Sunday, March 21, 2010

Hello out there

I sent out my first twenty pages to Muse yesterday and it left me feeling a little insecure. On Friday night I spent a lot of time thinking about this process and how stunned I am that I am even at the point of putting it out there - and how exhausting this editing process has been. But, I am about to be knocking at the door of the writer's club and hoping I will be let in so to speak.
After the conference - no matter what happens there, in terms of feed back or reception, I will begin the Summer of the Slush Pile. I cringe at the thought of it -but what else can be done? I do have some finish work to do on the rest of the ms - which I think I will get done over April vacation. After that - it is time to brace for rejection - and hope for a little luck. I also plan to work on my next story over the summer - which I am tumbling in my brain now.

One goal I do have for Alice in the next book is for her to discover her family history.

I created Alice Towne's family name from my husband's paternal grandmother's line - the Townes. This is taken from my own family's interests in the subject as well as that the Townes actually are descended from Rebecca (Towne) Nurse of the Salem witch trials. We were told a while back - but just recently we actually saw the genealogy ourselves- and it is her brother Jacob they are descended from. (Thanks for that btw). With this view of the genelogy we also discovered some bizarre coincidences that I had no idea of before - there was an Ariel Towne (male) and his great grand daughter was named Alice Towne.

I have a whole ficitional genealogy I wrote at the start of the novel tht shows Alice's line. In my story, Alice is the rationalist who doesn't believe in the family lore and her mother left the life behind for what she thought was security - and I ended up focusing on Alice coming to terms with her supernatural inclinations (through the ghost story element) and accepting her mother for who she is - but due to editing - did not end up including the genealogy. The two women, as far as Distillation is concerned, are removed from other family members and when a letter comes from an aunt at the end... well... we have a transition point and an opportunity to find out more about the family, find out things Josephine has either stopped talking about, never knew, or never told.

For the record, I am not actually writing about the real life people in my husband's family. And my mother recently asked me if I were going to ever write about Italian witches too - the strega. I don't know where it will go yet - but I have it all rattling around in my brain, and I also want to remain true to the "New England magic realism" genre I intended to write from the beginning.
By this I mean, unlike some other stories with "real" magic in them - my stories also leave room for doubt. There is more than one kind of magic in the world.

I have also been working on the glimpses into the history Alice uncovers in Distillation. This is the finish work I need to do over April vacation. They are not historically detailed chapters, but rather 500 word glimpses into specific moments adding context to what she uncovers - but with an ear toward fairy tales and poetry. The plan is to intersperse them throughout the novel's 30 odd chapters and combine each glimpse with one of the seven stages of the alchemical process of transmutation.

The plan, the plan, on with the plan.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

How many licks does it take?

I have been revising and revising and revising. Writing group met last Saturday and I spent the rest of the day reworking my first three chapters - again. I have to confess - I try to be a good workshopee - I try to take criticism well - but it is so hard sometimes when you have spent so much brain power to do it one way and then it is suggested to do it another way. But this is the name of the game and any writer needs to be able to take it - and enjoy it. Which is easier said than done of course. After initial frustration and denial that removing altogether the second chapter which gives the back story of why Alice is heading to Ashfield - I realized it was what I should have done long ago. I always hated that chapter and I had said many times before. And now - with a little outside wisdom to help me - I can see that there was never any reason to show that argument. Maybe I needed to write it so I knew what happened - but my readers don't need to read it. I have taken the advice of my writing group and a number of writing web sites and have now sprinkled in the back story in small doses in other places. At least that was what I set out to do - but soon I realized that most of it was already in there in some form or another and that I didn't even need to add more in. What a liberating feeling to delete much of the Steven scene. I am happy to have done it. In the same stroke though I had to move much of the initial view of Josephine - which I did find ways to sprinkle in. And I think it works better now.

Having done all of this - I was then able to pull forward yet another chapter into the first three. Now all of the main characters are introduced in those first three chapters and the stage is fully set. I have erased all time shifts - even if that means Evelyn leaves the day Alice moves in - which I hated the idea of originally when I combined the two coming to Ashfield chapters. But now it doesn't seem so bad. I kind of just let it be .

I am intending to send my manuscript to the MUSE on Monday. I have a little tweaking to do on the letter and the synopsis - now that I have taken out the Steven chapter - but that shouldn't be hard to do. Famous last words.

In other news. I checked out of the library a short novel by Stephen King that I had never heard of until I was doing a recent google search on the subject of what is planned to be my next novel. In an article on the subject - the murder of a girl on an island off the coast of Maine - it said that Stephen King had written about the incident in the afterward to his story The Colorado Kid. So I checked it out and sure enough he beat me to the punch -sort of. I have not read his story yet - but it is the story of a boy who is found dead on a beach on an island off the coast of Maine. As far as I can tell he did not use the original circumstances as much as I plan to.

So I don't know if this is a good thing or not - but at least I am picking ideas that Stephen King also thinks are good. And I think my story though inspired by the same event - will not be the same story at all. But I still have to read the rest of the book. So we'll see.

Otherwise - grading papers is on going - but I use my writing as a reward. Once I have met my quota of papers for the day I can work a little on the ms. That is where I am at now - so onward.

Last thought - it is utterly flabbergasting how much I have edited this novel in the last two months. From the 7,000 word cut - the count is now 96,500 - down from 103,000 - to the trimming of the first three chapters . I can liken it to pruning a rose. Prune more than you think you should and it will blossom into something beautiful. (I hope)