18 May 2007

Done! For the moment.

Got all the cuts I'd made in the Symphonians novel incorporated in the computer. I busted 327 pages down to 243. 84 pages altogether. Took a whole week to do it. Gaah.

My work's not done yet. Next I need to figure out what's at the heart of this novel. And then I need to rewrite everything toward that. If something doesn't contribute to that overall motion, out it comes.

After that, I have several new scenes to write, too, which will jack up the word count again. Can't win.

I'm actually a little disappointed that I didn't end up cutting more words. I was hoping to cut 100. I'm just 15 pages shy of that goal. I could surely find 15 more pages to cut!

17 May 2007

Symphonians update!

I went through the returned MS and cut every word I could. I did a document-wide search for then and just, which are two words I overuse. I cut most adverbs and even some adverbial phrases. And if there were only a few lines on a page at a chapter's end, I'd go back and find other stuff to cut until I lost that extra page.

Also cut the two chapters that deal with the State Band plot, since that seems more like a tangent. I'll replace those later with more of an exploration of Kay's relationship with Mom and Wyatt "Gatlin Gun" McStudmeister.

I'm on page 200 in the MS and have cut 50 pages thus far.

So little cuts all through the MS will get you a long way.

Both agents that requested the MS said no. I've sent out eight more queries. Nothing yet. Sometimes you catch a fish, sometimes you don't.

I'd like someone to take me on who can help me with this novel-within-a-novel conceit. That's the thing that's kicking my tail right now.

Back to work, since I have to incorporate 127 more pages of corrections. I'm getting there! But man, I wish I could go faster.

09 May 2007

Symphonians update!

Ever since Monday morning, I've been marking up the pages of the Symphonians MS. I'm up to p. 196; I have 131 pages to go. So far I'm mainly looking for stuff to cut, though I've also marked up stuff that needs fixed and have made notes about random things I've noticed about the MS that I need to work on later.

I've noticed that the main story and the story-within-a-story finally start working together at page 199. So I have that working for me. It's just all the previous pages that will give me fits.

I also did a document-wide change: I switched Noel's name to Wyatt. Changed it back. Changed it again.

I did that because I keep mispronouncing Noel. That would look bad on the book tour. Also my husband tells me that Noel is not manly enough. He wanted the MC to be named Wyatt "Gatlin Gun" McStudmeister. I told him that one out of three ain't bad.

I need to set some goals for myself:

1) Extensive character work for Wyatt (Noel) and Justine (Kay's mom)

2) This includes writing several scenes in which Kay discovers Noel's, I mean Wyatt's, blog. Now I have to peruse blogs written by high-school guys without looking like some weirdo stalker.

3) Reading those books that have been recommended to me to apply them to my story-within-a-story.

4) Put more funnies in the first part. In rereading it the other night, I found out that I have a lot more funny stuff in the second part. Gotta fix.

5) What the hell is the focus of this story? There is none! Maybe finding a focus would help me shrink it down a bit!

Okay, that's plenty.

07 May 2007

Egad! More revision!

First, a weather report: KNIM reports we've had six inches of rain since it started on Saturday.

When I opened the mailbox yesterday (we just got back from Omaha), I said, "Aww!" There was a big ol' envelope in there the exact same width as my Symphonians novel.

But, a very nice letter on top from the boss:

Dear Ms. Cordell:

First off, you have done a wonderful job revising THE SYMPHONIANS. It is an incredibly honest and moving protrayal of adolescence. You have turned Kathy into a believable and relatable heroine. It is easy to see in her facets of millions of teenage girls -- her hesitant speech, her constant internal monologue of self-correction, her daydreams of having the right words to correct any problem. Her painful awkwardness is clear in the narration -- bringing the reader to not only sympathize with Kathy's frustration with her inability to get her words out but also to root and hope for her happiness.

(Hooray! I'm getting there.)

Nevertheless, I still have reservations about the manuscript. It still feels overlong, and I can't help but think it might be nice if it were about 75 to 100 pages shorter.

(She's right about that ... I got nervous printing it because I was using so much paper!)

The Symphonians trouble me. I liked and cared for them very much as characters, but I wish there was a clearer transition between Kathy's life and their story. A disconnect of some sort exists -- I felt like I was reading two separate stories that were thrown together simply because they both deal with domestic abuse. Granted, there are points in Kathy's narrative where she wishes she could be like one of her characters -- but she wishes to possess aspects of their personalities in situations that don't have anything to do with domestic abuse until the end of the manuscript. As a reader, I desperately wanted some tangible connection between the two stories that I could hold on to -- I wanted to know the events that triggered the manuscript to transition from Kathy's narrative to the Symphonians and back.

(I've had other people say the same thing, too. I thought I had finally dovetailed the small novel into the larger one -- apparently I haven't yet.)

There are problematic areas of connection in the manuscript ... and several nagging questions left unanswered (Do Noel and Kathy get together? Does Kathy finish the Symphonians's story because she no longer needs to fill the emotional space in her life with their presence now that she has friends like Yvonne?). Important characters like Noel and Kathy's mother are not developed enough. I wanted to see some sort of positive interaction between Kathy and her mother (I couldn't see any sort of connection between them -- highly unrealistic for a mother-daughter pair who appear to be trying to figure one another out) and Kathy's father is relatively non-existent (odd for a man who is said to have spent an entire morning helping out his parents next door repair a shower rod).

(She's right about that too.)

Then the letter details some smaller issues that need work -- a couple of places in the MS that seemed author-engineered, not organic; a soap-opera-like moment; some odd quirks in Kay's character that seem too odd. And then the final sentence, "If you do choose to revise again, please know that I'd be happy to reconsider this."

So I have that going for me.

Anyway, here's where you-all can help. Does anybody know of any books that feature a novel-within-a-novel? I need some models. Also, if you know of any writing books that address the narrative-within-a-narrative issue, point them out to me. I could really use some guidance on that front.

I'll go over the Symphonians today and tomorrow (it is a big tome) to try and see the story through fresh eyes. Then back to work on the raccoon story until the end of the month, just to keep my momentum up on it. I'm not tired of working on it yet, so I'm reluctant to put it aside. And that'll give my unconscious mind time to mull over the Symphonians and work up some ideas.

So ... not good news, but not bad news either. I can deal, though I'll moan and groan under my breath when I start figuring out how much work is really in store for me!