The writing life, our characters, ourselves..

I’m still at the stage, and perhaps I will always be at the stage, when I don’t know for sure if a book will appeal to other people. I submitted Third Strike’s the Charm and crossed my fingers. The first email I received from my editor was, “It’s not like your first book. It seems like your heart wasn’t in it or you were rushed.”

I can laugh about this now, but this statement was like an arrow shot into my worst fear. One of the bits of advice to fiction writers is to figure out what is your character’s worst fear? Then do that to them. Now I was having a turn-the-camera-around experience. As a writer you are trying to figure out characters, and then suddenly you are looking at yourself.

In fact I find this happening a lot. At first when I heard the advice to understand why a character acts and feels the way he does, I thought, “Oh brother, people really aren’t like that.” I thought assigning reasons to why characters are the way they are was artificial and forced. People think, therefore we can think our way out of being affected by our experiences. Of course, that reasoning is an interesting reflection of me…but that’s a topic for another day. I started paying attention and can see not only are my characters formed by experience, but so am I.

Actually I cried when I wrote the ending scenes, and I even teared up when I started writing the synopsis! I fell in love with the hero…finally. He gave me a lot of trouble. Jason Ward is a quiet type. He took a long time to open up to me. When I finally stopped trying to force him to a plot outline, he started to whisper his truth to me, and what a secret it was. I was very moved by this character.

In addition to putting my whole heart into this book, I took some risks and wrote very differently. (I will explain my process evolution in a different post.) I was excited about my new process. When I read that statement from the editor, because I tend to doubt myself when it comes to fiction, I assumed that she had pronounced that my new process was a total failure.

I sent out an SOS to my critique partners and then sent a message to my editor explaining that while the book may be horrible, I did put my heart into it. I said if the book is really bad we need to kill it, because the most important thing is to put out a good book. Obviously, I never want to publish something bad.

My editor wrote back immediately and said, oh no, I haven’t read the whole book. I’m sure it’s publishable. It’s just the beginning. Don’t worry, a lot of authors make the mistake of thinking with a sequel that they have to rehash the whole beginning. Don’t do that. Make it stand alone. Go ahead and rewrite the beginning before I send it to the reviewers, if you want to.

Of course I wanted to! I took her advice and did that. Well, actually, I was flat out. Despite the relief of finding out her comment just pertained to the beginning, I was too close to the project. I retreated to bed with a bowl of Trader Joe’s Belgian chocolate while one of my beloved critique partners took my editor’s comments, the manuscript, and the previous version, and redid the beginning for me, using my words, but cutting and splicing. While she did that, I set the chocolate aside and had a mental health day taking photos with friends.

Golden Gate Bridge

Note to self: get some distance. Writing a novel leaves you vulnerable and over-sensitive.

Last Friday, I was wading through email, and there was a message from my editor. “I’m going to request we go to contract. I really enjoyed it.”

Needless to say, I am ecstatic. I guess you could say the writing life is one of these:

Santa Cruz Boarddwalk
Santa Cruz Boardwalk, wooden roller coaster

The beginning of the book was a bit mechanical, as I over-worked to show how the characters came to this point. This slowed down the pace because the scenes were about the past. The beginning has to grab the reader.

Note to self: when it comes to the beginning, CUT.

Beginnings are tough. They get rewritten a lot and can end up lacking voice.

Third Strike’s the Charm isn’t over the hump. The senior editor also has to like it, but I’m 95% sure she will. I think if the book can get through the first round, it will make it through the second.

So, like my characters, Third Strike’s the Charm and I have made it through our big black moment (BBM) and just might make it to our Happily Ever After (HEA).

Do you ever find yourself watching a movie, or reading or writing something and realize what is happening on the page or screen is also happening to you?

Golden Gate Bridge at sunset
Golden Gate Bridge at sunset
Monterey
Monterey

Blending passions for writing, photography, and animals

I wanted to be a writer since I was about eight years old. That’s when I started to keep a journal. One of the first things I wrote about in the journal was how I wanted to be an animal behaviorist. I was torn. Such a momentous decision for an eight-year-old!

Now, thanks to the Internet, we have blogging. Thanks to digital photography, we can take photos of animals and learn about them.

I love how sea lions bask in the sun. They keep their eyes closed a lot. I noticed this because I wanted a photo of this guy with his eyes open. My theory is that their eyes are meant for seeing under water where it’s relatively dark, so the bright sunlight is painful.

Sea lion

I notice they really like to hang out together, too. They seem sociable.

Sea lions

These pelicans were hunting as a pair, which also seemed sociable.

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This bird was resting by herself, though.

Sea bird

This sea lion was the only one I saw working today.

Sea lion

All of the above photos were taken outside in the wild. Inside the Monterey Bay Aquarium, a glorious place, they had these birds, which were injured. They can’t survive in the wild but have found a wonderful home.

Stilt bird

Piper

This exhibit shows animals who wait for food to come to them.

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I love how animals are masters at the art of allowing what they need to be provided.DSC05200

I was also pretty thrilled with the soft pastel colors of these ones, especially compared to the bold colors of the ones above.

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These were very difficult to photograph in low light because they are constantly moving, sort of the opposite of the stationary creatures above.

Shark

The jelly fish are the “wow” exhibit. Actually, there’s a lot of competition for that name, but this show was truly exceptional.

Jelly fish

Jelly fish

Jelly fish

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Another hard working, constantly moving, yet playful animal, the sea otters were nearly impossible to photography and equally impossible not to love.

Sea otter

Tomorrow I head to New Jersey to visit friends in a completely different environment. I hope to do as well as these animals at enjoying camaraderie and sunshine.

May your weekend be filled with warmth and friendship.

Nicci