Sunday, August 4, 2013

Accountability Week One

Project 1--The Novel (A Mantra for Cats and Other Runaways)

This, my first novel, is finished... But perhaps it's a good idea to define "finished." The story is complete, from beginning to end. I've revised and re-revised, over and over. When I thought it was perfect, I pitched it at a writers' conference and got seven out of nine agents interested (one of which later turned me down). At said conference I met an awesome editor to whom I sent the MS (after another round of revisions). She came back with some powerful insights, which led me to a) cut the MS from 104K to 52K, and b) add entirely new material that heightened the stakes, made them clearer, that brought the word count back up to 103K.


This was all last year, and since then I've been working on refining so these additions merge seamlessly. I've gone through every decision process possible: is the story better served by third person instead of first? Does the timeline make sense the way it is (present => past => present), or does it just confuse, needlessly? Are the names of the secondary characters too similar / too trite (Carrie for the "other" girl? Seriously?)? And, for that matter, do these secondaries come across as cardboard figures? Maybe I should cut a few, develop the others a bit more?

Maybe I should just scrap the whole thing. But I'm too stubborn for that.

Last week I finished re-(re-re-re-re-re-)drafting Chapter 1 into a version that--for now--satisfies me. It's daunting to think I need to do the same for another 53 chapters, but it's even more daunting to think I'll get 50 chapters done (or 20 even) and then find one of those plot holes that might dwarf the Oasis Of The Seas.

Eternal gratitude, Scrivener.
Thus. Me, proud pantster, has taken up outlining. After the fact, true... So perhaps I haven't completely crossed over to the dark side. But I've found it helps make those holes somewhat smaller (say, sailboat-sized)--which probably means I have become Mr. Vader's minion, after all.

One advantage to outlining after the fact: characters are less likely to sprint off in a different direction once the real writing starts. They've already done that.

Project 1 goals for next week: finish revision on Part I (another 13 chapters).

Ambitious, yes. Too ambitious? We'll see next Sunday.

~ * ~

Project 2--The Miracle of Small Things (a 12-part serial)

Pure Slush invited me to contribute to their 2014 series; thirty writers, each writing one story that takes place on the same day of every month in 2014, in real time, and involves the same character(s). I chose the first of the month: twelve stories, max 1.5K each, that cover a year in the life of my MC.

OVERVIEW: Luis Villalobos is a superstar tax lawyer who's been hired by an international trust company to (probably) take over as Managing Director for their Curaçao office when the current MD leaves in 2015. He's a go-getter, an overachiever; work is his life, and that MD position will be the gateway to the higher echelons he's been after for as long as he can remember. But achieving it comes with a price, one he thought he'd be happy to pay--until a series of chance meetings shift his paradigms. Luis will have to choose between the culmination of the career he's worked so hard for, and the possibility of happiness.

This project is challenging for a number of reasons. Seems easy to write the 18K story of a man's year-long journey and divide it into twelve installments, kind of like chapters. But these stories also need to stand alone--which means each also needs to have a unique arc. Conflict, resolution.

BUT they should also follow from each other (even though the narrative continues a month later), and should pique the reader's interest enough to want to read the next installment. Some readers will read the whole 12, some might start reading only in March or June--which means I can't depend on the reader already knowing the story so far, the way you do with chapters. You see my problem?

One of the (few) requirements for this project is that the stories be written in present tense. I usually write in past, which means I stumble over each verb. Not the simple ones (he says, she comes in, he boots up the computer), but the others... Do I use past, or past perfect--or present perfect? Eeek.

I've delivered two stories so far--January and February. March is due at the end of August. But--because I'm working on a big-picture narrative, I can't write one of the installments without knowing what happens next. I did outline before starting (dark side, I know), but I'm not that good at it yet and, predictably, Luis and his colleagues mutinied. Also, because the central conflict of the story involves a good chunk of financial jargon, I'm afraid it might be too complex--not to mention yawn-awful boring--to convey properly in twelve installments read a month apart.

So I need to finish at least a first draft of the whole thing this month.

Project 2 goals for next week: finish a final draft of March, first drafts of April and May.

Wish me--no, not luck. Not inspiration, either--my muse mostly shows up, like Maya Angelou's, once she sees I'm serious about it. So wish me concentration. And discipline.

~ * ~


  1. Oh, do carry on with your book! YOU will get there-I am cheering for you! Fascinating about your online continuing story~ I think you can pull it off with a few financial terms. I know you can do both very well~

    Thanks for visiting me...I will be back again soon! :D

  2. Oh my. You have a lot on your plate. Wonderful news on the Pure Slush writing. Be sure to post reminders here!


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