This is a Good Book Thursday, December 29, 2021

I bought myself a book for Christmas. It was expensive and unnecessary (although I told myself it might work into the Haunting Alice book) but I ignored the practical and went for the beautiful. It’s titled Alice: Curiouser and Curiouser, and it starts with pages and pages of gorgeous Alice collages and then goes into the history of how Alice came to be written, how the story has been translated to the stage and screen, how it’s inspired art and fashion, all of it copiously illustrated with photos and drawings. It’s a wonderland of a book about a wonderful book.

What did you read this week?

Happiness is Other People

I talked to my brother and sister-in-law on Christmas Eve about nothing important; it was wonderful.

I talked to my friend Alisa yesterday morning about how we’re doing, nothing either of us needs to remember; it was fun.

I talked to my daughter yesterday afternoon about this and that, nothing crucial; it was the best.

And the thing I remember most about all of it, is the sheer joy I felt hearing their voices, picturing them in my mind, feeling warm memories about times past and warm thoughts about futures together. I really don’t like the phone, but I love the voices.

Note to self: Call Krissie.

What made you warm and happy this week?

This is a Good Book Thursday, December 23, 2021

This week I mostly read my own stuff. I tried Hunter Thompson’s Hells Angels, but I’ve had enough toxic masculinity this week from Congress, so I passed on that. (Hella well written, though.). I sampled a couple of new romances and mostly learned what not to do before I DNFed (not well written). I tried to figure out what it was in blurbs that made me buy and realized I was moving toward a romance reading black hole–no billionaires, no shifters, no bikers, no smirkers, no control freaks, no professor/student-boss/employee-rich person/poor person stories, no werewolves, no . . . Yeah, I gotta get a grip. The gold standard is still “read the sample and if it keeps me reading I don’t care if it’s about a billionaire shifter who smirks while he tries to control a woman who kicks his ass on a regular basis . . .” Actually it’s that last part that matters. Well, that and good writing. Hunter Thompson, for example, was a good writer. Too bad he never tried romance. No, wait, that’s a terrible idea, forget I said that. We can’t stop on that idea, that’s bat country.

What good writing did you read this week?

Working Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Yesterday was the solstice, aka the longest night of the year in this hemisphere, which means today we turn the corner and the days start getting longer again. (Those of you in the south are getting your longest day of the year. I picture you gloating. :p). We Northerners still have most of winter to get through, but every day there’ll be a little more sun, a little more stretch to the light. More time to work. And read. And pause to be happy just for the moment.

What did you work on during the darkest week of the year (or lightest, depending on where you call home)?

Questionable: How Long is a Chapter?

CateM wrote:
Jenny, what’s (roughly) the word-count for one of your chapters? I know chapter lengths are arbitrary/ not inherently tied to story structure. But I’m trying to figure out pacing stuff for the new thing I’m working on, and I like how yours feel long enough to feel substantial/like I’m settling in for a good story, while also being short enough that it’s comfortable to read them in one sitting.

I don’t write in chapters, I write in acts and break the acts into parts/scene sequences, and my chapters come from there, usually in the final draft.

But that’s no help, so let me get specific. Continue reading

Happiness is Something Good Around the Corner

I get to see my family right after Christmas, which is wonderful.

Krissie is coming to visit in April, which is amazing.

I’m almost done with Nita for the last time, which is such a relief and will be such a rush.

I’d almost forgotten, with the virus and staying hunkered down, how much happiness there is in the idea that there something just around the corner, heading your way, that’s not an oncoming train. It changes “What now?” from “What fresh hell is this?” to “OMG, it’s a rainbow,” and makes me ludicrously happy. Nothing but good times ahead, once we get around this corner.

What came around your corner to make you happy this week?

Revision Ramble: Act One

You know, it’s a miracle anybody ever finishes a book. Somebody once said that novels aren’t finished, they’re abandoned, and that’s so true. I would have published this one two years ago, but since it was rejected I’ve been rewriting it ever since. It really needed rewriting, too. No wonder it got rejected.

• Here’s a big problem: I know everything that happens in this story. That means if there’s something that’s not clear, I can explain just fine, so why put it on the page? Because it’s not clear to the reader, you dumbass (that’s directed at me, not you). I’m going through Act One, which is that first stretch of story when the reader knows nothing, and thinking, “You know, if I didn’t know what was going on here, I’d be really confused.” It’s not that I have to explain things, it’s that I have to put things on the page so the readers can figure it out if they want to. Clues. Foreshadowing. The layering that means when they read the book again, they’ll think, “OH, it was right there all the time.” That stuff. Once I’m out of Act One it’s not so bad because the foundation is in place, but Act One . . . ARGH.

• Someone asked how to revise for snark. You really can’t, snark comes from character. Nick doesn’t snark, that’s not how he thinks. Nita does, but it comes from anger–make the joke, don’t kill anybody. (Yeah, she’s a lot like Agnes.). Rab’s too innocent to snark. Jeo can but he’s mostly too polite. Keres is all snark. So is Max. Button is stealth snark, unleashing it mostly on Max, whom she also shoots, basically the same action. So when I said revise for snark, I was wrong. What I need to revise for is juice on the page, the stuff that makes the reader turn the damn page. Where’s the excitement in this scene? If it’s two people just exchanging info, there is no excitement. Where’s the conflict? What’s at stake? Where’s the sizzle? What makes this scene fun even if it’s so sad the reader is sobbing? Where’s the reader investment, why do they care about what’s happening? Yes, every damn scene.

It’s a miracle I ever finish a book.

• I have one scene that I use “emotions” or “emotional” five times. I’ve been writing this sucker for years and I never caught that before. It’s easy to catch in other people’s work–I caught Krissie repeating a couple of times which never happens because she’s a pro (“He has to stop growling,” I said; never ask me to beta, I’m obnoxious), but when it’s your own stuff, after the fifty-sixth revision, it’s hard to actually reread the thing. If it’s just a copy edit, you can read it backward, sentence by sentence, so you’re just looking at sentence structure, but I’d rather be dragged through a hedge backward than read this backward. But look at this:

Emotion. That was new.
• “The guy has no emotions, he’s like a machine.” Except today, Nick was having emotions.
• He looked up at Nick’s face and saw the exasperation plain there, more emotion than the dead guy had ever shown before.
Emotions, he thought. Big ones. What happened to you on Earth, Nick?

That’s not just in the same scene, that’s in the same seven pages in the same scene. How did I miss that? I fixed it, but still.

• Then there’s the “I just have to get them from Point A to Point B” problem. Nita meets Button and fights with Jason, Nick talks to Rab and Vinnie, that’s fine (although I had to shorten it), because it’s our protagonists (well, protagonist and love interest) in conflict setting up the meet. Then there’s Nita meeting Nick and drinking scupper, that’s all action and directly romance/cute meet (well, not that cute, but you know). Then Nita goes home to a home invasion and Nick goes upstairs and they have suspicions about each other and decide to look into each other. That last bit is short because I cut the hell out of it, so that’s okay. Then next morning Nita goes to breakfast at the diner and Nick joins her and the relationship starts. And then , , , oh, dear god, then they go to work separately, Nita’s ex shows up with a new suspicious partner, Nick gets a new shirt and finds out stuff at the historical society, Nita hits the bar and the shirt shop to ask questions about Nick, Nick goes to the B&B and Motel Styx to investigate his lost agents, Nita goes to the B&B to talk to Astoria and then to Mr.Crome, and then she gets called to Motel Styx and Nick goes to Mr. Crome and gets yanked back to Hell . . .

You see the problem. First of all that’s a ton of non-sizzling prose. Second, it’s a ton of prose with no Nick and Nita together (say it with me, this is a romance). Third, although it’s full of information I want the reader to know, it has no information the reader wants to know. It’s the Bermuda Triangle of fiction: you have to go through it to get to the rest of the story, but your story is going to die stranded there. That was my fix-it yesterday. Well, I also took out a lot of “emotion” from the repetition scene and I fixed some clarity gaps in the smite scene, but mostly it was trying to get a wind blowing in Part Four of Act One, aka The Bermuda Dull Spot. Part five and six move, but none of that matters if the reader DNFs because Part Four just sits there in the doldrums like a lump, lecturing to them.

• The good news is that One, Two, and Three weren’t bad, I’d already chopped the hell out of them, and now they feel thin to me because of the chopping. Still, I don’t think I lost anything important.

• Those of you who’ve read Act One in all its multiple versions, here’s the outline of the scene sequences:

One: Character Intro: Meet Nita (and Button and Jason and Frank), meet Nick (and Rab and Jeo and Bella, foreshadow Max). Set-up, create expectation of Meet.
Two: The Meet (Assumption): Nick and Nita meet, Nita gets drunk on scupper which humans don’t do, Nick orders her investigated.
Three: Aftermath: Nita and Button argue about Nick, Nita has a home invasion.
Four: First Move (Attraction): Nita and Nick have breakfast, argue about investigation, Bermuda Triangle.
Five: Turning Points to Change Everything: Nick goes to Hell, Nita goes to Motel Styx, awful realizations for both, turning points.
Six: Second Move: Beginning of Partnership: Nita and Nick try to save Forcas, fight Richiel, Nita knows the supernatural is real (Big Turning Point for Our Protagonist).

So that’s the direction of Act One: intro the lovers and get them attracted to each other while kicking their worlds out from under them so they have to grab for each other to survive.

• Act Two: They fall in love and make real progress in solving all the mysteries and their problems until it all blows up at the end turning point. This is the mess I have to focus on now, this act is the traditional love story, but at least that will be fun.Plus, I have plenty of Diet Coke and frozen pizza, and I am not afraid.

Yes, I know this post has no organization. It’s a ramble. You know those are always a mess. I can revise posts or I can revise novels, people, and I’m picking a lane.

Okay, I’m Back

I’m feeling very pro-active because I am finally back to work. I’ve been checked out for awhile, and that’s not good, but I think I’ve got myself in gear again. I’m almost finished with the Act One rewrite of Nita and I am never rewriting it again. I don’t even care if it’s lousy (it’s not) I’m not looking at this again. There’s just this one section (Part 4) that needs tightened because it’s just information about what they did all day, and the info is important but they’re not together and that’s death in a romance novel, so I just have to sharpen it so I don’t lose any readers and make sure the parallels are strong. Make it faster. More snark. It’s 5000 words, I can revise that in an hour or two. Continue reading

This is a Good Book Thursday, December 16, 2021

I’ve been avoiding anything with Christmas in the title, so I mainly concentrated on Anne Stuart’s It Takes a Thief (working title) which isn’t out yet because she’s still rewriting. Such a pleasure to read smooth, professional writing that doesn’t use smirk as “cute grin.” (Get over it, Jenny.) Also a lot of Buzzfeed because that’s about where my intelligence level is at this point.

What did you read this week?