming (join the club). He said it's difficult to stay focused on the same story and the same set of characters and the same sub-plots for as long as it takes to write 400 pages (I couldn't agree more). He said "it's hard" and I nodded with sympathy. It is. It's very hard.

For close to a year, I've spent countless hours writing and editing and cutting and smoothing to make The Silver Compass come together and line up like a string of slick dominoes. Current day story must be supported by back story and back story must transition smoothly back into current day story. Secondary characters must move the plot forward, walk-ons are necessary but you can't have too many. Dialogue must be realistic. Scenes should have dramatic tension. Watch you POV shifts. Make readers care about your main character and his/her story. It'd also be good if you can make them laugh and/or cry at some point. Keep in mind, the first page sells the book, the last page sells the next book and on and on...

Yes, it is hard, but don't give up, because after it gets written and it all comes together, and it's been buffed and polished to a shine, there's no better feeling in the world. When I get that feeling, before I begin obsessing over changing 'just one more thing' that's when I quickly hand it over to production, dust off my hands and say, "It's just a book. There'll be many more." It's the only way I can stay sane doing this for a living.