Dawn Colclasure's Blog

Author and poet Dawn Colclasure

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The pretty pink version of hell

Short blog because I'm tired, restless, cold, hungry and frustrated -- all wrapped into one.

I worked on the novel revisions today. I am happy to note that I'm figuring out one way after another how to meet the editor's revision requests. All but one remains for me to tackle. I don't know HOW in the world I'm going to arrange a "turning point" for my protagonist. What, do I have her wake up one morning and go, "Wow. I've gotten too involved with some psycho"?? Yeesh. I dunno how to do THAT one. It remains a mystery.

Did some more researching for my NaNoWriMo book. I am STILL not happy about doing a chick lit book. It's not exactly my genre. I prefer books that drive my characters over the edge. Books that are about REAL people with REAL problems. Stories that have meaning. Purpose.

Wow, just call me the idealist.

Anyway. Read a crapload of articles on the Internet today. Came across this one and thought it worthy of mentioning here:


Wow. That writer is really spot on with this genre. No, I'm not bashing chick lit. And, no, I'm NOT against women writers. AT ALL.

But I agree with the whole claim that these books really dumb down readers. For this reason alone, I dread writing my NaNoWriMo book. But, write it I must, as my muse has already gleefully put together one chapter after another for me to start writing down as of tomorrow morning. My character's nonstop narration inside of my head has me fighting every inch of myself to start typing away.

It would seem I am writing too many books. Maybe this one will just be a "break" from all of that workload. At least I won't need to spend as many hours doing research for this one. If chick lit books are as mind-numbing as the critics purport, writing this novel should be a breeze. (And I know one day I shall look back upon that last sentence and scowl with regret.)

Friday, October 27, 2006

The NaNoWriMo itch

I have been working on getting my novel revisions done so I can participate in National Novel Writing Month this year. In addition to me pacing my living room, wringing my hands and mumbling "how? how?" over scenes the editor wants created/changed, I've been getting myself into the "mindset" of writing another novel. Of course, that parent in me is dreading entering the zone again, especially since this time 'round, I am all by myself and have NO visitors, NO siblings to ask for help and basically NO room for error in staying on guard 24/7 as a deaf parent. (Except for the fact that I WILL have my weekends free. I'll probably be spending them holed away from the world, catching up on the book.) Part of getting into this mindset is deciding on what book to write. Of course, I have many novel and book ideas jotted down and saved all over the place, but I kept scanning through them and not really taking to one I would try to write over the course of 30 days. Most of them require research, and some of them just aren't "developed" fully enough for me to grab them and start writing them now.

That was, of course, until this morning.

There is this one new novel idea I have come up with (actually, I got the idea for it in the shower, of course!), and I'm starting to feel that old itch to start the book NOW. This morning, my daughter woke me up when she climbed into bed with me because she was cold in her room, and as we lied there together, snuggling up for warmth, I thought more on that kernel of an idea. That's all it was, really. Just a kernel of an idea: A title and my character's first name. Her first name is Katy. I inwardly groaned over this, because after the book gets published, every Katy I know will write to me or email me with, "That character is me, isn't it?" Even the long-lost friends named Katy or Katey or Katie or Kathleen or Katherine or Kit Kat! But, the Muse has spoken, and you can't argue with the Muse!

Which is why I have grudgingly accepted that this book will be chick lit. At first, I subconsciously panicked. NOT ANOTHER CHICK LIT BOOK!! PLEASE! (My Thanksgiving story, which is UNpublished, is chick lit.) But the more this story came to life in my mind, the more I realized there's no getting out of writing another chick lit story. The genre isn't exactly one I favor, nor is it one I write in very often. But, that's the way it is, so I'll have to either deal with it or pass it on.

I started to also think more and more about this story as I lied awake this morning. I already had an idea of what kind of story it was going to be and the "angle" I would approach it with, but I have been having a hard time of figuring out how to make it "work." I mean, WHY is it called this? How is that shown in the way the book's written? How would I turn it into a "story" and not just day-after-day-after-day stuff? I mean, it had to have some kind of MEANING. Some...goal for my characters to reach. Some kind of plot. But as I thought more of this, and WHY my main character is doing the thing that the title reflects, I came up with a way for it to "work." How to make the story come together, and a way for my character's doing this thing to make sense.

In fact, the more I thought on it, complete with coming up with another character (and another and another), the more the first chapter of this story started to develop in my mind. That itch to write suddenly became a flame lit within and I wanted to jump out of bed and start writing everything down.

But, I couldn't do that. No, it wasn't time to write yet.

First of all, it's not even November 1st! (FIVE MORE DAYS!!) Second, you can't start writing nibbles of your book THEN face the first day starting your book "from scratch." It don't work that way, folks! That's...cheating. LOL But, there are the character sketches to do. The synopsis. Maybe even ideas for a scene or two to write down.

But I wasn't going to let myself start writing down ANYTHING that has to do with this book yet. I just don't work that way with fiction. I like story ideas to turn over and over in the "workshop of my mind" first. I like to "live" my stories before I write them. I get mentally and subconsciously acquainted with my characters before I do their sketches, and I prefer to let a story grow on the inside first before I let it grow on the outside. (Wow. I just now realized the whole "gestational period" analogy. Writing a book IS like giving birth! Without the hours of labor pains, thank God.) So, there wasn't going to be any writing of THAT book to be done.

Even as I knew this, and as I got caught up thinking about the story, my daughter suddenly swung her head back and hit mine. My excitement for the story pretty much faded as I rubbed my head and inaudibly mouthed "ouch." Hm, maybe she found the "off" button. Haha, it's like she was saying, "Snap out of it, Mom!"

Well, I could immerse myself in reading OTHER stories for now (like the first reads I'm doing for Zumaya) and lots of other novels to catch up on so I can put myself into the whole "fiction-writing world" to get my Muse back into THAT habit. And, there ARE other things I can write during the meantime. Like my...novel revisions?? Or that article I never found the time to write yesterday. Or even...blog posts! Yes! I could write some blog posts! This one!

Friday, October 06, 2006

Cranky writer at work

It's "deadline week" so I've been spending a great deal of time trying to get my SIGNews story done. I didn't get as quick a response to my emails as I had before so I ended up calling to find out what was up. Turns out the people I needed to interview were moving PLUS their email system was down. Oy. Good thing I was able to interview by phone!

But the first thing that happened as far as taking care of this story is concerned is when I typed up a looong email to my editor. I have the habit of hitting "Control-C" to copy long emails because my computer and Internet connection tend to get wonky and I lose emails I'm trying to send. I accidentally hit Control-X and EVERYTHING disappeared! I panicked, having never known what Control-X does. I've always used Control-C to copy.

I was chatting with an editor at the time this happened and after many failed attempts to undo what I just did, I typed into our chat window, "What does Control-X do?" I honestly thought she was going to say, "I'm almost afraid to answer that." LOL But she actually told me that Control-X copies text to Notepad.

WHEW!! Good thing for fail-safe key functions!

I hadn't lost the email. Good thing, because I didn't feel like typing ALL of that again! Ugh....

Then the email exchanges with my sources stopped. I started getting frustrated as my deadline approached. Then I finally bit the bullet and called them. I was worried I would have a hard time getting through, because I use Internet relay, and that doesn't show up on Caller ID. Also, I wasn't sure how they would take to a relay call.

Turns out they took to it just fine. There were NO TROUBLES in using a relay service to call them with, none at all. Yay! :)

But...ugh. Wow. I was on the phone for practically 2 hours, talking to all these different people. Worse, I couldn't copy/paste anything. I had to write down information and ask people to hold so I could copy quotes verbatim into my notebook. I was sure to ask for permission to use their quotes first.

One of the people I interviewed was a judge. I asked the editor "how do you address a judge in oral copmmunication?" because, I swear to God, I've completely forgotten!! I was nervous about talking to a judge and I suddenly recalled the scene from LIAR, LIAR, when Jim Carrey's character is grasping the phone in shock, freaking out and going, "I hung up on the judge!" Well...I had to make sure THAT didn't happen during the phone interview! LOL But the editor told me the CORRECT way to address the judge. Either "Your Honor" or "Sir." But....I needed a little help with the email. So I had to ask my sister, "How do you address a judge in mail? Is it Dear Honorable Judge (lastname) or Dear Your Honor?" (And the former is correct.)

But I tell you....all that time spent on the phone and talking to so many people and trying to copy down everything verbatim had me a little stressed out. Add to this that some pieces of information I needed just weren't there! Some people answered my questions saying "I do not know" and I could REALLY sense that "Don't quote me on that!" kind of sentiment in some responses. My daughter started trying to get my attention to help her with something she was trying to put together, but I was sort of in the middle of a phone interview with an attorney and tried to explain to her I was a little busy right now but she threw a fit and it just added to me being stressed out. My head was also pounding so THAT didn't help, either.

Finally, at some point, I just collapsed in the chair, shook my head and grumbled, "I want a cookie."

My daughter happily bounded into the room, smiling and saying she wanted a cookie, too.

So she ran into the kitchen to get the cookies. I was relieved to at least have some peace while she ate the large cookie so I could finish the interview. I was busy interviewing ANOTHER person when she finished her cookie and asked, "Can I have another one?"

I eyed the package, looking at that LARGE cookie. Ordinarily, I'd say no. Too much sugar. She doesn't need too much junk food. Etc. But, in this case...one more cookie would buy me some more time. Maybe just ENOUGH time to wrap up this interview.

You can bet I told her she could have another cookie.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Book research is a good thing

When the editor at a publishing company handed me a long list of revisions she wanted me to make to my novel, I carefully sorted through each request, but on the inside, I panicked. She wanted one thing, I wanted another. This had to happen and I didn't understand why. That had to go out and on the inside, I started fuming, "You're changing my story!"

But, as it turns out, I've come to understand why she made certain revision requests. She and I have had many chats about the revisions, going over one item here, another there, and discussing the whole issue that my book touches on (domestic abuse -- a topic which I've had experience with and which she not only went through, as well, but specialized in while working as an investigative reporter). We talked about how this book could really be a "mission book" on the domestic abuse issue, and the more I think on the requests that change my whole story, the more I'm accepting the way she is seeing it.

Why? Because her ideas make sense. After all, my protagonist is a medically trained nurse. She'd see my whacked-out antagonist and run like hell. On top of this, she may be desperate for love in her life again, but not THAT desperate (and here again is something I can relate to, as far as recent events are concerned *shudders*). Also, it just doesn't make sense a guy would go around seeing every redhead as his ex-wife. That just DOESN'T go over very well. So what would it be about my protagonist that draws my antagonist to her? Originally, it WAS that she looked like his ex-wife. But now things are different. My bad guy no longer has the luxury of being psychotic anymore. (Yup, that got thrown out the window, too. My story is getting a complete overhaul.) Now this is where chatting with an editor can be helpful, because the editor knew exactly how to solve that problem. Apparently, abusers are commonly attracted to the same "type" of person (I hate the word "victim"). So, it would still work.

One other thing she wants me to do is add more to the story. Yup, you read that right: MORE. Not less. I was confused, of course. I mean, I thought these kinds of books were supposed to be short? (The manuscript is currently at 252 pages.) Ah, but Stephen King had to raise the bar for us novelists by writing LONG books. *sighs* OK, I kid, really. But I have been trying to figure out just exactly what I should be adding to this story. We discussed this in our chats, as well. There was a whole "you should write about this" and "you need to include that" sort of exchange going on. All the same, I didn't know how I was going to write up those scenes and keep the formatting of my chapters consistent (I have a certain "pattern" in how the chapters are organized). Today I spent over an hour at the library doing research and this helped me solve that problem, too. I read about nurses attending a conference on recognizing signs of "intimate partner abuse" and came up with a scene idea here. I read about how a friend could talk to someone they think is in such a relationship and I thought about a scene idea there. I ended up writing down ideas for five different scenes, all of which I think will really add to the story and "flesh" everything out more. I also have a scene in my notebook.

I'm looking forward to hitting the library again next weekend for more research. The bookstore is a helpful "research spot" for me, too, and of course I'm using the Internet for research, as well. So far, I'm thinking all the research I'm doing is going to help me make this story even better -- and meet all the revision requests the editor made without further confusion.