There has been a lot of bad news in my life lately (not for me personally, but for people I love and am close to -- serious health problems, impending operations, the sudden death of my uncle), so it was lovely to open my e-mail the other day and find out some really fantastic news for a change:

Ultraviolet has been nominated for the 2012 Andre Norton Award!

This is the YA division of the Nebula Awards, which are legendary in the SF&F genre, so even being considered for the award is a pretty big deal, let alone actually making the shortlist. I am thrilled and honoured.

Here's the full list of nominees as posted on the official SFWA site:
I have actually not yet read any of these, but I've heard amazing things about all of them. I think I'm going to make it my business to read all the other nominated titles before the awards ceremony.

***

For my fellow writers in the quasi-local area, I have more good news -- I'm going to be presenting a workshop on revision in Waterloo, ON at the end of March:

Poster with details under cut... )

So if you need a pep talk before launching into your own revisions or would appreciate some general tips on how to go about it, this may be the seminar for you! Or just come and say hi and hang out with me and some other writers. Whatever. :)

***

And finally, a vid that has nothing to do with writing but I've been posting it everywhere since I discovered it last night, just because it is so INCREDIBLY CLEVER. And also broke my heart a little.

From the author's introduction at her journal:

In the beginning, there was Sherlock Holmes. And Holmes brought forth the brilliant doctor House, embodied by the lovely Hugh Laurie. Who prior to that in Fortysomething played a slightly less brilliant doctor, Paul Slippery, who begat three sons, the eldest of whom was played by the equally-lovely-if-somewhat-peculiarly-named Benedict Cumberbatch. Who of course grew up to play Sherlock. ... And then my head exploded.

All I can say is, watch. Enjoy. Marvel at the parallels. Surely some of them had to be intentional?!

There has been a lot of bad news in my life lately (not for me personally, but for people I love and am close to -- serious health problems, impending operations, the sudden death of my uncle), so it was lovely to open my e-mail the other day and find out some really fantastic news for a change:

Ultraviolet has been nominated for the 2012 Andre Norton Award!

This is the YA division of the Nebula Awards, which are legendary in the SF&F genre, so even being considered for the award is a pretty big deal, let alone actually making the shortlist. I am thrilled and honoured.

Here's the full list of nominees as posted on the official SFWA site:
I have actually not yet read any of the other books on the list, but I've heard amazing things about all of them. I think I'm going to make it my business to read all the other nominated titles before the awards ceremony.

***

For my fellow writers in the quasi-local area, I have more good news -- I'm going to be presenting a workshop on revision in Waterloo, ON at the end of March: 

Poster with details under cut... )

So if you need a pep talk before launching into your own revisions or would appreciate some general tips on how to go about it, this may be the seminar for you! Or just come and say hi and hang out with me and some other writers. Whatever. :)

***

And finally, a vid that has nothing to do with writing but I've been posting it everywhere since I discovered it last night, just because it is so INCREDIBLY CLEVER. And also broke my heart a little.

From the author's introduction at her journal: 

In the beginning, there was Sherlock Holmes. And Holmes brought forth the brilliant doctor House, embodied by the lovely Hugh Laurie. Who prior to that in Fortysomething played a slightly less brilliant doctor, Paul Slippery, who begat three sons, the eldest of whom was played by the equally-lovely-if-somewhat-peculiarly-named Benedict Cumberbatch. Who of course grew up to play Sherlock. ... And then my head exploded.

All I can say is, watch. Enjoy. Marvel at the parallels. Surely some of them had to be intentional?!

The Powers that Be have spoken, and bestowed upon me my final book title, as well as the title for the whole series (which may have the potential to grow into more than two books, if all goes well):

The series will be called Faery Rebels (trust me, it actually does fit), and the title for Book One is Knife, the Hunter. Though I plan to go on calling it Knife out of sheer habit, not to mention brevity.

As of last week I've finished my second round of revisions, which was just as intense in some ways as the first round, but only took half as much time. Either I'm getting better at this, or the book is getting better -- I hope both. But it may interest some of you to know that between those two revisions the book has ended up being shorter by 30,000 words -- bringing it down from the original 104K to a much more standard 74K.

And you know what? I don't actually miss any of those 30,000 words. I always thought that to cut that much I would have to take out at least some things that really mattered to the characters and the story, but now that I look at it again, all I see is a much tighter, cleaner, quicker-moving story that still has all the things I really care about... and some exciting new things I never imagined until these two revisions, but which make a lot more sense than the stuff I had in there before.

I know some of my fellow writers are going to want to beat me to death with their keyboards for this, but it's the truth: I love revision.

Which is good, because I'm still not sure that my editor won't want me to do some more of it before all's done...
For the first time in I can't even remember how long, today's Sluggy Freelance strip made me laugh out loud. Possibly this is because I have spent way too much time Geocaching with [livejournal.com profile] avarill, but...

Nah, I think it really is funny.

* * *

I finished revising Chapter 13 of Knife today! I'm nearly 2/3rds done! And I've knocked off 10,000 words from the ms. so far, none of which were doing any good whatsoever (people eat sandwiches, they take baths, they hang about waiting for other things to happen, they have long conversations about paintings the reader can't see and artists the reader probably doesn't know, etc.).

Meanwhile, I've streamlined the plot -- oh, there are still red herrings and unanswered questions and (I hope) plenty of other things to keep the reader guessing, but there aren't so many tangents. I've also eliminated a number of unnecessary characters (does the Queen really need three attendants, when there are only forty-seven faeries in the Oak? I think not) and given a minor antagonist (Mallow, for those of you who read the last draft) a more substantial and ongoing role.

Still, by far the biggest changes will be coming in this last section, where I finally say goodbye to an element that people have been questioning from the beginning and replace it with a much more action-oriented scene that I'm quite excited about. Until now the last few chapters of the book have been very talky, with all the big revelations coming out in a single conversation; in this draft I plan to spread that information out a bit, and give Knife a more dynamic role in bringing it to light.

I have great hopes that my editor will be pleased with this revision, and I think it will definitely help the book's saleability to foreign markets -- but we'll see. In any case I'm still on track to turn in the revised draft by the end of February, which makes it very likely indeed that Knife will hit the shelves in the summer of 2009, rather than 2010 as originally scheduled. Yay!
I've just done a bit of end-of-year defriending, for the sake of better keeping up with my f-list. If I removed you, it was for one or two or several of the following reasons:
  1. We have never talked to each other directly or met in any personal capacity, virtual or otherwise;
  2. You hadn't friended me back anyway, so I figured you wouldn't mind;
  3. You haven't posted to your LJ or commented on any of my posts in aeons, so I'm guessing you've moved on;
  4. We no longer seem to share any common interests or fandoms;
  5. Your posts are mostly about a fandom I like, but no longer have time for;
  6. You are persistently involved in some kind of fandom drama and much as I may like you otherwise, I'd rather not hear any more of that;
  7. You are a community or professional journal in which I regrettably lack the time to participate as a good member ought.
In any case, no ill will is intended toward any of the parties involved; I tip my hat to you and wish you well. And in the same spirit, I declare amnesty to anyone who has been thinking about defriending me but holding off for fear I would be offended. Fly, my friend! Be free! Perhaps our paths will cross again some day.

Now I must run and do some more revision on Knife. Middle of Chapter Eight, some 35,000 words in! Rewriting huge chunks of text! And still enjoying it, which is the most surprising and gratifying thing of all.
Tags:
What I have learned in the last couple of days:

Obscurity is not a virtue.

What I mean by that is that it's perfectly okay (and sometimes even good) to keep the reader guessing about (some of) your characters' motives, their allegiances, their true feelings and so on -- but it is not a good idea to leave them guessing about the plot.

As I'm revising the opening chapters of Knife, I'm realizing that in an effort to avoid the Dreaded Info-Dump, I actually ended up failing to make clear a bunch of things that the reader really needs to know. I'm realizing that it's okay to state those things outright instead of trying to come at them obliquely, and that in making them plain I'm actually helping the reader to engage with the story and understand what's really at stake.

My revision of Chapter One has gone all right, I think. But man, as I'm working my way through the printed manuscript with a highlighter in one hand (to mark the really important bits of information that I have to be sure to include no matter what) and a red pen in the other (to strike out unnecessary scenes and correct other faults), I'm realizing that the book still needs a lot of work to be both tight and coherent.

*grits teeth and picks up pen again*
Again, no more spreadsheet work, but another 1,505 words. Lots of cobbling together of old and new, but I am so pleased with the new idea I've worked in along the way. It makes ever so much more sense, and gives more opportunity for foreshadowing, parallelism, and character development as well. I also corrected several errors my editor had jotted in the margins, so... good progress.

My editor is calling me tomorrow at 4 p.m. to discuss the revision process. I'm really looking forward to it!
I did not get any more scenes entered into my spreadsheet today.

I did, however, write 1,572 words. At least 750 of which were brand-new, and I think a much more dynamic beginning for the book than I've ever had before.

I still feel achy and exhausted and generally yucky, but -- huzzah!
Today I spent a while re-reading, highlighting, and scribbling notes all over my editorial letter. Then I sat down, opened up Excel, and started a spreadsheet with the following columns: Read more... )

I'm still brainstorming as I go, as well. While making my notes on the opening chapters, I realized that I had introduced an unnecessary plot complication solely for the purpose of creating one dramatic scene, so I've decided to strike that particular element* and save myself the trouble.

Also, I hope nobody was too attached to the Prologue (which is still up on my website), because it is SO GONE. Much as I enjoyed the repartee between Wink and Thorn, there isn't a thing in there that we don't or can't find out later in the story.

--
* It's the spell-fatigue thing, for those of you who know what I'm talking about.
(Points to anybody who not only recognizes the quote in the subject line, but can supply the correct response.)

In spite of feeling physically horrible and emotionally stuffed-up, I have to say that looking over my editor's suggested revisions for Knife today has been a great kick in the mental pants. Over the last couple of hours I've experienced a cascade of new ideas, and I'm really excited now about the prospect of making them work. Some of them mean chopping out and/or replacing bits of the story which have been in place for literally fifteen years -- but the new ideas I've got are so much better, tighter, more economical and even more interesting* that it makes me wonder why on earth I didn't think of them before.

This is the best part of writing, for me -- not the initial getting-stuff-on-paper stage, but the discovery of how much better the story can be with a good revision. And since I have now revised Knife at least ten times, it's a good thing I can still find a spark of excitement in the thought of cutting old scenes and writing new ones.

Now ask me if I still feel that way in six weeks.

***

On a related note, you know how I was whining about not getting my revisions earlier? When I was lamenting to my mother about the courier mix-up, she said, "There must be a reason behind all this," and as much as the cliche made me want to grind my teeth at the time, I've come to believe she was right.

See, I had an insanely busy weekend, and if the revision package had come on Thursday or Friday as planned, it would have been just one more source of agonizing distraction. I had no time to work on the book, and there were a whole lot of other responsibilities and commitments I needed to deal with first.

Even this morning would have been too early. I was too full of worries about fixing the airline ticket problems and coping with my kids to concentrate. My agent called mid-morning, and when I told him about my courier woes he said, "Well, at least you have Catherine's revision letter to look at, even if you don't have her comments on the manuscript. ... Oh, you don't have it? Well then, I'll forward you a copy straight away." Which he did, but! -- this has never happened before, not with my agent, but for some Mysterious Reason that e-mail spent a few hours wandering around the sub-ether instead of showing up in my mailbox. So, again -- no revisions.

By the time I'd fed the kids lunch and put the youngest down for his nap, I was completely frazzled. And at that point I realized I just had to let go of the whole thing. I ended up praying, "Lord, You send the revision package when You think I'm ready, because the truth is I feel like crud right now and I know I'm not really prepared, so maybe it's a good thing after all that it's not here." And instead of peering out the window and checking my e-mail every two minutes, I sat my two oldest down with a Tintin cartoon and then spent the next hour and a half resting, reading, and praying. After which I felt much calmer...

...and just a few minutes after that, the package arrived.

Really, you'd almost think it was planned.

*cough*

--
* In fact, at least one of them is making me grin with the anticipation of writing it. Just imagine the faery equivalent of Sydney Bristow stealing a Rambaldi artifact while her partner provides some kind of outrageous distraction, and you'll get the idea.

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