Writing Wednesday: Round Robin, Round Three

My writing focus has been a bit scattered for the last couple of weeks, and this week it took a new turn.  It was my turn again to write a chapter of my next collaborative novel, Pesto, Pirouettes and Potions.  I’m trading chapters with three other writers, and this was my third chapter but Chapter Ten of the novel.  Considering we outlined a total eighteen chapters, we are well on our way through the story!

In this chapter, our heroines got closer but then had a huge fight.  Fun stuff to write!  I actually struggled a bit this time around, trying to figure out how to interpret our notes and whether they were lining up with some earlier sections.  A couple notes for different chapters actually were in conflict – for instance, Lola’s roommate Mario was supposed to flirt with Charlie in Chapter Six, but then it’s revealed in Chapter Twelve that he’s a member of Charlie’s coven, so what’s he doing flirting with her like he doesn’t know she’s a lesbian?

I ended up contacting my fellow writers and we held a video chat brainstorming meeting Monday night to figure some things out before we went further.  Very helpful, although we mostly observed that it’s all holding together surprisingly well so far!  We also decided Mario isn’t in the coven and kept the flirting 😉

I finished writing up my chapter today, along with adding a bit to the previous chapter about Charlie’s ballet production.  I researched modern ballet for Chapter Two, so even though I didn’t write Chapter Nine, I had the most expertise to add a bit about the production.  Charlie is dancing to the Rolling Stones, and it’s not at all what Lola expected!

For now, here’s a brief excerpt, from right after Charlie and Lola’s first kiss.

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“So.”  Say something, crack a joke.  “Is Mario going to ask me my intentions?”

Lola bristled, and it was so her that Charlie loved it.  “Mario doesn’t have any say in who I date.”

“I was just kidding,” Charlie said, even though she figured Lola probably knew that.

“Yeah.  Of course.”  Then Lola’s gaze, defiant for a moment, dropped awkwardly as she kicked one heel back against the door.  “Anyway,” she mumbled, “Mario likes you.  I mean, likes you for me.  I mean…”

“Do you want to, I don’t know, grab some drinks?” Charlie suggested.  Ugh, so cliché—but she didn’t know what else to suggest, she just knew she didn’t want this, whatever this was, to end.

Writing Wednesday + Shiny Hardback Arrival

I’ll share my usual writing update, but first I wanted to share some very fun author news.  Guardian of the Opera: Nocturne will be published in hardback, and the first copy of the hardback arrived at my house yesterday.  You’ll be able to buy it in June, but you can see it in the video below!

That arrival was a nice boost to a very strange week…I hope you all are staying well and safe in the coronavirus strangeness!  I expect to be home a lot in the coming weeks, and of course I thought about how to use this time for more writing.  I thought at first I might try another week of writing a short story a day, as I did in February 2019.  I tried it for two days and couldn’t get inspired for anything, so maybe not right now after all.  Maybe in a week or two – we’ll see.  For now, I’m turning my focus to another Phantom side-project.  After the trilogy is out, I want to release a companion book of shorter pieces, and I’ve been meaning to make time to work on the scattered draft bits I have for that.

So for the next few days at least I plan to work on a shortish story (it may yet expand to a novellette) telling the story in my trilogy from Christine’s point of view.  I wrote it several years ago, partially just so I could nail down in my mind how she’s viewing events.  I’ve done something unusual with Christine’s character, so I hope readers of the trilogy will be interested to get her perspective.  But that means I need to edit the short story, and make sure it actually lines up with the books in their final form.

Here are the opening paragraphs; I can’t share much else without spoilers!

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My father was poor—terribly poor.  And it didn’t matter that he was a genius on the violin.  All anyone saw when they looked at him were the patches on his sleeves, and the ragged cuffs of his trousers.

Father had been a famous, respected violinist once, but he gave it all up when my mother died.  He took me on the road and we traveled about, sleeping in barns and earning mere centimes by standing on a corner, he with his violin, I singing.

Once when I was eight, a woman didn’t give us coins.  She gave me a red scarf instead, remarking on how sad and cold I looked.  No doubt she congratulated herself on her kindness.  I was already old enough to understand about pity, and about charity, and about dependence.  That scarf always felt heavy around my neck.  It was a yoke, weighing me down, reminding me that I was helpless, forced to live on the mercy of others, dependent on the kindness of strangers.  I only wore it on the coldest of days, when I couldn’t do without.

Except once.  Just once I wore my red scarf in early spring, one day when Father and I went to perform at the beach.

Writing Wednesday: Knitting Threads Together

I’ve been making good progress in the past week on my writing goals.  I mentioned the two short stories I’m writing to contribute to an upcoming anthology.  Happily, I’ve been able to finish both of them in the last few days.

One is about a woman venturing (magically) into The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux, and I needed to write a mid-section where she finally manages to meet the Phantom.  That started slow, then took off with a burst of inspiration to finish in a couple of days.  It was very satisfying too, because my character surprised me.  I always thought that when she finally met Leroux’s Phantom she would be afraid of him; instead, she ended up being angry!  I thoroughly enjoyed that.

My second story involves a boy venturing into Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie, and I also had a mid-section missing here, trying to add in a kind of sub-story of an adventure in Neverland.  But it just wasn’t working and wasn’t working and I finally realized I was better off cutting the whole thing and just sticking to the main arc of the story.  So when I finally accepted that, all I had to do was tweak a few bits to knit either end of it together without the story in between.  Not what I planned, but much simpler!

Right now I’m doing some light editing on both stories, and I’m not sure exactly what I’ll do next.  I might write a couple more short stories (with a different premise!) and then turn back to revision in April, this time for The Princess Beyond the Thorns.

Here’s a bit I added into the Phantom short story, to work with my new title: “Ghosts on the Page.”

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So what was my next step going to be?  And just how long did I think I had?

I wandered through the Opera’s halls as I considered that troubling question.  It was so easy to get lost in the world of the book, but I had to remember this wasn’t my life.  This was just a story, and all these people I was meeting, Christine, Henri, the ballet girls, were only characters.  Ghosts, in a way, but even less real than that; they’d never actually lived.  I had to keep that in mind, and remember my real life was much more important.

Writing Wednesday: Final Edits

The writing projects I’ve been talking about recently have all been continuing along nicely, although things are about to shift to other projects shortly.  I’ve been doing finalish revisions of Guardian III, and am within a few pages of getting to the end of this pass.  My goal was to finish by the end of the month, so I may end up a few days ahead.

Even more excitingly, I ordered the print proof of Guardian I, and that arrived yesterday.  It’s always very cool to see what the book looks like as an actual book for the first time.  I spent all that time adjusting tabs and formatting dropcaps and so on, and seeing the proof is the pay-off.

The actual purpose of the proof is to review and see if everything is looking good as-printed.  It’s close to final.  I need to tweak some small things, and one bigger thing – the gutter isn’t quite right, so the lines of print are falling into the center binding a bit.  It’s readable, it’s not that bad, but I plan to tweak the formatting to give it a better margin.  I love how the cover looks though, and I’m really excited to start sharing that.  My cover reveal is scheduled for about a month from now, so stay tuned for that!

After I finish up the last bit of Guardian III and make formatting edits to Guardian I, I’ll be turning to a totally different focus…sort of.  I plan to spend March doing some new writing, as I have two short stories to finish for an anthology I’m going to be published in later in the year.  The anthology is about people entering into books, and one of my stories involves a ballerina entering Leroux’s Phantom…so it’s not an entirely new focus!  But it is pretty different, and I’m looking forward to doing some new writing soon.

Writing Wednesday: Riffing Off of Awesome People

I took a pause in my revision work this week to take a turn on my other ongoing project – I’ve mentioned before that I’m writing a collaborative novel with three other authors, Pesto, Pirouettes and Potions.  We’re writing it round-robin style, each writing a chapter then passing it on to the next person, and my turn came around again this week.

I had a lot of fun reading through the five chapters we had so far, and then writing up Chapter Six.  I got into a nice flow of conversation between the characters, getting to know their dynamics a little more.  I had the chance to play with Charlie and Lola, our two heroines, and their friends Nathan, who dances in the ballet with Charlie, and Mario, Lola’s roommate.  Mario is a flirt who thinks Charlie is cute, Nathan likes to tease straight guys who assume he’s gay (he isn’t), Charlie is totally freaking out over her crush on Lola, and Lola is trying to convince herself not to crush on Charlie–so it’s awkward all around and so much fun to write.

This was the first chapter I wrote picking up after other people wrote theirs – I wrote Chapter Two previously, but since it was introducing Charlie (while Chapter One introduced Lola) it was pretty independent.  I really enjoyed being able to riff from things other people had written–like continuing Charlie’s tic of saying “oh goddess,” or building from a previous-chapter moment when Charlie introduced her dog.  I probably wouldn’t have thought of either thing, so I loved springing off of the ideas to continue building.  Here’s an excerpt that shows both those ideas continuing to grow!

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Was this whole business, stalking the Pilates classes, showing up at brunch, going too far?  Was Charlie building way too much on one charged exercise class, and one not-quite-a-date?

But it had been such a good sort of date.  It had been a long time since she’d felt a connection like that.  And Sammy had liked Lola—who had understood his name.  Charlie only introduced him as Samwise when she wanted to see if someone would catch the reference, pick up the semi-secret code she was sending out.  And Lola hadn’t just asked about Lord of the Rings, she had asked Sammy if he was a Hobbit.  So adorable.

Oh goddess, she had it bad.

Writing Wednesday: Carrying On

A short update today, because there isn’t too much to report on the writing front.  I’m continuing my main focus on revising Guardian III, with a goal to finish this pass by the end of the month.  So far I’m on track, despite being out of town last week.

It’s nice to polish up the story, and I’m also looking forward to finishing and doing some new writing in March.  Newish writing, at least – my plan is to complete two short stories for an upcoming anthology I’m contributing to.  After a couple months of revision, I’m finding myself with an itch to create something new – writing and revising are really two different things, especially revising this late in the process.  I miss inventing…which may be why watching the BBC Pride and Prejudice

over the weekend sent my brain spiraling off on a sequel idea focused on Charlotte Collins (née Lucas) and possibly involving Mary Bennet and Anne de Bourgh.

Interesting?  Crazy?  I don’t know!  Definite symptom of lots of time spent revising, and maybe a project for a future date.  But for now I’m trying to stay focused on the revision–I have a trilogy to finish, after all. 🙂

Writing Wednesday: Tab and Center and DropCap and…

My writing projects lately have me deep in the midst of all three installments of my Guardian of the Opera trilogy.  I’m doing finalish revisions of Book III, I’m reading Book II out loud for absolutely-final revisions, and I’m formatting Book I for publication.

Book I is, of course, the farthest one along.  This is a slightly mixed stage of the process.  On the one hand, it’s exciting to be this close to the final product.  On the other hand, the actual work can be very tedious!  There’s some initial creativity that’s fun in deciding how to lay out the book–where to place the page numbers, how to format the beginning of each chapter.  But there’s also a lot of going through and repeating the same formatting steps again and again!  Mainly it’s the formatting at the beginning of each chapter: adding a section break, formatting the chapter header, putting the space above “Chapter X,” removing the tab in the first paragraph, adding a drop cap…in this case, all those steps, 36 times!

But I do like seeing how it looks.  And I’m very much looking forward to ordering proof copies.  That’s when all of this pays off!

For now, here’s a sneak peek at what that work at the beginning of each chapter ends up looking like…