I had my last children's choir session last night. Now we just have to sing Sunday and then at the children's worship service next Wednesday, but I don't have to have lesson plans for that and the parents will be present, so that should mean they're on their best behavior (ha!). I got one thank-you gift from a kid, some chocolate and pecan candy. Another kid gave me a big hug. Otherwise, I think these kids are still too young to comprehend the concept of the end of the school year. They haven't really experienced that yet.
Even though the school year is coming to a close, I'll be going back to school this weekend. The local newspaper sponsors these One Day University things, in which they bring in some top professors from universities all over the country for a day of lectures. Usually, there are one or two lectures that sound interesting, but it's not worth the price (in the $200 range), so I've never gone. The newspaper has also started a subscriber rewards program, where every so often they send out an e-mail with a list of upcoming events that you can win tickets to. You select which event to enter a drawing for of that round. It's mostly concerts and sporting events, and I've entered every time but haven't heard anything. This time around, the One Day University was on the list, and there was a lecture on the psychology of good and evil on the schedule that I thought might be very useful for characterization, so I chose that event for my entry. Yesterday, I got an e-mail telling me I won for the event Saturday. That was kind of exciting. I guess I really need to hear that lecture.
This does mean I'll be "working" two weekends in a row, then a weekend off, and then the next weekend I'll be working again.
Meanwhile, my shopping trip earlier in the week proved fruitless. I remember when a few years ago the dressy top was such a big thing. The go-to dressy casual outfit was a sparkly camisole, jeans, and heels, or you could wear the top with a skirt or tuxedo pants for a more formal occasion. But the only dressy tops I found in the whole mall were "mother of the bride" type jackets or midriff-baring halters, and an online search of the major department stores didn't come up with anything, either. So, I'm going to get wild and crazy and break out the sewing machine to get exactly what I want. I have a pattern for a bodice/vest that I've made before, and yesterday I bought some satin material to make it. I haven't sewn much in a long time, but this pattern is one of the few things I've made, and it came out really well then. If it comes out well, I'll have to get someone to take photos to post.
Now that the book is done and I can think about anything else for a while, back to the Once Upon Stilettos commentary, with chapters five and six.
The visit from the parents came from two things. One, I realized that we were approaching Thanksgiving on my book calendar, and two, when I was thinking of the worst thing I could do to poor Katie, it was having her parents show up while she's in the middle of all kinds of craziness. She's still getting her bearings in the magical world, and then she's having to confront what to her are the primary symbols of her nonmagical life. She doesn't want her family to worry about her, but she's now in a situation where she's actually under attack.
The other big thing going on is the office politics plot, where they know there's a mole and that makes things get kind of crazy as everyone in the company becomes paranoid, and backstabbing ensues. This was roughly based on my experiences near the end of my tenure in the corporate world. We'd been in a real boom period in my industry, so we were expanding and hiring so many people that they joked about how you could get a job if you could fog a mirror when you breathed on it. Things were already getting shaky even before 9/11, but the bottom fell out afterward, and there were multiple rounds of layoffs. At first, it was just the fog-the-mirror people being let go, but then they started closing entire offices, including some that had just been actively recruiting. With each round of layoffs, people got even more paranoid that they would be next on the chopping block. I was dealing with an immediate supervisor who seemed to see me as a threat, so she kept deliberately excluding me from meetings, including the pitch team to re-pitch our biggest account, the one where I had become the CEO's personal speech writer. We lost the account, and I got laid off (which worked out for me in the long run, and that company hired me as a freelancer). If we'd set up an anonymous tip line around that time, I can only imagine the kind of stuff that would have been on it.
You know it's bad when even Owen is getting paranoid enough to rig a new security system on his department. It's worse when, as paranoid as he is, he misses the fact that his own office is being bugged. I liked when he was getting testy while working because it kept him from being too, too perfect.
By the way, I came up with this plot and figured out who was going to be the mole when I was midway through writing the first book. so the clues were already being planted in that book, even though the possibility of a mole didn't get raised until this book.
Then we have yet another big date with Ethan. I remember doing a lot of research to figure out things they might do. I knew I wanted it to be kind of an out-of-town event, but I hadn't actually planned all the other stuff that might happen. I was looking up some famous foodie restaurants in the outlying areas, and stuff like that. And then I thought it more likely (given what's to come) that he'd want to come to a magical party. There's also his spontaneous nature, which isn't a great fit for someone like Katie, who'd rather plan and know what to expect. So, all that research, and I didn't use it. But some good stuff spun out of it that I hadn't planned on, so I'm not complaining.
It feels really weird having free time. It's like when I was in school and got to the end of finals. The first few days afterward seemed odd because I didn't have to study, but I felt guilty for not studying, and I'd forgotten what I did with my time when I didn't have to study.
Except now I have other stuff I need to do that I didn't get around to doing, only I don't really want to deal with it because I want to enjoy the free time, but then I feel guilty for not doing it. So maybe I should deal with all the stuff and then enjoy some free time. Well, some of the stuff. Some of it may take longer than that.
I think today's task will be to reconfigure some of my office. If I move my modem and wireless router around, I free up some space on and around my desk, and moving the wireless router to the bookcase by the desk will allow me to connect it to my stereo, so I can then stream music from my computer or phone through my stereo speakers, and I think that will be essential for doing further desk cleaning and office reorganization. Come to think of it, I need to set up my phone for my wi-fi, which I haven't done yet.
I was going to spend today practicing the harp, but a string snapped overnight, which is odd. I wasn't even playing it at the time and hadn't touched it for a few days because I was out. The person who loaned it to me said to take it to him if I needed a string replaced, so that will have to wait either to Wednesday or Sunday.
So I guess I'm down to spending the day cleaning my office while listening to music for brainstorming purposes and maybe starting to deal with some marketing tasks.
The book is off to the copyeditor, and I survived the convention weekend. I've decided to treat the next couple of days like a weekend, since I worked all weekend.
Yesterday proved to be particularly rough, as one of my friends passed away Saturday night at the convention. I'm not officially on the committee for this convention, but it's all the same group of friends running it as run the convention I'm part of, and then we're also all part of the same social group. This friend has been really pivotal in the group, so it was a real shock to arrive Sunday morning and get the news. We weren't telling attendees because we didn't want to cast a black cloud over the event for them, so those of us working on the convention and participating in programming had to go on as though nothing had happened. That meant I had about five minutes between getting the news and having to go onstage and moderate a panel. I think I got through it all okay, and I doubt anyone who didn't know me well would have been able to tell a difference (or they might have figured I just had deadline brain), but I really had to compartmentalize to do it. Then I had to come home and edit. I suspect there might be some cratering in my near future when it catches up to me.
Now I'm really regretting that I was so focused on what I needed to do that I never took the time to swing by where he was and say hi, which I usually do. I guess that's a reminder to never let those opportunities pass by because you never know when an opportunity will be your last one.
I think this afternoon I'm going to go shopping. I need groceries, so I have to go out anyway, but it's also only a few weeks before the Nebula Awards weekend, and all my evening attire is at least a decade old. I wore my newest evening dress the last time I went to the Nebula Awards. I'm thinking I'll just buy a fancy top because I have a cute satin skirt. I also need a purse small enough to fit into my tote bag (so it doesn't count as an extra carry-on item) but big enough to be useful. I had one, but it was a cheap one from Target that started disintegrating, and I want to replace it with a good one that will last.
I'm enjoying my wi-fi this morning by having my morning tea and doing my morning Internet browse on the patio. It would be much nicer if one of my neighbors wasn't using a loud power tool.
I'm about halfway done with my edits. I think the book is "there," so all that going back and fixing seems to have worked. I'm just catching a few things that don't need to be there anymore because the stuff they're setting up no longer happens, and I'm having to adjust some setups for new things that happen. I'm also catching a number of redundant conversations, or at least lines in conversations, as well as some awkward wordings (if I sell this book for audio, the narrator will thank me). That's the benefit of reading out loud. If you read it out loud and find that it doesn't sound like anything a real person would say, it needs to be fixed. Then there are things your eyes skim over that really hit you when you read them out loud.
Getting much work done today might be a challenge, as I have to go into convention mode. At noon I'll be talking about other time travel stuff that Doctor Who fans might like, and at four I'll be on a panel about that other franchise that had a long hiatus before coming back to create a whole new generation of fans: Star Wars. Tomorrow morning at 10 I'll be helping with the first-timer intro panel, and then at noon will be on the panel about 'shipping Doctor Who (for the record, I'm against it for the Doctor, like it between companions). At five, I'll be popping back for a look at series 9 (which, I must confess, didn't really stick with me -- I'll be decorative on that panel). Sunday at 11, I'll be discussing other stuff Doctor Who fans might like, and at 1 will be talking about the state of genre TV and movies. I probably won't be around much otherwise, except in those hour-long gaps between panels, because I have work to do and live close enough to run home.
And then I know I'm getting close to the end of a book because I have a sudden desperate urge to clean my house. I'm sure it will fade as soon as I turn the book in and have time for it.
I finished the round of rewrites on Tuesday, and later that day I found that in order to get my personal copyediting fairy godmother before the end of May, I need to get the book to her by Monday. So, I turned right around and started one more clean-up pass, and it's a good thing because I've already caught a few things that no longer made sense, based on changes I made later in the book. I was setting up things that don't happen anymore.
This means I'll be really busy for the next few days. I'll definitely be coming home between WhoFest panels because this isn't the sort of work I can do sitting in a hotel lobby. I'm proofreading and fixing wording by reading out loud, and not only is there the reading out loud factor, but it takes a lot of concentration.
I held off on doing WiFi at home for a long time, but I'm finding that it's less of a distraction than I feared. I've been working at my desk, which is probably better for my posture, and I think knowing that I can get on the Internet at any time is making it less appealing. I'm also finding that I'm multitasking my goofing off. I can play on the Internet while I'm watching TV at night, which leaves me focusing more on work during the day. Having the instant Internet access even if I leave my desk also means that I can quickly check facts and look things up. I've been more productive this week, though I suppose some of that may have to do with now having a deadline that involves a commitment to another person. That makes for good motivation.
The first item on my agenda after I send off the book Monday is mucking out my office. I want to make it more of a pleasant working environment. The wireless means I can rearrange some things around my desk because I'm no longer limited by where the cables are. But first I have to find my desk. I'm sure it's in here somewhere.
In my writing posts, I'm currently talking about getting through the hard parts of writing a book, when it would be easy to give up, either due to something in the book itself or something outside the story.
This time, I'll get into the trickiest one of all, when you're stuck -- when you either don't know what should happen next or don't know how it should happen. Either way, you just can't seem to go on from where you are. It's easy at this point to decide that the book just isn't working and give up. This is also when other ideas start looking very tempting and when outside distractions become more powerful. Anything else starts to seem more interesting to you than the book you're trying to write.
This is definitely a case of "been there, done that" for me, so here are some tactics I've found that have helped:
One thing to do is go back and re-read what you've written, either from the beginning or at least a few chapters before the point where you're stuck. That helps put it into the perspective of a reader. It's easy to forget that a reader will go through in an hour or two the pages you've slaved over for weeks or even months. Seeing how the book leads up to where you are may give you the momentum and inspiration to pick up and keep going. You may also notice plot threads that you've set up or character arcs you've built without even realizing it. That may give you ideas for what to do next.
After you read, step away to give yourself time to process it and think about it. There's been research showing that physical activity helps spur creativity, so get some exercise. Go for a walk, go dancing, do some gardening, hit the gym. That may help spark some ideas. Research has also shown that doing something that requires some concentration is good for helping you work out problems. Play a musical instrument, do some kind of craft that requires thinking, sort documents, do anything that forces you not to think about about your book. While you're not thinking about it, the problem may be sorting itself out in your subconscious.
If you have an outline, review it. If you don't, try making an outline, figuring out the major turning points leading to the ending and then filling in incidents. If you have an idea of how the book should end, try reverse engineering to think of what needs to happen to bring about that ending. Or if you don't know the ending, work backward from what you do know.
Think about your characters' goals. What do they want to accomplish in your story? What steps should they take to reach their goals? What might get in their way? What was the last thing your protagonist tried? How did it work out? What's the next thing he or she should try in the aftermath of the last attempt? What's the last thing the villain tried, how did it work out, and what's the logical next step?
Make a list of things that could happen next, or if you know what happens next but not how it should happen, then a list of how it could happen. Try to be as specific as possible, and fill at least an entire sheet of paper. You may have to get kind of crazy and silly to fill an entire sheet, but don't stop even if you come up with a solution you think you like. You may find a few ideas you like in the list. Then take a few of the best ideas and explore them more thoroughly. By this time, a scene may start shaping up in your mind. Two or three ideas may come together.
It may help to talk to someone about your story and the problem you're facing. A friend with good story instincts may be helpful here if he or she can ask good questions, but I find that just the act of verbalizing it helps, so even talking to yourself may help.
If you have a scene in mind for later in the book, go ahead and write it. When you're utterly stuck, skip the part you're stuck on and write whatever comes to mind. That way you're still making progress, and writing those future scenes might give you ideas about what can come in between. You're exploring the characters and your situation, and if you're writing, you feel less stuck. If all else fails, write a scene you know won't be in the book, just a conversation between characters, and see what they say to each other. Let them talk about what they want to do, what they're afraid might happen. Then you might be able to create a scene in which those things do happen.
I find it helps sometimes to start a new document to make a stab at writing that next scene when I've finally got an idea for it. It feels less "real" then, which lowers the sense of pressure. I'm just playing, testing out ideas, rather than writing that all-important next scene in the book. When you've been stuck for a while, that next scene can take on impossible proportions, so convincing yourself that you're just playing with ideas may make it a little easier to face. If you have something you like, you can paste it into the whole book. If you don't like it, you can delete it and start over.
Remember that you can always revise what you've written. That next scene doesn't have to be perfect now. It just needs to move the story forward. You can go back and fix it later. You may even replace it entirely later. The important thing is to move forward and finish the book.
I got my wi-fi set up yesterday. It took all of five minutes, and I think two of that came from me forgetting that it works better if I turn the wi-fi on my computer on and two of it were thinking of a clever network name and a non-obvious password that I can still remember easily. I even managed to still get work done, in spite of being able to get online from wherever I was. I get a pretty good signal throughout my house, even downstairs in my bedroom and out on the patio. And yet I'm sitting at my desk this morning. I may have to force myself to try making new habits. Like, I could do my morning tea and Internet catch-up on my patio in nice weather and get myself in the habit of doing my work at my desk instead of the other way around.
Of course, cleaning my desk and my office so that I have a peaceful working environment would help matters a great deal. Maybe that's what I'll do while brainstorming the next book.
I rewrote a scene and wrote a new scene yesterday, and I think I achieved my goal with the new scene because my pulse was really racing with the knowledge of what was going to happen next. Of course, my poor readers will have no idea what's awaiting them so they'll get the sucker punch instead of the dread. Mwa ha ha ha!!!!
Now on to fixing the next bit. I'm really hoping to get this round done in the next couple of days. I have a convention this weekend, but I don't have a lot of programming and it's very close to my house, so I may be running back and forth. When it takes 15 minutes to get there and I have a four-hour gap, it's worth going back home to get things done. This is a Doctor Who convention, and I'm mostly helping with filling out panels on other science fiction-type stuff that might also appeal to Doctor Who fans. There are some celebrity guests who are mostly from the "Classic" era that I'm less familiar with. No one's said anything about making me get on stage with all the celebrity guests and make a total fool of myself this year. And you know, in spite of the number of cameras that were going, I never saw any photographic evidence that it even happened. I guess that's a relief.
Now, what additional evil can I inflict on my characters today?
I had my last Monday-morning yoga class of the term this morning, so on future Mondays I can sleep later, but then I'll need to be good about trying to do some yoga on my own to maintain my flexibility and strength. It makes a big difference if I remember to do a little bit daily.
Meanwhile, it turns out that I wasn't as far along in the book as I thought I was. I incorrectly recalled the page number I was on, so instead of having 30 pages to go, I had 130 pages to go. I just felt like I was so close to the end. But now I really do have about 30 pages. However, they're the pages that most need to be rewritten, and there's a new scene I've decided to add a little earlier, replacing a cut scene. In this case, I decided to go with surprise rather than suspense, so I cut the scene that set up the suspense. Now I think I want to throw in an emotional sucker punch scene to make the surprise even worse. Because I'm evil that way.
It's supposed to be rainy most of the week, so it should be good writing weather. I got my taxes done on Friday, so while I wasn't early enough to feel early, I have that weight off my shoulders and can feel self-righteous about not frantically trying to get them done today. I may devote that time today to setting up my wireless network. That was the toy I bought myself Friday -- a wireless router so I can have wi-fi at home. I'd been holding off because the way I get work done is to take my computer to another place away from the Internet connection, but I figure I can get the same effect by turning the wi-fi off on my computer or, if I'm being really bad, turning off the router. It would be handy to have wi-fi for my phone, and I'll need it if I get a tablet. Plus, I can do social media and promo stuff from my sofa or patio. At least, that's how I rationalized it.
Now to go think of something mean to do to my characters ...
The taxes are done. I just need to double check everything before I file. The good news is that I'm not only getting a refund, but the refund is big enough to pay this year's first quarterly installment and still get some back. The bad news is that this is because I made less money this year and had more business expenses -- not drastically so, but enough to drop me into a different bracket.
Meanwhile, I'm closing in on the current round of rewrites. I won't say that I should finish it today because I only have about 30 pages. That would guarantee that I'd run up against another roadblock, and I already know that part of those 30 pages are the part that most needs to be worked on. But the end is in sight.
I already celebrated a little on both the taxes and the book with a slightly splurgy Target run this morning. I got a household item that was somewhat needed, though I went with the option that was upgrading from what I have. I found a Star Wars nightshirt on the clearance rack, and how could I resist? Now I have something to sleep in for my convention travel this summer. And there was another splurge on something that probably counts as a toy but that I think will be useful if I manage it properly.
There I'm not sure if I'm being an adult or a child about it. It's not a huge expense but is beyond the level of "just throw it in the shopping cart," and I went through a lot of mental gymnastics to justify it, making pro/con lists, deciding it still fit under Christmas money that I haven't really spent, considering that maybe it counted as a book finishing reward or a tax refund purchase. Never mind that I have money to cover it anyway. So on the adult side, I suppose it's mature to consider a purchase like this as an extra outside the regular budget and to think rather than being totally impulsive. On the child side, there's this weird sense that my own money isn't really my own money and I have to get permission to spend it. At any rate, I have a Christmas present/tax refund toy that I'm not going to let myself play with until after I finish the book -- well, this round, anyway.