Novel Week 2

This past week, I didn’t move through as many steps, but I started learning about how the publishing industry works, and continued developing characters:

  • Filled in more details for the 2 main characters.
  • Sketched 6 minor characters.
  • Read some book agent blogs, and some E-Zine articles in the advancedfictionwriting.com website archive.
  • Revised my 1-paragraph summary and my 1-page summary.
  • Started thinking about and listing a few subplots.

Writing about the characters is harder for me than writing about plot details. It’s a challenge to create characters that are realistic, but not cliches. This week, I’m going to focus on adding even more detail to the 2 main characters, and start working on the 4-page synopsis and an overview of the story timeline. I expect that writing a longer synopsis will show me gaps in my plotlines and where I need more character development or even additional characters.

Oh, I also set up a spreadsheet so I can track the time I spend on all these activities. AND, a couple of days ago I was throwing around an idea for another novel, and D helped me come up with a good one! But back to the task at hand – I’m going to give myself until the end of next summer to finish a manuscript I’m really happy with.

Novel Week 1

So it’s been about 6 days since I decided to get serious about Writing a Novel. Here’s the rundown of what I accomplished:

  • Started sketching the 2 main characters, Kacey and Josh. For each, I listed full names, ages, birthdates (researched astrological signs to choose the birthdates), brief description of physical appearance and personal style, family members with names and sibling ages, about 20 descriptive adjectives, 4 defining values, a few characteristics, a short list of things s/he struggles with, vices, indulgences, secret wish, fears, regrets, things about self s/he doesn’t want to face, and things about self s/he doesn’t want others to know.
  • Read about the Snowflake Method and decided to use it as the framework for developing the novel.
  • Completed SFM step 1: Write a 1-sentence summary of the novel. I looked at the NYT bestseller list for examples, and I ended up with 3 versions of my 1-sentence summary.
  • Wrote the opening scene, just to see how it felt. I’m sure I won’t end up using it, but I had to try it.
  • Completed SFM step 2: From step 1, create a full paragraph describing major events and the ending. I used the 3 Act Structure to do this, and ended up with a summary paragraph about 200 words long.
  • Completed SFM step 3: Revise 1-sentence summary.
  • Completed SFM step 4: Expand each sentence in the summary paragraph into a full paragraph. Not sure I followed the 1:1 sentence–>paragraph expanded summary, but I ended up with a 850 word expanded summary.
  • Progress on SFM step 5: Write a 1-page description of each major character, and a 1/2-page description of each important minor character. I already had quite a bit for the 2 main characters, but I still need to do some narrative that tells the story from each of their perspectives – I haven’t gotten to the point where I’m enough in either of their heads to feel like I can do this. Wrote about 1/2 page on Eric, Josh’s brother. Need to do the same for Jesse, Kacey’s boyfriend. Also need to think about who some of the other minor characters will be. Josh’s manager, probably. Who else…?
  • A little reading about conflict, characters and conflict, and writing dialogue.

I have to admit, I’m rather thrilled with how the steps in the SFM have helped me progress from nothing to a few pages of summary and character descriptions. It takes effort, certainly, but it’s coming. And I feel like the details of the story are really taking  on more shape and definition with each step – I realize now that without the SFM I’d be flailing around, trying to write a story whose details weren’t yet well enough articulated. The SFM is forcing me to really know what the story is, what the points of conflict are, and who the characters are. There’s still a mountain of details to work out, but the important thing is that I’m making progress.

I think one big challenge will be putting enough drama into the characters lives to make it a compelling story. In my own life, I’ll go to great lengths to avoid drama, conflict, and confrontation. But a novel without those things would be a boring pile of words, indeed.

I’ve bounced a few ideas around with D, and he’s helped me work out some issues. He’s made some good points about plot details, specifically when it comes to writing about the music industry. One thing we talked about was using really current cultural references, like Wii, Twitter, etc. I decided these things are a natural and important part of my story, so I’m not going to worry about the ramifications of including these types of details – if they end up being problematic, I assume an editor would clue me in.

A practical challenge is having long enough stretches of uninterrupted time to get into the zone and really get something accomplished. Looking back over the week, I suppose I did as much as a person with a full-time day job could do, but I think it was on my mind so much that all the time I wasn’t able to work on it, I was wishing I could.

The idea of writing a novel has been sloshing around in my mind, well, probably since birth. But more recently – maybe in the past year – it seems to have bubbled to the forefront of my consciousness. I’d toyed with the idea of writing something that would be really off the wall for me – like a story with a main character who’s just murdered someone. But my ideas never took any shape, and I didn’t act on any of them.

Not long ago, I had a dream that planted a seed for a story. I came up with two main characters and started thinking about the plot. After a few days of making notes and sketches on my own, I did some poking around on the internet, looking for some sort of framework that would help me structure my work. Because I’m nothing if not structured! Seriously, I’m sure some writers balk at the thought of using any sort of formula or format for writing. But in almost any type of project, I work best when I’ve done the groundwork and created a well-structured plan. I like to have it sketched out so I know the general shape and scope of the thing. Once I’m confident I know what is expected, then it’s just a matter of filling in the details. (Ha, “just” the details – like coming up with 150,000 words!) Not that things can’t or won’t change along the way, but I need a well-articulated starting point.

So I found the Snowflake Method, and it seemed perfect for my style and needs. Although I’m just barely getting started, I’m finding that the steps are coming pretty easily – the biggest challenge is finding chunks of uninterruped time to work. I realize now that my original ideas for this novel were much too vague for me to actually start writing it yet. The Snowflake Method is forcing me to be clear and specific about what’s going to happen in this novel.

And even in spite of following a structured plan, this is surprisingly FUN. I’ve always enjoyed writing, sure, but for some reason I expected that writing a novel would feel like running a marathon in uphill in the pouring rain. I’m realizing that in order to write this story with any authenticity, I’m going to have to pull from many, many life experiences. And probably do a lot of research. But it doesn’t feel like work at all.

I’ve had this song stuck in my head since I learned of MJ’s untimely death. A song I always loved, without really consciously thinking of it as a “Michael Jackson song.”

The boy delivers – what a gorgeous tribute from John Mayer.

I’m not sure I’ll admit this to too many people, but I just saw Twilight… and I really liked it. Never read the book – not sure if that would have made a difference.

I definitely won’t tell anyone that D maybe didn’t hate it, either.


For months, I was planning to have a yard sale on Saturday. I chose this date specifically because my mother said she would be in town (she’s retired and has a very unreliable schedule as far as flitting in and out of town). She was going to sell several items and help work the sale. She said she would be here this weekend – for sure – because my sister is having a party on Friday and she would be here for that.

Then this morning, she left a nonchalant voicemail saying she decided to go out of town for the weekend. No real apology. No acknowledgment that she was backing out on a commitment or inconveniencing me in any way.

Later, she called again. I picked up.

Her: Did you get my message? I had a change of plans and I won’t be in town this weekend.

Me: Yeah, I did. Did you forget that the whole reason I’m doing the yard sale this weekend is because you said you were going to be here? You’d be in town for the party, and-

Her (cutting me off, getting defensive): Well, I’m sorry, but plans change! Geez, stop trying to lay such a guilt trip!

Me: D is leaving a day late because of this yard sale, and I could have been at the cabin this weekend instead. You said you’d be here because Sister’s party is that weekend.  I planned this around your schedule! I could have done the sale earlier, if I’d known you weren’t going to be here, and D could have left on time.

Her (sarcastically): I thought you had to wait until you were done with your class because you were so stressed about school.

Me: Well, the semester’s been over for six weeks, so I certainly could have done it before this weekend. And it wasn’t a matter of stress. It was a matter of D having time to help me. [My husband was taking a full-time load of classes and working full time last semester.]

Her (very defensive, starting to raise her voice): Plans change! Haven’t you ever had plans change? Geez, can’t you be a little flexible?!

Me: I planned the sale this weekend because this was the weekend you would be in town. D rearranged his travel plans, and I’m missing out on a weekend away because of it. Plus, now I’ll have to find someone else to help us. I really don’t think my being flexible or not is the issue.

Her: Can’t you ask one of your friends to help? What about D’s sister in law?

Me: I don’t know. A lot of people are out of town. Friend and Other Friend will be gone. Dad and Stepmom will be gone. Aunt and Uncle are gone. Sister is leaving that morning. I don’t know, I guess I’ll find someone.

Her: I’m very, very sorry that I won’t be here. I live with someone who makes spur-of-the-moment decisions. Plans just change and you just have to be flexible.

Me: What are you going to do with the stuff you wanted to sell?

Her: I don’t know, let it sit, I guess. I wouldn’t dream of leaving it with you, because god forbid I cause you more work.

Me: You don’t have that many things – I really don’t think it would be any more work. You can drop it off if you want to. Just leave it on the front porch.

Her: Oh, no, I’m not going to do that. It would just cause more work for you. I don’t want to cause aaany more work for you.

Me: I didn’t say that! You’re assuming that, and I’m saying it’s no more work for me, and you can leave it here if you want to. Really, it’s not a big deal!

Her: Nope. No. I just don’t even want to do that to you.


Me (sighing): Well… okay.

Click – she’s hung up on me.

The lack of any sincere apology or admittance of wrongdoing is nothing new. I’ve never heard my mother sincerely apologize for anything, large or small, ever. Defensiveness is her M.O., and I’m sure that had a lot to do with her behavior during this conversation.

But I just couldn’t believe how downright mean she was. I couldn’t believe how she immediately started attacking me – as though I had absolutely no right to be upset – after I reminded her I had planned the yard sale to accommodate her. It was like she was trying to convince me that I was reacting all wrong. The whole conversation just seemed unreal. I was mad about her flaking on the sale, but what makes me so much more angry and bewildered is how mean she to me was about the whole thing.

After she hung up on me, I immediately called my sister and left her a voice mail about how Mom had flaked, and how she was incredibly rude and unapologetic about it. And to see if she might be able to leave town an hour or two later and help us set up the sale. Later when Sister called me back, she told me how Mom flaked on the party, too, and offered to send Annoying Stepbrother and Stepbrother’s  Annoying Wife in her place. My sister was like, no thanks – I want to enjoy the evening.

I gave Sister the play-by-play of the phone conversation, and told her I was absolutely dumbfounded by how mean, rude, and defensive Mom was toward me. Sister said she wasn’t surprised – she’s had more pettiness from Mom than I have because they’re closer and do a lot more together. But I really was shocked. I know to at least be ready for a certain level of immaturity and a lot of defensiveness from Mom in these types of situations, but this was so far beyond how I thought she could behave. And as Sister and I lamented, there’s no point in thinking Mom might own up to any of it, because she never does.

I would have been more sympathetic if she were leaving town for something urgent, or that couldn’t be avoided. But it wasn’t that at all. She and Stepdad are going to their cabin, where they go 10 or 12 times or more each summer – nothing special, nothing out of the ordinary, nothing that couldn’t be rearranged or postponed.

The things she said and the way she behaved are going to stick with me for a long, long time.

Hack Sniffle Moan

A wicked sore throat took me completely by surprise, and now I just wish someone would smack me over the head with a frying pan and not revive me until it’s all over. And getting sick just in time for the weekend? So wrong. At least it’s cloudy and rainy to match my mood.

DIY Dog Training

We were planning to do an obedience course with Oscar, but now I’m thinking we’ll just continue training him on our own for the time being. We’ve taught him sit, down, shake, roll over, and up (stand up on hind legs), and he’s a quick study and seems to enjoy learning. Or maybe he just enjoys the treats he gets when we’re training. In any case, we’re now down to one income, and $150 for obedience school doesn’t seem the wisest use of money at the moment.

We’ll start working on “stay” and “come” next. I bet there are plenty of YouTube videos on dog training. Maybe even some DVDs at the library. “Free” is definitely the keyword of the moment.

That reminds me – recently we aquired an animal hair trimmer (for free from a friend who repairs and rebuilds trimmers, as luck would have it), so we’re going to try grooming Oscar ourselves. Should be very interesting, seeing as how neither of us has any dog-trimming experience. If we can manage do it, that’s another 35 bucks a month saved.

Twitter is like a bubble gum ice cream milk shake. It sounds weird. Sorta stupid. Why would anyone do that?

And then you try it, and it’s oddly delicious. You want more. Mmmmmm….

LA Trip in Review

Spent a fabulous 5 days in the city of sun, stars, and fake boobs.

Where We Stayed:
The Grafton on Sunset.
Deserves its 3 1/2 stars – no more, no less. Great location, lovely pool area, very cool rooms and lobby. The free drop-off service was nice. We had 2 different rooms, and they both were extremely noisy. Even D had to use earplugs. The place is cool, but rough around the edges. When we first arrived, the elevator reeked of fish. D called it the fishevator for the rest of our stay.

What We Did:

  • Shopped for snacks at Trader Joe’s. Sure wish we had TJ’s here!!!
  • Dredge at the Troubadour. Great show, awesome club. We started out in the upper lounge, and had it to ourselves for about a half hour. We should have stayed up there instead of moving down to the floor – the view was much better from above.
  • Warner Bros studio tour. Very cool, but nothing was being filmed, so it was pretty dead. We got our picture taken on the set of Central Perk from Friends. Saw a bunch of sound stages and fake neighborhoods and buildings, including the old set for outside shots on ER. Planned on taking the bus to Burbank, but waited too late and had to take a $25 cab ride. Caught the bus back to West Hollywood, though.
  • Santa Monica Pier. Rode the express line to the beach on Saturday and hung out for a couple of hours. Nice day, but not hot.
  • Guitar Center (D). He spent a couple of hours in the gigantic Hollywood Guitar Center.
  • Shopping in Sunset Plaza (me). Went to H&M (jacket, sunglasses, headband, necklace), Armani Exchange (skinny jeans, sweater), and BCBG (browsed).
  • Walked up into the Hollywood Hills. We put on our “walker’s shoes” and hoofed it up the hill across Sunset from our hotel. Awesome homes with amazing views. Totally felt like I was trespassing!

Where We Ate:

  • Sushi on Sunset
  • Yogo Delight
  • In-N-Out. Had to take the bus to get there!
  • Pinche’s Tacos. YUM.
  • Mediterranean place in or near the Sunset Plaza. Nearly empty, but awesome food and very affordable. We both had Turkish coffee so we could stay awake to go out later.
  • Pizza Rustica. Terrible. D calls it Pizza Craptastica.
  • Urth Caffe. We’ve been wanting to go here since we got into Entourage (they’re always brunching at Urth Caffe). Awesome food, very hip. Saw famous-looking people, but no one we recognized.
  • Compadres. D smelled the Mexican food across from Guitar Center, so we had to go here.
  • Mel’s Drive-In. Just a block away from our hotel. Loved it!

Where We Drank:

  • Ketchup Bar. So cool, great atmosphere.
  • Saddle Ranch. Too much like bars here at home. D kinda liked it, but I hated it. Really loud, crowded, and full of college-student-type crowd. Don’t need to fly to LA for that – plenty of it here right downtown.  D calls it “Saddle Bags.”
  • Skybar. Jaw-droppingly awesome. Drinks are very expensive, but the place kicked the ass of every club I’ve ever been in, maybe except Rain in LV. Very cool, mellow vibe, and great music. Also very dark – makes for a lot of privacy, and makes you feel like you can really relax. We got there early, about 9:45, and grabbed the bed near the restrooms. Hard to make out the faces, but we thought we saw Jason Mraz.

Next time:

  • Check out the clubs on Hollywood Blvd.
  • Go back to Skybar.
  • Do a star homes tour. We really just want to gawk at the homes – we don’t so much care if they belong to famous people.