Something Of an Update

My followers (and the other people who accidentally happen upon this page), you’d be so proud of me. I actually spent the last two weeks writing every chance that I got.

Yup, I finished the first draft of Virtually Yours Forever, and then moved quickly to my edit of Finding Cadence. I know I shouldn’t say this, because as soon as I do, I’ll be beset by some calamity where I’ve lost my hands/eyesight/will to live/[insert other disaster here] and therefore my momentum and mojo, but this week I actually feel like a writer.

Not a mother, or a business owner, or a homemaker, but an honest to goodness writer.

Sure I’m those other things too, but lately writing has come to the forefront of my daily activities. I’ve limited my play time on Facebook and Twitter. I can’t afford to lounge around, so I’ve been filling my days with words. I’m thinking it’s a good thing. Of course, it could be because I have so many projects on the burner, I’m feeling guilty about most of them being incomplete.

Also accomplished: READING. I’ve read the first two Hunger Games books and have started the third, read the book that came with my latest blog tour, and finished another from a fellow writer I met at the San Francisco Writers Conference years ago. Good stuff.

My house is a total disaster and my garden needs to be winterized – fast, since winter is quickly approaching – and the laundry looks like it’s going to take all weekend to finish, yet I still feel very satisfied with my pace. It helps to have people (fellow writers, family, my editor) poking me with a stick. I’m proud to say that these last two weeks I’ve been self-starting.

Perhaps I’ve reached my personal turning point.

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Novel Update: Virtually Yours Forever

Somehow, I have managed to carve out six entire days of writing in the last week.

I’m not exactly sure how this is possible. I’ve spent the last two and a half months running around southeastern Michigan like a headless chicken. But look, today is August 24, and our summer rush’s days are numbered. Pretty soon, we’ll be back in a peaceful, nearly coma-inducing rhythm and we can catch our breath.

As for writing, it helped to have the husband in San Francisco for four of those days. Once I got into a groove, and after he returned, it was fairly simple to keep up the forward momentum. I retired each day for a few hours of diligent editing.

Most of the story is already there. I wrote Virtually Yours Forever during NaNoWriMo last November, after spending a summer devising plot lines for my sequel. I opened the file up for the first time in late July. The first week of August was spent mapping out scenes on color coordinated 3″ x 5″ index cards.

Of course, this meant first having to construct color coordinated 3″ x 5″ cards, because in this modern age, office supply stores are loathe to carry them. While there, I also snagged a pretty notebook – on sale – in order to further map out my plot and characters.

I have to say, it’s kind of a mess. VY4ever is 30 chapters long, and with seven major characters, it’s a gargantuan effort to keep everything straight. When I write during NaNo, I write like a crazy person. I don’t self-edit, I don’t look back. I just want to get the words down and worry about the execution later. As with the first book, I spent each day in November writing from one character’s point of view, which gave me a lot of material until Thanksgiving.

(The bride and groom’s wedding is scheduled for November 29. Between the 22nd and the 28th, the Virtual Mom world begins to unravel.)

Well, such a frenzied pace shows in the writing. It took a week of reading the first draft before I figured out what I wrote. During the excavation, I noted some pretty interesting and twisted dialogue I’d completely forgotten about. This edit is all about weaving the individual stories together. Then it’s off to my Editor for Life, and he can figure out the gaping holes or inconsistencies.

I’m old-school, so looking at two open Word files on the same computer screen drives me crazy. Add to that mess my 3″ x 5″ cards littered all over the living room floor. After three days, I had confetti everywhere, and I’d lost two pens and one fine point Sharpie. I was certifiable and my eyes were permanently crossed. It occurred to me (in the dead of night) to highlight what I’d used in the old draft, after placing it in the new so I wouldn’t get lost.

Yesterday, I made it to Chapter 15, meaning I’m halfway there. Halfway there in six days. I can only hope I can make it the rest of the way in six more, but that would be tempting the fates. It’s best if I tell myself now that it’s not going to happen, and pray that it might.

(I don’t know what I’d do if I had to work under real deadlines. As it is, my ED is a little behind on the last project I sent him, so all in all, we’re probably even. That’s what counts.)

I’d like to be able to tell you that VY4ever will be ready for release next spring, but that, too, would be tempting the fates. But I’m working on it.

When You *Hate* Your Characters

It’s hard to believe (since life is throwing more hard balls at me, especially now), but I’m working on the sequel to Virtually Yours, which I’ve tentatively titled Virtually Yours Forever (or VY4ever). Sorry, no tentative covers…yet.

A week ago, when I first opened the file and poked around, a few things occurred to me. One, this is a damned good story! (Okay, I’m highly prejudiced, but…) There’s no secret in the sequel since we know all of the characters, and the Big Reveal at the end might be considered cheesy, but I’m liking the roads where I have taken my characters. It’s four years later, and plenty has happened.

(If you’d like to read the synopsis, wander over to my page “Novels” and check it out. Or I could put a link in here. I did!)

The other thought that came to me is that I really, really, really (I know, adverb overload. Danger, Will Robinson.) like these characters. I hadn’t really thought about them or their plot twists since I penned the first draft during the November 2011 NaNoWriMo — too many things going on in my Real World. But opening the file and working on their story lines is like visiting with your high school best friend after thirty years of absence. (I would know about this, since I’ve lived it. Hello, Bonnie!) Even though a lot of time has passed, you pick up right where you left off.

It’s easy for me to write about friendly people who might have character quirks that make them not so amiable. It’s very difficult to write about the truly heinous and do a good job at it. I’m struggling with my bad guy in Finding Cadence. I’ve made my attorney, John Sloane, stereotypically bad. Ruthless. A womanizer. Shrewd. Heartless. The kind of shyster that would make Gordon Gekko look like a choir boy. He’s so bad, he’s like a cartoon character lawyer. The third pass editing, and I’m trying to figure out ways to give Sloane redeeming qualities while still conveying to the reader what a rat he is.

But as we know, every good story has a bad guy. Even my fun-loving story about the Virtual Moms. Readers need to cheer for the underdog, and to *hate* whoever stands in their way in their quest for happiness. I’ve spent the last few days wondering who I could make a villain. It would have to be someone completely unexpected, and there are several characters I could choose from. Coincidentally, this article landed in my email box today, a listing of the 50 most hated characters in literary history.

It’s an interesting list, but I’m not sure I would agree. I mean, really. The Twilight girl and guy? They may annoy, but I don’t hate them. Similarly with the current novel I am struggling with, 50 Shades of Gray. Ana Steele grates on my last nerve (something like a group of giggling 14-year-old mall rats), but I don’t hate her.

The closest I came to hating a character was Ben Bailey in t. greenwood’s This Glittering World. I love t. greenwood, but I found this man’s morals to be completely lacking. I nearly threw the book down in disgust, several times. However, Ben proves himself a stellar (albeit seriously flawed) man in the end.

(Amendment: Tom Booker in The Horse Whisperer. Not the Tom Booker of the Robert Redford movie, the one in the book. I was so angry when I finished the book that I vowed to never see the movie, and I haven’t. Tom Booker is the Bill Clinton of literature in my book. Yeah. I don’t like Bubba either.)

All of the authors on the “most hated” list must have liked their characters. A little? You think? How could they not? Authors take a seed of an idea, nurture it, and eventually give birth to a full blown story. Hating your characters might make for a very tedious and grueling workout at the computer.

In the end, I’m not sure I could write about a character I hate completely. I write because I love to write. It’s my hobby, it’s my creative outlet. I have to enjoy myself or I couldn’t do it.

The trick is to find some sort of balance, a vein of redemption in your *hated* character.