Thursday, December 20, 2007


As if I needed further proof that my mind is a weird and scary place ... I got it into my head the other day that it would be fun to dig into my Angel DVDs and watch the Christmas episodes. I had vivid memories of Christmas-themed episodes. But it turns out there were none. Their airing schedule always seemed to cut off in late November or early December with some arc-related cliffhanger. I'd actually written the "episodes" I remembered when I did some holiday-themed fanfic. Those stories were kind of a writing exercise, as I was trying to get the hang of first-person narration and really capturing the voice of the narrator, and since Cordelia's voice is very unlike mine, writing a whole story in her voice was good practice. Not to mention fun. Even though there were no Christmas episodes, I found myself watching random favorite episodes, and you know, that show was really good. It did sort of threaten to go off the rails when they tried to force Cordelia and Angel into being a couple. She worked far better as the spunky Girl Friday who saw him for who he was, both good and bad, and who could acknowledge that he was a good-looking guy with his heart in the right place, but ewww, vampire, and then that whole curse thing where he loses his soul and goes evil if he gets too happy, don't want to go there! When she morphed into some kind of wise woman earth mother who gazed at him schmoopily and talked breathily about what a Champion he was, she lost the things that made her fun as a character.

Meanwhile, I finally got those revision notes, and I'll be over here banging my head against the wall. My agent always frets that I'm going to hate her when she tells me things need to be substantially rewritten, but the person I hate is myself. I felt like the biggest idiot in the history of idiots. What she'd looked at was a fourth draft. It was a part of the story I loved. I thought it was tightly written and exciting, so I had no idea what she meant when her cover note said it was plodding with nothing fun to make readers stick with it. And then I saw her notes on the manuscript and it was like the scales fell from my eyes. She was right. Nothing much actually happened, there was no immediate danger or conflict. Argggh. I spiraled into an existential crisis that could only be cured by baking cookies. I felt like I must totally suck as a writer if I couldn't see that for myself, and I was sure my agent was just going to give up on me, and maybe I ought to see if they were hiring at the medical school. But then as her notes sank in, I started seeing the story in a new way and got ideas that totally made it pop. Her notes weren't extensive, just more like "nothing seems to happen here," so I figure I can't be too useless if I can take those notes, see the problem, and immediately get ideas for fixing it.

So, guess what I'll be doing during the holidays. A major rewrite I'm kind of excited about. And I think this will be a new focus for the coming year. I want to really dig into the craft and devote the time and energy to writing better books. I can sense the impatience and panic closing in, as I'm still without a contract and that makes me so desperate to get something sold that I start flinging things out there. I've been there before. But that's exactly the time to dig deep and come up with something really good, even if it takes more time. The last couple of years, I've been focusing on marketing, and that hasn't accomplished all that much. The book I did the most marketing on has sold the worst. I can blame things that are out of my control, like shelving and distribution, but it all boils down to the fact that only about half the people who bought the first book in the series went on to buy the third book, and if they'd really liked the first book enough to be passionate about it, they would have gone on to find the third book (with places like Amazon, it's not that hard to find that a book has been published). So that comes back to me and the writing.

I'll probably really cut back on my travel and convention schedule for the year, since that not only takes time and money, but also emotional and mental energy that could be put into books. I'll still likely go to ApolloCon because I like it, and of course FenCon, and I'm getting brave and going to WorldCon this year, and that may be it. The big Harry Potter convention is in Dallas this year, and I'd thought about sending in a speaking proposal for that, but I'm not sure how much good that would really do me, and I'm not sure what I'd propose to speak about. Put me on a panel, and I can talk, but coming up with an actual speech on a Harry Potter topic? I'm not sure what I'd do.

I'm not sure if the focus on the work will result in more books, or just better books. Yeah, I can write a draft in fifteen days, but is it any good? I need to develop the patience to really look at a book scene by scene to make sure each scene moves the story along and to make sure I've used the right words to paint the picture. I may even take the drastic step of finding a critique partner. I've never really done that before, but I may need it.

I don't think I'm going to try to force myself to work much until after Christmas. Today I've got to get packed, and then I want to enjoy the weekend. I'm in the thinking stages for now, coming up with new ideas, and I'm sure there will be some brainstorming with Mom over the holiday. I just want to be able to send something brilliant back to my agent when she gets back from the holidays after the New Year.

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