Time Management, With A Little Humility Thrown In

The next time I complain about how busy life is from Thanksgiving to New Year’s, just whisper in my ear:  Tax Day to Memorial Day.

My kids get out of school just before Memorial Day (I know!  Crazy, right?) so these six weeks are full of those end-of-year events that you have to deal with:  concerts, book fair (I LOVE book fair!), farewells, appreciations, moving-up ceremonies…  Not to mention the usual spring sports and activities.  And spring always seems to bring visitors and guests from back east who don’t want to come during the snowy season.  And of course, spring means barbeques on my deck with its views of the mountains and the plains, because I do love being a host, although I don’t love the cleaning that goes into entertaining.

Anyway, this is all a long way around to saying, it is incredibly frustrating to have a plan for your writing and no time to execute it.

As opposed to the usual, which is having all the time in the world and no particular plan at all.

You see, I have received rejections from nearly all of the queries I sent out in February, and rather than decide that they are all fools who fail to see the brilliance of my work, I considered what they might be reacting to.  I decided to rework my query in an effort to capture more of my main character’s voice, but I also decided to take another look at my first ten pages, which, as anyone who has thrown a query out there knows, are critically important.  Most agents, if they ask for any sample, ask for the first five or first ten pages.  So they have to be great.  Almost perfect, really.

I thought they were.

But I took off my Hyper-Sensitive Writer hat and reconsidered. 

I have been reading blogs written by lots of agents, so I know what they say they are looking for.  I don’t like a lot of it — it’s my personal thing — I object to a checklist that would reject something like, say, “A Wrinkle In Time” because of a cliched first sentence  — but I took a look at my first ten pages in light of what agents are saying about what they want, and, by extension, what publishers want. 

So I looked at a paragraph on the first page.  I, Author, thought, “This is character explication and development.  It provides background information as well as establishing her voice.”  I, reading as Agent With 800 Queries A Month, thought “This is Information Dump.”

Huh.  How ’bout that.

It got me thinking:  Where’s my shrew?  Despite the first person voice, this first couple of pages isn’t much like her at all.  It’s formal and distant, very narrator-y.  It’s not for a while that I settled into Kathryn’s anger, her sharpness, her wit.  Not until, really, I get to Shakespeare’s own words much later in the chapter.

Hmmmm.

What to do?

It took a while to figure this one out, and meanwhile, I’m running to school and baseball games and Girl Scout meetings…

Kathryn, of course, was the one who solved the problem for me.

I sat down the other day with a pen and a notebook and I shut myself up.  I gave her the pen and I let her speak.

She’s got a mouth on her, let me tell you.

Once I let Kathryn say what she needed to say, it all made sense.  I copied over my manuscript and started chopping it up, moving things around, and adding pieces of what she wrote to the beginning (and even a few lines later in the book).   

But there’s only so much I can do in one sitting, one hour or so at a time.  We had friends here last weekend, and another set of friends coming next weekend.  And the basement has to be cleaned up because we need two rooms, two beds, for them. 

Did I mention my son has baseball at 5 pm today AND at 9 am tomorrow?  I’ll have to wash the uniform tonight while we’re at a friend’s house celebrating their child’s birthday.

Any one getting me a Time Turner for Mother’s Day?

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