Revisiting An Old Friend

Standard

My young adult novel, Morning of the Mermaid, came about because a few lines appeared in my head –

When her parents died, an hour apart, of a mysterious fever, Calista  thought–now I will experience great grieving and utter desolation. All of her family had just passed on to the world of eternal rest, leaving her alone for the first time in her sheltered, pampered life. Yet she felt nothing. The depth of emotion she hoped for never came.

I thought these would make great opening lines for a story and a great character to explore. The story, from there, formed in about a week. I would tell of the first ever mermaid and how she came to be, starting with her mother’s story. The mother fascinated me, this gorgeous doomed girl who, because of a cursed beginning, never developed feelings.  Hopefully, readers would grow to love her as she grew to find love, only to die in  childbirth, leaving a daughter who was half-human, half-fish.

I wrote the entire first draft before I recognized the problem with it. Most of the first half of the book dealt with her mother’s troubles, how she came to live on a deserted island and formed a friendship with the creatures there, grew a heart and fell in love with the mermaid’s father, a man enchanted into dolphin form.

I would begin to tell friends the story and instantly they would ask, “Is she the mermaid?”

“No, wait,” I’d say, “and then…”

“But where’s the mermaid?”

Obviously, this should begin with the mermaid.  Total rewrite in which the mermaid, Kallea, not only seeks to find others like herself, but also to learn her mother’s story. It becomes the story within the story. And those lovely first lines come in somewhere around page 118.

I finished the manuscript, again, and took the synopsis and first two chapters to the summer SCBWI conference for a critique by an agent. I was told I needed to “take it to the next level.” The next level? What did that look like? Didn’t I just do that?

I spiraled into self-doubt, self-pity and defeat.  Which lasted for a few months.

Digression: I’ve never found time off from writing, for any reason, to be unproductive. I usually read a lot and do a lot of cooking and baking. And it usually results in fresh ideas and a wave of creativity.

This time was no different.  I knew what Mermaid needed. How had I not seen it before? The problem was that, for Kallea, the stakes weren’t high enough. All I had to do was make her troubles more do-or-die, put more shadow into the story.

I attacked another revision, the images clear in my mind. I wanted to make this book so good, no agent could refuse it. My mermaid deserved it. Her story should be read.

But a certain amount of my interest and faith had faded. And there was another, more insistent, story pounding on my door. This one had been wanting in for a year as I’d made notes and tossed them into a basket. It was time to put the mermaid aside and channel my inner eighth-grade bully.

The plan was to go back to the mermaid after I’d finished Alex Bullied. I strove, through several revisions, to make this the book that no agent would reject.

I got the idea for My Identical Cousin and decided that instead of tackling Mermaid again, I would write Cousin, because it would be a better book to follow Bully.  We all know how delusional I was. And probably still am.

Cousin had to be put on a back burner, which is fine, because, apparently agents can reject Bully pretty easily. I’m not ready to give up on either of them, but I needed a middle-grade novel break. I wanted to work on something new and different.

Or maybe old and different.  I’d decided to turn Morning of the Mermaid into a graphic novel. The time seems right to start that project. Graphic novels for the Middle Grade and Young Adult crowd are popular right now and not going away any time soon.

I bought some books on the subject, and am reading graphic novels that were actual novels in a previous life. A Wrinkle in Time is one of them. I’ve never read it. (I hear your collective gasp.) I’m reading the novel, then will see how it transformed into a comic. The San Diego chapter of SCBWI, which I attend, is sponsoring a graphic novel intensive next month. It’s a sign that this is the right course to take.

It’s so nice to revisit this old friend, the mermaid. She’s been so patient. I read some printed out pages of the book, the first chapter. Then I pulled it up on the computer and it’s a totally different first chapter. Which one is better? Which version is more suited to graphic novel?

And so it begins.

Stayed tuned.

Advertisements

Repost: Why You Should Skip Nanowrimo by Zarah Parker

Standard

I have been struggling with the rewrite of my latest work in progress, My Identical Cousin. I wrote the first shitty draft last November for Nanowrimo. 50,000 words in thirty days. I managed to get to about 47,000 words, which is a decent length for a middle grade novel. I thought having this first draft done in thirty days was quite an accomplishment and a real head start in completing this book.

But the revision has not come together the way I thought it would, or as quickly. I came across this blog, The Memoir Of A Writer, read a current post and suddenly knew why.

This is the first time I’ve wanted to repost from someone else’s blog. But this one made so much sense to me. You may not agree. Perhaps your experience with Nanowrimo was different. If it was more like my ordeal, this post may make a difference.

Of Possibilities And Probabilities

Standard

I had another birthday on October 1st. It seems it comes every year about this time and, once again,  I’m feeling like I have a year of possibilities ahead of me. By next year I will have completed, maybe sold, projects, lost weight, trained my dog, baked a perfect pie crust, read every book in the universe and turned back time to my forties.

That’s what I thought last year, too. And I wrote down my ambitious plans. In this blog. Posted them. Like a clueless fool. I thought of them as Probabilities instead of Possibilities.

I aimed to do a last edit and a final round of queries on Alex Bullied. I did do that. I said I would use the month of November, with NaNoWriMo to inspire me, to write the first draft of my next book, My Identical Cousin. I did that, too. So at the end of last November, I was still on track. I had to finish Cousin, turn Morning of the Mermaid into a graphic novel, and edit the sequel to my first book, Outlaws, which is the second in my series about an 1860’s girl, Carrie Sutton, and self-publish it as I had the first, Riding On The Wind. And I added a new nonfiction adult project, that I thought would be easy peesy and just plain fun to do. I could do all of this in ten months, right?

Not likely.

The adult project turned out to be tougher than I’d thought it would. I knew My Identical  Cousin needed to be deeper, needed another level and I wasn’t quite sure how to reach that level.

Then my much loved mother-in-law passed away in December. In January we traveled to Texas for her memorial. This did not contribute to a sense of  creativity.

I decided to focus on the nonfiction project in February. It required an artist, so finding one and communicating the book’s needs took time. And was distracting.

In April I was pacing and moaning to Husband how difficult  the nonfiction was proving to be and how I’d never make my November deadline. He said, “It doesn’t have to come out for Christmas.” I said, “Yes, it does.” He replied, “Not this Christmas.” Hallelujah! He was right. I put the deadline off a year to my, and my artist’s, relief.

In May I heard about the Big Sur in Cape Cod Writers Workshop for children’s writers, taking place in September. This seemed an ideal way to end my year. I hadn’t finished Cousin as I’d hoped, hadn’t made the progress on the nonfiction book I’d hoped, hadn’t turned Mermaid into a graphic novel nor edited Outlaws. But Husband was leaving for six weeks in Asia and during that time I would focus on and get Cousin into shape. There would be no more distractions.

And then the After happened …

July 22, the night before Husband was leaving for Asia, we went to a BBQ and I may have had a little too much, um, fun. Later, at home, when I brought my chiweenie out for a last potty trip in the backyard, I lost my balance, pitched forward and smashed my face onto a two-foot concrete retaining wall. I was instantly covered in blood. My face felt like mush. I felt like an idiot. I managed to get into the house, and to the bathroom where the mirror revealed a chunk of my forehead hanging loose. Husband says he will forever have the image burned on his brain of me, standing at the bedroom door, drenched in blood, saying “I think I need to go to the hospital.”

Oh, I just got that — “last potty trip.”

A night in the ER, forty-three stitches and possible fractures in my nose and cheek later, we were home and Husband was preparing to go to Asia. He couldn’t not go, as people there were depending on him and he was bringing equipment and products for a trade show. Best Friend stayed with me the first night. I knew I was okay, as far as concussions went, and I would be fine alone after that.

However, I sure didn’t feel like writing. Talk about a distraction. This pretty much finished me off. Recovery took predominance over everything else. I could sit in front of an ever streaming Netflix, but I didn’t have any desire to write or read. The stitches crossed my forehead and clustered around both eyes. I didn’t have pain, but it still felt awful, I thought it must be similar to botox, tight and unmoving.

So this is the After. I will have scars. I don’t know if my eyes will look normal. As I write this, the bridge of my nose and right eyelid and part of my forehead are still swollen. The right side of my head and forehead are numb due to the severed vein that runs up above the right eyebrow. How much feeling will return to these areas remains to be seen. But I am recovering.  I did make it to the Big Sur at Cape Cod Writers Workshop (more on that later) and I am back at my critique groups. I’m self conscious in public but a cap and dark glasses covers most of the evidence of the injury. I am back to writing.

The Birthday Year has passed and another has begun. I am once again excited and hopeful for the year ahead. I’ve made a list – but I’m not posting it and I’m letting it be more fluid this time. I know I have a year of possibilities ahead. Possibilities, not necessarily probabilities. Nothing is certain. We do the best we can.

Stayed tuned.

 

%d bloggers like this: