Friday, March 16, 2007

Murdering my Little Darlings

I'm sure many of you are familiar with what the topic of this post actually means. It's a reference to an article I read on by James Patrick Kelly. He's not the first person to make the reference; he merely expanded on the sentiment that has been given by authors for years on the craft of writing. An author has a tendency to fall in love with his or her words, but special attention should be given to revising and "murdering your little darlings".

Basically, what this means is, after you've written a work and had an opportunity to step back from it for a while, it's sometimes helpful to go re-visit it and THEN start making cuts. With growing experience, you will find ways to make the work stronger. In fact, the article gives several examples of things to watch out for that I've found I'm definitely guilty of. Overuse of adverbs and adjectives, overdramatization, unnecessary characters, that sort of thing.

I finished the revisions for my first novel back in January. It's been a month and a half, and I suddenly had the urge to go back and re-visit it for several reasons. One is, I'm obsessed with what my agent has told me about length and word count. Of the publishers who chose not to look at my work after the synopsis and query were sent, a couple specifically said it was because the book was too long for the target market.

So I opened up the file and started reading through it. I already had some ideas for places where it could be trimmed. My opening chapters are rather long, introducing the two main characters and getting to know them. But with the experience I got writing my second novel, I learned how to introduce characters better, get to know them with fewer words, scenes, or drawn-out explanations. The opening took place over three chapters before the fantasy elements of the story even started to develop. So I moved some things around, made some cuts, and changed the opening from taking place over two days to all happening in one. It may take some further tweaking, but with the re-arranging of a few events and the paring down, I believe I've been able to introduce the characters just as strongly, and it all takes place in one chapter. By chapter two, the fantasy elements are beginning to come to the fore. And I cut over five thousand words!

I feel that I can continue this through the rest of the novel. There are several other places in which I have been a tad wordy when it wasn't necessary. There are a few places where scenes can be combined, or possibly just gotten rid of. This is something that I was not able to see when I revised before. And I wouldn't be able to see it now if not for the experience of writing my second novel. I don't really know if it's something I should be doing or not; my agent is already happy with the first novel, and she does have it in some big-name hands right now. But I'm a writer, and typical of writers, I always feel that I can make it better if I just change this word, or that word, and murder my little darlings.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Bad days

Well, that was a total waste.

I went to the interview, and was told that the shift required would be evening shift, 4PM to after midnight. That's not something I'm able to do. My son is having a sort of rough time in his life right now. If I were to take the evening shift, I'd literally never see him awake except on weekends and in the morning when I send him off to school, and that's not a sacrifice I'm willing to make as a single parent. So the interview turned out to be pretty short, despite the fact that they seemed impressed with my qualifications.

I hope beyond hope that I get the interview for the other job soon. I don't know what they're delaying for, but they keep telling me the position isn't filled, and they haven't interviewed anyone else for it. But it's my perfect job, at a good salary, and 8-5 shift.

So today was a total bust. I'm now at home, and pulling up my short story to work on it and hopefully nail down the ending.

Oh, and for anyone curious, I've added an author photo (OK, it's actually a snapshot taken with my camera at arm's length). So you folk can see what I look like now.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

All Work and No Play

Work, work, work
Well, I went and got my hair cut today. It's been a while; I hadn't gotten a haircut since November! I was kind of enjoying the shagginess. But I have to look presentable for my interview tomorrow.

Now, back to blogging about writing.

I've been working hard on this short story, and it's coming along great. It still feels very odd to write in this format. The story is about a secondary character from my first novel, detailing his early life and how he came to be in the position he was in during the novel. Sort of a prequel. It's easy enough to do, because I've got the basic character outline that tells me how things develop. The problem is, I've got enough material to cover almost half a novel. I'm having to pick and choose what I include and what I cut. It's frustrating. But still, it's coming along. Barring any extreme distractions, I should be finished with the first draft by the end of the week. Then add a little spit and polish, get some feedback, and drop it in the mail. That's the plan, at least.

And then it'll be months before I find out if I even place in the competition. Ugh! The waiting is the worst part of this whole game!

One good thing, though. Win, place, or show, my story will be read by some greats in the industry. Orson Scott Card, Anne McCaffrey, Larry Niven, Robert Silverburg, Frederik Pohl, to name just a few. I get a thrill just knowing that so many big names will be holding my manuscript in their hands within a month or so!

Monday, March 12, 2007

Biting nails and cringing in terror

Well, wish me luck!
I have a job interview on Wednesday, and another tentatively scheduled for Thursday or Friday of this week. The tentative one is exactly what I was doing at my previous job, down to the type of tracking software they use. The one Wednesday is one I'm not completely qualified for, but I'm highly qualified for the largest part of it. I made this clear to the person who contacted me, and they still want to interview me and think I might be right for the position.

Kind of nervous. I don't interview well. I tend to get a bit flustered. I'm qualified, and I'm good at what I do, I just get nervous dealing with new people until I get to know them... and you can't let your nervousness show in job interview!

Add to that the fact that I haven't worked, other than an odd job here and there on the side, since October of last year, and I'm going a tad crazy. Not only do I have to be nervous about the interview, I have to be nervous about the prospect of going back to work in a totally new place with totally new people. For some people, this might seem easy enough, but I'm an introverted, shy, self-conscious person who worked in the same place for almost six years.. And part of me doesn't want to give up my current so-called life of leisure.

Ah, well, I need the paychecks. At least until I become the next J.K. Rowling or Michael Crichton or Orson Scott Card.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

And now, for somehing completely different

Musical Theatre Extravaganza
My son has been officially bitten by the theatre bug. After two months of long evening practices, he and his fellow choir students at his junior high school put on their rendition of the show High School Musical. Surprisingly, they played to a packed house on both Friday night's performance and Saturday afternoon's show.

If you're a parent of a child from the age of five to fifteen, you've probably seen or at least heard of High School Musical. It's become a phenomenon lately. And to be honest, it's really not a bad show, with some decent music (if a little "pop"-y for my taste), and the kids are really into it. And I have to say, I was very, very impressed with the quality of the production. It was on par with some high school shows I've seen.

I felt bad for my son at first. He had practiced and practiced for three weeks or so before the auditions, and had gotten to be very good at the assigned audition song. He was so excited. Music is a big part of our lives, and his mother's life as well, and both myself and his mother had a long history of musical performance in junior high, high school, and college. So he was excited about having a chance to make us proud.

And then came the audition. He came home having a panic attack, saying he couldn't go through with it. I talked to him for a while, and he decided he wanted to try, but that I had to go support him. I did, and he was sooooooooo nervous that he lost the tempo in his audition and blew the song.

And so he made the chorus. Better than nothing, but not what he wanted.

Over the couple of months of practice, he started to become disillusioned. He was working hard, spending all his free time on rehearsals, having to skip a lot of things he might rather be doing, and he didn't even have a speaking role. In the last two weeks before the show, he'd decided he wanted to quit, but I wouldn't let him. If he decides never to try out again, fine, but you can't quit once you've made a commitment to do something.

So the night of the show came along, and I gotta' tell you, he is SO glad I didn't let him quit. He loved it! He had a great time, both performances, and can't wait to try out for another show.

So I'm proud of him. He stuck it out, even though he didn't want to, and he found out that the payoff at the end was worth all the sacrifices to get there. If I'm lucky, he'll learn that as a fact of life and apply it to other things as well.

Yeah, I know, this is a blog about my life and not my writing. I don't do that very often. Don't hold it against me.