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Yeah I said it! I would rather shovel horse shit than to sit down and edit Wilson Mooney. Is it my excuse to avoid the thing I want the most? I doubt it. I think it simply might be that I lack the confidence to submit my work to an agent without first paying a copy editor fifteen hundred bones to tell me my past tense and present tense are totally wrong. Or they think the love scenes are too graphic between Wilson and Max for a young adult novel.
So I dig my heels in and pull back on the reins of the horse that gallops to the race only to be told to trot to the starting line. I want to push ahead like the punk ass kid that saves a place in line for their friend, only to say, "I gave him cuts and then he gave me cuts back." But my faithful stallion transforms to a frightened steed that gets spooked by the snake of doubt who has stuck its forked tongue out at me as it slithers its way across my finish line.
Fortunately, I have people in the stands. People that keep cheering even if I win lose or draw. People that keep telling me I have something worth racing for. They are the ones that stand with me, ankle deep in horse shit, shoveling it right along side of me, because they want to see me back up on that horse and winning that race.
It's for them I put down the shovel and pick up the pen.
So as I came home from San Jose Friday night after seeing one of my most favorite bands, Ok Go, for the second time in a month (Almost to the day!).I thought about the music that I listened to as I wrote my novels.How they inspired me, kept me going and left me with the ability to pull from deep in the crazy corners of my mind when I just wanted to stop.
I don’t know how most people write, but when I write I have to shut out all distractions.How do I do that, you ask?I push the iPod earphones into the front of my laptop and plug my ears with music from Mom’s Favorites (My playlist in iTunes).Which leads to the next logical question- Who’s on my playlist? Before I answer the question I’ve posed to my four subscribers, (BTW, thank you for subscribing, yay!) I have to say, it is the bands who I’ve listened to only while I’ve written and in no way reflects all of my musical taste.OK, so here is the list of bands in no particular order.
Drum Roll Please...
Tons of Ok Go and Death Cab for Cuties, along with Matt Nathanson, Santana, Carolina Liar, Metro Station, Stateless, Sheryl Crowe, Etta James, Spoon, Feist, Vampire Weekend, Train, Sixpence None the Richer, Sea Wolf, Larkin Gayl, Vivs, The Cure, Depeche Mode, Junior Boys, Fiona Apple, Lifehouse, Luce, John Butler Trio, The Bittersweets, Ben Harper, Jason Mraz, Rob Pattinson and yes even Katy Perry.
OK, so as you sit there disappointed that I didn’t list the songs from these artists.How about if I list the top ten songs that I love and listened to as I wrote scenes between Wilson and Max.
WOW, that wasn’t easy.I had to start with my top 20 and whittle it down to 10.Such an ordeal.
Surprisingly, when I checked on the top 10 songs that had the most play I was shocked to see a couple that didn’t appear in my 10 favorites.When Jewel’s song, You Were Meant for Me came in as the fourth most listened to song I was totally thrown back.I really like that song; it is about the only song I listen to off the album, Pieces.Her emotional rawness (is that even a word?) really pulled heavy on my psyche.The second most listened to song was Shoot the Moon by OkGo.I didn’t realize I listened to that song that much.But it shouldn’t be surprising because I love Ok Go.I love the harmonies, the techno sound it has and the basic rhythm of the song before it breaks into distorted guitar licks. When The Violet Hour by Sea Wolf glared at me in the number six spot I couldn’t believe I didn’t put them into my top 10 with the upbeat tempo and cheery lyrics of this song.
So when you listen to the top 10 that I chose, (Just click on the song it will take you to iTunes) you will see the complex rhythm, emotional lyrics and sometimes just plain, raw, sexy music that motivated me into writing some really good scenes between two of my most favorite characters.
Now go and post your top 5 songs in the comments, I DARE YOU!
I have asked myself so many times, what was Lauren's favorite color? How was Wilson's relationship with her grandparents? What year did Alejandro leave Spain? Questions that I might have answered in the books I have written, but did not take the time to write down in a character's bio page. Yeah, that's what I call them, character bio pages. I have to admit, I haven't done them for all the characters in each of my books, but I did one for Lauren and one for Wilson.
Now the question is when do I throw my hand in the air and say T.M.I.? What is too much information? The color of her socks as she leaves her house for the last time or what she ate for breakfast seems to me, a little over the top. However; if that information is essential in the plot development or moving the intentions of the character forward, than I would have written them down. But in my stories they don't.
I would be lying if I said it wasn't one of the best parts of creating a character. Think about it. I could make this person into anything I want. Good or bad, atheist or Christian, carnivore or vegetarian, anything, it is my choice. Yeah, it feels pretty powerful, like I'm holding the existence of people in my hands, but it also creates a sense of responsibility too. It's up to me to convince and convey that their world truly does exists and that she or he belongs in it.
So when one of my BFFs (who so generously read everything I have written) asked me why my character did what she did, I couldn't answer with, "I don't know."
Never was there a day where I could have gotten away with- just because. What made Wilson, at seventeen years old, have the maturity to handle not only the physical responsibility of a relationship with a man five years older than her, but the ability to rationalize theories in her mind of different events and scenarios that shaped her life. In other words, what events occurred in her life that made her who she was for those three days in Aspen? How old was she when her mother left? What month did her grandpa die? What was her favorite color, music, food, and where did she live before boarding school? The story of her life, I should know it like the back of my hand (Hey, where did that freckle come from?).
I guess the answer to my question of how much back story is enough, must be-- until I feel I know the character like I know myself. Every life shaping event, every painful mistake, every tear jerking moment, and every joyous triumph they have ever had in their life. It's that which brings them to where they live in the tens of thousands of words that I write as I create their world.
When I decided to write I had no idea it would turn into an 89K word document everyone would call a novel. I also didn't know that three quarters of the way through it I would start another novel that would bode 91K words. But I think the biggest thing nobody expected was that I would write two novels that were on two totally different ends of the genre spectrum. Prototype, my first novel is a general/sci-fi woman's fiction, while Wilson Mooney is a mature young adult chic-lit fiction. Okay, well to be honest, that is where I would think to put them or the area of the bookstore I would look for them. I am not by any means a publisher's placement advisor and to be honest, I'm so wide-eyed and green; they could tell me to place them in children's literature and I probably would agree. Not really, but do you get my point? These are where I would think the books belonged, in the hard to fit and understand world of genres.
Prototype is about Lauren Matthews, a female CIA agent who has been manipulated into becoming a host for a new weapon implanted into her head by people she thought she could trust. After falling for Alejandro Fernandez, the CEO of Spartacus Industries, she discovers the choices she made were more than she bargained for. Betrayal, deceit and murder ribbons her world and she realizes she has just signed her career, love and life, away for a singular existence in a reality she has no way of changing.
While Wilson Mooney is about a seventeen year old senior in a private boarding school who has fallen in love with her government teacher, Max Goldstein. When she finds out he feels the same way, sparks fly, intentions are tested, all while a narcissistic roommate almost ruins the whole thing. They have to deal with the trials and tribulations of young forbidden love, Wilson's age and Max's uncompromising self control.
Both books take place in short periods of time. Prototype is set over nine days while Wilson Mooney takes place in a weekend. Both books are written in first person and are told by females. Both experience falling in love and the physical reactions they each choose to experience. The perspective of each book lends to the reader the ability to put themselves into the forefront of the protagonist's world. I wanted to pluck the reader from their chair and drop them straight into the soul, mind and body of the main character.
Even if there are parallel lines of experiences between Lauren and Wilson, they live in two entirely different worlds. That is where we will find them waiting to be picked up by readers who want to live in a fantasy about the dangers of falling for the wrong men or the feelings that are invoked when they remember what it was like to experience their first love all over again.
Soon there will come a day when I will write on this blank screen the words, published and available. Until then, I chip away at what I think I'm supposed to do to sculpt the title, Published Author after my name.
So as I sit at my dining room table, kids fed, dishes done and everyone's happy, I wonder what's next. Not in my family's life, I know what's going to happen tonight, tomorrow and the next day. I am wondering what's going to happen with my character's life, all of my characters' lives. Will they sit and be patient while I push to find time to help them? Will they wait while I rework their dialogues and inner thoughts? Do they have the time to hang around while I find someone to edit their experiences? I hope so.
When I sat down to write Prototype over a year ago and a half ago, I had no idea where it was going to go. Characters came from crevices of my mind that I didn't know existed. I never had a life altering dream or an outline that plotted their lives. I just planted my bum in the chair at the communal computer and started hammering it out. Lauren and Roger were born to me just as Marshall and Alejandro were. They filled ideas that needed voices. They were the motivators that carried the story in my head- forward.
As I came close to finishing the first part of Lauren's story, my mind birthed a new character, one that had no place saved for her in Prototype. As a matter of fact, She belonged in a story that was completely opposite of Lauren's. I don't know if I created this new character because it was hard to see my first novel come to an end. Or I needed to create something completely different than Prototype because it was such an intense story. But about a month before I finished Prototype I started writing Wilson Mooney and that is when she started telling me her story.
Now roughly six months later I have two very strong women in my head battling to have their time with me. One that's being neglected and one that seems to be taking up all my attention. One that is wrapped in deceit, sex, murder and betrayal, while the other is drenched in forbidden first love, secrets and a narcissistic roommate.
The hardest thing is, who do I choose? Who of the two do I ask to wait even longer? I guess it boils down to who is the one that will dazzle the right people. Which one of these strong protagonists will woo the representation for me? I guess I'll just have to see...