Saturday, April 30, 2011


The title is probably as articulate as this entry is going to get.

I'm at the "talking to myself" point in editing this novel. There was one time this afternoon when I just threw up my hands and cried "WHAT IS GOING ON?!" at the computer screen (but really at myself.)

My novel needs sosososo much work. Last night, I spent hours making this:

It's a timeline of all of the events in TOSOL, because the more I read through it and the edits, the more I realise the problem is that I write out of order; times don't line up. And while it is definitely a fixable thing, it's going to be really hard and take a long time. I want to cry. The only thing that's keeping me working on it is the love for this novel, even if I do feel like I hate it right now. I can't believe I let it be seen in a state that was even worse than what I have now. Ughhhh.

I'm just having major writing frustrations right now. It's not just the novel. I didn't win ScriptFrenzy. I petered out at 69 pages, mostly because the plot didn't have enough to it; what I do have is a lot of repetition. This is okay- it's the same problem I had with my first NaNo. You just have to learn how to do it. But I feel like a little bit of a failure for not finishing, and as much as I repeat to myself that the only person I made a promise to was myself, I still feel a physical weight over not finishing.

And then there's my other play, SOTM. I feel guilty for not working on it for a month or two. March was taken up with essays and April was filled with travel, but why am I not devoting time to a play that takes place in London while I'm in London? My time here is running out (only a little over a month left- eeee!) and I want to apply the atmosphere here to it while I can still feel it around me.

Basically, all there is is frustration right now...

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Writerly Despair

I am going through it big time.

Here's the sitch: I exchanged novels with a fellow writer. Hers was really good and I hoped that because of this, she would give me a top-notch editing job. She did- it's nice without being sugar-coated and brutal without making me cry. She pointed out all of the things I knew were there but didn't want to see and some other stuff that I didn't even know needed to be fixed. I am extraordinarily grateful for this review.

But after reading this review, I know that I have extremely daunting changes to make. Some of them are more on the mundane side- my character has an important job, and I wasn't sure of everything that went into it, so I wrote just the important details and left a lot of it out. My reader pointed out that I really do need to include this and change the stakes a little bit (or a lot, depending on how things work out.) While this will definitely be work, it's not terrible. Same with making her boyfriend there for more than romance. And then there are the really hard changes- or, in this case, the one that's so hard, it actually makes me want to cry. That's how much I don't want to do it.

See, in the story, Lyddie's mother has been absent from her life for eleven years. Lyddie was told that her mother ran off and so Lyddie has hated her for most of her life. Toward the end of the book, Lyddie discovers that her mother has actually been locked in an underground room since her mother went missing. In the original version of the novel, I had her mother be very rational- perhaps a little emotional, but very logical and calm. Someone pointed out to me that eleven years of solitary confinement would not allow a person to act like that. A person would be driven out of their mind. I ignored this- I didn't want her to be crazy. Besides the fact that I just didn't want it for her character, there was also the issue of this happening towards the end of the novel. It's already a huge reveal that Lyddie meets her mother. Now she had to be crazy, too? No. I wouldn't do it. I kept the mother rational and sent it off to my reader.

The draft came back and my reader made the same comment the other person had- the mother was way, way too level-headed for her situation. I wrote to her, basically saying, "But it's so late in the novel *whimpercrybeg*..." She answered, "That's okay. Make her insane. I want to see some crazy."

I still don't want to do this. I am pretty much having to drag myself in this direction. Because more than one person commented on it, I know I have to make her crazy, but I still reallyreallyreally don't want to. I love this character the way she is. It's so tragic to me that Lyddie will never get to know her real mother. For more technical reasons, I'm not sure how to get the mother's story out now- no one else knows it and it's going to be difficult to have her spit it out coherantly when she's crazy. And then there's the fear of me writing crazy poorly. I've never really done it- at least not this kind. In Remembrance, I did psychotic crazy, but this is different. This is splintered mind, hallucinating, unpredictable, mental breakdown crazy.

I suppose this is what they call killing your darlings. I thought I'd done it before, but it's never made me this conflicted. I'm so sad to let go of the character I initially created and replace her with a broken version of the woman, but I know I have to to make the novel realistic.

Any words of advice?

(In other news, I'm 59 pages into my Script Frenzy script!)

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Editing Can Be So Rewarding

Part of the NaNo experience for me includes editing someone else's novel. I didn't do it my first year, but I also didn't win that year, so I don't think I understood. But since NaNo '09, I've edited at least one other person's novel. This year, I did three, and it's been awesome.

I just finished the third one a day ago. It was good. Really good. Like, if I pulled it off the shelves and bought it, I would be happy with it good. The author, a girl the same age as myself, asked me to return it to her within two weeks (it was pretty short.) The only reason I didn't have it back to her after two days was because I thought she would think I was a freak for reading it that quickly and/or suspect a shoddy editing job.

But no (or, well, I hope not.) I sped through that story because I couldn't not. It was awesome. So awesome, in fact, that I considered e-mailing her and asking her for mine back because hers made it look amateurish.

It wasn't perfect. I definitely made some suggestions about it. But still, wow. When she e-mailed me back, she told me that I was the first person to read it. I felt honored.

Yes, I've read some crappy stuff that resulted from NaNo (and I am by no means excluding my own work from that statement.) But stuff like this makes it worth it.

Plus, editing is the best procrastination tool I have :)

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Exploiting My Family For My Novelling Needs

Sometimes, you have to use what you've got! While I certainly have many entertaining stories of my family's escapades that I could turn into a book, I'm pretty sure no one would find them funny but us. No, the kind of exploitation I'm talking about is knowledge exploitation.

I've posted excerpts of the novel I call Q here, and so most of you know that it partially takes place in a hospital. When the novel begins, the main character has spent the last few years of her life living in one, and therefore I need to know some things. The nice thing is that I don't need to do any disease- specific research because I made up the disease from which Eliza is suffering, which therefore means that if I want her to suffer from some symptom (and boy, do I make her suffer), I can just do it without being afraid some med person is going to read my book and get annoyed.

But there are still many things I've kept the same or close to the same to today's medical world. The novel is slightly futuristic, but not too much so- I've set it in 2025. Therefore, though Eliza isn't anchored to an IV stand, for example, she does still need an IV, and I needed to figure out how they worked.

I had posted a question on the NaNo boards about IVs, asking if someone could pull one out of their hand. The (paraphrased) resulting conversation occured:

Me: blah blah blah, need info, help please.

Person 1: [insert helpful info about IV needles here.]

Person 2: Uh, highly implausible. Plus, what would keep someone in the hospital for years? And wouldn't she need an IV stand?

Me: Well, I made up the disease, so some of the symptoms require her to stay at the hospital round the clock. The novel also takes place in the future, so I've "invented" a device that allows her to have an IV but not the stand.

Person 2: Wouldn't she need a port of some sort? And you didn't invent it, we have something like this. (Links to picture that doesn't actually relate to what I'm talking about, so I'm not sure why they bothered.)

Me: Person 2, perhaps she might need something like that today, but like I said, I've set it a little bit into the future, and in this future, we're more medically advanced.

It went on, and in the end, I got some helpful information from other people and I've figured out that part of my story. But after the frustration of Person 2's "yeah, but"s, I decided to ask a person who knew and could answer me in real time- my sister!

My sister's a freshman in college, studying to be a veterinary technician. I was telling her about my earlier conversation and she gave me some helpful advice. Then I started talking to her about TOSOL, partcularly the end where Lyddie is killed with an injection. I told her how the villain went about doing it and she gave me some tips to make the process a little more medically sound.

A conversation I had with my mother (who is a respiratory therapist) about the very same scene in November:

Me: Hey, Mom, what's the thing called on a syringe that you push down?

Mom: What, you mean a plunger?

Me: Ugh, is that what it's called? That's a really ugly word. Are there any different ones, because that just won't work at all...

In the end I had to use "plunger," even though I hate it. Of course, I don't need to be incredibly medically correct- this is a novel, not a medical textbook. But I couldn't very well write "he depressed the pushy-downy part of the syringe." However, there are parts of med procedure, like the preparation of a syringe, that I'm leaving out, simply because a) it will slow down the scene and b) the character doesn't know or care to know that he took off that piece because it was a protective covering. She's about to die, she has other concerns.

Either way, though, I'm grateful to have some medical knowledge in my family to exploit when I need it ;)

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

WIP Wednesday

I know I've kinda been sucking at these lately, but I have a WIP excerpt today! This is a bit of a novel that I wrote this evening, partly on the tube and partly sitting on a bench outside the tube. It hasn't been edited at all, so keep that in mind. Also, some background: Eliza is fifteen and has been living in the hospital since she was twelve, being treated for a disease that kills the infected within three years, as there is no cure.

"How have you been feeling lately?" Dr. Trescott asked.

Eliza thought back over the last week, the sudden, constant nausea that had been lurking since the Saturday before. "Not as well as usual. Kind of sick," she reported.

The doctor nodded as he jotted a note in her file. "Yes, we expected as much."

"What do you mean?"

"Last week, we took you off the C23, which is one of your usual medications. Its absence most likely the cause of any nausea you're feeling."

"Why did you take me off of it?" Eliza inquired.

"We wanted to see how your body would react."


"Because at this point, it's... well, we just need to experiment at this point in the game."

Eliza felt the burn of annoyance flar inside her. "Experiment? What does that mean?" Eliza had never spoken so sharply to Dr. Trescott, and he looked surprised.

"It means that- that we don't have-" he faltered, and Eliza didn't want to acknowledge the fear that threatened to overtake her.

"You don't know, do you? You don't know how to cure me. None of you- you don't have a clue." She got up from her chair and strode to the other side of the room, away from the window. She couldn't look at the doctor because his eyes would confirm it. Eliza hadn't realised until this moment that she had always had a little bit of hope, a bright thought that people went into a hospital to be cured. Somehow, she'd always managed to ignore the other reality, that the were people who went into these places and stayed there for a long time, people who never got well and who died there. People like her.

She was pacing now, pacing in tight circles as far as she could get from the window and the doctor and the reality of the situation.

"Eliza?" Dr. Trescott said softly through the intercom. Eliza stopped pacing, but she didn't answer him. "Eliza, please look at me."

"No." She was shaking, though with anger or fear, she didn't know. "What has all of this been for, then?" she demanded. "If none of this works, if it was never going to work, why couldn't you let me live my life outside of here?"

"You know why," Dr. Trescott said with irritating patience. "You're highly contagious. We can't take the risk."

"But even in my own house!" Eliza cried. "A place that's not a hospital. A place that's not so... blank. There's no life here!"

"Your parents would have had to live with you wearing protective suits." Dr.Trescott's voice was still calm. "They may have had to quit their jobs. Is that what you would have wanted?"

"I don't know!" Eliza shouted. "I don't know what I would have wanted then or what would have happened by now, but I- I want to get out of here. If I'm going to die, what's the point? What's the point of this?" She gestured with the arm bearing the IV bracelet.

"We're using it to help you-"

"But you're not! It's not helping me. It's worthless!" She tugged at it in frustration, and to her surprise, the IV came out, slid right out of her arm and dangled there by the tubes that wrapped up her forearm and bicep. The sight of this made Eliza cry harder, though she hadn't realised she'd been crying in the first place.

"Eliza, listen to me." Dr. Trescott's voice was kind. "We're trying as hard as we can. You've known from the beginning that a cure was a goal, not a guarantee. Giving you medication is the best we can do today, but we don't know what miracle might present itself tomorrow. Don't give up on us yet, because we haven't given up on you."

Sunday, April 3, 2011


As I was finishing up The Other Side of Light in November, I noticed that part of the premise of the book was vaguely like a part of Rome's history, the Vestal Virgins. There's a lot to these women, and I had heard of them briefly in the book 13 Little Blue Envelopes. Basically, six women were chosen to keep the sacred fire of the goddess Vesta alight. In order to do this, the Vestal took a thirty-year vow of chastity and if she broke that vow, she would be punished by being buried alive. My book focuses on a line of women who have to keep a lantern alight and in order to do so, much remain unmarried and childless. That's where the similarities ended... or so I thought.

Tonight, I had some free time and thought, I'd really like to know more about the Vestal Virgins. Wouldn't it be cool to take some inspiration from their true story and insert it into my novel? So I began to Google. What I found actually had me going, "Oh, my God" aloud more than a few times.

Before I point out the similarities, remember that all I knew of the Vestals story was what I posted above. I'd never done any further research on them.

The similarities: Vestals: The sacred fire of Vesta, which is fundamental to the security of Rome, can never, ever go out. TOSOL: The dual lanterns, which keep the world in balance, can never, ever go out.

Vestals: Women chosen as Vestals are free of the "social obligation" of marrying and having children in order to devote themselves to the study and duty of the fire. TOSOL: The keepers of the lanterns are not permitted to wed or have children, as they may prove a distraction from training and duties of keeping.

Vestals: The College of Vestals was disbanded and the fire extinguished by a leader named Theodosius I. TOSOL: The lanterns are extinguished by the leader of the society that watches over my MC's family line, who also disbands the keepers. (Sadly, his name is Christopher and not Theodosius or any variant on the name.)

Vestals: The women selected begin their training before puberty, around ages six to ten. It is now that they are sworn to celibacy. TOSOL: Training begins anywhere from ages eight to ten. The trainee understands that she will never get married.

Vestals: The women serve ten years as a student, ten as a Vestal, and ten as a teacher. TOSOL: The girls first train under the current keeper, then take over the duties themselves, and then train the next keeper.

Vestals: To be allowed to serve, they must be in good mental and physical shape, without any deformities. TOSOL: Lyddie is given a mental test to record her intellect as well as her deep-seated fears. If she fails the test, she will be pronounced unfit to do the job and her family will be shamed.

Vestals: If a Vestal broke her vow of chastity, which would lead to the fire going out (because she was neglecting he duties), she was put into an underground room with a few day's worth of food and water and then the steps were pulled up and the entry sealed over with dirt. She was buried alive, but giving her limited provisions allowed the government to say that she went willingly to her death. TOSOL: Lyddie's mother is accused of neglecting her duties due to going against the rules by marrying and having children. As punishment, she is kept in an underground room with very limited food and water for eleven years.

Vestals: Killing a Vestal (even if it was because she broke her vows) by spilling her blood was forbidden. TOSOL: Four women in the story break their vow in some way. All are killed in a bloodless manner.

I was so freaked out by all of these similarities... has this ever happened to anyone else?