Thursday, August 29, 2013

Romeo and Juliet

First, a message from my 17-year-old self: Oh, my God! Oh, my God! I was in the same room as Orlando Bloom! Breathing the same air! Oh, my God! I saw him act in person! Ahhhh!

Back to being 27 years old: As you can probably guess from the giant photo of a poster above, Orlando Bloom, he of elves and pirates, he of the endless (literally) volume(s) of fanfiction I produced from ages 17 to 19, is making his Broadway debut in Romeo and Juliet as, well, Romeo. 

Friday, August 23, 2013


What's the last juicy bit of gossip you heard?

Somewhere along the way, gossip has become a theme in my WIP. I knew it was there and I knew it was an important theme because of the story--new neighbor moves into small English village. New neighbor has two kids of obviously different racial origins. New neighbor lives in 1800. Commence gossiping!

But then the gossip element took on its own life--one of the best things about novel writing--and it is a huge part of the climax and denouement, even if I think the ending is still a bit rushed.

I have these three minor characters in my book--Mrs. Henson, the innkeeper's wife; Mrs. Thomas, the wife of a naval officer whom we never meet; and Mrs. Brown, His Lordship's gamekeeper's wife. They all play a part in their friendship: Mrs. Brown, as the wife of one of the local lord's employees, brings gossip from the estate to her friends in the village. Mrs. Thomas clucks disapprovingly about everyone. Mrs. Henson hears everything in the inn. They were kind of inspired by the ladies in Cranford, who gossip and spread news around town.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Translating From the Rei, pgs. 200-432 (the current end)

You know you wanted part two of the Gloriously Awkward Sentences. I have finally finished this pass of editing (I'm not too happy with the last five chapters in that everything feels rushed, so I'll be bucking those up).

Part One is here.

In the meantime, take a look at more weird sentences, likely typed at 4 am.

Past her, on the blanket, the four little girls stood.
A prime example of Queens grammar if ever there was one. Notice the backwards construction.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Careful, or You'll End Up in My Novel


This post stems from a conversation with two friends, Beta and Shar-Shar.

I was, as usual, updating them on the progress of Le Novel. They're not very good blog readers, my friends. Anyway, I was telling Beta about some of the new elements in the book since she read the finished second draft. She seemed satisfied that I was following her advice lol.

I told them how the antagonist, Mrs. Hamilton, is sort of based on several managers at work who get on my nerves. But actually, that's not entirely true. She is really based--in fact, her name comes from--this awful science teacher I had in junior high who didn't really teach, had arbitrary rules, and then made me stand in front of the class for three days presenting a science fair experiment, by the end of which I was in tears.

It's okay; I'm over it. (She says gleefully).

Monday, August 12, 2013

Translating from the Rei, pgs.1 to 200

I am editing my manuscript right now. Instead of endless rewrites, I'm reading through it in its entirety and making corrections--spelling, grammar, word choice, deleting repetitive phrases, deleting unnecessary adverbs, passive voice into active voice. Little nitpicky line editing things.

I often feel that my grammar is on shaky ground. As I've ranted about before, my high school English classes were almost exclusively about dissecting literature, always more about the New York State Regents Tedious Torture Exam. One of these days, I'll tell you about the Semester of Infidelity in 11th grade.

We learned verbs, nouns, adjectives, adverbs, punctuation, predicates, and subject in elementary school, but a great deal of English grammar has come to me through osmosis--hearing other people speak, reading others' words.

Which is fine for everyday. Except that it reminds me of a time in 8th grade: I was doing homework. My dad read over my mini-essay and said, "That sentence is backwards."


"No, honey, this is the way it should go. That clause first, then a comma, then that clause. They don't teach you grammar in English?"


My teachers and I shared a bizarre New York City dialect, which tends to shorten words and construct sentences backwards. My father grew up in Queens, too, but he's good at linguistics.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Matilda the Musical and Kids' Books

I went to see Matilda the Musical at the Shubert Theatre last night. It was about as magical as I thought it would be. Beta and I went in excited to see it and came out loving the show, quoting lyrics and lines to each other ("Maggots." "Hey boy!" "I'm a girl!" "My mummy says I'm a miracle." "Ian McEwan/ Ugh, I feel like spewin'"). So much of the story is about storytelling, reading and the power of imagination that it's pretty perfect for a writer in editing mode to see. Because stories are magic. 

Plus, since Beta and I both enjoy the anarchic songs of Tim Minchin, the composer, who is also a songwriter/piano player/comedian, we appreciated the wordplay in the lyrics.

Seriously--wonderful performances. Four girls alternate the role of Matilda. Our Matilda was Bailey Ryon. 

Matilda is based on Roald Dahl's book, which happens to be Beta's favorite childhood book. I don't specifically remember reading Matilda as a child, but I remember James and the Giant Peach and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. 

I spent most of my childhood stuck in books--mostly Babysitters' Club and American Girl. I remember Bridge to Terabithia a little bit (so sad!) and Tuck Everlasting (where I declared during a group discussion that I would not want to be permanently 12 years old. Seriously. Why would I want to be pubescent for the rest of my life?)

Other childrens' book I remember, some of them very vaguely:

Number the Stars 
The Great Gilly Hopkins (first time I learned about Galadriel the Elf Queen)
Circle of Gold
How My Parents Learned To Eat (the first time I read a book where the protagonist was half Asian and half white, like me.)
A Family Apart

-What were your childhood reads? Did you read Matilda as a kid?

Saturday, August 3, 2013

On Editing

I've gotten through editing chapter one. It's mostly trimming sentences or replacing boring verbs with better ones or clarifying or realizing that I've used the same word twice in same sentence. Truth is, I wonder if it's too front-loaded---if there's actually too much going in the first ten pages or so that it might confuse readers.

I'll worry about that on the next pass, I think.

Instead of printing out the manuscript or immediately handing it over to a beta reader, I uploaded the document onto my Kindle. It's not quite as well-formated as a real e-book would be, but I find that the Kindle is great for reading--no urge to fiddle with my story every ten minutes.

So what I did and what I'm hoping to continue doing as I go through this editing stage is:

  • Reading through the book to see how it reads. Does it make sense? Is there too much of this, too little of that? 
  • Am I filtering? (i.e., do I have Miles looking at things when it's in his POV and therefore, obvious that he has to be looking at it or else why am I even mentioning it?)
  • Is there enough description? Can I picture the setting? (Since, you know, it's been awhile since I've read the first few chapters)
  • Can it be cut? Is it redundant? 
When I find something I want to change, I use the highlight or notes function to make note of it, then go back later and make the change in the document on my laptop. Otherwise, I stare at the words and analyze whether they make sense and do what they need to do. 

Honestly, writing involves as much staring into space as it does actual writing. 

Stuff I'm finding as I read through and make notes on my Kindle, then input said notes into Word: 

  • Too. Many. Adverbs. I feel like adverbs somehow fit well into early 19th century language, but in modern writing, too much of it is a no-no. 
  • Good God, why all the m-dashes?
  • Um, one word instead of three is better. 
  • Why do all my sentences use the verb "to be?" Lots of "was" and "were" going on. 

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Tolkien and the Great War

I seem to be on a mini WWI kick lately, after finishing Birdsong. I don't remember covering the Somme in any great detail in school-- I guess because the Americans hadn't entered the war yet? Anyway, after seeing part of it depicted on Downton Abbey, reading about it in Birdsong and seeing it portrayed in the miniseries, I started flicking through the Kindle store to see if I could find anything about the Somme. 

One of the things about finishing a draft is that you get to read other people's books again and not just for research.