I always loved music growing up (those years of piano lessons came in handy when I started skating, too) and married into a musical family. In high school, my boyfriend won me over with violin serenades – and scored some future-mother-in-law brownie points by playing for my mom while she cooked. I first met his extended (and talented) clan at a family picnic. When it was time to sing “Happy Birthday,” one of his aunts pitched everyone. They then belted out four verses in four part harmony but they'd had me from that first note. :-) His aunts' string quartet eventually played at our wedding.
Music is a mood changer for me and I sort my playlists by feeling: mellow, energetic, and so on. In skating, I love matching choreography to the piece's mood. In writing, there's no better way for me to dive back into the anticipation of that first kiss or the wrenching heartache of that first fight than music. When I was working on The Boy Next Door, I channeled Maddy's longing with Lady Antebellum's “Need You Now.” Connor Maynard's version of “Next to You” (see YouTube video below) is how Chris really feels about Kate. And tonight, Cassadee Pope belting out “Wasting All These Tears” was just what I needed to fuel the aftermath of an emotional break-up fight scene between Breelynn and Jonah. My husband gets his own brownie points after putting up with me playing it about a dozen times in a row, so I think it's time for a little mood music of our own...
A rare first draft look at an excerpt from my November work in progress. Spoiler alert - this may make you either want to get frozen yogurt or remember playing "what random food concoction can I mix from the fridge contents?" as a kid. :-)
As Jonah heads for the vanilla, Rayanne whispers to me. “Stay right here and don't move from behind the register. I'll bet you he tops that with gummy bears, Fruity Pebbles, sprinkles, and every sauce we have.”
“What?” I whisper back.
She grabs a wash rag and edges around me. “Stay.”
I do, and I watch Jonah top the smallest swirl of vanilla yogurt ever with mounds of gummy bears, meticulous scoops of Fruity Pebbles, and carefully distributed sprinkles. And chocolate sauce. And fudge sauce. And caramel and strawberry and whipped cream. I've never really watched what he was eating before, I've always just watched, well, him.
Jonah sets his monstrosity on the scale and looks at me. “Do you know the definition of perseverance, Miss Melas?"
“Hitch,” I say. “And that'll be $6.79.” He hands over the cash and I hand him a napkin. “Au revoir.”
“Until we meet again.” He smiles, then his face goes serious and he gives me a Terminator impression. “I'll be back.”
Rayanne keeps wiping her way through the tables all the way to the window. She looks outside while she wipes. “I was right, wasn't I?”
“Yes. How'd you know that?”
She grins at me. “You've really never noticed, have you?”
I think about the disgusting mess of gummy bears and Fruity Pebbles mixed with fudge and caramel I grimace. “Maybe it was better when I didn't notice. Does he always get that?”
“No, girl. Because he always gets whatever toppings are closest to you. Come here.”
I peek out the window. No one's on the street.
Rayanne grabs my hand and pulls me to the door.
“Rayanne, we're not supposed--”
“We'll just be a minute.” She drags me to the trash can a couple stores down. Jonah's mess of a concoction is on top. There's ants all over the can and inside are several other cups. Rayanne whistles. “That's like fifty bucks worth of yogurt. Just from this week.”
And as soon as I see it, I remember the very first time Jonah came to Fro-Yo with that other guy. That day, he didn't even buy a yogurt. Only his friend did. He doesn't even like the yogurt. The only reason he comes to Fro-Yo at all is because of me.
Um...yeah, that sums up today. Things I did instead of my NaNo project: finish my essays for school (which honestly did need to be done), celebrate finishing them by channeling my inner "Weird Al" and spoofing Meghan Trainor's "All About That Bass" to make it about NaNoWriMo and crock pots (yeah, I'm all kinds of cool), try new recipes from Pinterest (pumpkin spice oatmeal turns out to be delicious and nutritious but not especially productive), and be a gymnastics mom. Today's word count: 229. But I found this cool video. At least my twenty pages of essay didn't have to be in Greek!
Since I'm supposed to be writing my critical essays today and am procrastinating doing that, it's turning out to be a fabulous NaNo project day. I made my word count goal by lunch and gave myself a few minutes to check up on the Swoon Reads blog, where I found my editor, Holly West, had posted a very thought-provoking piece on the Bechdel test and YA lit. For those who don't know, the Bechdel test measures the presence of female characters. Simply put, does your novel 1) have two named female characters who 2) have a conversation about 3) something that isn't a guy?
Holly concludes: "Do good books that don’t pass exist? Of course, and books that are terrible will pass the Bechdel test with flying colors. But as an author one of the goals should be to create a story and characters that feel true. We, as women (and really, humans), exist in a world that is complicated and full of lots of interesting people, challenges and subjects. As important as love is – finding it, falling into and out of it – our ability to be functioning human beings does not depend entirely on it. It’s important to have other interests, to exist beyond just the quest to find it and books should reflect it when they can."
For romance writers, it can be easy to forget scenes where either gender talks about something besides the other gender since the focus of these stories IS love. With its tight focus on skating and Maddy and Gabe also being neighbors, The Boy Next Door falls into that category of novels I love that pass the Bechdel barely. The wonderful thing about writing a series, though, is that your characters can continue to grow. Now off to write a scene where two girls talk about the craft of fashion.
Major word count breakthrough today at the Barnes & Noble NaNo write-in, plus a lot of laughs, and I'm reminded once again how important it can be to break out of writing as a solitary profession every once in a while. Writing is hard. It's hard work getting any words down, let alone the right ones. It's hard to show your manuscript baby to others. It's hard getting rejection letters on something you slaved over. I might like revision but it's still hard.
Today I am grateful for the many people around me who encourage me: my family and my skating teammates, who remind me there's life away from my fictional worlds, my writing critique friends who both tell it to me straight and lend their shoulders when needed, and my fellow Swoon authors and the rest of the cool cats who are noveling away this November. For those needing a little pick-up, here's some great writing quotes from BuzzFeed. Life's a coaster some times. Put your hands up and scream but don't feel like you have to do it alone.
The NaNoWriMo site says uploading a cover for your novel increases your chances of winning by 60%, so today I took a little break for some Photoshop fun. I know, I've taken a lot of breaks already. I'm looking at the blog post of my fellow Swoon Reads author K.A. Cozzo and feeling capital-L Lazy because this is my day job. To be honest, though, I prefer to think of myself less as a writer and more as a reviser. Revision is the task I can sit down to do for hours. I think it's because by then I know my characters so well that it's like meeting old friends at a coffee shop. Drafting? Now that's like going to a party where you don't know anyone - it's just awkward, especially for those of us who prefer to communicate in written form. Note-passing over cocktails? Yeah, not cool. Anyway, here's my NaNo cover image. Here's hoping it inspires more words!
Falling back: a blessed gift to NaNo novelers, those who live in the appropriate time zones, anyway. With my internal clock not yet adjusted and my girls on a sleepover with Grammy, I got up early to write *cough* procrastinate *cough.* And really, there was a gorgeous sunset this morning. I got my cup of tea, a bowl of blueberry pecan oatmeal, a seat right in front of the heating vent, and wrote 300 words on a totally different writing project. And now instead of writing, I'm updating my blog. Yes it is writing, but I'm a frequent traveler on this road. See my previous post, "On Procrastination and Revision," and welcome to the highly populated world of the ADD writer.
Last night I had a great NaNo opening session followed by some long scrolls through Pinterest and Tumblr for writing inspiration. I'm writing a couple of characters who share a love of fifties vintage. I could take a pass on poodle skirts and most of the bathing suits but some of those dresses - sa-woon! And from a 1955 catalog, these shoes!
I found lots of vintage dress patterns and now I'm missing my sewing machine (packed up while I renovate to help prevent my ADD problem) and thinking about one of my fellow Swoon authors, Temple West. Temple's book features a heroine who loves sewing - and vampires. She had me with the sewing but, hey, I'm camp Edward, so that's cool, too. If you haven't seen Velvet yet, check it out on Temple's web site.
And now, back to writing. Um, after lunch anyway...
Reflections on Writing
I love few things better than a bottomless to-read list of books and firmly believe the world has room for all the stories we want to share. This blog is intended to provide resources and spark discussion about improving writing. Opinions are my own and not intended to discredit anyone else's work, only to open conversation. Thanks for reading!