Thursday, June 19, 2008

I'm Brain-Dead

Is anyone else?

I am having SUCH a hard time motivating to do anything these days. Why? What is going on? Anyone else feeling this way? Is it an epidemic or just me?

It's not that I don't have a lot to do - I do. Right now, I'm reviewing my FINAL proof pages of TOML, which means that this is my very, very last chance to catch any typos and axe those horrid sentences that I can't believe I ever wrote, much less committed to paper, and as I've mentioned, I'm also trying to jump start book#3. I'm also working on a few celeb interviews and doing a bit of publicity for the TOML release, which, egad, is less than four months out, but...I's all I can do to log off of Facebook or PerezHilton or the JCrew sale and actually get something done. I'm even putting off writing my blog posts to the very last minute! (No offense.)

I'd like to blame the warm weather and summer blahs, but...I dunno. I'm already planning on taking August off to spend time with my kids, so I need to get my ass in gear asap. It's not like I'm missing deadlines, but there really is this overall cloud of dread and procrastination when it comes to my work, any work, and it's such a strange place to be. Like, I want to snap out of it...but that will mean I actually have to snap out of it to do my work! Ha! Which isn't exactly enticing. :)

Anyone else out there suffering from the summer blahs? What do you do to shake 'em off?

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Abandon Ship!

So, as I mentioned last week, I'm trying to pin down the plot of book #3, and as I also mentioned, I thought I'd revisit the book that I wrote in between The Department and Time of My Life, a book that was actually a spin-off of the book I wrote before The Department, the very book that didn't sell.

Phew. Still with me? Good.

So I took a spin through that manuscript, thinking I'd still be interested in the characters and the themes that the book touched upon...and guess what? I wasn't. Well, maybe not entirely, but not enough to devote the next three months of my life living and breathing these characters and their lives. (Three months is about how long it takes me to write my first draft.) So, sadly, I'm putting these two incarnations to bed. For good. (Well, that's not entirely true: there are tiny snippets of these characters that I'm carrying over to book #3, but mostly, 98% of the book is being abandoned.)

It's a tough question that I know many of us have wrestled with - when to hang on to a book for dear life and when to jump ship, and I don't know if I have all the answers. I can only say that for me, the writing process has to be both inspired and seamless. I have to sit down at my computer and spit out scene after scene; I have to be so infatuated with these characters and their lives and their nuance that they literally wake me up at night. I've learned that sludging through a manuscript just for the sake of sludging through means that I'll end up with a weaker end product...and so, when I reread these scenes that I now felt so disconnected to, I knew that I just couldn't - in every sense of that word - let these characters back into my life. I didn't want to. And so, that's that. These manuscripts will stay tucked in my hard drive, reminders of who I was a few years ago when the themes of these books compelled me to write about them, but that's all they'll be for now. And I feel okay with that.

Once I released myself from rehashing those old characters, I woke up with a fresh (and exciting to me) idea. Seriously, I just woke up a few mornings ago and thought, "Well, AHA! This is the idea." And now, I'm working out the details in my head and hope to start writing in the next few weeks. Not looking back at the abandoned ms because I know that this one is truly the one that is much more reflective of who I am now and the writer I've become.

So readers, how do you decide to abandon a ms? Have you ever returned to one to perform CPR on it, in hopes of reviving it?

Monday, June 16, 2008

Getting a Second Opinion

Question of the day: Before you were published, did you work with a book doctor or independent editor? If yes, what was your experience like? If no, why not? For my first manuscript, I worked with a well-established editor and learned a lot. For my second manuscript, I didn't, but I'm wondering if I should let another set of eyes take a look, other than my agent. So what is your experience or opinion on book doctors/editors?

This is a tough question because you'll find people in the industry who roll their eyes at the thought of book doctors, but I'm not one of them. To answer the first part of your question: I didn't use one for my ms that went unsold, (the one I wrote before The Department), but I did use one (partially) for The Department. To clarify: I happen to have a friend (who reads this blog - hey, Trish!) who is a professional book editor. After getting burned with my initial ms, in that it got repped by an agent but didn't sell, I was skittish - as it sounds like you are - about going through the whole rigmarole again and ending up with the same result, when, conceivably, someone could have helped me with some obvious problems and smoothed them over.

So, anyway, my friend offered to take a look at the ms, but because this is her JOB, I insisted on paying her, albeit at her suggested very, very generous discount. We started with the first half of the ms, and when it became clear that the ms was already in good shape, I didn't waste her time (or, I guess, my money...not that it was a all, I'm just speaking casually and don't have a better word) on the second half.

But, even though she didn't have any major changes, she did smooth over a few odd transitions, suggest a few tweaks/changes here and there, and such, but more generally, she gave me peace of mind that I wasn't nuts - that, in fact, this book was strong enough to sell. In an industry where it's easy to constantly second-guess yourself (or have a false sense of your skills/talent), this was invaluable to me.

So where does this lead you? I think it depends on if you have the disposable income to spend, first of all. Book editors and doctors don't come cheap...and if they do, you better do an AMPLE background check on them to figure out why they're so cheap. Maybe they're just trying to build their credentials, which is totally understandable, but you do want to be sure that, conversely, you have someone who knows what he or she is doing. Of course, this can also be considered a career investment, so, in that sense, it's of course money well-spent...but it's still an unknown quantity: will you ultimately sell your book...and if not, is it really money well-spent?
You also, of course, need to consider not only your potential editor's credentials but whether he or she meshes with your style of writing. I'm sure that there are some top notch editors out there who would be as horrified by my writing as I was by their editing. Like all things in life, chemistry is key.

So, in sum, if you find someone who you trust and you can afford it, I don't see what you have to lose. But, of course, it's critical to remember that these editors and doctors don't a) rewrite the book for you - they might suggest weak spots, but it's up to you to fix them and b) they certainly don't guarantee a sale. That is all up to you (and a dandy agent).

Readers - weigh in on the pros and cons of book doctors. Anyone else ever used one?