March 28, 2012

Put your money where your thoughts are

I don't make many entertainment purchases. Being that I am still a person of the just-post-college variety, (thankfully) employed but not at an impressive salary level, I watch my budget. Most of the movies I watch are $1 rentals, not seen in the theaters. The vast, vast majority of the books I read are borrowed from the library.

BUT! Occasionally I can scrounge up enough couch change to afford a book or two once in a while. The question then becomes, "How do I choose between the thousands of delicious books out there?" Well, in my case it's fairly simple: I choose the ones that haunt my thoughts, that come to mind weeks (even months) after I first encountered them. I choose the things that make me smile and tickle my brain when I least expect them to reappear.

In the past week I've made two purchases, both on the strength of the glowing reminiscences I often found myself falling into:

Grave Mercy, by Robin LaFevers. I read an ARC of this book over a month ago and it's been in the back of my mind ever since. I mean, assassin nuns! How could you not love it? In all seriousness, Grave Mercy set off a number of my squee buttons. Powerful female protagonist? Check. Intelligent, loyal, sexy love interest? Check. I'm a big fan of well done historical novels as well, so all of the political court intrigue and horses and crossbows made me especially happy. There were a few moments where I felt that Ismae (the main character) wasn't seeing something that was obvious to me as the reader... But altogether this book was chewy and rich. After a month of fighting against it, I gave up and preordered it. I'll probably write up a full review after I do a reread. Suffice to say that Grave Mercy is great. I highly recommend it. I can't wait for the next book in the series, even if Ismae and Duval will not return as the main characters. (Keeping my fingers crossed that they make significant guest appearances...)

Okay, so I cheated. My second purchase is NOT a book, but is nearly as good. I rented Crazy, Stupid, Love in November. November! And after four months of giddy smiles over Steve Carell's bumbling, Emma Stone's through-the-roof level of adorableness, and (last but certainly not least) Ryan Gosling's smoking body, I finally bit the bullet and ordered the DVD. Let this be a message to everyone who has not yet seen this movie: SEE IT. (With the standard disclaimer that if you don't like quirky comedy, you may not like this, blah blah blah.) It's romantic, it's comedic. It's light with shades of depth. And there's Ryan Gosling, everyone's favorite sexy-dude. I had so much fun, and I fully expect to enjoy it just as much the second (and third, and fourth) time around. (Also, Josh Groban has a cameo as a douche. If that's your kind of thing.)

So, what's the point of this post? Mostly that people on a budget don't buy what looks hot. They buy what stands the test of time. I don't purchase on a whim; I let things stew. (And stew. And stew.) I am exceptionally pleased by the excellence of what I will be receiving in the mail by the by. Now the only question becomes: will I really be able to hold out until my revision is done before allowing myself the pleasure of Ryan Gosling's abs? (The answer, I suspect, is a resounding NO.)

March 27 - Day 2. Word count: 1,171. Total: 3,264.

March 27, 2012

THE LAST REVISION

Now that I've had some time and space from the frenzies of the Big Sur Writing Workshop, I'm more and more happy that I went. I brushed elbows with people I'd previously thought of as ninja robots. I learned that people think I'm a pretty good writer. I learned that not only can I take constructive criticism, I have the ability to revise successfully based on that criticism. The comments I got that weekend informed both the revision of the chapter I brought to the workshop and the way I'm thinking about revision in the rest of my book. Which leads me to my next announcement:

Last night I started the last revision on my WIP. (Side note: am I the only one who wants to intone those words in the same styling as the dodos chanting "the last melon"?) It is freaking the life out of me to say that, but it's true. When I'm done with this revision, I'll be querying agents.

So far it's a delicate balance between perfectionism and obsessiveness. I'm not sure I've reached it yet, but there must be a point at which changing one word for another simply will not make a difference as far as obtaining representation goes. Last night it took me two hours to cover minor edits in a chapter of 2,095 words. Too much?

Given that I'm confident in the final product, I'd say that two hours was just enough. But I can imagine a hellish world in which I'm huddled greasy-haired and sleep-deprived over the glow of the computer screen, muttering crazily to myself for days about the relative merits of "shouted" versus "cried." (Is it terrible that it took me ten minutes to come up with a decently innocuous word comparison to use here? Maybe it's worse that I can still come up with ample justification for why "shouted" is nothing like "cried," and that making the right choice means (to me) the difference between effusive praise and dismissive sneers.)

In any case, I'm moving at moderate speed ahead. Much as I would like to be done in a week, that is crazy-talk. I'm setting myself a goal of at least one scene a day. Some scenes require significantly more work than others. Some scenes haven't even been written yet. The best advice I can give to myself is to just keep going. I'll get there. Eventually.

March 26 - Day 1. Word count: 2,095.

March 12, 2012

Break time

Before we begin, a side note: Is there anything better than a fresh Kit Kat? Anything? (Although they do get depressingly stale very quickly...)

So when we last left our heroine, she was taking a break from writing after an exceptionally exhausting weekend at the Big Sur Writing Workshop. Wow. Let me tell you, I had a lot to digest. I had a lot of really good feedback, as well as some stuff that kind of spun me around and spit me out, all chewed-on. There were high moments, and there were low moments. There was a moment where I was convinced I had to completely restructure the book. And a moment where I was convinced I had to trash it. And then there were the moments driving home, where I was bursting with IDEAS! and CHARACTERS! and PLOT!

And then I got home and promptly crashed. (Insert second WOW here.) I am so insanely happy about having taken this break. After the (naturally) unsettling experience of having my work before professionals for the first time, I needed the week off to read some books, watch some TV, and (in the background) let my book settle down, out of the crazy-spinny "MUST MAKE ALL THE CHANGES" place, and back into the subtler, quieter, "This is my story and I know its heart" arena.

As of today I'm back on my feet. Last Sunday I set myself a firm week-long break, and when I woke up yesterday unable to keep myself from jotting down part of a scene, I knew it was time to return. So, it's revision time (yet again). I'll be taking it slower after the insanity that was February. I'm taking a lot of the advice I received at Big Sur, and leaving some on the table--and that's okay. I'll remember at all times the book that I want to write, and strive toward it wholeheartedly.

And maybe (just maybe) at the end of this I'll be ready to query. (And that prospect scares me like no other. But that's another story...)

March 4, 2012

Tired, exhausted, drained (Big Sur)

Have gotten back from the workshop.

Am so tired, cannot write in complete sentences.

That's a bit of an exaggeration. Suffice to say they worked us hard. I was up early and thinking writing all day long. I'm usually a night writer (my best hours tend to be 8-11pm), but this weekend I was comatose by 10:00 both nights. I think I learned a lot, but I'm so tired right now my brain can't begin to process it all.

I met some interesting people. Learned that agents are also people (not robots). Put faces to some names I've been circling around for a while. Got good feedback on the pieces I worked on.

...and I made it back in one piece. That's the most important part, right?

I may have suffered a small burnout. Since I took the leap and signed up for the workshop (almost exactly a month ago), my life has boiled down to two things: work, and writing. Everything else (reading, friends, running) took a very distant backseat.

So as much as I'm itching to dive into my revisions (I think my WIP might be ready to query after this round!), I think I need to take a step back for a little bit. Sleep. That would be good. Read something other than my own words. Go outdoors at least once a day. Maybe blog more often than every full moon. Shake up the internet and ask if anyone is still out there.

But for now I'll settle for a comfortable bed. Oh, to not have to work in the morning...