Posted on November 23rd, 2009 by annakjarzab
Oh yeah, guess what? I’m totally not going to finish CH by the end of November! Like you ever believed I would.
There are many reasons for this. The first is that I, um, decided to add a new character, who I basically ganked from a book I started writing a while ago (it was my fake NaNo book last year! Fake meaning I did not work on it during NaNo but fronted like I might) that I’ve pretty much decided not to bother with. I’m…not so sure this is going to work, but I’m trying it. But now I have to go put him in the first 200 pages, because I really can’t finish the book without at least giving him a through line to the end. I just can’t work that way, it’s weird.
This decision seemed totally brilliant when I made it, but now I don’t know. We’ll see. I don’t experiment a whole lot with my books–I call ’em like I see ’em and don’t get fancy with the risks and such. So this is something new and different for me! I don’t know about CH, you guys. I’m very attached to it and I think parts of it are good, and I think that if I work on it it will get very, very good. BUT there’s a whole lot going on and I don’t know how hospitable the market would be to this kind of book. It’s contemporary, but it’s less high concept than AUT and MB and now the new character’s kind of putting a spin on everything…I just don’t know. We’ll have to wait and see. I like it, though. I’m happy with it, even though it’s a hot mess right now. It’s got all the right elements, I just need to wrangle them into shape. Which is the fun of it, obvs.
I’m also progressing on the CH-related short story I started a few weeks back, working title TGITW. Or TGIF, if you grew up in the nineties. Or Thank God It’s Thursday if you’re Shannel.
So anyway, yeah, it’s going pretty well. I think it’s good. As good as a not-yet-finished short story in first draft by someone who rarely writes short stories can possibly be, which is not very. But I like it, and it’s helping me work through some things, both character-related and also personal, maybe. Whatever. The point is, work is being done Chez Jarzab, even though I have packed most of my stuff in boxes and am very nervous that we don’t have keys to the apartment we plan to move into THIS WEEKEND. Which is not that big of a deal, but we don’t know when or how we are going to get these keys, which isn’t great.
OMG guys I haven’t told you about the apartment. Suffice it to say that it is great, and we signed the lease so technically it is ours from Dec 1 onward, but that doesn’t mean all will go smoothly! This is Manhattan, baby. If you’re not flying by the seat of your pants, you’re not living.
I’ll give you the full tour of the new apartment (with photos! taken on my iPhone! so not of great quality! deal with it) when I can actually, um, go in it because I have keys. We can all discover if the apartment has a dishwasher together! (I can’t remember.) But it does have a WASHER/DRYER IN THE APARTMENT (everyone who lives in New York who reads this blog just cursed me out and then swooned), of that I am SURE.
Let’s cross our fingers and hope that I get to move in on Saturday like I planned. I said cross your fingers! Thank you.
Posted on September 18th, 2009 by annakjarzab
Oh boo. I’m afraid to look and see how long it’s been since I posted something, so let’s just go with IT’S BEEN A WHILE. Sigh. Oh well! As I told you before, I’ve been busy getting a life and working and stuff. And reading! Always reading.
I put aside CH for pretty much no reason except I got sick of working on it and missed GR, so I’m back on that train. I know I always said GR was going to be a big book, in terms of how much work it was going to take to accomplish what I want it to be, and probably in terms of pages as well, but I don’t think I ever realized HOW big and HOW much work it was going to take until pretty much the last week or so. Because I spent five days drawing the floorplans of a house. FIVE DAYS. Let me tell you, I did not miss my calling as an architect. If I didn’t know for a fact he’s busy with school and everything, I’d call my friend Scott, who goes to SIARC and just have him do it for me, but alas.
It was kind of cool to design a house though, especially a crazy house with lots of secret passages and hidden doorways and enormous ballrooms and stuff. I was ridiculously proud of it and actually showed it off to my friends at the bar yesterday, just because I really can’t put it up here for you guys to look at and I’ve got no one else to foist it upon. I also made a nice family tree, which was an unexpected detour on Tuesday night but fun all the same. This is the stuff I like best, you know. The prep work. The stuff nobody really sees unless you whip out your notebook and keep a vigilant watch on your friends as they handle it, lest they accidentally set it down in a puddle of Bud Lite (drink responsibly!).
So things are moving. I’m working on the GR synopsis, which, while far from completion, is significantly farther along than I ever hoped it could be (mostly because I never worked on it before now).
As for my other books, I’m still waiting on an editorial letter for MB, which is sort of a relief. I thought I’d have it this month, and I was dreading it, because I’m exhausted and I know it’s going to be a lot of work. I’m sure I’ll be happy to work on it when it comes, though. MB has a special place in my heart because I am, in my bones, a funny, light-hearted person and secret romantic–AUT is dark and sad and serious, and while I like writing all of that, MB is sort of like a vacation in a lot of ways. I’m back to dark in GR, so it should be a welcome project when it comes along. It can’t be sturm und drang all the time, you know?
AUT is, predictably, resting in a cocoon for the moment, although I did get an exciting piece of sales news today that I’m sure I can’t share on the blog (and, truthfully, don’t wholly understand so I wouldn’t even attempt to explain what it means, but my editor seems pumped!), and I found out who my publicist is, although I haven’t talked to her yet. So the whole being published in January thing isn’t a dream! I was worried. I’ve been having some pretty vivid dreams lately.
I know I’m behind on emails, and ARC requests, and I’m honestly sorry about that. The only thing I can say in my defense is that I’m busy? Which, we are all busy, I get that. I will get to them eventually, I promise. I actually have many things to get to that I haven’t been able to do in a while, so please bear with me, my life has been undergoing some rearranging and–fun times!–I’ll be moving soon. Just to a new apartment, probably in the same general region of Manhattan, if not the same neighborhood, but still. Moving in New York is a bitch, and I have yet to find a new place to live. So fall will be pretty stressful and busy, but it’s mostly exciting stuff, so I’m happy about it. Posts might be a bit thin on the ground, though (is that a thing people say?), I warn you.
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- Tagged: Anna's boring life, AUT, CH, GR, MB, New York City, writing
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Posted on September 8th, 2009 by annakjarzab
Ugh, sorry for being so MIA. Lately, there just seems like so many better things to do besides blog. And, I mean, go me for experiencing the outside world, stepping away from the computer and living life, but seriously, WHAT ABOUT MY LOYAL READERS?!
Anyway, what have I been up to? Writing, if you can believe it, although I’m in one of those writing valleys where I’m putting a lot of words on the page but none of it seems to be going anywhere. I talked about how I’ve gotten a lot of CH written, only to decide to rewrite it, only to decide to delete the last scene I wrote and just go on from there, which is going okay, although I haven’t touched it in a couple of days. I don’t know. I really should plot things out, I know this about myself, but plotting seems so hard to do when you just want to get into the thick of writing. I get really overwhelmed by all the possibilities offered without at least a rough outline, and then I get paralyzed, and then I don’t write. As my roommate would say, bad mojo.
This past weekend, I mostly worked on GR. I KNOW! I haven’t talked about that book in forevs. Because I haven’t really worked on it in forevs. But I started to write it again, albeit slowly and with trepidation, AND I decided to really go ahead and write myself a full outline for this one, even though I’m already about eighty pages into the actual manuscript. This book is going to be so rough to write. I haven’t got everything figured out yet, and I’m still puzzling out a lot of the most important details, which is stalling any real progress. But I feel oddly confident about it right now, like it might actually get written and not be terrible, which is odd for me right now but I’m going with it.
Other than that, I’ve just been hanging out with friends, working and reading. Lather, rinse, repeat. I feel so much better about living in New York than I have for the past almost two years now (which: hasn’t it only been two seconds? or two decades?). About a month and a half ago, New York suddenly clicked into place for me–I feel like I belong here, like I’ll be here long-term and rather than being sort of depressed about that, I’m happy about it. Which is cool, because this is a hard city to live in if you don’t really commit to it, and I was feeling the strain of trying.
Also: Matryoshka Monday! On Tuesday!
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- Tagged: Anna's boring life, CH, GR, matryoshka monday, New York City, writing
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Posted on August 30th, 2009 by annakjarzab
Remember how I said I was going to completely rewrite CH yesterday? Well, this is where it helps to actually read what you’ve written lately instead of just go upon the impression that you’ve formed of your own story as you’ve written it. I sat down yesterday to rework CH, start from the very beginning and rewrite the whole damn thing, and I started to think about what I’d already written. I opened up the full manuscript document I’d been dumping all of my chapters in and started reading. Well, the beginning could use maybe a little tightening–something closer to what I’d started to write in the do-over–and I can fix that when I start revising.
But actually, I think the first draft is pretty good. The only part where it veers off course is about ten pages from the end of the manuscript as it stands, when I have a couple of scenes that I thought would throw the main character’s family life in sharp relief by comparing it to another family life, but after having written those scenes I don’t think they add anything. They’re just a distraction, and also they make the main character’s relationship with her boyfriend-y person a little more serious than I want it to be at the moment.
So, to make myself feel better about the whole thing, I deleted those scenes and am now writing again. I realize that the most important part of this scene for the main character is not how her encounter with her boyfriend-y person’s family compares with her family–she sees her family situation pretty clearly, and it almost seems mean for me to be like, “Here’s a functional family in which the siblings are close and have no secrets and totally love each other!” when she already knows that her family isn’t like that–but how much she’s willing to tell him about her family situation, and the bad relationships she’s building and the fault she bears in all of that.
So yeah. No rewrite as of yet. Possibly later, if I find it necessary, but once I took out the scenes that weren’t working it made me feel a lot better about the manuscript as it stands. Trial and error, ugh.
Posted on August 29th, 2009 by annakjarzab
It ain’t just a TV show.
(Remember when Starting Over was a TV show? Is that still on? I never watched it.)
As you know if you read my last entry, things on the writing front have been productive, page-wise, but not book-wise. I thought maybe I’d keep on keeping on, change directions/tone/whatever to get the book on track to the end and then revise the crap out of it to make it all blend and fit nicely together into a cohesive whole, but I think I’m too far gone to do that. I decided two days ago on the subway to work that I was probably going to have to start the whole thing over again.
And actually, I’m not freaking out about that. After all, I’ve started a book over before, and it’s being published in January, so it’s not an intrinsically bad thing. For one thing, I think I might have settled upon a name for the book (er, several names; I’m in the process of narrowing it down)!
What’s stopping me from diving into a rewrite is strategy. When I rewrote AUT, I rewrote AUT. Not a tiny shard of the originally book remains. I don’t even think I could locate a copy, digital or otherwise, of AUT version 1 at this point. I didn’t back then, either, which necessitated me starting completey over, plus I had an entirely new plot. This is not the same–I’m going to keep the same general plot, but de-emphasize some elements that I’ve been focusing too much on in an attempt, I realize now, to avoid the real meat of the story, which is of course more difficult to write, and also bring an entirely different series of events to the forefront of the story. There’s a lot of good stuff that I want to keep, but I’m always wary of taking things apart and reassembling them with new material. Bumpiness can be smoothed out in revisions, but still. Maybe I should just write everything anew, I don’t know. If you know me, you know I’m loathe to lose a good joke, so it’ll be hard to let go of some of these scenes.
But, of course, onward and upward and it’s not like those scenes can’t be picked up and molded into the new version if I want them to. Right now I’m focusing on research; I’m going to start reading Slaughterhouse Five, and I’ve been listening to Paddy Casey’s “Saints and Sinners” and Ingrid Michaelson’s “Soldier” over and over.
On an entirely different note, Diana Peterfreund has talked many times about how damaging book piracy is to authors, publishers, and most importantly readers, because if you don’t buy books or check them out from libraries it sends a message to publishers that you don’t want to read them, and I’m pretty frustrated that she keeps having to say this, that it keeps happening to her and lots of other authors, and that it will probably happen to me in no time.
Honestly, this is ridiculous. Yes, I know books are expensive and take up a lot of room–hence the state of my apartment, which is overflowing with books, and my bank account, which is, you know, anemic. I GET IT. Books are a luxury. But for God’s sake, if you want to read them, do the decent thing and buy them, or check them out from the library. That’s what libraries are for! To democratize–actually, socialize–reading. Libraries are free! You can get a (free!) library card in no time at all, and then you can check out as many books as you can possibly read–for FREE! But the cool thing about libraries is that, while it’s free for you, they actually buy books, so publishers stay in business and authors can afford to keep writing the books that you can read, FOR FREE!
Now, I know I’m preaching to the choir here, but also there’s something I’d like to talk about that is tangentially related–selling ARCs on eBay. Working in publishing, and being a writer myself, this is something that really frustrates me. ARCs are NOT for sale; they are very expensive for the publisher to print, but they do it for publicity purposes, so that booksellers and reviewers and journalists can read the book in advance to prepare for when the book is sold to the public. If you get an ARC of a book, it’s because you are one of the lucky people who gets to read the book early. The last thing anyone should be doing is SELLING an ARC, because they say right on the cover that they are NOT FOR SALE and it is ILLEGAL.
I know some authors who get excited when their ARC is being sold on eBay, because it proves to them how much some people want to read the book, but honestly they should be upset. Because however much money that ARC goes for, it doesn’t matter–it’s not going to the author, and it’s not going to the publisher. It’s going to the seller, someone who got it for free in good faith. Some people might say that it’s the same as selling used books, that that money isn’t going to the publisher or author, either, but it’s actually not the same, because selling a used book is legal and selling an ARC is not. Also, somewhere along the line that used book was bought new, and that money did go to the publisher and author (well, maybe the author, but definitely the publisher). ARCs were never purchased, and they cost so much money to produce.
So please, don’t sell or buy ARCs. Get them from the publisher, lend them to your friends, read them, love them, pass them around, but please, for the love, don’t sell them. And don’t buy them. And don’t download pirated books. Rant over.
Posted on August 26th, 2009 by annakjarzab
There is a moment, I think, in many a writer’s life when they look at a book they’re halfway (possibly more, in terms of pages anyway) done with and go, “I’ve lost it.” Not their “muse” (oh how I shudder to type those letters in that sequence with that meaning!) or their mojo or anything like that. They’ve lost the book. Somehow, in the grocery store of life, while they’re throwing things into a cart and checking nutritional facts and prices, their growing child hops out of the cart or lets go of their hand or whatever and wanders away.
Don’t panic! First of all, it’s a hypothetical child. Second of all, it’s not like the child is really lost. It’s somewhere in that store, and is this metaphor making any sense? Probably not, and it might be a little unnerving as well, at least to those among my tens of readers who have children.
Whatever, my point is, somewhere along the way of writing a book you realize that you’ve lost your focus, or maybe it was never there to begin with. You’re not sure what you’re trying to say, and even though you’re chugging along, adding pages and piling up plot points, you’re not really going anywhere.
I’ve mentioned before that I’ve been working on two projects this summer, GR and a second, family drama with no name because the name I gave it in my head would never, ever sell in real life and I can’t think up another one at the moment no matter how hard I try. We’re going to call that one CH, the initials of the two sisters in the story. It’s a story about sisters, have I mentioned that? It is. Two sisters, dramatically apart in age, divided for a long time by the older one’s choice and now reunited and trying to mature in their own separate ways while also dealing with the messiness the older sister’s defection years earlier caused in the family and in the younger sister’s life specifically.
It’s a story about secrets, as so many of my stories are (no idea why, I’m terrible at keeping secrets, I have this almost pathological need to be honest about everything to everyone). It’s about deciding not to know someone, or to “know” them as someone different than who they really are, which NEVER WORKS, do you hear me? Just a little tip from me to you, that never works. Spoiler, I guess. Not really.
It’s a story about anger, as so many of my stories are. It’s about the way in which growing up is the single most terrifying and exhilarating period of your life, where half of you wants to soldier on into the future while the other half is dying to crawl into your mother’s lap and be protected from the world. It’s about guilt, and how denying yourself the right to grieve is the most damaging thing you can do for yourself. And it’s about making choices based on fear, and about how that sometimes doesn’t work out so well probably.
And you know what? As the manuscript stands, none of that is even remotely clear. Except for the anger part, my main character is pretty obviously angry, bitter and resentful. But she’s fun at parties, so who cares?
When I think back on the process of writing AUT, it seems so easy to me. When anyone asks, “How did you do it?” (granted, this happens almost never) I go, “I dunno. I just did.” My memory is pretty awful in general, and also I tend to remember mostly good things, which is why I don’t really have any lingering resentment over being teased in grade/middle/high school, even though I know I probably was.
All that remains of writing AUT in my memory is the good stuff; it feels like I snapped my fingers and it happened. Logically, I know that’s totally untrue. It took me seven years to get to this place with AUT. That’s a long time when you’re only twenty-five. And I’ve lost count of how many drafts it’s been through. And let’s not even mention how seven years ago–four years ago!–it was an entirely different book with a different plot. So…yeah, it took me a while. And it was hard. And I suffered, and I agonized, and I beat myself up about it and doubted my ability to write it and despaired and floundered. I’m sure I did. Plus, for a long time it just wasn’t very good.
But I don’t remember any of that, really. I just know how that book makes me feel, and can appreciate how perfectly it expresses so many things I thought and felt and experienced during the time that I was writing it.
I feel similarly about MB, although I reserve the right to feel differently when I actually have to edit it this fall. That book captures in many ways how I felt while I was writing it, in an entirely different way than AUT does. I don’t feel that way anymore, but I can remember it and look back on it somewhat fondly, I guess.
But GR and CH…something is not cohering the way it should. Maybe I’m not opening myself up to these books enough. GR is my albatross–I want so badly to be writing it, I really love the premise and the characters and the research I did to prep for it, and it’s not happening for me right now. I came up with a possible solution to my problem, but part of me is afraid to try it because it might fail and then I am Out Of Ideas.
So I’ve been working on CH, and I thought it was going really well, until I realized yesterday that the Jell-O is not setting properly or something. (That’s right! I’m a writer! Dessert metaphors for everybody!) I think that’s because I just recently decided to take it in a darker direction, and I’m starting to get more insight into an important character who has remained something of a cipher so far (which is sort of part of the point I’m trying to make about deciding not to know somebody, but characters cannot remain ciphers to me, or the reader), and now what I’ve written, which is largely light teen romance, is clashing with the new tone.
I could finish the book and go back and change this in revisions. I might just have to do that, because I’m not yet comfortable with this new tone–I haven’t worked in it for long enough to feel confident enough to go back and weave it through the previous chapters, tint them with the darkness that I’ve added to the pallette. Not yet. Not now. But I’m having a hard time with the transition, fully accepting the new plan and committing to it.
I’m a bundle of writing neuroses, as you can probably tell. This might have something to do with the fact that I haven’t finished a book in a year. Which is, really, a stupid thing to fixate on, but I want to be a productive writer and I’m starting to doubt my ability to complete projects. My new mantra is, “You wrote two books, you can write a third,” no mention of the fourth, fifth, sixth, twenty-eighth, two hundred and seventh book I want to write in my long dream career (probably not going to finish two hundred and seven books, though). I can’t put too much pressure on myself, or I will crack under it. I’m already starting to see the fissures forming.
I cannot lose patience with myself. This is very important, I think. I can’t go to my computer every night and say, “Write ten pages, and write them well.” It’s my inclination, but it’s too unfair and it won’t make me produce any good work. I just can’t squeeze it out. It has to be a little more organic. I need to give myself the space and time and room to write another good book. Two of them. More eventually, but just these two for now.
At the risk of making this my official Longest Boringest Blog Post Ever, I’m going to close with a quotation from The Spiral Staircase by Karen Armstrong. It’s a quote about reading and listening, but I think it applies to writing as well:
You have to open yourself to a poem with a quiet, receptive mind, in the same way as you might listen to a late Beethoven quartet or read a sonnet by Rilke at a party. You have to give it your full attention, wait patiently upon it, and make an empty space for it in your mind. And finally the work declares itself to you, steals deeply into the interstices of your being, line by line, note by note, phrase by phrase, until it becomes part of you forever…If you seize upon a poem and try to extort its meaning before you are ready, it remains opaque. If you bring your own personal agenda to bear upon it, the poem will close upon itself like a clam, because you have denied its unique and separate identity, its own inviolable holiness.