While I was looking for a publisher for THE OBVIOUS GAME, I started my next novel. It's tentatively called THE BIRTHRIGHT OF PARKER CLEAVES. I had to start something, because the waiting was killing me. In the past few weeks, I've returned to it with a vengeance to keep myself from becoming obsessed with how THE OBVIOUS GAME is selling, because at this point I've done pretty much everything in my power to sell it with pretty much zero marketing budget and a very indie distribution model. The reviews are good, and I can only hope word of mouth will take it from here. ONWARD!
THE OBVIOUS GAME took three years to write, but I thought I was done with it after one year. ROOKIE MISTAKE! I made the second rookie mistake of sending it out in that condition before it was ready. I'm determined not to do that with PARKER CLEAVES. I also had a lot of structural difficulties with TOG. I had scenes that didn't make any sense in the larger context of the story, characters that appeared out of nowhere with a huge role to play (Lin) but no backstory and pacing problems (too slow). (Which is interesting, because one reviewer said it now moves too fast. I think that's a YA genre thing -- moving the plot along quickly was something I heard over and over again from agents.)
I had about half of TOG written before I really started outlining the second half. Originally, the story ended right after Diana's big scene with Lin outside the school (no spoilers). Then a literary agent told me the story needed another half. Of course, that was hard to hear (I thought I was done!), but it was awesome advice. It absolutely needed another half, because all the best parts of the story (in my opinion) are in the last third of the book. Let's all thank God for unanswered prayers.
This time, I'm all about the outline. Some writers can't funtion that way, but we are all special snowflakes, and I've always worked best from an outline. I was one of the only people I know who actually used them for papers in high school. I decided it would be easier if I had a software program to help me. Most writers I know use Srivener, but I got an email deal for StoryMill and from what I can tell, they are pretty similar. The only issue I have with StoryMill is that it's on my desktop Mac, so if I want to work on TBoPC when I'm not at home, I have to export the outline to Word and print it or work on it from a different PC. Lately I've been completely overwhelmed looking at StoryMill, so I've been picking a scene to work on and writing it out longhand. I know! I haven't written longhand in years, but this is what is keeping me from freaking out right now. I'm going with it.
The other cool thing about software is that you can keep a running list of characters and tag your scenes with characters so you don't make that mistake I originally made with Lin -- a secondary character who becomes important but has no backstory. It's not easy to go back and sprinkle backstory like the Novel Fairy. By tagging characters to scenes, I can easily tell if there's a character who appears too much for his/her role in the story or not enough. I can also grab entire scenes and move them pretty painlessly. I wish I'd had that with TOG, because I ended up starting in five different places before I got it right. That was some white-knuckled cut-and-paste, I tell you.
Here's a list of my characters so far for TBoPC. I'm not sure about all of them. I haven't written Uncle Mike into the story yet at all. He may get replaced with a closer peer to Parker. There's a role that character needs to play, but I haven't decided who he is yet, only that he is a he. Also, who the fuck is Angela? I've already forgotten. Oops. Christopher was originally Clyde, but my husband told me he just couldn't relate to a Clyde in that role. I actually loved the name Clyde for spoiler-y reasons, but Beloved is usually right about knee-jerk reader reactions, so I've learned to trust him even though I think he's totally wrong. Time will tell.
If you click on each of those, you could see a character sketch if I had actually done one, which I haven't. I usually only need those before I start writing, because once I get going, the character evolves so quickly in my head the descriptions just end up getting outdated too fast and are confusing. And embarrassing -- as IF I thought Helen would have brown hair, OMG! Yes, writers can even get embarrassed by themselves to themselves even if no one else is watching. Occupational hazard.
I recently read in one of my writing magazines that you should think of your shitty first draft as the clay, not the sculpture. When I was writing TOG, I thought I was working on the sculpture and tried to make the first draft all perfect. This time, I'm fully aware I'm puking out clay and that this draft sucks as a piece of writing and exists mostly to figure out the plot. Much less stressful. I'm about 16k words in, and I expect I'll top out at about 75k before I start revising. TOG is just under 69k, for reference, and I've been given the guideline of 50k-90k for young adult. The scenes I'm writing are all half-finished. I just try to get the mood for the scene right and if any dialogue comes to me out of the clear blue or because I'm eavesdropping in a food court, I get it down right away before I forget it. That's why those scenes in StoryMill are so nice. That method totally does not work in Word.
TOG focused on what it feels like to have an eating disorder and how to come back from one. TBoPC isn't an issues novel -- it will be a story about power, who has it and why.