Posted on October 19th, 2012 by annakjarzab
I really should’ve posted this on, like, October 9 when the book actually went on sale, but I didn’t. Cool story! I’ve just been very busy lately, which I know is a lame excuse because how often does a book you wrote come out? Not that often! At least, not if you’re me. That’s all about to change, though, with TANDEM coming out on October 8, 2013 (THAT IS RIGHT! JUST ONE YEAR BETWEEN BOOKS! I AM A MACHINE LOOK AT ME GO!) and Books 2 and 3 in the Many-Worlds Trilogy following close on its heels with a nine month pub schedule (so Book 2 will be July 2014 and Book 3 will be April 2015–PROBABLY).
It’s taking all the strength I have not to barrel forward and tell you all about TANDEM, which is a project I’m extremely excited about. If you want a sneak peek, the official synopsis is now up on Goodreads. Right now, though, it’s all THE OPPOSITE OF HALLELUJAH! I’m proud of this little book (okay, it’s not little, it’s actually pretty ginormous–almost every review I’ve seen has pointed out how long it is, although usually in the context of “It didn’t feel that long!” or “I wish there’d been more!” which is definitely the context in which you’d like to hear that your book is a bit zaftig), and people seem like they’re enjoying it. Below are some of the extremely nice things people have been saying about THE OPPOSITE OF HALLELUJAH. I’m really quite overwhelmed and humbled by the positive response to this book!
“I adored this novel’s sharp voice and sweet romance. Just wonderful!” – Courtney Summers, author of This is Not a Test*
“Jarzab packs a lot into this story—questions of faith and forgiveness, science and religion, mental illness, guilt and possible redemption, as well as simple high school drama. But at its heart, this is a story about sisters, and it’s as complex and convoluted as the relationship itself…Couched among the issues are truly likeable people: intelligent teenagers supporting each other through good times and bad; loving, very human parents struggling with how to intervene in the life of a seriously ill adult child, while nurturing their teenage daughter; and a science-nerd priest who is honest enough to admit that he doesn’t have all the answers.” – Booklist, starred review
“Though the author takes many, many pages to reveal Hannah’s secret, it is time well-spent, providing nuanced characterizations of not only conflicted Caro, but of her troubled parents and her kindly, philosophical priest, Father Bob. It’s a rare teen novel that both tackles religion and creates fully realized adult characters, and Jarzab handles it all gracefully. A layered meditation on family and belief that will ring true for faith-questing teens.” – Kirkus
“The Opposite of Hallelujah treatment of religion, belief, and religious people is almost perfect. Hannah’s reasons for joining, and leaving, are treated with respect and sympathy; the complexity of religious life is shown. Just as wonderful as the sensitivity with which The Opposite of Hallelujah treats the subject matter is the language…funny and insightful.” – Liz Burns, writing on SLJ.com [full review]
“The Opposite of Hallelujah is Anna Jarzab’s sophomore novel, and it’s a memorable one…Months after reading this, I’m still thinking about Caro and Hannah. Although The Opposite of Hallelujah clocks in at over 450 pages, it is an absorbing read — Jarzab has a handle on her story and on her characters, and she anchors them both with great references and motifs throughout…Rarely do I think I’d like more of a book, especially a book already running long, but I would have read another 100 or so pages of this story to get even more out of the faith/grief experiences of both girls. In many ways, this book reminded me of Sara Zarr, especially Once Was Lost, and I think there’s a lot here fans of Zarr’s books will enjoy. I’d be comfortable handing this to younger YA readers, as well as more mature ones. Jarzab gives readers on both ends of the spectrum a lot to chew on.” – Stacked Books [full review]
“I loved this book. It’s perfect for anyone who wants to give a relgious book a try but is afraid of a preachy message. But even if you aren’t interested in the religious aspect, I recommend The Opposite of Hallelujah, since it’s a great sister story and realistic coming-of-age book. With subtle but evocative prose and a main character who’s so real, The Opposite of Hallelujah is dark but ultimately satisfying.” – Paperback Treasures [full review]
“This is a story that I know that I will find myself re-reading and bullying people to read. Its one of my favorite books for the year and I really can’t recommend it highly enjoy.” – Ticket to Anywhere [full review]
“This book is a rare beast—a YA story about faith, honesty, and family that manages to be thought-provoking rather than preachy… I can’t tell you how delightful it was to read a book that features such a thoughtful heroine, and—while it does feature a lovely romantic subplot—allows her the space to wrestle with more interesting questions than who to go to prom with, or which (generally undead) suitor to choose. Caro’s family isn’t “fixed” by the end of The Opposite of Hallelujah, but her growth over the course of the novel left me feeling like there were few problems too complicated for this intelligent and open-minded young woman to resolve.” – Wordcandy [full review]
“I was completely blown away by The Opposite of Hallelujah. It made me cry and laugh in equal measure. Not only was it a truly spectacular stand-alone read, but it also left a lasting impression on me that will surely not fade away with time.” – Blook Girl [full review]
“I’ve been very anxious for a new book from Anna Jarzab ever since I closed All Unquiet Things. I really loved that book and I haven’t read a mystery that captivated me as much since then. The Opposite of Hallelujah is very different than Anna Jarzab’s first book. Honestly, I was just a tiny bit worried that it might end up being a Religious Book, but I’m happy to say that it did not…If you like books about sisters and unique, but realistic relationships, you should definitely pick up The Opposite of Hallelujah.” – Pure Imagination [full review]
“The Opposite of Hallelujah is a touching story filled to the brim with emotions with a sweet yet rocky at times relationship and a strong narrator that I connected with.” – Blkosiner’s Book Blog [full review]
“I have not come across many YA novels that tackle the issue of religion and faith and Anna Jarzab does so with grace. The story is as much about loss, grief, and family as it is about faith, religion, and god. There are so many things that I liked about this story…Teens will be able to relate to any number of issues addressed in this novel. The religious aspect is not heavy-handed, preachy, or off-putting. Teens looking for books about faith will welcome this novel. Teens who enjoy books featuring family conflict and drama will also enjoy this book.” – YA? Why Not? [full review]
” This story was not what I was expecting but absolutely loved it. A really great story about families, sisters and coming to terms with the past. A fantastic book, I would highly recommend.” – Debra’s Book Cafe [full review]
*As Courtney Summers is probably one of my favorite YA writers, if not my absolute favorite, you can imagine how incredibly chuffed I was to have her blurb my book!!
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Posted on August 18th, 2011 by annakjarzab
Man, I haven’t checked in here in a while, huh? Is anyone still reading this? Bueller? Well, you know how it goes. LIFE, etc. Although I have been (and will continue to be) very active on my Tumblr, so if you like Harry Potter GIFs and pictures of other people’s bookshelves (design inspiration for the house I’ll probably never own, natch), go there.
(Side note: Wow, WordPress got fancy in my absence!)
So I mentioned editing my new book on Twitter last night and people started @ replying me, “Hey, you have a new book coming?” Which was weird to me because I felt like I announced that a while ago, but who cares about my announcements, right? I probably haven’t been talking about The Opposite of Hallelujah as much as I should. A lot of that is because we don’t have a cover yet, or jacket copy, or a set-in-stone pub date (lol, like pub dates are ever set in stone), or a pre-order link, or anything, really, that will convince you that it’s a real book that will be coming out eventually.
So here are some things that I know about the book:
- It will be called The Opposite of Hallelujah. This is not a title I’m 100% married to, but everybody else seems to like it, so it’s what we’re going with. I lifted it from a Jens Lekman song (also called “The Opposite of Hallelujah”), which is a very good song but also, if you were to read the book and then listen to the song, very appropriate thematically. Other titles for this book have included (but not been limited to!): Do Geese See God*, And So It Goes**, and Impossible Objects***.
- It will come out in Fall 2012. Probably October, but maybe not.
- It will be longer than All Unquiet Things, but FEEL shorter when you read it. At least, that’s been my experience.
And that’s it! Right now, if you’re curious, I’m in the middle of revising the book for my editor. This is almost entirely line edits, and mainly cutting. I mean it–I have erased entire scenes. I’ve been posting some cut passages on Tumblr, mostly Caro’s Tote Bags****. The book is just, at this point, too long (not unlike this blog post). It was 404 manuscript pages when I turned it in to my editor. All Unquiet Things, for comparison, was 313 manuscript pages; that ended up being 352 printed book pages (about 11% growth if my math is correct, which it probably isn’t). Books get longer when the paper isn’t 8.5×11 with very tiny margins. So a 404 pg manuscript would probably be about 450 pages typeset and bound. And that just feels too long. The book can be tightened, so I’m tightening it. I told my editor I could probably squeeze about 40 pages out of it, but right now I’m less than 100 pages from the end and I’ve only managed to cut around 20 pages. Obviously I’m going to have to go back and see what else I can chop.
Just to prove to you that I am indeed working on it, here is a blurry iPhone photo of my “workspace”:
Yup. That’s my bed.
*This is what I called this book all the way up until, like, 2009. I’ve been “working on it” intermittently since 2004, when I first got the idea for a book about a girl whose much older sister comes back home after being a nun for a while. “Do geese see God” is my third-favorite palindrome (after “A man, a plan, a canal–Panama” and, obviously, my own name), and I liked having the title of the book be a palindrome and the name of the main character’s sister (the nun)–Hannah–be a palindrome. So you can imagine how I laughed when I saw that #15 on Joelle Anthony’s list of 25 overused things in MG and YA fiction was “Main characters named Hannah and making a note of it being a palindrome.” Hannah is still the main character’s sister’s name (although I do not make a note of it being a palindrome–I don’t think), but Do Geese See God had to go for two reasons. First, it’s fine to call a WIP that, but once I decided I was going to publish it I knew that people probably weren’t going to be in to it. How is a sales rep supposed to sell in a book called Do Geese See God? They’re not. And secondly, it’s already the title of a Denzel Washington movie, so whatever.
**There was a time when the Kurt Vonnegut novel Slaughterhouse Five was going to be a call back throughout the book, for lots of thematic reasons, and “so it goes” is sort of a catchphrase that emerged from that book. Also, the Ingrid Michaelson song, “Soldier”, which I listened to a lot when I was writing this book, has the words “and so it goes” in the lyrics. However, I cut the Slaughterhouse Five references in favor of the much more relevant Escher motif that runs through the book, and thus the title made no sense. I wasn’t too attached to it, honestly.
***This would-be title emerges from the Escher motif, but my agent thought it sounded a little too much like Sharp Objects, the title of a Gillian Flynn novel. It also doesn’t tell you anything about the book; I mean, The Opposite of Hallelujah doesn’t necessarily tell you anything, either, but it’s more lovely and lyrical.
****”Caro’s Tote Bag” is a term I have coined to describe a passage that explains something incredibly minor in absurdly minute detail and in no way enriches the story. The original Caro’s Tote Bag was a paragraph in The Opposite of Hallelujah in which, I kid you not, my main character/narrator Caro spent an entire LONG paragraph explaining the fact that she carried her books to school in a tote bag that her mother, who works in marketing at a university press, brought back from a conference, but that Caro always carries it with the logo facing herself so nobody sees how lame the bag is. Alex, understandably, was like, “Maybe you could cut this?” I did cut it, but there are lots and lots of Caro’s Tote Bags in The Opposite of Hallelujah. There was a whole paragraph where she compares her relationship with her parents to American Gladiators. Now, I like an American Gladiators simile as much as the next person, but my editor, rightly, drew a big old slash through the whole paragraph. But I’ve immortalized it on Tumblr so that you can enjoy it. You’re welcome.
Posted on December 16th, 2010 by annakjarzab
I don’t remember the last time I talked in depth about what’s going on in the writing realm of my life these days, and I’m too lazy to go through the archives to figure it out, so let’s just say it’s been a while? This does not mean, however, that I haven’t been working! In August/September/October, I was busy writing The Opposite of Hallelujah, or rather rewriting it, and then rewriting it again, since I wrote most of the novel last fall while I was waiting on editorial feedback on The Disasterscript Of Which We No Longer Speak. Was that dramatic enough for you? I might be having a dramatic writer day.
Anyway! I got notes from Joanna and Danielle a week ago or so on OoH (or, as we’re calling it in our emails, Hallelujah, because “Ooh!” is sort of a weird acronym), and I plan to really dive into them this weekend, once all the holiday partying and dining and gift buying is over and I have time to really think about how I’m going to dive into this revision. Thankfully, J & D were very positive about this manuscript, and think that all it needs is some fine tuning, mostly having to do with deepening some characters and adding crucial details to the back story. I also have this annoying habit of preferring to let dialogue stand on its own without too much explication from the character about what they’re saying, which I actually do think is important, sometimes, letting the reader interpret things as they will. But my editorial notes usually have a bit about providing more explication for certain things that are said, which I also think is important, but which I nearly always have to go back and add in later. It’s a tic of mine, writing straight dialogue. Maybe I should look into a sideline in script writing/play writing. Just kidding! I don’t need more jobs.
In a way, this is good news; it means the plot is solid and so is the writing, which I think is the main challenge for a lot of writers, and can be a big challenge for me, too. I was lucky in that the plot for this book fell together quite easily in comparison to books that have come before it, and books that are threatening to come after it, all of which were/are huge messy disasterscripts that gave/give me nightmares. But this one emerged pretty organically, which I totally appreciate! But deepening can be it’s own kind of difficult. It’s not just about adding more detail, it’s about adding the right amount and kind of detail to make a character really sing. J & D gave me a great place to start, and more than once I was like, “That’s such a great idea, I never thought of that!” I’m excited to write those parts. But there are parts on which I disagree about certain things, or not absolutely disagree but am not finding the solution to the problem to be particularly easy, and am having a real block. I keep turning little things over in my mind and thinking, how can I do this so that it works for everybody, including myself? In this way, you can agonize over a single scene or paragraph or line of dialogue or sentence or word, even, for days. Fine tuning can sometimes be a lot more work than reworking a narrative, if only because the changes are “smaller” so it’s easier to obsess over them.
Which is why I’m glad I have so much time ahead of me in California to just work. I love going to Chicago for Christmas, and I’m sad not to be doing that this year, but also when I’m Chicago I have a lot of stuff to do, lots of family and friends to visit, lots of activities. In California, I only have a few friends I keep in touch with, like Shannel, who reads this blog (p.s. I’m really excited to see you over the holidays)! And I have no family outside of my immediate family. As you know, all of my hometown close friends all live in New York, so I see them a lot as it is and anyways only Kim is going to be home for Christmas. So there’ll be a lot more breathing room. I actually can spend days hunkered down in my room, or at the kitchen table, with a red pen and a can of Diet Coke, and work diligently without distraction or feeling cramped and crowded, as I usually do in my own apartment.
I’m really looking forward to revising Hallelujah, actually. I do love this book a lot and I’m proud of the way it came together. I can’t wait to tell you guys more about it (like, um, what it’s about), but for some reason I’m becoming more and more superstitious in my old age and I don’t want to say anything about it until my editor gives it the thumbs up. So hopefully that will happen in January and then I can post some kind of synopsis!
Posted on November 17th, 2010 by annakjarzab
You guys, I think you might be able to download Beatles music on iTunes now. I just have a feeling…
Yeesh, iTunes, give it a rest. We get it, you’re very excited.
In other news, the book I’m writing might actually be killing me. Every day I decide to shut it down at some point, and then either later that day or the next day I decide I’m going to give it a shot even though it’s currently in a particular state of awful I can’t even adequately describe to you, and then twelve hours later I’m like, “WHY DID I EVER THINK THIS COULD WORK? I AM THE WORST EVER.” Ask Alex. She gets to experience it live and in person on G-chat every damn day! Lucky girl.
(Note: This is not OoH, or “Hallelujah” as I’ve decided to call it for short because…well, obviously “Ooh!” is a weird shorthand for a book title. I’m waiting for a Hallelujah editorial letter from my agents, which I’ll hopefully have before Thanksgiving. This is a completely different disasterscript.)
I seriously think this book is rotting my brain. It feels utterly unoriginal, yet too weird and different, at the same time. 90 percent of the time, when I even think about working on it I get this feeling in my shoulders like I’m being squeezed to death by a professional wrestler. The characters are all underdeveloped, the plot is ridiculous and full of holes so big you could drive a semi through them, and I still don’t have any faith in my ability to pull of the mechanics of the story. The mechanics. THE STUFF THAT MAKES THE STORY GO VROOM! And even though the quality of the actual writing should be, at this point, the least of my problems, I’m stressing out about that, too.
Basically, I’m a whole ball of anxiety about everything having to do with writing and publishing and being myself in the world these days. I’m afraid I’ve run out of ideas. I’m afraid I can’t put together a decent sentence anymore, let alone an entire novel that doesn’t totally suck. I’m afraid I don’t have the right body armor to be on the writing side of this business. I’m afraid of the mere idea of doing anything else. It’s really quite the idiotic predicament, because honestly, sack up, Jarzab! These are first world problems! And yet they bear down on me all the same. Awesome.
So I have come to this conclusion: I need a vacation. New York is getting to me, and so is this book. I’m looking forward to working on Hallelujah again because, as spooked as I am after the Great Book 2 Debacle of this summer, and as low as my confidence level is, I think I can handle Hallelujah. It’s not a wild, sprawling octopus of a book that I need to wrestle into submission; it’s more of an overgrown garden in need of weeding and pruning and maybe a little bit of Miracle Grow. And thus it has become my anchor, something I’m looking forward to working on, which I need because damn. And I get to go home for Christmas for twelve straight days, which is another anchor. I can’t wait to be out of this crowded, stinking city. Maybe this time I’ll remember to bring a coat.
(Funny story: Two years ago I spent Christmas in California–as I’m doing this year–and because I live in New York, where the winters are very cold, and I’m a moron, I was all, “It’s California! I don’t need a coat!” Guess what? You need a coat in December practically everywhere. Okay, that’s not true, but you need one in Northern California. Not, like, a sleeping bag snow parka, but something to take the edge off the wind. Anyway, I didn’t bring a coat to California for Christmas two years ago and I had to wear my high school letterman’s jacket, the only coat I had at my parents house, around town for two weeks. I looked pretty cool. Just kidding, I looked hella dumb. Lesson learned!)
So…yeah. That’s me! The upside is that my friend Mary, she of the fabulous AUT blurbs you can find somewhere on this blog (sorry, too lazy right now to link), is coming to visit on Thursday, and on Friday I get to see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows after some chicken and a giant margarita at Dallas BBQ. And then next week is Thanksgiving! I’m making the pies.
And, one last piece of news if you made it this far–I got my first royalty statement! From the looks of it, AUT sales are much healthier than I expected (erm…I think, as I do not actually understand the statement at all). A little birdie has been feeding me BookScan numbers since pub and it looks like the real sales were about twice as much as BookScan shows, which is kind of insane. BookScan only covers about 70% point of sale, but the channels it doesn’t cover (box stores, Walmart, etc.) are ones AUT wasn’t even distributed in. But I’m not knocking it; it was a nice piece of news to dull the pain of my realizing today was only Tuesday. Somehow, it felt like Thursday.
Posted on October 11th, 2010 by annakjarzab
Last night (October 9), sometime around midnight, I wrote this on Twitter:
That link led to this picture:
That is my revised novel, The Opposite of Hallelujah (I was considering the title Impossible Objects, but ultimately rejected it, as people almost unanimously preferred the first title, which was also the “original” title, although the actual original title for this book, back when I conceived of it sometime during my senior year of college, was Do Geese See God?, a title I still like but can you imagine trying to sneak that past agents, editors, and sensible people the world over?). On Tuesday, I will be emailing it to my agent. It is, at final count, (I was wrong about this on Twitter, forgive me) 380 pages and 99,958 words long.
Hallelujah was pretty painless to write and revise, as these things go, which is why I am, of course, nervous now. Shouldn’t this be harder? It certainly has been for me in the past. What if there’s some huge problem with the novel that I’m just not seeing? And all kinds of angsty stuff like that. But for the most part, I’m saying, “It’s good, it’s clean, it’s ready to send into the world insofar as ‘the world’ means my agents,” and that’s that. Now I’m going to take a nap.
Posted on July 23rd, 2010 by annakjarzab
I often wonder what they teach you in MFA programs. I’ve said before that I don’t really believe in them, and I stand by that for my various reasons, although there are lots of people who got a ton out of their MFA programs and heartily recommend them, which sounds like just as defensible position as any. But sometimes I wonder what they teach you. I’ve taken a few creative writing classes in my day, and most of them went like this: we would all write something, and take turns allowing our peers to read it, and then they would weigh in with criticism of one kind or another.
I don’t remember ever honestly talking about what it means to be a writer, what the day-to-day life of a writer is like. All of my professors were also writers, some highly lauded, but I don’t think they ever lectured–and we never asked–what it means to be a real writer. And by “real” I don’t mean published; I just mean someone who is dedicated to writing, for whom it is not just a hobby, but a real life choice, a professional career of whatever degree. Do people talk about that in MFA programs? Because I’m starting to think that there should be support groups for writers–not critique groups or writing groups, but like group therapy sessions where a psychologist comes in and counsels us all, a safe space where we can make the baldest of confessions and bawl our eyes out if we have to.
Last week I decided to abandon a manuscript I’ve spent several years writing. You’ve heard me talk about it here, calling it alternately MB (for Murder Burger) and Book 2. In my contract with Random House, it’s named as my second book, but it won’t be. It can’t be. It’s broken, and I can’t fix it. I hate having to say that, but it’s so true. I spent five months earlier this year trying to fix it, blindly searching for some magic formula to make it something people would want to read, and I just couldn’t do it. Then I sent it to my agents, and waited impatiently for their feedback, knowing, of course, that it would probably need to be ripped apart.
When I got Joanna’s email that she and Danielle wanted to talk to me on the phone, I knew what was coming. People kept trying to convince me I was just doing my usual worst case scenario thing, but I knew. Over the course of that conversation, during which I can honestly say, with chagrin, that I cried ceaselessly, it became clear that it wasn’t the right manuscript–not for now, and maybe not for ever, although you never know, one day I could wake up and have the key to making it all work. I didn’t want to write it anymore–I hadn’t wanted to write it for months and months and months–and it would have required the world’s greatest overhaul. And even if J and D had handed me a litany of things to fix, and I had fixed them all, the book had become a hated object to me. I resented it. I treated it in my mind like a horrible, deformed thing, something I wanted to get rid of. You don’t want to put your name on something like that.
Still, letting go of the book was hard to do. I started it while living in my grandmother’s basement; I finished it a year later, during a time when I was really happy. I care about the characters, and I miss them. I’m sad to let it go. It’s like putting your dog to sleep, you know? Necessary, but painful. And terribly undignified, at least in my case. I really tried to hold it in, the tears and the gulping near-panic, but I couldn’t. Apparently, I’m still not mature enough to compartmentalize this sort of disappointment; maybe I never will be. Maybe it’s too personal for me, I just don’t think I’ll ever be able to see it as JUST a job. Abandoning a book that I’ve worked on for years, that people have seen, that I’ve talked about a lot in public, that I thought was going to be published, is always going to feel like a breakup, or a death. Hopefully it won’t have to happen very often (or ever again), but if it does, it’s going to hurt.
And if there is a next time, I’m going to try not to be such a big baby about it, but no promises. I struggled for a while about how to talk about this on the blog, because I’m definitely not proud of the way I dealt with it (i.e. with tears), but there’s no shame in having to let this book go and start on something new. I really wanted to say that to all the writers out there, because I feel like, when I read author blogs, there doesn’t seem to be a ton of real honesty about the things that scare us or hurt us or annoy us. Everybody’s too concerned with not upsetting anybody or betraying any sort of self-doubt, career mistakes, jealousy or hard decisions, although I’m sure–I KNOW–we all go through it, even the biggest bestsellers and the most petted debut authors. I respect everybody’s personal choice to talk about what they want to talk about, but I personally, as someone who’s pretty new to this whole thing, wish other authors talked about the hard stuff more. It’s easier when you go through whatever rough times, creatively or professionally, to know you’re not alone and that where you are going, many have also gone, and come back. We all have those moments where things just aren’t going our way, and we don’t know how we got there, and we don’t know how to stop it or get back to the safe, happy place. It’s part of the dillio (sorry, but we’ve got to lighten this thing up somehow–with outdated early 2000s slang!).
So anyway, that’s my story. What it basically boils down to–I had to give up on a manuscript because it wasn’t working–doesn’t sound so bad, but it wasn’t fun and it wasn’t easy. But neither was continuing to write the book, so…you pick your battles. You try to do what’s best for yourself, and for your career. You try to be kind to yourself, because you’re the one who has to live it. I probably deserve to be writing something I want to write, instead of something I feel like I have to write, when I have the option of one or the other (I know that sometimes you don’t, if you’re locked in for a specific book or whatever, but this is not one of those cases). I feel guilty for abandoning these characters I’ve lived with in my head for years, and in one case just really started to get to know, but I wasn’t capable of doing them justice this time around anyway. Maybe next time. But I also feel profoundly relieved.
Luckily for me, I wrote a another book last fall, just for fun. Because I wrote it just for fun, though, without any idea when or if it would ever be published, it needs some editing and rewriting. But the difference in working on this book versus the other one is that even the challenges are exciting to tackle. It’s sort of like writing AUT again! Which is an experience I’ve been searching for longer than I even realized until very recently.
*I blatantly stole this title from Heather Armstrong of Dooce. It’s an homage.
Posted on July 6th, 2010 by annakjarzab
I want you to know that I have about fifteen saved, unpublished posts living in WordPress right now. I can’t seem to bring myself to finish any of them. I blame a lifetime of English teachers for drilling the INTRO – SUPPORT – CONCLUSION five-paragraph essay into my brain. I’ve got the intro and support down fine, it’s just the conclusion I struggle with, and then I lose interest, and those posts languish in the queue until they don’t even make any sense anymore.
I’m still in a holding pattern where book 2 is concerned, but I’m happy to report that I’m hard at work on book 3–I talk about it here sometimes, it’s the supernatural thriller? It’s coming along pretty nicely. I wrote almost sixty pages of it this weekend, which is quite a lot. It’s almost 14,000 words. The book is creeping up upon 50,000 words, and I think it’ll be twice that, probably somewhere around 400 pages. Of course, I thought book 2 would come in at around 300 pages, like AUT did (here I’m talking about manuscript pages; book page counts tend to be slightly higher), but it came in at around 400 (108,000 words approx.), so you never really know.
I spent yesterday on my couch (which is, not surprisingly, where the only air conditioning unit in my apartment is located), writing. I was there for so long that my back was so cramped later. Sitting with a hot computer on your lap for eight plus hours is not a great idea in near-100 degree heat (I know! It’s so gross! Shut up with your heat wave New York!), but the productivity makes me feel good about myself. Although, it’s always a little depressing because I’m zero-drafting, which means that all the prose is really bad. Zero-drafting, for me, is about laying down the tracks, assembling the spine of the plot. It involves a lot of pushing myself to put words on the page, which is something I hate doing–pushing myself, I mean, not putting words on the page. But the thing is, I’m so excited about this book and where it’s going that I can’t wait to write all the good parts, and since I can’t write a book piecemeal, I have to race through the other stuff to get to the Big Reveal or the Action Sequence or the Romantic Moment. So I’m pushing. Which is okay. I’ll go back and layer in the description and the pretty phrases later. For now, I’m all about plot and dialogue. I just need to let go and let God on that front, I think. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Etc.
In other news, I’m rereading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows because I saw the trailer when I saw Eclipse on Friday (oh, we’re going there) and I got SO! PUMPED! Then I realized I’ve almost completely forgotten all but the most obvious details of that book, so I’m going back to it, even though book 7 isn’t my favorite. I rewatched Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and found myself less offended by the cuts than I was when I originally saw it (the fact that the film is called Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and yet that plot line was given only the most cursory of treatments was a major failing of the film, in my opinion) and more appreciative of the cinematography, acting, directing, and, of course, the series of scenes where Harry is high on drugs Felix Felicis.
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Posted on June 28th, 2010 by annakjarzab
On Friday, Mandy Hubbard posted a blog in semi-response to Dystel & Goderich agent Michael Bourret’s post about how authors should savor the time they have before they’re published, in which Mandy expresses respect for the sentiment, but skepticism about its actual value to unpublished writers. She’s right, of course. Published writers will nod their head at everything Bourret is saying, because they know what I know, which is that to write without expectations is the freest form of expression and that it’s impossible to capture once it’s gone, unless you, like, drop off the grid for twenty years and hole up to work on your great masterpiece–but of course you need the funds to do that, or you need the ability to live in abject poverty, neither of which I or most writers have in tiny amounts, never mind in spades.
But unpublished writers, unless they’re especially wise, patient, or disinterested in actually being published, aren’t capable of writing without expectations. They, too, feel the pressure, especially if they’ve told people that they’re writing and those people keep asking, “How’s the writing going? When can I buy your book?” as they tend to do. I think we published writers look back on the years we spent unpublished through a veil of stress-related nostalgia; amidst all the pressure we feel from editors, agents, fans, friends, family, or otherwise to write again, to write better this time, to write bigger this time, to make more of a splash, to make more money, to sell more–whether these pressures are real or perceived–we forget that, back in the day, before contracts and ARCs and in-store signings and BookScan numbers and BEA and ALA and the next book, we put that pressure on ourselves, and maybe it was better, but probably it was worse.
I think about it a lot these days. I think about how easy AUT was to write, when I was in graduate school and the only person I really respected who was reading my stuff was telling me it was both “good” and “publishable” (he has a new book out, by the way, you should go buy it), about how much I loved it and believed in it. I remember writing the book formerly known as MB, now known as sadly still untitled Book 2, how much I loved it and believed in it, how much it made me laugh. And then I compare that to the struggle of rewriting Book 2, and man, I wish I was back there, in that apartment on Kenwood, in my grandmother’s basement, in that apartment on Tiemann, writing the shit out of whatever I wanted and to hell with what other people thought!
But if you asked me to hand in the copies of AUT sitting on my bottom shelf, asked me to erase it all and start over again with that first manuscript, fresh as peeled skin, I’d refuse. I’d rather go forward than go back, even if it means uncertainty and disappointment and having to loosen my proprietary grip on what matters most to me in the world: the vessels of my expression, a.k.a. my books. Because I know–or I pretend to know, which is almost the same–that somewhere in there is a learning experience, a toughening, an opening wide of doors and windows to…something new, I don’t know. I’ll tell you when I do.
Posted on June 23rd, 2010 by annakjarzab
This is Bear McCreary’s version of Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower” (made famous by Jimi Hendrix, who covered it) that he wrote and performed for the third season finale of Battlestar Galactica. It’s very exciting, just the sort of music I love to write to, with a lot of drums and guitar and a real, heart pounding drive. The book I’ve been writing (the first in a planned trilogy, although we make plans and God laughs, right? What am I doing working on the first book in a trilogy when I haven’t even finished out my two book contract with RH yet?) is what I used to call a “quasi-post-apocalyptic pseudo-mystery” but which I’m now just calling a “supernatural thriller” because it’s not post-apocalyptic, quasi or otherwise, and it is more of a thriller than a mystery, in the way that The Da Vinci Code is more of a thriller than a mystery. I’m being necessarily vague here, but that’s what I’ve been working on. So I’ve been listening to a lot of hard rock and a LOT of instrumental movie-trailer-y type music, like the E.S. Posthumus song below:
And “Requiem for a Tower”, which is the Clint Mansel theme to Requiem for a Dream that was given a little oomph and used in the Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers trailer:
And James Dooley’s “Trinity”:
Anyway, it’s been fun. I’d forgotten what it was like to work on a manuscript with no external pressure. I’d written the first eighty pages or something a long time ago, and when I went back to them I was shocked at how much I didn’t hate them (ALTHOUGH, that happened with Book 2 as well, and I ended up rewriting half of that book!). I actually thought they were really well turned out for a first draft, so after I sent my draft of Book 2 to Joanna I started adding on to them, and what do you know? Immediately I started turning out loosey-goosey pages. I knew I was just writing them to add to my word/page count, so that I could get to the good stuff, so that I could finish the draft, and then I was like, “Why?” For my own enjoyment, partially, but I had just written a terrible draft of a very important scene that serves as the catalyst for the rest of the book! What was I doing?
The great part about it was that I could just get rid of it. I’m under no deadline and have no pressure, so I just excised that part and rewrote it last night in a different way. One of the things that makes this draft of that scene better than my first draft of that scene was that I knew my characters were going to come face-to-face with some pretty unbelievable stuff, and I wanted my main main character (as opposed to my handful of other main characters) to believe it almost immediately. What I hadn’t figured out was why she would believe it. She’s a pretty sharp, cynical person, so it doesn’t seem to fit her personality, until you take into account her back story and what it is she’s been through in the last year or so of her life, and then her ability to buy what she’s being sold makes a lot of sense. Again, super vague, but when I made that realization, the whole scene blossomed out. It’s sort of lovely when that happens. I’d started to think I’d never know what it felt like to write a book organically again.
This is the sort of blog post I write where I get to the end and realize it has no real point. Usually I delete those. I probably delete three blog posts for every one post that goes up here, which is why I don’t post very often. But I’m going to post this one, without a point. Because why not?
Oh, and this third book? I’ve referred to it before as GR. I’m going to start referring to it as TGD now. Good day to you.
Posted on June 1st, 2010 by annakjarzab
I did it. I finished the second draft of my second book. It seems to have taken FOREVER, but really it’s only taken five months, although for a revision that’s sort of rough. I admit, for long stretches of time during that period, I didn’t work on it. I actively avoided working on it for weeks at a time because I was just a little bit (meaning A LOT) scared of it. The problem with doing such a massive rewrite without knowing specifically what people (at this stage my agent and editor) want to read is that you could work on it for five months like I just did and still fail, not only in execution, but in concept. And the scary thing about failing in concept, at least for me, with this book, is that I don’t have another idea, or I don’t feel like I do, which is basically the same thing.
I had dinner with Alex the other week and I was telling her that I was having a hard time making a final push to the end of the book because of XYZ plot snag. Alex asked me to give her an idea of what the book is about, because although we talk about her WIP and my third book, we’ve never, I don’t think, talked specifically about my second book, probably due to the aforementioned fear on my part. So I explained the plot of the book to her as simply as I could, with as little rambling as I could, and when I was finished she was like, “Whoa, you’ve given yourself quite a challenge there.” Which broke my heart, because I didn’t think it was a big challenge when I originally conceived of it, and I started thinking, Well, what if it’s so big of a challenge that I can’t possibly do it? But of course I don’t have the luxury of thinking like that because BOOK DEAL and ADVANCE, so I had to press on, and Alex’s suggestion of how to fix the snag worked! Who knows what will happen to it in edits, but it helped me get over that final hump and actually make it to the finish line–which I did, on Thursday, at midnight.
109,000 words. 378 manuscript pages. That, if you’re a numbers sort of person, is about 20,000 words more than AUT, maybe a little less. It’s also about 60 more manuscript pages than AUT, maybe a little more. And furthermore, it’s DEFINITELY almost 100 more manuscript pages than this book was when I originally sent it to my editor a year ago. (Oh my God, a year ago.) I was working my way through the revision, and I told my roommate, “I think it’s going to be 100 pages longer when I’m finished.” She was like, “Oh, that’s impossible, your math has got to be wrong.” And I was like, “Yeah, you’re right,” because 99.9% of the time my math is completely wrong because I’m a math idiot! Guess what, though? I was right. I think the original ms of this book, back when it was called Murder Burger (a title that makes me cringe now), was about 289 pages. And I’m no Stephenie Meyers, you know–I’m a skeletal writer, and often during revisions I get notes like “expand on this” or “explain this” or “add scene to show this?”. There’s not a lot of cutting involved in my revisions, at least not to date, although, yeah, it’s only been one book so far.
What kind of LOLs me is that there’s stuff I know I should’ve added in this revision that I didn’t. My editor specifically asked me to mention where one of the characters plans to go to college–I didn’t. Not because I don’t know (I do) and not because I don’t think it should be mentioned (it totally should)–I just couldn’t find a place to slip it in. I will eventually do that. There are places I know I’m going to have to add, and there are places I know I’m going to have to smooth, and then there’s the dreaded standard criticism of a book with two narrators–“Not differentiated enough”–that I’m sure I’ll have to grapple with at some point. And even though I was able to wrangle him in at the last minute so that I could end the damn thing, my slippery second main character remained slippery and will need further taming, I’m sure. At this point, I feel like it’s all there, I just have to make sure all the pieces are in the right place and form the right picture.
Or maybe I’m wrong. That’s the scary part. What if I did all this work and it’s unpublishable? What if I did ALL THIS WORK and it’s worse than it was before? I don’t know the answer to either of those questions, and I hope I don’t ever have to find out the answers, but it’s still hard not to worry, or to doubt myself, or to be distracted by the fact that I sort of want to move on to a new project. Standard authorly neurosis type stuff, you know the drill. See? When I write about writing, it’s so doom and gloom! I’d rather write about Glee.
Oh, and Book 2 still has no title. AWESOME.