A Busy, Nervous Day October 25, 2008Posted by LHK in writing craft.
The Actual, Real New York Editor’s business card came in the mail the other day. I wasn’t going to believe it was truly coming to me until I had it in my hand. Well, now I’ve had it in my hand, and now it’s tacked to my bulletin board, which is just to the right of my writing desk, which you can see in the photo there. I’ve been working hard today, mostly making notes on my Luminotes wiki rather than actually diving into the manuscript and making changes there. Right now, the thought of going into the manuscript and doing anything other than minor line-editing makes me hyperventilate a little. And, you know, I don’t think there’s anything pathological about that. There’s no sense in starting to make any sort of big, plot-level changes until I’m entirely sure how they’re going to impact the rest of the manuscript. Everything is so frustratingly fragile at this point — knock out one piece and you wind up invalidating three other plot points.
Hence the glass of red wine, I guess.
In the center of my writing desk sits Old Blue, my Toshiba Satellite laptop. Old Blue has survived five separate novels, about two dozen short stories, six drafts of one novel, several rough plane rides, and a generalized addiction to the Internet. Old Blue has been with me since 2003. Old Blue still bears the scars of my circa-2003 habit of eating grapefruit while reading cnn.com and nytimes.com. Sticky little spots and smears that predate YouTube, but that now sit right on that area where the screen appears when you’re tired of writing and you start watching Stephen Sondheim-related videos at 2 in the morning. Old Blue has survived a lot of that. Don’t tell Old Blue, but he or she is about to have a nice rest. My new MacBook Pro is going to be arriving soon.
The two books to the left of Old Blue are a couple of useful thorns in my side. On the bottom is Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, by Renni Browne and Dave King, a book I like to thumb through every week or so, whether I’m working on a first draft or a seventh draft. It reminds me of those little things to try to avoid at any stage on a piece of writing – overdescription, poor rhythm, inappropriate pacing. My old boss gave me the book about a year and a half ago, and it’s taken a beating in the time that it’s been in my presence. The book on top of Self-Editing is Laurie Halse Anderson’s Catalyst, which I may have to sit down and read in full tonight. I’ve been paging through it for about a week now, and I know the general plot of it. I also know that it has some glaring similarities to my own novel. For instance, a character named Mitchell who’s about a graduate from high school with a perfect attendance record. And another character (the narrator, Kate) with a religious single parent and a senior-year schedule full of AP science classes and a habit of going running when things get tough.
Mitchell Waterson is the main character and narrator of my novel. He takes AP Physics and is a “good slow runner” on the cross-country team. His widowed mother is a Southern Baptist (and a bit of a kleptomaniac). He’s never missed a day of school. And while I firmly believe that a good novel is “all in the execution,” and while I can see that my novel is stylistically different from Laurie Halse Anderson’s, and while the crux of the plot is entirely different from what happens in Catalyst, I can definitely make things easier on myself by excising some of these character similarities before the novel is seen by people who know other YA novels inside and out.
Just more revisions to add to the list.
Time to break for dinner. I’ll update again with my John Green (!!!) photos and thoughts either later today or tomorrow.