Thursday, July 7, 2011

Thoughts about a Trilogy

Writing Again and Again (which might not ultimately be the title but is the name on the contract so it's all I've got right now) has taught me a lot.
In no particular order:

  • Third books are harder than they look. So many arcs to wrap up; so many choices as to where these characters will finally end up. I've known the general beats to this series for years, but then I get writing and well, things change. Characters evolve. Their motivations shift. It's tricky business. And absolutely crucial that I get it right. We'll see what Editor Leah thinks next week when she receives the manuscript! (I love you, Editor Leah)

  • Tess is still my favorite character to write. She's funny and brave and smarter than she looks. Other characters sometimes underestimate Tess. Ethan has been one of those. He assumes because she's a smart ass with a habit of rambling that he can dismiss her. But in book 3, he's realizing that Tess has Substance. Most of my readers love Tess as much as I do. Occasionally I hear from someone who doesn't. Usually they object to her quippiness. As someone who frequently uses to humor to offset tense or sad situations, I love that I've given Tess this habit. Really true example: Last year my mother in law passed away very suddenly after a short illness. It was a brutal couple of months; she went from being completely lucid and independent to, well, not. And then she died. We were all sort of reeling. This was unexpected. We were not prepared. Okay, you are never prepared. Husband is an only child. There was no one else but me to lean on. So there we are in the funeral home, and it's time to pick the coffin. If you have never had to do this, let me explain. This is one of those moments where the death experience becomes the sales experience. They take you into a coffin showroom. And they show you the cheapest one first. Then they try to step you up to the fancy one that has a pillow and colored silk lining. And then they leave you alone to decide. Let me interject here that my husband 'gets me.' This is why he married me. I'm decent in a crisis. But there he stands muttering "what color? what color?" Because the one we chose - middle of the road model - comes in like six different colors. No lie. And I'm thinking, does it matter? Really? Is someone going to stand up at the cemetery and say, "You know, if only the coffin was purple..."? So I quip. And tell him, "Get white. White doesn't show dirt." This is what people like Tess and me do in times of crisis. My husband now tells this story all the time. People are either highly amused or horrified. If you are horrified, then Tess probably won't be your cup of tea.

  • Allowing Anne and Ethan to grow into their love story - however it may turn out and I am not going to tell you; you will just have to wait until next year to find out - has been a good choice for me. I have worked hard to understand what is in their hearts and right for them. This is good for some readers; not so good for others. Actually, I just read a really wonderful review on B&N that addresses this. AVC75 says:

The boy/girl relationship is portrayed realistically - teenagers driven by their emotions and insecurities, not prone to calmly/rationally discuss how they honestly feel about each other or tell each other the full truth of what is really going on in their lives. Hence, a majority of the book may be painful for those who wanted to see an immediate "happily ever after" to Anne and Ethan's budding relationship in Dreaming Anastasia, but it is an important part of the character development - no cliched weakling women and superman men here.

Thank you for that! Especially because this review really gets it - Anne is the hero. And the hero has other things to do besides find her true love. Oh she wants to. I want her to. You want her to. Ethan would like it a lot, too! But she has other stuff to do. Heroic stuff. And so it's a balance.

  • Trying to write a third book while actively promoting the second and working a full time job and having a family life and oh yeah, a son who just got married.... a little much on the old plate, I'd say. I have always been the world's best multi-tasker. Piece of cake, I thought. I have graded papers and written scenes while sitting in a paper robe waiting for my yearly pap smear. I can do this. Turns out I couldn't. At least not like I thought. I found my limits. I was thrown over right after Spring Break, otherwise known as the week I graded research papers, went on the Bachelorette Cruise to Mexico, and then got in my rental KIA and book-toured LA once we hit shore. And two weeks later went to Salt Lake City to tour there. And in between kept teaching those six classes. (for the uninitiated - high school English classes in suburban Texas public schools contain somewhere between 25 and 35 students) You can do the math on your own. Some weeks I wrote for about 40 minutes. Not enough. This coming year, I will be writing full time/working part time. I'll let you know how it goes. Possibly we'll be so tired of the all ramen diet by the end of the year that I'll go back to crazy world. Possibly like my character Anne, I'll find my needed balance.

So what do you think? Any thoughts this morning on female protagonists in general? Tess and Anne? Romance in fanatasy books or books in general? The weird stuff people do in crisis situations? Third books of trilogies? Finding balance? Writing while still maintaining a job and a life? Whether or not I should go see Cowboys and Aliens at the end of the month? (just threw that last one in there to see if you were paying attention)

til next time...


Jen Klein said...

Hi Joy.

I am new to YA Outside The Lines, which makes me new to you. Coincidentally, I am also new to YA writing (though not YA reading), having gotten my professional writing start as a screenwriter. I just signed with a book agent for my contemporary YA novel, also intended as the first of a trilogy... so I am THRILLED to have stumbled onto your site! I look forward to reading more.


Joy Preble said...

Cheers to all of that, Jen! And glad you stumbled upon the blog!:)I went to your website and read your very cool writer journey!